Fresh Off the Boat recap: The Real Santa
Uh oh: We almost arrived at a Santa Claus truther moment for Evan. For some kids, it’s a distinctly harrowing time. While the actual revelation about Mr. Claus was, by itself, accepted by your recapper, it took a saddening case of the wrong gift to feel crushed and feeling as if Santa let you down; the actual realization wasn’t bad in and of itself.
But I was older when I learned than Evan is during the Christmas of 1995. He’s still in the throes of youth and enamored with the mysticism of Santa. Similarly, the Huangs are all into Christmas and everything it offers. Mostly. Jessica’s miniature holiday wonderland, the aptly named Jessica Town, is her favorite thing. Sure, Louis erred by buying two bookshops with stern, competitive owners, meaning there’s no bakery. But it’s clearly the highlight of her Christmas. Her one issue? Kris Kringle’s ambition. The man in red velvet never graduated college and is “labor, not management.” Rudolph was hanging around the North Pole for ages, yet he was only picked for the sleigh in a time of crisis.
Jessica’s solution for Santa is simple enough: boost his CV! Mr. Claus crafted his international vessel with his fancy Ivy League engineering degree. Evan is thoroughly impressed with Claus’ college try, even swearing off booze and babes to bolster his brain and abilities. Thus begins Jessica and Louis’ long descent into rewriting the story of Santa Claus.
They enlist Marvin to study up on science and all that; he’ll replace Mitch as the official Santa at Cattleman’s. And he’s doing a killer job, explaining to Evan with possible wonky science how his sleigh was designed. Not bad for one of Orlando’s top 100 dentists! The con nearly works until either Mitch A) forgets about being removed from Santa duties or B) simply didn’t care about being removed from Santa duties (no matter what, he was furious). The moment presents a clearly obviously opportune moment to concede Santa isn’t a real thing, crushing Evan’s sense of wonder earlier than preferred…
…but wait! The reason why there are white Santas in malls is because the Master Claus is Chinese! Jessica’s stubbornness shines once again to Louis’ dismay, weaving a thicker web of lies to catch Evan’s childhood. She’s fortunate enough to fall into two sound pieces of evidence to bolster her point: the color red, and the “Made in China” label on the bottom of toys. Jessica wasn’t even briefly distracted by Honey locating the long-lost bakery, torpedoing Emery’s sweet gift of a handcrafted replica. When Louis is confused at hearing Evan spout about Santa’s supposed heritage, his response is perfect: “Smart enough to understand the science of flight, but small enough to fit inside a chimney? That dude Chinese.”
This strategy almost subjected Evan to sheer embarrassment, at the risk of preserving a secret. The show’s version of Orlando only recently became acquainted to the Huangs and Asian-Americans. So naturally, when the elementary school announced an overhaul in its recognition of holidays, people became irate when the festive mascot was revealed as a PC gray blob. Evan’s speech began rousing onlookers, but devolved into an argument over values and culture. And all Jessica and Louis could do was look on. Maybe now the jig would be up. It would have been if not for Honey’s ace make-up abilities learned during the touring production of Cats.
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Jessica Claus was a horrifying third former of Santa, a hybrid of the first iteration (super smart), the second (Chinese), and now the third (bearded woman, manager of white Santas, and driver of a leased LeBaron). She subjects herself to these lengths to make the holiday as best as it can be for Evan by finally finding him a suitable way to manage the hush-hush business: Don’t snitch to the siblings.
Now it’s time for the weekly dose of nostalgia in these recaps: ’90s moments, ranked:
8. Non-traditional Santa snacks: Actually, this is more so a thing now. Healthy Santa snacks is so 2015.
7. Garfield Christmas decorations: The figurine becomes a resident of Jessica Town and, somehow, avoids the beef Jessica conceives for its inhabitants. Death, taxes, Grandma asserting her Garfield fandom: life’s certainties.
6. “Dear Mama” by 2Pac: Excellent song and a great one for a hip-hop head to play on Mother’s Day. If there’s a song to plagiarize sample and scribble down in a fancy poetic scroll to fool your mother that you care and that you’re a wordsmith, 2Pac is the sole choice.
5. Music videos: [Obligatory “remember when MTV played music videos?” comment.]
4. Failing on pretending to read something: With no Wikipedia or SparkNotes, fudging the intricacies of Moby Dick was nigh impossible for Louis. How did anyone fake literary discussions before the Internet?
3. Guarding Tess: A prissy Shirley MacLaine… protected by a way-into-his-job Nicholas Cage? SOLD. Louis should have been happier to receive this from Eddie.
2. Cats: Cats was huge. The original Broadway run went from 1982 to 2000. It was impossible to not know a Jellicle in your life. Or hear “Memory” at every single high school talent show ever. Honey was the personal make-up assistant to the Skimbleshanks, the railway cat himself. Andrew Lloyd Webber outdid himself, creating a timeless musical that’s a true relic of the late 20th century.
1. DIY gifts from the kids: Eddie tries his hand at this, penning an “original” poem for Jessica and stealing Emery’s film canister earrings. But this is Emery’s corner. He strives to craft the perfect gift for each of his family members. Sure, Grandma didn’t remember the historical novel he wrote based on her life. He slaves over the bakery replica his mom needs to complete Jessica Town. He sculpts a CHOCOLATE BUST OF HIS DAD! Fortunately he was redeemed by way of Grandma’s reckless Nerf Boomerang toss. Step aside, papier-mâché: Emery elevated the kid gift game.
Eddie Huang’s memoir adaptation tells the comical adjustments of a Taiwanese-American family settling into the wild ways of ’90s Orlando, Florida.