It’s recap time, readers. We’re on Episode 7 (“Showdown at the Golden Saddle*”) of “Fresh Off the Boat,” which means we’re just at the halfway mark for the 13 episodes that will make up the show’s first season. The handwringing and fretting over whether the show would be an unfunny, offensive dud have given way to easy enjoyment.
It’s late in the day, and I admit that I’m tempted to leave a link here to “Fresh Off the Show,” the unofficial post-show chat hosted by comedian Jenny Yang and blogger Phil Yu, and peace out. I was honored to be invited to join the debrief last night. (I would follow Keiko Agena in any lineup.) We talked about immigrant hustle and dad sneezes with the requisite classic Asian snacks. But, like the good ratings-boosting Asian-American TV viewerYes! You’ve gotta give as good as you get! I am, I turned on the old Hulu and rewatched the episode just now for this recap for you.
Here’s where we are: Eddie’s not running his middle school, but he has found a pack of other seeming misfits who he can at least commiserate with. That means Eddie and his friends are devising survival strategies to escape unscathed from the inevitable social humiliation that is the daily school bus experience. As in sitting at the front and feigning sleep so back-of-the-bus bullies ignore you. But school bus rides hold one redemptive quality for Eddie: the daily promise of seeing his crush Nicole.
Young Eddie indulges in fantasies in which he ventures to the back of the school bus where Nicole sits, shares his hip-hop gems (Ice Cube’s “Check Yo Self”) with her, and then basks in Nicole’s reciprocated affections. Of course, reality is much harsher.
Meanwhile, as business at Cattleman’s Ranch, the family’s ripoff Western-themed steakhouse restaurant takes off, Eddie’s dad Louis deals with intimidation from the franchise owner whose steakhouse idea he lifted. Eddie’s mom Jessica has no idea about the provenance of the hostility toward their family, and suspects a hate crime when a new billboard Louis places is vandalized.
Jessica fumes about the vandalism and what she insists is racial prejudice while she and Louis head to dinner at a country club. The big dinner thrill for Jessica had been the opportunity to explore a real-life version of one of her favorite American movies: “Caddyshack.” The bit shows off how central movies and television are to Jessica and Eddie’s acculturation. (Constance Wu, as Jessica Huang, made me laugh out loud with her version of Rodney Dangerfield’s classic one-liner from the movie.) The moment goes by fast, but it’s almost profound to watch Asian-American actors Wu and Randall Park play immigrant parents who are embracing U.S. pop culture, on a network sitcom. Jessica and Louis’ Caddyshack banter is also a very real cultural experience. Raise your hand if you are or know an Asian kid whose American name was inspired by a character in an ’80s sitcom and an actor in a ’90s romantic drama.
Back at home, Eddie’s efforts to woo Nicole reach new lows when it turns out that she’s been called over, not to hang out, but to babysit Eddie and his younger brothers. Eddie does the inadvisable, but utterly funny. You should watch for yourself. It involves hot sauce.
Also, for folks who can’t get enough of the ’90s nostalgia, here’s a link to a Spotify playlist with songs from “Fresh Off the Boat.” Prepare for a trip down hip-hop memory lane.*Post has been updated since publication to reflect that the name of the episode is “Showdown at the Golden Saddle” rather than “Showdown at the Golden Corral.”