The Fosters Episode 311 Recap: The Circle of Life

Last year it became (happily) obvious that two human people could not cover every queer and gal pal shenanigan on teevee, which meant it also became (sadly) obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to finish recapping The Fosters season 3A. You were very bummed, and told me so, and asked gently and repeatedly for a full recap about a TV show with grown-up lesbians. And I was bummed too. In between then and now, I have been joined by two TV interns (hey, Karly! hey, Sadie!), and other Autostraddle team members who are writing about queer TV with me our twice-weekly column, Boob(s On Your) Tube. Which means The Fosters recaps are back! You gotta read ’em and participate in discussion if they’re here to stay, okay? Recaps take FOREVER to write and I’m taking on this one in place of free time/sleeping because I love you and I want you to be happy!

Previously on The Fosters, Lena’s principal and pal, Monty, tried a little funky junk with her, and Lena didn’t even tell Stef about it! Stef had to find out from her best friend who ended up dating Monty, but then Monty broke up with her because she was in love with Lena, okay, and so Stef’s best friend told her at a gay bar after the four of them tried to spend a weekend away at a cabin in the woods like some kind of shared-body-heat fan fiction. That was bad, but what was worse was Stef got almost-cancer and Lena got postpartum depression/PTSD from her miscarriage and they shut down so much that their lesbian plumber made them pay for their house repairs in advance because she thought they were getting divorced! They worked out it behind closed doors in a garage and all of their children were wonderful except for Brandon, who had his moments but ultimately Brandon-ed it all in the end.

The Adams Fosters are arrayed in their finery as Brandon performs the piece he composed in his woodland music camp, with a full orchestra behind him. Everyone is proud, except for Jesus, who is asleep. The music actually does sound very Disney-y, exciting and triumphant. Brandon finishes and stares into the audience at Callie, remembering that time they had sex due to her propensity to self-sabotage and his propensity to feel as though Mufasa was speaking directly to him every time he watched The Lion King.


I just can’t wait to be Kiiiiiing!

The next morning, Callie is feeling nervous because she has to give a speech about Fost and Found, the app she designed to help foster kids connect with each other. Brandon tells her not to worry. All she has to do is throw up to calm her nerves, and be a straight white man. Everything the light touches will be hers! For example, after his concert last night, he got an offer to go to Juilliard. He doesn’t want to tell Stef and Lena about it because they already have enough financial hardships on their plate with one hundred thousand children living under their roof and the medical bills from Stef’s almost-cancer. He’s not going to worry about it too much, though. It’s only a hundred thousand dollars. With his luck, he’ll get a summer job at a banana stand and be all set.

Grand Central Kitchen


Yes, I did wake up early to write. This Sparia fan fiction contest isn’t going to win itself.

Lena: Do you feel okay about me going back to work today?
Stef: [noncommittal mumble]
Lena: Stef…
Stef: [shrug, smiles without teeth, looks out the window]
Lena: Remember what we said in the garage!
Stef: Ugh, fine. No, I don’t feel okay about you spending your days with a woman who is desperately in love with you and has proven to have no respect for your boundaries or for our relationship! But you have to go to work because honestly it’s already a miracle we can afford to buy cereal for this herd of bandicoots we’re raising!
Lena: See? Now was that so hard?
Stef: Yes, I love you, go away, I don’t want to talk about my feelings again until 2018.

Not so fast, Stefanie! The doorbell rings and it is Monty, who requests a Feelings Conclave with Stef and Lena. She is learning the ways of lesbianism so fast, that Monty, just making everything as collectively awkward as possible with the best intentions and an overflow of earnest emotions and overwrought declarations springing from heartspace without reason or discretion, apologizing for breaking unspoken rules while breaking unspoken rules. She is Stef’s Boggart in every way. It’s amazing. I love Monty. I don’t want her to be with Lena, of course, but I do love her. She says she’s sorry, again, for honing on on Lena mouth with her mouth, and promises to never, ever do it again. Also she offers to quit her job and move to the Arctic Circle and live in a tent and survive on Luna bars and melted snow for ten full years as penance for her actions. If that’s what they want her to do.


The main thing to remember is that while my lips did touch Lena’s, they only did so for 1.759 seconds.



They decide to take a think on her offer.

Grandma Annie is in town and she peeps the letter from Stef’s insurance company about her almost-cancer. She demands that Stef get a second opinion and Stef demands to know why she’s up and walking around so chipper-like already this morning, and where she’s going in those slippers. Grandma Annie acts like the deflection works, but it does not. She knows Stef better than she knows her own face in the mirror, so she bounces and begins her plan to bring Lena into the conversation to get some results.

At the foster care fair, Callie gives a talk about Fost and Found, and about how she developed it so kids like her and Jude could find each other and use their common knowledge to inject a little accountability into the foster care system. This one guy accosts Jude and asks if Callie’s even for real, and when Jude assures him that she is very much for real, if by “for real” he means “for real using her brain and heart and personal knowledge of the dark things and hard-won hope to fight for the disenfranchised.” Well, so, this guy marches right up to her and confronts her about what she’s going to do to stop the privatization of foster care, because whatever she went through in the system is nothing like what he’s going through in the system and what’s the point in trying to make one thing better if you can’t make everything better. I’ll bet this dude’s a real treat on Tumblr.

Callie gets pulled away by a woman who offers her 50 thousand American dollars, on the spot, because she’s a “foster care advocate.” That is a lie. That is an obvious lie. If foster care advocates had $50K to throw at kids making apps, we would not need foster care advocates.


Who’s more electable: Ravenclaw or Gryffindor?





Jesus is lounging around his house when both of his ex-girlfriends arrive to hang out with Mariana. Emma is helping Mariana with her bid for Junior class president. Lexi and her family have received magical visas and her parents told Stef and Lena not to tell Mariana so she could surprise her when she got back home. Jesus assumes that they will immediately engage in a battle of wits and physical strength to determine who will get to woo him. They don’t do that, though. They discovered the glories of feminism while he was away at Wrestling Academy. Feminism and queer curiosities.

Emma and Lexi actually get into a verbal squabble over Mariana! Lexi has this one idea about how she should campaign for class president (it involves sex appeal) and Emma has this other idea about how she should campaign for class president (it involves brain appeal), and it results in Emma storming out in tears. (Imagine Lavender Brown and Hermione Granger helping Ginny Weasley in her bid to become a prefect, and that’s everything you need to know.)


My dad said he’s glad Star Wars didn’t make Rey toys! He wishes they’d made even more Kylo Ren ones!


He really is a monster.

Over at Connor’s, his bedroom is empty because he’s moving up the coast to live with his mom because his dad still can’t get his shit together w/r/t gay people being normal human beings. Connor figures if it hasn’t happened by now, with Connor coming out and Jude being the most perfect boyfriend/human ever, and after SCOTUS struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and we all suffered through those final few seasons of Glee, probably his dad is never going to get his shit together in that arena. Jude is distressed that Connor is taking literally everything he owns to his mom’s, but Connor assures him he’ll be back to visit his dad every other weekend. They hug each other and they cry and I cry and hug my cat and my cat bites my face. The whole thing is just terrible!

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, 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 Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1489 articles for us.


  1. Ok, so I haven’t watched last night’s Fosters yet. So I had to scroll down reallllly quickly because- NO SPOILERS- but I wanted to let you know how excited I am that these recaps are back!

    I’m commuting to watching the fosters TONIGHT and will be back promptly with something more substantive to say.

    Thanks for figuring out the time-turner situation to make these recaps more possible, Heather ?

  2. For the rest of my life I’m going to lament that I watched 7th Heaven during my formative years instead of this show. Do you think there’s any way we could get Jessica Biel to play a small roll or something? Because then I feel like family television will really have come full circle.

  3. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer back in November. She’s going through chemo right now, and the very last thing I wanted was my happy-feel-good-lesbian-moms-are-adorable show to do an entire season-long arc about breast cancer. Yay?

    Thanks for recapping the show Heather, I’ll still be watching, but if anything remotely bad happens to Stef, I’m gonna be out of here so fast.

  4. Is there actual possible queer stuff happening with Mariana? Because when this show first started, the main thing I really liked was thinking that Mariana was queer and had a big fat crush on Lexi. But then it seemed like that wasn’t ever going to happen and then lots of ridiculous Brandon stuff happened so I stopped watching. Do I need to watch again?! Don’t lead me on, Heather!

  5. I’m sooo happy that you are recapping again, woohoo!!
    So, thoughts:
    1. I legit tweeted that they better not do a Dana Fairbanks onto Stef!
    2. I LOLed at your close up pics of Stef’s face
    3. I wish #Brallie WOULD JUST STOP, not a fan since day 1
    4. I’m so sad AJ ran away, altho I understand he doesn’t want to be separated with his brother again. It’s a sticky sitch to be in, really.

  6. At Anchor Beach, Lena tells Monty that she shouldn’t quit her job because she is a good principal, but they’re just going to be co-workers and not friends, okay? Monty says okay. She’s relived! (She shouldn’t be! She’s not going to fall out of love with Lena while staring at Lena’s next level beautiful face and listening to Lena weave her empathy and intellect around every problem, every day! It’s not like you’re going to stop craving ice cream when you live inside an ice cream factory!)

    The solution is: Monty wants to make Lena the happiest person on this or any planet, so she cheats the system and gets Jesus in.

    *heart eyes* MONTE LOVES LENA SO MUCH.

  7. I feel like my ignorance of all things Harry Potter means I miss out on 50-75% of jokes in Heather’s recaps. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Lindy West posted a picture of this shirt the other day on Twitter…I’m convinced that it was crafted with Brandon in mind…

    That kid…ugh…

  8. I don’t have a chance to watch this show live, and I’m trying to decide if it’s better to read the recaps first and thus prepare myself for the plots and general emotional roller coaster or if it’s better to wait and use the recaps as a way to soothe the emotional turmoil and I just cannot make up my mind.

  9. Heather you are very funny, and this was brilliant. Glad to have you back because sometime this show needs some humor to get through.
    I am sure Stef will be fine too, so it’s going to be fine watching this crisis. Hopefully Stef and Lena get some alone time soon.

  10. This is the best. THANK YOU!!!

    I am convinced that the woman with the 50k is an Evil Villain. Unsure of how she will be defeated, but I’m crossing my fingers for Jude to tackle her. Also, you forgot the part about someone somehow knowing that Callie and Brandon had sex. wtf??

  11. Oh Heather, this is just all sorts of perfect.

    BUT. I have so many feelings about the Monte thing (It’s mainly rage).

    Her ‘you two decide my fate’ was so immature. It’s actually not owning her behaviour and it certainly isn’t an apology. I could forgive her is she was one of the kids, learning what saying sorry is – but she’s not. She orchestrated the whole situation!

    And ok. Okay. OK. I know adults mess up (29 and still not adulting over here) and this is TV land and suspension of disbelief and everything…but, no.

    I hate that both Monte and Lena are like “Righto Stef, you decide”. IT’S NOT STEF’S PROBLEM. SHE’S ALLOWED TO BE HURT. Cause heavens above the married couple actually unite on something for once…

    Whereas I just want to hug Stef and say to Lena “She loves you. She always will. But right now, she doesn’t like you. She’s gonna need a minute’.

  12. Ok, I’ve *finally* watched the episode and I’m baaaaaaack!

    Thoughts and reactions:

    -Is it just me or did it feel like Emma and Lexie both grew up so much since they were last on screen that I could barely recognize them? Or is it just that Jesus’ new face has now confused me and I’m now doubtful about all faces?

    -Speaking of, I’m not sure that I like the new Jesus. I didn’t realize that I was attached to the old Jesus until he was gone :(

    -WAY TO GO ANNIE POTTS!!! It’s always a good episode when Annie Potts is here.

    – I was so sad to see AJ get on that bus. I was really hoping he would stick around. He’s in a tough spot though. My new sincere hope is that he figures some stuff out and is able to make his way back to Mike and the Adams Fosters before the end of the season.

    -This lady who is sniffing around Callie with the 50k is super duper sketchy. Also her face feels familiar? Did she used to be on “Law & Order” maybe? Or where am I remembering her from? In any situation, she is no ally of foster kids, that’s for sure! She made my skin crawl and I hope Callie/Judicorn/etc take her down fast!

    -CONNOR AND JUDE!!!!!!!!! I cannot handle it. I can’t handle anything about this plot. I cannot handle Jude’s heartbroken face. It breaks me. Absolutely breaks me.

    -I just *barely* survived the Great Kissing Incident of 2015. I will not survive Stef having Cancer. They better nip this plot in the bud immediately.

    Protect the Adams-Fosters from all lesbian tv tropes is my mantra of 2016!

  13. Like others I have just seen the episode:
    – Stef’s cancer: no me gusta
    – show needs more moms and more Jonnor, less Brallie. Actually zero Brallie would be ideal.
    – I don’t like the second coming of Jesus. At least the bad acting is consistent.
    – Brandon is also consistent and continues to be The Worst
    – Mike and AJ? Don’t care

  14. Yay! Recaps by Heather!

    I agree with everyone who thinks the “foster advocate” is sketch. SOmething just smells off about that. And, kids, really? You’ve known her for five seconds and made her a site admin?!? “Hello newly reformed Deatheater. You’re changing sides? Sure, let me tell you where the OOTP headquarters is. Now that you’re completely trustworthy.”

    I think living in an ice cream factory would make ice cream become common. You wouldn’t crave it, but you’re not going to care so much that it’s around either. That said, this has the potential to be a problem.

  15. God I love this show but I hate the Brandon story line. He could go away forever and stop trying to control Callie.

    One thing I didn’t agree with/didn’t catch was the girls having the upper hand in the foster care advocate’s account. I thought they were totally blind to it and she wormed her way into an account, and they gave her an ADMINISTRATOR account. I hope they do know but I just didn’t get that from what I saw.

    And if that part of the recap was hopeful fantasy… then don’t mind me!

    I love, love, love your recaps Heather, Thank You so much for taking the extra time!

  16. I recap this show for another site and got the weirdest comment yesterday about how Brandon really DOES have the worst life of anyone on the show because “he has an alcoholic father who chooses other children over him and his moms always choose other children over him, too.”

    I couldn’t even respond to how insane that sounded. His moms and father choose other children IN ADDITION to him, an he gets away with/rewarded for screwing up on the regular. The fact that these things are a problem for him because (a) he should be the ONLY one his parents ever choose and (b) people should cater to him more so he doesn’t screw up in the first place… is the very definition of entitlement. This is a kid for whom an unsolicited invitation to freakin’ Juilliard is somehow a PROBLEM.

    ANYWAY. I wish he’d go away.

    But more importantly, I am delighted that you’re giving the show full recaps again!!

    And I know Stef’s storyline is a downer, but it also means she and Lena will still have a storyline separate from their kids’ screw-ups, which I love.

  17. Monte is an adorable human. I love her so much. Stef is going incredibly gracious, though. My jealousy is far too strong! But looks like she’ll have more important concerns anyway.

    It is unfortunate that Monte seemed to be one of lena’s close friends, and now she won’t be able to have her to talk to through this ordeal.

  18. I’m so happy you’re recapping the fosters again! Thank you!

    I’m not sure a TV character has ever annoyed me as much as Brandon does. I began the show with a giant eye roll when I saw him playing at Disney Hall. Why do wonderful things keep happening to him? Like, I don’t want terrible things to happen to him, but I would like mediocre things to happen to him, and wonderful things to happen to other people.

  19. I haven’t watched the episode, yet, (but will when I get home from work) so I haven’t read the actual recap part of this post, yet, but I had to stop everything and say THANK YOU Heather. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for all the hard work, time, and energy that you put into this. Your Fosters recaps were/are the best thing on the internet and the highlight of my week.

  20. I’m so happy you’re doing recaps of this show again! I actually, for the first time, really didn’t like this episode. But I enjoyed your recap, and it kind of helped me forgive the episode for psucking.

  21. I am so glad that this show is back, and that your recaps are back!

    I adore Mariana so much it hurts. She is probably the only straight character I give true fucks about on TV. She’s just so smart and sensible and nothing defeats her.

    • Yes! Someone else joins me in the Mariana love!

      I mean, I love other characters on this show, but Mariana is the absolute best, and her teenage life revolving around her female friends (and the occasional non-starter romantic relationship) is one of the most realistic and relatable aspects of the show. I mean, that’s what high school is really about for most of us!

      Also I am frankly more interested in her electoral showdown with Lexi than in watching Stef struggle with cancer for a season.

  22. Recaps are back! YES!

    I’m still not used to the new Jesus. Watching him interact with everyone as if nothing has changed made me SO uncomfortable. But also the entire episode made me a little uncomfortable. It’s like they turned the manufactured drama up a few notches for this round.

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