The Fosters: (S3E15) “Minor Offenses”

Review:

The second part of Season 3, has seen The Fosters delve deeper and with an unparalleled commitment, into health and societal issues. The week’s episode titled “Minor Offenses” opened with a short film endorsing the foster care system which within seconds wraps you up. Closing with a statement from Callie (Maia Mitchell), the message a system broken down and needing repair was delivered passionately and with precision. We discover in the closing moments, that it is in support of a foster care reform bill. The weight of this issue is beautifully handled by Maia, and the responsibility she feels to portray it so authentically is obvious in this episode.

As we cut to the moms (Sherri Saum and Teri Polo), Callie and Justina (Kelli Williams) sitting around the table after watching it, Callie is beaming with pride. Asking their opinion, Callie is quite taken aback by their lack lustre response. Stef notes concern regarding the fact Callie is yet to read the bill and doesn’t necessarily know or understand what she is actually supporting. The slow build of Justina’s reveal as the big villain has been enticing and this week, this scene does not do anything to calm our fears. Stef is keyed into it and so is Lena, they are cautious and question to what extent they and Callie can trust her. This doesn’t go over well with Callie especially after Justina reveals that they have been asked to attend the Foster Care Symposium at the White House. Yes, you read that correctly, the White House. Callie becomes increasingly agitated that the moms aren’t as accommodating and supportive – “what is wrong with you guys?” – And we understand, but also we know that Justina is a snake. Just you wait Callie.

*Note: the small shift in movement from Stef, where Lena cautiously asks if she’s ok? We can assume the surgery has taken place. With subtle physical aspects of her performance, Teri Polo once again, delivers nuanced work.

A knock on the door breaks up this heated discussion, and we find none other than Mike (Danny Nucci) and AJ (Tom Williamson). After offering his sincerest apologies for his behaviour regarding Ty, the family accepts and states they understand, that family is everything. As the characters disperse, Mike checks in with Stef to see how she is doing and we learn that currently she is 10 days post-op and she is recovering well. Elsewhere, Callie confronts AJ about visiting him in juvie, it is a short conversation with AJ uncomfortable, upset or mad (all of them, maybe). The next morning, at school, Mariana and Lexi share an awkward conversation before Nick (who thinks he is way too cool for school) asks Mariana out, again. But for real this time. Elsewhere at Anchor Beach, Lena and Monte (Annika Marks) are listening to Sally present a proposal on behalf of the honour board. Wanting to do it for her senior thesis also, Lena states that she is unable to sign off as it is against the rules. Cue the tension.

Welcome back Rita! Rosie O’Donnell is back and she’s back to do what she does best; support, mentor and offer a verbal smack-down here or there. Callie is visiting to ask whether Rita would be ok with Callie writing her senior thesis on her. As they sit and catch up, Callie fills in Rita on the happenings of everything Fost and Found, the news of the White house and the reform bill. Rita has already heard about the bill. She’s got connections and according to her, the bill is giving 50% of funds to privatised homes – exactly what Justina said would NOT happen. See, she’s shady! What follows is a Callie Adams Foster mic drop delivered unwaveringly by Maia Mitchell when she finally confronts Justina about her motives and the true nature of this bill. I have say it is hard to hate a character played by Kelli Williams, but through this whole encounter, the manipulation and control she uses over Callie is sickening. Yet, somehow Callie remains strong in her stance next to Justina. She revisits Rita after reading the bill and feels like it makes sense, this scene felt more like Callie was trying to talk herself into the bill than supporting the bill wholeheartedly. As Rita and Callie come to blows, in what involved gut-punch remarks, Rita leaves the room. From this, we can assume that this new journey will see Callie find her passion but at what cost will it come?

Jesus (Noah Centineo) and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) spent the episode pretty much as siblings should, butting heads. After the discovery late last week that Gabe is on the sex offender’s registry, Mariana has since told Jesus. Noah Centineo is doing a stellar job of revolutionising Jesus, especially in the moments of emotional turmoil and drama. His ability, very much through his eyes, to convey the feelings of the scene have me hooked on where this story will go. As he demands Gabe stay away from him, that he knows what he did, our hearts break. Add the return of the tool-belt and our hearts just rip again. Mariana still finds it baffling that Jesus cares enough to return it to Gabe and with that starts this weeks “Twin vs. Twin”.

In all the hustle and bustle that is their house, the mamas manage to share a few quiet moments together. The first of which sees Lena undressing and re-dressing behind the wardrobe door, and with a shot of Stef we’re all left wondering what exactly Lena is doing. It is these kinds of scenes, the short but simple, with a focus on the physicality of acting and not the dialogue, which Saum and Polo have perfected together. Interrupted by Mariana and the news of Jesus finding their birth father, the Mamas quickly transition in to tiger mode. Stef becomes impassioned and protective in a blink of an eye, ensuring that she isn’t over-reacting but making sure that her children understand how serious the situation with Gabe is. Cierra and Noah both do a brilliant job of portraying the emotions in this scene, and could not be any more child-like if they tried.

When Jesus learns that Mariana and Nick are going out, even when there is clear rule stating that they won’t date each other’s friends, his scheming hat is on. Said scheme we find out involves a double-date. And yes it all went as you predicted, horribly. Not to mention, boys will be boys participating in a high-speed, highly dangerous drag race. Mariana is evidently unimpressed and the event consequently brings Lexi and her back on to common ground. Here to hoping these two get back to being there for one another; sisters over mister’s right? Checking back in with the moms, Stef (as independent as ever) is re-wrapping herself when Lena walks back in and the not knowing what to do, how to act and where to look is more evident. This scene offers a raw and very real vision of what occurs post-surgery for women all over the world. The Fosters aren’t over-dramatizing it at all yet have beautifully touched upon the pre and post aspects of such an experience.

We see Brandon (David Lambert) for the first time this week, pulling up at the bar, Courtney outside. They share some witty banter with an obvious spark, but still, Courtney assures him that it isn’t going to work. The persistent Brandon and the way that David brings him to life, is one of my favourite sides to this character. For the first time since Callie, Brandon seems genuinely interested, and committed to making this work with Courtney. Even if it does involve a plus one. He continues to show up, and go out of his way to “woo” her – the cute little dinner date and offering to look after her son were definitely point winners. The scene in which he discovers the bear is telling. Is he searching for a sign? An answer? I don’t think Brandon knows just yet. But I do think he realises that his feelings for her aren’t going away, and that wasting time wondering is not going to do him any favours. However, what will happen when he realises that Callie may be moving on too? Will Brallie realise again that moving on may not be possible? And so the merry-go-round keeps turning.

Gifted with another moment of quietness, the mamas are engaging in their now normal before bed routine; Lena is once again getting changed behind the wardrobe door, out of sight. This time, Stef is more direct with a strength in her words that will settle for nothing less than the truth. Lena admits to feeling guilty, guilty that her body remains the same. She doesn’t want to make Stef uncomfortable or jealous. She knows it is a stupid concern, but it is there. Sherri Saum has worked Lena in a way that her honesty with Stef, throughout this ordeal, is never overtly cut-throat; it is always genuine, compassionate and undeniably understanding. The evolution, and off-screen work these characters have done to move forward past “Monte-gate” is evident in these moments. Previously, neither party may not have completely heard the other, but right now they are working together; communicating openly, honestly and emotionally. Teri Polo continues to give authenticity to this storyline in the most understated yet overwhelming way. The small winces of pain, in contrast to her jokes and sarcasm show us that this has not, and will not beat Stef. Yet, behind the eyes the fear still remains, the uncertainty; both emotions that Saum and Polo deliver effortlessly. The writers have delivered this cast with some of the most soul-reaching and ground-shaking lines, that leave you speechless, cheering or crying.

“And for the record, you’re not what makes me feel worse. You are what makes me feel better.” – Stef Adams Foster

AJ and Callie visit his grandmothers’ gravesite where they finally share an honest heart to heart. He admits to feeling embarrassed, and knew he had lost his chance at being with Callie. Cue the kiss. The episode finishes with Jesus attempting to reconcile with Gabe – Ana has informed the twins that him being a sex offender came about when they first dated – who is not having a bar of it, “I’m not your father and never will be.”

 Other key notes:

  • Monte throwing shade about letting Jesus back into Anchor Beach isn’t over. It’s about to get nasty.
  • Ty is sentenced to 18 months in jail.
  • Rob Morrow directed the hell out of this episode.