So, if you only check into Good Trouble when the Mamas visit, here’s a quick recap of where we are: last season, a new face joined the Coterie: Joaquin, an investigative journalist who moved into his sister’s former residence to track her down, after not having seen her for eight years. He grew close with Mariana and she used her tech savvy to help him. They eventually find his sister, Jenna, at a cult/commune/farm outside town and struggle to help Jenna escape from the leader’s tight grasp. Channeling some Fosters era Callie, Mariana snags an invite to the farm to try and get to Jenna. When they cross paths, Mariana and Jenna make a plan to escape, with Joaquin and Evan arriving just in time to shepherd them away. But as they’re fleeing the cult farm, a shot rings out: striking Evan, Mariana’s former boss and boyfriend, leaving him comatose and in danger of full paralysis. While he’s incapacitated, Mariana’s been left in charge of Evan’s medical decisions and his company.
Her first big decision at Speckulate is to fire underperforming executives, in lieu of firing high achieving low-level employees. But the medical decisions aren’t nearly as easy. The doctor tells her that Evan needs a risky surgery that could kill him to avoid paralysis and the decision is hers. Recognizing that she can’t make this decision alone, she calls in reinforcements: a girl needs her mamas.
Am I still hard-pressed to imagine a world where Stef and Lena — the Coach and Tammy Taylor of gay TV — wouldn’t have made a beeline for the Coterie the moment they heard about the shooting? Absolutely, yes. And am I hard-pressed to imagine Stef Adams Foster, in particular, not immediately stepping back into cop!mom mode to investigate the men who terrorized her daughter? Also, yes. But this is Good Trouble not The Fosters so we’ll just have to make due with the infrequent Adams Foster reunions.
When the Mamas arrive, they react exactly as you’d expect loving parents in this situation to react: they’re angry at everyone but their kid. They’re mad at Joaquin for roping their daughter into this mess. They’re mad at Evan for putting Mariana in the position, both personally and professionally, to make decisions in his stead. They can’t be mad at Mariana right now — they love her and she’s clearly hurting — but everyone else is fair game. Mariana, though, continues to heap the blame upon herself and so she’s not interested in hearing them deflect responsibility for this onto anyone else but her. She begs her moms to just focus on helping her make a decision about Evan’s treatment.
Stef recommends seeking out more than one doctor’s opinion about Evan’s treatment but that doesn’t make the decision any clearer. One doctor recommends they operate now to remove bullet fragments that could shift and cause paralysis. Another doctor suggests that the surgery itself might be the greater threat to Evan’s ability to wallk while a third doctor worries if Evan’s current condition is stable enough for surgery. More confused now than ever, Mariana turns to her moms for an answer. Stef urges her to take a minute to process all the information before coming to a decision.
“Trust your moms,” Ghost Evan advises when Mariana asks him what to do. “They’ll know what to do.”
But Stef and Lena actually disagree about what to do. Lena doesn’t think Evan should have the surgery, Stef thinks he should…and both their choices are informed by their past experience. Stef puts herself in Evan’s shoes — having once been the victim of a shooting herself — and insists that she would have wanted the chance to have the best quality of life possible. But Lena can only remember being on the other side of that shooting…waiting for word on the person she loved…and all she wanted then — and all she wants for Evan now — is more time. Lena would’ve rather had Stef alive, even if she couldn’t walk, than to lose her entirely. Plus, Lena adds, what if Evan dies during surgery, Mariana would never forgive herself. But Lena also recognizes that if Evan ends up paralyzed, Mariana would blame herself for that too.
Stef can barely contain her anger at Evan for foisting this responsibility on Mariana but Lena suspects that he did it because he has a lot of faith in Mariana. Now, Lena suggests, the impetus has to be on Mariana having faith in herself…so they set out to restore that faith. Lena leads Mariana through a meditation exercise that allows her to quiet the mind and find the answers that already exist in her body. She encourages Mariana to feel, not think. Stef watches the whole thing, skeptically, but the exercise does help: Mariana opts to go ahead with the surgery. She begs Evan not to die before they wheel him into surgery.
Thankfully, the surgery goes well. But once the doctor issues his prognosis for Evan’s recovery, the Mamas turn their attention to their daughter and the guilt she’s carrying. Stef encourages Mariana to just let it go but she insists she can’t just decide to let it go. Lena and Stef press their daughter on why she feels the need to carry all this guilt and Mariana admits that she’d feel guilty if she didn’t feel guilty. But her mamas remind her that she’s experienced a terrible trauma…and the guilt is keeping her from dealing with her own trauma. They make her promise to see a therapist to help her process all she’s gone through.
The next day, she gets a call from the hospital that Evan’s woken up from his coma and rushes to the hospital. She finds him sleeping and slides her hand over his. Her touch wakes him up and he looks up to be greeted by her smiling face. Unfortunately, though, Evan wakes up with amnesia; he doesn’t recognize her at all.
Mariana might want to get that therapist on speed-dial.
Meanwhile, Alice continues to struggle in her new job in the writers’ room of “America’s Funniest Ferrets & Friends.” She can’t get her colleagues — three cantankerous old white men — to focus long enough to write a good joke. With a deadline rapidly approaching, the stress is starting mount and Alice lets it show. She yells at Larry, Curly, and Moe to focus on their work but they can’t be bothered…at least not until the writers’ room is fully stocked with great snacks. Despite the looming deadline, the men insist on a mid-morning grocery run to replenish the snack supply. I know Alice is agitated by this but, truthfully, this is some highly relatable content for me personally.
Two hours and a comedy of errors later, the trio and Alice emerge from the grocery store with snacks in hand. Now, Alice insists, they can finally get back to work but the stooges remind her that it’s now lunch time. They rationalize that by the time they’re seated, order their food and are served, the day will pretty much be over so they opt to just start fresh the next day. Exasperated, Alice yells at the stooges in the parking lot, and insists if they don’t care, neither does she.
The next day she arrives at work and the stooges are already hard at work. She apologizes for how she reacted the day before but they sure her that everything’s fine. Moe notes that writing has its ebbs and flows and sometimes when you’re stuck, you just need to walk away from it for a while. I’m not sure what she’s learning about comedy from “America’s Funniest Ferrets & Friends” but that’s a valuable life lesson…and Alice promises Sumi that she’ll adhere to in the future.
Good Trouble Coterie Sundries
+ Isabella hasn’t just left her baby behind with Gael while she gets the help she needs, she’s completely relinquished her parental rights? Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting that. Left with the decision about Baby Lyric’s future, Gael asks his sister, Jazmin, and her husband to share in the parenting responsibilities. They’ll co-parent the baby, just as they’d planned and the siblings are understandably elated…and so am I…more Hailie Sahar on my screen is never a bad thing. Gael suggests spending evening at Jazmin and Spencer’s place until Lyric adjusts to the new arrangement.
But it’s not just the baby who needs help adjusting to the arrangement, Gael does too. He’s reluctant to spend anytime away from Lyric and when he oversleeps, he lashes out at Jazmin for not rescheduling the baby’s doctor’s appointment so he could be there. But, thankfully, the Mamas are there to share a lesson that they learned while co-parenting Brandon with Mike: this can’t be all about him, it has to be about what’s best for the baby. He apologizes to Jazmin for snapping at her and assures her that he wants to make this work. She gives him the night off from “Daddy Duty”…which affords him just enough time to find out that the job he was counting on to support his daughter is now gone.
(“How do these kids figure anything out when we’re not here?” Stef jokes, as Gael leave. “Yes, how?!” I yell back to her.)
+ I know the Mamas can’t be everything to everyone but I was sad that we didn’t get to see an interaction between Lena and Malika in this episode. Now that Malika’s followed Lena into public service, I would’ve enjoyed hearing them talk about their experiences.
+ Still recovering in her brother’s loft, Jenna is showing all the signs of Stockholm syndrome. She makes excuses for Silas’ behavior and insists that he’s a brilliant and insightful healer who helped her overcome her pain. She admits she misses the farm but Joaquin reminds her that Silas also locked her up in a room. When the detective calls Joaquin and Jenna into the police station for a second round of questioning, Jenna’s reluctant to implicate Silas in any way. The police are able to arrest Silas’ henchman, Adam, but insist that there’s nothing that they can charge Silas with. Frustrated, Joaquin confronts Silas in the police station lobby and threatens to kill him if he comes near Jenna again. Silas warns Joaquin to stay away from his farm and his girls and invites Jenna to “come home” whenever she’s ready.
Irate at Jenna’s changing narrative, Joaquin lashes out at her when they return to his loft. She cowers and cries as he suggests that she call Silas to pick her up and take her back to the farm. He realizes his misstep, draws close to his sister, and pledges to get her the help she needs.
“You’re my sister, I love you, you’re all that I have. Please, don’t go back to that farm,” Joaquin pleads.
+ This show took its name from that emphatic charge from the late John Lewis, the Civil Rights Icon and longtime Georgia Congressman, to “get in good trouble, necessary trouble, [to] help redeem the soul of America.” I’ve lamented, in my recaps, the writers’ decision to break away from that original premise and focus on drama for drama’s sake (this is my most charitable read of what’s happening on-screen).
But yesterday, Justin Pearson and Justin Jones were expelled from the Tenneessee State House for the sin of exercising their First Amendment Rights while black and, as this episode aired, social media was awash with folks praising the two for getting in good trouble. As I watched tweets about this show intermingle with tweets about what happened in Tennessee — a jarring juxtaposition, to be sure — the show had never seemed smaller…and never felt more far away from its origins. I hope it prompts the writers to reconsider their current course.
Check out our regular Good Trouble recaps now as a part of our weekly Boobs on Your Tube column.