In this week’s episode, The Fosters manages to hit more social issues than your average tumblr SJW post. Privatization of public services? Check! Charter school bureaucracy? Check! Gender politics? Check! The vulnerability of children of addicts? Check! The importance of at-risk teens finishing high school? Check!
The only thing missing is… Jude. Wait, where the hell is Jude?
I’ll share my speculation on where Jude has disappeared to later, but first, on with the recap…
Despite its many (many) soapbox moments of social commentary, the best parts of ‘Stay’ deal with quieter issues. Specifically: siblings and solidarity. The sibling relationships on this show are inevitably less noisy than the parent-child relationships, less dramatic than the romantic entanglements, but I always love it when then spotlight falls on them.
The episode opens with Mariana crowing about getting the highest grade in math evaluations. Meanwhile, Callie’s contemplating the possibility that she may not even graduate on time, thanks to her chequered school record.
Callie and Mariana are drawn in contrast here, with Callie spiralling downward – this school issue is just one more defeat, after so many disappointments – while Mariana’s reaching new heights. She has the top grades, the cute boyfriend, the new hobby. Callie just has the sticky label of ‘the foster kid’, which simply won’t come off.
Despite all this, despite the fact that part of Callie really must resent Mariana, she never lets that resentment show. In conclusion: <3 SISTERS <3
Sisterhood also extents to Kiara in this episode, who’s staying with the Adams Fosters after her foster home became the scene of a drug deal gone bad. While Stef tries to find a way to get the sketchy foster parents busted (or, at least, their foster license revoked), Callie takes Kiara to a drop-in centre, hoping to find help – for Kiara, but also, it becomes apparent, for herself.
There’s little the drop-in centre can do for Kiara. Although Stef does get Kiara’s foster parents evicted from their apartment (effectively ending their ability to foster), it’s too late for Kiara: she’s already decided that life on the street is preferable to yet another bad foster home.
Callie, who couldn’t find help for Kiara, does find some solace. She decides to start trying to do some good for other foster kids, becoming a volunteer at the drop-in centre.
(I’m hopeful that Callie’s volunteering might be a route into telling some interesting stories about the foster system. I’m glad this show devotes as much time as it does to examining foster care, but I do wish it showed more middle ground between catastrophic foster homes like Kiara’s and the upper-middle-class dream of the Adams Fosters.)
Sticking with the sibs, Brandon and Jesus also spend some quality time together – well, they spend some pizza time together. The moms prod Brandon into taking Jesus to an Alateen meeting, so that he can talk about Ana. (Ana, of course, is more on Jesus’s mind than Stef and Lena realize – and he’s wondering if Mike could be the father of her baby…)
Brandon and Jesus ditch the meeting in favour of dinner at a pizza parlour. But they end up sharing secrets anyway. Jesus doesn’t ‘fess up about Ana, but he does show Brandon his ‘Hayley’ tattoo.
(Personally, I think the answer to Jesus’s tattoo dilemma – i.e. he can’t break up with Hayley because he has her name tattooed on his body – is just to find a nice girl named Bayley. Or Kayley. Or Shayley. It would be an easy fix to alter the tattoo.)
Brandon doesn’t quite go tit for tat on secrets, but he does reveal to Jesus that he’s done worse in his personal life and he wishes that he just had a bad tattoo. It’s a little hard to tell what Brandon’s referring to here. I automatically assumed he was talking about Callie, because that relationship did put him through the emotional wringer. But maybe it was Dani who was uppermost in his mind. (Dani, who is not, as Brandon jokes about Hayley, a “registered text offender”, but hopefully soon a registered sex offender.) Either way, the secrets and emotional scars that Brandon’s still carrying are clearly weighing on him.
This realization obviously comes to Brandon, too, because suggests that he and Jesus stop by the Alateen meeting after all.
Just a short one this week, since there wasn’t much subtext, apart from in terms of clothes (see Wardrobe Notes below).
Please note that Brandon and Callie’s kiss from the fundraiser is still in the Previouslys. AS IF I WERE LIKELY TO FORGET!
Brandon’s still trying to persuade his parents to let him go on tour with the band. We also check in with Chekov’s music scholarship. Callie insinuates that if the moms knew he had a place at Idyllwild, they’d never let him go on tour instead. When Brandon looks uneasy, Callie reassures him that she won’t tell.
This is a morsel of a plot point, but I have a feeling it may grow in significance. It’s interesting to compare the idea of Callie keeping the secret about Brandon’s scholarship with Brandon keeping the secret about Jesus’s tattoo. Keeping secrets for your siblings is par for the course and I doubt Brandon will rat out Jesus. But what happens when you add Callie’s romantic feelings for Brandon into the mix? Then, I’d wager, it stops being a clear-cut case of “siblings cover for each other”…
Meanwhile, in dance purgatory, Mariana is literally Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls and, I’ve gotta tell you, I love it. This week, she becomes a mathlete joins Anchor Beach’s STEM club.
Now she has to balance the part of her life that’s all dancing and sexy make-outs with Mat with her top-of-the-class grades and her position as one of two girls in STEM. The other girl, incidentally, is Emma. Hey, Emma!
On the one hand, this is the high-level math that I am currently doing:
Mariana + Emma = BFFs!
But, on the other hand, Emma’s still peddling some pretty gross internalized misogyny and wrongheaded views on gender relations. She’s basically a walking tumblr post. She seems to think that Jesus broke up with her because he couldn’t handle her being his math tutor. Um. I think they broke up because Jesus is a tool, but… okay.
Mariana takes to heart Emma’s suggestion that boys are threatened by smart girls, so she lies to Mat about her math grade. Luckily, SuperMama Lena steps in and tells her that if Mat can’t accept her for who she is, he’s not worth it: “Don’t play small, my love,” Lena tells her. “You’re already really short.”
Mat, of course, was never really bothered about the math grade. Because, I can tell already, he’s one of those guys who’s eager for his girlfriend to become a doctor, so that he can sit around in his underwear all day, playing guitar (but, like, they’ll still be able to make rent, because Mariana’s a doctor).
Next we turn to Timmy and Lena’s Amazing Falafel Lunch Club. *does cartwheels, pulls out the sitar, reads some Camus* Timothy’s back, you guys! Celebrate good times, COME ON!
Actually, this subplot was a tragic disappointment for me. Because, instead of delving into the very real emotion friction in Lena and Timothy’s friendship—
Timothy: Hey, remember when I was going to sue you for parental rights over your child?
Lena: Hey, remember when I lost the baby that was also biologically yours and no one called you or asked you to come to the hospital and probably you had to find out via Facebook?
—we get a whole storyline about teaching methods and the bureaucracy of charter schools. *props eyelids open* Go on…
Lena and Principal Lena Dunham, (who I’ll just refer to by her actual name, Monty, because otherwise that’s too many Lenas,) are suddenly getting on like a house on fire! Monty’s super-supportive! Lena has autonomy over academics! Everything’s great! …Oh, except Monty thinks that the school’s English scores are too low and it’s all Timothy’s fault and, oh, Lena had better talk to him about that…
Timothy is understandably riled, feeling that he’s being asked to teach to the test. Monty’s reaction? “Then we’ll fire him.”
*wide shot, open sky, flock of birds takes off* NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
(For the record, if you’re actually interested in stories of teachers being forced out of the profession by bureaucratic meddling, I can recommend the Two Steps Back episode of This American Life, which you can stream for free at that link. Too bad this Fosters subplot was such a snooze. P.S. Don’t write out Timothy. I’ll riot.)
Can you tell I’m not really feeling this episode? Unfortunately, it feels like an exercise in unconvincing bait and switch.
Lena and Monty are best friends! Everything’s swell! Except that it’s not.
Callie’s going to run away again! With Wyatt (again)! Except that she’s not.
On that subject…
In this episode, we learn that Wyatt’s headed back out on the road, to “try and get abducted by aliens”, and he invites Callie to come along. It never really seems like Callie’s even considering it, so it’s hardly a surprise when the episode’s runaway turns out to be Kiara. Nonetheless, it’s nice to see Wyatt again and it would have been satisfying if this episode had provided a bit of closure for his character.
Unfortunately, it ends up feeling like too little, too late for what was once such an interesting character. In season 1A, Wyatt actually seemed to have life off the page; he had his own problems, a credible backstory; he was a person outside of his interactions with Callie. (His scenes in #1.06, ‘Saturday’ are some of my absolute favourites.) But, since returning to Anchor Beach in s1B, he’s just seemed like a cipher.
This episode tries to hang a lampshade on this criticism: “Yeah, Callie, you are the reason for every single thing I do,” Wyatt tells Callie contemptuously. But, the thing is… she is. For the last dozen episodes, we’ve seen nothing of Wyatt outside of his relationship with Callie. We don’t know where he’s living (still with Daphne? But that was only supposed to be for a few days…). We don’t know where he’s working (he has to have a job, surely, to support himself in this apartment that he may or may not have…). We don’t know what his hopes, dreams or aspirations are.
In this episode, Callie ascribes to him academic ambition he’s never actually exhibited: “You came back to finish school, so do it,” she tells him. (Hold on, why does he need to be at Anchor Beach to finish school? They don’t have schools in Indiana where his mom is living? Do they have, like, running water in Indiana or is it basically the dark ages there?)
Whatever. Bye, Wyatt. Or maybe not bye. Because you might be staying? Whatever.
‘Stay’ was a sadly Jude-free episode. I know, I know. Hayden Bryerly’s basically a foetus and can only work 45 minutes per day* before having a nap and a juice box, so it’s inevitable that he won’t be in every episode. But what was strange was that no one mentioned his absence here.
(*I may not know anything about child labour laws)
This episode felt like a weird alternate universe where the Adams Fosters only have four kids. Maybe I’ve been watching too much Black Mirror, but I was surprised the episode didn’t end with Jude, reduced to a copy of his consciousness trapped inside of a digital egg, screaming to his siblings who are unable to hear him: REMEMBER ME? REMEMBER HOW I USED TO EXIST?
Actually, that would have been an awesome end to the episode. Instead, we get Stef asking Lena’s permission to partner with Mike at work again.
I’d… literally forgotten they were no longer partners. Ho hum.
Other notes and sundry:
Hello, I’m handsome: “Hello, I’m Rafael, otherwise known as Drop-in Centre Guy. I’m hot, tall and socially-involved. I’m probably a new love interest. Pleased to meet you.”
Line of the episode goes to Lena, talking about Mariana’s love of the limelight: “That girl used to make our whole family clap every time she put on her shoes.”
Runner up for line of the episode goes to Brandon, talking about Hayley: “She’s, like, a registered text offender” – not because it was funny, just because he looked so pleased with himself. Like he came up with the line once, when he was on his own, and then he saved it for the right occasion, before pretending he’d come up with it on the spot.
Brandon and Callie continue their trend of being matchy-matchy in terms of clothes:
Also, while Brandon has stopped wearing his favourite colour of misery (MAROON), Callie seems to have picked up the slack for him:
What do you think? Did you miss Jude? Do you think Callie will tell the moms about Idyllwild? What do you think of Rafael? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. P.S. Can someone let me know if Indiana has schools???