Before we get started, I have something to say: The fact that The Fosters 3×17 is called “Sixteen” seems like poor planning on the writers’ part, no? Why would you call episode 17 “Sixteen” when you could call episode 16 “Sixteen”? Am I overthinking? …I’m overthinking. On with the recap!
Judicorn turns to Judiporn
The Fosters 3×17 opens as many episodes of this show do, with the family eating breakfast. This morning, Jesus is campaigning to have a separate 16th birthday party from his twin sister. (If it seems like they’ve been 15 for about three years, that’s because they have; the quinceañera episode aired in June 2013.) Nick, who’s present for no reason, says Jesus can build a makeshift skate park on the ground floor of his father’s warehouse while Mariana can hold her dance party upstairs. Brandon protests that he needs the ground floor for play rehearsals and the first floor to store the sets, but nobody cares, sooo sucks to be him.
Meanwhile, Jude is excitedly getting ready to attend homecoming at Connor’s new school in Los Angeles – and, judging by the way Jesus reacts after accidentally seeing a text from Connor on Jude’s phone, Connor is “pretty excited” to see Jude as well. In my mind, Jude is like 12 years old, so that’s… uncomfortable. It seems Connor has big plans for their weekend together, and Jude isn’t sure how he feels about that. When he confides in Jesus, his older brother suggests doing some “research” by taking some “Jude time” to explore the underbelly of the Internet. Jude’s face is priceless. (I’m sure mine is too.) Cut to Jude literally Googling the word “sex.” He gets through about two seconds of a decidedly X-rated video before closing his laptop with a look of horror. I can’t decide if this is cringe-worthy or hilarious. Eventually, he tells Stef and Lena that he doesn’t want to visit Connor anymore.
Speaking of uncomfortable situations, Callie and Brandon have yet another awkward exchange about their significant others. This time, their discussion is related to whether AJ and Cortney will be attending the twins’ party – and, more to the point, whether they should be. Finally, Brandon manages to stutter out this gem:
“I um, I saw you and AJ… kissing… out back. I was in the garage. Don’t – don’t feel weird or anything, I just think it’d be better, you know, if… if we didn’t bring other people home, or to family stuff.”
Let’s take a second to acknowledge two things here. Thing the First: Brandon’s birth father is AJ’s foster father, which basically makes them family. Thing the Second: Callie is most definitely going to feel weird that her kind-of ex – who’s also her kind-of brother – saw her kissing her new boyfriend, who’s, well, also her kind-of brother, come to think of it.
She said/she said
So remember the “Monte kissed me” bombshell dropped by Anchor Beach student Sally at the end of last week’s episode? In The Fosters 3×17, it falls to Lena to discuss the allegation with Monte herself. According to Monte, it was actually Sally who initiated the kiss, so it seems we have a case of she said/she said. When Lena says Monte should have reported what happened to the school board, Monte points out that Sally’s 18, so there’s no legal issue. However, there’s still a hell of an ethical issue. “I didn’t want to humiliate the girl,” Monte protests, adding, “Frankly, I know how that feels.” I thought principals were meant to act more mature than their students.
That night, Stef tells Lena that Monte singling out Sally and paying her special attention is “classic grooming behavior,” and Lena admits she doesn’t know what to believe anymore. Can I just say that I hate this storyline? The Fosters has done some wonderful, progressive things like depicting Stef and Lena’s relationship in a sensitive, realistic, and three-dimensional way that’s historically been reserved for heterosexual TV couples, but that doesn’t give the show a free pass to backslide into the tired trope territory of the Depraved Bisexual. Incidentally, Sally’s irate parents tell Lena that they know Monte’s bisexual because Sally found Monte’s online dating profile, which said she was seeking men and women. They refuse to let their daughter tell her story to the school board, instead calling for Monte to be fired and threatening to destroy the school’s reputation if that doesn’t happen.
Elsewhere, Mariana and Ana meet with Ana’s mother Elena about writing a letter to help get Mariana and Jesus’ birth father, Gabe, off the Sex Offender Registry so he’s no longer legally required to stay away from Jesus. Once they receive Elena’s hesitant blessing, Mariana and Ana visit Gabe to ask him to sign a petition for a pardon. Gabe says he has to think about it, then awkwardly wishes Mariana a happy birthday. Mariana leaves her birth parents alone together, and Gabe offers Ana a drink.
As the party gets started, AJ makes an appearance, and Brandon’s not happy about it. Sally also shows up, and Brandon’s not happy about that either (if you’ll recall, Sally was the one who forced his production of Romeo & Juliet off school premises in last week’s episode). “Brandon, we can’t be petty,” Mariana chides him. That’s sort of like telling him not to breathe, but A for effort.
Down in the skate park area of the party, Callie wonders aloud why Jude decided not to go to L.A., and Jesus sheepishly informs her that it may have something to do with the sext that he “sort of intercepted.” Callie very cleverly gets onto Jude’s level by reframing his problem as hers, claiming she’s avoiding AJ because he wants to have sex but she’s not sure if she does. They get onto the topic of watching adult videos online, about which Callie says, “It’s so aggressive and impersonal, and of course, they’re just acting. They probably don’t even know each other. Sex isn’t like that with someone you love and trust.” Her gaze shifts across the room to Brandon, and she unconvincingly adds, “Or so I’m told.”
Secrets stop being secret
Apparently Callie and Brandon are still on the same wavelength in some respects, because they both independently make plans for some alone time with their significant others while the rest of the family is out of the house and occupied by the party. When the quartet runs into each other in the kitchen, the Brallie tension is palpable, to the point that AJ asks Callie why she and Brandon were acting like they got caught cheating on each other.
Callie: “AJ, nothing is going on between me and Brandon, OK?”
AJ: “Nothing doesn’t feel like that, Callie.”
In the garage, Cortney guesses that Callie is the girl Brandon told her about – the one he couldn’t be with and was struggling to get over – and Brandon admits she’s right. “We didn’t want to destroy the family, so that was the end of us, like, truly, and forever, and no one can ever know,” he tells her. Um, what happened to the Brandon from The Fosters 3×12 who was all “That’s how secrets stop being secret – when you tell people”? Cortney says she admires his sacrifice, then drops a bombshell of her own: She also lives with her ex, the father of her son.
Back at the party, Lena watches Sally dance with another girl and grows more conflicted about whose side of the Monte/Sally story she believes, while the twins’ grandfather spills the beans to Stef about Ana and Mariana’s efforts to help Gabe. I was expecting Stef to fly off the handle, but instead she talks calmly with Jesus about how not having a father figure may have affected him, then assures him there’s nothing wrong with being curious about his dad. “Do you think if he got off that list, he’d want to know me?” Jesus asks Stef. You’re breaking my heart, kid.
Meanwhile, when Sally tells Lena she needs to leave the party early to write a paper, Lena notes that her parents put a lot of pressure on her not to let them down. She points out that in order for Sally to find Monte’s profile, Sally must have been searching for women online in the first place, and the girl breaks down in tears. Lena gives her a weird amalgamation of a pep talk and a wake-up call that goes a little something like this:
“The thing is, being who your parents want you to be make it kind of hard to be who you really are. You have a right to be yourself, to be proud. You don’t need to feel ashamed. … Monte’s career is at stake – her reputation, Sally. This lie could ruin her life.”
Hitting an iceberg
So remember how Mariana left Gabe and Ana alone? By the time Ana shows up at the party, she’s decidedly not sober, and she says some pretty awful things to Stef, Lena, and her own parents before Stef and Jesus escort her out. Mariana blames herself, but her grandparents blame Gabe. So much for getting him off that list. Speaking of Gabe, the man himself shows up at the Foster house after the party’s over, intending to leave gifts by the front door for Jesus and Mariana. Jesus invites him in and he declines, but wishes his son a happy birthday. Turns out Gabe bought Jesus a tool belt to replace the one Jesus threw away – awwww.
Cut to Jude video-chatting with Connor. They both admit they’re struggling with the distance aspect of their relationship, and when Jude says he didn’t know what Connor meant by texting him that picture, Connor explains he was imitating the guys on his school sports teams who send sexts to their girlfriends. As their conversation goes on, it becomes clear that the Good Ship Jonnor is in troubled waters.
Jude: “Do you ever think that the only reason why we got together was because we were the only two gay boys in our grade?”
Connor: “Do you think that? We were friends first.”
Jude: “I guess that’s the problem – you don’t feel like my friend anymore.”
When Connor asks if Jude wants to break up, Jude counters by asking him the same thing. BASICALLY THE JONNOR SHIP HAS HIS A MAJOR ICEBERG AND MY HEART IS SHATTERED, THE END.