For the first time, the Huangs are responsible for planning Thanksgiving.
Everyone’s Thanksgiving, without fail, shares at least one thing in common: familial discord. It can be grand or minor, but there’s, at minimum, a seed of jealousy. The Huangs are not exempt from this in their first Floridian Turkey Day, starting with Jessica’s mother announcing whether Jessica or her sister Connie (Susan Park) will host the festivities with her traditional 5:30 a.m. phone call. Finally, Jessica prevails, and her family will now come to the Huangs’ instead of staying in Washington, D.C. Those Juice-ica oranges worked, even if Louis’ pun didn’t.
It didn’t stop there, though: Jessica and Connie’s typically coded conversations remain that way. And the latter definitely wants to sabotage the first ever Huangsgiving; her loser’s concession call was so clear (but truly vague). Louis and Jessica have a perfect plan for Huangsgiving. Jessica’s ex-boyfriend Oscar Chow is a favorite of Mrs. Chen, so he’s invited. People will eat personal Cornish hens, “the personal pizza of the bird world.” Emery and Evan will set up table decor. Eddie will try not to bump into anything when he’s not listening to Pearl Jam with his cool cousin Justin.
Nothing goes anyone’s way. At all. The inauspicious start of the holiday weekend begins when Connie and a ska’d-out Justin arrive without Steve (C.S. Lee). He rolls up in his crappy Geo and color-distorted shorts. Unlike last time, the solo arrival isn’t for braggadocio. Steve and Connie’s marriage is sold as purportedly rocky — so much so that Steve brings a desktop computer because “the Internet is the only connection [he] can count on” — but Jessica doesn’t buy it as anything but an anti-Huangsgiving ploy.
Louis is less skeptical, but getting drawn into Steve’s downward spiral affects his family’s dinner preparation. (Note to patriarchs: Make sure you sleep anywhere but the driveway, especially when the mother-in-law visits.) He gives Steve terrible advice while inebriated and also invites Honey and Marvin over to play football. Jessica can’t crack the cranberry sauce code. Evan and Emery can’t keep their gourds clothed in mini-overalls. The supposedly ready-to-cook hens Louis ordered are alive and, worse, named. When a hungover Louis tries to play football with Oscar against Marvin and Steve, an errant pass knocks the semi-successful businessman out — and time elapses as the frozen turkey remains raw in the off oven. While Jessica is a dangerously calm angry, at least the two grandmothers and Eddie and Justin dig one another’s company.
When all hope’s lost, a very American alternative presents itself for Connie to seize glory: buying a turkey fryer from Glenn’s Department Store (played in the commercial by a desperate Daniel Roebuck). Jessica hustles and finds her there before checkout to confront her about the ill will. It’s not all quite there, though. Yes, Connie wanted to appear victorious, but her relationship with Steve is truly in a rough patch, exacerbated by lack of money. Thanksgiving is her time to shine for her own merits. Also, Steve is super annoying (essentially her words, not mine). After the 1995 edition, Jessica decides future Thanksgivings will be hosted up north in D.C. because it means so much to Connie; she even buys the turkey fryer because her sister has to be married to Steve.
NEXT: Your ’90s moments, ranked
Now it’s time for the weekly dose of nostalgia in these recaps: ’90s moments, ranked (this week was particularly tough):
9. Geo cars: Two years after Steve slowly rounded his decrepit sedan into the cul-de-sac, General Motors shut down the entry-level company. These cars were so bad, that Steve pretended it was cool.
8. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” as performed by Steve: The ukulele cover was Louis’ idea in the midst of intoxication. Inexplicably, Steve thought this was the best way to woo Connie back to him. Playing Bonnie Tyler’s original and lip-synching would have been millions of times better.
7. Dynasty: The Aaron Spelling-produced soap has been off the air for six years, so anytime Grandma Huang can lure Oscar Chow over to re-create scenes is a treat.
6. Heathcliff the cat: Grandma Huang wasn’t the only disappointed person to see this orange tabby instead of Garfield. We all were.
5. Gourd decorations: Doubt these are anywhere but the discount rack at Kmart. That is the only place to buy them in the United States.
4. “Scenario” by A Tribe Called Quest: Shame on you, Justin, for no longer liking rap. “Scenario” is the truth.
3. Vs. by Pearl Jam: It’s not Ten, but this album is very, very close in quality. Eddie is branching out of exclusively hip-hop. Oddly enough, contrary to Eddie’s claim, this was not the most recent Pearl Jam record: Vitalogy was.
2. Teenagers’ sex icons: Ska Justin is super into post SNL-Janeane Garofalo, while Eddie’s #WCW of the day was fresh-off janet: Janet Jackson. That Rolling Stone cover is one of the hottest ever.
1. Ska: Not only ska, but The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. And not only The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, but their hit song, “The Impression That I Get” (which came out in 1997). Justin’s look is even more dated than his grunge look in season 1 episode 4 — even if it’s a perfect combination for an imminent teenage angst fad: emo.