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Throwback Thursday - Fresh Off The Boat - Phillip Goldstein

Throwback Thursday is a weekly article in which we look back at our favourite TV episodes from over the years.

To be honest, I just recently started watching Fresh Off The Boat. Looking for a new comedy to add to the long list of shows I already watch, I browsed through Hulu and decided to finally give this one a chance. In a matter of a couple of days I was already half-way through season one, but one episode stood out: "Phillip Goldstein."

As Eddie (Hudson Yang) is still struggling to truly connect with the kids at his new school and to find his place in a mostly white community, the school's principal asks him to show around the new kid in town, Phillip Goldstein (Albert Tsai). Since Eddie is himself fairly new, it doesn't take him very long to figure out that he was asked to do that because the new kid must be Chinese too. The principal denies it, realizing that Eddie saw right through his stereotypical behavior. In a rather funny sequence, he tries to describe Phillip to his assistant by avoiding saying "it's the Asian kid" at all cost. When he finally sees him, Eddie is glad to meet "another kid like him" and to finally have someone around that might understand him better than the other kids. But what this episode of Fresh Off The Boat is about is how much looks can be deceiving, and how connecting with somebody does not depend on race.

Because of his Chinese descent, Eddie thinks he will connect with Phillip. However it turns out that if Phillip has Asian looks, he is everything but what Eddie expected. Adopted by Israeli parents, Phillip is devoted to Judaism, loves musicals, practices the cello and also... a sneaky little jerk. He is the opposite of Eddie. The two kids rapidly realize that they do not like each other, but everyone seems to think they can be nothing but best friends. From the school principal to every single teacher, everyone assumes that because they are both Chinese, Eddie and Phillip should get along. Even Jessica (Constance Wu), Eddie's mother, wants them to be friends, mostly because she sees in Phillip the perfect representation of a "good Chinese boy" and would like Eddie to be more like him.

But there is more to Phillip than meets the eyes. As the Huangs have dinner at the Goldstein's house, Jessica is more and more admirative of Phillip, and Eddie sees an opportunity in her mother's behavior. Since she refuses to let him go to a Beastie Boys' concert on his own, Eddie tells her he will go with Phillip. Phillip goes for the scheme by making another deal with Eddie: he will go to the hip hop concert with him if Eddie accompanies him to see Les Misérables. That way, all parents are satisfied, and both kids get their way. But remember, Phillip is not the nice boy he seems to be. After Les Mis, he bails on Eddie without a word, leaving the other boy worried and looking for him. Eddie calls his mother for help and they both head to the Goldstein's to tell them what happened. There, they find sneaky little Phillip. Jessica realizes that the kid is not a good boy, but instead very selfish, and that even if Eddie is not everything she would want him to be, he is actually a good kid.

This episode did a good job of digging deeper into Eddie and Jessica's relationship and giving them an opportunity to bond more. It also did a good job showing that being of the same race does not mean instant friendship. In fact, at the end of the episode, Eddie finally bonds with Walter, the one Black kid in his school, his oldest self adding in the narration that the Chinese kid and the Black kid bonded over a common love for a white hip hop group. Sure, when you are outnumbered in a community that is not yours, you tend to look for the ones that are like you, whether it is people who look like you, or people who speak the same language as you do, but that does not mean they will become your friend. Humans have a natural tendency to seek those who are similar to ourselves, but above race there is humanity and that's where you'll find, as this episode of Fresh Off The Boat points out, who people really are and whether or not you can connect with them.

What were your thoughts on "Phillip Goldstein"?