The Fosters (S4E09): "New York" 

We all know that the penultimate episode of any television show will always deliver some type of cliff-hanger. The Fosters, however, goes above and beyond, delivering story cracking twists and turns that have the audience so intoxicated. This week was no different with an episode full of flashbacks, love, drama and honesty. Titled “New York” the episode opens on a somewhat sombre looking family meeting. Well, it starts out that way. With the announcement that they have something to “talk about” but first things first, who owns the pot pipe Stef (Teri Polo) found in the garage? Jude (Hayden Byerly) looks nervous, Callie (Maia Mitchell) looks concerned while the Mamas are intent on finding out who it is. Callie even goes so far to volunteer for a blood test. Jude, buddy, your sister may not be perfect but she certainly looks out for you. After that discussion is over, the Mamas attempt to broach whatever news they are trying to break to the kids but instead a chaotic bickering tournament breaks out about the yard sale. Stef, having enough, abruptly yells “Mama and I are getting a divorce”. The intensity of this reveal is written across the faces of the entire family. The sadness, the shock, the pain. Oh Fosters, you sure know how to break our hearts.

The credits roll, and we land 36 hours before this reveal with Brandon (David Lambert) preparing to leave for New York. He bids Cortney a farewell and it becomes quite clear that this may be it for the young lovers. That maybe Brandon finally realises just how much he’s sacrificed. Meanwhile, the Adams Foster house is busily preparing for their yard sale when the realtor, buyer and contractor show up, out of the blue. But after an awkward confrontation, Lena (Sherri Saum) apologizes to Stef for not mentioning that this had all been organised. Each Mama is dealing with the reality of losing their home in different ways, and in this scene Stef is irritated and pained. Not to mention the sass both women get from Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) who just isn’t in the best mood. Talk about a hilariously yet gut wrenchingly accurate take on a situation I am sure so many families face. Lena just hasn’t found the right place for them, but Stef insists they can’t take so much time. With another snarky exchange between Stef and the realtor, Lena is left with her thoughts and we are given our first flashback of the episode. It’s when they’ve first found the house; Lena is bursting from the inside, dead set on the house. It’s their dream home, and there will be enough space for all the kids. Stef’s reluctant, but who can say no to Lena (and also Sherri Saum) when she has those puppy dog eyes and is completely adorable. The flashback is enough for the audience to understand the depth of the love found and built within the walls of this house. 

With the kids all individually doing their part to help with the yard sale, we next see Jude packing up some old things, one of them being the Nintendo from Connor. And the flashback! Where do I start? How damn cute were they way back when. Not even half way through and The Fosters team are pulling at our heart strings. This beautiful moment is cut short however when Callie interrupts him, only to have her head bitten off. Jude seems to be holding a grudge and not backing down. On the other side of the country, Brandon arrives in New York City. While he’s on the phone to Mike (Danny Nucci) and Stef, the scene is quickly followed by Callie’s flashback of the week. Remember the wedding day, and that not so private kiss between her and Brandon, well that’s what she sees. Again though, AJ’s (Tom Williamson) timing is perfect, alerting Callie to the fact that Aaron is at the house. 

Aaron’s there to deliver some good news; there was another set of DNA found at Kyle’s crime scene. Filling everyone in, the Mamas look concerned while Mike senses a little chemistry between Callie and Aaron. Talk about protective. With initial disappointment dissipating, Stef and Mike agree to go and talk to Doug Harvey, the curb painter. Back in the big city, Brandon has arrived at the dorms only to find that he’s been assigned a very pretty, bubbly, blonde roommate. The banter is quick and flirty, alluding to a possible NY affair. So while Brandon gets settled, Mariana and Jesus (Noah Centineo) are busy packing up things for the yard sale when Jesus comes across something startling. It’s Stef’s journal, and even though he does his best to not freak Mariana out she reads it anyway. And the information shocks her. 

After having talked to Doug Harvey, with no success or new information, Stef lets Mike show her around an apartment that is up for rent in his building. Little do they know, Callie and AJ are in the next room, on the ground half naked. These two really can’t keep their hands off one another. Either way, they manage to hide themselves in the closet all the while listening in to Mike confront Stef about Callie. He’s concerned for AJ after now knowing the truth about Callie and Brandon, and just doesn’t want to see another one of his sons hurt. It’s both heartwarming to see Mike so protective of AJ, and a little out of line with what he’s insinuating about Callie. Stef is just as protective, and we all know how Mama Tiger protects her own. The passion she gets behind her eyes whenever anyone says anything about her children, is a trait bought to life no more beautifully than by Teri Polo. Now having checked out the apartment, Stef returns home to break the news to Lena. Before she does so, Lena asks whether it would be possible to take Frankie’s tree with them. With a little hesitation, Stef admits to having looked at and put a down payment on the apartment. Lena’s pissed, and it’s understandable. With all the work they’ve done to move forward, this lack of communication would make anyone mad. 

Brandon seems to be having a much better time on the East Coast, with Ariel the dancer, showing him around the city that never sleeps. After checking off Times Square, she takes him to a secluded area to watch the sunrise. Talk about romantic. And when she leans in to kiss him, a little spark seems to fly, but Brandon pulls away. Explaining his situation with Cortney, Ariel seems to give him some very sage advice. That the next 4 years, in Julliard, are going to be the most important. They’re his. She even does such a good job of encouraging him, that the next day before his audition he mails a letter to Cortney. On the topic of romance, Noah and Jude continue to hang out and build on their budding feelings for one another but when Noah makes a move for more, Jude becomes a little uneasy. 

The day of the yard sale finally arrives, with tension between Callie and Jude still at its peak and the rest of the clan dealing with the situation as best they can. Stef has a deeply haunting confrontation with Detective Grey – the dirty cop involved with Kyle’s case – who pretty much threatens to make her professional life a living hell. Noted. In the meantime, Lena has received a call from her Mom with news that the IRS has agreed to a payment plan, which means they won’t need to sell the house. The bad news? They already have. With the episode stakes increasing, Callie arrives back at Doug Harvey’s house after receiving a frantic call from Kyle – he’s being moved to Folsom tomorrow. So, Callie with her inability to take a step back, breaks into Harvey’s house and steals his toothbrush. She makes it out, barely, but not before he makes note of the car model. Back at the house, the episode catches up to the first scene in which we learn they aren’t really getting a divorce, but filing for one. Filing one will mean freezing their assets, which means freezing the house. It’s all a plan to save the house, and the kids don’t seem to mind. Well, everyone but Mariana. 

After having stormed off from the discussion, Lena finds her youngest daughter in her bedroom. We quickly learn that what Mariana read, and what she took from it was that Lena didn’t want her or Jesus. But that’s the farthest thing from the truth. What follows is one of the most emotionally vulnerable scenes of this season, with Sherri Saum and Cierra Ramirez delivering performances rife with honesty and commitment. You know those Mama monologues we love so much? Well Lena delivered this one to Mariana, with every word and memory and feeling falling from her heart. As someone, who for a very long time didn’t think she’d ever have the opportunity to have kids, and believing that my sexuality would be an obstacle, to see The Fosters illustrate and celebrate and communicate that it can happen, gives me so much joy. When Lena states that she was always meant to be Mariana’s mother, and she her daughter, our hearts soar with overwhelming happiness. Every child, every parent, every family, every human should know love like this. Should and deserves to know love like The Adams Foster family. Sherri Saum bought so much natural love to this scene, her experience and role as a mother shining brightly through. 

After leaving the night before on awkward terms, Noah returns and apologizes for pushing a little too far. Jude apologizes also, and the two come to an agreement that they’re still on track, no pressure, no rush. Both of these young actors have developed such an innocent chemistry, it’s endearing but the rebellion of bonding over drugs adds a whole other level. Speaking of chemistry, Stef is standing over the sink, glass of wine in hand as she looks out over the backyard reminiscing on their wedding day. Teri Polo is a force of nature in these scenes; no dialogue, yet physically adept at communicating the emotion of the scene. As the tears well in her eyes, Lena breaks her out of her trance. Like I said earlier, both women are battling the seven stages of grief currently, and when Stef turns to Lena, eyes downcast and teary she utters a depth-defying I love you. Lena responds, with a smile similar to that seen earlier on in the episode. The Fosters struck gold 4 years ago when Polo and Saum were cast, their chemistry and storytelling unparalleled. And when you think Teri Polo can’t break you’re heart anymore she goes ahead and inhabits Stef’s fear fluidly – “You don’t want a divorce for reals?” She questions. Lena responds by saying it’s hard sometimes but she’s not going anywhere. To which Stef responds she’d be crazy to leave or divorce Lena. The exchange is everything we love about this relationship and more. After a deeply dramatic season so far, the kiss that follows is passionate and one of soul-reaching commitment and devotion. 

Add to the passion of the moment, when Brandon arrives home the Mamas are overjoyed and their faces are the cutest ever. He killed his audition, and they are so unbelievably proud. However, the celebrations are cut short when he notices movement in the garage. When the Moms go to explore, what they find is Jude and Noah giggling, completely high off pot. I cannot predict this going well at all. And as the episode closes, Mariana races to finish her essay while Callie puts Harvey’s toothbrush in a safe place. Not sure anyone is safe anymore, because what the episode ends on is a serious looking Doug Harvey outside the Adams Foster residence, with Stef’s card. Talk about blowing the stories wide open, next week’s mid-season finale is sure to be one for the record books.   

Other key notes: 
– Mariana is still taking Jesus’ pills
– AJ finds out about Callie and Aaron and gets Callie to come clean about everything.