The young Eddie Huang probably wasn’t familiar with the Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush, but one song title rings true for him after “Boy II Man”: only love can break your heart, young Eddie. Positive steps were taken in becoming closer to Nicole. She sat with him and the guys at lunch and warded off the eighth graders, allowing the kids to make bold choices. (Good on you, Brian, for finally wearing glasses after four frightening years. But let’s talk about the Braveheart kilt later, Dave.)
Most importantly, neither Nicole nor Eddie likes their fifth period electives of tutoring and piccolo, respectively. So in exploiting the ignorance and “It’s okay, my wife is Asian” racism of the faculty adviser (Matt Lucas), Nicole and Eddie get to “study,” hang out, bump new Boyz II Men, and bond over Wu-Tang Clan hand drawings.
But it’s the furthest thing of what Jessica had in mind when she signed Eddie up for piccolo. She positioned Eddie in music lessons to nab one of the 2,000 tragically unclaimed marching band scholarships. “You’re going to ride that metal tube all the way to money town!” she elegantly yells when Eddie rebels.
With Eddie growing up, Jessica faces a mini crisis of how to parent. It’s brought on by Honey having trouble handling Nicole, given that her dad Marvin wants her to have everything she wants. But Jessica doesn’t need Dr. Spock, any other parenting manual, or other children as friends, as Honey seeks with Nicole. “Children are never too old to be controlled,” Jessica asserts when Honey mentions wanting to not be walked over. Learn from chess, she suggests. Always think moves ahead to be strict and enforce your will on your kids. It’s what she grew up knowing: Never defy your parents.
Jessica succeeds — for a while. After she learns Eddie has skirted band lessons, she circumvents him by directly consulting the head of tutoring to reassure him Eddie can handle tutoring more than one student, unlike white students. She’s fully aware of his prejudices and twists it to her advantage, as Nicole did. (Thankfully Jessica briskly rejected the offer to grab lunch with his wife, who is Asian, in case that wasn’t clear the first three times he said it or by the desk portrait.) Her ploy works, and she crushes Eddie’s only solo time with Nicole while uttering “checkmate” as she claims victory.
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Forming a hate of tutoring or juggling near a dozen other kids wasn’t what truly turned Eddie off from the class. It was the new kid in town who’s older and has a penchant for quoting tried lines pop culture lines: No one can compete with Arnold Schwarzenegger lines. The time Eddie and Nicole shared wasn’t valued and viewed the same by both of them. Handling unrequited love might be the hardest as a teenager, when feelings and hormones are still working themselves out. There’s only one to way to cope: Boyz II Men.
Eddie lies in his room, sulks, and plays “End of the Road” on loop; he even imagines himself in the music video. He plays it so much on his speakers that at dinner a few nights post-hunk, Emery hums it, Eddie and Louis join to belt the lyrics, and Evan comes in at the end to recite the spoken word portion. Jessica can’t figure out, but Honey fills her in that her eldest son is merely lovesick and needs empathy. Naturally, Jessica has suffered this too, by way of Oscar Chow. It was rough. “I lost weight; my grades suffered; I cut my hair,” she tells Eddie. “It was the worst 20 minutes of my life.” Though it’s hard to see, Jessica reassures him that he has to keep on living life and fighting. If she didn’t, she never would have met Louis. At least there’s a potential new interest for Eddie: a cute, hip-hop-playing flutist.
Now it’s time for the weekly dose of nostalgia in these recaps: This Week In 1995:
- Nothing says “Good morning!” like an emotional Boyz II Men music video.
- Boyz II Men is the pop culture relic of the episode, but they did not release an album in the fall of 1995. “End of The Road” was a monster song in 1992, hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 13 consecutive weeks. It just wasn’t new in the show’s timeline.
- Nicole’s Phil Collins Sussudio (1985) shirt is excellent, and I want one.
- Eddie wanted to take up leatherworking to craft a pair of Timbos (Timberlands) to dress like his idol Biggie.
- The willingness to show up sucker M.C.’s is a classic Run D.M.C. nod.
- Advice for junior high kids: Don’t ever dress like William Wallace of Braveheart unless it’s for a history class or Halloween. Definitely not during lunch.
- Nicole doesn’t deserve Eddie if she pretends to find secondhand Kindergarten Cop and Beavis and Butthead references hilarious to flatter the new military brat.
- The mystery brass musician at the end plays the iconic synth of “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” to elicit a smile from Eddie.