Jessica is finally a part of the real estate agency, and after asking for a real challenge, she gets the Allen House, where a murder took place and where rats have taken over. But the rats and the murder aren’t the worst parts of the house in Jessica’s mind. The worst part is that its address includes the unlucky number 4 several times. The number four, as the agency’s janitor explains, sounds a lot like the word for “death.”
Jessica still manages to sell the house (despite never entering it), but the number 4 follows her—her commission check has the ID number 4444. Unnerved and convinced bad luck has surrounded her, she tells Louis they can’t cash the check and she promptly tears it up. But Louis isn’t superstitious about the number 4, so he takes the shredded-up pieces, tapes them back together, and cashes the check so he can get a mechanical bull to better compete with Golden Saddle, which now has a kiddie area.
Bad luck continues when Louis tells Eddie and Emery not to tell Jessica about the new bull that was bought with the cursed money. Louis says that a white lie is fine if it’s for the greater good. This also means that Eddie has to concoct a story about how he wound up breaking his arm (he broke it by tripping over the bull). Instead of telling his mom the truth, he says he tripped over a rug. But this one lie makes Eddie think it’s okay to embellish the truth even more.
At the suggestion of the new guidance counselor (guest star Judah Friedlander), Eddie decides to run for class president. But he’s currently losing against other kids, who have video games and other cool stuff as incentives for their peers’ votes. One kid even has Scottie Pippen since his father’s Pippen’s accountant. Since Eddie feels like he needs some juice in his campaign, he embellishes his broken arm story to the point that he’s at Street Fighter level, saying he nearly escaped his dad’s machete. The lie triggers the counselor, who calls protective services.
It’s only when the counselor and the protective service agent (Vernee Watson-Johnson) are at the Huang residence that everyone comes clean about their lies. Eddie says that he actually tripped on the bull, and that Louis bought the bull with Jessica’s torn-up check. The protective service agent is annoyed with the counselor (this is the fifth time he’s call them for bogus cases) and declares this case another misunderstanding. Eddie gets grounded for lying and Louis gets scolded by Jessica for teaching bad behavior to the kids. She also teaches Louis a lesson about honoring other people’s superstitions when she gets him to be without his beloved jade necklace for a few seconds.
The personal lessons are learned, but Jessica still feels there is evil surrounding them. So, they turn to Grandma Huang to do some clearing work around the bull to take away the bad spirits.
Okay, now to some stand-out points:
• The writing on this episode was done by Ali Wong. I’d say that, like a lot of folks have been saying, a lot of episodes should be written by her. Not only was the episode really funny, but it dealt a lot more with Taiwanese and Chinese culture than other episodes have. Maybe it’s not kosher to say so, but I wish all of the Fresh Off the Boat episodes would contain a lot more elements of Chinese culture and immigrant experiences.
I’ll say that black-ish is successful because it is funny and because it has tons of elements of black culture, even some elements that aren’t usually talked about, like “the nod.” Quite a few of the earlier Fresh Off the Boat episodes dealt more with cultural differences, but some of these later episodes seem to deal less with those differences and more with the regular sitcom tropes of how all families have the same issues. Which is fine. But this will be explored in the other article I’ve already hyped up.
• I highlighted the actress who portrayed the protective services person because she was Will Smith’s mom on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I think she’ll always be thought of as Will Smith’s mom.
• SCOTTIE PIPPEN! What more needs to be said?
• There were numerous funny moments in this episode, such as the reference to Crystal Pepsi, the reference to mom jeans in the form of Louis talking smack about Jessica’s jeans with a six-inch zip, Louis saying that generations get less superstitious just like how they get less racist, Mitch hating Vanessa’s “Am I right girls?” moments, etc.
A lot of the jokes were actually crackling with some anger and resentment, like generations becoming less racist and Mitch saying the Huangs had some strange customs next to the other waitress who’s flinging salt. I like my racially and culturally-charged jokes tinged with actual anger. That’s why Chris Rock’s humor cuts to the quick with both humor and thought-provoking intelligence.
• Where did Jessica get the clocks with the upside-down four? Those are some subtly scary clocks.
• Ian Chen’s little brother Max made a cameo as little Evan! He did a great job screaming “I’m second three!” The parade of cute kids never stops.
There’s a lot more I could say, but, like I said, I’ve got to save it for my upcoming article. Overall, though, it was a great episode. I can only say that I’m sad that the show, overall, isn’t living up to Huang’s standards. I would have hoped that the man who’s the reason for the show would be pleased with the interpretation of his life, but he’s not for good reasons, and I respect that.
What did you think of this episode? Give your opinions in the comments section below!
Photo credit: ABC, screencaps from “Very Superstitious”
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