Sometimes I check TiVo and laugh at the generic episode descriptions written for some TV shows, which completely fail to differentiate one episode from another. (Whoever writes these obviously can’t be bothered to actually watch the episodes or even check Wikipedia.) Anyway, if The Fosters had a generic episode description is would be this: “Tough exteriors mask real emotion in this week’s episode.”
Indeed, in ‘Leaky Faucets’, you’ll never guess what happens: tough exteriors mask real emotion!
Yet the fact remains that the characters on The Fosters have so much more inner life than most characters on TV, so this contrast of tough exteriors/inner turmoil is worth revisiting. There’s a bit of TV farce thrown into ‘Leaky Faucets’, when the whole Adams Foster sib-set ends up at a Mexican street festival, but the show is smart enough to realize plumbing its characters’ emotional depths creates the real drama.
Callie attends what is presumably her first therapy session, and we find out that her panic attacks have become a regular ordeal. Callie’s therapist tells her that she’s stopped trusting herself – she needs to reclaim that trust and start listening to her gut.
Callie takes heart and pushes out of her comfort zone. She tags along with Brandon and Lou to a street festival – exactly the kind of crowded, overwhelming place she’d been avoiding – and pulls in Wyatt to be her safety net.
However, her nightmarish visions of Liam come to life. She ends up left alone in the crowd – and Liam’s there.
Wyatt and Brandon enact a hollow kind of justice, beating up Liam in a very public fistfight. But Callie is disgusted by the whole spectacle. It’s not the justice she wants and she feels betrayed by Wyatt: “I needed you to be with me,” she tells him.
Wyatt is puppydog-ish and apologetic to the last – he was only trying to protect her! But Callie, listening to her gut, finally realizes that their relationship isn’t working, because Wyatt doesn’t know how to take care of her.
Listening to yourself becomes the theme of the episode. Following Frankie’s death, Stef has been busy being the toughest version of herself, purposely ignoring her inner pain. She takes on extra police work and, when that falls through, she decides to distract herself with some casual household plumbing.
In the tradition of millions of people who are lied to every year by “easy” online video tutorials, Stef attempts to fix a leaky pipe and ends up smashing a huge hole in the wall. What starts as gentle comedy – Stef showing off her sexy toolbelt in a video for Lena – becomes farce, as the water spurts everywhere, and (like everything in this show,) ultimately ends up as tragedy.
The valve breaks and Stef finally lets out her grief about the baby: “I didn’t even know her and I miss her so much,” she sobs down the phone to Lena.
Back at the street festival, Brandon and Lou embark on a sorta-kinda first date. On paper, they make a lot of sense as a couple. They have a good time geeking out over music together. And Lou, who suggestively shows off her tattoo (and implies she has another, hidden one he might like to see), is exactly the kind of fun-loving presence that Brandon could do with. (She even calls him “pretty rock ‘n’ roll”, which is generous to the point of laughable.)
In practice, however, it’s a romance that’s dead on arrival. Lou gamely perseveres with the date, even when Brandon shows up with Callie in tow and then runs off to defend Callie’s honour, but it’s no good. Brandon gives Lou the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech – and, in this case, he’s right. It really is him that’s the problem.
I wondered a couple of recaps ago if Brandon was headed to a better emotional state following Dan’s arrest. He is, perhaps. But this episode emphasises just how long the road back to “normal” is proving for Brandon. Beating up on Liam – a proxy for Dani, perhaps – may have given him a brief release, but he is obviously still profoundly emotionally damaged.
This episode does go some way to mending the bond between father and son, however. Brandon and Mike finally have an honest conversation about the difficulty (and the necessity) of forgiveness. “I have a feeling we’re gonna be making amends to each other for the rest of our lives,” Mike tells Brandon, “and the only thing that matters is we keep doing it.”
(An interesting side note: we find out in this episode that Brandon’s siblings still don’t about his rape or Dani’s arrest.)
For all the heavy-handed references to Brandon and Callie as brother and sister this season, the two of them never seem to get over the awkwardness of their moms suggesting they hang out socially. When Stef suggests Callie go with Brandon to the street festival, Brandon is stutter-y, while Callie is painfully polite.
The awkwardness continues when Brandon and Lou, Callie and Wyatt accidentally end up in a double-date. I noted above that Brandon and Lou is a couple that works in theory and not in practice. Here we see a similar situation with Callie and Wyatt. They seem to be having a hell of a time, taking part in an eating contest – something that Brandon is visibly disgusted by – but shared interests ultimately don’t translate to emotional connection.
It’s Brandon who shows himself to understand what Callie would want out of the Liam situation. He suggests to Wyatt that they grab Callie and leave, keen to avoid a confrontation.
In this episode, Brandon is also the damsel who doth protest too much. He tells Lou again and again that he’s not into Callie. And, while Brandon’s issues go much deeper than unresolved love for Callie, it’s worth noting the strained way he replies “no!” when Lou lobs at him the accusation “you’re not over Callie”. (Note, if Brandon were, in fact, over Callie, the correct answer would be “yes, I am over Callie”.)
Adding to the mass of awkward Adams Foster couples overcrowding innocent street festivals is Jesus and Hayley. Jesus tries to organize a romantic day for Hayley, but – shocker – makes a hash of it, mistaking the location of their first hook-up for a romantic memory, and “borrowing” his brother’s date idea.
“There are plenty of guys out there that would treat me like this,” Hayley tells him disgustedly. “I thought you were different.” Jesus, desperate to prove he is different, gets Hayley’s name tattooed on his torso.
A lot of people seem to think this is yet another example of Jesus’s stupidity. I hate to find myself in the position of defending him, but…
He’s not stupid; he’s impulsive. Impulsivity is one of the characteristics of ADHD. Most people know that inattentiveness and hyperactivity are associated with ADHD, but impulsivity is a huge part of it, too. Impulsivity is the reason that ADHD questionnaires usually include questions about stealing, violence, making cruel comments, etc. — not because people with ADHD are inherently mean or criminal, but because they lack the impulse control to stop themselves from doing the things that other people only think about doing.
If you ask me, Jesus getting Hayley’s name tattooed on him isn’t stupidity; it’s an inability to manage his ADHD. (Add Jesus’s name to the long list of Adams Fosters family members who need to get some help.)
Meanwhile, in Sad Barbie Dreamland, Mariana (like her mom and sister) starts listening to her gut at last. After a season of pretending to be a Barbie doll, she gives one last costume a try. She wants to look “attractive but not vulnerable” for her date with Mat, so she emulates Callie by borrowing her jacket.
It’s yet another façade that doesn’t quite fit, though. Mariana’s long-harboured feelings of inadequacy come to a head when Mat presents her with an extravaganza of Mexicana at the street festival. Mat just wants to have a good time and hear some Latin music – but, for Mariana, it feels like he’s mocking her whole identity.
Mariana looks on with visible discomfort at the colourful traditions of Mexican culture. She doesn’t know who Frida Kahlo is. She feels wildly out of place, even though she’s surrounded by people who look like her. “This isn’t my culture,” she snaps at Mat, “I grew up with Stef and Lena.” The day gets worse when she runs into Mike – who’s accompanied by his new sober buddy, Ana.
I’ve been frustrated by Mariana’s storyline all season, but this conclusion was almost worth all the dance montages. Mariana’s cultural confusion – an extension of the identity crisis that has obviously eroded her self-confidence – is painfully, beautifully evoked here.
It’s clear that none of her past costumes fit her properly. Mariana is not Barbie. She’s not the tough girl like Callie. She doesn’t even really know who she is – and the best way she can find to start figuring that out is to let Ana back into her life.
It’s an episode that draws Stef and Callie closer, while Stef and Mariana are subtly drawn apart.
Stef comforts Callie following the Liam debacle the same way she would comfort any of her children: full-body snuggling. It’s normal for Stef to hug her children in this way, but it’s definitely not normal for Callie.
Callie looks uncomfortable – too aware of her own body, which isn’t child-size but fully grown – before she relaxes into the moment. The scene is beautifully underplayed. We see her becoming Stef’s daughter in a visceral, instinctive way. It’s this season’s equivalent to Jude calling Lena “mom” for the first time. A small moment, but deep with emotion.
Things are very different between Stef and Mariana, however. It’s obvious Mariana is unhappy that Stef didn’t tell her about Ana’s letter. And she bluntly tells Stef that she wants to see Ana. The “and you can’t stop me” that caps her statement is silent, but no less audible.
Here we see Stef’s crushed realization: she may act unerringly in Mariana’s best interests, she may be an exemplary mother to her, but she’ll never be able to replace Mariana’s birth mother, no matter how much she might want to.
Other notes and sundry:
Best storyline never: In this episode, Lena’s still out of town, on a camping trip with Jude and the other seventh graders – including Connor, presumably. And, god, I’m still not over what is basically the greatest storyline that didn’t actually happen on this show. (Jude and Connor, sittin’ in a tree – maybe literally???)
Earth Mother Lena’s advice to Stef is to meditate. Of course it is.
He can hear you, y’know: As sweet as Mariana and Mat slow-dancing was, I couldn’t help but be put off by the way Mariana kept gesturing to the guitar player as an example of everything she liked about the street festival. Um, Mari? That guy is literally three feet away from you and he’s not a prop. He can hear you.
Hello M’lady: At the street festival, Wyatt calls Callie “m’lady”. I literally don’t know whether it was an intentional reference to the “Hello M’Lady” Amy Schumer sketch (embedded below) or just an accidental prophecy of Wyallie Doom. Either way: oops?
I feel like the opening scene of this episode, with Callie and Mariana discussing wardrobe options, was a love letter addressed specifically to me. Thanks, writers. :*
Callie looks distinctly unflattered when Mariana characterizes her clothing style as “attractive but not vulnerable”. It’s noteworthy that the outfit she chooses for the street festival is not her usual “armour” but soft lilac. She also ties her hair back. It’s a return to preppy “new” Callie after last week’s slouchy dark colours.
There’s also some nice continuity in the fact that one of the outfits Mariana considers and then quickly rejects (the green-and-leopard-print sweater) is the same one she wore for her first kiss with Zac. As much as Zac was hustled off the show to make room for new guest stars, in light of Mariana’s character arc this season, it’s hard not to assume they would have broken up naturally, anyway. Zac didn’t seem able to challenge Mariana in the way that we’ve seen Mat do.
What do you think? On a scale of ‘very’ to ‘completely’, how in love with Mat are you? Do you think we’ll get to see Dani’s trial next season and that’s why the siblings have yet to find out about Brandon’s rape? What other Amy Schumer sketches can we expect the show to reference (finger blasters)? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
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