Monday, July 17, 2017

Fresh off the Boat 3.20: "The Masters"

“There’s no winner in parenting. But if you see a gold wrestling belt in our closet that says, ‘Parent Mania Champion,” just know I had it made before this conversation.”

Overall, “The Masters” was a solid episode of “Fresh off the Boat.” It had an entertaining plot that held my attention, it included commentary on where Asians fit in the world of sports, and we even got to see Louis and Jessica seriously discuss and compare their parenting philosophies. All of this is set up by Tiger Woods playing in the Masters golf tournament. This set up Jessica to first laud, then question her “tiger mom” parenting style, although by the end of the episode, she is of course once again convinced she is right. Jessica wouldn’t be Jessica otherwise. While Emery is kind of sidelined from the big parenting golf competition that ensues, I enjoyed his little side plot where he’s trying to spread the Gospel that Tiger Woods is actually half Asian. The twist at the end of that plot, while sad for Emery, was pretty genius, from a technical standpoint.

Anyway, as you’d expect, the episode opens with the Huang boys watching Tiger Woods compete in the Masters. They’re pretty excited because he is half Thai, and they always like to see Asians do well in sports. They don’t have a lot of pop culture heroes to look up to, so when an Asian comes along and makes news like Tiger did in the mid-90’s, it’s a big deal. The boys don’t want Jessica to know about Tiger Woods, because then she’ll make them all try to learn golf. She does this any time an Asian is famous for something in the United States. A very little Evan had to try and learn to be a newscaster when Jessica learned about Connie Chung, for instance. Evan almost instantly spills the beans to Jessica, however, and you can see the gears start to turn in her mind. This obviously earns Eddie’s wrath, since he doesn’t want to be pulled into another of Jessica’s tiger mom plots.

Emery seems the most enthusiastic about Tiger Woods. He really wants his classmates at school to know that Tiger is half Asian. It’s kind of a running joke throughout the episode that everybody thinks of him as just Black, and nobody realizes he has a Thai mother. Nobody wants to be bothered to listen to Emery, though, not even Eddie’s friends. One of them, for instance, is too busy picking a fight with another kid who has the same backpack. I can totally see this sort of thing happening back when I was in middle school (around the same time as the show takes place). Backpacks were a big deal, people! I sewed lots of cute buttons on mine so that they would be unique. Emery decides to see if he can get Reba to let him use the school PA system to make an announcement about Tiger Woods to the entire student body. He even gives her a folder of research that proves he’s half Thai. Reba thinks this is a story that could break wide open, so she eventually agrees to give Emery the mic. Unfortunately for Emery, once he finally starts his speech, all the kids are out in the school yard watching the aforementioned backpack fight. It’s a great speech, though, and a great twist that suddenly made that random detail of the backpack argument relevant.

Anyway, Jessica tells Louis that she sees herself in Earl. She believes she is the one pushing their kids to greatness. Louis, understandably, is kind of insulted by this, because Jessica is implying that she really does most of the parenting and Louis’ contribution won’t really matter that much in the long run because he is too soft. Louis explains that he has a more laidback parenting philosophy because his father was extremely tough/strict with him, and he wants something different for his kids. I find this interesting considering the “real” Louis Huang that the real Eddie writes about in his memoir was, according to Eddie, extremely tough and basically physically abusive to his sons. Although even if TV show Louis is different from his real-life counterpart, I think it was an interesting point for TV Louis to bring up in this context. After stewing on it for a while, Louis has a solution to this argument with Jessica. He wants to settle it with a golf tournament. He’s going to train one kid, and Jessica is going to train another, and each will use the same golf pro for help, and they are going to see which kid does best at nine holes of golf. They decide not to include Emery because he’s good at everything automatically, so Jessica takes Evan and Louis takes Eddie.

Jessica does her thing and tries to push Evan to the limit. She’s super picky about the golf pro they’re going to work with (she ditches the first one, Phil, because she doesn’t like names that can be shortened, plus he calls her “Jess”). She makes him get up at 5:00 AM to practice before school. Evan is a “true beginner” to golf, as the golf pro puts it, and he doesn’t really take to it well. Jessica gets really concerned about her prospects in this competition when she sees Eddie crushing it at the driving range. Eddie is taking well to Louis’ laid back style, and he loves that they go for doughnuts before every practice. Jessica pretty much has exactly the reaction to this that you’d expect. She wants to win at all costs, even the cost of the dignity of her sons, so she asks Louis if they can switch who they are training. Louis, convinced that his method will work on any of their kids agrees to it. Eddie is understandably kind of hurt by the switch, and under Jessica’s strict style, his golfing gets worse and worse. Louis, meanwhile, takes Evan to a minigolf course, and Evan actually starts enjoying golf and developing some skills.

This turn of events causes Jessica to have a bit of a crisis of parenting confidence. To make her feel better, Louis offers to cancel the parenting challenge and just play a fun family golf game where there is no keeping score. Jessica agrees, but she sulks the whole time. She goes off to get a platter of junk food for the boys (a sign of just how upset she is), and she runs into a woman who looks like she’s Kultida Woods. Jessica asks “Kultida” more about her parenting philosophy and how she feels like her permissiveness has benefitted Tiger. She responds that she isn’t permissive at all. She was very strict, and that lays the foundation. This makes Jessica feel better and like she hasn’t ruined her kids. She feels like she gave them the foundation to then succeed later when they’re able to use a little creativity. We find out later that this wasn’t actually Kultida at all, but Jessica doesn’t know that, so she ends the episode once again satisfied that she is right in all things.

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