Fresh Off the Boat recap: Season 3, Episode 1
The Huangs travel to Taiwan to attend the wedding of Louis' brother, Gene (Ken Jeong)
In order to salvage the relationship with his brother Gene, Louis is taking his family (and Fresh Off the Boat‘s season 3 premiere) on a trip to Taiwan. Don’t worry if you missed the brother drama. Louis, somewhat sheepish and nervous returning to his native country, regales the indifferent Taipei customs agent with the backstory of Gene’s Orlando visit that created the familial falling out. Jessica was beyond ready to be back. The reason for her visit — to claim $200 from Gene that she mistakenly paid him — was on the customs form. “I’m home,” she proclaims.
Jessica wants the kids to recognize they are also in their native environs and aren’t tourists. But they’re not. Eddie, Emery, and Evan were all born in the United States and have never been to Taiwan. All they know is that the humid summer there is worse than the humid summer back in Orlando.
Nevertheless, it’s time to meet the extended family: Big Auntie, Big Uncle, Little Auntie, Little Uncle, and the Huang children’s cousin who chooses to go by Hennessy for an obvious reason: “Because I’m smooth, and I’m in the club.” Now that Grandma Huang has been found, it’s time to track down Gene to let the healing begin. Louis can’t wait to repair the rift while also relishing his seemingly superior life. First stop, the assuredly shoddy wedding venue…
…except it’s the majestic Grand Hotel. Gene and Margaret are getting hitched in one of the swankiest venues possible. Upon seeing Louis, Gene sends his wedding planner with a note asking why he decided to show up despite the disinvite. Louis shares he shelled out a bunch of money to bring the whole family out on short notice — even snagging Economy Plus airline tickets. Gene is moved: “You spent so much, so much, so we can finally put the past behind us, brother,” he says.
At least Louis can hold on to the thought that Margaret is a meek temple worker … except she’s a successful, gorgeous television actress (played by Taiwanese film and TV star Ann Hsu). He’s not too pleased with all these developments, nor the extravagant penthouse. In an act of defiance, he writes, “Wishing you a lifetime of misery you ass pimple” on a wedding lantern that’s supposed to carry good wishes to heaven.
While the trip isn’t going Louis’ way, it is for Jessica… or so she thinks. She’s giddy walking through the streets of Taipei and instructing her kids to become less weak. Jessica hits snags though, when trying to sore some special swordfish soup. The owner doesn’t remember her and recommends she go to McDonald’s down the street to sate their American tastes. She misplays a negotiation to score Evan a pencil case he really wants and bargains for a pair of bad fakes Jordan for Eddie. “Your negotiating muscle has atrophied,” Auntie tells her.
The wedding rolls around and is as nice as Louis and Jessica’s city hall ceremony wasn’t. Gene and Margaret tell their love story in a video short titled Ghost 2, complete with a take of that clay scene. An emotional standing ovation drives Louis to admit he’s thinking about the possibility of moving back. But Jessica isn’t into it. “I know I’ve been saying how different things are here, how they’ve changed, but it’s not true,” she says. “They’re the same. I’m the one who has changed. And I’m homesick for Orlando.” They learn they’re just like Patrick Swayze in Ghost, regarding the U.S. and Taiwan: “Stuck between two worlds, part of both, belonging to neither.” With that, Louis reconciles with Gene, and the Huangs head home.
It’s time for the weekly dose of nostalgia in these recaps, the ’90s moments, ranked:
5. Evan’s travel preparedness: The youngest Huang family member consulted paper AAA guides and brought along Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
4. “Bow Down” by Westside Connection: Eddie has another of his regular fantasies as G after scoring the Jordan 11s at the Night Market. In the dream, he owns Taipei and believes the shoes would be enough to make things cool between him and Alison despite zero faxing.
3. Fax machines/Kinko’s: Eddie had discussed with Alison about sending a fax message everyday while overseas. Unfortunately, his plan is foiled, even when offering to bribe the Grand Hotel concierge $3 to use it. Not only because he doesn’t send any while away, but also because Eddie is afraid of what might happen when Alison walks into Kinko’s without seeing a correspondence from her beau. The risk, in his words, is an employee “sliding in on my girl with open arms and shiny nametag, preying on her loneliness,” he says. “Those guys clean up. That’s why you work at Kinko’s in the first place. Because you’re shady.”
2. Ghost: The 1990 Swayze/Demi Moore/Whoopi Goldberg romantic movie made over $500 million worldwide. No wonder it’s so pervasive in Taipei. Auntie and the whole slew of extended family have used it to learn English. Nothing better to listen to to feel like a boss than Ice Cube and friends.
1. Shaq leaves Orlando: Perhaps the most heartbreaking moment in the show’s run. Alison arrives at the Huangs’ house after Eddie returns to Orlando, and she has terrible news: Shaquille O’Neal is leaving the Magic to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. The newspaper headline “Lakers Hit The Shaqpot” was used by the Los Angeles Times.
Episode grade: B+
Fresh Off the Boat
Eddie Huang’s memoir adaptation tells the comical adjustments of a Taiwanese-American family settling into the wild ways of ’90s Orlando, Florida.