Fresh Off the Boat has made it a habit of tackling (and shattering) misconceptions and stereotypes, and this week’s episode was no exception. In “Shaquille O’Neal Motors,” the trope of the penny-pinching, eternally cheap Asian was confronted and cracked open.
It’s Jessica and Louis’s wedding anniversary — their 12th, silk and linen, according to Emery. Jessica hates the traditional presents that come with anniversaries. Flowers mean watching your money wilt, and wearing pearls is essentially an engraved invitation to be mugged. What Jessica Huang does love, though, is a bargain. Negotiating is one of her favourite things to do.
Knowing this, Louis’s anniversary plan is to recreate their wedding night, where he carried his new bride over the threshold of a car dealership to buy a minivan — their first purchase as a married couple. They got their current ride after a hot-and-heavy negotiation at Shaquille O’Neal Motors, and Louis hopes giving Jessica the chance to haggle for another car will be a more successful anniversary present than previous years. However, before they have a chance to start looking around the lot, Jessica takes off, leaving Louis stranded.
Louis finds her at the Denim Turtle, the lesbian bar she frequents (without understanding that it’s a lesbian bar), where she confesses: she blew the negotiation on their wedding night, opting out of the free floor mats. She isn’t angry that she didn’t effectively shake down the salesman (okay, maybe she is a little bit), she’s upset that she let Louis down. Buying the van was the first thing they did in their new life as a married couple, and Jessica wanted it to be perfect. Their wedding anniversary serves as a reminder of her disappointment.
So, because Louis is thoughtful and loves his wife, he rushes back to the car lot to buy a new Honda Accord. When he comes home to show Jessica, he reveals he paid the “full sticker price and not a penny more.” This reignites her fire; incredulous that Louis bought the car without even attempting to negotiate, she drags the car, and Louis, back to the dealership. This, of course, was Louis’s plan all along.
What follows is a truly impressive display of haggling. Jessica’s a master, but as a team, she and Louis are next level. There’s a test drive to Tampa with salesman Clark in the back seat, an ascension through multiple levels of managers and a perfectly executed ‘silent treatment/unwavering eye contact’ combo. Next is my personal favourite: Louis and Jessica scream at each other in Chinese (about dinner and the weather) while the terrified manager pleads for them to stop fighting.
The penultimate boss almost defeats the Huangs, but Jessica is a pro and smells his fear before signing the contract, realizing the final boss is hidden behind the last door. Jessica and Louis leave triumphantly in their new car after defeating Shaquille O’Neal himself.
Meanwhile, the kids are at home, negotiating their own purchase. Eddie wants a Hot Dogger, a Slip ‘N Slide that his parents refuse to spend money on. Emery and Eddie devise a plan to sell Evan’s beloved Beanie Babies to get the money for the Hot Dogger. Although Eddie had convinced himself he had Evan’s permission, the conversation had only taken place in a fever-dream featuring a spaceman and a portrait of his Grandma.
Evan is horrified that his friends were sold without his knowledge, so when their parents return with a new car and a signed Shaq shoe, Eddie sells it and gets his little brother’s beanies back safe and sound.
One of the strongest aspects of Fresh Off the Boat has always been Jessica and Louis’s relationship, and this week’s episode further demonstrated that. Their marriage has a solid foundation of respect, love, communication and humour, and they tackle life as a team. Car negotiations, parenting, running the Golden Saddle — no matter the situation, they consult each other in each decision, and it is consistently a pleasure to watch.
Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.