Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 9: “How to Be an American”
Original airdate January 3, 2017.
Microsynopsis: Jessica and Louis spend the day at the Citizenship and Immigration Services building so Jessica can finally get her citizenship, but she is forced to explain her “criminal record” first. In explaining herself, she tells several stories–unknown to Louis–about her college days, when she was forced to pursue different options for remaining in the country. While they’re out of the house, Eddie, Emery, and Evan agree to take the minivan on an excursion, but get locked out while the engine is running.
Good: Each of us who are dealing with the results of the election this past November has to do it our own way, and part of my process has been to avoid political media (a huge lifestyle change) and political conversation. So please excuse me if I don’t bring it as strong as this episode deserves: I’m still in recovery. The episode, written by Fresh Off the Boat creator Nahnatchka Khan, is clearly a response to last year’s presidential campaign, the second time this season the show has taken this route, and unlike “Citizen Jessica” (episode 4), you kind of don’t see it coming. This one unfolds like just another crazy-Jessica-crazy-kids episode, but it ends with Jessica reciting the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America, completely free of irony, surrounded by other new citizens and their loved ones. I watched the episode four times and teared up each time.
There’s other stuff. The Eddie-Emery-Evan story is cute and funny. But by the time Jessica receives her pocket copy of the Constitution, you kind of forget that the other story even exists.
Bad: For once, the portrayal of teachers as idiots actually works, and it’s kind of funny. But c’mon. Wouldn’t it have been a lot funnier if the teachers were instead presented as hard-working, underpaid, and living in a strange world of caring about other people’s kids? Then Jessica could have had that moment of clarity when she realizes she can’t possibly be a teacher because she’s not that crazy. Or sympathetic. It’s a little quibble, but one I’ll keep bringing up because I have to stick up for my profession.
FOB moment: “I hereby declare, on oath, that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I take this obligation freely, so help me God.”
Soundtrack flashback: “Let Me Ride” by Dr. Dre (1992, super-censored in kind of a creative way). “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac (1977, sung by Jessica). “The Wacky World of Rapid Transit” by Del the Funky Homosapien (1991).
Final grade, this episode: Excuse me while I get a Kleenex. A.