The Fosters (S4E03): "Trust"

Three episodes in and The Fosters are going from strength to strength on all fronts this season. From giving a continued voice to issues of social relevance with fearlessness and poignancy, to exploring the dynamics of family relationships, The Fosters Season 4 is leaving no stone unturned. This week’s episode, aptly titled “Trust”, follows our beloved Fosters as each member experiences just what “trust” means to them. We are given examples of a breakdown in trust, communication of trust and how one might go about regain the truth of another. The opening scene involves our Mamas and Callie (Maia Mitchell); they have finally sat down to discuss the situation involving Brandon (David Lambert), and the Moms are letting her have it. They are disappointed, and even with continued apologies Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum) inform Callie that they are reversing her adoption. Cue the gasp from the extended Fosters Fandom as there is a knock on the door; Stef goes to open it and reveals Callie’s social worker. Or should I say Mom. What? Hold up. With a jerk, Callie wakes from her dream/nightmare to find that that was all it was. It’s telling though; the fear she holds not knowing where she stands in the family.
The next morning, Callie is even more anxious when the Moms ask her to hang back after everyone has left for breakfast. They just wanted to encourage her to rise above and be the bigger person when it comes to rumours and gossip. Callie stands, fidgeting and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Thankfully, again, there was nothing to be concerned about. As Callie leaves, Stef takes the opportunity to check in with her wife as Lena is evidently still shaken, on edge. This becomes even more so, when she questions Stef about the alarms; Stef seems surprised that Lena is so persistent, possibly even a little concerned that her wife is still struggling. It is in these quiet moments, where the dialogue is simple yet profound, that the physicality and expressiveness of Saum and Polo shine. Elsewhere, Brandon is bonding with Mason over breakfast – by bonding I mean throwing Cheerio’s at one another – when Cortney breaks the news that Eddie can’t babysit. Brandon saves the day however, offering to come home from school and babysit. Seems as though he’s well and truly becoming an adult, yet when he leaves soon after to discover Stef has taken the car, reality hits him hard.
Arriving at Anchor Beach, Callie was quick to notice how similar to juvie it looked – the large fences, the security checks and metal detectors – but after the lockdown, no risks are being taken. Stef is standing watch when Brandon storms towards her demanding an explanation about the car; she could have told him she was going to take it. I have to give it to Teri Polo and David Lambert, these scenes where Brandon and Stef face-off with all their stubbornness on show, are some of the sassiest yet real-to-life exchanges between mother and son. Add to that the Lena shade thrown at Stef and the entire scene is family drama and comedy all wrapped into one. With The Fosters now in their fourth season, the chemistry between the cast, and knowingness of their characters and relationships continues to elevate the stories. Shortly after his confrontation with Stef, Brandon is confronted by Callie who can’t seem to understand why he is acting this way. He doesn’t want everyone staring and watching everything he does, and it’s obvious how upset he is that their secret is out. And when he blatantly states that it was Callie who told, not him, Callie is left to feel the pain and the guilt slowly increase. To make matters worse, a student approaches her soon after and questions “Do you only sleep with your brother, or do I have a chance?” to that Callie replies by punching him in the face. Can we blame her? No, not at all. Even after she’s suspended by Lena, Stef voices the entire Fosters Fandom by admitting she would have punched him too.
Elsewhere, Jesus (Noah Centineo) and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) are participating in a student grief counselling session when Mariana is confronted with questions from other students regarding Nick (Louis T. Hunter). The students are ruthless, assigning the blame to Mariana because she “cheated” on him; it doesn’t take much however, for Jesus to stand up for his sister. Noah Centineo continues to illustrate his range this season, from impassioned brother to flirty, hormone-ravaged teenager, he’s got Jesus on all levels. After witnessing Jesus’ speech, Emma (Amanda Leighton) is, to put it simply, turned on. Initially confused by the proposal, Jesus asks “his friend” (looks downwards) and accepts. Well done, writers, well done. Mariana, in contrast, is the victim of bullying this episode first witnessed when a flyer is left in her locker calling her a “whore” and later on when the students craft an insult out of her last name (Mariana “Fostwhore” to which she responds it’s “Adams Fostwhore”). 
Callie, who was instructed to go home, has made a pit-stop at a local coffee shop when she meets Aaron – a 19 year old, leather jacket wearing, motorbike riding, and law student. They start talking, Callie lies about what she does and her name, but the two quickly connect. And when she discovers that he has a passion for social justice, specifically the juvenile system, you can see her interest peak. That interest peaks so much, that when Aaron leaves Callie follows him, asking if he’s got a spare helmet. Oh goodness, Callie, come on, don’t get into any more trouble. Meanwhile, Lena reaches out to Brandon, checking that he is eating enough and all those other things mother’s ask but soon finds out that he hasn’t been practicing enough for Julliard. She assures him that he is more than welcome to play the piano at home, and he eventually takes her up on the offer. After he arrives and begins to fade into his own little world, Stef returns home, and joyfully listens to her son play. Even with the tension earlier, they share a happy moment of reminiscing when we witness Brandon acknowledge just how such Stef has done for him. It’s purely heart-warming, and takes Stef a little by surprise with her stubborn exterior torn down immediately. She even asks if he’d like to stay for dinner, but with a text from Cortney, he’s summoned back to adult life. Teri Polo is a continuing force of emotional expression, with her ability to use her face and eyes to communicate, so uncanny yet inspiring.
In other news, Jude (Hayden Byerly) this week was invited to Taylor’s Youth Group. Initially nervous and a little awkward, Jude eventually warms up and gets involved. What really seems to help is when Noah, a friend of Taylor’s, opens up about his struggle with being dumped and that he has faith that God will send him a boyfriend. Interesting. But when Noah and Jude are partnered together in a trust exercise, the vulnerability it elicits is enough to make Jude feel comfortable. He leaves but not before confronting Taylor about her intentions when introducing him to Noah. Back at the Fosters house, Callie has just arrived home from her time with Aaron – spent on the beach, sharing a kiss – when she is caught out by none other than Lena. Oh my, Sherri Saum was given such layered content to work with this episode, from passion, to sass, and despair to happiness, Lena had it all. After being caught Callie and the Moms sit down (a scene similar to the one in the beginning of the episode) to discuss what’s going on. They are at a loss for what to do, and have no idea what she’s thinking but when Callie snaps back with every bit of attitude demanding to know if they are going to undo her adoption, reality hits. Teri and Sherri unparalleled in their ability to illustrate shock and despair. They didn’t even comprehend that Callie could be feeling so vulnerable, so on edge, and the realisation that their silence on the issue gave their daughter such a feeling is enough to break their hearts. Lena sits down next to her, Stef then joins, both reassuring Callie that they are family. No matter what. And that she has to trust them, and trust that they aren’t going anywhere. Ever. Maia Mitchell is every bit as talented with her teenage angst followed up with fear, that you can’t help but feel it cut. And the Mamas, well it is in these scenes that Teri and Sherri’s roles as mother’s in reality truly shine through.
That night, Lena and Stef are discussing the ups and downs of parents when Lena’s concern about Callie becomes too much. After their earlier discussion, she just wants to ensure that she’s okay, and she is. In fact, it seems as though the events of the day (and meeting Aaron) have spurred her on to make a decision about her senior project. She’s decided she wants to do a photo essay of all the houses she and Jude grew up in. She’ll photograph them, and write about their experiences, but most importantly how they found their way to their family. Maia and Sherri are depth-defying in this scene, as Lena approaches Callie with tender love and support. Callie even opens up about the walls she has built, and she thought they would stop her from getting hurt. This admission is enough to show the audience how much growth Callie has experienced since becoming an Adams Foster, and the pride Lena shows is even more significant. Speaking of homes, it seems as though Brandon is settling in okay with Cortney and Mason as we see the two boys asleep on his bed. Maybe he has a knack for this whole “live-in boyfriend” thing, bolstered by his unwavering support and defense of Cortney when Eddie shows up demanding to see Mason. Um, no, not if Brandon has anything to do with it.
In a speech that echoes the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of so many members of our society, Sherri Saum is utterly moving and committed. It was the line about “walls not keeping you safe”, a subtle throw to the current social climate, and Saum’s undeniably visceral delivery of openness, inclusivity and emotion, that hit home the reality. This isn’t just a made-up story arc, but a real life occurrence happening all too often. What The Fosters has done and continues to do, is give us an insight into just how such experiences a family; individually and collectively. Lena stands, delivering this speech for her children, the children she guides and protects through her work and for all the children that have ever experienced the trauma of a school-lockdown. Even more so, her words communicate the disbelief we all hold that this has now become a new “normal”, and the fact it shouldn’t be. The writers beautifully and bravely created a monologue so accurate and poignant, with Sherri Saum elevating it, her genuineness and passion intoxicating. Add to it Cierra Ramirez and Mariana’s fiery smack down to her bullies, the audience is cheering. Making the point that although the fence may keep outside risks out, what happens when one doesn’t feel safe on the inside? Again, The Fosters fluidly combine issues to make one universal point – if you see something, say something. If you hear something, say something.
After watching her wife deliver that speech, Stef makes another attempt to broach the “Church” subject with Jude. He states that the Church didn’t have to say anything to make him feel this way, Stef responds by saying that she believes in a God, and that her God would agree with just how squishy, and delicious Jude is. Kissing him on the head, at school however is just not cool Stef, chill. This season continues to delve into the dynamics of new character pairings, and with Stef and Jude, the bond is something of beauty. This exchange with his Mom obviously sparks something in Jude and he returns to the youth group to help Noah – could this be the start of something? Speaking of starting something, after getting tested Jesus and Emma decide to be “exclusive friends with benefits with no other friends with benefits”, a title I think we could all put to good use. Back at Anchor Beach, Mariana tells Mat that she no longer wants to talk about what happened, she wants to move on. As he leaves, Mariana gets a call from an unknown number, who is it you ask? Nick. It’s Nick. He misses her, and is wondering when she is coming to visit him.
Other key notes:

  • Jesus and Emma are back on, and then not. Not exclusive, then exclusive.
  • Mariana and Mat seem to be back together
  • Mariana also dropped some truth bombs this episode – “It’s never the boy that gets called slut”
  • The Mamas continue their open communication, identifying their fears about failing as parents, but resolve themselves to the fact that they are “cool”. Right?