What The Fosters has perfected, four seasons in, is exploring social issues is the most subtle of ways but with a poignancy that resonates with us all. Throughout this week’s episode, quite a few of our characters are seen to be dealing with past experiences, haunting in nature, still very much a part of their daily lives. The episode, titled “Now and Then”, offers insight into survivorship as Callie (Maia Mitchell) being her senior photo essay while we also see the effects of PTSD, with Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) still sleeping in her mom’s bed. The episode opens on the Mama’s; they are cuddled close exchanging flirtatious banter about who Lena (Sherri Saum) happens to be texting, before their conversation changes to the topic of their one year wedding anniversary. It’s got to be said that this exchange is beautifully delivered by Saum and Polo, so much so that the purity of their love is the focus when Stef (Teri Polo) questions whether this means they no longer celebrate their “first kiss” anniversary. Personally, this scene was everything and more; Stef’s sentimentality giving us a brief insight into her devotion to Lena. Unfortunately, their sweet moment is interrupted by a now awake Mariana who’s been sleeping in their bed since the situation with Nick (Louis Hunter).
Speaking of mornings in bed, we cut to Brandon (David Lambert) and Cortney waking up to find Mason’s cute little feet flying everywhere. Seems as though it might take Brandon a little longer to get used to this whole “stepdad” thing. Cortney’s ex has Mason this weekend, so she and Brandon decide what better excuse then to have a party. Anything to do with a party never ends well on The Fosters. This episode is most certainly opening on a cheerful note, with AJ (Tom Williamson) returning to the halls of Anchor Beach. He and Callie share a cute role-play introduction; Maia Mitchell has the innocent, sassy and sexy down-pat when it comes to flirting with Tom, a chemistry that elevates the relationship between the characters. He agrees to keep her company after school while she completes her senior project. Elsewhere, Ana and Mike (Danny Nucci) reappear this week, first seen discussing the status of their relationship. Mike is obviously (although he’s trying hard to hide it) jealous of Ana’s continued interest in Gabe and wanting to help him. Mike insists that it is just pure concern for her sobriety, and when Ana states that she no longer wants space and agrees to not see Gabe again, the two reunite.
Back with Callie, she and AJ have arrived at the first house and after momentarily reacting offensively to a question from AJ, she states why she’s doing this project – “I guess it will show why it’s hard for me to trust that anything is permanent”. With that said, AJ continues on and encourages Callie to approach the house and ask why it didn’t work out. Again, not going over well with her, she passionately states that it isn’t about them but her. Meanwhile, Lena is experiencing a little more stress than usual when we hear her admit to Stef that it’s possible she may be fired. After hiring Gabe – a registered sex-offender – to build the sets, Lena could be facing severe consequences when it comes to her job. Stef does her best to assure you wife that that will not happen, but Lena seems adamant that the worst is yet to come. And when she informs Stef that Monte (Annika Marks) has a lawyer that specialises in getting sex offenders off the list, it seems like they might have a solution. But, wait. When the cost is going be $20,000, with no guarantees Stef can’t help but be a little cautious. Lena even goes as far to say they could get a line of credit on the house. Either way, it seems the Adams Foster matriarchs are in a little bit of strife.
Moving onto the second house, from the outside and Callie’s almost sudden reaction, we can gather this one does not hold any good memories. As she begins photographing, AJ is intuitive enough to realise something just isn’t right, and when she jumps the fence to get closer, he’s even more taken aback. He asks what the story is with this house; not a happy one she responds. And in a statement beautifully delivered by Maia Mitchell, full of pain and remembrance she reveals to AJ the truth about being raped by her foster brother. Not only does The Fosters address this aspect of Callie’s past, but when Liam’s mom pulls up and invites Callie in we are given a scene equal in heartbreak and terror. His mom continues on to say how the mistakes she has made with Callie have haunted her – at this point the audience expects an apology to follow. But instead, his mom says the mistake was bringing Callie into their house, their lives and allowing her to destroy them. Barely being able to watch the scene myself, with my skin covered in goose bumps, Maia Mitchell is as progressive as ever, building the pain in Callie’s eyes as each word is spoken. Callie with every last piece of sass she can muster, bites back and says that she is sorry too before continuing to photograph inside the house. Her bedroom is exactly the same, it hasn’t changed, and the montage of photos that follow, the music, and Maia Mitchell’s continued commitment to telling this story openly and bravely is inspiring, and gut-wrenching.
Brandon this week is on a mission to throw the best party ever, but when he’s caught at home stealing toothpaste and toilet paper by Mariana (who’s offended she didn’t get an invite to his party) and Stef the gig is up. Stef continues to give her oldest son shade, with Teri Polo and David Lambert giving us some of the most accurately portrayed mother/son moments that I’m sure all mothers have experienced once, or twice. Not to mention the complete and utter sass Lena continues to serve up to Stef – Sherri Saum has perfected the “Really?!” face, and it is comedy gold. Meanwhile, upstairs Callie is sharing with Mariana the photos she took earlier that afternoon, with Mariana shocked to learn that Callie went inside. The exchange leads to a revelation of sorts; Callie states that she thinks she needs to go inside, face the people that made her feel powerless. Mariana takes this on board, evidenced later on when she tells her mom’s that seeing Nick may be what she needs to feel safe again.
The next day, Callie visits house number 3 where we meet Sheila. We soon learn that Callie has great memories of the house, but still wonders why they didn’t adopt her and Jude when they adopted Kyle (foster brother). Sheila informs Callie that because of their age and Kyle’s special needs, adopting all three would have been too much. As the conversation continues, Callie discovers that Kyle is in fact in prison, and will be for the rest of his life, for killing someone.
Lena, Gabe, Ana and Stef get together to discuss the possibility of getting Gabe off the sex-offender registry. They’re offering to pay for the legal fees – as a loan – to assist in the process. Much to everyone’s surprise however, Gabe is reluctant to agree. He’s been offered another deal, one that ensures he gets no prison time. With no assurances that the court date will work, and he’ll get off, he rejects the offer. This decision doesn’t go over well with Jesus (Noah Centineo) who can’t seem to work out why Gabe won’t accept help. What follows is a beautifully, heart-cracking scene between father and son when Jesus embraces a broken, lonely Gabe soon after being asked if he ever gets lonely. Noah and Brandon are both emotionally bare in this scene, leaving not one eye dry. Stef witnesses it, and I’m sure feels what the entire Fosters fandom felt in that moment. Following up afterwards, Jesus must have pleaded a good case because Gabe changed his mind, he’s going to fight it.
And so we arrive at the party. Finally. With Cortney’s friends always late to arrive, the Adams Foster clan gets started anyway. Truth be told, the party doesn’t really turn out to be much of a party. Cortney gets drunk, very quickly, Jesus clogs the toilet, while Mariana breaks the news to Mat (Jordan Rodrigues) that she is going to visit Nick. Add to that Callie continuing to discuss ways she could help get Kyle out of prison, the party is most certainly not a party. Adding even more comedy to an already funny situation, Stef and Lena pull up outside “not spying” of their children. Between the highly emotional scenes and the light-hearted, flirty banter, Saum and Polo continue to display their ever-deepening dynamic. Not being able to sit back, Stef approaches the house while a disappointed Lena stays in the car with her leftovers. Luckily she did, because Stef nearly got caught by Mariana just before Cortney gets served. Back at the house, Callie and AJ share a quiet, tender moment after a pretty full on couple of days. I’ve got to say this conversation between AJ and Callie was one of the most poignant pieces of writing The Fosters has delivered. Relevant in so many ways, AJ asks Callie whether he needs to be careful because of what happened to you; he’s caring and understanding and doesn’t want to cross a line. She’s thankful but states that she doesn’t want to be treated like a victim that “rape isn’t sex”. And with those three words, The Fosters reminds us all the societal issues it continues to portray; accurately and beautifully.
Closing out the episode, Jesus, Lena and Mike wait for news regarding Gabe and his court date. Jesus is understandably on edge, with Lena having no success in calming his fears. But no sooner had she attempted this, is there a knock on the door, its Gabe and Ana. With the creative team brilliantly building suspense, and the expectation for “bad news”, the audience grips the edge of their seats. Thankfully, it worked. Gabe is officially off the registry; interestingly thanks to a call Mike made on his behalf. Smooth move Mike, smooth move. Elsewhere, Callie meets up with Aaron and immediately comes clean. She apologises for lying, and informs Aaron that the boyfriend part of the story was true. He looks disappointed; but why can I sense an awkward love triangle coming on? Anyways, the main reason Callie is there, is to see if Aaron is able to help with Kyle’s case. Oh Callie, AJ told you not to worry. Cut to Stef and Mariana; they’ve arrived to see Nick, both looking as scared and as cautious as the other. Stef assures her daughter that she’ll be close by if she needs – Oh Teri Polo, the Mama Tiger that is characteristic of Stef is some of your most stunning work. As Mariana sits, Nick thanks her for coming and apologises for anything. Mariana, unfortunately, is unable to really get a word in as he continues to admit that Mariana is his reason for living. Cierra Ramirez plays the internal struggle between following her heart, or listening to her head/gut physically, with a vulnerability and truth to it. She cares for Nick, we know that much is true, but she’s not in love with him. Yet it’s obvious the fear, and the trauma is still so raw not wanting to say or do anything that will hurt Nick.
Other key notes:
- Mike and Ana are together
- Cortney and Brandon exchanged “I love you’s”