Something so basic was so hard for a pair of Huang kids to achieve. No, it wasn’t for the desire for their mother to follow the rules of normal human interaction when defending the righteousness of standard driving etiquette. It was to simply be heard. Between work and being a parent and the micro- and macro-level tasks that need to be monitored, sometimes it’s easy to be stretched thin. Jessica and Louis might be fictional — well, they’re based on real people, but still — but that doesn’t make them immune to the struggles everyday moms and dads endure.
Evan is the prime victim of relatively minor parental neglect. He’s long been the pet favorite of Jessica and the subject of the most of her Mama Bear tendencies. That comes with the territory of being the baby of the bunch (can confirm, as the youngest kid in my family). Ev earned adulation for his A++ grade on a test and was commended for taking control in his friendship with J.J. Yet that bore no fruit when he asked for the simple pleasures of picking a TV show to watch after dinner, wanting to drink a non-water beverage with dinner, or receiving a briefcase for school.
The journey that Jessica takes to realize this comes when a woman breaks the de facto traffic rule of the zippering technique of the lane merging. She can’t help but wild out to try to right the awful automobile slight. The aggro display only stands to ruin Evan’s future plans and embarrass him and Emery…because that was J.J.’s mother, Helen (Casey Wilson). They want to be dropped off away from school to avoid another incident, to which Jessica replies in the most Jessica way: “Sometimes when one adult is right, they have to tell the other adult that they’re wrong.”
An apology through gritted teeth doesn’t mend the issue, so Jessica forces Evan to attend J.J.’s party so he can hopefully snag a slice of Muppet-inspired cake. Helen reveals she’s not a fan of the way Evan bosses her son around — even if his main offense is that he’s a harsh art critic. Honey mildly misdiagnoses the symptom as Evan trying his damnedest to be like his mom; however, J.J. simply listens to him, and that’s more than Grandma did when she replaced Evan’s frog with Garfield as the car’s preferred plush animal. Even if the family couldn’t realize the precocious one’s dinner drink orders, at least progress is made in respecting his wishes.
Progress was also made between Eddie and Louis. The patriarch was amped to enter the North Orlando Chili Cook Off after placing well in Washington D.C. For this competition, he seeks out a black market ghost pepper and becomes temporary enemies with five-time Golden Stockpot winner Marvin; he even resorting to tossing out lame burns to show how real the competitive heat is.
This time, Louis decides to recruit his eldest as his apprentice, a position Trent envies. Eddie is impatient but is attentive to the chili-making process, helping chop onions, stir, and copying Louis’ eccentric tasting method. They both think it’s tasty, but when Eddie has ideas to improve it, Louis rejects any sort of tinkering with his pot of maybe award-winning stew: “This isn’t a bowl of jazz,” he retorts.
NEXT: Louis and Eddie face off
Eddie is first to admit he doesn’t want to shut up and listen and insists food is his thing. “I know food,” he exclaims to Trent. “Blindfold in me in a Baskin-Robbins, and I’ll name all 31 flavors!” Surely, he enters his own batch of chili to be judged by local morning hosts Gus (Ken Marino) and Mey-Mey (Kathleen Rose Perkins) at NOCO. Louis is surprised and encourages the throw-down with his son by paraphrasing a Disney standard: “Be my guest.”
Louis is thoroughly surprised by his boy’s concoction and hails it as legitimately delicious. Both the Huangs place but fall to Gloria’s batch. At the same time, Marvin becomes disgraced and stripped of his Golden Stockpots after it’s discovered he’s been utilizing Whoppers in his chili. The winner was nice enough to donate her trophy to the Huang household in recognition of Eddie’s gift for food. Maybe he’ll launch a successful New York restaurant someday.
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Now it’s time for the weekly dose of nostalgia in these recaps, the ’90s moments, ranked:
7. Buying peppers on the DL: Surely this would have been solved by hitting a specialty food store or listening to Barry’s crazy business idea. Why go to a seedy parking garage?
6. “Race Against Time” by Public Enemy: What would have been great is seeing what Louis and Marvin used to score their chili-making; probably a Disney show tune and Frank Sinatra, respectively.
5. Baskin-Robbins: They’re harder to find nowadays, but 31 flavors was a solid joint. Their ice cream cakes are still household favorites for birthdays. Speaking of which…
4. A Grover ice cream cake: The Sesame Street-themed treat was never seen on camera. Does this mean J.J.’s mom spurned buying it for her gentle-spirited son? Did Evan leave the party before because he was ashamed by his friend’s incongruent LEGOing?
3. Beauty and the Beast: The movie was nearly five years old, but it raked in $425 million in its theatrical run. Of course Louis was a fan of Jerry Orbach and Angela Lansbury’s track — and of course he would cite it.
2. Strawberry Fanta: In a world before the Fantanas, it makes sense the fruit-flavored soda would still be appealing to Evan. He still wants a Fanta.
1. Caroline in the City: Lea Thompson — a.k.a. Lorraine in Back to the Future — played a cartoonist in New York. It followed Seinfeld during its first season in 1995. The show might have been on after his bedtime, but one assumes he was so fond of Caroline’s art that he didn’t care if Grandma tried to spoil the show by snarkily suggesting the titular lead doesn’t ever skip town.