This episode made me remember my Sunday School teacher in middle school telling my all-girls class, “The way to make a man fall in love with you is to ask him questions he can answer brilliantly.” And all these girls, my best friends, writing that shit down like it was the secret to the universe. It was the theme of my entire church life, all the way through college: God created men to be in charge of you, to be better than you, and when they’re not better than you, it’s your God-given directive to make them feel like they’re better than you. Is it any fucking wonder our country is so messed up socially and politically when it is being run by these men who have been living inside The Truman Show their whole lives, where everyone’s job is to convince them of this alternate reality created by a book that was cobbled together in an ancient language thousands of years ago? Mariana doesn’t know the lie she is buying into is the biggest lie in America. The like that keeps Fox News going strong. Thankfully, Stef and Lena are here to save small children while tearing down the that lie with their bare hands.
At home, Brandon tries to convince Stef and Lena and Mike why he should be allowed to galavant across the country with his band this summer. Lena thinks he needs to do some internships because: college. Stef thinks he’s just going to make a lot of bad decisions because: Brandon. But Brandon assures them this won’t be your average high school band road trip, okay? He’s going to do his reading list and SAT prep and donate blood every chance he gets. No. No, not donate blood. He’s going to learn CPR. No, heart surgery! He’s going to learn heart surgery! He’s going to spend the summer singing and playing the piano and becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon so he can do Doctors Without Borders before he starts college.
Jesus interrupts Brandon’s altruistic brainstorming to glare at Mike. Stef goes, “Do you want to be a little less rude to Mike?” And Jesus is like, “Nope!” And that’s that!
Later that evening, Stef and Lena convince Jesus to attend an Alateen meeting with Brandon, so they can talk about being kids with alcoholic parents. Jesus isn’t really feeling it, and neither is Brandon, but Brandon agrees to take him because he really wants to do this road trip and he’s not so sure he can keep his promise to become a heart surgeon. Every good deed helps.
Stef and Lena invite Kiara’s social worker to come over so they can talk about next steps. Unfortunately, the next step is:Child Protective Services is shoving her back in the same home she came from because CPS has too much to do, so they farm out a lot of the foster process to private companies that place kids in any home with an adult and an extra bedroom. It doesn’t matter if the foster parents are in it for the money, stacking kids on top of each other and making meth in the middle of the night. The CPS guy is basically like, “Deal with it.” And so Stef is basically like, “Deal with me throwing you through the wall!” But Lena stops her before that actually happens.
Stef’s not done, man. She’s a hot-headed superhero with a heart of a kitten, so she drags Mike over to the apartment where Kiara’s foster parents live, and it starts out moderately civil like she’s trying to politely get them to agree that they deal drugs and endanger the lives of young children. But they won’t budge with a confession, so Stef ends up threatening to literally ruin their miserable lives if they hurt one more child they’ve been entrusted to protect. And then she has another idea. She does police mind trickery to the apartment complex manager so he’ll kick out the drug-dealing foster parents. If they don’t have an extra bedroom, they can’t get any more foster kids to exploit. It’s a technicality and it doesn’t win the war, but it is a small battle victory.
Stuff is also dramatic at school. The principal tells Lena they’re crushing it w/r/t standardized math scores, thanks in no small part to Mariana who is the smartest witch of her age. Buuuut English scores are down and that means they’re going to lose funding and potentially their charter. So Lena tries to talk to Timothy about how maybe he can find a balance between teaching kids to think/taking them on kayaking trips in the middle of the day and helping them learn the things that show up on standardized tests. Well, he will not hear it! And so the principal tells Lena it’s cool, they’ll just fire him. Oh and also, Mariana doesn’t want to be recognized as a genius at the STEM assembly tomorrow. Just FYI. Lena, hilariously, goes, “She said she doesn’t want attention? She used to make the whole family clap when she tied her shoes.”
The reason for Mariana’s sudden shyness becomes clear to Lena when she arrives home and finds Mariana smooching Mat in the backyard. She’s pretending to be dumb so he’ll like her more, like what she thought Emma was telling her earlier. Lena smiles and kisses Mariana on the forehead and goes, “If you have to pretend you’re less of a thing so someone else in your life can feel like more of a thing, they don’t deserve you.” It’s very good advice. Not just for teenage girls dating teenage boys. It’s good advice for everyone. Heed Lena’s wisdom! Bow to her hard won knowledge!
Callie and Kiara try to help save Kiara by themselves. They go to a support center for foster kids but find out it’ll take weeks to get Kiara a caseworker and maybe months to get Kiara out of her foster home. Kiara narc’d on some pretty dangerous people and she knows she’s going to get hurt if she goes back there. So her choices are to run away to Vegas, where she kind of knows some people, or allow the state to shuffle her back to a place where she’s not safe. Callie yells this at the guy who is working at the support center and you can tell he feels shitty about it, but there really is nothing he can do.
I think one of the things that makes this show so great is it juxtaposes these upper class kids in their beachside charter school whose main worries are where to intern to get into the best colleges, and these truly helpless kids society continues to fail whose best hope is to end up in prison for some misdemeanor. At least there they’ll have food and a safe place to sleep. It’s a horrific fact about our world. And The Fosters doesn’t shy away from it.
Stef and Lena talk about it when they’re getting ready for bed and they talk about it when they’re having tea. You know what I really love about Stef and Lena, and I just realized it? It’s that the best thing you can hope for in life, I think, is someone you can get naked with while you’re talking about the truth of the dark, dark world, and for a little while you can hide away with that person and anchor yourselves to each other’s goodness, before you go back out into the darkness with your eyes wide open to try to spread as much of your own light as you can. Someone who doesn’t ignore how hard and deeply unfair the world is, but who keeps you safe so you can keep fighting the darkness together. Sex? Yes, awesome! A Companion of the Light? YES, AWESOME! That’s why Stef and Lena resonate so deeply with me. That and how they make all those pancakes.
For a hot second, it looks like Callie is going to run away with Wyatt. Really, though, she is just taking his painting back to him, the one from the wall of his old house that he destroyed with that bratty rager that one time. She says he should stay and finish school, but she’s not going to beg him to make good decisions. That’s his own job. And so if he’s going, he should at least take a little bit of home with him.
The person who runs away is Kiara. Stef finds the note on Callie’s bed and gives it to her when she comes home. They sit on the stairs and feel the weight of the world and the grace of being able to rest your head on someone you love.
Callie goes to the foster kids center and asks to volunteer, because Callie is already an Adams Foster in her heart.
Next week: A trip into the woods leads to a lot of feelings being felt. Kind of like A-Camp, but with more teenage boys and less scissoring.