Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 21: “Pie vs. Cake”
Original airdate May 2, 2017.
Microsynopsis: Evan learns that his school has a debate team, and the prospect of “extra homework” combined with impressing his mother are enough to get him excited about joining. When he emerges as (seemingly) a better arguer than Jessica, their relationship is tested, and Jessica goes through another identity crisis. Eddie and Emery stop talking to one another when an agreement to work together on a comic book contest turns contentious.
Good: A couple of little moments made me smile on repeat viewings. Louis’s physical discomfort when Jessica mentions that time he put on “all that water weight” is hilarious, and the kind of intimidating way Grandma moves her electric wheelchair around, especially when she lectures Eddie about making things right with Evan, is strangely expressive. The debate coach isn’t portrayed as a cartoonish idiot, the way teachers always are on this program, which makes me wonder if he isn’t instead a volunteer, rather than a member of the faculty. The silly comic book story in the tag is almost funny enough to make the so-so story worth it. It’s strong, but it can’t make up for the blah-ness of the story.
Bad: This is clearly one of those sorta rare sitcom episodes where the B plot will be remembered while the A plot fades away. The Jessica-Evan story is alternately a drag and kind of lame. The Eddie-Emery story really plays thoughtfully with their characters (Lazy Boy and Nice Man? Funny! And very cute).
FOB moment: It’s a bit of a reach, but Grandma’s “You need to make thing right with your brother. This won’t be the first or last time you need each other” speech reminds me of a lot of Asian films I can’t name specifically, and it’s a nice callback to the Louis-Gene feud from the end of last season and the beginning of this one.
Soundtrack flashback: “The Longest Time” by Billy Joel (1983, sung by Louis). “The Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston (1986, spoken by Jessica).
Final grade, this episode: That TV Guide Grandma is reading, with the Married…with Children cast on the cover, is from July 29, 1989. Grandma’s reading it eight years past its publication. Not unheard of, but strange. B-minus.