The Fosters Episode 311 Recap: The Circle of Life

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!)


Stef said you can keep your job, but if you say the thing about our lips touching again, she’ll murder you.


Was she cool with my Buzzfeed list idea: 15 things that are swoony in movies but you should never do in real life?

AJ’s grandma died. I loved AJ’s grandma. AJ loved her too, and so did his brother. Mike makes a good decision followed immediately by a horrible decision, a genetic trait he apparently passed on to his son. He says he’s going to pay for AJ’s grandma’s funeral. And then he calls down to the precinct and tells them not to run the prints on the pen that he knows will match the prints on the SUV that smashed into half the Adams Fosters in the season two finale. Because those prints belong to AJ’s brother, and AJ will run away when he find out Mike is the one who’s helping prosecute him.

How long does it take Stef to find this out? Eleven seconds, and boy, she is livid. Her head is doing that controlled vibration thing that lets you know it’s about to ricochet off her head like a bottle rocket and her eyeballs are bugging out of her face. She confronts Mike about it and he shrugs. Stef agrees to quell her Mama Bearness until after AJ’s grandma’s funeral, but when that’s done, she’s going to deal out some justice.


I think, when you really pull it apart, Piper is the actual hero of Orange is the New Black.



After work and school, Stef and Lena and Callie meet with the foster care advocate, who really is ready to just drop a fifty grand in Callie’s lap. All she’s asking for, in return, is unrestricted access to the app’s database of foster care children, including their names, addresses, social security numbers, known associates, hair color, internet browsing history, phone records, transcripts of all their incoming and outgoing text messages, DNA samples and fingerprints, and shoe size. NBD. Lena is mostly worried how Callie is going to manage the workload of her senior year of high school while running this blue chip tech company. Callie is mostly worried about the kid who told her about the privitization of foster care. (The advocate just needs his info, that’s all, and she’ll take care of that little snitch him right away.) Stef is mostly worried about where her mother is creeping off to again.

Grandma Annie’s got herself a lover! He drives his RV right up to the curb and she hops in and they get their sexual healing on. Stef marches to the RV and bangs on the door and goes, “Police, open up!” Which is actually Grandma Annie’s hangup about introducing him to the family. Stef assumes it’s homophobia (Grandma Annie: “I am so sure I would let a homophobe near my waterlily!”), but actually it’s anarchy. Rob hates the government and police officer especially, but he’s a real stallion in the sack, so she’s seeing where it goes.


No, I did NOT order a subscription to Finger Banging Weekly.


What? You both seem so tense lately.

Lena’s less worried about Grandma Annie’s boyfriend and more worried about what they’re going to do with Jesus. They swoop into his bedroom in full tag-team formation and he knows he’s doomed. He’s not flunking out of school like he told Mariana. He’s not homesick like he told his moms. The wrestlers at Wrestling Academy are on steroids and he tried them once or twice, but once he got a whole new face and body and voice and mannerisms from doing them, he decided to stop. And now he can’t go back.

The problem is: There’s a waiting list for Anchor Beach and Jesus isn’t on it.

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.

One other problem: Callie knows that “foster care advocate” is a lying capitalist from Wall Street, USA.

One other solution: She and Mariana trick her into registering for Fost and Found and now all her secret information is at Mariana’s brilliant fingertips.



I love it when the third act is just a big party! Everything happens at big parties! It’s why Gossip Girl and Shakespeare loved them so much! Grandma Shirley takes everyone out to dinner and all the plotlines comes to a head. Brandon’s got an invite to Julliard, Callie and AJ are flirting again and going to an indie comic con together, Annie made Stef an appointment for another mammogram (all she needed to obtain Stef’s medical records was her mother’s maiden name), Mariana’s girlfriends are feuding over her, and Jude is deeply deeply depressed about Connor.

Guess who’s luck swings back to Pot O’ Gold levels first? One guess, go on. DING DING DING! It’s Brandon! He gets a job as a teenage piano player in a bar, which will obviously net him enough money to cover his tuition to Juilliard.


I’d marry the shit out of you all over again, you know it?


I do.

Okay, let’s sprint that last hundred meters and set up the season. One of Marianna’s girlfriends (Lexi) has decided to run against her for student council. The kid who chided Callie for not fixing the world in one fell swoop was dimed out to the foster system and is headed to a group home. Ty bullies AJ into skipping town with him, before their grandma’s funeral. Jude is busted up about Connor, but he’s still leaving, even though Connor’s dad took Lena’s advice to try to help Connor not give up on him. Jesus left a steroid scandal behind. Callie is responsible for fixing foster care. And poor old Brandon has lost one of his diamond shoes.

Stef and Lena and Grandma Annie go to the doctor with Stef for a second opinion about her mammogram and she has stage zero cancer. I hope they’re able to stop it before it metastasizes to stage Chaiken cancer. Life expectancy is only about 45 minutes after it gets to that point.

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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, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1718 articles for us.


  1. Stef and Lena are such a special thing to have on our TVs you guys! I love them so much! *gross sobbing*

    • Right? Kids nowadays are so lucky to grow up seeing this on TV. I wonder how different my generation would be if we had that growing up

  2. No one on the planet is happier that you are recapping this show than I am.

    Thank Vanderjesus!

  3. 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 ?

  4. 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.

  5. Stage Chaiken cancer. Lord have mercy I haven’t spit-laughed like that in a long time. Thank you, Heather Anne Hogan.

  6. 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.

    • Allison, I am so sorry about your mom. Sending you warmth and healing wishes.

      (I feel very confident Stef is going to be okay!)

      • Thanks Heather – they caught it early, she’s gonna be totally fine. But I still don’t really want to have to watch Stef going through all the crap my mom’s going through.

        • Hey Allison, I just wanted to jump in and also offer you some warm thoughts and positive vibes as you deal with your mom. I had two aunts who went through battles with breast cancer (both caught relatively early, both survived) and I know what an emotional strain that is.

          So just know that your in our thoughts! And make sure you save some time for self-care (even if that means stepping away from the Fosters for a bit until Stef is free from the Chaiken curse <3

          • Thanks C.P. Luckily (or, not so luckily) my mom also has a lot of friends and family members who’ve survived breast cancer, so she’s got a lot of support and information.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    • Well, Lena cheated too when she altered Jude’s grades so he could start attending Anchor Beach.

  10. 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…

  11. Heather Hogan is recapping The Fosters again!! This is not a drill! I repeat: HEATHER HOGAN FOSTERS RECAP!
    Recap of adult shows with adults adulting!
    Gotta go out and buy fireworks!!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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??

  15. I had forgotten the show was starting back up till I saw the recap! So good!!! I hope there is more Mariana story this part of the season, I love her the most

  16. So grateful that these recaps are back on! Missed them and all the feels that would otherwise be on hold until Netflix airs this season. Thank you, Heather!!!

  17. 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’.

    • WITH YOU on this. Stef and Lena need like two hours of uninterrupted garage time once a week to talk everything out and then have sex.

  18. 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!

    • Kelli Williams from Army Wives and The Practice is the 50k villain. Cause it’s pretty clear she’s a villain, right?


        Thank you.

        (And yes, she is definitely a villain with a capital “V”)

    • It’s not just you. I think this new Jesus might be a better actor than the old one, but it is incredibly distracting that (besides having a whole new face) he’s much much lighter-skinned.

  19. 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

  20. 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.

  21. 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!

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. Do you guys think that Brandon is a legit character the writers are rooting for, or a cautionary tale/performance art piece on white privilege? I honestly can’t tell.

    • The showrunners are EXTREMELY defensive about Brandon in interviews. They seem sincerely shocked that a chunk of the audience dislikes him so much. So alas, I think they’re legit about him.

  25. Loved the recap! Thank you!
    However, I thought we (Autostraddlers) were going to ban the use of the word ‘girlfriend’ for just friends. Just something to be aware of!

    • I think that Heather meant it in the tongue-in-cheek way, but I could see how that could be confusing!

  26. I forgot to mention this earlier, but I appreciate that the community reaction to any tv queer lady anywhere getting cancer is a nearly unanimous “DANA FAIRBANKS FOREVER!!”

    …. Ilene Chaiken really scared a generation.

    • I got my first mammogram last year and while the nurse was putting me in the machine all I could think of was Dana Fairbanks.

  27. 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.

  28. Thank you for giving up your free time to write this. Much appreciated cuz this recap was just so good.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. Love these recaps, they are, at times, even better than the show. Although, I’m surprised more time wasn’t spent on the new Jesus thing. It’s like the trauma of new Becky all over again!

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