Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 14: “Michael Chang Fever”
Original airdate February 23, 2016.
Microsynopsis: Inspired by the tennis success of Michael Chang, Emery takes up the sport, with the enthusiastic support of his parents. He’s declared “a natural” by Billie Jean King, and Jessica envisions future wealth while Louis sees a catalyst for father-son bonding. Because of his new status as a possibly elite athlete, Emery is moved into Eddie’s bedroom, forcing Eddie to share a bunk with Evan. Eddie discovers that someone might be bullying Evan for POGs, so he and his friends take action.
Good: The best thing about this episode is the introduction of new dynamics. It’s really our first Eddie-Evan episode and our first Emery-and-parents episode, so we get a chance to see these characters in new ways. I was in college when Michael Chang won the French Open (his only Grand Slam title) in 1989, and I remember very well how smitten my friends and I were. This episode is set in 1996, at the tail end of his upper-tier career, so it seems weird that the family is only now getting inspired by him, but whatever. If the timing seems off, the sentiment is pretty much exactly as I recall. The Eddie-Evan story is cute, and the joke where Eddie thinks his math homework is much too difficult before realizing he’s picked up Evan’s stuff is really funny.
Bad: …but I get the feeling that Evan hasn’t been well conceived, because this pyscho-ish Evan feels like a bad note. I’m not sure I have a good grip on who he is, but my image of him wasn’t this. Also bad: in less than a year, the Huangs have met Shaquille O’Neal, DMX, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Billie Jean King, and Scottie Pippin. Really?
FOB moment: When Emery gets a perm to match the hairstyle of his new tennis coach, Jessica exclaims that it’s a “success perm.” Also, a call-back to the fourth episode of season one.
Soundtrack flashback: “The Power” by Snap! (1990). “Regulate” by Warren G. and Nate Dogg.
Final grade, this episode: It’s a mixed bag with a good setup but strange execution. I love Eddie, Jessica, and Emery in this (and it’s nice to see Grandma again after a two-episode absence), but Evan’s weird, Billie Jean King is a huge gimmick, and just when I was beginning to like Eddie’s friends (Trent has come on strong in recent episodes), we get the return of the costume from The Mask. Ugh. C+.