Jessica and Louis are at odds with their closest friends

By Will Robinson
December 14, 2016 at 01:27 AM EST
ABC/Nicole Wilder
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Christmas is naturally a jolly time. It also happens to be Jessica’s favorite time of year, as established last season, and the house is as lavishly decorated as ever — even if the tiny yuletide diorama was not prominently featured in 1996. One thing tonight remained the same from last year’s episode: Her relationship with Evan, the baby Huang.

Jessica has hustled up some good realty business in recent weeks, currying so much favor with a client that she earns free movie passes. What better time to use them than now — and for the latest holiday box-office hit, Jingle All the Way? Everyone must hurry out of the house to score the best middle seats. The problem? Evan is left behind to his own devices in a very Home Alone-esque scenario.

Jessica doesn’t realize he was left behind until they’re in the packed theater. She and Louis call Marvin to make sure Evan’s okay. He dissuades them from leaving the movie. “Do NOT blow your chance to see this movie,” he insists. “I’ve seen it three times. It’s a riot.” Marvin drops by next door and ends up turning into Joe Pesci from the aforementioned kid’s comedy, slipping on a mess of marbles laid out by Evan and hurting his back. The family returns to see Marvin on the ground in good spirits and Evan upset about the situation. “Sorry, hugs are for mommies who remember their babies,” he tells Jessica.

As a mea culpa, Jessica vows to find him whatever toy he wants to make it up to him, spurring a Jingle All the Way plot: Find the Tickle Me Elmo. A store employee laughs her off and recommends a rare toy website…run by Deidre of the neighborhood. The same Deidre who Jessica spurned at the theater when she asked if she and her husband, Richard — who has glaucoma — could score a middle seat at the theater to see better.

A random man offers Louis one at a store but ends up serving him court papers. Marvin is suing Louis — well, Louis’s insurance — for the fall he took in the entryway. Marvin doesn’t see anything wrong with the situation, coming over to cook chili as two pals would, but in Louis’s eyes, their friendship is in a bad spot. “Friends don’t casually sue each other for insurance money,” he tells Jessica at dinner.

To soothe the pain, Marvin mixes muscle relaxers with beer, spawning crazy dreams in a literal Dickensian fashion. Ghosts of Holidays Past, Present, and Future come to the old dentist. Ghost of Christmas Past, a.k.a. Emery, mentions his former neighbor — Ronaldo, the sexy dance teacher — who took a liking to Honey; Marvin was relieved when he moved out and the Huangs moved in. Ghost of Kwanzaa Present (Eddie) guided Marvin next door to witness Louis telling Jessica about the lawsuit. Though the effects would be minimal, Louis was more offended by the gesture. Finally, Ghost of Christmas Future (an English-speaking Grandma Huang) shows the grim reality of Cattleman’s going out of business and a sad funeral for Marvin with no friends, as he sued all of them. He’s shaken.

NEXT: Jessica bargains for an Elmo

Meanwhile, Jessica has to confront Deidre after the theater fracas. Her husband’s sight is even worse, bordering on blindness. She only has two Elmos left, and both are accounted for — one for the toy vault and another for her goddaughter. If Jessica can find a fill-in Santa, the vault toy is hers. Her bold idea from last year, Lao Ban Santa, doesn’t pay off nearly as well. Every kid cries. Richard shows the true Christmas spirit of forgiveness and hands her the gift anyway: “Toys are meant to be played with by children, not stashed away in some vault.”

Christmas Day is a happy one, just like in all the movies. Eddie’s affair with Kwanzaa is short-lived, even if Nas discussed it in The Source, once he learns presents aren’t given until Day 7. Marvin comes by in his custom PJs — given to him by Louis — and restarts the chilly fire in their relationship.

What about Evan and Jessica? She walks into his room to see him writing thank-you notes, with Elmo stuck in his box. He tickles it once and throws it into this trunk, where he’s secretly hidden past toys. Evan doesn’t care for toys and picked Elmo to give Jessica a challenge. “Giving me Christmas presents is what you like to do,” he reveals. “It makes me happy that it makes you happy.” All he wants is to spend time with his mom.

“I know you’re not supposed to have favorites, but then you say things like that, and what am I supposed to do?” Jessica asks. “You’re my favorite.”

“I know,” he replies.

It’s time for the weekly dose of nostalgia in these recaps — with a holiday twist. Holiday movies that were referenced, ranked:

5. Jingle All the Way: Schwarzenegger and Sinbad make a great duo in this movie, but it’s all a bit ridiculous. They go way too far for a Turbo-Man action figure, making Jessica’s antics look tame.

4. The Preacher’s Wife: Jessica dreamed of a Denzel Washington Christmas movie. Enter this Penny Marshall flick co-starring Whitney Houston, Courtney B. Vance, and Gregory Hines. Its release at the time was met with mild to positive acclaim, holding true to Jessica’s maxim that there’s no such thing as a bad Denzel movie or bad Christmas movie.

3. A Christmas Carol: Charles Dickens’ classic tale has been made into many, many movies. Patrick Stewart, George C. Scott, Michael Caine, and more have all played Scrooge. The most recent version from the Huangs’ vantage point was The Muppet Christmas Carol with Caine. It’s a good time.

2. The Santa Clause: Emery is right and Louis is wrong — The Santa Clause is slept on and a great Christmas movie.

1. Home Alone: An all-time classic. Evan borrows the iconic Macaulay Culkin gasp when he learns his family left him behind to hit the theaters. He even digs into the Kevin McCallister bag of tricks. What kid didn’t imagine being in his shoes at one point? Good thing no real burglars hit the house and Marvin wasn’t subjected to the pain Harry and Marv were. An iron to the face would leave more than a mark.

Episode grade: B

Episode Recaps

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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