The Fosters (S04E06): "Justify" 

We all know that The Fosters pushes the envelope, they dare to talk about issues and express opinions that often times we keep to ourselves in our day to day lives. They dare to tell stories, that aren’t fiction but reality, and this season they’ve gone above and beyond. This season has already explored the reality of school lockdowns and gun violence, and now, it seems as though they’re about to explore the financial struggles that too many families face and teenage drug use/addiction. And what they continue to do, beautifully, is give each member of the ensemble a story, none more important than the other, and woven together to always come back to what The Fosters is all about; Family. 
On the back of Stewart’s revelation that the IRS is after him, this week’s episode opened on he and the Mom’s discussing how and why and what; How he let this happen and what are they going to do to fix it? He’s broken the news to them that there is a lien on the house, and I’ve got to say, both Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum) seem to battle between anger and deep concern in this scene. Stewart doesn’t answer when asked how much he owes, leading to even more questions and concerns from Stef. He leaves, shortly after the twins arrive, with Jesus (Noah Centineo) still in disbelief that he joined STEAM (formally known as STEM). The Moms continue to have a quiet word to one another while the twins get ready for school, Stef doesn’t understand how the down payment on their house, originally Lena’s inheritance, has turned into a loan. It’s obvious Stef is hovering somewhere between anger at Stewart and support for Lena, illustrated by Teri Polo intelligently. Before the twins leave, Stef stops Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) to inform her that Nick (Louis Hunter) has been asking for her. She seems to have moved through the stages of grief, now somewhere between anger and denial, flipping out that she can’t be his only reason for living. It’s grinding her down, and knowing her daughter well enough Stef chooses not to tell her that Nick is trying to get released. 
Brandon (David Lambert) is saying goodbye to Cortney before school when Lena pulls up. And let’s be real, it didn’t have to be awkward but when Cortney ducked down to then have Lena see her anyways, the awkwardness was off the charts. Anyway, when Brandon finally gets out of the car Lena confronts him about the money he gave Cortney (The communication between the Moms this season continues to go from strength to strength) and just reminds him that some people may mistake a loan for a gift. She’s caring, but wary, oh and also a little sassy; Sherri Saum is delving into this evolution of Lena with all guns blazing. Inside, Jude (Hayden Byerly) and Taylor are discussing the upcoming midterm; Jude is stressed out about it and Taylor recommends Noah as his tutor. The exchange is nothing short of cute, but when Taylor says something about Noah being stoned, Jude is a little taken aback. 
Elsewhere, Mama Tiger jumps into action at Nick’s hearing where she states her and Mariana’s case for the judge. Still believing Nick is a danger to others, Stef delivers a rousing, passionate speech with every last fiber of her being as a mother. Teri Polo inhabits Stef in these moments, and it is evident that playing a Mom and being a Mom are what Teri was made to do. Nick admits to contacting Mariana, but goes on to say he understands that she doesn’t want to be with him. Louis Hunter delivers this in a way that leaves a little ambiguity; does he understand or is he just saying what he needs to? Regardless, Stef knows what’s up, and she’ll do anything to protect her children. Back at Anchor Beach, Lena learns that Brandon’s second go at the SATs was not as important as his audition and the look on her face tells us all just how suss she is now. Jesus and Emma this week, navigate what it means to now be on STEAM together, and it gets off to rocky start. The shade from Emma would be enough to make any guy walk the other way, it’s brilliant. Meanwhile, Mariana battles with Aidan about what wheels to use but is evidently uptight and distracted with all things Nick, and when he texts her it goes from bad to worse. He wants to meet. 
In what may be the titular scene this week, Lena arrives home to Brandon playing, slamming the door to get his attention. Oh Lena, I can already tell how upset you are. She asks him who else is home, no one, thankfully because what follows is a smackdown from Lena we haven’t witnessed since Season 1 when she snapped at Jesus and Mariana. Lena questions Brandon about the SATs and he continues to lie. David Lambert is physically nuanced in this scene, lip quiver and all, while Sherri Saum is as dominant and powerful as ever. She knows the truth. The whole truth and doesn’t hold back when she states it’s academic fraud. Not to mention it puts Lena is such a horrible position. We’ve been waiting for Brandon’s decisions to catch up to him, and I think, maybe they finally have. If there was ever going to be someone to snap him back to reality it would be Lena. Sherri Saum inhabits this evolution of Lena, disciplinarian and profoundly disappointed in her child, none more so then when she utters the line “I can’t even look at you right now”. Ouch.  
Stef has been able to track down some information regarding Kyle’s case and fills Callie (Maia Mitchell) in. Patrick Molloy was actually arrested for lewd acts against a minor, and it seems as though a Detective turned a blind eye to it as long as he testified against Kyle. It’s disappointing to say the least, but Aaron and Callie are still motivated to find the truth and when they come across a report missing a page it seems like they’re on the right track. Inside the house, Noah and Jude innocently play video games with Noah unable to stop eating candy. It’s his kryptonite, and Jude takes this as an opportunity to not so subtly ask about being stoned. He discovers that Noah actually takes it for medical purposes, for his anxiety but also keeps a little aside for “fun”. 
Two people that aren’t having fun this week are the Moms, who again engage in another open line of communication when Stef admits to having spoken to Dana. After returning home, Dana has discovered that they owe $300,000 to the IRS. Lena is on the edge in this scene, barely holding it together. She’s a daddy’s girl, we’ve always known that, so to see him fall from grace like this has got to be hard. She can barely look at Stef when she continues to defend her father, and what is interesting is that Stef doesn’t push. She’s not abrasive or harsh, instead she lets Lena feel it all. She lets Lena go through whatever she needs to in order to deal, a show of growth from both our leading ladies. As Lena leaves, fuming after the conversation, she interrupts Callie and Aaron working on Kyle’s case. And with everyone going on, she lashes out. Plain and simple. She encourages Aaron to leave, before getting angry at Callie about all her excuses. Callie’s look of shock, I believe, would have been plastered across all our faces. Talk about finding a voice, and stamping your authority, Lena Adams Foster was on fire during this episode, not to mention a little rude. That’s not a bad thing, it shows change and growth and tiredness, teaching us that everyone has a limit to how far they can be pushed, before it all becomes too much. 
Mariana leaves STEAM quickly after getting a text from Nick (Jesus looked at her phone), So Jesus bums a ride off Emma and follows his sister. They sit alone in Emma’s car, in silence at first but then discuss their relationship status and the elephant in the room. But when Emma spies Mariana, that is when the true reason for the ride is revealed. They watch as Mariana walks to the fence to talk to Nick and Jesus is not impressed. Meanwhile, Jude is at home telling Noah he’s not ready for pot, to which he discovers that he’s already been eating it. Sneaky, sneaky. He doesn’t seem too fazed, in fact, he has a much more enjoyable experience on it than Brandon did. So much so he kisses Noah. It’s cute, it’s innocent and it’s completely playful, everything new teenage love and rebellion usually feels like. Meanwhile, Brandon tells Lena he’s given the money back, that he’s trying to make it right, and just when we thought Lena Adams Foster (bought to us by Sherri Saum) had hit her “sass” quota she drops one last truth bomb – “your character is much easier kept then recovered.” 
Back at the house, Lena, Stef and Stewart have a very honest conversation. Stewart had come back from his appointment with this wild idea of buying shares in a water company, all they need is $20K. This moment is when it all comes crashing down for Lena; throughout the episode she’s defended her Dad, believed him, but this new idea is enough to make her see he’s not thinking practically. Lena begins to stand up to him, her tone changes and the physicality of her delivery is mirrored by Stef. Saum and Polo are such intelligent, locked in artists that their portrayal of this relationship continues to resonate with audiences everywhere. Sherri Saum, this episode alone, delivers a layered performance; whether it was held together, to world shaken or Mama Fierce to heartbroken daughter, Saum was in the pocket. And when Stewart threatens to drive off a cliff to claim his life insurance, the depth of the financial woes becomes all to real. Raw. Immediately moving to comfort her Dad, she offers assurance that no one would be okay without him. If Saum was in the pocket, Polo was right there with her; when Stef watches Lena comfort her father there is no stopping the barrage of emotion. There is no doubt this next chapter for the Adams Foster matriarchs will be trying, but what we do know is that our Mamas are stronger and more united than ever. 
As the episode begins to close, Maia Mitchell delivers another soul-crushing performance when Callie slashes her photo essay. The scene is haunting in a way, as the camera watches Callie go from together to completely broken. Aaron continues with his wonderful timing, showing up just after she’s completed slashing it. He very innocently makes a joke, seemingly helping to break down the wall between him and Callie. Callie opens up about hating that her senior project is her story. Aaron however, doesn’t believe she should. He then opens up about being transgendered, and how he felt before and after his transition. We’ve got to stand up and applaud The Fosters for introducing Aaron the way they did; it was never just about being transgendered, they didn’t let that define his story, but instead gave us other facets of his personality. The depth The Fosters goes to with their characters and fleshing them out, is what sets them apart from other family dramas. Elsewhere, Stef informs the twins that Nick has been moved to a boys group home – Mariana already knows Mama Tiger – but that he’s still locked up with no access to phones. Again, wrong. Mariana doesn’t say a word, much to the surprise of Jesus who later confronts her and asks why she lied. She says he needs more time, she can’t break the news to him because she’s still afraid of what he’ll do. Cierra Ramirez is giving life to Mariana in the most heartbreaking of ways; not knowing how to attack the situation with Nick, and feeling as though everything she does is just not working. 
In addition to the open communication Stef and Lena have displayed this season, they also seem to be finding the light within the darkness. Example being when they are sitting in bed, and Stef makes a joke that Lena breaks a smile too. It’s simple, and quick but nonetheless it shows growth between two individuals who’ve previously struggled with how to deal with such situations. In all seriousness though, Lena thinks they are going to have to help her parents but Stef, sadly, doesn’t know what they can do. The look from both women is enough for the audience to understand how dire all of this has become. Meanwhile, Callie, after saying goodbye to Aaron and finding no leads with the missing forensic report, starts to sew her project back together. The next day, she even water ninjas AJ – these two are so adorable, and AJ has been such a burst of joy for Callie with everything else going on. He also helps her break the case open; Kyle is left handed, not right handed like the report said.
While Callie continues on her mission for justice, it seems as though Jude may be headed down a different path. He arrives at school, not even concerned about the mid-term, cheekily munching on pot snakes. Oh goodness, does this mean we’re about to see a teenage rebellion phase with Jude? Because if we are, in this way, I cannot wait to see what the creative team does. Elsewhere, Mariana continues to butt heads with Aidan – can we blame her? He’s done the code in the wrong program, and as group leader she instructs him to change it. He refuses, calling her a bitch and we all know by now, not to mess with Mariana. Snapping back with a line only Cierra Ramirez could deliver with such shade – “Bitches get things done” – Aidan ends up quitting and staging a walk out, leaving only Jesus and Emma. Back at the house, Stef and Lena are seen talking to a smartly dressed woman. The minimal dialogue in combination with the looks of despair plastered across the Moms faces, tells the audience they are getting their house priced. Could the Adams Fosters really selling their house? 
Other key notes:
– Jesus broke Emma’s heart. Oh my, I’m such an Emma shipper 
– Jude asked Brandon for advice about pot
– Cortney sold her surf gear to pay Brandon back.