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Fresh Off the Boat - Season Five - Review: Growing Up

27 Sept 2019

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The sixth season of Fresh Off the Boat on the horizon, and since I'm the new reviewer for this series, I'm taking this opportunity to review the entire previous season.  Season five was a year of growth, particularly for Eddie, Jessica, and Evan.  The oldest and youngest sons of the Huang family are moving into the next stages of their lives, and their mom struggles to adjust while also dealing with a major setback in her own life.  This is overall a consistent season with great character growth, but it also suffers from some dull B-and-C-stories, one of the parent-son dynamics not aging well, and a couple significant misfires.

5x01 - Fresh Off the RV

From the start of the series, Jessica Huang's motto has been "If you're going to do something, be the best."  As an author, Jessica's not the best. To be fair, she was going up against J.K. Rowling.  This season starts with two long-gestating things being born - Honey's baby and Jessica's book, A Case of a Knife to the Brain.  The bad news for the novel-baby is that Harry Potter is released the same day and ACOAKTTB gets left in its magical dust.  Jessica starts off the season off-kilter as a result, dealing with the biggest failure of her life and too ashamed to tell anyone but Louis. While I've always enjoyed Jessica's confidence, I think knocking her off balance is a good move from both a character and comedic perspective.  That she was ready to fake a full book tour that seemed to be just her going in the bookstore and reading Chamber of Secrets for an hour or so is just ... awesome.  I related to both the dedication to keeping up the illusion of success and her choice of reading material.

Eddie finds himself in a similar situation when his best friend Nicole announces she's leaving for New York.  Just like Jessica, he finds his world knocked off axis; and like Jessica, he hides from his problems.   The surprise is that Eddie's the one to decide to stop running before the end of the episode.  He gets home from the fake book tour in time to have one last Saturn talk.  It was a sweet way to say goodbye to not only one of my favorite elements of the show, but one of my favorite TV friendships of the last couple years.  Don't worry, Eddie, I teared up a little too. Darn allergies.

I also enjoyed the celebrity guest stars this episode.  Jaleel White's annoyance at the Abdul-Jabbar's insta-popularity with everyone was a fun runner.

Best Quote: "Sometimes you forget how stupid the rest of the world is, like all anybody cares about is if some snotty British boy can fly."

90s Stuff: Full House opening credits, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as himself as the owner of the RV dealership, Jaleel White as his under appreciated salesman, and my personal favorite, the release of the first Harry Potter book.  Even Jessica couldn't put it down.

5x02 - The Hand that Sits the Cradle

Do you ever think that being Jessica's friend must be stressful?  Like, really, really stressful?  When Honey, weakened by childbirth and ten months without wine, gave into her friend's insistence on helping her with the start of parenthood, I had a sense of foreboding.  It was a good instinct, since Jessica was hunkering down for a month's worth of living with and controlling every minute of Honey's life.  I'd have kicked her out as soon as she said the words "no bathing."  But it was just another step in Jessica trying to deal with her book's failure, and a really funny one; Honey's increasing frustration played against Marvin's delight and Jessica's calm yet creepy energy made for a hilarious A-story, giving all three actors a lot of great stuff to play with.  And all's well that ends well, with friendship and sangria.

Unfortunately, with a show that has a large cast, especially as it gets older, a great A-story can be brought down a little by really dull B- and C-stories.  Both had something to enjoy about them, with Louis's attempts to bond with Evan ending in some anti-Twister hatred (I don't like it either, so I approve) and the Emery and Eddie workout led to the wonderful visual of Jenny ripping a watermelon apart with her bare hands.  But after a strong start to the season, and compared to the main storyline of the episode, these felt like not particularly original time fillers stuck between the good stuff.  Like one of those Oreos with a weird filling that you're pretty sure they made because they're running out of ideas of what to fill Oreos with. That's this episode. A weird Oreo.

Best Line: "I sleep on her failure every night."

90s Stuff: Shania Twain and Pumping Iron, which is a fun combo.  Especially with sangria.

5x03 - Working the 'Ween

Another year, another Halloween episode.  I confess to having a soft spot for shows that get invested in specific holiday traditions, like Brooklyn-99's Halloween Heist or Friends' Thanksgiving episodes, so I love that Louis is so attached to the 'Ween.  That being said, the fifth time out was definitely showing some lag; the multiple costumes gag, pulled twice in this episode, was already used better the season before, leaving Emery and Evan stuck in an incredibly dull and one note C-story (rocking costume choices from the quadruplets aside).   Eddie didn't get much better material, unfortunately.  While Eddie's need for independence gets more interesting as the season progresses, here we just get him trying to work a boring shift with Trent in one of his worst appearances, showing up at his friend's work and being scared of stuff that is completely non-threatening.  It's relentlessly unimaginative and hits every beat you think it's going to, in the laziest ways possible

The main story is a drag too.  Yes, we all know that babies who aren't on a sleep schedule yet are a special kind of torture, but this is one of the duller examples of a sitcom trying to use that for laughs.  There are certainly some upsides.  Constance Wu and Randall Park are great as always.  Jenny's contributions to the plot, like giving baby Emery whiskey to keep him asleep for $10 a pop and destroying the only pacifier with her Freddy Kruger nails, and fun details like the fact that Louis and Jessica sang The Rose to get their kids to sleep, all keep things from getting too dull. It's not a terrible episode.  But it's certainly an example of a show that's started to run out of things to do with one of its holiday traditions, and one of the most skippable episodes of the season.

Best Line: Louis and Jessica, trying to imitate Marvin and Honey: "In my day you weren't allowed to cry unless the bone broke through the skin." "Mamma wore a halter top the day after you were born."

90s Stuff: Emery and Evan's excellent Mulder and Scully costumes (Evan is a good redhead), "Buffy the Thermostat Slayer," and the quadruplets costumes including Britney Spears, Hermione Granger, Cher, and Mary Catherine Gallagher.

5x04 - Driver's Eddie

One of the fun realities of being in a minority is that some of the basic milestones other people take for granted can come with some uncomfortable road blocks.  When Louis pulls over to help a man with car problems and a police officer aggressively assumes that Louis had caused an accident, he realizes that Eddie is going to have to deal with the Bad Asian Driver Stereotype.  Louis's determination to have Eddie rise above the stereotype by being the best driver on the road, and then making the assumption that Eddie is at fault in an accident later in the episode, shows how complicated dealing with stereotypes like this can be.  He wants to save his son from the kind of incident he's just experienced but has to deal with his own complicated relationship with the BADS (which is an appropriate if silly acronym for a crappy thing).  It's a solid example of a comedy navigating how to relate these kinds of issues without getting too serious for the show's tone and format, with bonus Rush Hour content.

Evan trying to connect with Jenny was a great secondary story.  My grandma was big on the over-the-top stories too, and I was very much Evan in those situations, so his frustration hit home for me.  Of course, now that I'm not a kid anymore, I also sympathize with Jenny's desire to have fun with her life story, especially if it includes epic golden singing owls.  It's a fun take on a relatable family problem, and pairs well with Louis's dilemma to make for one of the best episodes of the season.

Best Line: "A stick in the mud? I'll have you know a beaver would call that the start of a house!"

90s Stuff: Mario Kart (Rainbow Road!!!!) and Rush Hour

5x05 - Mo' Chinese, Mo' Problems

For four long years Louis and Jessica have waited, but at last there are other Chinese people in Florida!  Of course like everything you spend too long wishing for, it's not quite what they expected. Louis getting protective over his friendship with Martin is fun, but the real meat of the story (sausages aside, and no that's not a euphemism) is reserved for Jessica and guest star Ming-Na Wen as Elaine. ACOAKTTB comes up again at the end of the episode to hit home the damage that stereotypes, even supposedly good ones, can do.  Jessica gets judge-y when she realizes that Elaine's son isn't her definition of successful, but when faced with a neighborhood mural that depicts the only Asian kid holding a math book, she's forced to confront her own complicated relationship to a stereotype, like Louis the episode before.  Horace bringing up her failed book, even briefly, is a reminder that even judge-y, wants-her-kids-to-be-doctor/Presidents Jessica dreamed of something more than the stereotype for herself, which emphasizes how limiting bad representation can be.  She also realizes that she might not get along with Elaine all the time, but there are certain instances when they need to have each other's backs if they want to make a change in these kinds of situations.  Both Wu and Wen give great performances and play off each other well, and I'm glad they were able to bring both the actress and the character back multiple times over the season.

Best Line: "I'm friends with Chinese Oprah.  I'm Chinese Gayle."

90s Stuff: ER and Chicago Hope, "Ernest Saves ..." movies, some football references I assume are 90s accurate but they could have said literal nonsense and I wouldn't be able to tell the difference, and Oprah and Gayle's friendship, although that last one is kind of an evergreen reference

5x06 - Sub Standard

Picking up from the last episode, Jessica is reevaluating her life post-book and looks for a project to distract herself.  Eddie was the unfortunate soul who caught her ire.  Jessica goes to work on Eddie in her usual college-focused, "I know what's best" intensity, only to realize that in a lot of ways she's in the same place he is, trying to figure out what she's passionate about and how to move forward in a new direction.  But unlike Eddie, who accepted that life was changing on him when he said goodbye to Nicole, she's still struggling to come to terms with her current uncertainty, leading to clashes with her son and his new teacher.  It's relatable, and funny when juxtaposed with Jessica's usual laser focused determination, and ends with her deciding she wants to be the "teacher boss," aka go into school administration.

The rest of the half hour is a mixed bag.  Louis and Honey's workout subplot was pretty well worn territory, but the heart-to-heart they had about having to accept that life changes after kids was well handled. I'm sorry you won't get to jog regularly again for a while, Honey.  Emery getting a splinter and being afraid to get it out was nothing.  Seriously, sometimes you can just let the rest of the cast have a week off if this is the best you've got for them.

Best Line: "Also, if I had to do it again, I wouldn't have said you were dead.  I came in a little hot, it was for effect."

90s Stuff: Montel and Mentos ("Fresh talk and fresh breath")

5x07 - Where Have All the Cattlemen Gone?

Poor Louis.  One of the nicest bosses and friendliest people in the world can't seem to get his employees to stick around, and last year's recurring character Matthew just joined the ranks of the ex-Cattlemen's Ranchers.  I feel his pain; I miss Mitch and Nancy, too. He tries to get Eddie to come back (how ADORABLE was that flashback of little Eddie as Fajita Man), but his son wants some independence at a job outside the family business.  So Louis hires his friend Trent instead, Eddie gets jealous, and ends up as Cattlemen's new delivery service.  It's another step for Eddie as he tries to grow up but is worried about losing his place at home and in his family, and gives the show something new to do at the restaurant.  Also, A+ song choice for the flashbacks and title.

Meanwhile, Jessica continues on her path to becoming the "teacher boss" by plying Matthew's wife Amy for the PTA president position, and getting some manual labor and bonding time as a result.  Having Angela Kinsey back one last time is a good reason enough for this interlude to exist, but the best part is Jessica swiveling around in the principal's chair like a Bond villain, lording her new power and then almost getting stabbed in the eyes taking a victory sip from Louis's boss mug.  I am now considering a counter for the regular season: Times when the C-story was pointless and went nowhere. It happens so much, and nothing remotely funny happened.  I may call it the "Weird Oreo" counter.

Best Line: "Hello, principal. I would like to be in charge, please."

90s Stuff: "It's the economy, stupid," TLC, and of course, Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

5x08 - Cousin Eddie

Merry Lao Ban Christmas!  Another special holiday for FOtB, Christmas has some freshness that Halloween lacked.  Jessica's rigid traditionalism starts to chafe against Eddie, a 6'2 fifteen-year-old who barely fits in his Christmas picture stocking and wants to visit his best friend in New York. Their "dance" is almost inevitable, as Jessica admits in their reconciliation scene.  What works about this clash of the generations is that unlike previous seasons, Eddie is a little older, a little wiser, and makes a real attempt at maturity before his mom's inability to bend even a little finally breaks him and he engages in a rebellious Run-MC montage.  It keeps their conflict from retreading old ground, and shows how both characters are moving forward when Jessica bends and lets Eddie have a little control over the holiday.  Plus the reveal that Jessica loves the holiday in part because it was the first time she felt like she bonded with baby Eddie is sweet.

Emery's conundrum works too, since it comes from an examination of his character and his relationship with his brother rather than just finding random things for them both to do to kill air time.  These kinds of stories are preferable to the usual B-plots because showing how Emery's affable nature can also make him indecisive, and how Evan's assertiveness can be a useful counterbalance, shows how these characters can get a little more three dimensional as they grow up, if the show gives them the chance.  The scenes with Louis and Evan interrogating Emery and the over complicated tree decorating were some quality content.

Best Line: "Nicole sent me an ornament that tells a story too: How there's no truer common ground between a lesbian and a fifteen-year-old boy than the movie Wild Things."

90s Stuff: Wild Things (aka "the pornament"), Christmas in Hollis

5x09 - Just the Two of Us

Will Smith got beat up a little in this episode for being the prime example of "soft" rap, but since the first rap songs I learned were Fresh Prince and Men in Black, it's a hard point to argue.  Anything that parents are comfortable with their elementary schoolers belting out around the house is not high on the hardcore rap chain.  He was a good tool to teach Eddie that living a hard life makes you want soft things, which is definitely one the weirder lessons of growing up.  I know that I used to think that dark content in TV, books, and movies was deep, until I actually lived through some tough times and suddenly got an appreciation for comedies and happy endings.  No need to make life harder than it is.  Having lived through World War II, Jenny knows this better than most, and it's good to see her character get fleshed out like this, as well as recontextualizing Eddie's understanding of her eccentricities.  Related, if you haven't watched the Men in Black music video and gotten the full glory of Will Smith dancing with a 1998 level CGI alien, please get yourself to YouTube and fill in this crucial gap in your pop culture lexicon.  Also, I feel like Ian Chen has never actually seen the Carlton dance in his life.

Louis and Jessica - couple name "Jessica," since neither portmanteau they came up with was up to snuff - getting tricked by a radio contest into a couple's workshop was good for their development as well.  Yes, the trust exercises, spacey instructor, and all the snapping were pretty run of the mill, but it was worth it to delve into the Huang's relationship a little.  No one enjoys being the disciplinarian all the time, and always having to be the nice one to balance out an intense partner can be draining, and it was good for them to acknowledge that.  I was pleasantly surprised because I thought it was going to be all about how Jessica is too mean, and was happy that she got to point out that Louis was just as much a part of their dynamic as she was.

Best Line: No line this time, but I did enjoy the penguin hugs

90s Stuff: All the rap references, snaps, Case Logic

5x10 - You've Got a Girlfriend

Evan and Jessica's relationship is complicated, not least of all because Ian Chen is pushing an age where saying "Mommy" is getting creepy.  She's got a tighter hold on him than any of her other children, so rebellion from him throws her all kinds of off.  Becoming the school Peeping Tom kinds of off. Sicily is ridiculously adorable, Evan is smitten, so even though her overprotection was motivated, it was harder than usual to not feel like Jessica was less being a concerned mom and complex character, and more like she was just being a jerk.  The fun I usually have with her intense determination wavered in the face of these kids super cute ... faces.  Hopefully this lesson sticks the first time.

The plot with Louis putting a literal Mom and Pop store was kinda all over the place.  It felt like they wanted to take on gentrification by making the point that not all stores driven out by new businesses are created equal, that some are forced out before their time while others weren't that great to begin with, but it never quite got there because the setup was too long and convoluted.  Or they tried to add more depth to a basic story about rom-coms that they picked to go with Evan's girlfriend plot. While that would usually be appealing to me, I think in this case I would've just liked a story about Louis geeking out over 90s rom-coms.  Which are his favorite?  Does he have go-to Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock impressions?  These are the questions.

Best Line: "You've got whale ... you've got kale ... you've got Dale ... aw, you've got frail ... mail's here."

90s Stuff: You've Got Mail

5x11 - Driver's Eddie 2: Orlando Drift

The show naming their worse second attempt on the same basic plot after Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift is weirdly prophetic.  Unlike the first entry into the Driver's Eddie series, this plot doesn't find any new territory to explore, instead retreading the well worn "kids don't appreciate how much work their Mom's do driving them all around until they have to help" story beat.  It's not that they're wrong, or that it wasn't a useful lesson for Eddie in particular to learn, it's just a let down from the more interesting Louis and Eddie story earlier this season.  I did enjoy them using an ICP concert as the impetus for the teenagers figuring out that just because they can go almost anywhere they want, doesn't mean they should.  The visual gag of their terror on their faces behind the clown makeup was excellent.

The failed Chili Con was a more successful story overall.  I like Louis and Marvin's friendship, and them losing one of the bedrocks of their connection is a little sad.  But the real fun was Honey; Chelsey Crisp looked like she had a lot of fun being the thorn in Louis's side all weekend, getting all the silly lines about the convention and showing up at the end decked out for Paisley Con.

Best Line: "It's not morning if you haven't gone to bed yet."

90s Stuff: Insane Clown Posse

5x12 - Legends of the Fortieth

Yay, birthday time!  Louis is turning forty, and Randall Park's dorky dad enthusiasm had me hooked from minute one as he tries on glasses for the eye decay he's about to get. Camping is the worst, so while I felt bad for Louis, I can't even blame the little Huangs for trying to get out of it. Also, why didn't we actually get to the party and see these kids try to dance?  I feel a little cheated, especially from not seeing the now towering Hudson Yang bad dancing around Cattlemen's in front of a crowd. Jessica floundering when she realizes how important the day is to Louis and stealing Marvin's present for him was fun too, especially her attempts at the love languages.  It's not surprising that Louis's love language is quality time since Jessica is not so good at the other ones.  The toast scene in particular was hilarious, especially the look on Park's face as he dramatically shoves the lever on the toaster down.  This really was Randall Park's episode, and while there was a lot else to enjoy in the writing and other performances, his delight throughout is what makes this a must see.  That, and Honey's surprisingly chill acceptance that Jessica and her stolen axe were going to be the death of her.

Best Line: "Oh. This is how it ends for me."

90s Stuff: Legends of the Falls with an excellent Brad Pitt wig for Louis

5x13 - Grand-Mahjong

Fun fact about me, I get deeply creeped out when bad things happen to eyes. So hearing about and then actually seeing people eat fish eyes all episode was ... upsetting.  Aside from that, I love when the show pits Jenny and Jessica against each other. They're both willing to get underhanded, and this was no exception.  The most impressive part was how long Jenny sat on her grudge about the fish eye until she had an opening to get back at Jessica.  I respect that level of dedication to pettiness. It was fun having Elaine, Julius, and Horace back, and the latter two got a little more to do this time.  I guess it was time to address that Emery has serious middle child-itis, but I'm going to need them to do more than have him brawl his dad about it.  I want them to give him some more conflict to work with. Still, at least the problem is out there, and we got an epic knockout face from Randall Park for our troubles.

Best Line: "No. They're young, why are they so restless?"

90s Stuff: There may have been other stuff, but Dunkaroos!!! Man, I loved those things.

5x14 - Cupid's Crossbow

Jessica didn't learn to stay out of Evan's love life the first time, and now she's pointing a crossbow at children.  I was right. I don't like it. I think this is a case of things that sound amusing in the writers room not coming across right on screen.  On another, less traditional show with a darker comedic tone, Jessica's extreme take on love equaling adrenaline could have worked, but here it feels forced and uncomfortable and may I reiterate she points a crossbow at children.  But points to Evan's choice in girlfriend, because Sicily is the kind of girl to know when thing are weird in a cute way, and weird in a way where you need to get away from your boyfriend's weapon carrying mother.  Good instincts, Sicily.  Louis getting to help Evan was a nice callback to earlier in the season, and a deviation from how dads and sons on TV usually bond, which I appreciated.  And we finally learned what happened to Nancy and Mitch, which has been bugging me.  Glad they're happy.

Eddie's search for a secret admirer was fun.  Before you could just stalk people on social media, you had limited options to figure these kinds of things out, so Honey and Eddie just go door to door.  It's another example of taking advantage of the lower tech decade the show is based in for comedy.  I enjoyed the hijinks, and the reveal of the admirer.

Best Line: "Evan this is weird, and not good weird like the man-frog you hired. Just weird."

90s Stuff: Other than the lack of social media, I don't think anything

5x15 - Be a Man

So first, Mulan is the best Disney princess and Be a Man is one of the best Disney songs, meaning I'm deeply inclined to love this episode based on that alone.  Fortunately, it has a sweet storyline about Eddie trying to be a good big brother to Evan that really clicked for me.  True, seeing Jessica get over involved in Evan's life right after the Crossbow Incident took some of the fun out of it, but worrying that her last, perfect child will go down Eddie's more rebellious path is better motivation than just be grumpy that Evan talked to Louis instead of her one time.  The message of the episode, that learning to take losses and roll with the punches is as necessary as working hard to succeed, and that parents need to be reminded of that as much as their kids, is topical and important.  Jessica and Eddie had a lot of fun torturing poor Principal Hunter, and I fun watching.

The Sopranos inspired B-story was ... meh.  Seeing how terrible Emery was as a spy was fun, and yes to more of Randall Park as Dice Man, but I think I would've rather just seen Jenny and Marvin try to catch a rat.  My favorite part was when Jenny let the rat go in someone else's house so she could look at it, so.  I'm ready for some rat chasing, please.

Best Line: "Of course Eddie is at the bottom of this! The kid who put roast beef in all my file folders." "You remembered!"

90s Stuff: The Sopranos, Mulan (and the best use of music in this series so far don't @ me)

5x16 - Trentina

I'm with Trent.  Tina is too good for Eddie.  But that's actually a good thing, at least in this case.  These kinds of stories, where girls/women push boys/men to do better are often done pretty poorly, with the assumption that it's up to the ladies to fix the dudes, and often either frame intense pushiness as a virtue or make women into uptight jerks who are harshing their dude's chill.  We don't get any of that with Trentina.  She's not pushing Eddie to fix him or to be his cheerleader.  She thinks he has a cool idea, gives him something in a pretty casual way to help him realize it, and then tells him to figure out his crap before he asks her to give them another try.  In other words, she knows what she's looking for and thinks that Eddie could do more for himself, but she's not into badgering or hand-holding.  She's got better stuff to do with her time. I wish I was that self-actualized at her age. Yes, from a show perspective, I hope this helps Eddie motivate himself to do more and liked the kick in the butt it's already given his character.  But mostly, I think Trentina is awesome.  More of her forever, please.  Also, the Golden Prune stuff was amusing and I loved Louis seeing Eddie/Trentina (Eddina? Treddie?) as a rom-com.   The Jessica/Evan stuff is suffering from diminishing returns and that's all I have to say about that.

Best Line: "Obviously, I would love it if you went out. I mean, think of the children. Redhead and Asian? So beautiful. So rare."

90s Stuff: N-64, Wilson Phillips

5x17 - These Boots Are Made for Walking

Unlike the repetitive nature of Evan and Jessica's conflicts, Eddie and Jessica's tete-a-tete's always find some new ground to cover.  In this case, it's that moment when "My house, my rules" parental trump card starts to look a little flimsy because the kid is old enough to theoretically take care of themselves.  Eddie might still be kid-level lazy and easily distracted, but he's not incompetent, and dismissing him out of hand when he asks for more responsibility isn't fair or even an option anymore for his mom.  Which is the other reason I enjoy Jessica's relationship with Eddie more than Evan.  Because their stories are running parallel this season, there's a respect between the two and a shifting dynamic as Eddie matures that keeps their independent arcs moving forward.

I don't think most kids attempts to figure out their passion involves line dancing in a cowboy themed bar in Florida, but hey, you do you, Emery.  It's not surprising that FOtB has realized that pairing Emery off with Evan or Eddie all the time wasn't doing the character any favors, and I'm glad they've stuck with it and are trying to push his development and how he and Louis relate.  Again, weird hobby to start with, but I'm willing to see where this goes.

Best Line: "Ask Jeeves to look for Tom Selleck.  Plus shirtless."

90s Stuff: Original (knockoff) Sims, Elvira, Ask Jeeves

5x18 - Rancho Contento

Trentina is back, and she brought Sex and the City with her.  Yay!  This was a better integration of a 90s era show than The Sopranos - and by the way, did HBO pay Disney to promote their classics, or was HBO just that prevalent back then?   I was too young in the late 90s to have a good read on that.  Anyway, Eddie becoming a better friend and inadvertently impressing his crush is another step in the right direction for the character, unlike the weird Louis hijinks that I wish had been replaced with rat catching.  More teenage boys being positively impacted by female targeted media.

Jessica's reaction to Louis's gift of early retirement is similarly effective at moving her forward.  After the failure of her book and in the middle of her going back to college, it makes sense that she's not ready to contemplate life after work and kids.  She's still figuring out and going after her own passion the way Louis did with Cattlemen's five years ago, so of course she's not where he is.  The C-story is again pointless, but since it was actually funny this time, I'm fine with it.  Good prank, Evan.  Your mind is terrifying, Jenny.

Best Line: "Wednesday. Dreamt Emery was attacked by a swarm of killer bees.  I woke up laughing."

90s Stuff: Dance, Dance Revolution, Sex and the City

5x19 - Vice Mommy

There's a scene from the show Scrubs where Zach Braff's character J.D. is annoyed with the way his girlfriend (Mandy Moore) says "That's so funny" instead of laughing, so his friend Turk has them watch a comedy together in the hopes that constant exposure to the irritating habit will acclimate J.D. to it.  Instead, J.D. ends up curled into himself and begging for it all to stop.  That's me in an episode where Evan says "Mommy" this much. I imagine at least some of it has to be my own weird pet peeves making the word sound like nails on a chalk board, but Evan's obsession with his mom is not as cute or funny as it was five years ago.  Wanting your mom around is one thing, but after all the time they've spent on the two of them this year, I thought it was so they'd realize that their bond would have to evolve as he grew up and they could get a little more independent of each other.  Instead this happened.  I'm glad Jessica is at school, not just for her sake, but so these two take a break from one another.  Is this just me?  Does it bother anyone else?  Am I the only one who cares about the Crossbow Incident?  Please validate me or rid me of my delusions in the comments below.

Louis being an affectionate boss is well established, as is Eddie caring about independence and his reputation, so I think it makes sense for them to come into conflict about it.  And it led to Louis getting a happy ending for his rom-com with Eddie getting Trentina back, so all's well that ends well.  My only other main complaint is I wish we'd seen a more of Jenny's party.  If her sitting around telling stories gets us an opera singing glowing owl, how far down the rabbit hole would a Jenny house party get?  Come on, FOtB writers.  Give me the weirdest Jenny content you've got.  I'm ready.

Best Line: "Vice Mommy?  Sounds like a made up job." "Well, Emery sounds like a made up name, so."

5x20 - Nerd Watching

The further we get into this show, the more it starts pushing into my own nostalgia, and we definitely hit some of that in this episode.  Guess who also thought Waterfalls was the best song ever and didn't know for many years that it was about HIV?  Eddie trying to bond with Evan before he left for college was cute, and so was someone in the family finally getting Eddie's musical tastes.  Unlike certain other people in the family, their relationship has come a long way throughout season five, and if Evan actually keeps up his interest in R&B, that would be a clever way to help these two polar opposites communicate as they get older.  Props to both Ian Chen and Hudson Yang in this episode, with particular praise going to Chen's forest meltdown and the ... birds.  The music video recreations were awesome; they looked surprisingly good, and the cast seemed to have a great time shooting them.  I'm stuck between Lucille Soong doing Left Eye's (RIP) rap in Waterfalls or Wu and Park hamming it up to the Beastie Boys as my favorite.

Jenny's internet boyfriend was never going to keep up with the A-story in this episode, but of course she was scamming him, Jessica and Louis.  Have you met Jenny?  I'm more surprised all she was getting out of it was alpaca gear than anything.  Poor Oswaldo.  Karma came for Jessica and Louis at least, and I'm ready to see more of actor Emery.

Best Line: "Oh, you don't like that bird? Well I got two more for you right here - yeaaahhhh!!!!"

90s Stuff: All the music and videos, Jordache, malls.  Oh malls.  I miss you.

5x21 - Under the Taipei Sun

Learning to understand and appreciate your family's struggles is a part of growing up. It's more complicated if you're the child of immigrant parents.  Eddie already went through this earlier this season, when Jenny told him how hard her childhood was.  But until he was in another country trying to fend for himself, he couldn't grasp just how difficult making a life in a different country and culture can be.  Although spending all your money on day one?  Come on, dude. Simu Liu aka the future Shang-Chi comes to his rescue, which makes me wonder if that was part of his audition. Lee definitely has that heroic presence even when his character's name is Willie.  Poor guy saves a kid and gets a long distance phone bill as a reward.  I loved the parallel of Louis holding off American motorcyclists with a crab and Eddie ending up clutching his joke crab backpack like a blankie, and I hope the crab makes it back stateside.

The star of the episode, however, is Constance Wu. Jessica is not keen to admit she misses Eddie, and she goes about proving she's doing fine in typical Jessica fashion - by menacing her family to prove how unnecessary Eddie is in their lives.  Wu balances outer indifference with inner sadness subtly, which is consistently one of my favorite things about her as an actor.  She plays an over-the-top character, but conveys that without having to rely on manic reactions or overacting.  The quiet build of her emotional stress throughout the episode is finished off with the greeting cards sequence, which works because Wu knows just how big to go, when to be quiet and raw, and is in complete control of that scene.  Both stories in this episode are simple, but they're poignant and well acted, making for an excellent penultimate episode.

Best Line: "That's so cheesy Louis!  But you're right.  Why are cheesy things right?  Are Mariah Carey songs built upon the truth?  Is she the greatest artist in all of music history?  This is a lot to process."

90s Stuff: Mariah Carey, DDR, phone minutes

5x22 - No Apology Necessary

Do the ends justify the means?  That's what I've been asking myself with this episode.  Because I liked most of it a lot.  This is another chance for Constance Wu and Randall Park to get to meld understated drama with comedy, and they both rise to the challenge as usual.  Having an Asian American family grapple with what's worth apologizing for, especially for immigrants who struggled and were blamed for struggling when they first immigrated, is powerful and topical given the current discourse on apologizing.  It's a funny, smart episode, and I mostly enjoy it.  But the mistake Eddie makes - stealing a bus to get a cheeseburger - is lazy.  All season, Eddie has been changing, growing, maturing, but he's still a teenage boy in a foreign country. I accept that he could make a big mistake.  But this is such a silly thing to do it actually undercuts his season long arc.  Aside from everything else, in what world does stealing a bus make more sense than walking to go get the cheeseburger? I've loved how they've developed his character all season, and I'm kinda bummed this is where they left him.  Yeah, it's great that he was able to apologize for screwing up, and that Jessica and Louis were able to take his mistake in stride and figure out how to handle it.  As I've said, the rest of the episode works.  I just don't think being able to call Eddie "Cheeseburger Boy" was worth not finding a more understandable, less extreme and childish mistake to make.  Here's hoping the new season lets him continue to move forward.

Best Line: "I did everything they wanted me to but I still lost my job.  I felt so powerless and weak.  I don't ever want the boys to feel that."

90s Stuff: Internet cafes, Blockbuster, Backstreet Boys, Poison, Beanie Babies

Those are all my thoughts on FOtB season five.  Did you enjoy this season?  Which episode was your favorite?  How do you feel about the finale or the Crossbow Incident?  Comment below and then check back in for weekly reviews for season six here on SpoilerTV.