Aaah, the big 1-2: the last year before adolescence wrecks hormones and emotions. It is a usual time for kids to begin reaching beyond their parents’ beliefs and restrictions to truly begin creating the person they want to be. In this sense, Eddie is very typical. As seen in a flashback via Louis’ camcorder — periodically interrupted by the screen-craving grandma — birthday No. 11 only partially fulfilled the birthday boy’s wishes. It’s Star Wars-themed, but in lieu of a Chewbacca cake, Eddie gets a “Star Wars bear” one because the name of the famed Han Solo sidekick “is too Greek.”
Things are set to change for Eddie’s preteen finale. He sits his parents down and reveals he wants to skip the traditional skip birthday noodles, scallion pancakes, and Frankenstein piñata and have a chill mall day with his crew instead. Louis and Jessica are initially stoked to hit a Saturday workday (weirdos). But a conversation with Honey changes Jessica’s mind: Of course Eddie wants a party! And it’s up to the parents to give him one. The pair rallies quickly to surprise Eddie mid-chill… Only it’s not a chill session. Rather, it’s a bona fide party! That he organized! With cake! And Mitch! (Mitch? Mitch!)
Louis and Jessica’s anger stews so much they don’t care about Emery and Evan’s ploy to go bad to garner attention, even after their admission of seeing Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls on opening day. Even the oranges stuffed inside Emery’s shirt (or as Evan terms them, “shirt boobs) and Evan’s demand for a reaction receive only a skeptical glance! Eddie decries that being his real self is inhibited by all of the parental Huangs’ rules. But there will be some easing on the reins. First, Pop Tarts are fair game — and definitely don’t cause blindness, as Jessica reveals her clandestine consumption when the kids are at school. A bigger step is permitting Eddie to spend the night at a friend’s.
So Eddie heads two doors down to Dave’s house, and at first, it’s nothing short of rhapsodic paradise. He’s greeted with a cold 2-liter of Crush soda. Dave and Dave’s mom (Mo Collins) regularly engage in bodily gas battles. Lightsaber fights are allowed indoors. What’s for dinner, you might ask? Cookie Crisp! HEAVEN! Eddie wants to be older, but this throwback to a childhood dream is too good to not revel in.
It takes until midnight for Eddie to realize what he loves and misses about home: a pillowcase without ice cream, a quiet place to sleep, respect toward parents, ones who care so much they’ll barge into Honey and Marvin’s house while the former’s on the phone with a bereaved family member just to spy on their kid. The newly minted 12-year-old walks home to Louis and Jessica wide-awake. She asks Eddie if he wants the birthday noodles. When Louis points out they take six hours to make, she snaps: “It is for my son.”
This puts the noodles being done late, late into the night. Evan and Emery are still awake and are subsequently grounded — after eating the meal Jessica slaved over. The two younger boys did a litany of things to try to incur parental scrutiny and consideration. Seeing a PG-13 movie, Emery’s shirt boobs, unruly hair and untucked shirts, eating Nutella out of the jar, fabricating grades (an A to an A-), throwing Legos everywhere, leaving the refrigerator open, and planning to run away. Alas, the parents had more pressing matters than the superficial delinquency of the two prized children. As Eddie tells Jessica at the first family meal of the episode: “I’m never going to be good enough like Emery and Evan.”
NEXT: Your weekly dose of nostalgia [pagebreak]
Now it’s time for the weekly dose of nostalgia in these recaps: ’90s moments, ranked:
9. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls: Evan and Emery should have sneaked into a better movie.
8. Eddie and Mitch’s fajita bonding: This seemed like a new frontier in food back in the ’90s, so it makes plenty of sense the young Huang and the loyal host found common ground over their service and serving scars of season 1 episode 6.
7. Star Wars birthday: No doubt the saga endured 17 years past its release, even when the development of the prequels was more conceptual than reality. The presence of Chewbacca would have helped.
6. Cookie Crisp: An overrated cereal. This was the awkward mascot period, post-Cookie Jarvis and pre-Chip The Wolf.
5. Bowling/Chuck E. Cheese Birthdays: Definitely a hot destination for kids’ special days. Jessica’s dismissal of Chuck as “the rat” is mean, but fair.
4. “Go go, Power Rangers!”: Evan utters the catchphrase before hopping out of bed. Many kids surely did the same.
3. “Slam” by Onyx: It’s the soundtrack to Evan and Emery’s mischief. It’s easy to imagine them hearing Eddie play this loudly and causing his younger brothers to think, “This song sounds like troublemaking.”
2. Mortal Kombat: FATALITY.
1. “So Emotional” by Whitney Houston: Played by Dave’s mom when she storms upstairs. It should be everyone’s go-to jam to play for pre-bed dancing.