Between the countless family moments, to the ever-increasing drama, The Fosters latest episode, “Chasing Waterfalls”, cracked through another wall of storytelling. Continuing to grow in strength is the creative teams’ ability to bring to the forefront stories that have long been pushed to the side, stories that right now a highly relevant and so needed. The episode opens on the Adams Foster family enjoying breakfast together; Brandon (David Lambert) receives a message from Cortney saying that they need to talk, before being informed that as Best Man his responsibilities not only include the bachelor party but also an engagement party. Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) always one to plan a party, suggest that they host the party at their home, a suggestion quickly shot down by Stef (Teri Polo) who states that having her ex-husband’s engagement party at her house may not be the greatest idea. After the conversation dies down, and the kids leave, Stef goes to the backyard to let Gabe know that Jesus (Noah Centineo) won’t be working today as he is at school getting assessed. This also provides a bridge into Stef’s question about the ring; did he make it for Jesus? Why? Because he wanted to give Emma something to represent that they are going steady. Stef although still a little confused, accepts the response and leaves just as Cortney arrives. Gabe and Cortney share a quick discussion to make sure Brandon is okay with what he saw, Gabe is concerned, but Cortney seems confident that Brandon is okay. Really? I don’t think so.
Back inside, Lena (Sherri Saum) and Stef continue to discuss the situation with Jesus and Emma; one that both women are a little unsure about. Does this mean marriage? Could Emma really agree to something like that? Stef’s face says it all when she comes to realization that she may in fact have read the current relationship between Emma and Jesus all wrong. It’s hilarious, and a total call to Teri Polo’s quirky humor. Their discussion is somewhat interrupted when Dean arrives to update Stef on the title for the house. This exchange has Lena all kinds of off-balance, as talk about taking her dad off the title becomes a topic. She questions why it’s even something for them to think about, but Stef is smart to respond that what if Stuart has financial troubles again? What then? Regardless, Stef encourages her wife that maybe that night when they have her parents over for dinner, will be the perfect time for them to talk about it. Meanwhile, the time has come for Callie (Maia Mitchell) to present her self-portrait but instead of positive feedback, she receives quite a mix of criticism over the way in which she developed this piece of art. Not only that, the class sees someone who is uncomfortable with them, someone who doesn’t know what they want to be.
After last week’s gaming catastrophe, Noah confronts Jude (Hayden Byerly) regarding his lies. He can’t be with someone who lies, but also someone whose focus is always on video games. Jude, panicked and obviously not predicting such a statement, assures Noah that he’ll make time for them. He follows through with his word as they walk upstairs and he dismisses Taylor’s desire to play video games. She’s upset but it seems as though his actions are a sign of good faith for Noah. Later on however, Jude becomes stuck in the middle when Taylor and Noah come to blows about who gets to spend time with him. Jude wants to spend time with both, but is struggling to balance his best friend with his boyfriend. Thankfully, and funnily enough Grandma Dana takes it upon herself to solve his problem; she sets a schedule and is intimidating enough to not get any bite back from the teens. Speaking on Dana, she and Stuart enjoy a family dinner with everyone (except tired Jesus) where we hear about Callie’s plans for a hike with Aaron; plans that will require use of the car, which doesn’t go over well with her other siblings. Not only that, Stuart shows some memory loss behavior that even though it isn’t too obvious both Mama’s look weary. Also, lets not forget the sassiness from Jude when he reveals that one of their new neighbors is Stef’s ex-girlfriend and also that Jesus is engaged. Oh Adams Fosters dinners are always an audience favorite.
Later that evening, with the kids out of earshot, the Mama’s find time to discuss with Dana and Stuart about taking his name off the title. But before they can even get to it, Dana tells Lena that it’s about time they start paying her and Stuart back for the loan for the house. Um, what? Lena’s face is all kinds of torn up; a mix of confusion, sadness and utter shock. But before I forget, it’d be remiss of me not to mention the heartwarming moment between a tired Stuart and Stef. He apologizes to Stef for how her father treated her and goes further by saying how he thinks of her as his own daughter, and just how proud he is of her. The moment is simple, yet elegant, with the dialogue and delivery beautiful. This moment however quickly dissipates as the Mama’s convene upstairs to discuss the whole situation regarding paying back the loan. Stef is quick to remind Lena that it was never a loan, but a gift. They are both rocks in a hard place, but Stef assures Lena that she will talk to Dean about it all, she just hopes she doesn’t get caught with Tess again. What follows, is a frank piece of advice from Lena, that why doesn’t Stef just talk to Tess about what happened in high school? This scene identifies, that even with a little jealousy surrounding Stef’s previous relationship, Lena remains logical and wise.
In what served as the combined core of this week’s episode we watch as Callie and Aaron embark on their hike, while the family back at the house deal with Stuart’s newly discovered health problems. Callie and Aaron eventually arrive at the waterfall, the envisioned destination, and it’s as breathtaking as Stef said. Callie, not wanting to lose a moment, undresses and jumps in. Initially a little cautious, Aaron undresses and follows closely after. The moment is exquisite, a subtle but quick shot of Callie as she watches him undress; I caught it just in the nick of time, but what Chandra Wilson beautifully did there is capture the true nature of Callie’s feelings for Aaron. She’s in awe of him, and the Callie we’ve seen this last season continues to be one of the greatest character arcs the Fosters have created. Their feelings for one another are reiterated after their sneaky dip in the water, when Aaron states that he knows who Callie is. And even if she doesn’t, the majority of people never really know the entirety of who they are. Callie, in the moment completely, just knows that right now, she wants what they have.
At the house, as the Mama’s and Dana are in the depths of a frank conversation about the house, an excited Stuart arrives home. He invites everyone outside to where they see a new car; the kids obviously excited about the new car, but Dana instantly jumps into action. The family watches on as she reminds Stuart that they can’t afford this, they are barely making ends meet. When he responds that his job can cover it, she reminds him that he’s retired and with that the audience and the Lena realize that his memory loss is a lot worse than first thought. With this discovery, Stef and Lena inform Dana they’ll be paying her back but in exchange Stuart’s name will be taken off the title. The scene is heart wrenching, but none more so when Dana starts to cry and admits to not being ready to lose Stuart yet. Adding to the waterworks, the scene between a lucid Stuart and Lena about her coming out is a must see. The writing again, reaching deep into my soul and bringing back all kinds of emotions about my coming out, Stuart apologizes for reacting so badly. He identifies that the statement “I still love you” was not anything any parent should ever say. That it’s such a terrible thing to say, especially when his love for Lena has never changed. What he should have said is that “I’m very proud that you know who you are”. I don’t think I’d be the only one out there who would wish for that to have been said when they came out. This is what The Foster’s is all about; they draw of real life, accurate experiences and recreate them in a way that reminds us, reaches us and inspires us.
The episode ends, with quite a few of the Adams Foster family members gaining they closure they need. Brandon and Cortney share a mature conversation, and comes to terms with the reality of being exes; all they want if for one another to be happy, regardless of how uncomfortable they may feel about it. Dana and Stuart leave, as the family watches them drive away, and Lena’s reality is all too hard-hitting as tears well in her eyes as she states a truth we all know too well; that we never really think it’s going to happen to our parents. Keeping with the theme of exes, after an awkward moment earlier in the episode, Stef finally takes the time to confront Tess about high school. As weird as it may feel for Stef, bringing it up so many years later, the honesty she has when explaining what truly happened is empowering. She admits to having romantic feelings for Tess, that her father shipped her to church camp to set her “straight” and afterwards she felt too embarrassed to reach out. This moment, deeply familiar to so many, really resonated with me. Tess questions why then did Stef marry Mike? And her answer is one I know all too well; it is what she thought she was supposed to do. Thank you Fosters team, for crafting an exchange true to so many experiences of your audience; to watch a story like our own play out on television is such an inspiring thing. The conversation, although empowering on one hand, ends a little awkwardly when Tess simply responds by saying it was like she had those types of feelings for Stef. This admission, although not meaning to hurt Stef, I believe did, if only just a little. The subtle reaction from Stef, the pause before she speaks, indicates again, Teri Polo’s nuance for these emotionally vulnerable scenes but also Stef’s unresolved feelings from when she was younger.
Elsewhere, Callie and Aaron have arrived back to his apartment where the romantic tension doesn’t seem to waiver. In fact, before it gets too intense, Aaron takes the time to light a candle, and play music. These little things, along with the direction and artistry from Chandra Wilson, give life to this scene and this pairing. Maia Mitchell and Elliot Fletcher have given a breath to this story, unparalleled. The honesty, and deep emotion behind the intimate moment is obvious and intoxicating; and I watched hoping that everyone experiences a love like what we watched. A love supportive, and a love that knows no bounds. This moment seems to invigorate Callie, as the next day we watch her stand her ground and defend her artwork. She doesn’t know who she is, and she’s okay with that, so in every sense her self-portrait is exactly what it needs to be and is therefore the best piece to have in her portfolio. Time and time again, The Foster’s reminds us all that who we are doesn’t need to fit in any box, or under any label. That change and the not knowing is all a part of life, and that being unique, is important and deserves to be celebrated.
Other Key Notes:
- Stef agrees to have Mike’s engagement party at the house
- Brandon goes off at Gabe, obviously not happy about he and Cortney being a thing.
- Mariana receives a threat from Logan’s girlfriend after she helps put together an elaborate “I love you” gift
- Jude receives an offer to be a gaming ambassador, but without Taylor