Both of the parents Huang dealt with how they handle their respective identities, through the eyes of their children. One of them managed their different personalities consciously, while the other didn’t. Let’s start with the clueless one. It might surprise you it’s the patriarch.
Louis just wants to watch his whimsical and fun animal movies. While perusing the local movie rental store, he’s really into the idea of bringing home Beethoven and throwing that on TV. The rental clerk believes Louis is looking in the wrong aisle; to conform, he goes over to the more artsy aisle and selects a snooty French film. Upon checking, he discovers a secret on his account: a family member has broken the sanctity of the customer-rental agreement and checked out movies under his name. Not just any flicks — bad ones, supposedly.
After everyone leaves for the day, Louis tears up the house to locate the missing tapes. He stumbles into them by plopping down on Jessica’s side of the bed and locates a slew of action movies adorned with shirtless men and, in Louis’ words, “so many nipples.” To find solace, he heads next door to ask Marvin if he should worry. He should — in the old man’s words — and must do something like the movie protagonists to bolster his testosterone levels: “They’re action heroes, not talking heroes!” The shirtless kitchen act that follows embarrasses him in front of Jessica, who earnestly insists the movies aren’t hers.
They’re Emery’s! Louis first believes his middle son might be gay, bringing up swimmer Greg Louganis in a positive light and touting the merits of Broadway theater. Rather, Emery’s just trying to fit in with his puberty-ridden peers who are becoming more aggressive, weirder, and less friendly. (William Miller empathizes.) He initially wants to pen a poem to express his feelings and to tell the bros-in-training off, but Louis tells him to try to assimilate and fit in — make a fart joke. That results in him getting socked in the eye.
Louis is shocked at the result until Grandma Huang elucidates something about her son: He’s always changed his behavior to make other people like him. He concedes to Emery the best course of action is to be yourself. Sure enough, when the verses are read in class, the snooty Chad who declared “poetry is for ‘ginas” was labeled as the writer. Clandestine warfare at its finest.
The tour de force of Jessica did not have trouble conflating the ideas of self her son or her man-child hubby did. As the master of the house, she has to be the hard-ass parent in order to make Eddie wake up in time for school, do his homework, and behave. She’s only seen relaxing when hanging out with Honey and has to preserve her usual parental steely resolve when dealing with her troublesome 12-year-old.
Fun Jessica manages to creep out when she reverses course on Eddie going on a field trip to Colonial Florida Town. She immediately volunteers to chaperone so she can go. “I love colonial American history,” she tells Honey. “Colonial Americans were like the Chinese of today: their struggle, their work ethic, their ability to use every part of the buffalo.”
Eddie’s not thrilled with his mom being assigned to watch over him and his friends, but something unexpected happens: Jessica leads the crew in going rogue to “forge our own way — it’s what the colonials would have done.” They pass over the boring educational stuff and make candles, participate in metalwork, and take old-timey photos. It’s great. But Eddie is furious. “You could have been fun this entire time!” he yells at Jessica.
He then realizes that his mom has to be the disciplinarian — sometimes because he’s so difficult to wrangle. “This mom gets things done!” Jessica tells him over breakfast. The lesson sticks with him; the next morning, he’s ready to go in 30 minutes and vows to do better, so his mom can have fun more often. That sounds like the perfect Mother’s Day gift.
Now it’s time for the weekly dose of nostalgia in these recaps, the ’90s moments, ranked:
8. Dorf on Golf impressions: Little doubt exists Eddie was way into the comedic stylings of Tim Conway and Vincent Schiavelli; Dave probably introduced him to the series.
7. “Know How” by Young MC: What is there to say besides this song is awesome?
6. Super Mario Bros. on Super Nintendo: Mario transcends generations. It’s Eddie’s go-to distraction before school, which causes him to be late. Jessica even partakes at the end of the episode, after calling it Italian Maintenance Twins.
5. All those action tapes: Emery’s macho homework has a murderer’s row of classic flicks: Masters of the Universe. Bloodsport. Rambo: First Blood Part II. Conan the Barbarian. Kickboxer. His self-esteem was low and his methods unsound, but at least he sought the right idols for Hollywood masculinity. Jean-Claude Van Damme forever.
4. “Sneakin up on Ya” by Fu-Schnickens: The rap trio’s run was limited through the mid-’90s. It could have claimed the top spot this week had their collaboration with Shaq been played instead.
3. “Riveting Denzel dramas about legal briefs”: That was Jessica’s preferred movie genre, verbatim. 1993, which featured The Pelican Brief and Philadelphia, must have been a transformative year for her cinematic proclivities.
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2. Steven Tyler shopping at a Sharper Image: What a great moment this could have been, had Honey been able to confirm Jessica’s observation.
1. Video rental shops: The local Orlando haunt Louis frequents seems a step above the usual big-box shops that filled towns. Wandering through Blockbusters as a kid was always a treat — even if sometimes no rentals happened. They’re making a comeback in some hipster-inclined areas.