Three weeks into Season 3B, as an audience, we’ve seen each member of the Fosters clan grapple with tough situations from a possible cancer diagnosis, to drug use, and cyber stalking. As a family drama, The Fosters accurately and consistently offers us all something to relate to, and that is no different in this week’s episode. Titled “If and When” we begin in this Fosters kitchen. Will (Rob Morrow) and Sharon (Annie Potts) are inspecting mushrooms. Big mushrooms. Are they rotten? Let’s hope not. I’m not sure the Fosters has delivered two more suited guest-stars than Rob and Annie; with their chemistry magic and comic genius, the banter between the two has added another level to this ensemble. And who would of thought that mushrooms would make a good segway to breast cancer?
Nonetheless, the snarky (out of love) remarks from Sharon are priceless. No underhanded sarcastic jabs are more hilarious than when Stef (Teri Polo) and Sharon are on screen. As the cancer discussion starts again, it is still wife versus mother with Stef caught in the middle. Both make valid arguments and both undeniably are coming from a place of love. I don’t blame Stef however, for cutting them off. She barely looks like she is holding it together (Bravo, Teri Polo). Please note the hilarious delivered line here… “Speaking of staying, when are you guys going?” As Brandon (David Lambert) arrives with Mike (Danny Nucci) in tow, Sharon and Will leave but not before Sharon gets one last guilt trip in.
We cut to Callie (Maia Mitchell) where she is trying to work out this cyber AJ lead. Is it AJ? How can she be sure? We then move to garage where, HELLO! Matt (fellow Aussie Jordan Rodrigues) is practicing a musical piece for the R + J Senior project. Man can that boy sing! And so we have our Romeo. But wait, now who is Juliet? Matt suggests Tayla (she’s the best singer in drama class) cue the awkward “I don’t want m ex in my musical because, WEIRD!” from Brandon. He’s adamant about doing auditions, and wants none of the Tayla business. We quickly revisit Mike and Stef in the kitchen, where she is typing up the warrant for Ty’s arrest that much to Mike’s disapproval includes AJ. By the letter of the law AJ ran away possibly knowing the truth about Ty, therefore he is in trouble. Stef isn’t budging.
Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) who is frantically trying to pick out a future class president outfit with no help from Callie. The shade and sass that Cierra brings to Mariana is one of my favourite things. To make matters worse Nick and Jesus (Noah Centineo) burst into the bedroom in the middle of a nerf gun war, while Mariana stands without a shirt on. “Nice rack” Nick remarks smoothly. The next scene, I believe, shows us the depth Noah Centineo has added to Jesus. Nick questions Jesus about the family, his history and asks whether knowing his biological dad has ever been a desire. The realization that maybe it is something he wants to do is so subtle yet perfectly delivered from Centineo. In the meantime Callie has asked Mariana to track AJ via the messenger conversation, results turn up saying that AJ is in San Diego. Really? He’s close by. Callie organises to meet up with AJ the next day.
Ana is back and is over for a visit with Isabella which Jesus sees as the perfect time to broach the subject of his birth dad. Who is he? His name is Gabriel, it wasn’t anything serious, that’s all Ana can remember. Quick cut to Sharon and Will departing with a hilarious “Goodbye” monologue, laced with so much sarcasm any mother who has ever guilt tripped their children would bow down to. It is short lived however, seeing as the RV fails to start. Seems like they are staying a little longer (Note: we learn later on that Will rigged the RV not to start to ensure Sharon was there for Stef. Oh shucks, he’s totally a keeper).
This week, a theme emerged in regards to character evolution in which quite a few of the Fosters clan acknowledged past indiscretions, admitted to mistakes and illustrated the importance of cutting people some slack. We are family after all (Bravo Brandon, standing up for AJ was brilliantly done). Adriana confronts Jesus about having a possible contact for his birth dad, a construction site where he works — does he want the details? When we finally see Jude (Hayden Byerly) for the first time this week he is playing Xbox with new friend Jack. This kid is a little weird, he just wants to play Xbox, he doesn’t want to eat and eventually takes himself off for a nap in the Mamas bed. This slow build of weirdness finally gets Jude, who is still grieving over Connor leaving, all fired up (Who are you? Goldilocks?).
As Callie waits to meet up with AJ, Raphael from the drop-in center walks in, she’s thrown. Not only that AJ doesn’t show up. That afternoon her phones rings, it is a unknown number and with encouragement from Mariana, Callie answers. It’s AJ. And he isn’t in San Diego. Callie has been catfished! She now realises that maybe the situation is a little more than she can handle, and goes to Stef with the information. Callie is worried for AJ, and she trusts Stef to bring him home.
As Matt and Brandon hold auditions for R+J, Tayla puts her best foot forward and delivers a pretty decent audition. Matt is sold. Brandon not so much. Cue another witty back and forth between the two when none other than Mariana walks in. She wants to audition. But what about junior class president?… She didn’t win. Lexi did. With that, she delivers a stellar audition (Cierre Ramirez has an epic set of pipes), forcing Matt to now be the bigger person and move past his hurt feelings to eventually offer Mariana the part of Juliet. It is within this beat of the episode that many characters overcome opinions and assumptions to move forward and be the bigger person. Jude apologises to Jack for wigging out on him earlier, and Brandon informs Callie of the real reason Ty and AJ ran away.
As the episode begins to close, Jesus is at the construction site. He approaches the guy Nick claimed could be his father (not Gabriel). And from there secures a visual on the real Gabriel, lies about his age and gets himself a job. Why do I feel like this could end in heartbreak? Or injury? Either way, Noah Centineo eloquently displayed what it must feel like to see someone who you’ve always wanted to know. Stellar Centineo, stellar.
AJ and Ty are arrested, in a scene that is beautifully shot and edited, Mike is hurt while Stef looks neither pleased nor upset. You can see she’s a woman with so much on her mind. Back at the house, Callie confronts Stef about keeping the information regarding Ty from her. Callie states that she shouldn’t have trusted her. Little does Callie know that Stef is helping AJ out, protecting him. You go Mama Tiger! As the Mamas are left to ponder all that is happening with their brood, Stef apologises for dismissing Lena (Sherri Saum) earlier but says that she has heard Lena’s opinion. Does this mean Stef has made a decision? As we all breathe a sigh of relief as Stef walks over and pulls out the results letter (no more secrets ladies), they have a short but brief conversation. Lena doesn’t even need to say anything, she knows what the decision is. And with that Stef states, ever so shakily, that it isn’t a matter of if she gets cancer, it is now a matter of when.
From the moment AJ is arrested, it becomes more obvious how much Stef is struggling. Teri Polo continues to shine in this role, as the character evolution of Stef is, and has been a slow burn. After 3 years, we know she’s stubborn, we know that everyone else is her priority and we know showing weakness doesn’t come easy for her. Teri continues to deliver week after week moments of sheer despair smoothly transitioned to stoic and put together strength. Not only that, Sherri Saum as a scene partner continues to be ever present. She is understated yet completely powerful as Lena and continues to floor the audience with her ability to tap into some depth-defying emotion. To add, the hints of Mama Tiger in Lena is a welcome change and oh so exciting. Watching these two characters evolve and tackle a daily occurrence so many women and families face is a true testament to the team at The Fosters.
From wife we go to mother, and can I just say (again) Annie Potts and Teri Polo are absolute perfection as mother and daughter. Effortless portrayal of such a complicated yet understanding bond. I’m not sure I’ll get over this short yet telling exchange where we learn that Stef has opted for a double mastectomy:
Sharon: “What can I do?”
And with that, our hearts once again belong to the ladies of the Fosters.
Cut to Callie in her bedroom, she’s determined to find out who the Catfish is. As she admits to knowing that they are lying about being AJ, we discover that the catfish is JACK! Jude’s new friend. Who I might add is in the next room… Theories? Should we be worried? What’s Jack’s story?
Special mention must go to the soundtrack of this episode. Talk about the right synergy between scene and sound. Kudos Bradley Bredeweg and Peter Paige.