It’s the end of the beginning (allegedly, according to the episode title), and Callie almost looks like a different person. Her wild, messy hair is gone, and her tendency to lash out seems to be receding, too, replaced by a new maturity.
This episode sees Callie going to stay with the Quinns for a weekend, which involves the World’s Most Awkward Family Dinner. Callie meets her bullish biological grandfather, who treats her like a nuisance and a possible poison, but he does bring up some valid points, including criticizing Robert’s “obsession” with taking Callie out of the home she wants to be in.
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.
Stef hatches a secret plan to keep Callie a part of the Adams Foster family. In doing so, she creates a folder on her computer called MY SECRET PLAN. Then she hangs a neon sign that reads CALLIE’S MY DAUGHTER, and hires a skywriter to write SUCK IT, ROBERT across the beautiful San Diego skies. Stef is so covert, the FBI’s looking to recruit her, I’m sure.
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”.
This week, Callie’s still tying herself up in knots over the kidnapping debacle: in order to keep herself, Daphne and Brandon safe from arrest, she must pander to Robert, including going to live with him. Of course, to Lena and Stef, the whole situation seems bewildering and “devastating” – like they’re losing their daughter.
This week, it’s all about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Of course, in the world of The Fosters, that means an “emotional orgasm”; a frown-y faced lecture on how giggling onstage as a result of The Drugs is simply not okay; and, uh, Brandon’s band.
So… ROCK ON!
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*
The Adams Fosters go camping! Stef and Lena want the kids to actually experience something, “without tweeting or twerking about it”.
And, oh, the family experiences something, alright – but more time is spent spilling secrets and unloading built-up resentments than singing Kumbaya around a camp fire.
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…
“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…
Prestige TV – those water-cooler shows, which are usually gritty and dramatic – is TV that leaves you on the edge of your seat. It excites, it moves, it challenges. Rarely, however, does it delight. By contrast, Boys Over Flowers (Hana Yori Dango) and Jane the Virgin may never be considered great art, but if you’re prepared to follow them down the rabbit hole, they offer a viewing experience designed to provoke seal claps and undignified squeaking. They are, in short, delightful.
‘Peace on earth’ is the theme that the Adams Fosters are going for in their Christmas decoration display (Jesus wants to snag the $250 prize for best-decorated house), but what they end up with is squabbles about money, burned lasagne and hurt feelings. Oh, and also, there’s a not insubstantial amount of casual and unpunished crime that takes place in this episode. Standard Christmas fare, I guess.
Now, let me don my novelty headgear, turn up the Christmas tunes, and we’ll get started with the recap…
My favourite episode of Law & Order is the 2007 David Fincher film, Zodiac. Less gruesomely arresting Se7en, less bombastic than Fight Club, Zodiac is unlikely to go down as a Fincher classic, but it’s my favourite – precisely because it’s not gruesome, it’s not bombastic. It’s a true crime story, with all of the minutiae that goes along with true crime.
Zodiac, based on cartoonist Robert Graysmith’s hunt for the San Francisco serial killer of the same name, is a narrative filled with personal biases, dubious evidence and unreliable testimony, forcing the audience to follow the case’s detectives (both professional and amateur) down a series of blind alleys. It’s not the type of crime story anyone would write as fiction: it’s too messy, too fragmentary, too frustrating. But it’s exactly this messiness that makes it compelling. It’s this messiness that makes it the best episode Law & Order never made.
In some ways, Zodiac could be an episode of any TV crime procedural – albeit an exceptionally well-shot, well-acted one – but what makes it different is the amount of screentime devoted to what Serial’s Sarah Koenig would probably term stupid shit.
The art of the finale cliffhanger, apparently, lies not in near-death situations or natural disasters. To create a really compelling cliffhanger, it turns out that all you need to do is send two 13-year-old boys into the woods together, have them share a tent, and then not tell your audience what happened.
Quite a few people have been finding this blog this week by Googling “what did Jude and Connor do in the tent?” The answer is: I DON’T KNOW, BUT I WILL HAVE TO WATCH NEXT SEASON TO FIND OUT. (Thus making it… the perfect cliffhanger.)
Sometimes I check TiVo and laugh at the generic episode descriptions written for some TV shows, which completely fail to differentiate one episode from another. (Whoever writes these obviously can’t be bothered to actually watch the episodes or even check Wikipedia.) Anyway, if The Fosters had a generic episode description is would be this: “Tough exteriors mask real emotion in this week’s episode.”
Indeed, in ‘Leaky Faucets’, you’ll never guess what happens: tough exteriors mask real emotion!
Yet the fact remains that the characters on The Fosters have so much more inner life than most characters on TV, so this contrast of tough exteriors/inner turmoil is worth revisiting. There’s a bit of TV farce thrown into ‘Leaky Faucets’, when the whole Adams Foster sib-set ends up at a Mexican street festival, but the show is smart enough to realize plumbing its characters’ emotional depths creates the real drama.