"Fresh Off the Boat" recap: "Dribbling Tiger, Bounce Pass Dragon"

Jessica and Louis are stuck with volunteering for the boys’ school’s extracurricular activities. They don’t want to do it, but it was either that or paying money to the school (I’m assuming the PTA). Jessica is tasked with running the school’s inoffensive play, while Louis becomes the coach of the basketball team. Everyone comes away with lessons learned.

Eddie expects his dad to be something equivalent to an NBA superstar, what with his Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon fantasy daydream sequence of his dad and his team effectively trouncing the competition. The name “Mystic Tiger” really sells the fantasy, though, but Eddie’s semi-pro reality (sponsored by Mystic Tiger cigarettes, “the breakfast cigarette”) was a far cry from the superhero sequence Eddie lives out in his head. The reality is that Louis and his team (which seemed to only be comprised of Hudson Yang’s father Jeff), passing the ball back and forth on a derelict basketball court.

When Eddie and his team realize that Louis is trying to teach them proper basketball drills and skills, the team rebels in a way, placing all of their hopes on Dimitri, an 11-year-old who looks like a grown man. Eddie says that the team has always relied on Dimitri, their star player, to win games, just like how every team LeBron James gets on relies on him to win their games for him. Yes, I said it, and yes, it’s true.

But when Dimitri gets hurt, Eddie and the team decide the best thing to do is to give up. Even when Louis tries to make them buck up and play to win, they already know they’re not going to win, so why not try? Not even The Mighty Ducks could sell them on the idea of striving to win.

However, when Louis gives up after the first half, Eddie devises a plan. Not for them to win, but for them to reach a milestone; setting the most fouls. The team aims to do what every NBA team does when they get in a jam; they start fouling the other team. Although it didn’t look like they fouled the other team at all; they fouled themselves. And they didn’t rack up any free throw points with those fouls. All of them were for naught. But they did set the record, so there’s that.

Meanwhile, Jessica is having a time trying to wrap her mind around the inane play she’s now got to direct. However, she’s of the mindset that acting is for wimps and her children’s participation in the play is the last time they’ll set foot in the world of the performing arts. What they need to learn is discipline and work ethic! So, she creates a new play, “Acting: A Cautionary Tale (Mr Gumdrop Goes To Lazywood).” She also boots most of the kids out of the play. No one is happy, maybe except Emery and Evan, since she did make them the stars.

Jessica isn’t convinced she needs to turn the play around, but Louis taps into the small shred of childhood hurt that Jessica still has. At the expense of having a work ethic drilled into her, Jessica missed out on getting a My Little Pony knock-off called Sparkle Time Beaut Horse, complete with a human face. Her parents didn’t get her one, while her frenemy had one (and, I’m assuming, plenty of other toys). Jessica realizes, much like she did with the CLC ordeal, that she can’t strip her kids’ childhood away and inflict the same angst she experienced as a kid. So she gives them their inoffensive, terrible play back, and as a reward, Louis gets her the pony toy she’s always wanted.

Okay, do I have anything to add?

• As I wrote on Twitter, it’s always fun to see Maria Bamford on TV. Also, it was a surprise to see Jeff Yang in a cameo.

• I had hoped against hope that someone would put up a vintage EPIC Elementary School Black History Month program, but I figured that would be impossible. I had referenced EPIC School in my last post, but it seems like the reference is a lot more apt for this episode than the last. As I wrote last time, we learned sign language for these programs, on top of memorizing top R&B hits and dress is traditional garb. Lots of work went into our productions. It wasn’t like the craziness that was this inoffensive play. That school needs some EPIC discipline.

• There seemed to be a lot of meta commentary on the state of basketball today. The over-reliance on a star player, the similar over-reliance on fouling, glamour over substance, etc. Of course, I’m not saying this about all basketball players; I’m just complaining about some general problems in the NBA.

• Evan and Emery steal the show AGAIN! Just look:

• This is probably an episode that could make some people worried, since Jessica is expressing her Tiger Mom tendencies. But if that’s how she is, that’s how she is. And it’s not like she doesn’t choose to learn different ways to achieve the same goals. If I may be blunt, a mom would have to have absolutely no heart to not let their kids be kids at some point, and Jessica’s got a heart. She just wants to see her kids become successful, and sometimes she gets overzealous about it.

I’ve written at length about what I think about the Tiger Mom stereotype and how many moms of all backgrounds can engage in Tiger Mom activities from time to time. I’ve also written a little bit on what Constance Wu herself said about playing Jessica, which boils down to the fact that she’s not trying to remind everyone of their own mom; she’s playing Jessica as true as she can, and if that includes Tiger Mom-isms, then so be it. I agree with that as well.

• Nice nod to All-American Girl, which closed out the “When do you expect to see Asians on TV?” joke.  It all comes full circle.

What did you think about this episode? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Photo credit: ABC