Episode 4 opens with a shot of a pink puffy dress which is not to be confused with a pink puffy heart because we all know those are better. Marianna is trying on the dress while Lena and Lexi coo and make clappy hands. The owner of the dress shop smiles and says something in Spanish and Lexi translates for all of us and says, “She’s asking if your father’s tie is gonna match your dress.”
Saddle up buckaroos! This is going to be a bumpy ride!
Marianna freezes and Lena thinks, “Coming out to the dressmaker was not covered in the Lesbian Mom Manual!” Lexi saves the day (if by “saving the day”, we mean “outing”) and says, “She’s dancing with her moms.” On cue, Stef the Cop Mom enters in uniform and gives Lena a smooch on the lips.
Marianna is changing and Lexi says she wishes she had two moms throwing her a quinceañera and says, “My parents refuse and we’re Latino.” Marianna pauses and Lexi says, “I mean, so you are you but…” Dammit Lexi. Must you be so 15?
Stef and Lena pay for the dress and Stef says, “$300 for a dress she’s only gonna wear once?” and Lena says, “We’ll cut it short and she can wear it to prom.” Yeah right. Stef asks Lena to reign in the spending just as Lena grants Marianna’s wish for a bubble machine. Dreams really do come true. Bibbidi bobbidi boo.
Digression 1: Are you happy, Deborah Goldstein? I changed “Steph” to “Stef” just for you.
In the Great Lesbian Kitchen, the family prepares dinner and Stef is in plain clothes so we can only assume that she is undercover. Brandon asks if Talya the Horrible can stay for dinner and Marianna asks if Lexi can stay and I’m no mathemagician but that’s a lot of people. Marianna brings up her friend Kelsey who tasted the rainbow of the non-gay variety too many times and ended up in rehab, which means there’s an opening in Marianna’s quinceañera court, so she asks Callie if she wants to take her place. Callie says sure and Talya wants to know who Callie will be dancing with and Marianna says, “Brandon.” Dun dun dun.
Later, Stef asks Brandon if things are okay with Talya and he says that they are and I say that I hate Talya but they don’t care! Stef then says what we have all wanted to say since Episode 1, “Brandon, listen. You know that…I’m assuming that you know that…well…you know foster siblings are not allowed to…to…I don’t know…hook up. I don’t know what you guys call it these days.” I’m surprised that the woman who could make the leap from Moby Dick to condoms struggles to say this but I’m willing to let it go because I am smitten with her. Brandon says he knows but we know that he doesn’t really know and we know that Stef knows he doesn’t really know but also doesn’t want to know that she knows. You know? Brandon leaves and Lena comes in to complain about her mother and Stef says, “She’s nothing but lovely to me.” Which is sweet and also not the proper way to comfort your partner when she’s having mommy issues.
Upstairs, Marianna and Lexi are talking about mariachi bands and mass and Callie is lying on her bed doing homework and heroically fighting the urge to roll her eyes and I am not as heroic as Callie. Jesus, who shall be called HayZ for the rest of this recap, walks by and looks meaningfully at Lexi and she says she’s going to “use the ladies’ room”. Stef! Where are you?! Kids these days don’t call it hooking up – they call it “using the ladies’ room”! We then get to see HayZ and Lexi using the ladies’ room.
HayZ goes to his room where Jude is sitting on his bed doing nothing but looking creepy. Like Damien The Firestarter Omen creepy. Maybe the kid is just a bad actor but I’m not a fan of his knowing glances and silent staring.
Stef enters and says, “HAY-ZEUS!” and I say “Geshundheit!” She tells him that he’s being a good sport about Marianna’s party and then heads to Marianna’s room to spread the love.
Digression 2: Marianna calls Stef “mom” and, in the same conversation, Stef refers to Lena as “mama” so I think we finally have clarity on the name biz, though I realized why I haven’t cared about it at all. One of the first questions people ask me when they realize I’m a lesbian mom is “What do the kids call you?” Of all the questions someone could ask me about my family, that’s the least interesting one. Wouldn’t you rather know what I told my kid when he found a little something something in my bedside table?
Marianna and Stef discuss swag bags and Stef says, “You’re not embarrassed to dance with us at your party are you?” and she says it in this tiny voice and Marianna is in a tough spot here. Marianna smiles and tears up and we know that Marianna is embarrassed but we don’t get to see her tell Stef and see Stef’s reaction because we need to speed ahead and watch Callie eat apple slices at school the next day.
As she is eating, that weird guy from English class comes up to her, the one I completely omitted from the previous recap because he didn’t have any dialogue or a name and I applied Horror Movie Logic to him and figured he would be dismembered by a serial killer or just never show up again. I was wrong. He’s back.
Digression 3: On opening day of the Mall of America, I said, “This place will never make it.” That was 20 years ago and MOA is currently expanding. With my skills in prediction, Weird Guy will have a spin-off within a week.
Anyway, Weird Guy says, “That’s a sad lunch but I guess it beats prison food,” and Callie speaks for all of us when she says, “Really? That’s your opening line.” Weird Guy invites her to the beach Saturday night but she says she can’t because she has a thing and now I know that she’ll end up at the beach with him because I am smart and can uncover these subtle clues.
There is a quick scene in which all of Marianna’s court are learning to waltz and Talya looks on as Callie and Brandon dance together. Why is Talya even there? She’s not a justice on the Quinceañera Court.
It’s nighttime at the Charming Craftsman and the doorbell rings and Stef excitedly announces, “Everyone! Gram’s here!”
Gram. Graham crackers. S’mores. Yummy.
Gram comes in with hugs and kisses for everyone and mentions that Grampa is in Paris and Marianna wishes she were in Paris and Gram says that maybe she’ll take her someday. Then, Gram introduces herself to Callie and Jude and envelops them in hugs and says sweet things and I love her so much. I want her to take me to Paris and share a baguette and fancy cheese with me while we talk about the flying buttresses of Notre Dame.
Morning comes quickly and Stef walks into the kitchen in a lovely dark teal dress and Lena is standing there in an outfit that looks like something Rohu wear to a formal spawning.
Digression 4: I thought her top looked like fish scales and then Googled fish scale images for longer than I’d like to admit and learned a lot about Rohu which is a carp found in South Asia and I could make a fish joke here but will resist in favor of telling you that Rohu are in the genus Labeo and that sounds a lot like something else, don’t you think? The more you know.
Stef and Lena kiss passionately. Gotcha! They don’t. Have you not been watching this show? Stef says they should dress up for each other more often which implies that they do not make full use of Stef’s uniform on the regular. Stef gathers party stuff. Gram and Lena snipe at each other about hair.
Callie comes downstairs in a long dark pink dress with a faux diamond belt and I hate it but who am I to judge? I’m wearing an A-Camp t-shirt and striped pajama shorts. Talya enters in time to see Brandon ogling Callie and, when Brandon leaves, Talya approaches like a Great White Shark on Shark Week RAWR and threatens to tell everyone about Liam.
At the party venue, Stef puts gift bags on tables and Mike gives Stef an envelope with a check in it or it’s a receipt for dry cleaning. Stef doesn’t want to accept it but he insists and Stef asks him if he’ll dance the father/daughter dance with Marianna. Mike is honored but HayZ is upset that Marianna doesn’t want to do The Dance of the Gay Moms. HayZ is my favorite and I’m inviting him to Paris.
Lexi gives Marianna a present – a framed collage of pictures and mementos from their years of friendship – and Marianna says, “Did you do that all yourself?” and I say, “What the hell, Marianna? It’s poorly clipped pictures and some movie tickets! My cat could do that!’ But, Marianna is more easily impressed than I and tells Lexi she loves her and Lexi loves Marianna and Joanie loves Chachi. Lena then gives Marianna a tiara and Marianna says, “It looks expensive.” and Lena says, “It was. Don’t tell mom.” Good luck with that Lena, We know that Stef does the bills because we saw her and her little checkbook last week.
In the Hallway of Teen Secrets, Lexi tells HayZ she can’t be with him because of Marianna. He says that Marianna is selfish and won’t dance with their moms and is still talking to their birth mom and, because he’s saying all of these harsh but true things, we know that Marianna is standing just out of sight listening to it all. We get a close up of Marianna’s face and she is so genuinely sad that my heart breaks for her.
Everyone is ready to enter the party but Lexi is missing. She appears and says, “Sorry. I was in the bathroom,” and Marianna says, “You’re going to the bathroom a lot lately.” Urinary tract infection or teen love? As they all get in position, Callie ditches Brandon for some random guy named Sam and Brandon is confused. They enter the party room and the DJ announces the father/daughter dance. Mike and Marianna take the floor and Lena and Stef stand by and watch and sigh…
Digression 5: Marianna obviously admitted to Stef that she was uncomfortable and they didn’t press the issue. It may seem like a small thing but it’s actually a very big thing. Kids of queers are so often visible without always having the choice. I support this parenting decision.
Mike and Marianna dance. Stef and Lena smile. I cry and hate myself every emotionally manipulative minute. While they dance, Brandon asks Callie why she switched partners and she tells him that Talya is awful and Lexi and HayZ process and Sam stands alone wondering if he’ll get as much screen time as Weird Guy because he’s at least got a name.
Then, Marianna and her court take the floor to dance and they all dance like Angry Disney Princesses on Ice.
Afterwards, Talya tells Brandon and Callie they were “so great” and I don’t think she’s being sincere. Brandon drags her out of the room and they argue and Talya admits she read Callie’s journal and he breaks up with her. I hope the Fosters don’t have a pet rabbit.
Marianna is in the bathroom applying lip-gloss like she’s punching herself in the mouth and Lexi comes in and Marianna is all “You’re a big fat liar and I’m not the biggest hypocrite in the world for saying that!’ Then, Marianna and Lexi break up.
Mike is taking advantage of the open bar and Stef orders two white wines before telling Mike to pace himself. He slurs, “It’s a party, Stef. Have some fun.” Geez Mike. Way to get personal. Everyone knows lesbians are no fun.
Gram mentions to Lena that the party must have cost a lot and that she knows money has been tight for them. Lena tells her the party was important because she wants Marianna to embrace her cultural heritage and be a part of the Latino community and Gram says, “Which, of course, she isn’t.” I fidget nervously but Gram ignores my discomfort and proceeds. “I’m just saying that being Latina isn’t just about the color of her skin.” Gram is right but I’m a Libra and want to step in and say, “I see that we’re all a little tense here…”
But Lena takes us further down the path of no return and says, “But being black is? For you, being black has always been about the color of a person’s skin.” Now, I feel like I am watching something extremely personal and it’s an important conversation and sometimes important conversations make you uncomfortable but I’d rather watch the squirrel outside my window because he’s scampering and scampering rarely makes me feel anxious. Gram says that “dark-skinned people have a different experience than light-skinned ones” and Lena says, “And by different, you mean more authentic.” I don’t think that is what she means at all, Lena. I think she’s talking about privilege but I will stay out of this because I have oodles of it. Lena admits that she has never felt accepted by the black or white communities and Gram says, “I’m so sorry you’ve had such a hard time being a beautiful light-skinned woman.” Gram fights dirty and lands one final blow, “Like it or not, you will never know what it’s like to be a black woman in America.” Technical knock out.
Digression 6: I once found a little blue submarine in my box of Cap’n Crunch and filled it with baking soda as instructed and it dipped and dove in the tub as advertised. This scene was like the little blue submarine. It was a pleasant surprise and it worked. As a community where many families are created through adoption, we should be having these conversations more often.
We next see Lena staring out at the ocean and Stef arrives with two glasses of wine and uses her special Lesbian Partner Powers to figure out that Lena is upset about her mom. Lena gives her the highlights and Stef whispers, “You know where you belong.”
Digression 7: Has anyone else noticed how much Stef whispers? Endearing or annoying? I vote endearing.
Lena starts to cry and says she shouldn’t be crying because it’s Marianna’s party and Stef says, “This is her party but you can cry if you want to.” They both laugh and I whisper, “Stef, I love you.”
Back inside, the DJ tells people to find their seats and Stef gives a little speech about Marianna and HayZ bringing love into their lives and says, “And because a picture is worth a thousand words, we’re gonna watch this…”
They bring down a screen and the montage starts and I immediately start crying.
Digression 8: I often talk to my partner about my funeral montage. No, I’m not dying or obsessed with death – I’m just controlling and love a good montage. So, I’ll say, “This pic would be great for my montage!” or “Make sure to use this song in my montage!” I am a barrel of laughs. She’s probably going to leave me for Stef.
After the montage, Stef, Lena and Marianna ask HayZ to join them and they wish him a happy birthday and give him a pony! No, they don’t. They give him a stupid skateboard that I know for a fact cost much less than the dress and the party and the tiara and I am annoyed on his behalf. The rest of the family joins (Mike declines because he’s a drunk martyr) and Stef asks Callie and Jude to join and there is a cake and a mariachi band and hugs and yay.
Brandon tells Callie he broke up with Talya and then says, “I already know everything I need to know about you.” Callie is angry or sad or afraid she’ll drag him to the ladies’ room and swishes off.
Brandon runs into Mike who is drunk and offers to drive him home and, as they look for the car, Brandon spies Callie’s discarded slipper along with a giant pumpkin carriage.
Marianna sits alone looking sad/guilty/constipated and Stef and Lena come and sit beside her. Marianna says, “I’m sorry.” Stef says, “For what?” and I say, “How much time do you have Stef? I have extensive notes on her offenses.” Marianna says, “For being selfish.” Marianna says the party was expensive and they work hard and then she didn’t dance with them and this is the perfect end to this arc. Sometimes as parents, we hurt a little with the hope that our kids figure this sort of thing out on their own. The three of them hug it out.
HayZ tells Lexi he won’t let her leave without a dance, so they dance because she can’t stay there forever. Callie walks on the beach and finds the Weird Guy and his closing line is, “You look dumb in that dress.” Snap him up, Callie. He’s a shaggy-haired keeper!
As the show closes, Marianna, Stef and Lena twirl their cares away on the dance floor.
Overall impression: Liked it. Great use of music too.
Favorite line: “It’s her party but you can cry if you want to.”
Really? Did they have to do that?: Please, please, please stop the Callie and Brandon thing. I will give you my first-born. Actually, I’ll give you both of my kids because they have been fighting all day.
Before you go! It takes funding to keep this publication by and for queer women and trans people of all genders running every day. And A+ members keep the majority of our site free for everyone. Still, 99.9% of our readers are not members. A+ membership starts at just $4/month. If you’re able to, will you join A+ and keep Autostraddle here and working for everyone?