From Janet Jackson to tax deductions, the Huangs have interesting Valentine's Day plans
Credit: Nicole Wilder/ABC

It was a tale of four romances during Fresh Off the Boat‘s thorough examination of Valentine’s Day. The love spanned from young and new (Eddie and Allison), to old yet newish (Marvin and Honey) to old and rock solid (Jessica and Louis). All had the bumps any sort of relationship might encounter. For the kids, simple date plans went awry. For the eldest, secrets were kept and were leaked, thanks to an adorable Evan. For the longtime couple, a night away from the kids was spent doing something incredibly practical and nothing in the stereotypical romance canon.

The fourth relationship experienced the biggest emotional swoon: Emery and his idea of his parents’ love. Emery has always been the optimist and idealist of the Huang family, constantly wearing a smile and regularly shooting down endless suitors, including the granddaughter of his teacher. But throughout the series, he’s been mostly positioned to serve as a foil for Eddie’s modernity. The middle child was finally placed in, well, the middle of the plot action.

Emery holds a very romantic belief of what romance is. He affixes the 50ish cards he received from classmates to his wall to create a love wall. He think it’s great that Honey and Marvin can watch him and Evan so his folks can enjoy a night on the town. Love, in Emery’s estimation, should persist in the loudest and most explicit fashion if it’s strong enough — and his parents definitely have it.

This all leads to him being floored when he sneaks back next door on a dare from Marvin during a manly game of “Dare or Dare.” Emery walks in on his parents… doing… their taxes. It’s a ghastly sight for a romantic who believed Mom and Dad were wining, dining, dancing, and being the perfect couple. Instead of seeing something that would induce years of therapy, Emery witnesses Jessica and Louis hustling to get as many tax deductions as possible.

Love, as he learns, isn’t only about grandiose gestures or being able to kiss passionately on command, something the Huang parents aren’t able to do (“Sorry for not being a slut,” Louis says for his non-apology apology). It’s about the little things, as Marvin tells Emery; something the kid learns when viewing his parents share a sweet, intimate moment over some W-2s.

(Note to any folks considering marriage: Be sure to tell your future spouse about every former spouse. Don’t pull a Marvin.)

Speaking of intimate: that’s not what the Janet Jackson show turned out to be for Eddie and Allison (more on this later). The Valentine’s Day gift turned out to not only be, you know, terrible, but Trent and his aggressive Janet fandom obscured Allison’s equally aggressive fandom. Things just can’t go well for a date when this is uttered: “I knew it would be you. I would have been fine if it was her, but two dudes at a Janet Jackson concert on Valentine’s Day? That’s the way it should be.”

Now it’s time for the weekly dose of nostalgia in these recaps, the ’90s moments, ranked:

8. The height of Rhythm Nation: Trent uses his status as a card-carrying member of Rhythm Nation to convince Eddie he deserved one of the two won tickets for Janet (“It’s unfair to Janet if I don’t go,” he pleads). He even created his own fan T-shirt, something that Jackson producer Terry Lewis was into: “Style on a budget. I respect that.” Jimmy Jam also gave respect. This would be higher if not for Janet being back in business today.

7. Not knowing the kids’ vernacular “cool”: Jessica has to ask Louis if she used “cool” correctly. Jessica has to ask Louis if she used “cool” correctly.

6. “Escapade” by Janet Jackson: Instead of seeing Janet on Night 1, Eddie and Allison were treated to Trent singing along to all the songs from the outside. You can tell how bummed the Browns-jacket-toting teen is since even singing this jubilant jam couldn’t boost his spirits.

5. Scam-artist scalpers: Outside the arena, a man accepts a proposal from Eddie that’s too good to be true: two great seats for three okay ones. Now he, Allison, and Trent can all attend. But then the guy takes the prized tickets and books it. If only there were a Stubhub or Craigslist to negotiate with myriad sellers.

4. Call-in radio contests: They still exist, sure. But the viability and the cool factor (am I using it correctly?) has dwindled throughout time. Traditional radio isn’t as big a medium for listening to music as it once was. Good on Trent for using the hot mic to shout out Class of ’97, when he and the homies move up to high school.

3. Goober Grape PB&J: Peanut butter and jelly in one jar… Evan’s right: It’s a life-changer for sure.

(Speaking of No. 3: Evan calling Honey “No. 3” might have been the hardest I’ve laughed at anything all year.)

2. Disposable cameras: Emery snaps the awkward prom-like photo of Jessica and Louis before their not-so-hot date night.

1. Being able to fake a name for discounted cable: Jessica becomes Sydney Jones to drop their monthly bill and to score free HBO. That means The Larry Sanders Show! And Mr. Show With Bob and David! She and Louis don’t want to drop hard-earned dough on Dennis Miller Live, though.

Episode Recaps

Fresh Off the Boat

Eddie Huang’s memoir adaptation tells the comical adjustments of a Taiwanese-American family settling into the wild ways of ’90s Orlando, Florida.

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