How did we reach the point where two 13-year-old boys holding pinkie fingers makes for the most heart-in-mouth, toe-curling, stressful viewing of the whole season?
Hannibal’s gonna come back on our screens later this year and casually disembowel people with Italian flair… and it’s still going to make for less tense television than Connor moving his hand half an inch across an armrest.
Some other stuff happened this episode, as well. I mean… I guess it did. *vague gestures*
After his blow-out argument with Callie last week, things are still a little prickly in Judeland. He seems slightly withdrawn; lonely, perhaps, without Connor for company. When Callie tries to get him to open up about why he’s not hanging out with Connor, he steals from her playbook and says that he doesn’t want to talk about it.
At school, he’s guarded around Connor, but Connor’s apparently not interested in rehashing their last argument about what happened in the tent. In fact, Connor’s in full-on amnesiac, hey-man-whatever mode. All he wants from Jude is to switch lab partners, so that he can pair up with his new hottie crush object, Daria, for their potato/electricity science experiment. Oh, and for Jude to make up the numbers in a group date to the movies.
Jude’s still noticeably wary of the whole situation, but he seems relieved to be faced with a friendly Connor again, and to reset their relationship to lunch and casual conversation. However, Jude’s confused by the situation all over again when Fount of Wisdom, Jesus, reveals to him what going to the movies as a group really means: “hooking up!”
Taylor, Daria’s friend and Jude’s pseudo-date for the evening, also hammers the point home: “if they start making out, it’ll be really weird sitting right next to them,” she says of Connor and Daria. Jude, with forced cheerfulness, says it won’t be weird for him. I guess because Jude and Connor spend their totally-platonic friendtimes making out with girls in a tiny tent.
For the movie the group are seeing, the show has invented some kind of YA book-movie phenom called Bright Lights… but I’m just gonna go ahead and baselessly assume they’re talking about Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights Big City. Because kids love sulky self-insert fiction about being married to a model and being mad about it.
In the movie theatre, there turns out to be very little making out going on – just plenty of melodramatic movie dialogue. “I’ll let you go, if you can look me in the eye and tell me that you don’t feel what I feel,” some unseen movie character says heatedly, while Jude’s eyes drift over to Connor.
That’s when Connor places his hand beside Jude’s on the armrest and tentatively presses his pinkie finger against Jude’s. Jude reacts like someone just hit him with a potato’s worth of electricity. He returns the pressure and Connor responds by curling his finger around Jude’s.
And there we have it: the hand-holding that broke me. I really think this scene was played faultlessly. It demanded intense performances from both of its young actors and they both really delivered. No words, but you could see every emotion: every ragged breath, every beat of their racing hearts.
If you’ll excuse a slight tangent, my absolute pet peeve in teen shows is when the writers give their teenage characters fully-formed sexual identities that seem more appropriate to 25-year-olds. You could argue for days what the reason for this is: maybe it’s because teen shows are actually targeted at older viewers, ones with disposable incomes (it’s all about the ad dollars, folks!); or because it’s ooky and awkward to dig too deep into sexuality – especially the sexuality of teenagers (better just to include a soft-focus undressing scene and say no more about it); or because you’ll rub up against the censors if you get too specific about sex acts.
Either way, I feel like you varnish over a ton of the best-worst stuff about being a teenager if you start your characters off on square 25 of the Sex Game of Chutes and Ladders. This storyline really shows that you can create amazing drama by starting off at square 1 and, gollygeegosh, I am looking forward to every G-rated scene; every stolen glance, every touch that seems to last a lifetime, plus a kiss by the finale, please and thanks.
The fact that the show is doing this with a same-sex couple only makes it more exciting and – dare I say it? – ground-breaking.
Back at rock ‘n’ roll central, the Adams Fosters’ garage, Brandon breaks to the band his big news: his parents are letting him go on tour… provided it’s the most boring and least Spinal Tap tour ever. That means hotels, itineraries, constant check-ins.
Stef and Lena also want to meet the band members’ parents. OMG, SO DO I.
I fear this is a subplot that will drain away to nothing, but I hopehopehope we do indeed get this dinner party from hell. Meeting the bands’ parents sounds amazing to me, obsessive hoarder of canon about minor characters. Maybe we’ll finally find out more background colour about our favourite band!
What does Lou do all day since she dropped out of school? What are Mat’s hopes, dreams and aspirations? What is… the drummer’s… name? (Is it… Jeremy? Or…Damon? Or…Declan? I’m, like, 90% sure it begins with either a J or a D.)
Needless to say, Lou, Mat and JeremDamoDeclan are not thrilled about abiding by the moms’ rules – especially not when it comes to paying for hotels. Bluntly, they tell Brandon that either he stumps up the money (all the money) or they’ll go on tour without him.
Brandon responds to this the best way he knows how – by putting on stripes (his code for ‘I’m hiding something and I feel bad about it’) and sulking. Lou gets the worst of his wrath. In fact, based on this episode, Brandon is closed-off and passive-aggressive in his relationship with Lou. Not only does he tell her that her band sucked before he came along, but – after she is incredibly consoling to him – he tactlessly tells her that he wants to be alone. NICE ONE, B.
However, as it turns out, Brandon finds marinating in his own sense of injustice to be rather inspiring: he dusts off the old classical piano piece he wrote about his patchwork family – and manages to play it without mistakes. Looks like Chekhov’s Music Scholarship may be fired triumphantly into the air, after all…
Meanwhile, the twins are still grappling with the idea of having a new sibling-to-be.
Jesus is mostly ignoring the situation, focusing on the “one good thing” in his life: wrestling. Specifically, how to keep his math scores up, so that he can stay on the team. He enlists Emma’s help as a tutor and tells her, not quite convincingly, that tutoring is all he wants from her.
Mariana should be the happiest she’s ever been: she has her dance team, STEM club, a cute boyfriend willing to split his PB&J with her. However, with Ana’s pregnancy in the back of her mind, she goes into a self-sabotage spiral, breaking things off with Mat, before making a dramatic demand of Ana.
Luckily, Mat’s too smart to be fooled by Mariana’s brief spell of crazy, and the two of them share I love you’s. Unluckily for Mat, Mariana’s crazy spell is not quite done yet: she suggests she accompany him on the tour, acting as manager and merch girl.
Mat’s less than thrilled at the idea (in general, the Adams Fosters have taken his chill tour and thrown all the chill out the window), but I am psyched. Mainly because I’m obsessed with merchies and I think Mariana would probably make the best manager ever. She has, after all, already “managed” the situation with Ana…
Ana’s still playing house with Mike, and she tells him she’s thinking of calling the baby Isabella. Mike looks verklempt and says:
“I think it’s a beautiful name. It’s only too bad the Twilight Saga has steamrolled over that name to the extent that I literally can’t hear it without giving a Kristen Stewart-esque sigh. But… sure. In, like, thirty to forty years, it’ll just go back to being a beautiful name. And those are the best years of a kid’s life, anyway. The early-aging years.”
(On the subject of Twilight names, I’ve remembered the drummer’s name: JASPER.)
Despite claiming on numerous occasions that she wants nothing to do with Ana, Mariana can’t let the situation stand. She’s too upset by the idea of another little girl getting hurt “like I did”. She goes to see Ana and – as we find out later in the episode – makes a rather staggering suggestion: Stef and Lena should adopt the baby and raise her alongside Jesus and Mariana.
It’s a suggestion that is, at once, insane and let also eminently sensible. Stef and Lena are continually held up as not just great parents, but the greatest parents. It’s part of the draw of the show; to exist in the Adams Foster glow for an hour each week. And it’s inevitable that we’d want them to spread their love even further.
I’ve been speculating since Sophia’s introduction that maybe she’d go and stay with the Adams Fosters for a while. I’ve also wondered idly whether Stef and Lena couldn’t have (at least temporarily) taken in some of the show’s other broken birds, like Zac or Connor, rescuing them from bad homelives. Just a couple of episodes ago, it seemed like the obvious solution to Kiara’s problems was for Stef and Lena to foster her.
Yet, the fact is… Stef and Lena have five kids. On public servants’ salaries. A few of their money worries were handwaved away in the Christmas special, but hardly all of them. And do they have enough energy (emotional or otherwise) for another child? Could another child, in fact, harm their increasingly fragile relationship? These are big questions.
The Fosters was a show predicated on the idea of there being “enough of everything” to go around among the children. Now this storyline looks set to test this “enough of everything” premise – and I hope the show is really willing to test it, because the answers to those big questions could be brutal (and make for great television).
Naturally, this ‘hey, want a baby?’ offer couldn’t have come at a worse time for Stef and Lena.
This episode, they’re back to low-grade sniping at one another and having not-quite-arguments with no resolution. Lena accuses Stef of being “obsessed” with Mike and every bad decision he makes; shouldering stress that needn’t belong to her. Of course, Lena’s distracting herself with stress, too – with grant applications and work on a Saturday.
Also stressful is the reappearance of Robert in their lives, as he cashes in on the first of the court-mandated visitations with Callie. When Callie greets Robert and says goodbye to the moms, the scene is pure performance. Cheek-kisses and pointed I love you’s, just to make it clear to Robert that it’s Stef and Lena who are the parents.
This particular performance is well-judged, but it’s hard not to wonder just how much of Stef and Lena’s relationship has been reduced down to performance. All of their scenes in this episode are imbued with a rote sort of going-through-the-motions.
It’s telling that the only time Lena seems to sparkle in this episode is in her scene with… Monte. Dressed-down, weekend-working Monte. When it comes to goings-on at Anchor Beach, Monte says they’re 50-50 partners – which is more of a partnership than Lena’s marriage feels like right now.
We also find out that Monte is friendless and recently divorced. And there are… looks and… nervous giggling and… yeesh. This storyline is officially freaking me out.
At dinner with Robert, Callie does her best to put on a performance, too. She’s polite and pleasant, playing along when he points out all the things they have in common (photography, a dislike of cilantro). It’s all a façade, though – she’s only being nice to try and extract from him what she wants: for him to sign away parental rights. When he won’t agree, she snaps straight back into her most vicious self.
“Jude’s dad couldn’t take care of you, but I can,” Robert says.
“What, because we both hate cilantro and you’re rich?” Callie retorts.
Put so plainly, it casts the whole evening as hollow. The worst part is that Robert really is so very nice in this episode – and I am so predisposed to like Kerr Smith, who is so very charismatic. But it’s obvious to Callie – and to the audience – that Robert’s moving Callie (and Jude) around in his life like they’re props.
His promises relating to Jude are perhaps creepiest of all: he insists he would have adopted Jude if he’d found out about him sooner; and that Jude can have his own room at Robert’s house. It’s overkill. Like Robert’s flipped open a catalogue and he’s picking out a family from it.
However, later in the episode, it turns out that Callie – the real Callie; not the simpering one picked from a catalogue – really does need Robert. The fact that Mr Quinn keeps his lawyer on speed dial 1 (I’m assuming) comes in handy when Callie is questioned by the police… for Daphne’s little kidnapping excursion at Christmas.
It turns out that San Diego PD is piloting a new program where they place robots, disguised as hipsters, in stores around the city. These robots are able to log exactly who bought exactly which products (the controls are hidden behind the hipster glasses they all wear). This info is fed back to the police databases. Anyway, because Callie stopped by the hipster boutique where she bought Daphne’s Christmas present of a wind-up dog (a gift that Daphne then gave to her daughter, Tasha, during that Christmastime kidnap romp), Callie was STUNG by one of those hipster robot sales clerks. Damn those hipster robots!*
*The robot part may or may not be pure fantasy on my part. If the hipster sales clerk (who, hilariously, really is listed on IMDB as ‘hipster saleswoman’) isn’t a robot, I guess we’re just supposed to believe she has a really amazing memory and can remember exactly what her customers bought six months previously (if, in the timeline of the show, we’re supposed to assume it’s early summer).
Whatever! CALLIE’S IN TRUH-BUL. And it’s Robert to the rescue.
Whether it was the smartest decision on Callie’s part to call Robert instead of Stef and Lena remains to be seen, but this does set up another interesting parallel for the show. Namely, that Callie – like Brandon – now has three parents. I’ve written before that Brandon’s complicated relationship with those three parents is one of the show’s most interesting aspects, and I’m excited to see Callie begin to deal with her three parents.
Other notes and sundry:
This police department is awful: Even setting aside the wind-up dog stuff, in this episode, Stef and Mike have a blow-out argument and Mike tells Stef to stay out of his life. But… aren’t they partners again? Didn’t that literally happen two episodes ago?
Non-transparent languages: I’ve just realized the new Principal’s name is spelled Monte, not Monty, which makes her 1000% worse in my book. This is why people hate the English language, FYI, because of name spellings like that.
Line of the episode goes to Mr Mat Tan, who assures ethical-farming nut Mariana that his PB&J is made from the organic kind of peanut butter, “where the peanuts were sung to every night by the farmers.”
Hey, Taylor. You’re adorable. You can stay.
SUCH AN EXCITING WARDROBE EPISODE, GUYS!*
*she said, without any irony.
Jude dressed in blue when he was at home with his family, and then in orange in a later scene with Callie (echoing last week, where he also wore orange). He again dressed in blue (but with red stripes) at school, and then wore red for the date-that-wasn’t-a-date.
Blue and green tend to be Jude’s default colours, but this episode sees him wearing a lot of red/orange, which are either danger colours or confidence colours (I’m not quite sure yet) – either way, they’re colours I associate more with Connor than with Jude.
At school, Connor, meanwhile, dressed in a green shirt with blue t-shirt underneath – which is just a smorgasbord of Jude colours.
I’d say default Connor colours are yellow and red. Indeed, probably the most interesting wardrobe choice of the whole episode is Connor on the date-not-a-date: his shirt is half yellow, half blue. It’s literally like he’s torn between his old self (yellow) and… Jude (blue).
There’s also something adorably realistic about Jude and Connor both styling their hair with way too much product for their non-date.
Not to be outdone, there were some interesting things going on with Brandon and Callie’s clothing, even while their storyline remains on the backburner.
In the opening scene, they are hilariously matchy-matchy, both dressed in white t-shirts and brown patterned cardigans.
Later in the episode, Brandon retreats to his feel-bad stripes that we saw so much last (half-)season.
And, after last week’s pink, Callie’s resoundingly back in dark colours, notably including her ‘daddy date’ with Robert, where she wears dark green. (Interestingly, dark green is a colour that Lou also wears this episode — fuel to my theory that Callie and Lou are often styled very similarly.)
What do you think? Will you ever recover from the pinkie-embrace? Will Stef and Lena adopt Ana’s baby? Do you hope we’ll get to see The Worst Tour Ever happen on-screen? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.