Fresh Off the Boat | Episode Thirteen: So Chineez

Posted by Emily Cheung & filed under Television.

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The season finale of Fresh Off the Boat “So Chineez” opens up with the Huang family finally settling in to their new life in Orlando. Eddie becomes the new class president, Emery and Evan are excelling in school, Louis’ Cattleman’s Ranch becomes busier, and Jessica bonds over Melrose Place with the neighbourhood rollerblading moms and is killing it in her new real estate career.

Jessica received the ultimate “symbol of success” in settling in Orlando when she is invited to join the North Orlando country club. Jessica enlists the help of neighbours Honey and Marvin, members of the country club, to persuade Louis to join as well. Louis cozies up to the idea as the couple raves about the business connections he could make for Cattleman’s Ranch, “Business happens at the club every day, it’s nothing but fresh white towels and handshake deals”.

While Jessica is overjoyed to “be [the club’s] first Asian-American members”, Marvin innocently remarks, “You guys are just like regular old Americans to us”. This statement rubs Jessica the wrong way and ignites her worries about having become too westernized and losing touch with her Chinese culture. She starts to questions her family’s authenticity as she observes fundamental losses of Asian-ness around the house: “When did we start wearing shoes in the house?”

Jessica’s fears of assimilation are realized in Eddie’s subplot as he is assigned to represent Iceland for the World Cultures Day at his middle school. Eddie partners up with his grandma in a hilarious catfish plan, as he barters Iceland for Jamaica so he can represent the Caribbean countries with his friends and sing reggae and wear a Rasta hat for his presentation.

*Spoiler Alert: The following has spoiler content!*

Taking matters into her own hands the Jessica way—with fear and intimidation—she implements major changes in the household to preserve their family’s Chinese heritage starting with no more wearing shoes in the house. Everyone must also speak more mandarin at home. She goes as far as enrolling the boys in Chinese school in Tampa and coercing Eddie’s principal with the race-card so he would switch Eddie to China for World Cultures Day.

Highlight: Jessica goes on a full-on rampage in her quest to uphold Asian culture among her family while dressed like Chun-Li from Street Fighter.
When Eddie complains about his mom’s intervention at school, “Jamaica’s so much cooler than China”, Jessica fires back, “You know what’s cool? A wall you can see from space—China! Birth place of Kung-Fu—China! Gun-powder, the compass, gambling—China—China—China!

She goes on to change her mind about the country club membership claiming “we need to reconnect with our culture, not surround ourselves with white people doing white things”. Meanwhile, Louis is looking at opening up a second location for Cattleman’s Ranch with his new found business connections from the country club. Jessica takes the situation by horns (reference to last episode) and reasons with Louis that joining the country club for business connections is just as bad as the Wolfgang Chang’s, a local American fast-food joint that markets unauthentic Asian food. “If we drop the ball, [the kids] will end up getting our culture from fake Chinese restaurants like this one”. In a change of character, Jessica offers a piece of wisdom to sway Louis: “Success is important but it is meaningless if we lose ourselves”.

Plot Twist: Louis lies to Jessica about cancelling the membership to the country club. A re-occurring theme throughout the series, Louis prioritizes Cattleman’s Ranch over being honest with his wife again—Surprise! Surprise! Another Plot Twist: Jessica didn’t give up watching Melrose Place. Jessica confides to Louis, “I keep telling the boys to hold onto their identity but I can’t even do it myself.”

In an act of defeat, Jessica allows Eddie to represent Jamaica. Triple Plot Twist: When Eddie’s fellow Caribbean representative, Trent, makes a joke of China, Eddie defends his Chinese roots and drops some education on him: “Don’t be making fun of China…we got 5000 years of history dawg”. And proceeds with some harsh burns: “Same with those Air Jordan’s you love so much, just do it? Just made it—in China!”

As witness to this cross-cultural mutiny, Jessica proudly displays Eddies F-grade on his Jamaica presentation (because he spent too much time schooling Trent about China instead of presenting) on the coveted fridge door spot. The finale concludes as Eddie assures, “my mom had nothing to worry about because no matter what we were never gonna leave our heritage behind”, while the Huang family drives off to the country club with their new Florida license plate: SO CHINEEZ.

“So Chineez” was an ideal episode to wrap up season one of Fresh Off the Boat; not only did it highlight character growth but it opened up an essential dialogue on the issue of authenticity facing many immigrants’ journeys. This episode demonstrated Fresh Off the Boat has the honesty and the ingenuity for Asian-American representation on mainstream television.

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