Tonight’s episode starts with Narrator Eddie catching us on what’s been going down in Orlando since we last left the Huang clan. It’s still 1995, and things still aren’t going awesome: Louis’ Cattleman’s Ranch isn’t doing so hot, Jessica’s having trouble fitting in with the neighborhood moms, Evan and Grandma are sitting around squishing bugs, and Eddie’s still “straight-struggling” with his peers at school. (Little Emery, on the other hand, is still the resident baller.)
All the Huangs’ woes might have a common solution, however: the Daytona 500 block party. It’s slated for this weekend, and the whole family is counting on it to boost their social standing.
Let’s start with Eddie. His biggest problem, we learn, is his kicks: All his classmates are wearing Jordans, and he and the black kid Walter are more or less the only ones without a pair. But it’s Eddie who bears the brunt of the bullying because, as one of his tormentors notes, “He doesn’t need to: He’s black. That’s like, built-it Jordans.” The casually racist line prompts Walter to slam his locker in frustration and mutter, “This school is ridiculous.”
Walter’s feelings aren’t the issue here, though—it’s Eddie’s. He knows that his penny-pinching mom won’t buy him Jordans, so he’s got to devise an alternate plan to make the kids at school respect him. So he turns to what he knows best: rap. While jamming out to ODB’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” he gets lost in a rap-video fantasy, which leads him to an epiphany: He needs to project success in order to achieve success. In short, he needs a hot girl.
As it happens, one just moved in next door. Her name is Honey, and she and her (notably older) husband, Marvin, just got back from vacation. And now she’s the star of Eddie’s rap-video fantasies, which involves him making it rain Capri Sun on her scantily clad body—that is, until his mom interrupts the juicy dream. “Eddie—that’s very expensive!” Jessica shouts. “If you want to waste something, waste water. Do not throw juice!”
But Jessica’s got more than just money on her mind. Her social standing seems to be diminishing with the local ladies. She brings stinky tofu to a gathering, but her dish is shunned in favor or more traditional offerings like mac and cheese and tuna casserole. Worse yet, she’s not sold on their TV habits: “So Melrose Place is about prostitutes who are mad at each other?” she asks in confusion.
Luckily, she is able to make one friend: Honey, the neighbor. The two of them bond over their shared love of Stephen King at the local video store, even as Eddie embarrassingly tries to mack on Honey all the while. Jessica, of course, swats down his game. When he swaggers around the store with a limp, she asks what’s wrong with his leg. At the end of the whole thing, she tells him in front of Honey, “Eddie, stop acting weird. Go to the bathroom, we’re leaving soon.”
None of that can get in the way of her new friendship, though. They go back to Honey’s to watch The Shining. Honey even enjoys Jessica’s home-cooked food. “I can’t believe you’re eating my food,” Jessica marvels. “This seals the deal for her—she finally feels accepted.
It doesn’t last long, though: Louis informs her that Honey is in fact hated by everyone in the neighborhood. Jessica has to dump her, he says, if they want to have any chance of being popular. And when the block party comes, she’s forced to choose sides, her choice quickly becomes clear. “You know, I have to go—a wasp flew into my mouth,” she says to Honey before walking away to join the rest of the ladies.
Meanwhile, Eddie’s strutting around in a red Adidas tracksuit and matching Kangol bucket hat, like he’s some sort of LL Cool J-Uzi Tenenbaum hybrid. It’s his bid to project confidence, and maybe even lure Honey. But his attempt to spit game at Honey in front of his classmates goes miserable at best. It gets awkward, and even offensive; at one point, he tries to proposition her for a lapdance. It’s embarrassing enough for Emery to step in and tell Eddie, “Real life isn’t a rap video.”
Louis, on the other hand, is trying a different sort of hustle, telling everyone about the Cattleman’s Ranch Tuesday-night Ladies Nights. “We have our special: Melrose Plates… of Steak!”
But everything turns around when Jessica prepares to do karaoke with the cool clique. While on stage, she sees Honey alone in the back of the crowd, eating Jessica’s food. She has an epiphany: Honey is more of an outsider than she is. So she goes rogue and dedicates her karaoke number to Honey. The song? Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” naturally.
Jessica’s public display of friendship has a ripple effect for all of the Huangs. Her singing gives Louis a way to promote the restaurant, while Honey decides to return Jessica’s favor by doing Eddie a solid. She kindly offers him a “sensual hug” in front of his bullies. Eddie even parlays into a butt grab.
Post-hug, he’s bursting with confidence—but then his world gets rocked. A more age-appropriate babe steps out of an SUV and slo-mo saunters through the streets like a badass, knocking basketballs out of her path. Her name is Nicole, and it turns out she’s Eddie’s new neighbor—Honey’s stepdaughter. “At that moment, I knew what Emery was talking about,” Eddie says. “The pain of Cupid’s arrow.”
So we’ve made a lot of progress today! Eddie’s got a love interest, and Jessica’s got a friend. And we’ve got some Freshest Moments:
- “My favorite movie’s Gremlins.” —Emery
- “How is it fuller than before?” —Jessica, looking at her unwanted plate of stinky tofu
- “I watched a documentary on China in college.” —Neighborhood mom
- “Stephen King should publish my checkbook.” —Jesscia, on how the family’s finances are giving her nightmares
- “Jessica, water doesn’t project success—Capri Sun does.” —Louis
- Eddie: I’m so hungover. Honey: What?
- Clerk, to Honey: These Skittles are compliments of that gentleman over there. Eddie: Go on, girl—taste the rainbow!
- “Oh, that’s nice. She’s not even your real daughter and you love her.” —Jessica on Honey’s love for her stepdaughter
- “I don’t know what this wife’s problem is! If my husband had a big house like Jack Nicholson, he could put an axe in any door he wants to. Why? Because we have 500 other doors. And a maze!” —Jessica on The Shining
- Emery: Hey—this is Simone and Bianca. Eddie: You have two dates? Simone: Oh, it’s cool – we’re supportive of each other. Bianca: You’d think there’d be an issue… but there’s not. [Sidenote: I can’t wait for an episode that follows Emery around.]
- “Love is for moms.” —Eddie
- “Somebody call an ambulance! There’s a hospital right near Cattleman’s Ranch!” —Louis