Fresh Off The Boat Season 1 Episode 9 Review: “License to Sell”

Fresh Off the Boat

Jessica Huang has been an unstoppable powerhouse on Fresh Off The Boatboth in terms of her comedic importance and how she runs the Huang family, the dominating female figure standing head and shoulders among the males surrounding her. Outside of her initial difficulties fitting in in the first two episodes, she’s ran her family and generally carried herself about town with such stringent confidence – until “License to Sell,” which finally presents her with a challenge she can’t immediately conquer: for once, she can’t assimilate immediately into the new world she’s trying to fit into, and that hurts.

And it makes for a really great episode of television: all the great one-off jokes and running gags aside (in Honey’s case, the running gag is a very literal turn of phrase), Jessica’s struggle with showing weakness in front of her children is a fantastic turn for the character, bringing her back down to earth after becoming an awesome, unstoppable force in recent episodes. Though she might be great at selling houses, it doesn’t mean she’s ready to dominate the licensing test, and she quickly gets intimidated (or disgusted) by the women around her preparing to get their own licenses. The woman who pushes her children to be prepared and try their hardest finds herself doing the exact opposite, and having to hide it from her kids and husband that she failed.

That sense of shame brings back an aspect of Jessica we haven’t seen in recent weeks, with a heavier focus on Eddie and Louis’s shenanigans; however, for all intents and purposes, Jessica is the heart of Fresh Off The Boat, even if Eddie is the de-facto protagonist of the show. Eddie is our entry into this world: for all these characters, Jessica is their entire world, something she reinforces when feeling weak about not passing the test. Seeing her breakdown a bit from that, eating ice cream sandwiches and hiding from the perpetually running Honey, adds new color to Jessica’s character – and still finds time to reinforce her intensity as it softens her, with her already planning her domination of the real estate industry as she studies for the test with Evan and Emery.

There are still subplots, of course, but Louis’s analogy of a girl and a restaurant is a little uncomfortable, and it only leads to more predictable, though adorable, pursuits of Nicole by Eddie in the episode. More rewarding is how the episode throws a twist into this story, refusing to let Eddie’s immaturity survive the episode and blossoming a friendship between him and Nicole, a welcome shift on the “dismissive, hot older girl next door” trope that’s been most of their interactions up to this point. And Louis gets an industrial hair dryer – a story that is monumentally stupid and weightless, but might just be the funniest thing the show’s done yet, especially when watching him move it into his and Jessica’s bedroom, or play around with it during the closing tag.

Jessica’s story mostly dominates the proceedings, though – and this is not a bad thing, the two side stories existing as humorous release during Jessica’s more measured exploration of what it’s like to be professionally unsatisfied, or what it’s like to feel dumb (even if that statement doesn’t hold true) when you always expect to be the smartest, most driven person in the room. “License to Sell” captures this wonderfully – and despite the lack of humor or intriguing material of Eddie’s continued pursuit of Nicole (this week: he gets an earring and henna tattoos! Boring), “License to Sell” is another strong, parent-centric episode of Fresh Off The Boat.

[Photo via ABC]

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