Ever the innovator, Louis introduces every agoraphobe’s favorite restaurant feature to Cattlemen’s Ranch: take-out. One forgets how often take-out is not an option at most restaurants–does Applebee’s have take-out? I’d assume yes, because they allow you to take food home so it’s not like they don’t have the styrofoam to do it, but can you imagine calling Applebee’s for take-out? I digress…but still I wonder… Anyways. Jazzed up on the big news, Louis suffers a disastrous kitchen floor Kid-N-Play accident, leaving him with a broken leg and the mandate that he must stay home to take care of the boys while Jessica manages the restaurant.

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But even though Louis is the “fun” dad–a new fact introduced and hammered in in about 30 seconds worth of screen time; a bit unearned–he doesn’t know how to spend time alone with his own kids. As a dad, he wants to shock and awe his progeny with toys, food, and one or two well-place catchphrases… spend anymore time than that and there’s too many chances for them to realize that Louis is just some guy who happened to father them. After escaping day one to “get coffee,” Jessica forces Louis to physically be near the boys the next afternoon. It’s no smooth sailing: Park pulls off two consecutive verbal stress-aneurysms with aplomb. The antics mount, culminating in a six hour trip to the emergency room after a panicked Louis suggests the boys cut off his cast to entertain themselves.

It’s a premise rooted in the relatable problem of maturation: Do you remember the first time you looked at an adult and went, “Oh, you’re just me…but bigger.” However, besides the fear that his kids won’t like him, Fresh Off The Boat doesn’t probe much deeper. Which is fine, since the thought of your kids losing interest in you honestly seems devastating–and it’s a realistic, entertaining take on the classic “my kids are growing up too fast” sitcom trope; the realization that his kids A.) don’t exactly love his “tight two,” and B.) are just happy to have Dad around serves a solid dose of warm fuzzies.

Without the fear of firings to lord over the waitstaff, Jessica gets creative in her approach managing Cattlemen’s goldfish, instigating a “To Go, To Stay,” policy, whereby people order their food over the phone, but eat in the restaurant so that they don’t have to tip. While “Jessica vs. Waitstaff,” isn’t totally new, it’s always pleasant to see characters that rarely interact sharing some screen time. And her determination to regain firing power–including a faux-teary “what if one of us died?” speech to Louis–is so delightfully dogged that it manages to avoid exhausting us with the joke. It’s a testament to Constance Wu’s acting ability that even a dip into sentimentality never feels cloying: when she hands Mitch and Nancy their “tips,” in appreciation of their job well done, it’s sweet without being overly saccharine. This is the second week in a row Fresh Off The Boat has served us a satisfying, tidy meal of an episode. Consistency can be great, but it can begin to feel like complacency.

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Stray observations

  • “Mashed p-oh-tatoes,” - Louis’s very convincing phony voice.
  • Almost a B+ for the sweet, well-executed runner the boys have going the whole time about who would be eaten first on a desert island and why.
  • “The Adventures of Baby Ducks Screaming,” is a more accurate title for Ducktales
  • Jessica’s view on war: “Cooks should have the most kills. They have the element of surprise.”
  • Hector, sweet Hector, let me count the ways I love thee! 1). “Was he attacked by birds?! They’re everywhere!”
  • “You ever see a complete pigeon?” No, Nancy, no I have not…
  • Louis giving himself a peptalk: “They’re your sons. You made them.”
  • “They’re worse than goldfish–they’re catfish. The garbagemen of the lake!” Jessica’s hot fish takes!
  • “Mitts!” Wow give this kid a show, huh?
  • “Are you the coach?” “I guess. But Hell, they teach me a lot too.” This T-Ball coach gets it
  • The horror of removing a cast after weeks of non-use: “I had a man’s leg! This is a baby’s leg!”

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