Fresh Off the Boat recap: Shaquille O'Neal Motors
You got to hand it to Louis: There’s really no better way to spend a 12th wedding anniversary (the silken linen one, per Emery) than where the magical day concluded — even if it is a car dealership. As hard as it is to believe something with jamming doors that take Herculean strength to close and faux wood paneling is outdated, the Huangs need a new set of wheels. It’s a piece of junk, but it’s also the first landmark moment of their marriage. Louis, con mullet, strolled into the dealership with his lawfully wedded Jessica to turn the screws on an unsuspecting salesperson on their wedding day. Why not strive to recreate that, especially with a champagne pearl Honda Accord in your sights?
The impressive feat Fresh Off the Boat continually achieves is borrowing tired sitcom tropes and stories, but rooting them in strong emotional spaces. Take the surprise visit to Shaquille O’Neal Motors. It induces more regret and guilt than thirst and excitement for Jessica, despite her adoration of negotiating. The revelation? She missed free floor mats last time around and felt she let Louis down. She’s detested anniversary gifts since. The failure wasn’t primarily rooted in frugality, but rather self-deprecation and disappointing her partner. To her, it’s the worst mistake of her life.
Jessica indicates as much upon a much welcome return to the Denim Turtle, where Deb the bartender throws in needed gems to enhance Jessica’s obliviousness that she loves frequenting a lesbian bar. (Contrary to she of the 12-year marriage, Deb proudly proclaims she’s been “wiener free since ’83,” the year of the Huang nuptials.) Louis doesn’t care, since it was the first time they signed their names together. In a string of nearly saccharine moments, this straddled the line between cheesiness and earnestness the most — but it fell on the proper side and was truly a moving thought. When Jessica polishes off her wine and ends up home, she apologizes to Louis, buys him real flowers, and permits him to buy a modest yet fancy car.
It would have been a mild end to the story…if Louis had not diabolically planned to buy the car at the sticker price. HELL. NO. That lit a fire under Jessica, who had vowed to never walk through the automatic glass doors ever again. Now it’s really, really on. If there’s something to banish a crippling fear, it’s confronting it head on. The veteran married couple has the glint and fire of their first day. They’re back for you, floor man Clark. And the vehicle they just returned is totally used. Bring on the real manager.
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What transpires is a truly remarkable display of haggling that approaches harassment. They run through not one, not two, not three, not four, but five supposed managers (and a mustachioed Clark) all with different strategies: A threatening drive to the Tampa docks, the silent treatment with ice cream sandwiches, fake angry yelling in Chinese: It’s a run comparable to the championship ones of the dealership’s namesake.
And speaking of him: Hey look, there’s Shaq! The damaged doorway in the corner leads to what’s presented as the final boss level. “Congratulations,” he says. “No one has ever made it this far.” And there is the car dealership mogul, the Diesel Engine Peddler himself. He appears only briefly, but he has plenty to work with — even throwing shade at legit game Shaq Fu and his current TNT co-host, Charles Barkley. Louis and Jessica win: They quash the Big Capitulator and nab a prime deal.
NEXT: “No one has ever made it this far”
While the folks ran around Orlando, the Huang boys were left to their own devices and an open house. It’s the first episode-long arc that kept Eddie, Emery, and Evan all together. You knew things would go crazy after Eddie spelled out “BOOBS” in his cereal. Evan sends invites under the doors of Eddie and Emery for a cordial tea party outing with the classiest of Beanie Babies. Naturally, Wolly Wolly holds court. Deirdre peers and tries to fleece him, but her walking mate informs her that some of those bean-filled babes are valuable. Valuable enough to hock and scrounge enough scratch to pick up the Hot Dogger: a Slip’N Slide-like contraption shaped like the weak sausage.
A sequence that’s determined to be a dream, given the presence of an astronaut and Evan’s not painting grandma for months, told Eddie to flip the stuffed animals. It crushes Evan and is perhaps the cruelest and most thoughtless thing the eldest son has done to the baby thus far. Bullying and punking the small child comes with the territory, but moving possessions is cruel. “They weren’t dumb stuffed animals” he exclaims. “They were my friends.” The childlike sincerity, like much of the other things in this episode, struck Eddie — and me. Right after scoring a Shaq-signed shoe, he realizes it would be best for him to sell it to get Evan his Beanies back. The lesson? Brothers don’t bicker all the time.
Now it’s time for the weekly dose of nostalgia in these recaps: This Week In 1995:
- The top-button-only flannel Eddie sports in the beginning is classic.
- Louis’ mullet is from the early ’80s, but it’s so legendary, it bears mentioning twice.
- Champagne pearl can’t be a modern color, even if it is “the most elegant on the neutral rainbow,” as Louis proclaims.
- Beanie Babies: Those were a thing.
- I thought Clark mentioning LoJack was anachronistic, but it’s been around since the 1980s.
- Some Shaq notes! First, that Shaquila bottle is excellent. Second, given the timeline of this episode (around October 1995), this precedes Shaq’s final season for the Orlando Magic. We may see a crushed Eddie in the back half of episodes.
- Shaq Fu was a Sega Genesis, SNES, and Game Boy game that pitted the hero against inter-dimensional baddies. This proves we need more athlete-fronted games.
- As for his filmography: Blue Chips had been released, but we as a society were still about nine months away from enduring Kazaam.
Eddie Huang’s memoir adaptation tells the comical adjustments of a Taiwanese-American family settling into the wild ways of ’90s Orlando, Florida.