Evan grapples with identity when learning the origin of his name
Nearly 400 years apart, Evan Huang and William Shakespeare find themselves asking the same question: What’s in a name? While the latter posed this question in the midst of a character struggling with forbidden love, the former did so when facing the prospect of putting his name down on an official document for the first time.
Eddie breaks the family toaster while conducting his grand breakfast experiment of a Pop-Tart/bagel breakfast sandwich. The prospect of a family outing to Sears to find a new one excited Emery, but Jessica and Louis quickly squash that dream with their plan of going to the bank and having one of the kids open an account to secure a free replacement. When the children are asked who wants to be first up, Evan cannot contain his excitement and volunteers — he dons a suit for the big day! The whole Huang contingent flocks to the first available employee, Frank, to guide along the process, but what he doesn’t know is he’s about to endure a long, long family discussion.
“I’m so glad [Evan is] my name,” he says. “It’s perfect for me.” That brings out a bombshell from Jessica: the name, Evan, was arbitrarily picked to keep the theme of E-named kids going. The precocious young child doesn’t handle this news well, sending him into a deep identity crisis. Emery and Eddie weren’t particularly shaken when they discovered their names were inspired by an emery board and a The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe sibling. Being named after a nurse, though, shook Evan.
His parents’ stories about picking their American names didn’t salve the panic attack. Jessica was determined to retain her Chinese name. But her Maryland College classmates (played by Honey, Marvin, and Deirdre in the flashback) could never pronounce it, nor did they make an effort to truly learn. Disheartening rock bottom came when a business professor refused to ever call on her because he never dared trying to say her name. After an ill-informed move to go by her favorite haircut (“Bob”), Jessica went for The Allmans Brothers Band’s song of the same name. “You know I love country jam rock instrumentals,” she explained.
Louis’ story was more out there. Eddie exposes his lie about his pops being really into Lou Ferigno and The Incredible Hulk. The truth? While bussing tables with his now ex-friend Barry (J.B. Smoove), the pair envied a gangster fish boss named Louis (played by former NBA player Jalen Rose). He begins to emulate his style and haphazardly picks it as his name when he first meets Jessica in the most romantic situation possible: in line for a unisex bathroom, both stricken with food poisoning. The original Louis catches wind and wants to fight over the name. Louis Huang promptly vomits all over the alleyway, prompting the gangster to cede the name and run away in disgust.
Discouraged and not into Eddie’s advice of making up his own name, Evan storms off to the bathroom where he finds Grandma Huang. She’s never been too into giving advice or helping out on the show, but she gives him the best lesson yet: “Your name doesn’t make you. You make your name.” Evan returns and decides on what name to use for his account, and all is well. We don’t know what he picked, given his sloppy scribble on a temporary check. But Jessica doesn’t care. “It’s the signature of a doctor,” she insists.
Now it’s time for the weekly dose of nostalgia in these recaps, the ’90s moments, ranked:
6. Library fraud: Grandma teases the way she picked her American name, Jenny, involved a crime. Her misstep? Swindling a Washington D.C. library out of their collections of Garfield comics. She really, really, really loves that stout tabby.
5. “You Gots to Chill” by EPMD: “Now entering, Eddie’s future as a face-tattooed mogul …”
4. President Shaq: Given Shaquille O’Neal is Eddie’s idol, of course he’s the Commander-in-Chief of his dream. For one, he would intimidate every other opposing world leader given his size. Like Shaq’s first appearance on the show, there’s another barb at TNT coworker Charles Barkley. Take that Chuck!
3. Hating on superheroes: Once upon a time, superheroes weren’t as beloved as they now are. Eddie exposes Louis’ lie about loving Ferigno’s Hulk, quoting him as once saying, “You said he was the worst superhero ever, because all he does is get mad. You said, ‘That’s not a superhero. That’s a character flaw.'” No one would dare criticize Mark Ruffalo’s interpretation so harshly now.
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2. Topaz: Eddie’s preferred name in his alternate reality as a business baron. He picked it because it was his birthstone. Everyone rightfully derides him for wanting to be named after his birthstone. (Random factoid: the real Eddie Huang was born in March, making aquamarine his true gem.)
1. Busta Rhymes’ Adam Duritz hair: Busta’s first appearance in the series would have been great enough. The fact that it was because Eddie was trying to recruit him for a moon concert made it better. ON TOP OF ALL THAT, he rocked hair that ushers strong comparisons to Durtiz, the Counting Crows frontman. The result was an extraordinary monstrosity: Busta + The Duritz Do. The only thing more jarring than this on-screen would be a musical collab.