The Fosters (S05E05): "Telling"

The promo for this week’s episode, “Telling”, had us all on the edge of our seats when we were given the sneak peek a week before. The episode opens on Callie (Maia Mitchell), she is walking through the art school when she runs into Ximena who invites her to a party. Or should I say a fundraiser for roller derby. She insists that Callie not tell Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) as she doesn’t want her or Poppy crashing the party. The confusion on Callie’s face tells the audience that she has no idea why Ximena would even be mentioning Mariana; could Mariana’s gig be up? The confusion is short-lived when Callie is snapped back to reality by a male student trying to stop a right-wing, anti-immigration representative from attending an event at their school. He wants her to sign his petition, but after a moment of thought she responds by telling the young man that she’s not a student there. Elsewhere, Stef (Teri Polo) is at work with Cole who has reached out to her in the hope to help his friend Andy. It is obvious that Andy doesn’t want to be there, and that the relationship Andy shares with an older man isn’t necessarily causing him any pain. Regardless, his social worker must report any suspicion of sexual abuse. Teri Polo is subtle power in these scenes, her deep, undeniable love of being a mother shines through when Stef is put into situation where children are at risk. In contrast, passionate and fiery when confronted with Detective Grey soon after Cole and Andy leave, we all know that Stef doesn’t let anything go especially when there is injustice being done.
At the house, Lena (Sherri Saum) answers the door to find Tess and Logan on her doorstep. Tess has come with a bottle of wine to say thank you for having them over for dinner, and specifically it seems like, to see Stef. It is no secret how uncomfortable and subtly jealous Lena is of Tess, Sherri Saum dynamite in eloquently displaying such emotion. None more so when Mariana arrives, happy to see Logan, but more than that takes control of agreeing to a BBQ with the neighbours before Lena even had time to respond. This type of Mariana is my most favourite; when she’s focused on something that she likes/wants, she’ll do anything it takes, that includes running. A fact Callie finds incredibly hilarious but a moment that helps her to segue into asking Mariana about Poppy. Mariana smoothly covers her arse, but I have a feeling she won’t be able to keep up this lie for long. Meanwhile, in the backyard, Brandon (David Lambert) is continuing to place house with Cortney and Mason, seemingly doing a great job at taking care of the little boy. As Mason becomes preoccupied with hiding, Brandon and Cortney get the chance to catch up; she’s been promoted to bar manager while he does admit to seeing someone new. The unresolved tension is evident, but Mason quickly ruins any moment when he calls to Brandon to find him.
After being invited by Tess to dinner, Stef is thankful for such nice neighbours but Lena is still to decide whether she likes it or not. Stef noticing Lena’s hostility makes a point of mentioning it, although Lena continues the conversation to inform her wife that Jesus is completely wiped out by the new medication. The direction during this scene is smart and telling, with every short of Stef showing her taking another sip of wine or pouring another glass. These little nuances are what make the storytelling of The Fosters so unique. Stef is pretty dismissive of everything Lena puts forward – gluten free diet, clinical trials – with a “no” being her answer for everything. Thankfully, Lena picks up on it and asks her wife to stop saying no and maybe help advocate for their son. Before any agreement can be made however, Stef’s phone rings and she leaves the room. Let’s just say the Mama tension is building. Speaking of tension, Mariana returns from her run with Logan where she admits to him that she’s trying out for roller derby, he’s impressed and gives her props. Obviously interested in Logan, Mariana takes this opportunity to invite Logan to the party (fundraiser) later that night; he accepts.
The dinner gets underway but not as planned – Tess and Dean unfortunately need to borrow the Adams Foster grill, with the dinner eventually being had at their house instead. Both families are in attendance, with the atmosphere friendly for the most part. Again, the audience is given snapshots of Stef continuously with wine in hand while Lena watches the behaviour closely. There is a weird flirtation or familiarity between Stef and Tess, one that I don’t believe they are aware of but one Lena can sure sense. After a conversation about teamwork ends in Logan stating he wants to return home, and Tess reassuring her son that high school friendships don’t last anyways, the tension increases. Anyone has a knife so we can cut through it? The kids, picking up on the weirdness make their exit as they disperse to enjoy their night, not realising all their plans are exactly the same. Soon after, they all descend on the party – including Jesus, who swiftly guilt tripped Mariana into letting him come – making their way to the dance floor.
Back at the house, Stef is a little deeper into the wine while they all get to know each other a little better. Stef, with a bit of attitude, references their extended family and the amount of baggage they bring with them. Thankfully Lena is still somewhat sober, and makes sure that Tess and Dean realise just how much help both Gabe and Ana have when it comes to the twins. Surprisingly though, Stef and Lena aren’t the only ones feeling the heat; Tess snaps at Dean during their conversation that there isn’t anyway he could be more detached. What’s going on there? There’s definitely a story. Tess insists that she clean seeing as the Adams Foster women have once again hosted them, while Dean offers to open another bottle of wine; an offer Stef doesn’t hesitate to accept. Even with a quiet word from Lena about the amount she’s already drunk, Stef doesn’t seem to see the problem. Uh-oh, alcohol and sassy women are never a good mix. Speaking of sassy women, we cut back to the party where Jesus has ignored Mariana’s warnings about dancing and done it anyway meanwhile she catches Logan with another girl. To make matters worse, the police show up and tell Ximena she needs to shut it down. Even with a permit, and a stoic stance Poppy insists that she stand down and listen to the police. The wary look from her younger sister, leads the audience to wonder what exactly is Ximena’s story.
As the crowd disperses, we learn that Ximena is in fact undocumented and if she had stayed and fought the officers, she would have been arrested meaning ultimately she could be deported. It is within this conversation that Ximena has a line – “I’m just as much an American as anyone else” – that in the current political and social climate is timely and so relevant. Stories like these being told, with a boldness to them, is why The Fosters continues to grow and forge ahead of any other show on television. Back at the house, Lena and Tess clean the dishes while Dean and Stef continue drinking and conversing. Tess apologizes for overstepping with Jesus, Lena accepts and goes further to ask her advice regarding holistic approaches to treatment. Tess is a big believer, and even offers to make a call to get Lena in contact with a doctor in Los Angeles. In the backyard, Dean questions Stef as to what exactly happened between her and Tess in high school. A little shocked at the question, Stef just puts it down to finding new friends. I don’t think I’m the only one that can sense a little more drama building with this storyline. When no closure has been given, there is always room for drama to evolve.
Quick cut back to the kitchen, and the conversation between Tess and Lena seems to be flowing nicely, that is until Tess states how much she admires Lena and Stef, noting how courageous it is of them to live such an alternative lifestyle. Um, excuse me? Touche, Sherri Saum and creative team for Lena’s subtle yet completely accurate response to that comment. Come on Tess, really? As the partygoers continue to leave the venue, Mariana and Jesus are waiting for a way to get home when we watch as Jesus experiences a seizure. Mariana is instantly panicked as this situation in all seriousness could have been avoided. Unfortunately, her panic falls on deaf ears when Jesus threatens to tell Mama’s about roller-derby if she tells them about the seizure. Talk about sibling rivalry/sabotage; Cierra Ramirez and Noah Centineo have given the dynamic of the twins such life and layer in the last two seasons, and with the current storyline such vulnerability and angst.
The storylines with which the Mama’s have been given this season continue to strike a chord with me and I’m sure the entire Fosters audience. Not only are they dealing with obstacles in their relationship, their children continue to deal with real, and terrifying pain. Sherri Saum, this week, is sheer, heartbreaking truth as we watch Lena continue to fight for Jesus against all odds. We watch as she inhabits every emotion a mother in her position would feel, and as Lena arrives at her wit’s end and crumbles. When Mariana finally owns up to her omissions – she is participating in roller derby and Jesus had a seizure – Mama Tiger is unleashed through Lena. Yet this time, it’s different. She walks into Jesus’ room not letting the teenager get a word in; she can’t believe he’d be so immature to go to a party, and hide a seizure from her. He immediately bites back with sass, but Lena not letting her son find a way out, reiterates just how much she is doing to try to help him. Sherri Saum continues to unwrap layers of Lena five seasons later, as she one and for all puts her foot down. He’s grounded, and she makes certain he realises there will be consequences. Noah Centineo is haunting as Jesus this season, 100% committed to telling all sides of this story, not being afraid to go further and further to demonstrate the truth behind living with a TBI. The scene itself reaches its climax when Jesus goes to throw his phone; Lena’s fear momentary, but her strength remains. Inpatient programs are mentioned, tears welling in her eyes, but this is the last straw and for the first time all season Jesus sits and listens. Sherri Saum, woman, the undisputable pain in your voice, and broken-ness in your face delivered a scene that cracked open Lena’s often calm exterior, beautifully illustrating that we all have a breaking point.
Continuing this theme The Fosters gifts us with a depth-defying Mama’s scene, all parts shocking and vulnerable. We all know that Teri Polo and Sherri Saum, together personify electric chemistry, but it is scenes like the one this week that remind us just of the range and power this chemistry informs. Arriving home from her unsuccessful stake out, Stef attempts to keep face but Lena is having none of it. After calling Stef’s work to talk to her, Lena soon found out that she wasn’t in fact on call. Stef, lying? What is going on? Lena doesn’t care with her initial reaction to sass her wife out, telling her to go drink another glass of wine or go back to work. Stef is shocked to hear her wife come at her like that, but come on Stef, what did you expect when you lied to her? Lena doesn’t want to hear any of her excuses; she understands that her wife wants to save all the kids of the world, but right now, they have one at home that needs saving. Jesus is sick, and Lena feels like she is in it all by herself. Stef attempts to get a word in and reassure her wife, but Lena isn’t backing down. The subtle cracks the Sherri Saum gives to Lena in this exchange are enough to reach into your soul, even more so when the camera checks in with Stef and Teri Polo eloquently communicates her character’s terror that she’s hurt her wife like this. Lena reminds Stef that she said she wouldn’t disappear when she took the Detective job, the statement enough for Lena to give in to the pain and exhaustion. The realisation for Stef is immediate; she hasn’t been there, and the cost is outrageous. Teri Polo and Sherri Saum continue to be the only two actors on television with the ability to leave me simultaneously heartbroken and inspired. Someone show me two actors more committed, and more connected to a story than Teri and Sherri, two individuals who’s standing as mothers leave them incomparable to none.
Other Key Notes:

  • Callie and Mariana come to blows
  • Anybody want tickets to Grandon Canyon? Grace and Brandon perform together and it’s a little bit of a fail. But make plans to gig more together in the future.
  • Emma and Jesus are on the outs when she calls him out for his behaviour after initially being a little taken aback when he tells her he wants to drop out
  • Logan has a girlfriend, breaking Mariana’s heart
  • Gabe arrives home to Cortney and Mason – could this be the start of something?