On the heels of ABC picking up the back nine episodes of Fresh Off the Boat’s second season, rounding out a full 22-episode season, the show came out with another strong instalment.
In “The Fall Ball,” we are reminded that middle school dances can be really nerve-wracking. Pressure and expectations are everywhere, from parents, friends, crushes even John Hughes’ movies. While those expectations overwhelm Eddie, they inspire Louis. He spent many hours in a New Jersey factory (where he helped make the plastic tables that go in the centre of delivery pizzas) watching Pretty in Pink and was struck by Andie’s (Molly Ringwald) strife. Louis is an idealist and those typical teenage experiences seemed to him like a piece of the American Dream that he would never have a chance to participate in.
Louis’s faith in the American Dream has been a recurring theme throughout the series. He uprooted his family from Washington D.C. to move to Orlando in order to open, own and operate his own restaurant. He secretly indulged in vacations and sought country club admission to fit in with his neighbours, most of whom are white, and bleed red, white and blue. He wants his sons to have all of this and more. So, when principal Thomas contacts him about Eddie’s first school dance, Louis is so excited he races right over to the school to volunteer.
Part of ensuring his son makes the most of his school dance is whipping him, and his friends, into shape. When Louis arrives home, they’re all having a great time playing Shaq Fu with the Game Genie. The main issue: dancing. The boys’ idea of “slow dancing” is some sort of bizarre mating ritual to Shaggy’s “Boombastic” and Louis is (rightly) horrified.
Despite Louis’s best efforts, the prospect of going to an out-of-school function with members of the opposite sex, is too much for Eddie, who stays home and plays Shaq while his friends go to the dance. Louis goes home and gives his son a pep talk that ends with Eddie dressing in the power outfit Louis had previously vetoed. Father and son make an impressive entrance at the Fall Ball and both have their moment on the dance floor (complete with a “moosh pit”).
Elsewhere in the episode, Grandma Huang is thrust into the spotlight when her boyfriend, Charles, the lovable, never-seen dentist and mentor to Honey’s husband, passes away. It seems Jessica was the only one who was unaware of Grandma’s relationship as the entire family (plus Honey) mourns the man and remembers him fondly. Jessica, who has always had an icy relationship with her mother-in-law, decides to ask her for a loan from the inheritance she acquired from Charles in order to buy a house, fix it and flip it. Initially, Grandma denies the request, causing Jessica to confront her about their rocky relationship. Grandma explains that Jessica’s housing her has never been a display of kindness, but rather of obligation. She states that Jessica is spoiled and, at times, selfish, but they are both determined and proud in their own way. Eventually, they come to an understanding that is rooted in mutual respect, and agree to flip a house with Honey.
Let’s just hope no horse murals end up in any of those houses.
Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.