‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “Neighbors with Attitude”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 13: “Neighbors with Attitude”
Original airdate February 14, 2017.

Microsynopsis:  Jessica and Louis find an unwrapped, uneaten pastrami sandwich in their mailbox.  This causes Jessica some alarm, so she suggests the homeowners association form a neighborhood watch. This sounds great to Deirdre and the others, but the watch is formed without Jessica or her good ideas because Jessica is not a team player. Louis gives Jessica a crash course in being a good teammate or at least faking it. Eddie is determined to make the upcoming Valentine’s Day dance the occasion for his first kiss.  Trent agrees to be his wingman, in a theme continued from last year, when he helped Eddie get Janet Jackson tickets but then went along as the third wheel. Grandma tells Emery that all her money is hidden in the house and that he will never be able to find it.

Good:  I was a Boy Scout all through childhood and adolescence. I get where Trent is coming from in trying to keep himself closeted as a Sparrow Scout. The Eddie-Alison kiss is very well handled–in fact, the way it’s cut, I suspect the actors never actually make contact, and that’s how it should be done with young thespians. I continue to like the development of Deirdre as a real character in this third season.

The best thing about this episode is the way it loops around to the Where’s Waldo payoff at the mall. The visual, with all those red- and pink-clad Valentine’s Day shoppers is hilarious, and the set-up/payoff is Seinfeldian in its execution. There are even self-aware circles within that circle, with the Janet Jackson discussion, for example, and with Trent’s “flat management structure.” I’m impressed by how rewarding this is.

Bad:  I’m no prude, but there’s a difference between edgy and inappropriate, and Trent’s use of “sloppy seconds” pushes up against the line. I don’t like it.  Nor do I like Evan’s referring to his father having the “eggs” to do something, especially in direct address. Last week, he called Louis a “kiss-ass.” Unless the writers are setting Evan up to be spanked by season’s end, this isn’t a good trend.

FOB moment:  This may be more of a senior moment than an FOB moment, but Grandma doesn’t trust banks and keeps all her money hidden in the house.

Soundtrack flashback:  Couldn’t find one this week.  Did I miss it?  EDIT:  Janet Jackson’s Oscar-nominated “Again” (1993, when Eddie and Alison finally get their kiss).  Thanks to RosieTulips for catching that.

Final grade, this episode: I suspect the writers are doing something deliberate with the language, and it’s worth thinking about.  Jessica asks Eddie what N.W.A. stands for, and Eddie says he can’t tell her.  The N-word is always a tough call, and a family show should probably play it safe with that one.  But if ever there were a time when its use could be benign enough for family TV, it would be a moment like this.  Jessica is merely asking Eddie what the N stands for.  Simply telling her is not a use of the word.  It’s saying it without using it except as a word.  There’s a second layer of protection here too, because Eddie would be telling Jessica what the band has chosen to call itself and to be called by others.  That’s pretty safe.  But then Evan uses “eggs” to mean “balls,” and Trent uses “sloppy seconds” in a metaphorical, non-sexual way (although if he’s talking about Eddie himself as Trent’s sloppy seconds, and not the act of kissing, it’s rather rough language).  Are the writers saying something about the seemingly messed-up way we think about inappropriate and appropraite uses of language, as in the way radio stations bleep out certain words used in non-vulgar ways, but will leave entire verses intact even when they describe graphic concepts without the language?  The show has been subversive in other ways, so I wouldn’t rule it out.

Language aside, this episode is put together very, very well.  A-minus.

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About Mitchell K. Dwyer

@scrivener likes movies.
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