Sunday, May 7, 2017

Fresh off the Boat 3.18: "Time to Get Ill"

“Resiliency. That’s my fragrance.”

I especially liked this particular episode of “Fresh off the Boat.” It really explored Louis and Jessica’s relationship and their roles in the Huang household. Jessica usually runs a very tight ship, but when she comes down with the flu, she’s forced to let go a bit. The two biggest plots in the episode, Jessica’s illness and a buzzy wrestling match happening in Orlando that’s going to be on pay-per-view, also end up fitting together nicely, in a way I’ll talk about more in a bit. I feel like this episode presents a scenario that a lot of families can relate to – one partner who runs a tight ship and needs a break from keeping watch over everything, and the other who needs a break from having to follow all the rules all the time. It may be exaggerated a bit because of Jessica’s experience growing up in a family that had to be scrappy to survive in Taiwan, but I think the general scenario is spot on. Or at least it’s spot on for how my family was when I was growing up. I appreciated that Louis and Jessica handled the situation and the discussion of their family dynamic in a very mature way, although since this is a comedy, we may not see the fruits on that discussion in future episodes.

Early in the episode, we see just how deeply Jessica’s control of the household runs when she’s feeling 100%. She tells Evan exactly how much milk to put in his cereal, yells at Emery to put just one comb in his backpack, and yells at Eddie to stop reading trash and come to breakfast. She’s got a full day of both household chores (like taking Return of the King back to the library for Emery) and work (staging a house with Honey) on the docket. Before the menfolk leave, one sneeze betrays that Jessica may not be running at full capacity after all. When Honey stops by later, at first Jessica looks just fine, but that’s all in Jessica’s head. In reality, she’s a mess, and Honey can see it right away. When Louis gets home from work (where he had planned to do a special on ribs until Jessica called him and warned him not to discount the ribs), he puts her to bed and she falls right asleep.

Meanwhile, the talk of the town is an upcoming wrestling match between King Crawdad and Fish Head Jackson that is being billed as the Battle of the Swamp Creatures. Eddie sneaks a magazine about the match into school, and all the employees at Cattleman’s Ranch are talking about it too. This leads Eddie to come up with an idea. Since Jessica is out of commission, the guys can do one thing that they wouldn’t otherwise be allowed to do – watch the wrestling match (Jessica hates anything with the word “pay” in it, after all). Eddie first makes his pitch to Louis and Emery, who are on board, but then they have to convince Evan, who is basically “second mom.” At first he balks at the idea of pay-per-view, but then the guys convince him that he needs to see who will win in a fight between a fish and a crawdad – for science!

The guys swear that watching the fight is going to be the only non-Jessica approved thing they do while the Eye of Sauron (Emery’s been reading Lord of the Rings, after all) is down, but Louis ends up buying a new 30-inch TV, and there will be snacks, too. Louis figures Jessica will never notice the new television because she never notices technology in general. By the end of the episode, however, to Louis’ chagrin, Jessica has replaced the 30 inch TV (she didn’t realize it was new – she just remembers that Louis always complains about their TV) with a smaller one because it has picture-in-picture. Before the guys go out to buy the snacks, though, they check to see if Jessica is still sick. When she tries to get out of bed, she looks like, as Evan puts it, a baby deer, so they figure they’re good to go. Louis turns on a noisy humidifier for good measure. At the store, they buy all sorts of unhealthy snacks, plus a life-sized cardboard cutout of Carmen Electra (that was Eddie’s request). So they’re all set for the fight!

Just as the guys are settling in, the doorbell rings, and it’s Marvin, who greets them with a very loud “who’s ready to reptile!” He wants to watch the fight, naturally. Everyone is worried that Jessica is going to wake up and figure out what is going on. The problem gets worse when a bunch of Eddie’s pals show up, and Trent also yells “let’s get ready to reptile!” Several warning signs later, the guys are all quietly (but animatedly) enjoying the fight. Everything changes though, when they see Honey on the television screen (she had two tickets to the fight, but Marvin was banned from the convention center, so he couldn’t join her) and they see Jessica sit down next to her. The guys rush to the master bedroom and see that Jessica isn’t there.

When Jessica gets home, she opens the bedroom door to see Louis and the boys sitting on her bed. She explains that she was indeed sick the day before, but after a good night’s sleep, she felt significantly better. That morning, Honey called asking Jessica if she wanted to go to the fight. At first, Jessica wasn’t sure, but then she saw Louis and the boys diligently cleaning and tackling homework (wanting to see the fight with minimal disturbance to Jessica was great motivation), so she wanted to extend her “vacation” from having to micromanage everything a bit longer. She faked sick when the guys came to check on her, then she snuck out of the house to enjoy the fight with Honey. She thought the fight itself was pretty silly and fake, but she was glad to get out of the house and have a little vacation from her responsibilities (or her perceived responsibilities, I might say).

Louis and Jessica both come to the conclusion that it’s not okay that Jessica feels like she can never take a break (the guys shouldn’t expect her to do everything for them) and Louis and the boys feel like they’re always being watched and can never treat themselves. They decide it makes the most sense for them to meet in the middle. I loved this because it was an adult, thoughtful conversation. If only real-life micromanagers could reach this place as easily as Jessica does. Anyway, the next morning, Jessica purposely doesn’t remind the rest of her family about any of the little details that she always does. Surprisingly, they all end up doing as she suggests anyway. She even encourages Evan to learn for himself how to achieve the optimum cereal to milk ratio. Overall, even though the micromanaging came from a place of love, I think her family will ultimately be better off with the new approach (if she can stick to it).

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