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Fresh Off the Boat Episode 12 Recap: Dribbling Tiger, Bouncing Pass Dragon

Ellen Zacarias

Fresh Off the Boat

“I never should have become an actor.”

In Fresh Off the Boat Episode 12 “Dribbling Tiger, Bounce Pass Dragon”, Eddie’s school principal speaks with Louis (Randall Park) and Jessica (Constance Wu) about the school’s budget cuts and pressures them to volunteer at their children’s schools. 

Martial Arts Meets Basketball: Who Needs Practice? 

Louis, a former semi-pro basketball player back in Taiwan, is the new coach for Eddie’s (Hudson Yang) basketball team. At first, Eddie flaunts the glamorous factor of his father’s semi-pro basketball history, but when the actual training begins, Eddie and his teammates are disappointed by the amount of practice necessary to improve their skills. They prefer to depend on their “star” player Dmitri, a ridiculously tall kid (played by Wally Schrass) who looks like he’s in his 30s. 

Fresh Off the Boat pokes fun at the feel-good sports flick: instead having a wholesome team winning against the odds by honorable means, Coach Louis gives up on trying to get the boys to play well and lets them resort to their violent and dirty tactics to win. 

Once upon a time, there lived a gumdrop who decided to become an actor. That was the worst decision of its life.

Jessica finds herself witnessing a world of chaos during the rehearsals for Emery and Evan’s school play. While children play and scream on stage, the other parent “volunteers” check their phones while sitting in chairs. The other parents regard the costumed children screaming and dancing on the stage with indulgent apathy, but Jessica reacts to the children’s “play” with horror and indignance: acting is a risky career devoid of financial stability, and should not be encouraged. 

Huang Lessons

Without the commitment of her fellow parent-volunteers, Jessica decides to take over the play production and create a narrative about the horrors that befall any kid that chooses to become an actor. A gumdrop that decides to become an actor becomes a sad and woeful “bumdrop”. “I never should have become an actor,” it laments. 

As a result of the woeful tale of the “bumdrop” who wanted to be an actor, Evan and Emery, visibly shaken from the moral of the story, are successfully deterred from ever becoming professional actors. 

Louis’s boys face a superior opposing team, and ultimately, Louis gives up on trying to teach them to play nice. He gives up trying to make them play by his principles, and then in comes a strange montage consisting of a boy lifting his shorts to blind an opposing player with his white legs, acts of violence on the court, and then Louis’s victory flips across the gymnasium. The team’s success might’ve been wrought by sneaky means, but it was also earned by teamwork and dedication.  

Observations from Episode 12 of Fresh Off the Boat, “Dribbling Tiger, Bouncing Pass Dragon”:

  • Major meta moment—Jessica points out to Evan and Emery that there are no Asian boys on television. Then the show proceeds have Evan and Emery “act” on stage at the school performance. Fourth Wall = Obliterated
  • Love the All American Girl (starring Margaret Cho) in the background, paying homage to the first Asian American family sitcom which came out 20 years ago.
  • Martial arts meets basketball – references to styles in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and also Stephen Chow’s Shaolin Soccer. Since the movies came out after the events of this show, the references are a nod to the contemporary audience. 
  • Was that a “thug life” reference during the basketball montage?

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