In an episode that opened with the aftermath of a shooting, it’s a little ironic to say that the most heart-in-mouth moment was actually created by the bloop-bloop-bloop bubbles of a text message loading.
Jude and Connor managed to steal this episode – and with perhaps five minutes of screentime between them. This is a testament to the talent of this show’s young stars, who repeatedly rise to the challenge of the scripts’ Pinter-esque pauses. And it also proves that this is a show that succeeds best when it underplays, rather than overplays, emotion.
At the episode’s outset, we learn that, through some kind of impressive acrobatics, Connor managed to get shot in the FOOT, despite the fact that Taylor’s dad was aiming his gun straight ahead. That is some gay physics right there.
Anyway, the trauma of being shot shakes loose something in Connor. When his dad suggests Daria is leading him astray, he jumps in to say: “I snuck out so I could see Jude, alright?”
Adam, Connor’s dad, bars Jude from seeing Connor in the hospital. He claims it’s because Connor dumped all the blame on Jude for the sneaking-out/breaking-in escapades. But, later in the episode, it emerges that Adam has very different motives for keeping the two boys apart. Connor texts Jude to tell him what he really told his dad.
And, in one short text message – I told my dad Im gay – this episode brings to a climax a subtle bait and switch of a storyline.
For the entirety of Jude and Connor’s frequently-fraught friendship, the audience has been waiting (subconsciously or not) for Jude to come out. This is, after all, the kid who was described as “effeminate” in the Pilot script; who tried on dresses and wore nail polish; who refused to label himself as straight just for the sake of it (“why do I have to be anything?” he once demanded when Connor asked if he was gay).
In the process, the show has also played with the audience’s own prejudices. While Jude “seems” like a prime candidate to be gay, Connor (handsome, popular, athletic) has been cast in the straight guy role. Even Stef vocalised this a few weeks ago: “Connor just doesn’t seem gay to me.” This never made the idea of a Jude/Connor romance completely off limits, but it put a particular slant on the relationship. In another, lesser show, it’s easy to assume that Connor might have been cast as the “straight” boy who loved just one other boy; a classic WNGWJLEO situation.
It’s been possible to read almost all of the Jude/Connor encounters up till now in exactly that way. But then this episode goes and turns the story on its head.
Connor, we can now assume, been struggling with his sexuality as much if not more than Jude. In fact, he’s been looking to Jude not just as a romantic prospect, but also as a role model. Those earlier scenes of Connor uncomfortably asking Jude if he was gay take on a pleading quality in hindsight – please tell me you’re gay, so that I can know it’s okay.
With this new insight, we can now see the ways that Jude and Connor’s struggles with their sexuality over the past two seasons have intertwined – sometimes working symbiotically, but often in opposition. Their (markedly different) stories have been coloured by their personalities, their experiences, their home lives. There’s no universality to the coming-out experience, and that’s what this subplot has underlined.
We’ve seen Jude resisting labels even as Connor has latched onto them. We’ve seen Jude deal with other issues in his life; getting a grip on his sexuality coming secondarily to finding his place in a family. We’ve seen Connor and Jude each deal with homophobia (Jude by ignoring it, Connor by internalizing it). And, over the last few episodes, we’ve seen Connor subsequently drag Jude into that spiral of internalized homophobia.
It remains to be seen whether Jude will come out. (Is he gay? Is he bi? Trans? Genderqueer? Jude seems in no hurry to label himself, and I hope the show doesn’t rush to label him, either.) But the great joy of this show is that we’re not just getting one journey to coming out; we’re getting many.
In a different bait and switch, Callie finally gets some justice for her rape… even if it isn’t quite the justice she imagined.
She finds out that someone has stolen her identity, racking up huge credit card debt* in her name. Stef goes undercover to discover that the culprit is… Liam. And his accomplice is Sarah, another former foster sister of Liam’s who Callie once tried to help.
(*Can you really get such easy access to credit cards as a minor in the US? Google tells me no, but… this is TV land, I guess.)
Sarah still believes Liam loves her – until, that is, Callie uncovers the fact that Liam has also used Sarah’s identity for credit cards. Sarah gives evidence against him, and identity theft plus statutory rape means that Liam’s looking at serious jail-time.
It’s too bad I’ve seen this twist – Liam goes to jail, but not for his real crime – on a million cop shows before. I guess it’s good that we can close this chapter and Callie can move on (even if real life doesn’t usually offer such neat justice for its rape survivors).
Meanwhile, I can’t help but wonder what’s going on with The Fosters’ other resident rapist, Dani… Hopefully we’ll find out next season.
In all honesty, I miss dance-team!Callie. Speaking of dance purgatory…
April is back on the dance team! April. APRIL. You remember April. *crickets* Oh, nevermind…
What this means is that Mariana and Tia’s team now has six members, which at some point became the magical number that they needed. Okay, sure. However, when Emma’s wrestling teammates start viewing her differently and she gets shafted in a STEM Club project, she decides to quit the dance team in favour of resuming her tomboy pose.
I’m glad that Emma’s internalized misogyny is finally coming under the microscope. And there’s genuine nuance to be found in this storyline. When Emma and Mariana are nominated by their fellow STEM Club’ers to handle the marketing side of a new app development project, the guys in the club seem genuinely complimentary of the girls… but that doesn’t change the fact that, as Emma asserts, marketing is coded as ‘a girl thing’. And the brutal truth is that Emma probably won’t be taken as seriously at school if she’s known as a dancer.
However, good news, everyone! Mariana has the solution to all the compromises and frustrations inherent in modern gender politics: “What if I told you I had an idea, a way that you could stay on the dance team and prove that you are the best coder in STEM club?” I’m all ears, Mariana! (So is Gloria Steinem, probably.)
When Mariana’s not solving centuries-old injustices, she’s also learning to drive and looking up her biological grandparents. Busy girl!
The twins wrangle Brandon into teaching them to drive. If we ignore the fact that this appears to be foreshadowing for HORRIFIC TRAUMA to come, it’s a sweet subplot. Predictably, Mariana drives carefully but nervously; Jesus does doughnuts around the parking lot at full speed.
Brandon also plays big brother when Mariana decides to drop by the bakery owned by Ana’s parents, Victor and Elena. At first, they blank her, before reluctantly revealing the whole sad story. Fearing her parents would try and take her children away, Ana never told them about Mariana and Jesus. Victor and Elena never learned of the twins’ existence until it was too late and they’d already been adopted. However, we find out that Victor has been hovering in the background of the twins’ lives. Those mystery Christmas presents Jesus and Mariana received? They were from Victor.
Although Victor and Elena don’t seem willing to forgive Ana, Mariana gives them one of Ana’s letters and tells them about the new baby.
However, unbeknownst to Mariana, the game of Baby Hot Potato has already stopped with Stef and Lena. And Stef, after learning that Ana’s now living in a cheery motel room located at the corner of Crack Whore Lane and Pestilence Avenue, invites their babymama to come and live at the Adams Fosters’ house. That’ll go well, I’m sure…
Other notes and sundry:
Volunteer of the year: Callie’s volunteer work at the drop-in centre mostly seems to involve, uh, reshelving books. Great job, Callie. Changing the world starts with a single step… toward the bookshelf. Someone famous said that. Probably.
Hug-free zone: No one hugs Jude in this episode and it’s very distressing to me.
Line of the episode goes to Mariana, who thought there was a conspiracy at the DMV when she failed the test to get her learner’s permit: “Those questions were way too obvious. I thought they were trying to trick me.”
Sorry not sorry: Brandon is an A+ big brother in this episode, which only makes his epic douchebaggery toward Lou even more hilarious. He leaves Lou a voicemail, because he “just wants to check” that she knows he was dumping the tour, but not dumping her. In an episode that feels a little light on realism (Mariana’s triumphant plan to solve the problems of the patriarchy, Callie’s neat poetic justice, etc.), there’s something so true of teenage relationships in Brandon’s “sorry not sorry” ranting. Oh, Brandon.
Subtle flirting: When she’s pursued by another (male) teacher at school, Monte oh-so-casually mentions to Lena that “maybe I should try women”. SIMMER DOWN, MONTE.
“I’m Callie Jacob’s mom,” Stef says to Liam. Yeah, you are, Stef, you really are. *bursts into tears*
Another week, another patterned shirt for Brandon. Brandon’s character development has mostly been in stasis this season, but gollygosh, his wardrobe is on a journey.
Meanwhile, Callie continues to steal from Brandon’s season one wardrobe, wearing yet another miserable maroon shirt. (In a Brallie-free episode, I’ll take what I can get.)
We don’t see much of Jude this episode, so it’s tough to get a read on his mood, but his inner turmoil is clearly displayed in the fact that he wears red and black stripes – the same outfit he memorably wore when he was mute.
Last but not least, I think we can all agree that Stef in ‘honeytrap handbag buyer’ mode looks bangin: