Last week on The Fosters, Mariana and Jesus tentatively bonded with their birth father, the Brallie awkwardness continued, and preparations for R + J: A Romeo & Juliet Tale moved forward. Read on for our recap of this week’s episode, The Fosters 3×18, in which Stef makes a decision, Callie gets suspicious, and Gabe runs into trouble.
Pent up inside
The Fosters 3×18 opens with Callie testifying in support of Daphne getting custody of her daughter. She talks about how far Daphne’s come over the past couple of years and asserts, “I think if a foster kid has a biological parent who loves them and takes care of them, they deserve a chance.” Daphne is given 30 days to find a job that will allow her to financially support little Tasha without government aid, which seems like an impossible feat.
Meanwhile, Stef’s preparing for a doctor’s appointment during which she’ll get more liquid added to her breast tissue expander. I really didn’t know much about this until I did some research, and it’s pretty cool: Following a mastectomy, a tissue expander is placed into the chest and filled with a saline solution over a period of weeks so the body can grow new breast tissue that will eventually support implants. Lena says Stef shouldn’t feel like she has to get implants, but Stef is self-conscious about the way her post-surgery body looks. What’s more, she still worries about whether Lena finds her attractive, despite Lena’s vehement protestations.
As is the case with so many of the moms’ serious conversations, their discussion is interrupted – this time by Jesus and Mariana, the latter of whom Stef reprimands for the length of her shorts, stating, “The only cheeks I want the world to see are on your face.” Well, snap. In addition to daring fashion choices, the twins come bearing letters of support to help their birth father get off the Sex Offender Registry. The twins wrote one each and, despite Ana’s, uh… sobriety setback last week, she wrote one too, as did her parents. Mariana asks if Stef can deliver the letters, and Stef obliges. While she’s at Gabe’s place, Stef asks whether he’s interested in getting to know the twins, and he says he is but doesn’t know what he has to offer them.
Cut to Stef showing up at the warehouse that’s hosting Brandon and Mat’s adaptation of Romeo & Juliet – with Gabe in tow. Gabe heads off to give Jesus some (much needed) set-building assistance and some very much not needed information about his past relationship with Ana, namely that he wanted her to get an abortion and he doesn’t believe anything good came out of his time with her. Um, except for his son, who’s standing right there, right? Right? Gabe? Hello?
The following day, Jesus confronts Gabe about his words, and he clumsily backpedals, admitting “I’m probably gonna say and do the wrong thing a lot – you’ve just gotta tell me. You can’t get all pent up inside.” Gabe may be stumbling over his apology, but for a kid like Jesus, being told not to bottle up his emotions may just prove to be the difference between a violent outburst and a less destructive means of expressing himself.
Elsewhere in the warehouse, Brandon awkwardly introduces Cortney to Stef, mentioning that they work together but not that they’re dating. Once they’re alone, Cort tells him she’s OK with the omission because she isn’t ready to “meet the parents.” The second she said that, I knew Stef would somehow figure out the true nature of their relationship, and sure enough, she catches sight of them kissing a few moments later.
That’s grounds for an awkward conversation back at the house (“She’s a bartender, so she’s at least 21, yeah?” “So?” “So, you’re 17 … Are you guys having sex?”) Fun fact: The age of consent in California is 18, so if 21-year-old Cort sleeps with almost-but-not-quite-18-year-old Brandon, that’s an illegal act on her part, just as it was when a young Gabe slept with an underage Ana back when the twins were just a twinkle in his eye. Stef and Lena don’t go as far as to tell Brandon to break up with Cort, but they make it clear that they want him to be careful. They don’t even know that Cort has a son yet – but, after catching sight of a baby store loyalty card on Cort’s keychain, Callie figures it out. Brandon tells her to keep the information quiet, and when she asks if he plans to take on a stepdad role, he says it’s none of her business. Oh, but this is a new chapter in the endless saga that is Brallie – of course it’s her business!
So remember how Mariana’s dating Nick, Mat’s dating his R+J co-star Zoey, and Mariana and Mat aren’t really speaking to each other? Yeahhh, that’s not exactly the ideal premise for Romeo (Mat) and Juliet (Mariana) to give a convincing onstage performance. After Mat and Nick almost come to blows, Zoey tells Nick why Mariana and Mat broke up: Mariana cheated on Mat with Wyatt. Needless to say, Nick didn’t know that little tidbit. As Brandon looks on, a furious Mariana lays into Mat, assuming Zoey’s information came from him.
Later, Brandon attempts to comfort Mariana by telling her that everyone makes mistakes – even him. “I had sex with someone, and it was wrong, and I regret it,” he admits. In accordance with Foster’s Law, Callie overhears their conversation and thinks he’s talking about her, even though he’s actually referring to sleeping with his father’s girlfriend, Dani, in the season 1 finale. After Brandon sets the record straight with Callie, she says Brandon shouldn’t blame himself – after all, Dani committed statutory rape and was summarily arrested – but Brandon protests that he had been drinking and he never said no. This hits a nerve with Callie, who can’t help but associate Brandon’s words with Liam, her former foster brother (and abuser).
Callie: “For a really long time, I thought what happened with Liam was my fault, too. I felt, like, ashamed and ugly. That’s not how we should feel – it’s how THEY should. It wasn’t until you that I could be with someone the way you’re supposed to, without the shame and the guilt, at least in the moment. I don’t want to regret that.”
Brandon: “I don’t. I don’t regret it. At all.”
What gets things done
At the next day’s rehearsal, Mat tells Mariana that Zoey heard about what happened with Wyatt from Talya, who got her information from Wyatt himself. In other words, Mat never confided in Zoey about Mariana cheating on him. Mariana softens and thanks him, and the two proceed to sing a duet about their – I mean their characters’ – uncontrollable love for each other. “I finally believed you guys were desperately in love!” Brandon crows. Uh-oh…
Back to Daphne’s dilemma. When Callie brings up Daphne’s situation to foster advocate Justina, her mentor shares a childhood story involving her “first BFF,” who lived nextdoor and was taken away from a happy, stable life with her foster parents to be placed into an unstable situation with her birth mom. The girl – to whom Justina refers as “Lizzie” – ultimately ended up back in the system, and the two friends lost touch. When Callie tries to track down Lizzie online as a surprise for Justina, she finds a video of Justina recounting the story, but there’s a twist: Justina is Lizzie – or, at least, she’s telling Lizzie’s story as her own. In The Fosters 3×18, Callie is finally beginning to open her eyes to how extremely shady Justina has acted since Day One, and when Callie asks about the video, Justina responds with some subtle blackmail. Nice.
Justina: “I used to go to these fundraisers all the time, and I would tell Lizzie’s story, and people would listen politely, but they were never moved by it until one day I told it as my own.”
Callie: “So you lied.”
Justina: “The story’s not a lie. It happened. And when I made Lizzie’s story my own, it not only opened people’s hearts, but it opened their wallets.”
Callie: “So that’s why you need me? You’re using me – my story – to get money from people?”
Justina: “Well, Callie, money’s what gets things done. Without money, there’d be no reform. I mean, you can say that I’m using you, but for good – and you’re using me too.”
Callie: “How am I using you?”
Justina: “Fost & Found. You need me to help you expand it, get it out there, right? And you need me to get your friend Daphne a job. I mean, if it’s that important to you, I can do it.”
Callie’s nothing if not loyal to the people she cares about, so, of course, she sucks it up in exchange for Daphne getting a well-paying job at Justina’s company.
Stef’s symbol of confidence
Eager to help Stef feel better about her situation, Lena casually name-drops an Anchor Beach teacher she just so happened to run into at school, who just so happens to have had breast cancer, and also just so happens to be involved with a breast cancer support group. She’s downplaying the encounter, but Stef sees right through her and calls her on it. “They’ve been through what you have,” Lena points out. “I don’t know what to say or how to advise you, and I think you need to talk to someone who does.”
The next day, Stef and Lena are gazing at two topless women in their kitchen: the art teacher, who chose to have reconstructive surgery after her mastectomy (“Go ahead – you can give them a squeeze”), and another woman who chose to “go flat” and got a peacock tattooed on her chest. Everyone gets flustered when Jesus walks through the door, and Lena’s hurried excuse of “It’s a medical thing for Mom!” sounds thin even though it’s legit. Despite the comedy, Stef ends up making a very serious choice as a result of their conversation: She’s getting implants – and she cuts her hair!
“I think it’s my symbol of confidence. I always wanted to cut my hair really short [but] I was afraid I was going to look like a dyke. I hate that I have my own internalized homophobia, but I’ve just really been struggling – REALLY been struggling – with the way people are gonna look at me without breasts, as if I’m somehow less of a woman, less feminine. But, you know what? Breasts and long hair do not make me a woman, and what the hell do I care if people think that I’m butch because they have an idea of what a woman’s supposed to look like? I just want to look the way I want to look, and letting go of that fear… I’ve never felt more feminine.”
Sidebar: It’s really cool that The Fosters 3×18 is tackling the subject of internalized homophobia like this. Although it’s a nuance that’s been almost entirely skipped over in mainstream programming’s representation of GLBTQ people, it’s a real thing that’s really important to acknowledge. Basically, in the process of pressuring themselves into living up to an existing stereotype associated with how they identify (or, conversely, avoiding aspects associated with that stereotype), GLBTQ folks may end up compromising the authenticity of their self expression. TL;DR – Stef, you do you.
Well, this show wouldn’t be what it is without a cliffhanger to end virtually every single episode, and The Fosters 3×18 definitely delivers in that regard. As part of helping Jesus with the carpentry for the play, Gabe often works late into the evening – and, of course, the night Mariana forgets her script and heads back to the warehouse to retrieve it is the same night Gabe forgets to disable the alarm system. Legally, Gabe isn’t allowed to be around unaccompanied minors, so when the cops show up, he’s duly arrested…
Tune in to Freeform next Monday at 8/7c for a special musical episode of The Fosters, when we’ll finally get to see the play Brandon, Mat, and Mariana have been working on for so long. Pop City Life will be chatting with Cierra Ramirez (Mariana) and executive producer Bradley Bredeweg about the experience, so look out for the interview after The Fosters 3×19 airs!