Fresh Off the Boat Review: License to Sell

“Always be listening to me: if you’re going to do something, be the best.”

Jessica (Constance Wu) dreads going to work in the morning because she doesn't actually have a job, in ABC's Fresh Off the Boat.

Jessica (Constance Wu) dreads going to work in the morning because she doesn’t actually have a job, in ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat.

So said every Asian mother ever. Well,  not really. But at least when Jessica says this, it’s spot-on for her high-expectations character, and for that I commend this show’s continuity. But in an interesting twist, Jessica comes up against unexpected obstacles when she tries to hit the ground running as her neighborhood’s best real estate agent in Fresh Off the Boat‘s latest episode, “License to Sell”.

You see, having sold a house on her first try about a month ago, her ego shot through the roof, and now she believes she can ace the realtor’s exam and start selling luxury mansions like it’s nobody else’s business. Now, before I say anything else, can I point out that this is stupidly naive, even for someone as intrinsically overconfident as Jessica? I’m having difficulty placing this episode in her character’s developmental arc. We’ve seen before how candidly narcissistic Jessica can be (and how endearing it is), but how that transforms into Jessica knowingly and repeatedly poaching another agent’s sales without her own license is anyone’s guess, really. Even stranger is her instantaneous deflation when she chats for a minute with a ten-year real estate veteran at the examination site and realizes that, having “started” her “career” so late, she can never catch up to the best. Look, it’s clear that Jessica’s self-assurance is undercut by a few inferiority complexes — tension with her sister and mother-in-law and insecurity about living in super-White Orlando, just to name a few — but what purpose does it serve to have her run away from her problems and binge on Chipwiches instead of acing that test like the unassailable badass we know and love?

I guess it successfully gets me craving a Chipwich. Oh, and it also gives Honey a chance to reveal that she is a magical ubiquitous jogging fairy who occasionally dispenses words of wisdom (“There’s always going to be a shadow, so it’s up to you to step out of it”)… and occasionally rats out her friend by telling her husband that she never took her licensing exam. You know, I’m on board with Jessica and Honey’s awesome friendship; just look at how it took only one careful question from Honey to get Jessica to spill the beans, whereas Louis’ noisy new salon hair dryer prevented him from even hearing his wife’s initial confession, leading to a series of bumbling excuses and cover-ups later on.

But I digress: the point of Jessica’s rather unusual bout of cowardice does seem to be rooted in her foremost concern, i.e. her sons’ well-being. She won’t allow them to be either pushed around or given less of a challenge than she knows they can handle. Because she wants Evan and Emery (and Eddie, too — let’s hope she hasn’t given up on her eldest yet) to be the best at everything, with the possibility of setting a poor example looming large, she chooses to save face and lie rather than come up shorter than perfect. It’s classic for a sitcom, but honestly pretty unrealistic for a real person, let alone a pragmatic Asian mother like Jessica. My mother, for example, has never been too ashamed to own up to her mistakes. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t still have high expectations for me. The cheeky “Do as I say, not as I do” adage runs rather freely as an undercurrent in this household, and that’s what I would have expected from FOTB.

In the meantime, young Eddie is trying his best to impress his eight-grade crush, Nicole, but he doesn’t have a clue as to how to do it. His dad’s first piece of questionable advice is to stalk her (but not said in so many words), so Eddie slanders Oprah in class, lands himself in detention, and scootches up next to Nicole, who is also a bit of a rebel. Next, his dad instructs him to find shared interests with her, so Eddie, who has apparently forgotten that Nicole enjoys the same music he does, dives head first into perilous territory by pretending to like beauty school fashion and allowing Nicole to use him as a mannequin.

The end result is funny, cute, and heartwarming, as Eddie realizes that having a pierced ear and henna tattooed hands is as much of a punishment for caving into peer pressure as being grounded by his parents or not joining his crew at the mall for a Shaq sighting. His dad’s last bit of advice, and the only one I’d give my kids as well: just be yourself, and if that’s not good enough for her, then she’s not the one for you. And what does Moms have to say about it all? Well, first, “You ‘love’ me? What are you hiding?” (Great throwback to episode two.) Then, “I can’t even look at you with that thing.” (Very similar to what my mom told me when I came home with earrings). But finally, she told her son not to give up, because, as she learned herself, being a quitter is worse than being a loser.

And as a final note, I nominate Evan and Emery’s Star Wars reenactment in their dad’s hair dryer for the award for cutest twenty seconds of television so far this year.

Jessica: Apparently you need a license to sell houses! Did you know this?
Louis: I did know this, I told you this, and you ignored me.

Voiceover Eddie: Maybe [Nicole] was out of my league, but look at Janet Jackson and Jermaine Dupri! If that ashy little nugget could get it, so could I!

Walter: Just before that, [Shaq] was at Mrs. Field’s getting one of those giant cookies!
Dave: But I bet to him, it’s a regular cookie.

Jessica: Eddie! I can’t believe you — my goodness, your hands are beautiful.


About Andrew C.

I'm a grad student at UC Berkeley.
This entry was posted in FOB and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Fresh Off the Boat Review: License to Sell

  1. Jeff Kaplan says:

    CHIPWICH is available in NY through Marinas Ice Cream distribution company!!!!!!!


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