Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 11: “Year of the Rat”
Original airdate February 2, 2016.
Microsynopsis: The Huangs are excited about flying back to D.C. to join their family in Chinatown for Chinese New Year, but a Louis screwup keeps them in Orlando, where they seek some way to have a traditional celebration.
Good: This is the twenty-fourth episode (thirteen in season one; eleven so far this season) of Fresh off the Boat, so we’re looking at what would normally have been the last episode of the season if it had begun in the fall, and it shows in the acting. This cast knows its characters: you can see it in the timing, blocking, and reactions. There’s a scene where Jessica is on the phone with her sister in D.C., and when she’s asked to explain why the family won’t be there, she wordlessly hands the phone to Louis, who recites his line and hands the phone back. This exchange happens again, and the only ambient noise in the whole scene is the sound of that phone slapping glumly into one hand from another. It’s not at all frenetic, as many of their scenes together are, but it’s controlled acting that only two actors who know each other can pull off. It’s the funniest scene in the episode, too.
There’s also a funny scene where the Huangs get together for a Chinese New Year celebration with the Asian American Association of Orlando, set up really nicely with a dialogue between Jessica and Louis where they try to pronounce the group’s acronym, AAAOO.
Bad:. The episode leans two ways I’m not especially fond of. It gets a little syrupy near the end, and although for a family show I normally approve of that, there was probably somewhere a little edgier it could have gone, since the scene that sets it up is already very touchy-feely. Also, there’s kind of a long, teachy bit that gets tiresome. It’s ostensibly for the staff and guests at Cattleman’s Ranch, but it feels like it’s aimed rather ham-fistedly at the audience.
FOB moment: “You should see how crazy it gets in Chinatown. If you can breathe properly the next day, you weren’t there.” (Louis)
Soundtrack flashback: “One of Us” by Joan Osborne (1995, sung by Honey), and “Get Ready for This” by 2 Unlimited (1991).
Final grade, this episode: This may be the first fictional prime time representation of Chinese New Year, so points for that, but the final act is a little weak. Strong acting through most of the show and a couple of scenes of determined (amusing) silliness earn it a B+.