Thursday, March 16, 2017

Fresh off the Boat 3.12: "Sisters Without Subtext"

“Classic Connie. We’d all love to go back to school. Audit a German class. Get good at beer pong. But we are adults. We have responsibilities.”

“Sisters Without Subtext” tried to navigate two very different plots, and as such, felt like kind of a filler episode. We explored the relationship between Jessica and her sister Connie more and learned something new about Jessica, but I’m not sure I was ever that interested in Connie to begin with. This episode also paired up the three Huang kids with Honey and Marvin, which was something new. I do generally appreciate when shows try new character combinations. The plot in which they were involved, though, didn’t do much for me. Marvin decides to take Honey and the kids to a nursing home of all places (because he wants to move there with Honey in a few years). Honey understandably balks at this, since as she continually reminds us, she’s only twenty-eight (which I didn’t realize…is she actually telling the truth here?). They reach an understanding at the end, but I didn’t really find the plot to be necessary in the first place. I would have enjoyed something like wacky hijinks at the beach more.

As the episode opens, the family is engaging in usual business. The boys are figuring out the TV schedule for the week, and Louis has organized the pantry (much to Evan’s chagrin, who accuses him of being a kiss ass) in an attempt to win points with Jessica. All of this is forgotten when Jessica gets a post card from her older sister, Connie. This is the third in a series of postcards Connie has been sending lately, all from college towns like Ithaca, New York and Athens, Georgia. Jessica doesn’t put together the pieces right away, though. She calls Connie to find out what’s going on, and that’s when Connie breaks the big news. She wants to go back to college. Jessica is thrilled, because she sees this as Connie trying to take charge of her life and be more like her (Jessica). We all know Jessica approves of anyone doing what she would do.

Connie arrives to see colleges in the Orlando area, and instead of the usual passive aggressive subtext (that requires subtitles at the bottom of the screen), Jessica is sincere. This throws Connie off, naturally. Jessica is really excited and wants to go on the tours with Connie. She’ll just have to leave the boys with Honey and Marvin for the day since Grandma Huang is at the casino in Tallahassee. At first, the boys have a lot of fun during their day with the neighbors. They get to ride in Marvin’s convertible. There’s just one problem: their destination is a nursing home. To Honey’s horror, Marvin says that this is the nursing home where he hopes they’ll live one day. Jessica also doesn’t get what she expected out of her trip. The first school on the tour is the Orlando College of Art and Design. Connie wants to go to art school, which Jessica thinks is worthless.

Connie has quite the story to tell about why she decided to go to art school. She recently got in a fight with her husband, so she went to the National Gallery of Art, because they have a good hot dog vendor outside. She saw a sign for an interesting exhibit, so she went into the museum and was completely moved by Girl with a Pearl Earring. Jessica is unmoved. In fact, she’s the opposite of moved. We later see her very angrily putting together packets for a property she’s trying to sell, and she complains to Louis that she’s actually doing real work. Louis wants to know why Jessica is taking Connie’s choice so personally, so she takes Louis into the garage and shows him a bunch of paintings she painted when she was in high school. She gave up painting when she went to college because she thought she had to grow up and become a responsible adult. When Connie sees the paintings, she thinks Jessica is jealous, and they have a big argument over whether or not it’s okay to take any time to pursue your own passions. Jessica sees doing anything other than serving her family or working as being selfish.

Meanwhile, the nursing home visit seems to go okay at first. The boys think all the activities look cool, like shuffleboard. They think it basically seems like being on a cruise. Eddie also likes the idea of dinner being at four o’clock. Then Evan and Emery start getting their cheeks pinched a bit too much. Honey is not at all thrilled by the place, but she agrees to the tour for Marvin’s sake. Marvin and Eddie are ballin’ at the shuffleboard court while Honey runs on a treadmill in the gym. When the boys question why she’s running, she reminds them she’s twenty-eight, and she runs even faster. She ends up flying off the back of the treadmill into a rack of therapy balls, hurting her hip. She goes home in a wheelchair and is fed Combos by the boys. She finally tells Marvin that while the nursing home was nice, she doesn’t feel like they’re at the end of their lives together. Even if they are at the “middle,” they’re part of a tight community and their best friends are next door. Honey will be okay when Marvin is no longer around.

Louis and Jessica have a big heart to heart when Louis finds her trying to destroy her old paintings. Louis thins maybe Connie has the right idea and that it’s okay to at least have hobbies. Jessica says she can’t imagine what their parents would think of having hobbies that didn’t bring any money into the family. Louis reminds Jessica that their parents were in survival mode, and they would probably want more for their children just like they want more for the boys. Jessica finally becomes a bit more open to the idea of spending at least a little time on her own interests, and she apologizes to Connie by playing (and singing along to) a song from The Color Purple (their favorite musical, because Oprah) on a boom box. Strangely, she can sing much better now than she could in the flashback episode. Not sure what’s up with that. Anyway, Louis goes to the effort of creating an art studio for Jessica in the garage. It’s going to take just as much work to get her to stay there and paint instead of doing chores, though.

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