In a rare move, Fresh Off the Boat was able to balance 3 storylines and do them all justice without the episode feeling thin or dragging. The show is known for knocking holiday episodes out of the [Randal] park, and this episode perfectly exemplifies all of the series strong suits.
While the actual Chinese New Year is only spent with the Huang’s and not heir typical large gathering, other characters come into the fray after the opening scenes, but it is the main cast that shines as always. Grandma Huang initiates a challenge to speak only in Mandarin, where Evan and Jessica both win, but then get in a drawn out battle of wills to keep the contest going the next day.
Their contest lasts more or less the wholr episode, with a couple of devious moves such as Evan using it to silence his mother’s opposition during the HOA vote, or Jessica trying to trick him with Hanson. The contest ends when Jessica is called to promo her novel on Good Morning Orlando and signs Evan as her translator, and love for his mother wins over — or as Jessica would say, she won.
Outside of that, Emery and Louis have one of their rare father-son bonding storylines. Emery is exiting his year of bad luck, and rather than let him try and fail Louis works too hard to stack life in his favor, as his mother had done for him. Unfortunately it causes Louis to embarass his son if front of the girl he wants to ask to the dance (by asking for him. Yikes!). They resolve and we start to get a sense of the direction the writers are taling Emery, which has been hazy — if Eddie is a laid back slacker and Evan is a driven over a hiever it leaves Emery to be the awkward middle child still finding himself.
And in a potent third storyline, Eddie doesn’t receive a red envelope from Big Auntie and when he calls her she tells him they’ve been in a fight for a year, and Grandma admits that she’s in the same [fot] boat and can’t ask Big Auntie why she is mad at Eddie. Eddie helps Grandma forge a fax saying the strawberry seeds she forgot to send to her sister were denied by customs and fixes their feud, and his with Auntie’s because he was supposed to remind Grandma to send them, but grandma is now mad at Eddie for not reminding her [but he fixed it, so I think it cancels out].
The episode was spoken 50% in Mandarin, and commenters have said Evan actor Ian Chen had the most believable Mandarin (besides Grandma), followed by Jessica actrss Constance Woo. The show had also been praised for its spot on subtitles that are refreshing after Hollywood’s questionable handling of translations. The episode is spoken in approx. 50% Mandarin, and even touches on the Cantonese differencr when Deidre uses the wrong one to tell the Huang’s happy new year. It didn’t feel forced, it felt relevant and coherent, and was another gem in the crown of season 4.
Unfortunately the show isn’t on again anytime soon and hasn’t yet been renewed for season 5….so we will keep you posted as news breaks.