Jessica and Emery were the central figures in this week’s Fresh Off the Boat, both staring down new situations with different expectations. The mere thought of a housecleaner, hired by Louis after Cattleman’s success, threatens her place at home — even if it turns out to be a good thing for the family. Meanwhile, Emery’s transition to middle school is hampered by all the lies Eddie has spun to teacher and staff.
After returning home from watching the Olympics, Louis and Jessica notice a caved-in watermelon on their carpet. Jessica is beyond frustrated Eddie didn’t bring it inside correctly like she asked him and requests some help. But even the offer of real help is rebuffed, as Jessica points to the “excellent” job she did in removing grape juice from the couch (replaced by a bleach stain). The broken vase she later discovers makes her even more upset and frustrated.
Enter Mary, the meek and harmless cleaner Louis orders as a surprise gift to Jessica, believing she would help ease Jessica’s stress. She treats it like a knife in her back, though, and an argument ensues in the kitchen while Mary sits on the couch. “You think I need a cleaning tutor?” Jessica yells at Louis. The two agree to allow Mary to do a trial cleaning of one room, as Jessica watches like a hawk. It goes well, but Jessica is still bothered. She wants Mary to leave…but she has to drive her home and even asks for gas money.
(Grandma’s opinion doesn’t help, either: “If my husband got me a cleaning lady, I’d throw myself in the river.”)
Elsewhere, Emery is stoked to start sixth grade and become the small man on the middle-school campus. “The beginning of the middle of the beginning of my life,” he gushes. Eddie is quick to ruin Emery’s anticipation and lets his little brother in on a secret. Since no one knew Chinese or Taiwanese culture, he made up fake rules and traditions to make life easier for himself. Things look great on the surface: tater tots instead of green beans, a locker closer to the school entrance, private showers after P.E. class.
But Eddie’s efforts hurt what Emery really wants, like sitting in the front of the class or participating in extracurricular activities. He loses out on a potential girlfriend, and all Emery loves is love. Emery initially plays along, but strikes back with the new P.E. teacher — who happens to be a recent Olympian they watched on TV. Coach Dragomir makes Eddie and his friends shower together, causing irreparable harm. “I’ve seen things I wish I could unsee,” he says to complement his 1,000-yard stare. “Ginger things. Dark things. Ryan’s things.”
The two argue over breaking the middle-school rules, and Emery yearns to do what he wants: play violin, do karate, be good at school. Eddie insisted he made up all those rules to not be thought of as a stereotype. “They’re ignorant about who we are and where we come from. Why shouldn’t we take advantage of that?” he asks. This really bums Emery out, so much so that he doesn’t thank Mary — who’s back, now that Jessica’s being tricked to leave the house. Evan goes after Eddie and puts him in his place. He’s empowered to do so after he lost his bus buddy. Eventually, Eddie yields by adding Emery to the sign-up sheet for karate, as well as writing in “Shaq Is A Traitor.” Eddie promised to keep doing him: “I’ll just keep putting those cracks in the jade ceiling.”
While the brothers accept their new reality, Jessica can’t handle having a great cleaner in the house. The extra work is rewarding for her in a way Louis did not expect. “I don’t want a stranger taking care of my family,” she tells Louis. “I want to be the one taking care of them, and then resenting them for not appreciating it.” Thus, this is the last visit Mary pays the Huang homestead.
It’s time for the weekly dose of nostalgia in these recaps, the ’90s moments, ranked:
5. Fruit Roll-Ups: Who hasn’t broken a nice piece of glassware, like Grandma, to snag one of these sugary snacks? Even if Fruit by the Foot is superior, it’s still worth it.
4. “Zombie” by The Cranberries: This 1994 hit scored the first tense drive back to Mary’s house. Singer Dolores O’Riordan’s near yodel of the word “zombie” only added to the moment’s awkwardness and humor.: This 1994 hit scored the first tense drive back to Mary’s house. Singer Dolores O’Riordan’s near yodel of the word “zombie” only added to the moment’s awkwardness and humor.
3. Brian’s form of sex ed: The tiny eighth-grader spent summer stuck in bed watching Cinemax. He has found his life calling in the form of a trope: “When I grow up, I want to be a pizza delivery boy.”
2. Izzy merch: Chad has moved on from the Cleveland Browns jersey, since they no longer exist, and now rocks a bracelet of the Atlanta Olympics’ blue mascot that looks like a long-lost character from a knock-off cereal.
1. 1996 Olympics: The Atlanta Games were the first summer Olympics to be hosted in the United States since 1984, so it was a pretty big deal — no wonder Cattleman’s was filled with people watching the competition. Most of the family is pulling for the United States and Evan is a huge fan of gymnast Kerri Strug. Jessica, though, roots for Nigeria ahead of the long jump and Chioma Ajunwa competing. “I root for the best,” she says. “That’s my homeland.” Sure enough, Ajunwa won gold. Oh, and Grandma also casually reveals how decorated athlete Carl Lewis made a pass at her in Taipei. So there’s that.