This week’s episode opens with a close-up shot of a stylish red timer and Brandon is using it to time The Fosters’ Annual Boggle Tournament! If only. He’s actually using it to time Marianna in the bathroom and, when the timer goes off, Marianna opens the door and looks very Lhasa Apso with a weird topknot/ side pony thing. She tells Brandon that girls take longer because that’s a stereotype worth perpetuating and then adds a few minutes to the timer. Brandon returns to his bedroom and Jesus is on his computer “nudging” Lexi on a Facebook knock-off that’s probably called FaceTome which is not be confused with FaceTime owned by Apple.
Marianna emerges from the bathroom with perfectly straight hair and I wonder what that weird knot pony was about and then remember that I am not fluent in feminine hair. Marianna and Callie are getting dressed for the day and we see a close-up of Marianna putting something in a drawer and Callie says, “I’m not going to steal your earrings. What am I gonna do? Sell them at school?” I love Callie and her sassy mouth. Callie then calls Marianna out about letting Jesus take the fall for the Skittle scandal and Marianna says, “I never asked him to do that,” and Callie says, “But you let him,” and then gives an adorable Shrug of Righteousness. We then see close-ups of wheat bread on a cutting board and we are left to contemplate the meaning. Is this a comment on the Sandwich Generation or a statement on breadwinners? Nope, just making lunches.
Digression 1: Steph is making cheese sandwiches with no condiments of any kind. Lesbian moms are cruel.
Marianna is all, “Cheese sandwiches? I want tuna tartare and a Pellegrino!” and Steph says they are “brown bagging it” and I hope they are saving money for mustard. Then, we hear Brandon yell about the fact that there is no hot water. Brandon has no hot water and has to share! This is worse than the Cheese Sandwich Crisis of One Minute Ago.
Cue the theme song and title sequence.
Digression 2: I was talking to one of my friends about the opening and she was hopeful the series might show some lady loving because the opening montage has a shot of a mom hand gripping sheets in passion. I did not remember that at all. Sponge? Yes. Passion hand? No. So I watched very carefully and replayed it several times and concluded that the mom hand is smoothing a quilted pillow sham.
We then have a few quick scenes. Brandon complains to Talya about his lack of hot water and Talya is so turned on by his whining that she starts making out with him. Marianna and Lexi talk about Jesus’ detention for the drug thing and Lexi says, “It’s not like he pays attention in class anyway.” And I yell, “LEXI MIDDLE NAME AND LAST NAME!” Lena talks to an unnamed person who’s wearing a necklace that looks like it was made in a knot-tying class for toddlers. Is she the Invisible Principal? Is she a school board member? Is she the Ghost of Christmas Future? We don’t know. We just know that she’s not happy that Jude is behind in his schoolwork and jumped ahead on the waiting list. She tells Lena he’ll have to take a placement exam and get a 65 or leave, so, I guess she’s Scrooge. Callie is in class and The Teacher tells the kids that they’ll have to write about guilt in their journals because teenagers aren’t depressed enough in high school. They should write about otters instead because otters make people happy and teenagers deserve to be happy. Everyone drop and give me 1500 words on otters! Then, Jesus and Lexi frolic on the beach playing volleyball which has nothing to do with otters and is, therefore, disappointing.
It’s a sporty day in Fosterland because we go from volleyball to Brandon in a batting cage swinging at balls and Mike says “Use your legs” because Brandon is also riding a unicycle. He’s not but that would be entertaining. Mike is wearing a cute plaid shirt in a berry color with a black tank top underneath and it makes him look a little gay and that is enough for me to find him cute and cuddly. Then, he asks Brandon to live with him and I remember the time my cute and cuddly cat got outside and I watched as it killed and ate a baby rabbit. This scene is just like that but with less fur and screaming.
Meanwhile, back at the House of Cold Water and Dry Cheese Sandwiches, Lena helps Jude prepare for the placement exam and Steph is writing checks because it’s 1998 and she doesn’t know you can pay your bills online.
Brandon comes in and is awkward and Lena sends Jude upstairs and Steph asks Brandon what’s going on and she looks so open and vulnerable that I want to give her a hug because she doesn’t know yet that her ex-cat is trying to eat her baby bunny. Brandon tells her that Mike asked him to live with him and Steph tells him it’s not his or his dad’s choice and puts her glasses back on and she is the perfect mix of nerdy, vulnerable and guarded in this scene and I want the writers to add a storyline in which Steph has an affair with a grey-haired lesbian mom recapper. Brandon mouths off, Steph digs in, Lena tells people to breathe and I break out in a sweat because I am not ready to parent teenagers. As Brandon rages, Steph says, “Right, B. Because you’re a prisoner who’s being held captive in this charming craftsman in Mission Bay.” Lena says, “Steph…” and Steph says, “What?” and I say, “They fight just like us!” Then Brandon says that he’s never had a choice about anything! He didn’t choose divorce and he didn’t choose to have two moms and two roads diverged in a yellow wood and Steph chose the one less traveled by! Steph says, “You need to watch yourself, young man,” because checkbooks make you speak like it’s 1958 and Brandon says, “Watch this!” and disappears in a puff of smoke! Nah, he leaves by the front door proving that kids of queers aren’t always magical.
Time passes and it’s very late and Steph watches TV and makes love to her mug of tea and Brandon finally comes home. They’ve both calmed down and she tells him that she talked to Lena and he can choose who he lives with and to let them know. Then she rubs his shoulder and tells him not to stay up late and she seems so broken when she walks away that I shed a few tears. Granted, I cry when I’m tired and I’d only had 3 hours of fitful sleep prior to watching but I could also sympathize with Steph. DON’T LEAVE ME MY, BABIES! Except when I want you to because I can’t even pee in private.
Mike and Steph are visiting the Tacos Y Burritos Del Rancho truck and Mike orders a breakfast burrito but Steph just gets black coffee because she prefers to eat tacos at home. Mike and Steph talk about the Brandon situation and she says, “You blindside me with something like this again and I’m gonna bury you deep in the desert,” and he says, “It sucks to be blindsided, don’t it?” and we all know where this is going – gay town. We find out that Steph realized she was gay while married to him but there is nothing that suggests she went out for tacos while married. She thinks Mike is doing this to get back at her and he says, “It’s not payback. It’s regret,” and you know what? I believe him. Because I’m a sucker.
Back at Surf School, Brandon and Callie talk about him moving but we can’t linger because we need to watch Lexi sit on the empty beach staring at the ocean as she waits for Jesus. While Lexi stares, Jesus and Marianna run into each other in the hall and Marianna thanks him for taking the fall for her and tells him he’s the best brother and he takes that to mean that he shouldn’t nudge Lexi. So, next, we see him watching Lexi stare at the ocean when – suddenly – a surfboard washes ashore with a giant bite taken out of it and Lexi screams and Richard Dreyfuss appears and talks about bite radius! That happened in my head because I just saw JAWS. Jesus and Lexi take a walk on the beach and Jesus tells her that it’s not a good idea for them to nudge and then there is only one set of footprints, not because Jesus carried her but because he walked away.
Digression 3: I apologize for the Jesus jokes. It’s like I’ve developed a Jesus Joke Tic. I know it’s HAY-ZEUS but, when you type “Jesus” a million times in a recap, you can only read it as Jesus. Praise.
Back in Callie’s classroom, The Teacher mentions Joan Didion and I’m so surprised by the reference that I turn away from my hummus to pay attention! He says that writing is a hostile act and it takes courage and Callie takes the challenge and writes “Liam” in her journal.
That evening, Brandon is leaving for his weekly dinner with Mike and Steph is nervous and, after he leaves, Lena leans into her and Steph kisses her… on the cheekbone. You’d think a cop would have better aim. We then see Callie writing furiously in her journal and, when she is done we get a close-up of her putting it in with her other books and we know – someone is gong to read that journal.
At Mike’s Man Cave, we get a close-up shot of baked potatoes and we know – someone is going to eat those baked potatoes.
Digression 4: On election day, I volunteered for Minnesotans United For All Families and was in charge of the snack table and someone brought over like 40 baked potatoes and I had to use an industrial church oven to warm them up and was terrified of burning the church down but that didn’t stop me from intagramming the hell out of all those potatoes.
Brandon starts setting the table as his lesbeaux moms taught him but Mike says they’ll eat in front of the TV because that’s how men do. They eat steak and potatoes and watch an action movie and I sigh and roll my eyes because I am an equal opportunity hater of stereotypes.
Digression 5: What the hell is going on with Mike’s couch?! Is that a pattern? Is it cowhide? Was it a white couch that molded? I think Steph and Lena need to do a couchervention.
While Brandon and Mike do manly things, Lena does womanly things like tutor and nurture her foster son. When Jude grows frustrated, she suggests game night and tells Jude to gather all the children and choose a game from ye olde game closet. I love it when queer folk are portrayed as superior because I’m selfish that way but the juxtaposition of The Man Couch and Lez Family Game Night is so extreme that it’s annoying.
I want them to play Spoons but they play Monopoly because nothings says “Fun!” like driving family members into poverty by price-gouging hotels!
Digression 6: We own Earthopoly which is like Monopoly but it’s all about protecting the environment and it is the most eco-feminist lesbian thing ever and I hate myself a little every time I say, “Hey kids! Are you going to buy more carbon credits for your rainforest?”
Talya shows up as Family Game Night is gearing up and Lena invites her to stay and I wish Lena would consult me before making these unilateral decisions. The family chats and Brandon comes in and says he is going to move in with his dad. Steph says, “Okay. Cool.” and excuses herself to get some tea and by “tea” I hope she means “vodka” because she’s worth it. Everyone else looks around awkwardly except for Talya who is smiling like a Cheshire Cat and I want to punch her in her Park Place.
Digression 7: My daughter was just 1/3 of the Cheshire Cat in her class’ reproduction of Alice in Wonderland. One third.
Brandon starts packing and Callie offers him his guitar back but he says it was for her. Jesus asks Brandon what he’s going to do in a house full of girls and Brandon tells him to stay out of trouble because we have not had enough references to Jesus being a troublemaker in 3 short episodes and Jesus tells Brandon that Marianna is the drug dealer. But there is breaking news from the Room of Girl Fights where Callie is accusing Marianna of reading her journal! Lena calls time out. Marianna says she didn’t do it and Callie says, “Why, because perfect Marianna would never do anything wrong? Yeah, maybe you should get to know your daughter a bit better.” Lena looks confused. Marianna looks hurt. Callie looks remorseful, especially because Jude is watching and looks at her like, “Don’t eff this up!” Callie leaves and Marianna says that she can’t live with her and Lena raises her voice and says, “Well you have to so figure it out,” and we finally agree on something!
Jude then confronts Callie and asks her to get along and she explains that Marianna read her journal and he’s like, “Who cares?” and Callie says that she wrote about Liam though, in my notes, “Liam” looks like “Ham” which is probably what I wrote about in my teenage diary. Then, there is a quick shot of Jesus getting on Marianna’ computer to nudge Lexi and he sees a chat between Marianna and Ana about meeting again.
The next day, at The Anchor Beach House of Surfers, Callie tears out all the pages of her journal and throws them away. Jude takes his test and Lena tells him she’ll correct it and let him know. Holy Conflict of Interest, Batman! Then, Lena cuddles Jude to reassure him and there is some nice acoustic guitar music that starts up so that we know it’s time to feel things. It turns out the song is “Cross that Line” by Joshua Radin which is beautiful here.
Digression 8: I am embarrassed to admit that I kinda like Joshua Radin ever since his big lesbian-adjacent moment of singing at Ellen and Portia’s wedding.
Lena grades Jude’s test as the song continues and, as the lyric “I’m gonna cross that line for you” comes, Lena takes out a pencil and corrects Jude’s answers so he gets a 65. Next in this montage of feelings, we see Jesus walk up to Lexi, spin her around and kiss her on the cheekbone. Ha! Just kidding! They kiss with lots of visible tongue because they are not lesbian moms!
Next, we find Lena folding clothes on the bed and Steph comes in and asks, “What’s that noise?” and Lena says that Brandon is shooting hoops because he feels guilty for leaving Steph. Steph gets all clenchy and Lena calls her on pouting and Steph says, “Nuh uh” and Lena drops a beautiful truth bomb: “Yes, you are. You have to step up. You have to go help your son. You have to put away whatever it is you might be feeling and be the better person because that’s what parents do.”
Digression 9: In all seriousness, this is the hardest part of parenting for me. No matter what happens, you have to be the bigger person and I hate that. You must own a stately mansion on the high road, and it requires so much maintenance.
Steph goes to shoot hoops with Brandon tells him, “Just do what makes you happy, B. Okay. You do that and I’ll be fine. I promise. That’s the way it works. You don’t have to take care of me or your dad or Lena. It’s the other way around.” Oh Steph… will you marry me and make piano babies with me?
From the Driveway of Tender Emotions, we head to the Room of Discontent where Marianna tells Callie she didn’t read her journal and says she understands why she doesn’t believe her and she knows what it’s like to move around and my bottom lip involuntarily juts out and I want to hug them both and talk to them about their hopes and dreams.
Brandon tells Mike that he can’t move in with him because his couch was a total deal breaker and Mike says, “You do what you gotta do. I’m gonna be alright.” and they hug and it’s sweet and I can’t hate Mike.
The final scene of the night takes place in the Charming Craftsman in Mission Bay where it’s movie night and everyone is there, including Talya. Jude says he’s working on a story and needs a name for the bad guy. Steph says, “Freddy!” Lena says, “Sanchez!” Talya says, “Liam!” and I say, “Talya!”
Overall impression: The parenting conversations between Steph and Lena seem spot on to me.
Favorite line: “Right, B. Because you’re a prisoner who’s being held captive in this charming craftsman in Mission Bay.”
Really? Did they have to do that?: All the gender stereotyping needs to stop.