Callie ropes in Jude to join her in spending the day with the Quinns on their yacht. But it’s Brandon who’s all at sea, when he finally reveals the iceberg-sized truth about what happened with Dani to his parents. (Sorry, the scope for ocean-based metaphors in this episode recap has me cast adrift with excitement.)
Stef and Lena begin the episode by planning a quiet, relaxing afternoon alone together – a type of plan that has fallen through for them so often that, at this point, we basically hear a vengeful god’s booming voice say, “haha, nope!”
With Mariana at dance practice, Jesus at wrestling practice, and Callie and Jude headed for the open sea, it’s only Brandon (and his secret) left at home. Lena gently tells him that today’s the day: “The kids are all out of the house, so I think it’s time.” Lena’s phrasing, excluding Brandon from being one of “the kids”, is heart-breaking and more than a little ironic in the context of what’s to come.
Instead of a relaxing afternoon, it’s time for a little family therapy session.
When Brandon finally tells Stef and Mike about having sex with Dani, they react exactly as he feared they would, blaming each other and turning the moment into a screaming argument. Lena, however, makes all of them promise to stay until they’ve figured out a solution. This claustrophobia – the feeling of being locked in together – adds to the sense of this episode as an emotional horror movie.
All the performances are unflinching, so kudos to everyone involved. When he makes his confession, Brandon looks like he wants to crawl out of his own skin; Mike looks ready to vomit; Stef is frozen in horror.
After last week’s late-term abortion episode, the show probably could have taken a week off from exploring hot-button issues, but to the writers’ credit, they barrel straight on into the equally contentious issue of statutory male rape – and handle it with a huge amount of sensitivity.
Brandon is reluctant to call it rape, to be branded a victim – he says he’ll lie rather than cooperate with the police. Mike falls into all the usual societal traps about men being sex-mad and incapable of being raped (“I know how 16 year old boys think,” he says grimly). The shrinking embarrassment from both of them is palpable.
As other commentators have pointed out, including the New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum, this storyline has been so effective by showing the sinister aftermath of what happened between Brandon and Dani. It torpedoes what’s so often portrayed as “hot” teen-adult action in the Mrs Robinson mould. The show even takes a few well-earned potshots at its sister show, Pretty Little Liars, and the central Ezra/Aria romance: “What if this was Mariana?” asks Stef. “What if she agreed to have sex with a teacher? Would you blame her? What would you do?”
“I’d lock him up,” Mike replies, like it’s obvious. And so: the solution becomes obvious, and that’s exactly what he does. Bathed in the blue light of the police siren, Mike watches as the cops take away Dani.
This, the longest of days for everyone involved, also adds a new dimension to the difficult, but beautifully portrayed, relationship between Brandon and his three parents. It seems fitting that the episode that saw Lena lose her biological child is followed up by one solely concerned with her being a parent to her non-biological child.
A cauldron of old emotion is stirred up by this new crisis. Stef and Mike are forced to deal with some of the never-resolved issues surrounding their divorce (Mike still resents her for leaving; Stef still feels guilty). Mike’s own guilt about his drinking and past mistakes is compounded by this new guilt – that he’s indirectly responsible for his son’s rape.
We also revisit one of the most interesting emotional undercurrents in Stef and Lena’s marriage – the fact that Stef has always secretly considered Brandon more her son than Lena’s. Stef finally has to come to terms with Lena being on an equal footing with her when it comes to parenting Brandon. “You love hard. And that’s a good thing,” Lena tells Stef. Yet Stef knows the truth: “But that’s why Brandon came to you about this.”
“Brandon has three parents, period,” Stef said once, early in the series. And, as this episode proves, Brandon needs all three of them.
Meanwhile, in dance purgatory…
Mariana learns that she won’t get to go to competition with the rest of the team, unless she steps up her game. The team’s newest dancer, PlotPointTia, actually shows up again, which I never thought she would, so that’s something.
However, Mariana accidentally insults Tia by commenting that’s she’s naturally good at hip hop dancing and doesn’t have to try. She tries to find a backdoor onto the competition team by calling Lena and asking for additional school funds – but Vice Principal Mama says no.
It turns out Tia’s practicing overtime to appear effortlessly talented. And, with a little prompting from Mat, Mariana decides to follow suit, do the hard work, and try to earn her place on the team legitimately.
Jesus and Hayley continue to suck face, and Emma’s understandably a little upset about the whole thing. Hayley shows herself to be a real keeper when she manipulates Jesus into cancelling his plans to attend a wrestling team dinner – a dinner where Emma is named team captain.
It’s almost not worth getting worked up about anything in Jesus’s storyline, because the whole thing is such a write-off. But here’s my rant about it anyway:
I don’t object to Hayley’s slimy characterization as a girl who’ll lie for attention and affection (because those girls undoubtedly exist). But I do object to Hayley and Emma being set up in such stark opposition: “she is everything that I’m not,” Emma tells Jesus scathingly.
And, of course, Emma is proved right. Her worldview – that pretty, gender-normative girls are pathetic and devious – is reinforced by the show yet again. Ever since her introduction to the show, Emma has shown an animosity toward not just some but all girls. “This is why I hang out with guys,” she’s said, over and over again.
Far from challenging this horrible, internalized misogyny, the show validates it. The only girls she comes in contact with are petty, vindictive ones. I find it very frustrating. I also feel like the show is overlooking a potential friendship between two people who have a very similar demeanour and outlook in life… Emma and Callie! Hello? Wouldn’t they make great friends? And wouldn’t that help to prove to Emma that there are girls she could be hanging out with who are down-to-earth and unaffected? (You’re welcome, writers. You’re welcome.)
While Brandon’s having the longest day, the Quinns are having what Sophia deems to be the “best day ever”. On their day out on the yacht – which is named, hilariously, QuinnTessence – the Quinns seem to be rehearsing a revised version of family life, with Callie as their second daughter. Callie, meanwhile, is fully prepared to cut them all out of her life should Jude ask her to.
Callie’s continued need to keep herself controlled, to keep everything inside, is subtly put under the microscope in a nice bit of subtext: “Sometimes you just have to let go, give up control, turn it over to the stars,” Robert comments, narrating one of his seafaring adventures, while Callie frowns, lost in thought. (I thought this was Chekhov’s gun and we were headed for a Big Storm, but no, all the storms on this show are emotional.)
Sophia tries to impress Callie the best way she knows how – by acting too cool for (private) school and being a bitch to her mom. I sort of love Sophia’s manic, desperate-to-impress energy. It feels very real to me. There’s something particularly teenaged, too, about her blunt statement that “it might not be such a bad thing” if she’d never been born – like you’re not really sure if she’s being melodramatic and self-absorbed, or if it’s a genuine cry for help.
(If Sophia does decide to murder Callie and assume her identity, which still seems like something she might do, we now know that she has the means and opportunity. Tragic boating accident, anyone?)
Sophia’s UppityPearlClutcher of a mother, whose name might be Jill, tries to pump Jude for information about Callie – why she ran away; how her adoption’s going – and it becomes obvious that the Quinns might have motives beyond just providing Callie with a college fund.
Later, Robert and Sophia, walking a dog so perfect that they appear to be starring in a commercial for antidepressants, discuss Callie. Sophia wishes they could adopt Callie; Robert points out that they wouldn’t need to. Dun dun dunnnn! (I should note that this storyline has basically no tension to it, though, ‘cause honestly, who’d choose Robert and PearlClutcher over Stef and Lena? Literally no one. I still predict it’ll be Sophia who goes running to the Adams Fosters, rather than Callie moving in with the Quinns.)
In this episode, Jude is his old self again – sweet and good-humoured in the face of spending time with Callie’s new family; thoughtful enough to tell Callie he won’t ask her to stop seeing them. But it’s impossible not feel the weight of his occasional silences. Every time he pauses before speaking or fails to reply, it creates a ripple.
My bet is we’ll see those emotional ripples turn to waves before the season is out.
Other notes and sundry:
Mariana’s one not-terrible moment in this episode comes when she challenges Caitlin’s boneheaded comments about her family: “Stef and Lena ARE my real parents,” Mariana says, when Caitlin asks about her ‘real’ (biological) parents. Yay, Mariana!
Modern romance: Mariana and Mat have a weird scene where I guess they’re supposed to be flirting, but it just kinda seems like they’re insulting each other? That’s ~modern romance~ I guess.
Timothy sightings: 0. My hope that we’ll get a scene dealing with Timothy’s loss over the baby is rapidly dwindling. Sigh. I’m too depressed to even make jokes about Timothy’s ridiculous hobbies.
Connor sightings: 0. Wyatt sightings: 0. (It’s tough to be overly invested in secondary characters.)
Lit references: Jude says the engine room looks like something out of The Golden Compass.
TV references: I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that there was a Dawson’s Creek episode titled ‘The Longest Day’. There was also, if I recall correctly, an episode titled ‘Uncharted Witters’, featuring the Witter family on a boat. Quality wordplay!
Line of the episode goes to Stef, talking about Mike: “He has terrible taste in women. He married a lesbian!”
Pink is becoming the go-to colour for Callie in her ‘new Callie’ role as good daughter/good sister. (Remember, she wore pink in #2.02, too.) I find this interesting, considering her clothing choices are usually so dark/muted.
We get a further glimpse of the upcoming Bravo TV event: Fashionistas!: The Callie and Sophia Show. Sophia compliments Callie’s jeans and then commands PearlClutcher to get her a pair just like them. Lolololol, I hope they were from Target.
Brandon actually didn’t dress in any kind of horrific mismatched colours/patterns this episode, which slightly destroys my theory that his misery is always reflected in his outfits. I suppose I could argue that this was actually a positive emotional episode for Brandon, who finally unburdened himself, so it makes sense that he’d be dressed normally…?
What do you think? Do you think Brandon is finally headed for a good emotional place? Do you think the Quinns are well-meaning… or slightly evil? Are you excited for the return of the Girls (and Boy) United next week? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
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