The Fosters #2.18 (Now Hear This) recap: The tension and the terror

Everyone’s looking for a family. When Kiara returns, she assures Callie that’s she found a new family, one that cares about her. The fact that her new family is a prostitution ring? Well, it might not be ideal, but she’s making the best of a bad situation (and, for Kiara, there have been so many bad situations).

In this episode, Callie tries to convince Kiara that Rita and the newly-reunited Girls United could be her family – a good family; a family that comes without strings attached. Callie, whose other family – the Adams Fosters – is slipping away from her, is desperate to keep together Girls United. She can’t lose this other family, too, because losing Stef and Lena already “hurts so much”.

#FamilyAndOtherConstructs

I think one of this show’s greatest strengths lies in continually examining and re-examining what a family means. Family, viewed through the TV lens, is usually so straightforward, so unexamined. We’re still overwhelmingly presented with a ‘mom, dad and two kids’ model of family, where everyone’s related and everyone lives in the same house.

Even though the Adams Fosters deviate sharply from this so-called norm, Mariana, in particular, wants vehemently for her family to be straightforward. “Families live together,” she snaps, when Lena breaks the news that Callie’s moving out. She already feels her bond with Callie eroding, as Callie gets ready to leave. “I thought I was your sister,” Mariana says, when Callie says she thinks of her “like” a sister.

Callie, too, seems to be losing something intrinsic in moving out. “I’ll still be around,” she says to her siblings, but doesn’t seem to really believe it. Stef, as well, seems to feel Callie’s coming absence almost physically, as if a cord has been cut: “I can’t believe we’re losing her,” she says to Lena. Her grief is palpable.

The Fosters has families of all kinds: found families; blended families; fostered and adopted families. But, unlike a family built on biology, these families are built on shakier ground, and their foundations can be eroded by lies and lack of communication.

‘Now Hear This’ depicts two such patched-together families in turmoil: the Adams Fosters and the Girls United.

When she finds out that Kiara is back in town and working as a prostitute, Callie is desperate to rescue her (even as she’s unable to rescue herself from her own bad situation). Rita, too, wants to bring Kiara back to the Girls United house. But Kiara’s too filled up with shame and hurt feelings to do anything except spit in her face.

Callie, who “can’t even look Stef and Lena in the face”, is just as full of shame. Even after Daphne tells her she’s safe, that Daphne and Daphne alone will take the heat for Tasha’s kidnapping, Callie’s spiralling. She believes that Stef and Lena will surely reject her for making the same mistakes all over again. “I did something really bad,” she finally reveals to Stef. “I lied, again. I didn’t come to you, again. I messed up, again.”

Kiara and Callie, raised in environments of no second chances, think their moms will reject them when they’re finally honest. But, of course, real families forgive. Rita welcomes Kiara back with a hug, and Stef tells Callie, “Nothing you can do is gonna make us not want you.”

With the truth finally out in the open, both families can begin to heal and reconnect. But, for the Adams Fosters, at least, it’s far from the end of the story. The shadow of biology still hangs over this found family.

“I was just doing what was best for my daughter,” Robert exclaims to Stef, in the final moments of the episode, when she calls him out for telling Callie to lie about the kidnapping.

It’s his trump card and he knows it: Callie is his daughter; biology proves it. His definition of family is a simple one. Disgustingly simple, in Stef’s eyes. She, on the other hand, will have to fight to keep Callie as her daughter. But, of course, she’s prepared to do it. Families aren’t simple, the show tells us, and sometimes you have to fight to keep yours together.

#BringTimothyBack

While Stef’s fighting to keep her family together, Mariana’s fighting for… well, attention, mostly. Her war against the Anchor Beach administration seems perhaps 20% political (they fired her favourite teacher!) and 80% a way to work through her own family issues.

Mariana stages the most hilariously lazy form of civil disobedience ever: she and most of the school’s other students will simply stay home, in protest of Timothy’s firing. She has a Facebook group, complete with #BringTimothyBack graphics, so y’know, it’s almost on a par with the March On Washington:

This subplot stops maybe a baby-step short of being a real satire of ‘tumblr activism’, where people reblog stuff angrily and then do… nothing. But it is funny stuff, especially when Lena responds to Mariana’s protest by “taking away the internet”; zipping up all the kids’ devices, plus the modem, into a suitcase and rolling it away (much to the horror of the millennials in the house – and Stef, too). Props to this episode’s writer, Thomas Higgins, who is great at injecting humour into the show. (He also wrote ‘Play’, my favourite episode of last season.)

#PaedophileAcademy

Meanwhile, Jesus, uh, wrestles with the idea of leaving for boarding school. In the wake of Mariana’s freak-out about losing Callie from the family home, he decides he can’t leave her.

Wait, what?

*stops, looks up*

Oh, okay. I guess I’ll have to stop my current project of going through the entire Adams Foster family photo album and cutting Jesus out of every picture.

*sadly puts photo album away*

Once Mariana has calmed down, however, she tells Jesus that a military-style school sounds like a good fit for him.

*hurriedly takes photo album out again, resumes cutting*

Bye, Jesus! Take care, buddy! Have fun in Colorado! Send us a pic of your abs every now and again!

#BaseballsAndOtherBalls

Courtesy of Mariana’s protest, Brandon enjoys a day off school – and a little, uh, leisure time with Lou.

When Lou’s not sexing up Brandon (side note: hot), she’s coming up with helpful suggestions for how he can fund the band’s tour. Not by, like, getting a fucking job or anything. But by selling a signed baseball given to him by his grandpa.

This suggestion is a little gross and makes me like Lou less. However, it’s honestly hard to gauge this scene, because Lou is still so utterly lacking in context. Is she not close to her family and therefore doesn’t see the point in treasuring family heirlooms? Does she have money struggles of her own that have forced her to sell things she’s treasured? Who knows? It would be easier to get a read on Lou if we knew, oh, anything about her.

Fortunately for Brandon, Mike intervenes and buys the baseball himself. “Let’s call it a loan, with collateral,” he tells Brandon.

Less fortunately for Brandon, although he now has the funds to go on tour, he probably won’t be allowed to go. Because of… Daphne’s kidnapping. Um. What?

This kidnapping storyline has been convoluted since the beginning, but it somehow gets even more convoluted in this episode. Suddenly Callie’s acting like the reason she’s dug herself into this hole isn’t because she’s protecting Brandon from a kidnapping accessory charge and a criminal record, but because she’s protecting Brandon from getting in trouble with his parents. Um. Seriously. What?

However, all of this does lead us to a bit of…

#BrallieSubtextWatch

Callie asks if Brandon hates her because of messing up his tour plans—

(Okay, pause. Can we stop acting like whether Brandon goes on tour or not matters even an iota? Dude is sixteen. He doesn’t need to go on tour. He has the whole of his twenties to bum around doing something vaguely creative and haemorrhaging money.)

—and he tells her, no, he’d “give up just about anything” for her to be a part of the family.

There are distinct parallels between this scene and the one at the fundraiser, when Callie admitted that she “gave up so much” to be adopted. She also gives Brandon a similarly haunted look.

The whole thing’s so self-flagellating that, at some point, you have to wonder how the scales really balance between what they’re both giving up and what they’re getting in return.

The visuals of this scene are also so interesting to me. They’re sitting on Brandon’s bed, but they’re not touching. Callie looks so uncomfortable, practically folded up into herself, but her hands are still mirroring Brandon’s. This is third scene we’ve had of Brandon and Callie sitting together, but not touching, while wringing their hands in perfect symmetry.

Whatever else this scene demonstrates, it suggests that the fantasy of Brandon and Callie breaking up and then sliding easily into the brother/sister role is just that… a fantasy.

#JonnorSubtextWatch

This recap has clearly buried the lede, because… JUDE AND CONNOR KISSED, YOU GUYS.

Connor’s still dating Daria – a type of “dating” that involves uncomfortably-protracted PDAs – and Jude’s 100% done with the whole situation. No, he does not want to go on another group date with Connor, Daria and Taylor. No, he does not want to pretend anymore.

However, when Connor’s dad’s plane is delayed, Connor has to spend the weekend at the Adams Fosters’ house – a strain of logic, perhaps, but a great opportunity for Jude and Connor to set things straight. Or not-straight, as the case may be.

Jude’s frosty attitude toward Connor gradually thaws, and the two of them start acting like best friends again, playing video games, goofing off in the back yard. It’s all completely average friend stuff… except for when it’s not. Like when Connor tackles Jude to the ground. The sense of playfulness in the air goes away, replaced by… what? A new kind of tension? Feelings that Connor isn’t ready to confront?

When Daria texts Connor to come over, however, all of Jude’s resentment returns. “It’s not nice to lead people on,” he says acidly. He’s so mad, he even kicks Connor in the balls. (Jude is quite the seducer…)

We’ve seen Jude lose his shit maybe three times before (twice at Callie, once at Jesus) and, each time, it carries weight. Jude is always so measured, so calculated in everything he does (a result of years in foster care, perhaps, when he had to continually check himself), which means that it’s still downright shocking to see him blow up.

Jude finally spits out what he’s really feeling: “You kissed me, remember?” he says to Connor. “In the tent. And then, at the movie theatre, you held my hand, and now, all day, you’ve been— I don’t get this. I don’t get you.”

Based on Connor’s agonized expression, he doesn’t get it either. He hasn’t figured out what he’s feeling himself. But he knows enough to finally be honest: instinctively, he leans forward and kisses Jude.

It’s the tiniest little kiss, but for them both, it feels monumental. When they pull back, their expressions are full of fear and wonder – like, oh shit, we’re on this road and there’s no turning back now.

Other notes and sundry:

In Timothy’s absence, Taylor continues to vie for the title of my favourite minor character. Line of the episode goes to her: “I just pretend like I’m watching a super-boring documentary about the mating rituals of meerkats,” she says, of enduring Daria and Connor’s PDAs.

I Just Had Sex: After sleeping with Lou, Brandon does everything short of launching into a full song version of SNL’s I Just Had Sex, and, let’s face it, it’s adorable. *chinhands*

Fanboy: I was charmed by the fact that Jude now appears to be a full-on fanboy for Star Wars (he has a Star Wars poster in his room, as well as playing a Star Wars video game), until I realized… it’s just because Disney owns both ABC and Star Wars, isn’t it? *headdesk*

Big Bro Of the Year: One of my stealth favourite moments in this episode is Brandon asking if Jude has a girlfriend. Brandon wasn’t to know it was the worst question to ask, or why it would make Jude immediately clam up. Brandon’s interactions with Jude tend to be painfully sweet… and more than a little awkward. I always feel like this is Brandon trying on a role he’s never really played before and one that doesn’t quite fit yet. After all, Jesus and Mariana are too close in age for Brandon to be their “big brother”. Jude represents his first real opportunity to play that role and somehow, inevitably… he’s always screwing it up. Aw, Brandon. Keep trying. You’ll get it right eventually.

Wardrobe notes:

Callie spends this episode in misery stripes and misery plaid. Of course she does.

I’m always struck by how much Lou tends to be styled as Callie’s doppelganger and, in this episode, it’s particularly striking. Lou wears a pink t-shirt that’s incredibly similar to a pink t-shirt that Callie wore in #2.04. Brandon is literally just fucking Callie’s clone.

(In case you’re wondering, I do not have a photographic memory for anything except Callie Jacob’s outfits. Someone let me know how I can parlay this unique gift into fame and fortune?)

Jude wears red initially (a colour which I am officially taking as his code for ‘I’m upset and hiding it’) and then, as he warms up to Connor, he relaxes and wears green (which is his ‘status: normal’ colour).

Connor’s outfit is even more interesting. He wears blue on top, but with red pants, which is such a clashing visual: like he’s fighting with himself, which of course, emotionally, he is.

4 thoughts on “The Fosters #2.18 (Now Hear This) recap: The tension and the terror

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