The Fosters (S4E02): “Safe”

Review

On the back of last week’s Season 4 premiere, which saw Anchor Beach go into lockdown after Nick (Louis Hunter) was believed to be inside with a gun, the Adams Foster family returned home understandably shaken. The Fosters continued to explore the issue surrounding gun safety and gun control this week, with Nick having last been seen sitting on Mariana’s (Cierra Ramirez) bed. But after Stef (Teri Polo) having swept the house and cleared it, this week’s episode, titled “Safe”, opens on the family all arriving home and taking a seat in the living room. From the start, Rob Morrow continued his eerily, stunning direction with a slow-moving shot of the entire family; add to that the wind blowing, the audience immediately knew what tone was being set. It isn’t long however, before the kids start in on one another, specifically Mariana and Jesus (Noah Centineo) who can’t believe she kissed Mat (Jordan Rodrigues) goodbye. No wonder Nick doesn’t believe her. The tension is palpable with the shock still raw for all members of the family. Stef takes control assuring everyone that they are safe, but just to cover all bases she confiscates their phones and laptops to restrict any social media access. The Mama shade thrown by Lena in this sequence is gold, encouraging Jesus to “read a book” to which he replies “we read them on our phone”. Oh Joanna Johnson, the writing within these first few minutes is brilliant.

After giving the kids their marching orders – doors stay open, and if they need to talk, they talk, there is no shutting down – the moms are confronted with Brandon (David Lambert) and Callie (Maia Mitchell) who seem ready (not ready) for the stern talking to they’ve been waiting for. But Stef says it isn’t the right time. Brandon exits the house to retrieve his keyboard from the garage; and as he’s doing so, there’s a noise, and he quickly leaves. While the camera stays, it moves to reveal a hidden away Nick in the corner of the roof. Left alone to sit with the events of the day, both Stef and Lena look concerned and wary; Lena questions whether the phone confiscation was necessary with Stef replying she doesn’t want to risk anything especially with the situation with “Fost and Found”. Speaking of not risking anything, she informs Lena that there will be a car stationed outside just as a precaution. With only being two episodes into this new season, the Mamas are already displaying a new level of communication and togetherness, so in tune and so honest.

It seems as though everyone is on edge this episode, and we can’t blame them. Callie is enjoying some down time, or trying to anyway when we see someone walking towards her while she’s lying on her bed. She jumps halfway off the bed, but is relieved when it’s only AJ (Tom Williamson); he heard about the lockdown and “Fost and Found” and wanted to check up on her. Mariana overhears and when she finds out exactly what’s been going on, she commandeers AJ’s laptop to try and do her best detective work. She doesn’t want Justina (Kelli Williams) getting away with this, and is enraged as such, but Callie however seems well and truly over it. Later that night, the family attempts to watch a G-rated movie in the hope of lightening the mood after such a dark day. Unfortunately and much to Lena’s disappointment, the kids continue to bicker. Or should I say Mariana and Jesus. Stef makes a break for it, heading into the kitchen to make some more popcorn. It is in there that she sees the garage door swing open and bang – Brandon, you were told to lock it behind you. 

After clearing the garage, Stef is on edge for the rest of the night. Jumping at shadows, the wind and all the noises in the house. She finds Brandon and Callie talking in his room; come on guys, don’t make the situation worse. After dismissing Callie to her room, and diffusing a confrontational Brandon – forbidding him from helping Cortney move the next day – Jude (Hayden Byerly) has woken to all the commotion. What we are gifted with next is an open, honest and truly gorgeous moment between Stef and Jude. Jude has just dreamt about Jack and asks Stef whether this ever occurred after her father died. She admits it did, and even more so that there were signs from him – the snow in “Padre” – that gave her comfort. It’s rare that we’ve seen Jude and Stef share such a sweet moment, and with the acknowledgement of how much loss Jude has experienced, Stef reminds him just how loved he is. Teri Polo and Hayden Byerly give us every bit of vulnerability and grief that comes along with loss, so fluidly. 

The next morning, everyone seems a little bit less on edge – there has been reports of Nick being spotted, so the family can rest a little easier. With no luck resolving the noise in the attic however, the audience could start to assume that maybe Nick has been hiding up there. When Stef finds out that Brandon has blatantly disobeyed her, and has gone to help Cortney move house, she’s livid. Meanwhile, Lena has taken Jude to recover Jack’s ashes after discovering his Aunt didn’t have the money to pick them up. It has to be mentioned that the recreation of that ever so famous shower scene had the audience on the edge of their seats. Accurately shot and recreated, we were half expecting it to be Nick, but in fact it was Callie. Mariana is shocked and relieved, and once that dies down the two share a conversation about Brandon and Callie. Mariana seems surprisingly understanding, and at the same time determined to make Justina pay. 

Elsewhere, Stef has arrived at Cortney’s house just before Brandon and his new girlfriend go for round two. Oh the timing. I’ve got to say, Teri Polo continues to shine, her work this episode specifically so evolutionary; from protective, to vulnerable, and from disciplinarian, to wife and mother. It’s a combination of the above, when her and David Lambert deliver a rousing argument regarding the Callie of it all. Brandon continues to defend his behaviour with Callie, over and over again and for the first time Stef isn’t having it. He deceived them, and there is no excuse for what he did. They’re both as stubborn as the other, and with both not budging Brandon makes a stand. He’s not coming home; quick note on the way David plays this moment. Brandon is barely able to look Stef in the eye, illustrating his determination in remaining strong in the face of his mother. Stef takes the information, hurt and disappointed, and with the attitude we love about her, wishes him luck with that and leaves. 

Mariana has gone upstairs to attempt to nap after helping Callie take down Justina, when we see her wide eyed, lying on her bed. Soon enough, Nick – whose been hidden for the majority of the episode – appears. He tells her not to scream, that he just wants to talk, but the gun he’s holding tells another story. This exchange starts off a haunting exchange between Mariana and Nick, bought to life by the fearless talent that is Cierra Ramirez and Louie Hunter. Nick is sad, distraught, grappling with demons even Mariana had no idea about; saying things like “I need to understand why” and “too many voices” and “I begged him not to hit me” and “he humiliated” me, we get an idea of his history. Mariana does her best to ensure the situation doesn’t become worse, listening to everything Nick says, ensuring him that he’s not alone, that she’s there and that she loves him. While all this is happening the family is downstairs completely unaware; Lena walks in on Callie and AJ making out, Jude is in possession of Jack’s ashes and Stef arrives soon after still fired up from her confrontation with Brandon.

AJ leaves as soon as he and Callie are interrupted, allowing the conversation to move to Jack’s ashes; Jude was thinking he could bury them under Frankie’s tree. Callie is cautious at the request, but Lena says that that would be a fantastic idea. It must be noted how beautiful a job Joanna Johnson did in incorporating previous but influential moments from the Fosters family pasts. After the mention of Padre earlier, and Lena’s engagement about Frankie, the growth and healing both moms have experienced is witnessed. Meanwhile, Mariana has since begged Nick not to hurt her and in fact, he has no intention of doing so. What he does though, is turn the gun on himself, with The Fosters once again not shying away from exploring the real life experience and importance of suicide prevalence, as well as suicide watch and prevention. Cierra Ramirez is both heartbreaking and stoic as Mariana in these moments, while Louis Hunter plays Nick’s pain and anguish in the most visceral of ways. Elsewhere, Jude and Callie are spending some time together in his room; Jude admits to missing Connor, as well as apologising to his sister for saying she always lies. This comment makes Callie uncomfortable, understandably, as her secret with Brandon still remains somewhat hidden from her beloved younger brother.

The moms are continuing their discussion regarding Brandon and his decisions to stay at Cortney’s when there is a knock on the door. It’s Mat. He wants to see Mariana, and with a momentary pause, Stef tells him she’s upstairs. Cue the simultaneous “No” from the audience as he makes his way to her bedroom. In the meantime, Callie has walked into the bathroom and witnesses in the reflection of the mirror, Nick with the gun to his head. She rushes back out, stops Mat from entering and urges him to go get Stef. It has to be said the entire tone of these first two episodes has been haunting; last week it was the long moments of silence, this week, the wind outside and the way in which Rob Morrow has placed the shots, adds a definite Hitchcock-esque feel to the entire story. It’s brilliantly done, adding a layer of reality to an already honestly portrayed story. Stef and Lena have made their way upstairs, frantic and deeply concerned for their daughter; as Stef ushers everyone into another bedroom she approaches through the bathroom.Upon entering the room she sees Nick, now laying across Mariana’s lap, calm and somewhat at peace. The gun has been placed next to Mariana, and with a quiet whisper of her name, Stef is able to alert her daughter to her presence. In a swift motion, Stef recovers the gun, while softly assuring Nick that it is ok. This scene is heartbreaking from all angles; Nick clings to Mariana with all the energy he has left, while Stef pulls her the other way, wanting to make sure her daughter is safe. Nick finally relents, and with a few quiet words from Stef – “It’s ok” and “You’re going to be fine” – Mariana is safely within her mother’s arms and then urged to leave the room. The closing of this moment, sees a deeply broken Nick being escorted away by police officers. 

Mariana and Jesus share a tender moment together; Mariana tries to make sense of the whole situation while Jesus wonders how she did it. She just said that she kept him talking, and eventually he cried in my arms. He’s so sad. Cierra Ramirez, on par with Louis Hunter delivered a gripping performance, and in these finals moments her shock is raw. Meanwhile, Callie and Jude lay Jack’s ashes to rest below Frankie’s tree while the Mamas watch on. Lena is shaken, deeply, insisting they get an alarm and bars on the windows. Stef hugs her close, and ensures her wife that she is safe, that it’ll be ok. Sherri Saum and Teri Polo are bringing a new light and shade to Stef and Lena this season; the communication, the love, the nuance and relationship have a tenderness, an understanding, and a newfound commitment. Their ability to go from disciplinarian parents, to vulnerable human beings in the span of moments continues to be just a few of the qualities that set them apart from others. They share a short discussion about what to do about Callie, they are at a crossroads, and both hurt in different ways about what has happened. And as the episode ends, Callie hugs Jude and locks eyes with Lena but no sooner had this happened, does Lena look away. It’s subtle, but telling. Who knows what lies ahead for the Adams Foster family, but after these two episodes, it is well and truly fact that this new season is off and running.

Other key notes:

– Mariana and Callie developed an elaborate plan to take down Justina. 

– The Mamas continue to communicate openly and positively, specifically towards how to deal with Callie and Brandon