FRESH OFF THE BOAT Review: “Sisters Without Subtext”

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Connie (Connie Park) and Jessica (Constance Wu) finally attempt to find some common ground on this week’s FRESH OFF THE BOAT. “Sisters Without Subtext” is literally that, as the two sisters scout a college campus together as Connie decides to head to back to school for an art degree. And it’s not just Connie and Jessica who find themselves in a unique situation. With Jessica and Louis (Randall Park) busy with Connie and work, Eddie (Hudson Yang), Emery (Forrest Wheeler) and Evan (Ian Chen) are taken to an unexpected place by Marvin (Ray Wise) that scares Honey (Chelsey Crisp) as well.

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Kicking the episode, Evan is none too pleased with Louis reorganizing the pantry, and him getting praise for it from Jessica was hilarious and maddening. I really couldn’t believe Evan called his father a “kiss ass” and got away with it without repercussions. The postcards from Connie to bait Jessica into calling her were a nice touch. Jessica being very proud of her sister was a good change of pace. As the sisters continue to bond with their mutual love of The Color Purple musical, all of that that quickly goes out the window when they walk around the campus and Connie breaks the news that they’re at Orlando School of Art and Design as Connie is studying to be an artist. Connie tells Jessica that she was inspired to paint after visiting the National Gallery of Art and crying upon viewing “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer. Connie was so moved she couldn’t stop crying, which is funny as she was only there to eat a hot dog as they have the best hot dogs at the vendor there, according to Connie. Jessica cannot understand why Connie would do this for personal fulfillment. It’s not till Louis steps in and tells Jessica that she too needs a hobby after Jessica shows him some of her own old paintings she hid in the garage. He points out that even though they work hard, their parents would want them to be happy as well. When Jessica says she doesn’t have time, Louis tells her that she argues with her sister and that she can find time to paint. As Connie and Jessica make amends, Louis cleans out their garage that’s spider infested and turns it into an art studio for Jessica.

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With Louis at Cattleman’s, Jessica is with Connie and Grandma Huang out of town, the boys spend the day with Marvin and Honey. Marvin takes them to a retirement home as Marvin plans to move himself and Honey into the facility in two or three years. While Marvin and Eddie have a good time playing shuffle board and making desserts, Emery and Evan get their cheeks pinched by the women who live at the facility as Honey is put off entirely. After escaping the women, Emery and Evan find Honey running barefoot on a treadmill as she’s only twenty-eight, wanting to prove that she’s still in the prime time of her life. She ramps up the speed on the treadmill until it throws her back off the treadmill into a rack of exercise stability balls, injuring her hip. As Marvin and the boys take her home, Honey reassures Marvin that even after he’s gone, she’ll be okay as the Huangs live across the street not needing to move into the retirement home.

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So, I’m glad they’ve wrapped up the joke on subtext between Jessica and Connie as I’m not sure that was one that would sustain itself any longer. Using The Color Purple was funny, as that totally fits the characters as they now have two things in common. Marvin always has the best of intentions even though ninety percent of the time they’re misguided. I know he wants Honey’s future to be secure once he’s gone but man this was the worse way to do it. I’m glad we are getting more of Marvin and Honey as they start to integrate themselves into the Huang family more and more. This episode of Fresh Off the Boat may not be its best, but is also a reminder of how sharp the character writing is.

Needle drops for this episode:

“Just Hangin’ Out” by Main Source off the album Breaking Atoms (classic)

“Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister) [From The Color Purple]”

“Maybe God is Trying to Tell You Something” by Virlinda Stanton

TB-TV-Grade-A-Season 3, Episode 12 (S03E12)
Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesdays at 9PM on ABC

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A lifelong film enthusiast since he can remember, Brandon is an 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).
Follow Brandon on Twitter: @bwood0824
Keep up with all of Brandon’s reviews here.

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