The Fosters Episode 312 Recap: O True Apothecary

Previously on The Fosters, Stef was afflicted with stage zero cancer, and just when she and Lena had finally worked through The Great Kissing Debacle of 2015 too. She’d chosen to let Monty live, and karma gave her nothing in return! Emma and Lexi fought over the affections and political aspirations of their girlfriend Mariana, a thing that involved a lot of scowling and storming in and out of bedrooms. Connor moved up the PCH and smashed Jude’s perfect little tiny precious heart into a gazillion pieces. Callie was duped into believing the promises of a nefarious foster care advocate Sith Lord, but also was gifted fifty thousand American dollars by her. And Brandon spilled champagne all over himself and wrecked his favorite pair of diamond pants.

(I’m sorry I have official promo photos instead of screencaps for you this week; the place I acquire my TV online for screencapping wasn’t working ALL DAY.)

Stef is staring at herself in the bathroom mirror and doing the calculations for how long a lesbian on television can survive a cancer diagnosis. Hells bells, perfectly healthy lesbians on television are eaten by sharks and stabbed in the face by butter knives over casual dinners and melted by alien space rays on the regular. What chance does a lesbian with cancer have? Well, Lena’s got that information. In fact, she’s got all the information. When Stef comes to bed, Lena tells her there’s no need to panic because the overwhelming majority of studies indicate that stage zero cancer isn’t a thing that’ll kill you and maybe if Stef will just read through the hundred pages of research Lena emailed her and attend these lectures Lena signed them up for and watch these videos Lena bookmarked, Stef will feel better too.

You know what Stef’s most mad about, cancer-wise? That  another damn thing in her life is going to force her to talk about her feelings.

But not tonight!


Our naked bodies should get back in touch.

Lena big spoons her and nuzzles her back and neck, and Stef Stefs it, like, “I’m pushing you away, but not because I’m pushing you away.”

Elsewhere in the Adams Foster burrow, Mariana is melting down about Lexi running for junior class president, and Callie is flipping out because someone posted on Fost & Found asking if she slept with her foster brother, and Brandon is obliviously playing his keyboard in the garage. He says he did not tell anyone he had sex with Callie, and so maybe Callie was the one who told someone. (She was.) Whatever. The important takeaway here is that Lexi’s campaign slogan is Lexi For Prexi, which is second only to Naomi: Get To Know Me when it comes to TV teenagers running for office.

A new day dawns and Grandma Annie’s boyfriend prepares a vegan breakfast for everyone. Stef tries to be cool about it, but she basically spits her tofu sausage onto the floor. This guy’s got all kinds of solutions to Stef’s problems. Cannabis oil, for example, which will clear up her psoriasis and cure her cancer. But not even weed can help poor Jude, who is being forced to read Romeo and Juliet while nursing the pain of his first heartbreak. Brandon says it’s a story about missing the person you love, as opposed to what it actually is, which is a story about two lusty teenagers killing themselves and each other in a spiral of obsessive self-destruction.

I bought this sweater from the Aria Montgomery slaughtered Muppet collection.

After the children leave for school — Jesus on fire with the knowledge that he can’t play sports this season due to using steroids at Wrestling Academy — Grandma Annie decides it is time for her to share some opinions. She doesn’t agree with punishing Jesus, just to get that out of the way real fast. She reminds them that every time he has downtime he gets into shenanigans (but only because she is unaware that every teenager in this house is in a constant state of shenanigans, regardless of their extra curricular schedules). And then she presses Stef about getting a mastectomy because it’s the only 100 percent absolute for sure way to prevent stage zero cancer from developing into a full case of Homosexual Cliches. In fact, she’s not going on vacation until she’s positive Stef has decided to heed her feedback.

If there’s anything Stef likes less than being forced to process her emotions with another human being, it is being told her business. She tells her mom to dial it back, but Grandma Annie only knows one way to dial it, and it is up.

School days! Some guy whose face and eyes and car make him look like a drug dealer at Degrassi High parks beside the Foster Adams family at school and starts heckling them about how they live in a circus car. Jesus is five seconds from handling his problem like a Real Man and beating the guy with his fists, but Mariana calms him down and gives the guy a flyer and asks him to vote for her for student council. But Lexi for Prexi is not making it easy! They decide to settle it in a debate on the quad at high noon, but things don’t really go according to plan. Lexi steals Mariana’s platform, Emma interrupts everything to do some slut-shaming, Mariana tells Lexi she doesn’t understand the problems facing Anchor Beach’s student body because she was deported to Honduras. It’s all very bizarre and mean and I don’t like it! They end up just hollering at each other about how they’re in love, basically.

Personally, I think Mariana could have made her outfit gayer if she’d paired it with raw denim and Chucks.

Brandon and Mat enjoy some sandwiches by the sea and some talk of broken hearts. While Brandon is in the middle of a particularly depressed diatribe about how hard it is when life won’t ever even give you a single break, the ocean spits a beautiful woman up onto the shore for him to romance. She’s the bartender from the restaurant where he plays the piano to earn his millions. She’s a surfer and so she clowns on him for not being a surfer, but also offers to teach him how to be a surfer. Lesson number one: Don’t use the word “rad.”

Callie dips out of school to go ask Daphne if maybe she told anyone that she slept with Brandon, but Daphne is way too loyal for that. She’s also been forced to deal with the worl’s darkness at a really early age, so she knows humans can be monsters. She asks Callie if maybe the person who posted asking if she’d had sex with her stepbrother was actually talking about Liam. Liam who raped her. Callie is so grossed out, but she admits it’s a possibility.

Alas, there’s no time to stay and talk it through; her benefactor is holding a photo shoot for her for Fost & Found publicity. She bought Callie a bunch of fancy designer clothes and hired a professional makeup artist and a whole lighting crew and like Annie Leibovitz is there. Callie feels uneasy about it (probably because her bullshit senses are tingling because this woman is a creeeeep), but agrees to do the thing anyway. Oh, you know what? I wonder if her dad is behind this. Maybe he made a few calls from his yacht. Maybe he owns some kind of privatized foster care corporation.

When Callie gets home, she is confronted with two of her siblings.

Mariana: Look at you, sexy!
Brandon: You look like garbage.

Callie storms out to the garage and gives Brandon the what-for. He thinks she’s holding him back (lol, from what? the actual Pacific Ocean just coughed up a girlfriend for him), but she tells him that actually he’s the one holding her back. He tells her to stop being scared to stop being a victim (at which point I am the victim of a brain explosion), and she tells him to — I really don’t know. I yelled, “Shut the fuck up, Brandon” at my TV during this part and then couldn’t find the remote to rewind it.

Little Women is the story of how that selfish cow Jo March kept Laurie from reaching his true potential!

Also at home, Jude is wandering around in a brokenhearted stupor, reading more Shakespeare, and generally feeling like the guts of an entire Taylor Swift album. Grandma Annie refuses to talk to these children like they’re babies, so she tells him the truth: Long-distance relationships suck because so much of love is in the day-to-day building of a life, but also, long-distance relationships afford you the opportunity for some of the best sex of your life. True and true, Grandma Annie. Your wisdom is timeless.

To wit: When talking to Jude, she is reminded that the only way she could ever get Stef to follow her advice when she was younger was to do a double-tricky reverse-logic flip-smash on her. She had to tell Stef to do the literal exact opposite of what she wanted Stef to do, so while Stef and Lena are getting ready for bed and Lena is trying not to push Stef to talk and Stef is trying not to push herself off a cliff because she can tell Lena wants to make her talk, Grandma Annie bebops on in and tells Stef her revised feelings about the cancer. She thinks Stef should eat a lot of vegetables and do a lot of sit-ups and not worry about the mastectomy. Maybe the lumpectomy, if she absolutely must, but not the mastectomy at all ever.

Stef and Lena have a super-sad conversation where they’re both saying something out of pure devotion but the other one is hearing it through the filter of their own insecurities. What if Stef has an unnecessary mastectomy and it sends her spiraling into a depression because she ends up hating her body? Okay, but what if it’s Lena who’s gonna hate Stef’s body? It takes Lena exactly seven-tenths of a snail’s breath to say, “No, absolutely not!” to that one, and it’s true, it’s so true, and Stef knows it’s true, but she still can’t bring herself to believe it in her heart. GOD. I hate that! I hate it when you’re saying a thing to the woman you love most and that thing is rooted and cushioned in love love love love, but the stupid horrible world has conditioned them to hate themselves and so they can’t hear you! Stef and Lena are the realest, y’all.

When Stef shows up at Ty and AJ’s grandma’s funeral, they’re not there. She blurts out to Mike about the cancer and he doesn’t ask her to talk about it or tell her what to do about it, and it’s the first time I’ve ever been like, “Oh.” I mean, of course someone like Mike is who Stef would go for before she realized she’s a lesbian. He’s a sweet, dumb guy with noble intentions who doesn’t know that’s Stef’s greatest strength is also Stef’s greatest weakness. A turtle’s shell protects and isolates, you know? You’re just as likely to die in there where no one can get in to help you as you are to die from outside enemies trying to attack you! She tells him maybe she’ll get that boob job she always wanted; he says she never needed a boob job.


The only kind of talking I want to do is: dirty.

When Stef gets home, she has finds a letter telling her she’s got an increased likelihood of drying because her mom also has increased likelihood of dying. Or something. A letter! Next thing you know, your doctor will be tweeting you the results of your pap smear! Lena sees her opening the mail and asks if there’s any life-threatening medical diagnoses in there or anything like that, but Stef says nah, it’s just bills and a check for Brandon from the queen of Genovia for one million dollars. She’s excited for his Romeo and Juliet rock opera, and there’s more $$$$ where that came from.

Next week: Brandon discusses Harry Potter with Jude, that fantasy story about the nagging bushy-haired girl who couldn’t let Harry have five damn minutes to reap the sexual rewards of his constant heroism. Jesus joins a drag-racing cult with his new Canadian drug-dealing pal. Emma suggests she and Mariana practice kissing — you know, for their future boyfriends. Grandma Annie teaches everyone a thing or two about surfing. Callie starts a YouTube channel to do tutorials about how to take off a full face of makeup and fake eyelashes in under five seconds. And Stef and Lena make out as much as the actresses who play them. (I WISH.)

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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. literally the only thing that could make me cringe more at stef being all stef-y is stef being all stef-y about her own cancer.

    also like, the kids are just wandering around oblivious while their parents and grandma are debating mastectomies and lumpectomies? cancer and the kids have not yet intersected, correct? i am dreading when that eventually happens.

    • Right? They haven’t even mentioned possibly talking to the kids! Like sure they want to have decisions made before then, but like the kids dont even seem like part of the equation right now. I just know it’ll be all emotional and Brandon is going to be his usual obnoxious self in some upsetting way.

  2. Your recap has been better than the show two weeks in a row now!

    Thank you especially for calling Brandon on his bullshit. I’ve never seen such a self-pitying bunch of white male entitlement coming off an otherwise pretty hip show before. It’s very weird and off-putting.

    Also, reading the recap, all of a sudden I wondered whether Mariana had been running for class president unopposed until Lexie challenged her. There was no one else in their debate and no one else campaigning.

    • So true about the recap being better than the show. That’s the magic of a certified Hogan recap.

  3. I’m a little torn about the direction this whole cancer storyline is taking. On the one hand, one of my biggest pet peeves in story telling is when all of the drama and conflict originates from characters just not communicating with each other. We’ve all read that fanfic that goes on for 30 chapters and the only reason the two characters aren’t together is because they just won’t say words to each other (okay, what I really mean is we’ve all given up on that fic because it’s so frustrating). So I’m a little wary here because the last season ended specifically with Stef and Lena talking about how they needed to talk to each other, and all of a sudden the biggest drama between them is spurred on by them not. talking. to. each. other.

    On the other hand, I’m wondering how much of this is the writers staying true to who Stef is as a character. As you say, she’s a woman who just doesn’t like talking about her feelings, and that is certainly representative of how some people are. And it’s a beautiful juxtaposition between Stef and Lena in terms of how they deal with each other and problems, and how they show love for each other. It’s very, very real.

    I guess I’m just hoping the writers are careful with how they go forward in telling this story. There’s only so many times it will be believable that there are problems between Stef and Lena just because one of them isn’t telling the other one something. No relationship can function without people growing within it, and Stef and Lena deserve that kind of character growth.

    My (least) favorite part of this ep is when Mat is saying he wishes a girl would just fall out of the sky and land in his lap, and as he is saying that, it actually happens to Brandon. Like. Please tell me the writers knew what they were doing there. Please tell me they did that on purpose as a commentary on how Brandon really does get just about anything he wants and needs. Please tell me they are starting to understand that he is the worst.

    Thank you for this lovely recap of this lovely show. :D

  4. Thank you for writing these! You mentioned last time how busy you are and I so appreciate being able to read (and laugh my behind off at) your awesome commentary!

  5. Honestly I’ve never watched this show in my life and I’m pretty sure I never will, but I read all the recaps because you’re awesome and brilliant, Heather Hogan.

  6. The two things I kept yelling at my screen during this episode, over and over and over again:

    1. Stef, stop Steffing it up, and just talk to your damn wife!

    2. Brandon shut the fuck up. Just, shut up. Just, nope.

    I am very much dreading what happens when the kids find out about the cancer. Jude is going to cry, Jesus is going to crash a car at a high speed due to being unable to process his emotions, Callie is going to blame herself, for some reason, and Mariana is going to cure cancer as her senior class project. And Brandon will, of course, somehow make it all about himself.

  7. – Star-crossed lovers? Is Brandon only familiar with the Taylor Swift version of Romeo and Juliet?
    – I have to say I kinda like Lexi For Prexi
    – Loved loved loved Callie calling Brandon out. Too bad she went easy on that entitled asshole
    – Love Mariana’s “Facts of Life” outfit. Blair & Jo forever!
    – Next season: Brandon’s senior project becomes Tony-winning musical !
    – Stef and Lena ARE the realest. So true.

  8. What if it had been Mariana and Callie that had a thing for each other, would everybody here think that it was so terrible? I mean, they weren’t raised as foster siblings and they can’t help it if they fall for each other… A lot of people’s hostility towards “Brallie” seems to be because Brandon is an unlikeable priviliged white boy, (and he totally is. No arguments there,) rather than the fact that they’re foster-siblings…

    • I feel like that would have been a completely different story, though? And it would have to have been re-peopled with different characters to approach anything similar to this situation?

      But as it stands, for me, part of what makes Brandon frustrating in his quest for Callie is how from the beginning he never seems to get the stakes and keeps making it about his feelings instead, and refuses to stop and think about (let alone follow) any of the steps that have been taken to mitigate those risks. And I gotta believe that a lot of that comes from who he is and where he stands in life. Like, the falling for her originally, sure, that’s understandable, but it’s his perseverance despite being foster-siblings and everyone around them throwing up roadblocks that gets me, personally.

      (though, being ace, I always kind of assume all undeniable pantsfeelings are overdramatized and maybe I’m being harsh?)

    • Omg I feel like if it were Mariana and Callie that would be even worse because I like BOTH of them and I would be so sad for their ensuing deeply misguided dyke drama.

      Speaking for myself, I feel like the terrible part about the whole Brallie situation is that they are dealing with a taboo that neither of them are allowed to talk about with adults that could maybe help them process the situation and move along with their lives and develop an appropriate sibling relationship (where they are neither boning nor keeping a huge secret from their whole family). Instead, in order to make sure they could keep Callie, Stef and Lena had to say early on, “Brallie is not a thing, RIGHT?? GOT IT?? Ok GOOD,” and then Callie and Brandon were sort of set off to sea to deal with it badly and alone.

      So yeah, definitely not shipping Calliana over here.

    • If it was Mariana and Callie that plot would be over because Mariana (and Jesus) understands what it’s like to be fostered and adopted and she would not jeopardize that for Callie
      They even said so on a previous season, when they start sharing their rooms if I’m not mistaken

    • Echoing others here, if it were Callie and Mariana as opposed to Callie and Brandon, the dynamics would be changed completely. Not just because they are two women, but also because they both would know what it’s like to be vulnerable to a system they have no control or say in and to be in need or want of family. Those are two important elements that Brandon, in all of his privilege, has shown time and again to be careless with. So I can’t imagine that Callie and Mariana would have let it go on for this far or this long; they would’ve seen the stakes involved.

      I saw similar arguments being made about “Carol” on AS a while back- that if the protagonist was gender flipped, people would see Carol as a predator or perpetuating rape culture. I think that the problem in that line of questioning is that it incorrectly assumes that there can be an even 1-1 switch. Changing the gender of the character changes the entire story.

    • Yes, a thousand times yes, I would think it was just as terrible if if were Mariana and Callie.

      Brandon and Callie are siblings now, not foster siblings, and the show continues to perpetuate them as a romantic pairing. Mariana and Callie are also full siblings. I’m not here for that.

      • I cant stand that this Brandon/Callie thing has been an on-going storyline from the very beginning of the series. I can’t speak for anybody else but my problem with them is less about who Brandon is as a person and everything to do with the fact that they are now siblings living under the same roof. I wish the show had never went there and yet I hear that pairing is very popular so we will likely never be rid of it. What a shame.

        • Exactly. My annoyances with Brandon — and I do have them — are completely separate from why I’m so repulsed by this “love story” never being put to rest. And the PR people for the show tweet CONSTANTLY about “Brallie” and their primary demographic swoons, so it’s not as if they’re trying to now dissociate from this story.

          And the kids thinking that there’s still a chance because they are not blood siblings is pretty depressing to me, considering the show is supposed to be about non-traditional families still being a family like any other, so what’s up with perpetuating the notion that adoptive siblings aren’t “really” siblings? That message makes my blood boil.

    • Thanks for the replies. I wrote this pretty much to get a reaction, and to confirm that people didn’t only hate it because Brandon is a giant d-bag, but also because they are (foster-)siblings.

      • You’ve gotten plenty of responses already, but I want to add that for the first two seasons the show kept abundantly demonstrating that a romantic relationship with Brandon was bad for Callie–because her need for a stable family life was so much more important, because of her very specific baggage from being raped by Liam, and because it was linked to her tendency to self-sabotage because she didn’t believe she’d ever have a real family, etc etc.

        It was also implied that Brandon fell for her in large part because his own baggage meant that he wanted to protect a broken bird. As a the child of an alcoholic, he tends to try to protect the people he loves in immature, screwed-up ways. He blackmails Ana, he hides Mike’s drinking, and he gets involved with Callie when it’s actually not in either of their interests. So it’s hard to see the relationship as good for either character, and it’s painful to watch the show champion it.

        There is extra baggage when one character is a vulnerable girl and the show sometimes seems to argue for her sacrificing the things she needs for the sake of a boy’s love. As others have said, it would be different with Mariana, because Mariana is younger and has very different baggage from her own foster care experience, but it would still make me wince.

  9. I wish Brandon would donate all his time to Marianna.

    Marianna is about three years younger than my sister and she reminds me of her so, so much and I just want her to pull through everything triumphant. Like she always does. I love her so much.


    This is the most stressful show I have ever watched.

  10. Oh man, I hadn’t thought about how the kids are going to handle being told about Steph’s cancer until now!!!!!! That’s going to be heart BREAKING. Time to get the tissues.

    Does anyone know how long Annie Potts is going to be around? I like the dynamics that she brings to the show as a comic relief/ “meddling grandma”.

    It was so nice to see Daphne laughing and joking around! That’s not a side of her character we get to see often, due to life circumstance. I was happy to see her settled and seemingly healthy/ happy. She’s had quite a journey.

    I love how consistent the show has been in Steph’s characterization re: loathing to talk about her feelings. I feel like her Cancer response has been exactly what I expect from her.

    Related to that point, this was also the first time that “got” her and Mike together. The actors did a great job of layering their history into that scene through words unspoken. Even the joke in the end about Steph’s boobs made me chuckle instead of cringe. I think that spoke a lot to the delivery of the scene.

  11. I simply love reading these recaps. I have no clue why Stef can’t just talk for a second. I mean by God, that’s all Lena wants to do. And it’s not like she wouldn’t be able to say anything back. But I guess Stef could be insecure because Lena is still working with Monte and if she has the surgery she feels that maybe Lena won’t be attracted to her anymore.

    It sucks that she might think that but darn. Hopefully she won’t keep the progression of her cancer a secret for too long.

    I also love the Brandon comments. He gets on my nerve.

  12. This was a much better episode than last week’s–the scenes between Grandma and Jude, and between Mike and Stef, and all the Lena and Stef scenes were fantastic. Also Callie telling Brandon off was gratifying.

    I only wish we didn’t have to sit through more of Brandon romancing the model-thin surfer girl.

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