Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Fresh off the Boat 3.11: "Clean Slate"

“I forgot to pick up my lucky red dress from the dry cleaners. The one I’ve worn every New Year since I retired my women’s power suit/ dragon brooch combo in 1989.”

I think the one adjective I would use to describe “Clean Slate” is “cute.” It was the show’s second Chinese New Year episode. “Fresh off the Boat” is in a unique position to show its characters celebrating Chinese New Years. Last year’s episode took it as more of an opportunity to speak about larger issues surrounding Asian culture and othering. This year’s episode seemed to take more of a typical family holiday problems, just with a holiday you don’t hear about much approach. I think both approaches are ways for “Fresh off the Boat” to make a statement. As one of only a couple comedies that feature an Asian family, the show has a unique chance to present a perspective that we don’t often get to see in pop culture. Part of me wishes this episode had been a little more aggressive on that front, but I suppose the normality of holidays for Americans of all background can be powerful too.

Since Chinese New Year is coming up, Louis takes Evan to his barber, Reuben, for fresh hair cuts. Louis wants the “usual” for himself, but Evan wants a “Randy” (as in he wants to look like Johnathan Taylor Thomas’ character from “Home Improvement). Sadly for Evan, the haircut does not turn out looking at all like mid-90’s JTT. Back at the house, Jessica grills the whole family on whether they have settled all their disputes for the new year. Louis has returned a bird feeder to Marvin, Evan has settled a beef he had with a neighbor who finished one of his jokes, and Grandma has even settled a decades-long grudge with her cousin. Jessica is thrilled, because she thinks this could be the first year where the Huang family has a completely clean slate, ensuring them good fortune for their business dealings in the coming year.

Unfortunately, most of the characters’ clean slates will be seriously tested throughout the episode. Grandma’s cousin asked if her great-nephew Simon who is studying abroad in Florida, could spend the New Year with the Huangs, and Grandma agreed. Jessica isn’t thrilled about this, but she stays gracious for the sake of maintaining the clean slate. She makes Simon Eddie’s responsibility, which does not at all thrill Eddie, naturally. He thinks Simon is a tall/older version of Eddie (ie super nerdy and not at all into the things Eddie likes). Eddie tries to distract Simon with a copy of Mad Magazine so that he can go hang out and freestyle with his friends. When Jessica figures this out, she commands Eddie to go hang out with Simon instead.

Meanwhile, Evan is in a panic and tells Louis that a letter he wrote is missing. It’s hate mail, so he was going to wait until after the New Year to actually mail it. And it’s to Reuben the barber. Louis is very upset about this. It will bring Evan bad luck, and since barbers all talk, the two of them will probably never get a decent haircut in Orlando again. They feel like they have no choice other than to intercept and steal the letter before Reuben can read it. They go into the shop and try to see if the Sports Illustrated issue has been switched out for the next week yet. If it has been, they’ll know the mail has already arrived. Unfortunately, Reuben catches them, and Louis tells him that Evan needs yet another haircut. Poor Evan’s hair looks even worse after attempt number two.

Jessica is eating ice cream when she realizes that her lucky red dress is still at the dry cleaner’s. She had planned to not leave the house to minimize her risk of getting into an argument and breaking her clean slate, but she’s been wearing the dress since 1990, and she’s not going to stop now. She enlists Emery’s help. Since he gets along with everyone, he’s going to be her “kindness Sherpa” and help keep her out of trouble on the outing. It’s a challenge right from the get-go. Jessica and Emery are confronted with some very loud new wind chimes outside of Honey and Marvin’s house. She really wants to destroy the chimes, but Emery convinces her to wait until after the New Year. There are so many potential obstacles for Jessica at the dry cleaner’s. There’s the fact that the dry cleaner likes to call her “Jessie,” and there’s the guy trying to collect donations to save the wales outside the shop. Emery thinks it’s better if he goes in and retrieves the dress on his own, and he puts on NPR to help Jessica zone out. Emery is taking a long time, though, and Jessica makes her way inside the shop to find him arguing with the dry cleaner over whether he gave him a $10 or a $20.

Eddie and Simon play some SNES, which makes me happy since that’s the only console gaming system I’ve ever owned. It’s even hooked up to my television right now! I spent plenty of happy hours playing Super Mario and Donkey Kong Country games. Eddie tells Simon he is “controlling the Koopas” in the Mario game they’re playing, which obviously isn’t really a thing. Grandma is not impressed with Eddie’s lack of hospitality, and she instructs him to show Simon what American life is like. She does not want to get into another thirty-year feud with her cousin. Eddie takes Simon to the mall at ditches him at Build-A-Bear so he can go hang out with his friends. Simon interrupts Eddie freestyling to present the bears he made that look like himself and Eddie. Eddie has had it, so he freestyles an insulting rap about Simon. Simon gives it right back to Eddie with an even better rap and finally earns some respect.

Emery is very upset with Jessica that she didn’t stand up for him at the dry cleaner’s, so Jessica goes back to try and make things right. She tells the dry cleaner that she’s willing to pay the extra $5 if he takes Emery’s picture off his wall. The dry cleaner agrees. Jessica then says he should get ready to take her picture, because she’s about to do something to deserve it. She lets the rest of the family think that she still has a clean slate, though, even though she doesn’t. After unsuccessfully trying to steal the hate letter from the mailman, Evan and Louis have a heart-to-heart about haircuts. Louis reveals that he didn’t want his haircut when he first went to Reuben, either. He wanted the “Clooney.” Evan convinces Louis to “date around” for a new barber, and the resulting “Clooney” looks terrible. Louis is cool with it and chalks it up to a lesson learned. The big family New Year dinner is a rousing success, and Eddie and Simon entertain family and friends with more freestyling.

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