Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 16: “Ride the Tiger”
Original airdate February 6, 2018.
Synopsis: In celebration of Chinese New Year, the Huangs have a contest to see who can go the longest speaking only in Mandarin. Grandma is apparently exempt, and the game comes down to Evan and Jessica. Their dialogue through nearly the whole episode is in Mandarin. Emery is pleased that his year of bad luck is over, and he’s eager to ask his crush Celeste to the Spring Fling. His confidence is down, so Louis tries to help, much to Emery’s displeasure. Eddie doesn’t understand why he didn’t get a red envelope from Big Auntie, with whom he’s been in a fight he wasn’t aware of.
Yo! Microphone check one-two what is this?: What a cool idea. FOtB writer Jeff Chiang in the Hollywood Reporter explains that he wrote half the dialogue in Mandarin “because he could,” which by itself sums up the importance of this sitcom’s existence. I think it’s funny, predictable, and wholly realistic for Eddie only to be able to utter the same phrase in Mandarin repeatedly, conceding early because he doesn’t know how to ask for the dumplings, while Emery and Evan seem pretty adept with their parents’ language. I can’t speak to how authentic the dialogue is, but it sounds pretty good to me.
This is how I like Overly Enthusiastic Louis: overly enthusiastic on behalf of someone else, in this case Emery. The guy is so eager to be helpful you kind of forgive the thousands of other stupid things he’s done this season.
The Jessica-Evan interactions are just great, and not merely because they’re in Mandarin. They play well off each other when Evan isn’t going psycho.
Some lines I enjoyed:
“Connie Chung called and she was pissed!” (May May)
“Diversity: check!” (Gus)
“You tried to use Hanson against me? They’re just boys!” (Evan)
“Congratulations, everyone, especially our African American friends.” (Deidre)
“Nobody questions my integrity.” (Grandma)
“We need to have a serious talk, which is impossible while you’re wearing a mesh tank top.” (Louis)
“Ride the tiger low, and with measured enthusiasm.” (Louis)
“You know who the winner is here? A child’s love for his mother.” (Evan)
“And the loser is you.” (Jessica)
The five-foot assassin with the roughneck business: I can’t even really complain about Marvin this time. He lameness actually plays a nice part in the conflict between Jessica and Evan. I’m okay not having any minuses this week.
FOB moment: Duh.
Soundtrack flashback: “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang (1979). “MMMBop” by Hanson (1997), a song I totally love.
Final grade, this episode: I hate that giving this episode a grade of anything better than B+ is predictable of me, since I’ve historically favored shows (kind of to my surprise) highlighting Asian American issues. This one isn’t quite an issue episode, but it’s something of a statement, as the other Chinese New Year episodes in this series have been. Can’t help it: I really like it. A-minus.