Welcome to the thirteenth episode of the second season of The Fosters, the ABC Family drama that asks the question, “What if Glee didn’t suck? WHAT THEN?” (What then is it still wouldn’t land its heart punches and soul hugs as good as The Fosters, but sweet heavenly mercies, if Glee used The Fosters as a model, I’d have a lot fewer holes in my wall from where I keep smashing my entire head into it.)
Surprise! Callie’s life is still a shitshow hellscape! In addition to the fact that her biological dad will not re-sign the adoption papers Stef and Lena need to provideCallie with the first stable home of her whole life, it turns out her schools have lost her transcripts. You’d think those files would be digital, right? Or at least that there’d be more than one paper copy of them? Or that you could recreate transcripts with like report cards or information from previous teachers? I know for a fact if you submit a supplemental essay with your college application that you can have that essay printed out on a receipt machine at your nearest coffee shop. I have seen that happen. I’ve seen it right on this very network. Sadly, Callie is not lucky enough to live in a world where she is endlessly stalked and murdered by a cyberterrorist ghost.
She yells as Stef and Lena a little bit, which is completely understandable because it just never ends for this kid. She reminds them that she got taken from them once because they didn’t renew their foster parent license, but that’s really the only thing she can figure out to blame them for. The other times she got pulled out of their home were because she ran away and went to jail and also because the universe just hates her guts.
Mariana floats in on a cloud of overachievement to announce that she has achieved an E in her Math O.W.L. and has therefore been invited to take N.E.W.T.-level classes next year. She’s only slightly offended when Stef and Lena don’t produce balloons and cake on the spot. Mariana is the best. I love her with a deep and enormous affection. She’s a teenager, but she’s also able to access that part of her brain that isn’t all impulses and hormones. She knows there’s something going on in this living room that’s more pressing than her invite to the STEM club, and also she knows that she’s going to be a Senator some day, so the party in her honor can wait for a minute.
When the girls go off to bed, Lena’s like, “We have to help Callie to graduate from high school; it’s the most important thing a foster kid can do.” And Stef is all, “Okay, for one thing, please don’t call her a foster kid; she’s our kid. And for another thing, you’re so pretty and let’s go have sex.”
Callie gets a call in the middle of the night. I know you think it’s Brandon because he just won’t quit. But it’s not Brandon at all. Brandon doesn’t offend me in any way this week. It’s a miracle! Callie wakes up Stef to ask for her help, and next thing you know, a couple of cops are busting into an apartment where a drug-addled lunatic is waving a knife around at this drug-dealing couple. Once the knife guy is disarmed, Stef rushes in to find a bunch of foster kids locked in a room, crying and huddled together on the floor. Kiara (from Girls United) is there, trying to comfort the younger children.
Welp! I didn’t even make it to the credits this time before BURSTING INTO INCONSOLABLE TEARS. I wonder what would happen if I stopped watching The Fosters; I’ll bet my tear ducts would get all dried up like the desert and I’d go blind.
Stef brings Kiara home to sleep in Callie and Mariana’s room. You know what it is about Mariana, I think? It’s that she knows she could have been in Kiara’s position, easily been there, if Stef and Lena hadn’t been who they are. She tells Kiara she hopes she finds a forever home soon. And Callie says she hope that too. And also she hopes fucking Robert stops acting like a goddamn man-child and signs her adoption papers.
At school the next day, Wyatt stares at a vending machine for 20 minutes without blinking because he is tripping his balls off. Callie wanders up and asks if he keeps coming to school stoned because she broke his heart, and he’s like, “Yeah, Callie. I am so sure I go to bed every night and wake up every morning thinking about you and staying high to forget my pain.” He says it in a tone of full asshole-sarcasm, but you can tell it’s a real thing. Callie’s like, “Yeah, one of my best friends doesn’t have a place to live because her foster parents are drug dealers who are endangering her actual life, so I’m so sorry about your straight white guy problems of having your feelings hurt, bye.”
Later on Wyatt asks her to run away with him again. Callie says she’ll think about it.
Also at school: Lena and Timothy have an awkward chat in her office about falafel and how they should hang out more even though his sperm is fatal and how the new principal is not telling Lena her business when it comes to academics. Jesus and Hailey have an awkward chat about how he won’t put her in the center of his universe, even though his universe also includes a mother who is a recovering addict and is potentially pregnant with a child belonging to his adopted brother’s dad. And Mariana and Emma have an awkward chat about how she is so much better for Jesus than Hailey and so much better for Mariana than Mat. She also says she and Jesus never would have worked out because he was threatened by her athletic prowess and book smarts.
All Mariana hears is, “Boys are threatened by book smarts.”
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.