Sunday, February 12, 2017

Fresh off the Boat 3.08: "Where Are the Giggles?"

“I should be saying ‘Stop tickling Elmo!’”

“Where Are the Giggles” was this year’s Christmas episode of “Fresh off the Boat.” It delved some more into character relationships that began to be really explored earlier this season: Louis and Marvin and Jessica and Evan. Louis and Marvin’s friendship is tested after a slip and fall at the Huang house, and Jessica and Evan’s bond is tested when Evan is forgotten at home, “Home Alone” style, when the family goes to see a movie. There are two great Christmas homages in this episode: to “Home Alone,” of course, and also to “A Christmas Carol,” with Marvin as Scrooge and various Huangs as the ghosts. Maybe the homages were a little on the nose, but they were homages to two of my favorite Christmas stories, so I was good with it. In fact, we had a “Home Alone” movie night at a friend’s house this past December, and most of the group was laughing at some of the sillier lines and snarking on hos cruel some of Kevin’s traps were. I was just enjoying the whole thing because it reminded me of the tradition my cousin and I had when we were kids. Every Thanksgiving, when Home Alone came on TV, the boys would have to stop watching football and we would watch our movie and mock the Sears commercials that invaded every commercial break. Anyway, on with talking about this episode!

The episode opens with Jessica and Louis getting ready for Christmas. You may recall that Christmas is Jessica’s favorite holiday, so she is unusually chipper. Louis is excited because he bought fancy personalized pajamas for himself and Marvin that say “Chili Boys” on the back. They have big plans to cook goose chili out in the yard on Christmas Day (it’s Florida, so I guess they can do that). Before the real Christmas festivities, however, it’s time to go to the movies. The Huangs have procured some free movie passes, so they’re going to see “Jingle all the Way.” Jessica wants to make sure they get to the theater in plenty of time, so she has the family rush around to make all the preparations. Evan in particular is told to prep the popcorn (to be hidden in his cargo shorts). The family, minus Evan, scrambles into the van and heads to the theater. Evan realizes he’s been left behind, so of course we get a big hands-on-face scream.

The family is happily seated and enjoying the movie when Jessica wants popcorn and realizes Evan isn’t there. Constance Wu channels Catherine O’Hara and does a great “Evan!” scream. Jessica and Louis call Marvin, who assures them Evan is fine because he can see Evan sitting at the kitchen table taking to one of his Beanie Babies (that doesn’t really look like a Beanie Baby to me…I was 12 years old for most of 1996 and there’s still a tub of the things in my parents’ attic, so I think I can qualify as an expert in such things). Marvin offers to check on Evan and tells the Huangs they should just go watch the rest of the movie because it’s fantastic. When Marvin goes over to the Huangs’ house, though, he falls on a Home Alone-style trap that Evan set by the front door. The family returns to see Evan and Marvin hanging out while Marvin is still laying in the front hallway. Evan is extremely pissed at Jessica for leaving him behind, and since he’s her favorite, Jessica tries to think of a way to appease him. She says she’ll get him the hottest toy of the year (usually she buys the hottest toy right after Christmas and gives it to the kids the next year). Of course this means Evan wants Tickle Me Elmo.

Jessica and Louis try to find a Tickle Me Elmo, and they’re basically laughed right out of the store. The cashier does clue them into a rare toy website, though. A mysterious guy tries to convince Louis that he is carrying a Tickle Me Elmo that he’s willing to sell, but it turns out he’s actually a process server. Louis gets served, and it turns out Marvin is the one doing the suing. He’s filed a personal injury lawsuit for the slip and fall. His back still hasn’t completely recovered, apparently. Marvin stops by the house later trying to act all normal, and Louis calls him on it. Marvin says he just wants to cash in on the insurance money, but Louis, understandably, still isn’t cool with the lawsuit. He thinks friends shoudn’t sue each other, even if it’s the insurance company that would ultimately have to pay.

Jessica begins the next phase of her mission to get Evan a Tickle Me Elmo at the Gateway Store (I really can’t remember if there was such a thing – all of our family computers in the 90s were Gateways, but I think we ordered them and they came in the mail). She uses a demonstration computer to look up the rare toy website, and she sees that none other than Deirdre, the annoying HOA Queen, has several of them. Jessica goes to Deirdre’s house and negotiates a deal. Jessica will find a Santa Claus for a party being thrown in Deirdre’s goddaughter’s honor, and in exchange Deirdre will give Jessica the Tickle Me Elmo that would have otherwise gone in her toy “vault.” Jessica dresses up as Santa herself, but her version scares all the kids at the party. Deirdre kicks Jessica out and says she’s not giving her the Tickle Me Elmo. Deirdre’s husband, who has a vision condition that Jessica accidentally caused to flare up because she wouldn’t let him have a middle seat at the movie theater, ends up being the hero of the story. He feels bad for Jessica and risks Deirdre’s wrath to give her the toy.

Marvin’s back is still bothering him, and the combo of muscle relaxers and beer starts making him hallucinate, “A Christmas Carol”-style. He is first visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, who looks suspiciously like Emery. Emery takes Marvin to a scene that took place in the Huangs’ house before the family ever moved in. The previous owner was a Latin dance teacher named Ronaldo, and everything about him is what you would expect based on that description. Honey liked to go over to the house for dance lessons, and naturally that didn’t thrill Marvin. Emery reminds Marvin how happy he was when Ronaldo moved out and the Huangs moved in. Next up is Eddie as the Ghost of Kwanzaa Present (he’s decided to celebrate Kwanzaa because he doesn’t want to feed the White capitalist machine anymore). He shows Marvin a scene where at Christmas dinner, Louis admits that Marvin is suing the family. Jessica is surprisingly okay with this, even though she says their homeowners’ insurance premium will go up by $4 a month. Marvin is surprised that there really will be an adverse effect on the Huangs from his plan, although he’s still not completely apologetic.

The Ghost of Christmas Future, of course, is Grandma Huang. She shows Marvin that after their friendship ended over the lawsuit, Louis went into a deep depression that led him to close Cattleman’s Ranch. Marvin also dies, and Grandma shows him Honey and Ronaldo literally dancing on his grave for good measure. On Christmas morning, Emery gives Eddie a present but says he can’t open it until the seventh night of Kwanzaa, because that’s how you’re supposed to celebrate the holiday. Eddie, of course, is impatient and opens it right away. It’s a Kwanzaa book, which was a great play by Emery. Marvin stops by, all Scrooge on Christmas, and says he’s dropping lawsuit, and he and Louis reconcile. Jessica checks on Evan and sees he’s not playing with Tickle Me Elmo. She also notices all the past Christmas presents the has gotten Evan are unopened in a trunk. Evan says he doesn’t have space in heart for toys beyond Beanie Babies. He just likes that Jessica getting him presents makes her happy. She says he’s favorite. To celebrate everyone being happy, the family decides to go and see Jingle All the Way again. Together, this time.

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