The Foster’s jumped straight back into the drama and tension we were left with last season, with the eagerly anticipated return of their fifth installment. With so many storylines left up in the air, and characters lives on the line, the audience were given emotional confrontations, real-life societal issues were explored and evolving family relationships were at the forefront, all aspects that after five years on the air, personify what The Foster’s is all about. Add to it the musical soundtrack and artistic direction of Peter Paige; the premiere definitely set the tone for another compelling season of our favorite family drama. In the opening moments, shivers were sent down the audiences’ spine as we watch the Anchor Beach protest continue. Beautifully crafted, this scene has no dialogue and simply involves shots of the impassioned teenagers fighting for what is right laid against a powerful musical track. Chanting “Education is a right, not just for the rich and white” started to sound as the “adults” inside discussed what measures to take. Of course, Mr. Stratos wanted action taken, whereas Lena (Sherri Saum) believed she could reason with the group. Elsewhere, Brandon (David Lambert) chases after a distraught and angry Jesus (Noah Centineo) after their confrontation about Emma. Meanwhile, Diamond, Russell and Callie (Maia Mitchell) remain holed up in a motel, where Callie finds herself alone with Russell, singing. Maia Mitchell continues to give Callie depth and eloquence, equal parts vulnerable and stoic and in moments such as these her maturity as an actor shines through.
With Lena attempting to resolve the protest situation, Stef (Teri Polo) is tracking Callie’s phone with no real idea of where she’s going and if Callie is going to be there when she arrives. Cut with scenes of Russell becoming increasingly more affectionate with Callie, the tension continues to build. Maia Mitchell is subtle in her way of illustrating Callie’s fear, and as harrowing as it is, it’s captivating to watch. Callie, claiming the fake name of “Christina” tries her best to remain strong in playing the long game. Outside, interestingly, Russell’s right hand man seems to be selling his boss out on the back of information from Diamond. Could everything be about to get worse? As the protest gains momentum, Emma and Brandon join forces to track Jesus down while Lena approaches Mariana (Cierra Ramirez), who is standing front and center, in the hope to reason with her. Mariana doesn’t miss a beat and identifies that Lena promised her a seat at the table, and with that there is no backing down. If there is one thing that is certain, Stef and Lena have raised passionate and determined children.
In the meantime, Stef has tracked Callie’s phone to a liquor store and as she enters, frantic and desperate to find her daughter we are gifted with more artistry; combine Peter Paige’s fantastic vision, the music track, and Teri Polo’s ability to transport any audience into the moment with Stef Foster, and artistry it is. There’s no sight of Callie, from hopeful comes hopeless. Similarly, Emma and Brandon are having no luck of tracking Jesus down, instead come to a halt when Brandon apologises to Emma for blaming her for the entire situation. Quick cut back to Stef, who we watch exit the liquor store lost and searching for any trace of Callie; to be honest, this scene was one of the more harrowing The Foster’s have ever delivered. Stef, moving from car to car knocking on the trunks whispering Callie’s name, no response at all, as the reality that she may never find her daughter becomes closer than she’d ever imagined. Checking back with Callie at this point, she’s seen getting a makeover from one of Russell’s girls, while Diamond strategically steals the girl’s phone. Using Callie as a distraction, Diamond moves to the next room and sends Stef a picture message just in the knick of time.
Back at the Foster’s house, Ana and Gabe have been discussing their status as parents and whether they are cut out for it. Well just as their conversation becomes deeper, banging and crashing is heard from the backyard and as an angry Jesus arrives home. Noah Centineo, since his arrival to The Foster’s cast, has given new life to Jesus and none more so in his deeply shocking attack on Brandon’s room with a baseball bat. Add to it, the touching moment shared between Jesus and Gabe, as the father comforts his son, reassuring him that it’s okay, that he’s got him. It’s those moments, high in emotional vulnerability that this cast and creative team excels at. Speaking of vulnerable, Russell has taken the next steps in getting closer to Callie when he removes his shirt, his gun and asks everyone to leave them alone. At the same moment, Stef has tracked Callie’s phone signal through a high-speed car chase, to a disheveled guy who insists he’s only a messenger. We all know not to mess with Stef Foster, and this guy learns that lesson quickly as Teri Polo launches her best “mama tiger” yet. Cut with scenes of Russell becoming increasingly affectionate with Callie, the audience questions whether Stef will ever find that picture message. Callie’s façade breaks, stating that her mom is a cop and she’ll be here any minute. Thankfully, Stef saw the message in the meantime and has called back up already, but now we just wait and hope that the situation doesn’t worsen. That is, until Diamond pulls a gun on Russell.
As the episode begins to reach its climax, “Wannabe Principal” Drew and Mr. Stratos take drastic measures to put an end to the protest. After a heated confrontation with Mariana, that sees no waiver in her stance, Mr. Stratos resorts to physical force to break through. Jude, jumping into protective brother mode, attempts to stop Mr. Stratos but instead gets himself doused in pepper spray. From here the protest devolves into chaos as the school security breaks the crowd up, it’s frightening but again another reality driven storyline The Foster’s team does justice. Back at the house, Brandon, Emma and Jesus finally discuss the truth to the whole situation, with Ana and Gabe there to mediate. It is obvious that Jesus is still struggling with all the implications of his condition, but when told the truth – that the baby wasn’t Brandon’s, and that he and Emma were never a thing – his fears seemed to dissipate. He apologizes for consistently getting confused but is reassured by Gabe when he explains that maybe in his own way, Jesus was trying to put all the information together to better understand it. In a rare, but poignant moment, Gabe finds his voice as Jesus’ father and is able to give his son a little encouragement and whole lot of reassurance.
Back at Anchor Beach, after checking in on Jude, who’s nursing burnt eyes from the pepper spray, “Mama Tiger” is unleashed as Lena makes a stand. After witnessing the chaos including but not limited to, Mr. Stratos placing his hand on Mariana and Jude being injured, Lena makes it very clear to Drew that he isn’t actually principal. Not just yet. It would be remiss of me not to mention the epic nature of Sherri Saum’s hair during this scene; wind-blown, and deeply passionate she delivers every line and emotion with visceral conviction. Monte, noticing the power within Lena, steps in and backs her up reminding Drew that she hasn’t resigned yet, and she doesn’t plan too. Seems as though the fight isn’t over. Cutting back to Callie, we watch as her and Diamond is continue to stay out of sight in the bathroom as Russell and his frenemy have it out. It is when the gunshots sound that Callie and Diamond make a run for it, timed perfectly for when the police show up. Sadly, Diamond is still in possession of the gun and is ordered immediately to drop the weapon. With confusion plastered across her face, along with sheer terror, Stef finally shows up insisting that Diamond is no threat. She gets the young girl to put the gun down as she gets both her and Callie to safety.
With the big events resolved, we watch as each characters story is closed; Brandon sees for the first time the damage done to his room and we aren’t surprised when his reaction is to shut Jesus out. Mariana, on the back of hearing the news that the fight for Anchor Beach may not be over, tweets the news out to all her followers. Additionally, her and Ana share a sweet mother/daughter moment where Mariana urges Ana to be better for Isabella. On the topic of mother/daughter moments The Foster’s audience are always on the edge of their seats when Teri Polo and Maia Mitchell are involved. As Russell is wheeled into the ambulance, shot but alive, it sets the stage for the long awaited discussion between Stef and Callie. Stef informs Callie about Troy Johnson, the disbelief written across her face. Teri Polo consistently delivers performances unlike any other; with the line “what’s it going to take Callie, for you to start valuing your life?” Teri Polo brings every ounce of devoted mother and fearful parent. And let’s not forget the nuanced, unspoken, reactive acting of Maia Mitchell as tears well in her eyes, fall onto her cheek as Callie hears Stef’s greatest fears. As the episode closes, Stef and Lena embrace – Sherri Saum illustrating the despair effortlessly – while Callie, a strong call back to Season 1, sits alone in the bathtub. Bravo Fosters creative team for an emotionally charged start to what feels like another great season of telling true stories, with the utmost respect, honesty and love.