The Fosters (S04E10): "Collateral Damage"

After what has been one of, if not the strongest seasons The Fosters have delivered, the mid-season finale most certainly followed suit. I’ll be speechless if they do not get renewed for a fifth season; between the drama, the story development, the writing and the acting, the entire team at The Fosters have elevated the show to a whole new level. Titled “Collateral Damage” the mid-season finale blew everything up for each member of the Adams Foster family. Each story left unfinished, with more then one characters life hanging in the balance. We open the episode on a family dinner, where we hear Callie (Maia Mitchell) explaining how Justina’s bill died. Unfortunately though, they’ve renamed the bill and it could still make it through. However, Callie has an idea to stop it; why not develop a whole other bill, in honour of Jack, to stop Justina’s from going through. The family are all supportive, and all offer to help collect signatures with Callie at the annual Bay Festival. 
During dinner time, Jesus (Noah Centineo) notices his medication is running low soon before Brandon (David Lambert) receives and email from Julliard. Everyone is excited and eager to hear how he went, but needing some quiet time he walks outside. This scene epitomizes what The Fosters is all about; as Brandon stalls before opening the email, the rest of the family look on. With a momentary pause, followed by an exclamation of “I got in” the entire clan erupts in adulation and joy. Talk about a proud family moment. Once dinner is over, we follow the Moms upstairs where we find them discussing how they’re going to pay for Julliard. Stef (Teri Polo) insists that taking the Detective job is the right move; after twenty years on the beat, and the annoying uniform, she’d be happy to be move on. This leads into a very seductive scene between our Mamas – Lena (Sherri Saum) exits the bathroom in nothing but her underwear and Stef’s police shirt. She instructs Stef to remain silent – with handcuffs as a threat – as she jumps on her lap, and they kiss passionately. And with that, The Fosters render their entire fandom speechless as we watch the two, joke and tease in such an intimate way. Teri Polo and Sherri Saum have built such a believable and honest relationship between Stef and Lena. Between the hardships and drama, come these lighter moments of banter and affection. The chemistry continues to be some of the best on television, with Polo and Saum so comfortable and confident in telling these stories, together.  
The next day, Stef wastes no time when we see her sitting for an interview for Detective. It all seems positive, until she discovers a decorated veteran has put in a good word for her. This veteran? None other than shady Joe Grey. Teri Polo dominates these reactionary scenes, time and time again, not needing any dialogue to communicate feeling. Elsewhere, Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) receives some negative feedback regarding her essay but with a little convincing gets Timothy to give her a second chance. And she’s going to need it, especially when she gets a call from Nick (Louis Hunter) letting her know that he’s out. The Fosters continues to give such a thriller-esque feel to the story between Nick and Mariana, with both young actors going above and beyond to deliver. 
Understandably fuming after her interview, Stef speeds to a stop where Mike (Danny Nucci) is parked. She fills Mike in on the recommendation from Grey. Mike, knowing Stef well enough and knowing she won’t back down, reluctantly agrees to take the evidence about Molloy to his contacts in Vice. Mama Tiger Stef, working for justice is one of the greatest facets of her personality to watch. Why? Because Teri Polo delivers such passion and sass effortlessly. Back at the Adams Foster house, Mariana accidentally falls asleep while making out with Mat (Jordan Rodrigues) before they are interrupted by Lena. Oh the timing of mothers. Lena also reveals that Mat got into Berkeley to which Mariana seems quite stunned and hurt that he didn’t tell her. Speaking of hiding things, after summoning Aaron to school, Callie reveals the toothbrush she stole from Doug Harvey. Aaron, not surprisingly, is stunned to hear how brazen Callie was but luckily agrees to test the DNA to see if it’s a match. 
It doesn’t take long for Stef’s move against Detective Grey to catch up with her and when he is seen waiting for her, we know that it can’t be good. The stand-off is everything you’d predict it’d be; Stef as stern faced as ever while Grey attempts to overpower her. Neither backs down, even when threats are thrown, but when Stef is left alone, Teri Polo, brilliantly and subtly illustrates fear. The day of Bay Fest arrived, with the entire gang dressed in bright red #JusticeForJack shirts thanks to Sophia. Everyone is there, including Aaron and AJ, which makes for an awkward situation. Mike, being as perceptive as usual, asks AJ if everything is okay. AJ knowing exactly why Mike is asking, puts him in his place. After noticing Mariana being weird, and warning her about Nick, Jesus takes it upon himself to pay his old friend a visit. He doesn’t waste any time, instead tells Nick straight out that Mariana is done with him, that she’s scared. Nick seem surprised, but also hurt; Louis Hunter has beautifully layered Nick in a way you can’t help but feel empathy for him. Checking back into Bay Fest, they aren’t having any luck retrieving signatures for the bill. Adding insult to injury, Troy Johnson, the grandson of Martha Johnson, confronts Callie and urges her to stop fighting to have Kyle released. He’s impassioned and a little unhinged, but Callie with all her fortitude remains strong. 
Having no luck of her own, Lena notices a quieter than usual Stef. When asked by her wife at to what’s wrong, Stef reveals the increasingly tumultuous relationship between her and Grey. Specifically, that he threatened to go to IA regarding Stef’s covering for Mike. She’s a rock in a hard place, and we’ve seen this time and time again. She and Lena debate the issue of integrity, but at the end of the day, what matters most is their family. Lena, reminding Stef that they can’t save them all, encourages her wife that for the sake of their family, she has to really think about her next move. What has been beautiful this season, is the evolution of both Stef and Lena. They listen, they communicate, they disagree, they agree. But what’s most obvious, is their rekindled connection and love for one another. The passion, the fire. Through both the good and the bad. Speaking of rock in a hard place, Callie must referee a pissing match between Aaron and AJ this week, which she’s understand my not happy about. AJ finally confronts Aaron about the kiss, going as far to threaten to hurt him. Callie, not reacting well to violence, shuts AJ (and Mike) down before running after Aaron. The plight for signatures continues to be unsuccessful, with Jesus and Emma unknowingly running into Doug Harvey. What’s he doing there?
As the episode quickly approaches its end, each member of the Adams Foster family has a decision to make. Some may say it’s between what is right or wrong, do they listen to their gut or head. Jesus assures Mariana that the Nick thing is handled; he has spoken to Nick and told him to back off. Mariana doesn’t respond to this news well, yelling at her brother with the fear and stress of the entire situation finally too much for her to handle. Cierra Ramirez has been a force this season, and with such a deeply layered arc, she’s given beauty to the darkness, and a truth to the fear. Meanwhile, after being threatened by one of Justina’s cronies, Stef notices Callie not doing too well. The relationship these two now share is unbreakable, and as we watch Callie unravel from the possibility of something else blowing up in her face, our hearts ache. She may not always go about it the right way — Stef too — but Callie always has the best and most just intentions. This exchange seems to be the catalyst for Stef and Callie, as shortly after Stef makes a call wanting to take information to IA, while Callie stands up in front of everyone and pledges Jack’s bill. We all know not to mess with an Adams Foster woman. 
As “Someone’s Little Sister” congratulates Brandon by performing one of his new songs, Lena receives a call from Monte (Annika Marks), on a Saturday. This can’t be good news right? Oh and speaking of not so good news, Doug Harvey mistakes Sophia (Bailee Madison) for Callie and follows her to the bathroom. It’s a pretty dire situation, in which we learn that Doug Harvey isn’t as aware of the real world as we first believed. The scene is directed and performed in a way that had audiences on the edge of their seats. At one point Stef seems to be tracking Doug but is suddenly interrupted (and distracted) by Jesus and Emma who can’t find Mariana. Mariana, in fact, is sitting, exhausted on the stairs and after ingesting alcohol with Jesus’ medication has started to see things. Specifically, Nick. Again, Cierra Ramirez is frightening in this moment as Mariana continues to devolve into delusions. Of all the character development The Fosters have done, it’s the work with Mariana that has been largely intoxicating. And as we continue to see her lose grasp on reality, as many PTSD sufferers experience, the fact that she’s a teenager makes it all the more heartbreaking. 
Having now been informed of Mariana’s status, Stef, Jesus and Emma continue the search. Jesus, being protective as always, calls Nick to find out where he is. Thankfully, he’s still at home. But not for long. The news of Mariana’s disappearance seems to spark something in him — please, Nick, don’t do anything stupid. Meanwhile, Callie and AJ find a quiet moment to talk after their heated argument earlier. The conversation seems to be going well, that is, until AJ reacts to Aaron being Trans in a very ignorant way. The Fosters, beautifully handles this situation, and poignantly reminds us all that Aaron is no less of a man than AJ just because he’s Trans. His attitude doesn’t sit well with Callie, and Callie’s admission of possible attraction to Aaron doesn’t sit well with AJ. And when all is said and done, it seems as though the happy couple is no more. Back on the hunt for Mariana, Stef finally gets the police involved but it may be too little, too late. Just as she requests back up, she overhears an announcement that Nick has disarmed his ankle bracelet and is missing. Cue the panic. 
The Mama’s have had their hands full this season, and it doesn’t stop here. After getting off the phone from Monte, Lena pulls Brandon aside. It’s not good news; Tristan came clean about the whole SAT debacle and implicated Brandon. The consequence? He won’t be going to Julliard. David Lambert is emotionally progressive in this scene, going from put together to completely broken. We see Brandon transform from a confident young adult, back to a innocent young boy in a matter of seconds, a testament to the range of David Lambert. Sherri Saum is transcendent in these scenes with the kids, giving Lena a compassion unparalleled by none. Now, that’s a whole lot of drama right? Well, it’s just about to get worse. We finally see Mariana again, and she’s walking, disoriented by herself, when we see Nick’s bright red car pull-up beside her. The cinematography in this moment is something to make note of as it adds to the critical nature of the situation. In combination with the musical soundtrack, the audience continues to scream at their television screen. 
The climax of this episode comes when Nick and Mariana finally come face to face. Cierra Ramirez delivers a heart-stopping, soul-crushing monologue that lays bare all the insular pain Mariana has been holding in. When an artist can transport you to a place that you feel all the character does, that’s talent. And Cierra Ramirez did it here. After eventually calming her down, Nick tells Mariana he understands and that he respects her decision. Unfortunately though, Jesus and Emma show up, and in a fit of rage Jesus bowls Nick over and they fight. Elsewhere, Callie continues her search for Mariana and is a little taken aback when she stumbles across Troy Johnson. He apologizes for his attitude earlier and offers to help her find Mariana. The offer includes following Nick in his car – did anyone else scream “no”? Either way, she gets in. 
Soon after, Aaron calls with news about the DNA results. Weirdly, the DNA doesn’t match Doug Harvey but someone related to Martha. A male. Um, okay Callie, you now have permission to freak out. Noah Centineo is a powerhouse as Jesus; stoic and hard when needed, and completely broken and vulnerable also. As they continue to fight, Stef running towards them, Nick launches a punch straight at Jesus’ head. Contact is made, and Jesus falls to the ground. Motionless. And as we watch a distraught Stef yell, as she kneels over her son’s body, the episode closes. I’m going to say it again, and again, but if The Fosters don’t get renewed for a fifth season after what has been one of their strongest opening 10 episodes, I’ll be shocked. The writing, the direction, the storytelling, the commitment; each aspect of this series has gone above and beyond anything done before. With no other show like this on television, The Fosters continues to leave its mark, with real, human, unapologetic family stories. 
Other key notes: 
– Jude continues to rebel and smoke pot when Noah shows up 
– Mat got into a college in Boston