'Fresh Off the Boat' Season 3, Episode 2 Recap: Emery unravels Eddie's hammock of lies
In "Breaking Chains," the second episode of Fresh Off the Boat's third season, Emery faces the same challenge Eddie faced in the series' first episode: his first day at a new school. But unlike Eddie, Emery has the guidance of an older brother in the eighth grade — one who's spent the last two years conning the school faculty into believing a slew of fake Chinese customs are true in order to receive special treatment.
Yet all Emery wants is to make a good impression on his first day at a new school. So when Eddie hands him a binder full of phony traditions, his experience is immediately sullied by having to adhere to the "hammock of lies" within so that the brothers can both receive their "perks." (Per Eddie: "It's not a web, it's a hammock, something you can kick back and relax in.")
Of course, they're all Eddie perks — not Emery perks. Emery doesn't want to sit in the back of the class, forego vegetables at lunch for double the tots or take a nap in class each day ("facing west," as Eddie notes, "so we can sense if China is coming for Taiwan"). But the faculty already knows about these "customs" from Eddie, so they make sure to provide Emery with the same accommodations, leaving him little choice but to follow along.
When things come to a head between the brothers, it's up to Evan — who spends most of the episode lamenting the loss of the "special brother time" he and Emery used to share on their school bus — to lend a sympathetic ear to Emery and deliver a harsh reality check to Eddie.
After his chat with Evan, Eddie tells Emery how he didn't get a say in people's impression of him on his first day, either. Rather, it was formed entirely by ignorance and stereotypes. He recounts the other kids making fun of how his food smelled, which forced him to sit outside and eat with the janitor.
"I held his kite while he finished his cantaloupe," he says, recounting a scene from the show's pilot.
Eddie's methods may be childish, but his reasoning is surprisingly astute: "They're ignorant about who we are and where we came from. Why shouldn't we take advantage of that?" he says. It's a great moment that illustrates how Eddie does take pride in his heritage — he just does so in his own way and on his own terms. While these bogus customs may seem like little more than heartless cultural monetization on Eddie's part, they're actually his way of pushing back against indignities he's experienced because of his race.
But again, Eddie's way isn't Emery's — and in the end, Eddie comes to understand that. So he signs Emery up for an extracurricular karate class, which he previously barred Emery from joining for fear of reinforcing the sort of stereotypes he's tried to circumvent, and offers up some reassurance. "You do you, dog — I'll just keep on putting those cracks in the jade ceiling," he says.
Back home, Jessica is dealing with the myriad messes the family leaves in their wake. After coming home from a busy day at Cattleman's, Jessica and Louis find a squished watermelon sitting in the middle of the living room floor. Not a watermelon rind, or a watermelon slice. A whole watermelon.
Louis suggests that Eddie, who is assumed to have dropped the melon while bringing in groceries, be made to clean it up. But Jessica insists on doing it herself, knowing that Eddie's "cleaning" will just leave behind its own new mess, and that the only person she can rely on to adequately take care of it is herself. After all, how many people must have walked past — or on — that watermelon before she spotted it?
So Jessica takes care of it, but not without noting that "a little help would be nice" — which poor, sweet Louis interprets as meaning that Jessica would actually find it "nice" to have "a little help."
He hires a maid; naturally, Jessica resents Louis bringing in a "cleaning tutor." She sees it as a sleight against her ability to maintain a tidy house, and she runs the maid off (but not without giving her the ride home Louis promised her).
Even after Louis explains that he was simply trying to help her — in a way that he feels they've earned given the restaurant's recent success (customers have been flocking to Cattleman's to watch the Olympics on their new TVs) — Jessica still resents the idea. And even after the maid proves her worth, going beyond the call of duty by not only cleaning Jessica's mice figurines without knocking any out of place, but also by fixing the chipped paint on the rhubarb in one's hands by applying a fresh coat, Jessica still resents the very idea of hiring someone to take care of familial duties.
"A family is supposed to do things for each other, not hire strangers," she tells Louis, her tone making evident that the "little help" she was looking for was really just a little recognition. Much like Emery, Jessica has a firm idea of the "proper" way that things should be handled, and cutting out the accompanying hassles with shortcuts just isn't in her nature.