Fresh Off the Boat has never backed down from controversial representation, and has been gearing up for this episode since laying the foundation for Nichole’s coming out since the season premiere. With ABC losing The Real O’Neals, it was a breath of fresh air to see a coming out story handled so well by another of their shows, and FoTB picked up the torch gracefully and with the picture mix of humour.
The episode pushed most of the Huang’s to the backburner for the episode with none of the Huang boy’s getting their own storyline, and Grandma being practically MIA the entire episode. Jessica and Louis end up challenging each other during the annual softball league when Jessica roundabout says Louis doesn’t believe she would make a good coach (he didn’t say that), and she has her Elle Wood’s moment and becomes the coach of the Denim Turtles (the female lgbt bar she frequents with Honey to get away from the mens and enjoy some Melissa Etheridge) and honestly her entire ark this episode is ridiculously campy but extremely hashtag relatable. We are all a little Jessica.
The entire thing serves as the perfect backdrop to bring back Nichole’s storyline when she sneaks into the Denim Turtle and runs into Jessica and her step mother, Honey. Even if it is based in the 90’s, I’m not a fan of normalizing minors in bars and sexual spaces, but she says that she is just their to join the softball team [which inspires Jessica’s move to lead, which goes over well]. The scene then embodies 4 seasons of character development between Nichole and Honey when she confides in her step mother about her sexuality and fears of telling her father–all while in front of Jessica and a group of VERY understanding onlookers who were ready to have her back for worse or for better [down to having the jukebox primed with songs for either a good or bad reaction]. Honey was exemplary in how she handled it and showed support, down to supporting her to come out to her father and fostering healthy relationships. Even covering when their plan to tell Marvin during movie night falls short and she accidentally still plays the planned Melissa Etheridge song on her boombox.
The show uses a lot of camp and humour, as expected from a sitcom, but they surprisingly touched on a lot of very accurate and relatable expenses. Down to Nichole accidentally convincing her father she was a Wiccan musician to the point he bought her a Stevie Nicks cd, which had us cackling. They even added a very realistic bit of drama when Marvin makes a joke about Nichole being on the Denim Turtles and that “being the only team of theirs she is playing for.” This is a common type of aside comment or joke that may seem minor but can have a huge psychological impact on someone’s comfort level, as demonstrated. This felt extremely familiar and resonated so hard that later in the episode when Marvin apologized it inspired my own mother to acknowledge she finally understood what I was talking about before and she even apologized for a few old wounds.
The episode ends with heartwarming acceptance and even more dad like puns when he gets her out during the game. The only true criticism we could have with anything is how Jessica inadvertently outed the young girl, because as we have said on TGON before: constantly making Jessica mistake ridden and thoughtless is out of character and mildly exhausting, but everything turned out perfectly and the writing on this episode as a standalone is fully Emmy-worthy.