I was caught off guard with last night’s episode of FRESH OFF THE BOAT. “Citizen Jessica” reminded me why I loved this show in the first place with smart, biting satire, as it’s voting season for the Huang while Eddie (Hudson Yang) deals with Tupac’s death. Making political 1996 relevant, Fresh Off the Boat absolutely pulled no punches last night showing just how big of a circus this election cycle has been.
Hitting the ground running, Louis (Randall Park) is setting up the polling booth at Cattleman’s Ranch with Hector (Noel Gugliemi) a cook in Louis’ restaurant who also happens to be his best employee. Jessica is uninterested with the election due to it not being like Taiwanese politics. The show actually cuts to footage of Taiwanese politicians fist fighting with each other on the house floor. Jessica (Constance Wu) then uses Evan (Ian Chen) to break down why voting doesn’t matter with Evan saying voting violates one person, one vote and that it originally benefitted slave owners by distributing votes. Eddie in the meantime is devastated by Tupac’s death and the world at large trying to pin the murder on Biggie aka The Notorious B.I.G., as Eddie wants better gun control laws to make sure no more of his heroes are killed in the West Coast/East Coast beef and wants everyone to Rock the Vote for Bill Clinton. Meanwhile, Emery (Forrest Wheeler) is campaigning for Bob Dole, in which Jessica hilariously asks if that’s the man who falls off stage.
Eddie and his friends finally get their own table. But, what splits them is their disagreement over who killed Tupac effectively bringing their new table into jeopardy. Grandma Huang (Lucille Soong) had to remind Eddie that the beef between Biggie and Tupac had gone too far and that they started off as friends. She tells Eddie to be reasonable and save their friendship before it’s too late. Eddie shows his friends the newly premiered Tupac video “Toss It Up” that he’s wearing the newly released Kenny Hardaway sneakers in the video, which is impossible as they came out after he was “murdered”.
Jessica is still in the real estate game and finding herself an emerging success, gloats as Raoul Ruiz (Armando Molina) drives by. Raoul Ruiz however informs Jessica that after being successful in selling lost money in paying taxes, leaving Jessica sour. Louis tries to tell Jessica that taxes aren’t all bad until Hector revs his car obnoxiously loud preventing Louis and Jessica from conversing. Hector loves his suped-up car announcing proudly that he is a street racer. He afforded it all by not paying taxes after taking a seminar taught by Wesley Snipes. While watching TV, Jessica sees an ad for Prop 187 in which a wall will be built keeping illegal immigrants out and tougher border patrol enacting her to turn Cattleman’s Ranch into a cheerleading ad for Prop 187 and trying to get Hector deported for not paying taxes. Louis and Hector are none too pleased pointing out Jessica is an immigrant too to which she says she did it the right way and it’s about fairness. Jessica calls INS and is detained after INS finds out that she hasn’t renewed her green card due to her thinking her permeant resident card was forever. Louis has to convince Jessica to apply to be a citizen, reminding Jessica that everyone is an illegal immigrant and that Hector has family here, which makes Jessica reconsider and get him back to Cattleman’s Ranch.
The episode ends on more commentary on voter apathy at an all-time high with the Good Morning Orlando anchors bickering about the policies and political correctness of the their coverage with Emery happy that Bob Dole won one district and Eddie with his crew getting their table back with one exception.
I loved how Louis said that this country was founded by immigrants. Chris Pratt said the same thing while doing the press tour with Denzel Washington for The Magnificent Seven in regards to its multicultural cast. It’s true we are all fresh off the boat in different ways, so this bizarre, never ending nightmare of an election is crazy with certain freedoms being threatened every day in the process. The Wesley Snipes, Prop 187 (just the name alone), and Kenny Hardaway jokes are funny and are still relevant for different reasons. I was so glad that Jessica’s relator job was brought back even if it ended up with yet another example of her learning a lesson from her misguided ignorance, but it’s so timely and well done that I have to let it slide. Sanjay Shah has written one of the best episodes of the show thus far and breathing life back into what has been an uninspired third season so far. I am really amazed by the nuance and brilliance that went into the writing for “Citizen Jessica”. If Sanjay Shah is capable of this, he should be made showrunner.
The most important lesson to take away from this is to vote. Whichever side you fall on please, please show up to the polls because every ballot counts. Even at the local level, if you want change it starts small. So go vote and I’ll see you on the other side in two weeks!
Needle drops for this episode are:
2Pac – “Toss It Up” – Featuring Danny Boy, KC & JoJo (another classic track)
Season 3, Episode 4 (S03E04)
Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesdays at 9PM on ABC
A lifelong film enthusiast since he can remember, Brandon is a indie filmmaker/screenwriter and freelance critic who resides in Trenton, NJ. Feel free to hit him up on Twitter to talk movies, shows, and music (especially hip-hop).
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Brandon Norwood | Contributor