The Fosters (S05E08) "Engaged"

Review:
This week on “The Fosters” it was all about getting/being “Engaged” as we watched the Adams Foster family celebrate Mike (Danny Nucci) and Ana’s engagement. At the same time we watched Jesus (Noah Centineo) and Emma navigate exactly what the wooden ring means. Opening on a family dinner, everyone in attendance, the conversation is about the upcoming Prom and possible themes.

Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) is spearheading the discussion, with an “under the sea” theme being one of the first ideas. As the discussion continues, however, Callie (Maia Mitchell) reveals that she is probably not going to Prom as Aaron is in high school, and Brandon (David Lambert) isn’t going either. Mariana, disappointed in her siblings, encourages them to rethink, as it is their senior prom and could also be the last prom at ABCC. Lena (Sherri Saum) arrives home in the meantime with good news regarding ABCC.

She informs the family that she and Monte (Annika Marks) met with a board member who has put her vote behind the students, meaning they have a strong chance of saving Anchor Beach. In other news, Mike and Ana’s engagement needs to be this coming weekend, as the wedding is in a month, and Ana’s family would prefer that Ana and Mike not be living together before they’re married. Brandon coyly asks, after dropping this bombshell, if Stef (Teri Polo) can help him run errands – smooth Brandon, smooth.

With the organization of this party, Jesus asks if Emma can come, and as it has been a week since he saw her, he’d very much like for her to come. Stoically though, Lena responds by saying no, that it is a family party with no significant others invited. Jesus, under his breath, snaps back by saying she isn’t just his girlfriend. Mariana, having heard this little remark, bites back and states that, of course, she’s his fiancée. It has to be mentioned, that Noah Centineo continues to go above and beyond in his role as Jesus this season; aspects of vulnerability and sudden anger are his trademarks as Jesus continues to deal with his injury. Not liking Mariana’s comment, Jesus demands to be excused from dinner.The entire family looks concerned. And when Mariana looks across the table at Stef and asks whether he is ever going to be normal again, the pain of everyone in the extended family is revealed. In the backyard, Jesus has retreated to spend time with Gabe who seems to be settling into his new life quite well. Jesus, obviously needing to distract himself, informs Gabe about the engagement party and urges him to tell Ana once and for all how he feels about her.

 This week seemed to have the mamas playing offense when it came to Jesus and Emma’s supposed engagement. In the following scene, Stef asks Lena how long they are going to let Jesus believe that he is engaged. The conversation soon turns to Emma, and how she is doing in all of this. Both mamas have a strong belief that Emma has a good head on her shoulders and that, for all they know, this engagement could all be in his head. Regardless, Stef thinks it’s a good idea they find out for sure.

Side note: Is Lena attempting to meditate before bed in this scene? It very much looks like she is trying to center herself before sleep, but is interrupted by Stef’s desire to find out what’s going on. Could it be something new she’s taken up to deal with the increasing stress in the family? At school the next day, Jude (Hayden Byerly) must continue to lie to Taylor about the gaming ambassador offer. She’s over the moon excited, and he can’t seem to break the hard news to her. Elsewhere in the school, Lena shares a sweet moment with Emma regarding Jesus in which she sneakily finds that Emma is not wearing the ring. She very obviously breathes a sigh of relief at this discovery.

 This week Callie has her interview for art school, during which she receives some positive feedback regarding her work and background. However, the admissions department believes she may be more suited, and more successful, if she applies for Social Work or Psychology. The disappointment and hurt are written across Callie’s face, with the ability of Maia Mitchell to illustrate her character’s emotion becoming more and more eloquent week in, and week out. To rub salt in the wounds, Callie exits the interview to find AJ (Tom Williamson) sitting outside, giant black folder in hand. She soon finds out that he is applying for art school as well, with a portfolio much bigger than hers. The self-doubt we’ve witnessed Callie grapple with previously starts to creep in as she turns the pages of his portfolio, with each page reiterating to her on some level that she’s out of her league here. It’s heartbreaking to watch; yet at the same time, we know Callie Adams Foster isn’t going to give in just like that. Shortly after, Callie is snuggled in bed with Aaron looking terribly dejected and unable to see the positive in her interview. Aaron, trying to be supportive, suggests that maybe Callie should look into social work, an idea that doesn’t go over too well with her. Trying to redeem his previous comment, Aaron mentions that the number one goal is getting into the university; she’s always able to transfer majors after that. Going further, Aaron questions whether art is the best way to change the world. Callie immediately responds by asking why she needs to change the world? Why can’t she just be Callie? Aaron, as lovingly as he ever has been, states that from what he’s seen, changing the world is she.

Back at the house Callie, Mariana (ranting about the new model of Anchor Beach), and Ximena are working away at the signs for the protest. Ximena is a little quieter than usual, and we soon find out that her father is currently updating their family plan. Ximena will now be Poppy’s legal guardian if anything happens to her parents, a pressure that is noticeably overwhelming for the young woman. What “The Fosters” have done this season with a focus on the political climate has been respectful, yet shockingly close to what is currently ensuing in our day-to-day lives. The creative team, along with the brilliance of Wade Solomon and Megan Lynn, delivers a powerful message through this scene. The mood quickly changes as the big day arrives, and we see the Adams Foster crew setting up for the engagement party. The comedic brilliance of Teri Polo and David Lambert is on display when Stef questions her son about the whereabouts of the alcohol. When he answers by saying there is none, Stef nearly falls to the ground in shock. Even more wittingly, Brandon states that Mike and Ana are both recovering alcoholics and that no alcohol seemed appropriate. Not only that, Stef refused to help him run errands. One of those errands would have been getting alcohol, as he’s underage. I guess the joke’s on you Stef.

 Emma arrives to an excited Jesus, but when he notices she isn’t wearing the ring, he becomes a little concerned. Emma, noticing it all too quickly, puts the ring firmly on her finger to quash any fears he may have. The party gets underway with all our favorite Fosters members in attendance. Gabe is there, looking as awkward as ever, while Mike and Ana are beaming with happiness. On the topic of awkwardness, when Stef notices that Emma is in fact wearing the engagement ring, she devolves into a weird mess of eye signals and non-verbal cues to Lena. Teri Polo, when given moments like these to really show her comedic abilities, never disappoints. Stef’s whole “something in my eye” bit is enough to make you wet your pants in laughter. Eventually getting enough of Lena’s attention, the two escape to the kitchen for a quick debrief as well as a sneaky sip of wine, to discuss the game plan regarding Emma and that ring.

 Meanwhile, it is revealed to AJ that Callie isn’t looking into social work or psychology but, in fact, art school, and he is shocked that she didn’t mention it. After looking through her portfolio he is even more shocked that she isn’t pursuing it, because art can change the world. AJ makes a heartfelt statement that art can overcome cultural divisions and can move people to move mountains. No truer line has been spoken, the writers again bringing truth through the words of these characters that speak to us all. Downstairs, Brandon gives his “best man” toast with an original song that has us all in the feels; David Lambert’s performance speaks to everything I love about acoustic music. His song moves Mike to tears and has the entire party erupt in applause. However, during this we watch Emma leave after Jesus makes a comment about their engagement party. Lena, witnessing her leave, searches the young girl out later. Before we see that scene, the twins stand up and make a speech. Mariana’s simple yet beautiful, Jesus’ confusing and a little ambiguous.

 Shortly after, Lena finds Emma alone in the living room. The young girl is evidently struggling with something, her eyes welling with tears and unable to find the words. Giving in to her pain, she explains that she really wants Jesus to get better and go back to school, but she isn’t ready to be engaged. If there is one thing that always gets me about Sherri Saum, it’s her reactivity with any of her co-stars. In this scene, as Lena lets Emma talk, we see Sherri’s eyes widen and concern for this young girl deep within them. It’s not only that, but the moments of silence between the two, that give weight to this discussion. Lena assures Emma that Jesus’ recovery is not her responsibility, and goes further to apologize if she ever made her feel like it was. Emma asks Lena whether she is okay with them being engaged, and Lena answers no, of course not, and that they really thought it was all in his head. Emma quickly responds by saying that she thinks it is all in his head. As the two embrace, Stef walks in just as Emma walks out and we’re given one of those mama scenes that leave out hearts feeling every emotion under the sun. Lena admits that her mom was right, that the path of least resistance is not a road they should take. Stef, knowing all too well that she hasn’t been there enough, reassures her wife that there is no “I,” but “we”. The motherly instincts of both these actresses are what set them apart in these roles; it is their combined chemistry both on and off the screen, as well as their deep responsibility as mothers and artists that deliver, time and time again, moments of pure love.

As the episode draws to a close, Gabe admits to Ana that he still loves her (all overheard by Brandon) but is, sadly, too late. She’s in love with Mike – a fact I am so deeply happy about – but a realization shattering to a hopeful Gabe. Meanwhile, upstairs, Emma confronts Jesus once and for all. Stating strongly at the beginning that she loves him, Emma tells Jesus that she can’t wear the ring if it means they are engaged. Jesus immediately questions whether she is breaking up with him, but she quickly assures him that she’s not. Continuing to explain, she states that they’re too young to be engaged, and that she can’t be the only reason he wants to go back to school; he needs to do it for himself. Quickly becoming hurt and defensive, Jesus suggests maybe they should break up. He becomes increasingly aggressive, stating that he isn’t a charity case, a comment Emma never made. Overhearing the commotion, Mariana walks in to defend Emma when Jesus says that he doesn’t need her, because, in all honesty, he does. Regardless, nothing Mariana or Emma says gets through to him, as he yells at Emma to get out. Noah Centineo has been my MVP this season, fearlessly jumping into this story and delivering it with such strength and vulnerability I sometimes need to pause and take a breath. Later on, Stef and Callie share a quiet moment together where Stef tells her daughter how proud she is of her. Not only that, they discuss the importance of standing up for what is right even if they are scared. The next day, Lena receives a call from Drew stating that the model of the new ABCC has been destroyed, and her kids were the last to be in the building. Elsewhere, AJ and Callie are in the heat of protest when things start to get somewhat ugly. But regardless, the two stand their ground. Looking on from afar is Aaron, a little jealous when he sees Callie and AJ protesting together.

 In closing, this episode, like all the others this season, has demonstrated the importance of telling real-life stories, stories taken from the real world right now, and beautifully crafted on a platform that reaches many. “The Fosters,” five seasons in, continues to lead the way in what it means to have a creative team, passionate, informed and outspoken, as well as an acting ensemble equally displaying all those things, with the ability to pull heart-strings, inspire change, and invigorate souls.
 
Other Key Notes:

  • Aaron successfully gets offered an internship in New York for the summer. Callie is excited; he’s worried. But she assures him she’ll be right here when he gets back.
  • Noah is supportive of Jude and his gaming habit – now that he is getting paid for it – but unfortunately gives Jude some advice about Taylor that backfires on him.
  • After realizing that Grace, in fact, does want to go to Prom, and wants the whole “Prom-posal,” Brandon comes up with an idea special to them. Hilariously, it doesn’t go according to plan when Grace’s mom walks in on him – half naked, handcuffed to her bed.
  • A birth family picture between Ana, Gabe and the twins gives a rare insight into what “may have been,” as everyone else looks on
  • Brandon is watching Gabe like a hawk throughout the evening, making sure nothing happens between him and Ana. Protective Brandon is my favorite.