Fresh Off the Boat, Season 1, Episode 10: “Blind Spot”
Original airdate March 31, 2015.
Microsynopsis: Jessica’s college ex-boyfriend visits the Huang family and stays in their home. Much to Jessica’s consternation, Louis isn’t the least bit jealous. Eddie gets panicky when the science fair sneaks up on him, and he plots to catch Evan’s chicken pox as a way out of it.
Good: The episode brings it in early scenes, beginning with Eddie and his brothers discussing their projects. It’s almost always funny when it’s just the three boys: the combination of sweet, smart, and earnest works really well, and we get several scenes like that. After nine episodes, one of my biggest problems with this program is the way school is presented, but despite the science fair plot, none of the story actually takes place in school, so we get around that. And in the main story, we’re treated to Jessica at her best, which is almost always when she’s interacting with Louis. The Louis-Jessica-Oscar love triangle is almost Midsummer-Night’s-Dreamish with its shifting dynamics, and the actors keep it aloft with excellent acting. I don’t want to spoil anything for people who haven’t seen it yet, but the visual effects, including views of Evan’s blood, Jessica’s gaydar, and the Flying Liza, were some of the best so far.
Bad: My complaints this week are pretty small. The soundtrack, one of my favorite elements, steered clear of hip hop entirely for the first time, and except for one song (which is very familiar but which I can’t place!) in the Denim Turtle, all the music is sung by the characters. And although I understand Oscar’s exaggerated characterization (employed for comic effect, it gives us more insight on Jessica’s and Louis’s characters), I couldn’t help wishing that a show which exists partially to repackage media-perpetuated stereotypes could have found a creative, intelligent, less stereotypical way to draw Oscar. The episode as it’s offered is funny and not unrealistic, but it probably doesn’t do much to add to people’s understanding of another, often unfairly portrayed demographic. Also, I was disappointed that we never saw the red bikini. Stop teasing us, Jessica.
FOB moment: I had to look this one up, but Jessica puts white flower oil on Evan’s chicken pox. This is apparently a Chinese equivalent of my Japanese mom’s iodine-crammed-down-my-sore-throat-when-I-was-a-kid treatment.
Soundtrack flashback: “A Whole New World” from Aladdin.
Final grade, this episode: This is the funniest episode yet, due in large part to sticking to what the show has already done well (minus, alas, the usual soundtrack flashback) and staying away from problem areas. It goes for quick laughs, but it continues the development of its characters and their relationships with each other. The three Huang boys show us several new sides to their relationships, with Emery and Evan, usually allies, emerging as rivals too, in a way that’s believable and still funny. As I have written in this space before, young people watching the program need to have faith in Louis’s relationship with Jessica, and here’s an episode that strengthens that dynamic while offering new, challenging stuff for families to discuss. Good acting, multi-layered laughs, meaningful character development, and surprises all over the place make this the best we’ve seen from Fresh off the Boat. It feels like a reward for faithful viewers who kept hoping for realized potential. This isn’t quite that, but it’s an encouraging step. Objectively speaking, “Blind Spot” deserves a strong B plus, but it’s getting a good-effort bump as a way to motivate it to keep moving in this direction. A minus with a “great effort” sticker.
FRESH OFF THE BOAT: SEASON 1