“Fresh Off the Boat” recap: “Family Business Trip”

I’m finally getting to my Fresh Off the Boat recap! It’s been a long week, and there’s still more new TV to review, but I’m glad to knock out most of my core recapping shows before the new week begins. Speaking of “knock out,” I’d say Fresh Off the Boat knocked it out of the park with their return back to TV. 

First, we got rid of the problematic Eddie Huang. Not the character, the person. And also not that he’s inherently problematic as a person, just that he’s problematic for the running of the show. If the show wanted to have a smooth Season 2, there was no way they’d be able to do that and keep him on as the narrator. He’d burned those bridges pretty thoroughly, I’d say.

I still say that I get the core of what frustrated him; what he was watching wasn’t the life he wrote about. But at the end of the day, there has to be an understanding of how TV works. More than likely, you’re not going to get the definitive (and true) version of your life. Not every biopic or biographical TV show is going to be Ray. Sometimes, you’re going to get Hairspray, and that’s perfectly fine, and, if Disney proper is involved (and not their offshoot Touchstone Pictures or something), then what else is there to expect? Perhaps if his show was sold to HBO or something, he’d get the grit he wanted. But it’s a family show for ABC. It’s going to act like a family show. Even black-ish, for all the tough topics they tackle, still tackle them in approachable ways.

In any case, if you followed the Upfronts presentations or some other critics association-esque moment, you might remember when someone asked whether Huang was going to remain the narrator. The producer present said something to the effect of PR spiel, like “We really love Eddie Huang” and something like “We love his point of view” or something. But upon reading how anemic the statements sounded, I knew they weren’t going to keep him around. If I was Nahnatchka Khan, I wouldn’t keep him around simply to keep my sanity, not to mention him alienating a large contingent of black women, potential viewers or current viewers, by calling them “bums” on Twitter. So, if you expected Eddie back, sorry, but his fate on the show was sealed a long time ago.

This is a long-winded way of saying that now that the narration’s gone, this can be less like a “looking back on my life” show and more like “a current show that’s set in the ’90s” show. This small change frees it up from being dogmatic to Eddie’s life and turns it into a show that can actually grow and produce its own arcs. Basically, the writers and, for that matter, the actors, can be a little freer to delve deeper in the characters and the world and really make a show that appeals to the shows fans and speaks to issues the show can tackle. This seems to be apparent in the first episode of the season; we have Evan narrating the show for us, and I’m assuming the kids will switch out each episode at the narrating reins. We have more of a focus on the entire family, specifically Evan and Emery, who became fan favorites last season and, as I’ve read in articles, were given additional focus this season. It’s becoming much more of an ensemble cast now that the writers know what the kids can handle.

So let’s finally get into the show. Louis is trying to go on a business trip, but pretty soon, it turns into a “family business trip” after Jessica decides to take Honey up on her suggestion to go on a vacation. Jessica laughs uproariously at the idea; her family doesn’t believe in vacations. Eddie, interestingly enough, laughs off the idea of a vacation at school, when his friends are talking about summer vacations, but he still wants to go on a vacation and ride the scariest ride at a theme park to prove his coolness to his friends and his manliness to Nicole, who is going off to middle school (or so she thinks).

Once at the hotel, Jessica finds out Louis’ big secret; this was never a business trip, and all the business trips he’s taken in the past weren’t even for business! They were actual vacations! With Jessica freaking out about everything involved in staying at a hotel, including all of the prices for things, Louis and Jessica have an argument (leading the kids to “go to their rooms,” which are, in a hotel room meant for four people instead of six, are their sleeping bags).

Louis realizes that Jessica doesn’t know how to have fun. I’d hope that Louis would have found this out long ago in their relationship, since Jessica has always been uptight since the first episode. Thinking back on it, it’s kind of strange Louis just realizes this very apparent character flaw this late in the game, but whatever, he’s the fun one, right? He’s too busy living it up to realize his wife is a Debbie Downer.

Louis forces Jessica to have fun, which for her, is having a massage (with her clothes still on and her purse firmly in her sight) and listening to a tape of singing whales. I do have to agree with Jessica that if I was going to have a massage, I’d like to stay clothed (I don’t know who the masseuse is) and to keep my valuables with me or leave them in the car. Jessica, once again, proves to act like my mom (and, in this particular case, like my dad, too) when it comes to checking in at the front desk for a four-member room when you clearly have more than four people in your family. It’s an easy way to save money, and actually, many hotels don’t have affordable six-member rooms; you’d have to either rent two rooms or get an expensive suite. Why can’t mainstream hotels just put a small daybed in their rooms so more than four people can use the room? Just a small personal gripe, which might be Jessica’s personal gripe as well.

At the end of the day, Jessica becomes the calm one and Louis becomes uptight when he realizes the hotel gouges their prices on everything. Jessica, a master at getting deals, had Evan pretend to have had his tooth knocked out in the hotel, leading the hotel to take off all the charges. And Eddie, who was standing in line all day for the scariest ride at the adjacent theme park (which has an employee in the form of guest cameo Rob Riggle), saw the horrors of going on such a ride when a boy on a gurney vomited in front of him and said he had been brought back to life by the medics. Eddie happily decided to just lie about his time at the park. All in all, a good holiday. Even better for Eddie is that when he got back, his lies didn’t ostracize him from his friends and Nicole came back to school (she had to repeat fifth grade).

Let’s get back to Evan for a second. He’s having trouble with the fact that he’s growing up. As he tells Emery, being the youngest and the cute one is his brand. But his brand now includes losing his baby teeth and wearing hand-me-down shoes that lace up instead of velcro together. I think Evan’s angst is going to be an ongoing arc this season, so it’ll be fascinating to see how Evan comes to terms with the changes.

Overall, a great first episode of the season. But what did you think? Sound off in the comments section below!