Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fresh off the Boat 3.19: "Driving Miss Jenny"

“That’s your idea of the future? Why are there still chairs? Where are our alien captors?”

“Driving Miss Jenny” was a nice enough episode of “Fresh off the Boat.” I did appreciate that it focused on Grandma Huang, who is usually just around for sassy one-liners in Mandarin. It makes sense that she hasn’t really been a focus of storylines before this. As Jenny herself puts it, prior to getting a motorized chair, she inhabited a very small world. She barely left the house. Now that she has the freedom of her new chair, she’s trying to live her life, and this makes Louis nervous. An adult child worrying about their aging parents is a completely normal thing that I am sure crosses all ethnic and cultural boundaries, so it was a great story for the “Fresh off the Boat” team to tell from their own unique perspective. The less complex plots in this episode are also related to how members of the Huang family relate to each other. Evan and Eddie go into business together, and Jessica tries to convince Emery to purge his bedroom of what is basically a lot of trash.

This episode begins with Louis driving one of the cooks from the restaurant home from work. While he’s driving, a motorized chair slows things down, and the two men start to get annoyed. Then Louis realizes that the woman in the chair is his mother. He’s not thrilled with the idea that she’s using her chair to go places all by herself. When he gets home, Louis asks Jessica if she knew about this. Yes, Jessica did know, and she’s thrilled. She thinks it’s fantastic to have another set of wheels in the house. Grandma being able to do things for herself around town has freed up a ton of time for Jessica. She’s using that time to do a real deep clean of the house and clear out all their old junk. She even wants to have a yard sale, and she’s been gathering up likely items to sell.

Jessica really wants Emery to go through his stuff and do a purge, but he insists that every piece of junk he possesses has a memory attached to it. He even has straight-up trash like a soda can and a broken chopstick, but each item triggers a memory for Emery, usually a memory of a “first” in Orlando. Emery imagines showing his grandkids the soda can that is connected to the first girl who ever liked him in Orlando, for instance. Jessica, for her part, thinks it’s ridiculous that Emery’s vision of the future doesn’t include evil alien overlords. Jessica is my kind of dystopian writer, clearly. Jessica gives Emery an ultimatum – he gets on box in which to put “keep” items, and the rest has to go. Emery responds by filling up the “keep” box and stuffing the rest of his “treasures” into two beanbag chairs. Jessica discovers this, and she figures out pretty quickly (because for all her quirks, she’s a good mom) that there’s something deeper going on with Emery. Emery hardly got to take anything with him (and what he took got lost) from Washington, DC, and now he’s forgetting what it was like to live there. He doesn’t want to forget Orlando in the same way. Jessica comes up with a rather ingenious compromise. She takes photos of all the junk for Emery to keep in a photo album so that the items themselves can be tossed. Emery thinks this is the greatest thing ever, so crisis averted.

Louis’ worry about her mother has reached the boiling point, and he ends up trying to buy her groceries for her, temporarily convincing her their insurance won’t pay for her wheelchair anymore (which is really pretty horrible), and following her to a mahjong game at the senior center. He hovers over her as she plays (he claims he’s just waiting for a spot to open up at the Go Fish table, because of course he is). Louis also gets increasingly uncomfortable as he realizes his mom is flirting with another mahjong player, the most “adorable” old man named Warren. One of the seniors breaks out a bottle of wine, and Louis tries to discourage his mother from drinking (since she’s going to be driving her chair and all), and with that, Grandma ditches him by asking him to go get her some tea. To make matters worse for Louis, she even ends up going on a date with Warren later, too. Louis’ fears seem to be realized when Warren shows up at Louis’ door saying that he can’t find Jenny. Louis’ first instinct is to call the police station, but while he is on that call, Jenny herself calls (the Huangs apparently have call waiting, and also, the police officer Louis was talking to never hangs up the phone – poor idiot). She’s at Greenie’s, a local coffee shop. She ditched Warren because she thought he war boring, but her chair lost power, and she needs Louis to bring the charger.

Meanwhile, Eddie is also a victim of Jessica’s big clean out. He has no more “gym rags.” While he is complaining about this to Evan, he notices Evan’s bank statement. Evan has started a housesitting business, and he’s making quite a bit of money from it. Eddie wants in. He cites his interest in business (particularly the side hustles various rappers and athletes have going on) as a reason why he would be a good addition to the team. The job in actuality, however, is not all Eddie hoped it would be (shocker). Evan is extremely (to an almost unhealthy degree) fastidious. I suppose that’s the unique thing about his business. He’ll do the usual housesitting stuff like clean out the cat box and bring in the mail, but he will also provide the homeowner with updates on the angle of her orchid’s leaves. For just $10 a day. This is all too much for Eddie, so he outsources his work to his friend Dave. He plans to give Dave $2 of the $5 he earns for every house. He’s got a pretty good business-y justification for this to Evan, but Evan takes it a step farther. He decides to cut out the middleman and just hire Dave on directly. Easy come, easy go, I suppose.

Louis and Jenny have a heart-to-heart when he goes to Greenie’s to pick her up. Jenny has felt like she has been trapped in a very small world (and she throws in multiple references to “While You Were Sleeping” here, which we all know makes me happy, since that’s one of my favorite rom coms). Through their conversation, Louis realizes that, while he worries, his mother is an adult and he needs to give her at least a little space. Louis offers to drive her home, but she still really wants to take her chair once it’s all charged up. The episode closes with a fantastic scene of Louis driving really slowly beside his mother, and at her request, turning on the car radio to Gloria Estefan’s “Rhythm is Gonna Get You.”

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