The Fosters Episode 217 Recap: Hard Knock Life

Previously on The Fosters, Stef and Lena had a glorious night at home alone, and they took full advantage of it by getting drunk and having sex. Brandon endeared himself to me by acting like your grandpa at a party. Mariana literally saved a girl’s life. Jesus got a scholarship offer to some kind of Testosterone Academy. And Callie decided to go live with Robert to keep the people she loves from getting in trouble because of how she accidentally went kidnapping on Christmas Eve.


I’m just saying, if Robert wants to collect things, he could start with action figures and not lookalike human children.

Stef and Lena don’t understand why Callie suddenly wants to go live with Robert. They’re pretty sure someone else is forcing her to make this decision. It’s so sudden, for one thing. And she’s a martyr, for another. And anyway, Callie would never, ever leave Jude, so something dubious is going on here. Did Robert threaten her? Did he bribe her? Callie says it’s the legal fees, and they say they’ll find the money. Callie says it’s an unwinnable battle, and they say they promise to never stop fighting. But she’s tired, you know? Like how many times can one person get adopted and un-adopted and re-adopted and un-re-adopted in the six in-show months that have passed since The Fosters started? It’s hard on a heart.

Jude and Callie walk to school on the beach and Callie monologues for a good ten minutes about how they’re both getting their happy endings, just not the ones they expected, and they’ll still see each other and love each other and hang out whenever they can. Jude’s bright little heart is so very sad. He tries to lighten the mood by saying, “Make Robert buy you a car and then you can pick me up for school every morning!” She laughs and shoves him, and he laughs and shoves her back — and then he’s like, “No, but for real.”


And you’ll be getting your letter to Hogwarts soon anyway.


It’s not enough that Stef and Lena are having to let go of their daughter; Jesus makes the morning even more difficult by getting pissy about Testosterone Academy and how it’s not fair that Brandon gets to do everything and he doesn’t get to do anything! And also, Lena singlehandedly slashed the athletics budget to keep her school from closing, which was just such a selfish move! They’re like, “Dude, pull up your shirt and look at that tattoo you got on your torso from just some guy on the street, and that’ll give you a hint about where we’re coming from w/r/t you being unsupervised ever.” Also, Lena is perfect so watch your mouth, Jesus!

Mariana is recruiting for her and Tia’s new dance team. She hands out flyers to everyone except for an extra that got kicked off the old team for getting drunk. (I do not remember that episode.) Mariana doesn’t give her a flyer because she wants her on the team, but Mariana wants her to think she doesn’t want her on the team, so she’ll join the team. It’s very confusing inside the brains of teenagers. Tia thinks so too when Mariana explains the Mean Girls plan. The old dance squad mocks Mariana’s dystopian robot theme, proving that she was correct to leave them behind.

At lunch, Brandon slides up to Callie to ask how come she was so quiet at breakfast. Brandon takes his water bottle out of his lunch sack. And then three seconds later the bell rings, and he puts his water bottle back in his lunch sack. It is the shortest, most un-filling lunch in history. Which suits Callie just find because all Brandon wants to do is talk about kidnapping kidnapping kidnapping, and man, enough already! This puts Brandon in such a mood that when Mike calls to try to make plans with him, Brandon snaps that he’ll be free on the 22nd of NEVER.


I think it was Ben, not Leslie, who was president in the Parks and Rec series finale SO THERE.


You’re a monster.


Mike: Well, our son hates me.
Stef: Yeah.
Mike: Whatever. I’m getting a new one anyway.
Stef: About that. A) It’s not your baby. And B) Ana asked Lena and I to adopt it.
Stef: Deal with it.

Mike rushes home and yells at Ana about how Stef and Lena always get what they want and he never gets anything he wants. She’s like, “Okay, just right out of the gate, let me say that having a child makes it harder, not easier, to stay sober. Which you already know; come on, use your brain. And let me also reiterate the point I have made to you sixty eleven times now: This baby is not your baby. I’m sorry your son doesn’t want to hang out with you, but my baby isn’t your do-over. Also, honestly, stop having some weird competition with Stef and Lena. It’s a one-sided game, dude. They’re not even playing.”

Timothy’s doing a class about the similarities between The Hunger Games and Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. That’s a good lesson. I like that. If this was Pretty Little Liars, it would mean someone is getting stoned in the school parking lot by episode’s end, but it’s not and so it only signifies the death of Timothy’s career. See, because Lena and the new principal show up at the end of class and tell him to incorporate some more critical thinking/non-fiction-type lessons into his curriculum if the school is going to get the grants it needs to remain functional. Lena tells him at least one hundred times that she doesn’t want him to teach rote memorization and test-taking skills but all he does is scream and scream that he’s not going to teach rote memorization and test-taking skills. One thing he definitely should not teach is a class on listening since he apparently does not know how to do that.


Uh-oh, somebody’s in lesbians with Mariana.


She hasn’t even said anything about that mixtape I left in her locker.


At Steak ‘n Shake:

Daphne: So the police came to see me about our little Christmas kidnapping rendezvous.
Callie: Oh my god, can you talk about our felony any louder?
Daphne: I didn’t tell them anything.
Callie: Good, don’t. Robert’s lawyers are going to deal with everything.
Daphne: Robert’s lawyers are going to deal with everything … for the white people involved.
Callie: No, for everyone. I’m giving him what he wants and going to live with him, so he’s giving me what I want and keeping everyone I love out of jail.
Daphne: What about Jude?
Callie: I don’t want to talk about it.
Daphne: Siiiiiigh. I wonder what it’d be like to have Brandon’s life for one day. To get arrested and experience no repercussions whatsoever.
Callie: I can’t think like that or I will lose my literal mind.

Jude takes a couple of buses across the city to get to the Quinn’s fancypants neighborhood. (Jude should have a chariot pulled by a herd of pegasuses at his disposal. Agree/Disagree?) He politely sips the champagne smoothie Jill makes for him, and then turns his attention toward some hard truths. For example, Callie has decided to come and live with them. And she has decided it because she is tired of having everyone in the world make decisions for her. And she feels pretty confident a judge is going to give her birth father full custody of her, and she honestly can’t have her heart broken like that again. What Jude doesn’t say is: Callie wants to live with our moms who want what’s best for her, no matter how it makes them feel; not a mom and a dad whose main concern is how they feel no matter what’s best for her. Jill’s sweet about the whole thing, offers him another champagne smoothie, but she’s a little too happy about winning Callie for Jude to enjoy it.


Thanks for the tuna sandwich.


It’s Ossetra caviar and salmon creme fraiche on a potato shallot croquette with basil oil and egg whites, dear.


When Robert gets home, he drives Jude to Steak ‘n Shake to hang out with his sister, and also to make sure that he was telling the truth about Callie coming to live with him. She says she is, and she’s obviously heartbroken about it. Jude, too, is heartbroken about it. Daphne can see both of those things because she has eyeballs. Robert can see neither of those things because he doesn’t want to see them.

On the way to Stef and Lena’s — or “home” if Robert would just STOP IT — he swings by this house that’s halfway to renovated. Jude feels excited because he thinks Robert bought it for Callie. And he did, kind of. It’s a new home for Girls United, and they own it, and there’s no chance they’re ever getting kicked out of it. Rosie is very happy about this. Callie is happy too. She thinks it’s a truly wonderful thing Robert did on her behalf. But also she is heartbroken some more because no matter how nice this rich guy is, she loves her mamas and doesn’t want to leave them.


What d’ya think, huh? And wait’ll you see the stable full of ponies out back!


Rosie: You seem kind of bummed out.
Callie: Yeah, it’s because of my heart breaking and Stef and Lena’s hearts breaking and Jude’s heart breaking.
Rosie: Eh, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Callie: You’re usually a lot more perceptive than this.
Rosie: Yeah, I think I’m blinded by my love for these hardwood floors.


You can come over and do heteronormative stuff at our house any time you want. Bring your girlfriend!


Callllmmm. I’m calllllmmm.


Jude: Will you buy Callie a car and teach her to drive?
Robert: Sure thing, buddy!
Jude: What a way to live. I wonder if this is what it feels like to be Brandon.

At the Adams Foster Home of Teenage Hormones, Jesus and Brandon get into probably their first fist fight ever. It happens because Brandon won’t move his chair out of the way so Jesus can get to the food in the refrigerator. But actually it happens because Jesus is angry that Brandon gets to do everything he wants to do, and Jesus can’t even attend the Testosterone Academy. They wail on each other for a few minutes until Stef comes in and pushes them apart, completely befuddled by their cave man antics. She’s like, “ARE. YOU. SERIOUS. RIGHT. NOW.” They feel ashamed, which is correct. Brandon doesn’t apologize for calling Jesus “schizo” and asking if he’s “taking his meds,” which is incorrect.


Go to your rooms for one hour of silent processing!


Out in the garage, Jesus and Brandon have a heart-to-heart about how they both make teenage decisions, but only Jesus is ever held accountable for them. Which is a pretty valid complaint, actually. And probably there’s an underlying thing there about like, “And it’s because you’re Stef’s biological son.” But Jesus doesn’t say that part out loud. And so Brandon goes back inside and explains to his mom about how Jesus’ real problem isn’t him; it’s that he wants the Brandon Treatment every once and a while . Stef agrees that’s probably a thing she and Lena should think about giving him, and then she clowns on Brandon for letting his little brother beat him up.

When Jesus comes back to the kitchen all sweaty from his workout, Stef tells him that she and Lena will talk about the Testosterone Academy thing. He tries to hug her, but she’s like, “Whoa, no. You smell terrible. Take a shower and then come back down here and hug me.” She flexes and play growls and probably she could beat Jesus at arm wrestling through sheer force of will. Stubbornness is a terrifying super strength!


For the honor of Greyskull!


If you want to know how gay Tumblr truly is, you should go search The Fosters tag. I was like, “I wonder if teenage girls are mad for this kid and his pecs.” And they are, for sure. But what they are most mad about is Jude and Connor! There are a hundred thousand times more GIF sets and fan flailing about Jude and Connor than about Jesus’ abs. I think Tumblr might actually be the queerest place on earth. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if it had been around when I was growing up. I would have flunked out of school, for sure, staying home all day to write fan fiction and reblog photos of girls kissing.

When Lena comes home, Stef says, “I told Jesus we’d have that wrestling coach over for dinner. Do you hate me?” But Lena is only worried about why stupid Robert is pulling into their driveway with their children in his car.


I’m joining Robert’s kid collectors club, I just thought you should know.


Even if Stef did think she was straight, I can’t believe she married you.


Later on, Mike drops by to ask if he can have one of Stef and Lena’s kids to make him feel better about not always being the best parent to Brandon. When Lena tells him no, he says maybe he’ll just adopt Ana’s baby. Lena tells him no about that too. Poor Lena. Dealing with Mike like this must feel like when you have friends over and one of them has a kid and as soon as they’re inside your house, they stop watching their kid and leave it up to everyone else to make sure it doesn’t put its finger in an electrical outlet. She’s sweet to him, but even her extradimensional patience is always at its breaking point with this guy.

Brandon bebops downstairs and finds himself caught in some lies about all the plans he had tonight that were keeping him from hanging out with his dad. Lena glides out and they have a little chat about how Brandon’s main worry in life is whether or not he should go to an all-star camp for musical geniuses or go on tour with his beautiful girlfriend and his super fun band. Mike tells him his heart will guide him through these trying times and impossible decisions.

Somewhere, Callie’s head explodes.


Mariana, is this Hannily fan fiction? Are you sure you want Spencer Hastings to see this?


Later that night, Mariana prints off some non-fiction stuff she has to read for Timothy’s class, and you know it’s all about how big business is ruining charter schools, which, again, is a valid conversation, but LENA IS NOT ASKING HIM TO DO WHAT HE KEEPS INSISTING SHE’S ASKING HIM TO DO. People who swing at every single thing like it’s the ethical argument of the century are so exhausting. That’s what she tries to tell him for the seven thousandth time the next day, and of course he won’t fucking listen, and so they have to fire him, and so he marches into his class and tells all the students he’s been sacked for wanting to teach them to think for themselves. Ugh. That is not why you were sacked. USE YOUR EARS. Lord. Just get out of here, and take Robert with you.

Lena tries to sub in for Timothy once he has made a scene and stormed out, but Mariana decides she’s going to stage a walkout on behalf of her favorite teacher. Tia joins her. And some other kids do too.


I mean, whatever, Mariana is just my good friend. I am like super into penises.


I don’t think that’s true.


It’s not a great showing for Marianna this week. This thing — despite Lena literally going, “Mariana Adams Foster, you come back here and sit down right now!” — plus she can’t get that girl to join her dance team because she Mean Girls her too far. Ah, Mariana. Maybe you need to regroup and let your Adrenalized Hyperreality recharge. Take a nap. Stop taking advice about life from Regina George.

The next morning, Stef and Lena sit on Callie’s bed and hold her hands and their eyes are all tears and their hearts are all broken. They tell her they can get into see the judge that very afternoon if that’s what she wants, because they love her, and they want what’s best for her, and they believe she has the right to make her own decisions. She can’t even look at them. She loves them too much.


Honey, Mariana is writing Hannily fan fiction now. We just wanted to tell you since Robert will be looking to add Aria Montgomery to his collection next.


In the judge’s office that afternoon, he asks Callie what she wants. And right at that exact moment, Daphne shows up at the new Girls United house to tell Rosie what she did. She implicates herself and that’s all. She won’t name Brandon or Callie.

Oh, Daphne! Oh, Callie! Oh, Stef and Lena! OH, MY HEART. Ow. Ow. Ow!

Next week: Jude and Connor gonna smoooooch.

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Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle managing editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 835 articles for us.


  1. My unwavering fear that this whole Robert storyline exists only so eventually Callie and Brandon can get back together stands strong. And that sucks. Because it makes Coach and Tami Adams-Foster really sad and that’s not okay.

    But Jude and Connor next week! (I have noticed, too, that the teens adore them. Which is awesome!)

    Excellent recap as always!

    • If that’s the case it doesn’t bother me. I don’t think they anticipated the onscreen chemistry Brandon and Callie had. I’m sure they intended them to a “learning moment” that fostering older kids isn’t always easy.

      The reality is that adoptions often don’t go smooth and without interference. For Stef and Lena to adopt four, relatively older, children from foster care without any relatives popping up and staking a claim, even if those relatives aren’t prepared to provide a steady home, is what is unrealistic. Now most children don’t get a super rich dad, but hey it’s TV.

  2. I am annoyed with myself for being invested enough that I can. not. stand. Brandon. He’s the worst. And he does get everything he wants. I’m unsure what they’ll do with Robert and fam, because the actress playing Callie’s sister is going to be on another show. Maybe she’ll be in the hospital forever?

  3. revealing my ignorance here but i laughed aloud at this then thought “wait is this real?”…….”It’s Ossetra caviar and salmon creme fraiche on a potato shallot croquette with basil oil and egg whites”

  4. First of all, I only started watching this show at season 2 because of your recaps, so thanks for that!
    I’m mad that they’re making us wait 3 weeks for more Jude and Conner adorableness, so the payoff better be worth it! I may be slightly over-invested in these kids.
    This may be petty but I cringed when Brandon took out that mini bottle of water. A household of 2 lesbians who send their kids to a hippie school on the beach: those kids would be using Lifefactory glass water bottles for sure.

  5. I have to disagree. In the light of Jonnor preview Jude should have his unicorn-pulled carriage.
    Also maybe (maybe!) a swirling ball of air because he reminds me so much of whitewashed Avatar Aang.

  6. Robert is the worst, and so is Timothy, and so is Brandon, and Mike. They’re just all so terrible all the time. The men on this show are reminding me why I own a misandrist T-shirt.

    Unless we count Jude, of course, because he’s perfect.

  7. Ugh, I feel like Timothy & Brandon are in a competition for who can be The Worst.

    Also, “It’s a one-sided game, dude. [Stef & Lena are] not even playing.” And yet, I’m pretty sure they are still winning.

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