The Fosters (S04E08): "Girl Code"

Review:
This week’s episode of The Foster’s contained all things robotics but it wasn’t without some drama, some loving and some heartbreak. With Season 4 quickly approaching its mid-season finale, you can sense a feeling of anticipation and anxiety as quite a few of the characters are meeting, head on, personal challenges. Titled “Girl Code”, this week’s episode opened on our beloved Mama’s walking through the house with the realtor, who I’ve got to say rubbed me up the wrong way. But professionally I understand why she had the particular stipulations – house cleaner, decrease the clutter and ensure the kids aren’t at home when they are showing the house. This opening scene epitomizes what The Fosters, and families today are all about. The chaos, the ever-increasing noise level and hormone-charged teenagers, making out at every spare minute are just a few of the moments that served as the hilarious opening to this week’s episode. Unfortunately, in contrast, Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum) quietly and internally deal with having to sell their house. The house they’ve known as their home for years. Polo and Saum delicately communicate the emotions synonymous with such reality, not to mention the looks of sass and shade.
Outside, Callie (Maia Mitchell) and AJ (Tom Williamson) continue to be the cutest ever, but after revealing to Callie that Mike (Danny Nucci) doesn’t want them hooking up under his roof, the mood is somewhat killed. To make things even worse, they are caught mid make-out by the Moms and the realtor, finishing her visit by stating that she hopes the house would take on a more quiet and serene feel, more so than the college dorm theme they’ve got going on. Bravo writers, for that opening sequence had it all. Don’t let me forget that soon after, the Adams Fosters are paid a visit by the police, wanting to talk to Callie. After having confronted Patrick Molloy last week, Callie has now be accused of harassment, an accusation both Moms find quite serious. With the police having left, Stef jumps straight into Mama Tiger mode laying down the law to her eldest daughter. Maia Mitchell is fierce in this scene, meeting Teri Polo at such a level of storytelling the audience can’t help but cheer. Polo, again, inhabits all pieces of Stef as she demonstrates the protectiveness and disciplinarian aspects simultaneously. Lena, having sat quietly, waits for Callie to leave before discussing the entire situation with her wife. She’s not happy, and doesn’t want Callie anywhere near Kyle’s case, to which Stef also agrees. The fact they agree on that doesn’t seem to calm Lena’s nerves, but instead feeds the annoyance she has stating to her wife that it would be great if she could focus a little more on what’s going on at home. Talk about smack down, Saum’s ability this season to illustrate Lena’s emotional spectrum has been phenomenal, and Stef’s reaction to Lena’s sass? Pure gold when it comes to face expressions.
Elsewhere, Callie begins to pack up Kyle’s case files (after Lena instructed her to do so) when she finds an interesting piece of information. In one of the reports, she reads a particular statement about a “curb painter”; could this be another unfollowed lead? As the audience heard earlier in the episode, Brandon (David Lambert) has returned home to practice, with his Julliard audition just around the corner. Obviously having stayed up late, Stef wakes the next morning to a motionless, exhausted Brandon lying on the couch. With a throwback to the earlier seasons, Stef places a blanket over her sleeping son as all our hearts burst. Not only is Brandon under a lot of pressure, but his siblings, Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) and Jesus (Noah Centineo), are competing in the Robotics Competition. Arriving at the arena, each member of the “Anchor Bytes” seem a little nervous and on edge, but none more so than Mariana. Her stress level isn’t aided by the presence of Aidan, whose just there to see her lose. And that seems like a possibility when their robot unfortunately weighs in too heavy. Really Jesus, you lied? Actually no, it was Emma who was responsible for weighing the robot. Oh, teenage angst, how we love thee.
Meanwhile, Callie and AJ seem to have resolved the issue of not having Mike’s as their hook up spot, when they take advantage of the empty Adams Foster residence. Again, their moment is interrupted by the realtor who this time is accompanied by potential buyers. Callie’s line sums it up perfectly, and the entire dynamic between her and AJ is enough for the audience to giggle – “I don’t think the universe wants us having sex.” Back at the Robotics competition, and having solved their weight problem (Jesus cheese-holed it), the Anchor Bytes compete in their first round of competition with adorable Mama Lena cheering them on from the stands. However, Mariana and her teammates are shocked when battle gets underway and their robot stalls. Correction, it doesn’t move and causes the opposing, defending champions to become quite aggressive. Witnessing grown men yelling at her daughter and teammates, Lena inserts herself in an attempt to resolve the situation but it just seems to add fuel to the fire.
With the robot having failed, Mariana freaks out, or should I say lashes out at Jesus and everyone else on her team. Noah and Cierra have found such a rhythm as Mariana and Jesus, delivering each aspect of the twin dynamic with equal moments of disagreement and commitment. After witnessing them both in a yelling match, Lena, with every ounce of motherly love, tries to breakthrough to Mariana (Did anyone else’s heart burst when she said “Miss Thing”?). Again, Lena’s words fall on deaf ears as Mariana has a one track mind this week. She wants to win, and this is how they’ll do it. In other news, Aaron and Callie reunite to follow up on the “curb painter” lead, returning to the neighbourhood of the murder. The first neighbour they question doesn’t remember anything, but the second one does. More importantly, he knows where the curb painter lives. So much for listening to Stef and dropping it Callie. Speaking of Stef, after talking to Lena and being caught up on all things robotics, she herself is seen following up some leads. These leads involve the teenager at the centre of Patrick Molloy’s molestation case, Benjamin. Now 18, Benjamin confirms Stef’s theory, that Detective Grey had something to do with the case being dropped. Shockingly, he threatened to deport Benjamin’s parents if he said anything.
Back with the competition, the Anchor Bytes exchange a friendly “good luck” with the only other all girl team before taking part in the next round. This time, their robot works, and we are given a fast-forward through the preliminary rounds which see Anchor Beach increase their standing. Lena continues to be that parent; you know the one that cheers so loud everyone knows who they are? The one so passionate and so proud of their children the noise and support is somewhat an involuntary action. It’s hilarious, and for some reason, I think both Sherri Saum and Teri Polo are those parents and that makes it even more beautiful. Regardless, Mariana doesn’t approve, shooting Lena an unimpressed look all the while their rival girl team pulls a shifty move, cheating their way to the win. This move, sadly costs Anchor Beach a top 6 finish which would have solidified their spot in the finals. Not taking this result lying down though, Mariana confronts the leader encouraging her to pick them as their support team. We all know it’s hard to say no to Mariana, and with a pitch like hers, of course they say yes.
Aaron and Callie continue to play detective as they arrive at the curb painters’ house, whose name we learn is Doug Harvey. With no answer at the door, and Callie’s known impatience, she goes to the back of the house only to be spooked by a guard dog. They retreat, and remain safely inside the car on their own little stake out. Not having to wait long, Doug soon arrives home as Callie and Aaron watch on. Questioning Callie to what their next move is, she responds, surprisingly, by saying that it’s time they leave this work to the real detectives. Good idea, Callie, your moms would be proud. On the topic of pride, we visit the Adams Foster household where Brandon is again practicing for his audition. Stef is there, ensuring her son eat and stay healthy while under all this stress. David Lambert and Teri Polo continue to be one of the most endearing elements to this season of The Fosters, with their dynamic experiencing such a welcomed and evolutionary change. Somewhat swallowing their pride, both open up and discuss his upcoming audition, only if Stef doesn’t say I told you so. Brandon admits to being distracted, while Stef takes responsibility for feeding that. She goes on to apologise for blaming him completely for the Callie situation, admitting to missing him and that she’d love for him to come home. He ensures her that even though he can’t come home, that his sole focus and motivation is Julliard and this audition. What follows is a moment the entire audience reveres; Stef goes to leave, but stops and slowly turns before embracing Brandon around the shoulders and nuzzling her face into the back of his head. It’s the warmest of embraces, and the love is undeniable. It might be a bold statement, but Teri Polo and Sherri Saum are two of the most fluid actresses when it comes to delving into those motherly instincts, with scenes between them and their kids as nuanced and as true as life.
Finishing the episode with a big family dinner – Brandon included – Mariana is seen and heard discussing her success at the Robotics Competition (The arm of their robot eventually worked). The pace and passion of her tone is enough for the audience, and Lena, to realise just how stressed out she is. The Fosters are giving Cierra Ramirez such a meaty storyline this season, and her work throughout has been powerful. The darting eyes, the rambling, but most of all the physicality of Mariana’s journey accurately portrays the experience of some high school students. Not only that, but also gives insight to the lengths one will go to when they don’t want to deal with something; the power of distraction and avoidance, but also the cost. As Mariana mentions World’s and the amount of money they need to raise in order to compete ($5000), Lena once again voices her concern. Even Jesus pipes up to say maybe it’s time to delegate and ask for help but Mariana, with all her stubbornness and pride, responds saying she’ll be fine to do it all. In the middle of this, Stef receives a call and when she returns informs the family that they’ve had an offer on the house, already. It’s 10% higher than what they were hoping for as well as a cash sale. The looks plastered across each member of the family are that of deep, soul-crushing sadness, with the reality of this once distant and unimaginable situation setting in. They try to see the positives in it, Lena specifically, but when Stef mentions escrow and having to be out by the end of the month, the silence that follows is world-shaking. The shot is heartbreaking, the atmosphere so spine-chilling.
Other key notes:

  • Callie finds out that Mike knows about her and Brandon, explaining why he doesn’t want her and AJ hooking up.
  • Brandon and Cortney seem to be facing their first big obstacle. Brandon may in fact be seeing the light
  • Can we take a moment and just think about the heart emoji texting between the Mamas <3
  • Aaron and Callie continue to connect – I’m sensing a confrontation with AJ at some point
  • Brandon and Callie share a nice brother/sister moment before he leaves for his audition.
  • Callie is tired of people making her feel wrong.