Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The kids get treated like adults on a lice-infested episode of Fresh Off The Boat

Illustration for article titled The kids get treated like adults on a lice-infested episode of Fresh Off The Boat

A running theme this season on Fresh Off The Boat has been the Huang children wanting to be taken more seriously by their elders. This reached an apex last week in “Doing It Right,” where Eddie split off from his father during a chili cook-off to come up with his own recipe. Evan, also experiencing feelings of condescension and ignorance from his family, found similar fulfillment in bossing around the other kids in the neighborhood. For better or for worse, each son is growing into their own strong—if sometimes bullheaded—person.

It may not be intentional, but “Week In Review” comes off like a reactionary half-hour to this age-divided conflict, its older characters treating the young’ns like adults for most of the episode. However, treating someone like an adult doesn’t always mean treating them with respect. Adults can be jerks, so treating somebody like one often means treating them coldly. It often means treating them like an asshole.

The biggest example of this comes in the form of Al Madrigal, whose charismatically petty math teacher Mr. G very much views the kids on his level, having no problem taunting them in class and challenging them to ethically questionable bets on the basketball court. If Eddie can sink just one ball during the student/faculty game, Mr. G will cancel all homework before the summer starts. But if Eddie fails, he’ll double it. Of course, no sane teacher should engage one of their charges in a mud-slinging match in the middle of class, and yet at the same time, he and Eddie share a begrudging respect as they hurl insults at one another. Mr. G verbally skewers his pupil because he sees him not just as a student, but a peer. While that might make him a horrible educator, it also makes him a unique character when compared to the other adults on Fresh Off The Boat and their treatment of Eddie in the second season.

The equal-opportunity ruthlessness carries over to Eddie’s home life as well. When he comes home from school and reveals he has lice, Jessica doesn’t comfort him or gently explain the delousing process. Instead, the camera cuts to him being quarantined outside his living-room window like an ebola victim along with Evan, who’s also been infected. Aside from Evan lamenting the disposal of his Beanie Babies collection, the boys don’t even look all that upset, almost blissful as they enjoy being left alone outdoors and cooking hot dogs in the Florida sun.

As the lice infestation spreads to Jessica, the kids-as-adults motif slowly transforms into a pandemic horror film. At first, the plague-movie stereotypes are amusing: the makeshift hazmat suits and the ominous synth note that rings out every time someone utters the word “lice.” But at around the halfway mark, “Week In Review” will likely become skin-crawling for anyone who’s actually been plagued by lice or lived with someone who has. All of it—the changing of linen, the arduous extermination process, and especially the head-scratching—has a way of crawling off the screen and into one’s middle-school consciousness, yanking the memories of thrown-out pillowcases and special shampoo to the forefront of the brain. Even when Eddie uses the parasites to his advantage on the basketball court—freaking out his adult opponents just by showing up with a head full of insects—the scene feels more like invisible body horror than a victorious sports montage.

Although the lice plot takes up the bulk of “Week In Review,” the central message has little to do with the relationships between children and their parents/teachers and more to do with the importance of cooperation in a marriage. Throughout the episode, Louis and Jessica try to soldier through what would be a busy week even without lice. In addition to Eddie’s basketball game, Jessica also needs to take photos of a property she and Honey are hoping to submit to a real-estate magazine. But the lice situation gets so bad that Louis has to snap the pics himself, setting aside the outdated, chauvinistic viewpoints Marvin puts forth about men not doing women’s work so he can help his wife.


If that sounds a little tacked on, that’s because it is—the husband-and-wife subplot consistently plays second banana to the kids, if only for its limited screen-time. Or maybe it’s just a sign of all of Fresh Off The Boat’s children—not only the Huangs, but Eddie’s friends, too—having truly come into their own as characters. While Randall Park and Constance Wu were the unquestionable MVPs of the first season, we now want to see Eddie square off against a teacher. We want to see Trent slick back his hair and snap into disgruntled-coach mode. We want to see the students beat the teachers. We want to see the kids treated like adults.

Stray observations

  • Was anyone else as happy as I was to hear Outkast’s “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik”?
  • I love the wildly different heights of everyone in Eddie’s friend group.
  • There’s something about the lighting in Marvin and Honey’s home that feels so accurately and stereotypically Floridian. It’s perfect for the show.
  • Don’t worry, Evan. Those Beanie Babies won’t be worth jack shit in 10 years.
  • “We didn’t come to this country so our son could get lice.”
  • “Once you miss the birth of your son, you’re not afraid of anything.”
  • “If I were lice, I’d get in Tom Selleck’s mustache.”