The Fosters: (S3E17) “Sixteen”

Review:

I catch myself, every week during The Fosters episode thinking, what would life have been like if we had this show 10-15 years ago? Would things have been different? And somehow I don’t think I am alone in that. This week’s episode, titled “Sixteen”, followed the family as they prepare for Jesus (Noah Centineo) and Mariana’s (Cierra Ramirez) 16th Birthday, and we all know they like a party. Not only was this story arc one full of drama, the stories that unfolded around it demonstrated again, The Fosters ability to really hit every button when it comes to “family drama”. The first few minutes set up just how the episode was going to go – Jesus and Mariana argue about what type of birthday party they want, Jude (Hayden Byerly) is planning to visit Connor (Gavin Macintosh), Brandon (David Lambert) is a little on edge about R + J and the Mamas are supporting one another as Lena (Sherri Saum) is off to deal with yet another Monte (Annika Marks) conundrum. With the bickering between the twins nearly unbearable, Nick comes in with a “boyfriend of the year” offer to host both parties at his parent’s warehouse – much to Brandon’s dismay. With the franticness that is Fosters breakfast, Jesus accidentally picks up Jude’s phone and obviously sees something he shouldn’t (it’s happened to the best of us).

Brandon and Callie (Maia Mitchell) this week, had the challenge of dealing with now both of them being in separate relationships. Their initial exchange is awkward, and laced with the tiniest bit of jealousy, that may indicate just a bit of unresolved tension. They decide (not convincingly) that neither party will bring their significant other home. Ok guys that can only work for so long right? Not only that, it is obvious both are in the “honeymoon” stage, enjoying the newness, and uncomplicated nature that comes with a new relationship (along with copious amounts of making out). AJ (Tom Williamson) and Callie have a chemistry that is so child-like, something so obvious when Callie can’t help but smile when AJ is around. Add to that, the fact AJ already worships the ground she walks on and yet at the same time can call her out when she is acting weird, shows us as an audience that maybe this is what Callie needs. Meanwhile, Brandon comes clean to Courtney (who isn’t stupid and already figured it out), about Callie and their history. Her reaction, calm and collected, displays the maturity and wisdom that comes from age and raising her own child. And when Brandon is faced with news about Courtney (she still lives with her ex), he demonstrates his growth by accepting that fact and moving past it. Both Callie and Brandon are evolving this season, and individually it is a joy to watch.

Lena is on damage control this week after finding out about Sally and Monte. First up, she meets with Monte to discuss the game plan but to also get to the bottom of it; there are two sides to every story right? With their history as well as a professional responsibility, Lena has to ask “You didn’t kiss her did you?” which Monte responds to with a simple “No”. Monte goes on to explain that Sally misinterpreted the communication, and that she spoke to Sally about this already. Lena and Monte find each other on opposite sides again; Lena wanting to report the indiscretion, but Monte not wanting to report or go further with the situation in order to save Sally the embarrassment. Too bad Sally’s parents already know, and after discovering Monte is a self-confessed bisexual are wanting her fired. Through the severity of this situation the audience is gifted with another indication that the Mamas are evolving; no longer are the days where communication has broken down, but now are the days of open, honest dialogue. Stef offers her opinion in regards to Monte, and her response is to be expected – with her history, is it so out of the ordinary to think Monte did this?

Mariana this week is on her own mission to right the wrongs of the past; she is attempting, with the help of Ana (Alexandra Barreto), to clear Gabe’s (Brandon Quinn) name from the sex offender list. With all the plans set in motion, she leaves Ana to catch up with Gabe so she can get ready for her party. Cut to the party, where everyone seems to be having a good time until the boys (who have been skating) cannot resist any longer, joining the girls upstairs to dance the night away. Jesus is not happy; all he wanted was to skate, eat pizza and chill with his boys. As he enjoys the solitude of the skate park, Mama Stef (Teri Polo) approaches asking him what is wrong – “she gets everything she wanted” – he snaps in reference to Mariana. Teri Polo and Noah Centineo are chemistry magic; Noah continues to bring a certain level to Jesus we haven’t seen previously and Teri, in the quietest moments, offers some of the most visceral acting. The mother/son dynamic these two actors have created is bouncing off the screen, none more so when Stef assures her son that it is ok to be curious, and that no matter what her and Lena are there to ensure he has enough self-esteem and love to deal with whatever is thrown his way.

From one wise Mama, we revisit the other; Sally arrived at the party a little earlier, and after seeing her dancing quite closely to another girl, Lena has possibly solved the Monte/Sally problem. Approaching Sally in a quieter moment, the two exchange pleasantries, before Lena, whose intuition is always right, offers some advice. With lines like “your parents expect a lot from you” to “feeling so much pressure not to disappoint” as an audience, we start to understand what Sally is up against. As someone, who up until a year ago, remained closeted and closed off to keep the peace and to keep from not disappointing my parents, this storyline resonates. All situations and experiences are different, we know that, but the universal nature of the fear one feels when faced with the decision to speak or not to speak that is real. But when Sherri Saum delivered the following lines as Lena – a mother, an educator – with poise and passion and guidance, the fear one human may have had to speak their truth, is now a little less.

“Being who you think your parents want you to be, makes it hard to be who you really are. You have a right to be yourself, to be proud. You don’t need to feel ashamed.” – Lena Adams Foster

Last year, The Fosters made history with Jonnor, and this week progressed the story in a way all young, curious teenagers and young adults could relate to. Sex. For the first time. Jude, after receiving a photo from Connor, is a little out of sorts as to the meaning of the text. He first approaches Jesus – a brotherly talk we haven’t seen for a while – in which the advice offered involves googling, porn and ensuring a sock is on the door (Jude time). This type of conversation, I can only imagine having happened between my two younger brothers. After following Jesus’ advice, Jude is overwhelmed. He asks his moms if it would be possible to refund the train ticket to go visit Connor – his excuses don’t necessarily convince the all-knowing Mamas – but they approve nonetheless. Later on, after another, very rare exchange between Jesus and Callie, Callie learns just what is bothering her younger brother. With some stealth sisterly curiosity (a couple of white lies), Callie successfully gets Jude to open up. Hayden Byerly does a beautiful job; he portrays the naivety and nervousness I’m sure we can all relate to when a relationship moves into that next stage. The writing is pretty flawless; his questions ideally worded and his delivery as innocent as can be. Following this conversation, Jonnor is reunited via skype. In addition to exploring the fear surrounding one’s “first time”, Jonnor touches upon the struggle of maintaining a long distance relationship. Gavin and Hayden deliver an honest performance, highlighting how a little distance can sometimes make a big difference. That maybe, when we have space, we start to figure out who we are, individually. The love is there, that is undeniable, but sometimes timing and growth have other plans, a sentiment The Fosters explore so deeply and in a variety of ways.