“I don’t think I can handle any more bad news,” Callie comments in this season opener.
So please stop explaining, she may as well have said. Don’t tell me ‘cause it hurts.
‘Over/Under’ ends up being mostly about what’s unsaid. It’s a story that hides in the ellipses.
“And…” Jude trails off, when trying to explain What Happened In The Tent™. Then, later, “I didn’t tell…”
It’s a story told in pregnant pauses. In evasive looks.
It’s a story about bottled-up feelings and, when those feelings finally, inevitably explode, it becomes a story about lashing-out and half-truths and things you wish you could unhear.
So, as Gwen Stefani sang about “the guy with the crazy eyes”: don’t speak, don’t speak, don’t speak…
When it comes to his friendship with Jude, Connor seems relieved to brush everything that happened on the camping trip under the rug. “I’m over it,” he says when Jude asks if he’s still mad. He’s visibly keen to reset their friendship to a level where they talk about homework, rather than about feelings.
However, this reset doesn’t last long. Lena, newly re-instated as Vice Principal, holds another supremely awkward meeting with Connor’s dad and insists the boys tell the truth about What Happened In The Tent™.
Girls is what happened, Jude claims. Jude and Connor invited some girls into their tent, they played some games, and they ended up making out. With the girls. Not with each other. Totally. That’s all that happened.
Mystery solved, right?
Yet, if that’s all that happened, it doesn’t quite explain Jude’s edginess or his dropped sentences. “We end up making out with them, and…” Jude says to Connor’s dad.
“And…?” Mr Stevens prompts, while Connor looks on, a little wild-eyed.
“Nothing, that’s it,” Jude says.
Later, Jude pulls out another dot-dot-dot when Connor accuses him of telling his mom too much:
“I didn’t tell…” Jude says, indicating that there may be another layer to the story that he’s still keeping secret.
Connor is far from mollified, however. With the rug pulled out from under him, he lashes out at Jude, telling him, “I can’t be friends with a little bitch who tells his mom every time something happens…”
It’s hard to start analyzing a character who’s had maybe 20 minutes of screentime total, but, hell, I’ll do it anyway: Understanding Connor’s behaviour in this episode becomes easier if you assume that he comes from an abusive home. Added to his dad’s (probable) physical abuse of him, he also implied early in the series that the situation with his mom may not be much better (“my mom doesn’t like it when kids come over; she says it gives her migraines”).
Jude has had years to consider his sexuality (if we take his habit of wearing dresses, established by Callie in the Pilot, as a sign of questioning his sexuality) and is now settled in a very secure environment to do so. By contrast, Connor has none of this security, this sense of perspective. His crushes have been on girls (Maddie, for one). He has (we can assume) a more established social position at school than Jude does. Clearly he has more to lose by embarking in any sort of same-sex relationship. For Connor, there also seems more potential for backlash, both externally (what will his parents say? what will people in school say?), and in terms of his emotional self, his sense of his own identity.
I’d definitely read this episode as Connor dealing with having romantic/sexual feelings for Jude – and dealing with them poorly. It doesn’t make sense otherwise for him to lash out at Jude so cruelly. “Little bitch” seems like a telling choice of insult; highly gendered and emasculating, with gay-bashing connotations; designed to not only cut down Jude but also to ‘other’ him (‘you’re a bitch, but I’m not’).
Showrunner Bradley Bredeweg says the Jude/Connor storyline is his favourite this season, so I think we can rest assured that this isn’t the end of #JonnorSubtextWatch…
As well as addressing What Happened In The Tent™, this episode also had a few more cliffhangers to resolve.
Of course, the most exciting finale cliffhanger was… What did Hayley think when Jesus blew her off to attend the fundraiser?
Ahaha, I jest. No one cares. Literally no one.
Jesus does some grovelling and Hayley forgives him – as long as he promises to come to her dance competition. Hayley does win some of my affection by being hilariously self-absorbed. When Jesus points out that his family’s coming to the competition (to see Mariana), Hayley asks: “Your whole family’s coming to see me?” It must be nice to live in Hayley-World where absolutely everything’s about you.
Jesus, however, manages to maintain his bad boyfriend cred by failing to attend the dance competition after all. He instead uses the time to stop by an NA meeting to see Ana. This turns out to be a monumentally bad idea, since Ana uses her speaking time at the meeting to reveal that… she’s pregnant.
For the record, this is my mind right now: MIKE’S NOT THE FATHER, RIGHT? MIKE’S NOT THE FATHER, RIGHT? MIKE’S NOT THE FATHER, RIGHT? MIKE’S NOT THE FATHER, RIGHT? MIKE’S NOT THE FATHER, RIGHT? MIKE’S NOT THE FATHER, RIGHT? MIKE’S NOT THE FATHER, RIGHT? MIKE’S NOT THE FATHER, RIGHT? MIKE’S NOT THE FATHER, RIGHT? MIKE’S NOT THE FATHER, RIGHT? MIKE’S NOT THE FATHER, RIGHT? MIKE’S NOT THE FATHER, RIGHT? MIKE’S NOT THE FATHER, RIGHT? MIKE’S NOT THE FATHER, RIGHT? MIKE’S NOT THE FATHER, RIGHT? MIKE’S NOT THE FATHER, RIGHT?
(…He’s not, right?)
Meanwhile, the dance competition delivers all the thrills and excitement we’ve come to expect from the dance team subplot – i.e. none.
The dancers are fighting to qualify for State (or… something) and team captain Heather (whose name’s not Heather, but it kind of is Heather) keeps changing the line-up. Finally, after Mariana’s solo is cut, PlotPointTia snaps and quits the team, expecting Mariana to follow her.
Mariana stays (traitor!). However, following the competition, where they do in fact qualify (for… something), Mariana quits, too, and proposes that she and Tia start their own dance team (hero!). Because Mariana competed and qualified, it’s within the rules for their new dance team to compete at State (or… wherever).
(Clearly this rule makes no sense, because what’s to stop all 10 of the dancers from forming their own dance teams and ALL rocking up at State like, oh yeah, I’m competing? Whatever. I’m looking for sense in madness.)
There are a couple of silver linings to this dance subplot. Firstly, Mariana unleashes her supernerd powers. Mariana is clearly one of those wildly intelligent girls who nonetheless wants to be hot, rather than smart (as if the two were mutually exclusive). So it was nice to see her triumph through being nerdy and book-smart. She circumvents Evil Heather by actually reading the dance competition rules, and also fixes the team’s choreography issues through comparative geometry. She’s Super Mariana and her superpower is MATH!
It’s also exciting that PlotPointTia gets to be about 75% of a real character in this episode. Yay, Tia! I never dreamed you’d become a whole character! It’s like I’m clapping and you’re Tinkerbell!
Less exciting is the fact that Mat gets downgraded to 25% of a character in this episode. In fact, he’s PlotPointMat, fretting over Lou and Brandon maybe getting together and playing dutiful boyfriend to Mariana. The Mat Tan hair rating is only about a 6, too. Boo.
The best thing to come out of the dance competition is watching Stef and Lena’s facial expressions during the performance. I’m right there with you, moms.
As we continue to clean up the previous episode’s cliffhangers, I guess it’s time to find out why Callie and Brandon heard sirens at the fundraiser…
Were you worried that Sophia had shut herself in the bathroom to slit her wrists?
Well, it was all a false alarm! Whew! No need to worry, guys.
Sophia just really loves baths. Loves them! Rubber duckies, toy ships, reading the fine print on the back of the shampoo bottle, getting prune-y. Baths! Sophia is president of the bath appreciation society.
The sirens we heard were really for Robert, who thought he was having a heart attack, but was actually having a panic attack. I guess having your daughter angrily disown you can do a number on a guy.
Robert, of course, does what any rich white dude would do in this situation. (Takes a spa day? Makes an appointment with his therapist?) Nope, he calls his lawyer!
Callie’s life once again lies in someone else’s hands. In an awkward meeting of the Quinns and the Adams Fosters at the courthouse, the judge tells Callie that, while she can continue living with the Adams Fosters, she must spend one day a week with Robert, before a final decision is made on custody.
Callie can’t resist punishing Sophia further for her interference with the abandonment papers. She’ll see Robert, she says, but she won’t see Sophia. Sophia looks on, distraught.
Later, Sophia stops by Magritte’s Burger Stand to see Callie while she’s at work. Sophia begs Callie to forgive her.
“I know you thought I just really love baths,” Sophia doesn’t say. “I mean. Rubber duckies, toy ships. All that awesome stuff. But actually? I’m super-suicidal and I’m going to walk into traffic now… Bye, kiss kiss.”
Okay, I need to stop dealing with my feelings through humour, because I watched this episode twice and this scene completely wrecked me both times. Bailee Madison is a freakin’ revelation. The way she plays Sophia’s suicide attempt – a numb exterior, belying oceans of inner pain – is incredible.
In fact, there’s outstanding work from everyone in this scene. Kerr Smith is heartbreaking as he breaks down, forced to contemplate his daughter’s deathwish. Maia Mitchell is wonderful, as ever, when Callie reaches out to comfort Robert, unable to stop herself from empathizing with father even as she tries to cut him out of her life.
With all of the emotional turmoil that’s going on, it’s hardly surprising that Callie’s spiralling. She goes looking for comfort in a familiar place, but Brandon’s wise to this pattern of hers: “You only come to me when things are hard for you or when everything is going wrong,” he says.
It’s true. Brandon and Callie have never had a relationship built on solid ground. And Brandon, for one, seems ready to draw a line under it all. “I’ll always have feelings for you,” he tells her, “but I don’t trust you.”
This is a surprisingly mature decision for a boy who’s previously made a habit of making piss-poor decisions. In fact, Brandon is rational and pragmatic throughout this episode. He pursues Lou, a girl who’s been upfront about her feelings for him, a girl he’s allowed to date. He sets up a fun summer for himself, planning to tour with the band. On the surface, this is the most functional Brandon’s been in a long time.
Callie alone seems to see through this charade. The tour is a distraction, an excuse not to attend a summer program for classical music (something Brandon is obviously scared to even try, for fear of failing). Is the rest of it a charade, too? Is Lou also a distraction, an excuse?
(Yes and yes. Um. I mean… *mumbles* We’ll have to wait and see.)
This episode sees Callie and Brandon both holding true to their pinkie promise not to let each other give up on their dreams. Callie badgers Brandon to attend the summer program and pursue classical music; Brandon draws back from Callie in order to keep her on track for the adoption.
So this episode sees Brandon as selfless (letting Callie go in order to preserve the family unit), Brandon as coldly rational (in his pursuit of Lou in lieu of Callie), but there’s also another layer to his behaviour, which I think sheds light on how he’s really feeling.
I read their final scene as Brandon punishing Callie. He’s telling the truth – he can’t trust her, she’s unstable – but it nonetheless all seems calculated to punish her. It’s worth remembering that Brandon has spent a long time (maybe 6 months, in the timeline of the show?) festering over a tough break-up with Callie. This was time where Callie did an admirable job of seeming just fine without him: she had a happy relationship with Wyatt; she repeatedly rebuffed Brandon’s attempts at reconciliation (the kitchen table scene in the Christmas episode; telling Brandon to “let Lou have” their song).
Given the long torture of living alongside Callie while she acted like she didn’t need him, it’s unsurprising that he’d take the opportunity to cause her some pain. And, don’t doubt it, he’s punishing himself, too. Brandon’s still carrying the wounds inflicted by Dani – I think in some fundamental sense he feels unworthy of the true love represented by Callie. Better to play it safe with a Lou type who he doesn’t love and therefore cannot hurt him.
So, no, I don’t think this was a mature, rational Brandon making a good decision to let Callie go. I think it was just another sign that he still loves her.
Other notes and sundry:
Timothy sightings: 0. In this episode, there’s suddenly a new teacher playing exposition fairy. I am worried about this turn of events. It’s Timothy’s job to infodump exposition (and, of course, to set ludicrous homework assignments, inbetween kayaking). I miss you, Timothy.
Please, no pregnant pauses: Jude needs to take all the pregnant pauses out of his speech patterns. It freaks me out. If Jude were my friend, I would continually worry that every pregnant pause he made was a return to selective mutism. Jeez.
Locker notes: We got to see Jude and Connor’s lockers in this episode. Connor’s seems mostly decorated with baseball stuff; Jude’s has a lot of cartoon monsters. BOYS. <3
Another case of the mysterious disappearing AdamsFoster scenes: Stef and Lena have a pretty major fight (about Stef interfering at the Quinns and about Lena quitting her job), but by the end of the episode, without much resolution, they seem affectionate again. I hate this feeling I often have that one or two Stef/Lena scenes are cut from every episode just for time. :/ Cut the Jesus/dance team scenes instead.
Principal Lena Dunham: The whole Lena-quits-her-job stuff seemed too easily resolved, but I suppose it’ll be interesting to see how Lena interacts with the new corporate/evil Principal who looks a lot like Lena Dunham. (The Fosters/Girls: weirdest crossover ever?)
Thrilling education subplots: Did this episode make a dig at Common Core? “Back in my day, math did not look like this,” Stef comments archly. Political!
I’m (not) with the band: I totally don’t see this tour happening. I think Mat’s beautiful hair is too high-maintenance for a month living out of a van.
Jesus hits the gym: Brandon and Jesus spend a little brotherly bonding time lifting weights. I guess this is because Jake T Austin spent the hiatus getting buff rather than getting acting lessons.
Callie unveils more of her penchant for graphical print shirts, which always seem to show up in her scenes with Brandon. First pandas. Then smiley faces. Now cats:
Brandon actually dressed pretty normally in this episode, so clearly he’s emotionally fine. (…He’s totally not fine.)
Jude wears a lot of green in this episode, which has been well established as his base colour. Then suddenly he switches to black and grey with an orange stripe for the climactic Jude/Connor scene. Hmmm. He also wore a similar (but not identical) shirt with an orange stripe in the S2A finale. Hmmmm. Time to crank the emotional threat level up to Code Orange Stripe.
Let’s finish this Wardrobe Notes by appreciating the full horror of the dance team’s dropped crotch lime green and black costumes. I mean… wow.
What do you think? Are your nightmares haunted by those dropped crotches? Do you miss Timothy? WHAT HAPPENED IN THE TENT™? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.