The art of the finale cliffhanger, apparently, lies not in near-death situations or natural disasters. To create a really compelling cliffhanger, it turns out that all you need to do is send two 13-year-old boys into the woods together, have them share a tent, and then not tell your audience what happened.
Quite a few people have been finding this blog this week by Googling “what did Jude and Connor do in the tent?” The answer is: I DON’T KNOW, BUT I WILL HAVE TO WATCH NEXT SEASON TO FIND OUT. (Thus making it… the perfect cliffhanger.)
It’s hard not to be impressed at how The Fosters managed to turn a logistical quirk into the finale’s most intriguing plot twist. This mythical seventh grade camping trip was transparently just a way to write pregnant Sherri Saum out for a couple of episodes, while also getting around Hayden Byerly’s age limitations on working hours. But what could have been a throwaway camping trip has been transformative, taking Jude and Connor to a wildly different emotional place than when we saw them last.
Based on this episode, we’re forced to assume that, during the trip, Jude and Connor patched up their friendship – enough that they chose to share a tent. Sharing a tent might have been completely innocent – Lena certainly seems to think so – but Connor’s dad is far from relaxed about it.
In fact, Connor’s dad was so upset that he spanked Connor. According to him, that’s all it was – a simple spanking. But, when Connor shows up at school with a busted eye, he looks a lot more like he received a beating.
The plot thickens when Jude and Connor refer obliquely to “what we did” during the camping trip, leading the entire audience to scream at their TVs: WHAT DID YOU DO? It’s a secret neither is willing to reveal.
Here’s a list of possibilities of what they did in the tent:
- made rainbow loom friendship bracelets;
- held hands and sang One Direction songs;
- held a bacchanal and accidentally murdered a farmer (I don’t know how the farmer got in the tent…);
- summoned an evil spirit who turned them into zombies;
- talked at length about the ethics of factory farming.
(I didn’t say they were likely possibilities. Just possibilities in general.)
Jest aside, both Jude and Connor seem distinctly edgy about what happened. The two are squirrelly and unwilling to make eye contact when they talk in the corridor at school. Connor asks sharply whether Jude has told his mom what they did and, when Jude says no, Connor looks relieved though not relaxed. For the record, they do not act like friends who recently made up – they do not act like friends at all, really. (The visuals of this scene are pretty interesting in terms of subtext, too – see Wardrobe Notes below).
It’s easy to assume that something romantic happened late at night, in the warm darkness of the tent, the enclosed space thick with whispered confessions between two boys just coming to terms with their feelings… Sorry, where was I? OH YEAH, the smart money is on kissing being what Jude and Connor did, especially after it was foreshadowed in the spin-the-bottle game earlier in the season.
It’s notable also the way Jude slips in a reference to Connor during a family dinner conversation about Jesus and Hayley’s dysfunctional relationship and Hayley’s neediness. “Connor’s kinda needy, too – it’s not just girls,” Jude comments, practically tap-dancing with a neon sign that says, “ask me about my boyfriend, whose name is CONNOR.”
But, in terms of solving the mystery – time to get out your Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass – the most revealing scene seems to be the one later in the episode, when Jude talks to his moms. Here, Jude characterizes what he and Connor did on the camping trip as “wrong, I guess”. It seems unlikely that Jude, who’s been reassured numerous times by his family that it’s okay if he’s gay, would refer to same-sex attraction as “wrong” when talking to his lesbian moms.
Based on this scene, I can’t help but feel that this whole storyline is a feint and the big reveal won’t be romantic or sexy. That said, I do think Jude/Connor is edging ever closer to being canon. I just think we’re further from a canon relationship that many fans would like. (Sorry. I hate to be the parade-rainer-in-chief.)
Elsewhere in the episode, Lena is back from communing with nature, but it becomes clear that her grief is still tearing her up inside. Faced with the double whammy of a new “corporate” principal, (who looks all of 25 and sweetly suggests that Lena do most of the work of principal while getting none of the credit,) plus the no-win situation with Connor’s abusive father, level-headed Lena snaps – and quits her job.
In other, non-camping-related storylines, the twins meet with Ana – a visit that’s supervised by a visibly-uneasy Stef. Mariana, once so susceptible to Ana’s boo-hoo’ing, is now contemptuous as Ana clumsily tries to make amends. “I look at you and you’re nothing,” she tells Ana. “You’re just a very sad stranger.”
Later, Mariana is moved to confront Lena about something that’s obviously been bothering her: “you told me DNA doesn’t make a family – then why did you want a baby?” she demands. In what is probably the episode’s best scene, Mariana and Lena talk through the complexities of adoption: Mariana’s resentment that Ana will always be a part of her; Lena’s misplaced guilt that she wasn’t the one to carry Mariana.
The two of them hug it out, and then Mariana solicits Lena’s help in dying her hair back to brunette. (RIP Sad Barbie, we won’t miss you.)
Meanwhile, Callie grows closer to the Quinns when they hold a fundraiser for Girls United and finally agree to her adoption by Stef and Lena. Capping a season that has brought us a more mature, less volatile Callie, we get a chance to see Callie at her best – and then at her worst, when the adoption is once more derailed.
‘Someone’s Little Sister’ initially shows Callie at her most compassionate. She goes to see Rita – who’s downhearted and comfort-eating, following the fire – and takes on the challenge of getting Girls United back up and running. She goes against her usual instincts to never ask for help and actually reaches out to Robert. She also allows herself to be vulnerable, publicly identifying Robert as her father, and opening herself up to the possibility of a real relationship with him.
Later, however, when Callie feels betrayed, she lashes out – as self-destructive and emotionally-unstable as ever.
Sophia reveals to Callie that she ripped up the abandonment papers that Robert signed, expecting her to be happy that Callie can now be one of the Quinns. Callie, barely clinging to her best self, tries to stay calm and asks Robert to sign the papers again, so that her adoption can go through. Robert, however, is choked up with emotion. “I can’t,” he tells her. “I can’t abandon you.”
The adoption is off and Callie’s worst qualities resurface. “I will never call you my father again,” she tells Robert caustically. Her words to Sophia are even more hateful: “You’re not my sister, you’re a spoiled little brat.”
Callie’s recklessness doesn’t stop at words, either. Spiralling downward, she finds a familiar companion from her lowest days – Brandon. The two of them kiss and it’s… comfort? a rebellion? a consolation prize? an inevitability?
Either way, #BrallieSubtextWatch is over. Long live #BrallieMakeoutWatch!
Brandon and Callie start the episode on particularly good terms. If Brandon’s smile seems slightly strained when Callie reveals Robert signed the abandonment papers, his smile when Callie asks him and his band to play at the fundraiser is completely genuine. Later, when talking to Sophia, Callie calls Brandon her best friend. “And brother, soon,” she adds, less convincingly.
For his part, Brandon also spends most of the episode trying to play the game and ignore his residual feelings for Callie. At band practice, Brandon sings a new song. It’s lovelorn and self-flagellating and transparently about Callie:
You mean everything to me
I’d give it all away
If you say you’ll stay
True love isn’t just a dream
So shake me, wake me
And make it our reality
Naturally, Lou hates all that “I’d die without you” crap. Brandon, bristling from her criticism, writes new lyrics that are the diametric opposite – about a girl like Lou, who’s a “supernova”, burning everything up. He also begins acting diametrically opposite. Modelling himself on Lou, he gives up the dream of true love for something more concrete and less complicated. When he kisses Lou, it’s a culmination of their sexual tension, yes, but it’s also like he’s trying to prove something to himself – that he’s in control of his feelings.
Of course, no matter how much he tries to prove otherwise, Brandon is not in control of his feelings. He’s still lovelorn and self-flagellating and in love with his foster sister. And, when Callie – spinning out of control following the Quinns’ betrayal – moves to kiss him, he returns her kiss like he’s been dying without her.
Brandon’s motivations in this episode – and this season – are pretty easy to read. He’s always wanted Callie, at the expense of almost everything else, but he has been prepared to give her up because he she told him she needed a family. Now, given just a glimpse of reciprocated feelings, and he’ll take Callie any way he can get her.
Callie’s motivations, on the other hand, are far less easy to interpret. It’s hard not to read her going back to Brandon – her temptation, in Girls United parlance – as a return to her old, unstable self. She’s not acting rationally. She’s jumping to conclusions – “I’m never getting adopted” – which may or may not be true.
It’s her inclination to rewrite what’s happening as fate – “maybe this is the way it’s supposed to be” – that gives perhaps the biggest indicator of her true feelings. It could be that she’s clinging to Brandon as her consolation prize. (She doesn’t get the family, but she gets the boyfriend.) However, I’m more inclined to read it as her giving herself permission to love him.
Callie has spent the whole season trying to do what’s right – be the good daughter, the “success story” – and it’s now blown up in her face. Maybe, as her therapist suggested last week, it’s time for her to start trusting herself, to act on instinct. Callie choosing to see her feelings for Brandon as something that’s “supposed to happen” seems like a natural extension of Callie learning to listen to herself.
Could this kiss be the start of another unhealthy spiral for both of them? Maybe. But, as I said in an earlier recap, I think this season has been about Brandon and Callie learning to relate to each other as people, rather than as lovers. That should provide the type of foundation for a relationship that they didn’t have the first time around.
Thanks for reading my recaps, guys! I’ve enjoyed writing them. I have vague plans to go back and recap season one, and even more vague plans to do a whole series of expanded Wardrobe Notes posts, but I’m not sure when any of that will happen. Either way, I’ll see you for the Christmas special! Adams Fosters in elf hats = the cuteness may kill us.
Other notes and sundry:
Timothy sightings: 1 (…but that was only in the Previouslys, so it doesn’t count. Woe.)
Mat Tan hair rating: 10. Really, the best we’ve seen Mat’s hair. Such a perfect mix of flicky and casually-elegant.
Mat Tan TV boyfriend rating: Also a 10. His reaction to Mariana’s new-old hair is perfect, telling her she’s much prettier than the blonde he used to know who looked like her.
Still waiting for my spin-off: It’s nice that the Girls (And Boy) United got a fundraiser, but could they maybe have gotten a line as well? I do always love seeing Tom Phelan’s smile, though.
Don’t die, little doppelganger: This wasn’t a cast that really needed any new additions, but I’ve grown to really like Sophia. In this episode, Bailee Madison continues to play her with a strange (yet compelling) mix of serenity, overenthusiasm and ebbing unhappiness, culminating queasily in what looks like a suicide attempt. Exploring Sophia’s mental health problems(?) is a storyline I’m looking forward to next season.
Best Fake Band Ever: I’ve been listening to the Someone’s Little Sister EP all day and, I’ve gotta tell you, it’s pretty great.
It’s perfectly perfect that Callie, trying to be the best version of herself, is dressed in a white dress. Brandon, meanwhile, is dressed in muted stripes, which as we know is code for ‘I’m hiding something and I feel bad about it’.
This week’s wardrobe notes really belong to Jude and Connor, though. Jude’s signature colours are well-established as blue and green. Connor’s colour palette is less precise, but he tends to wear red for pivotal scenes. So it’s oh-so-intriguing that, in the corridor scene where they talk about “what we did”, it’s Jude who wears red and Connor who wears blue and green. Don’t forget, we saw this same inversion (Jude in red, Connor in blue) earlier in the season, in ‘Truth Be Told’.
What do you think? WHAT DID JUDE AND CONNOR DO IN THE TENT? Are Brandon and Callie headed back down a rocky road of angsty makeouts, or can you see the light for them? What kind of job could you see Lena getting – maybe something in the foster system? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
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