It Just Got Real: The Fosters “House & Home” Review
by KAMMs Moore-Mitchell
Let’s be honest: we don’t watch The Fosters for the angst, action or thrills. We watch it for, as it’s called in the world of fan-fiction, the fluff. Because every now and then you need a little fluff to balance out your TV schedule. Fluff is good. ABC Family specializes in it and The Fosters is an above-par example as shown in the latest episode, “House & Home.”
We’re coming back from the winter hiatus to the additional 10 episodes ABC Family ordered to complete a full season of the hit series. Lena and Stef have just gotten married and decided to adopt Jude and Callie. Callie and Brandon finally stop lying to themselves and share a kiss at the Adams Foster wedding.
With the ever accurate and perfect timing younger siblings always seem to have, Jude walks in on them and becomes upset, accusing Callie of being selfish. In a heated one-sided discussion he tells Callie she will ruin things not only for herself but him too. Agreeing, she decides to run away, eventually catching a ride with her ex-boyfriend, Wyatt.
Much of the first post-hiatus episode is spent searching for Callie. Wyatt eventually calls Stef and Lena to report her whereabouts. Just as they arrive Callie catches on and leaves, getting a ride with a trucker. After unsuccessfully trying to get a job she discovers her father has been released from prison for over a year but never came looking for her or Jude. With no place to go and no resources she walks into a convenience store to intentionally get caught shoplifting, knowing it will send her back to juvenile detention.
Callie gets a court hearing but doesn’t want her foster parents present. They show up anyway, stand to express to the judge how much they love and want to adopt her. Up until this point this chain of events is more or less expected. It’s made clear the Adams Fosters want her in their home and love her as their own.
Stef speaking on behalf of the two character witnesses, attests to all of the great strides Callie has made since being in their home even stating they trust her, only to end the heartfelt speech with, “we are not prepared to bring her back into our home at this time.”
Bet you didn’t see that one coming – just the plot twist this show needed to shake things up and make sure you’re paying attention. From the look on Callie’s face it seems we weren’t the only ones a bit surprised to hear those words. Looks like things just got real.
In a discussion with his moms Brandon discovers Callie won’t be coming home right away. Upset, he tries to convince them that letting Callie stay in a group home is the wrong decision, saying how damaging it will be to her. First thought: when did he become a child psychologist? His passionate argument on her behalf is punctuated with the declaration to his moms that he and Callie are in love.
In love?! Well that escalated quickly. Show writers make it clear, as much for the audience as for Lena and Stef that this sort-of-siblings romance isn’t going away anytime soon.
Cue Callie’s arrival at the group home and more plot twists: this isn’t your average group home. Recurring guest star, Rosie O’Donnell’s character, Rita, opens the door and welcomes Callie into the large suburban house, that were it not for the sign out front, would appear like any other family home on the block.
While kudos are due for the diversity of the individuals in the home – in backgrounds, offenses, and genders, I can’t help but feel like it could have been done more creatively. Rita summons the girls; they sit in a circle and introduce themselves – giving diminutive snapshots of their biographies and rap sheets. We could have just as easily read the character summary at the beginning of the episode’s script.
Something – or someone rather did stand out in that scene: Cole. Cole is a self-described transgender male who doesn’t seem too fond of Callie – or maybe anyone – and would much rather be in an LGBT group home. It’s true we’re starting to see more and more reflections of real life on TV and in film and The Fosters has, since it’s beginning, been no stranger to using it’s platform to give viewers exactly that.
Providing visibility of trans* issues and situations on a show who’s very premise lies in an interracial lesbian couple raising a family may seem like no big deal to many of the show’s fans. However, it is a big deal – a very big deal. The ‘T’ coming last in LGBT is unfortunately more accurately symbolic than it is coincidental or practical.
In terms of progress for the LGBTQIA* community, the gap between the ‘T’ and the rest of the letters in the acronym is far and wide. Trans* folks are just now, very slowly, getting the opportunity to see themselves and their stories on TV and in film. With so few opportunities for visibility, the burden of representation is high and the pressure is on to see how The Fosters will handle Cole, his story, and the issues he faces as a transgender male in the juvenile justice system.
One thing The Fosters could do a better job of is balancing the storylines. While obviously different episodes will feature some more heavily than others, there should never be a time when we forget a storyline is even happening or how it is affecting the characters.
Even though we don’t see much of Jude, it’s clear he’s having a hard time with Callie being gone and isn’t quite sure how to handle it. Mariana, the characters that has grown the most, notices and starts to look out for him. She tells him she’s having a hard time sleeping alone since Callie has been gone and asks if he would mind sleeping in their room, giving Jude the opportunity to be just a little bit more connected with his sister by sleeping in her bed.
But what’s all this talk about Marianna not having a boyfriend? We’ve been sort of inundated with that fact lately and I can’t help but wonder where the show is going with that.
Mariana gets a visit from a senior at her school, with whom she is instantly smitten, and decides to join the crew of the school play at his request, only to be paired up with her old “friend” and former ADD medication customer, Kelsey. Kelsey may be sober after rehab, but she is certainly still trouble. We also discover Kelsey too has an interest in Mariana’s new crush – though with different intentions. Any guesses as to where all of this is going?
Jesus gets into wrestling at the suggestion of Mike in an attempt to get off of his ADD medication. Other than that we don’t get much of him this episode. Everyone finally knows Lexi won’t be coming back, yet there’s no mention of how he is coping with the loss of his girlfriend or Mariana with the loss of her best friend.
The episode ends with Callie running into Brandon’s embrace after he finds her group home – all with the rest of the house looking on from the porch. From the look on Rita’s face we can’t quite tell how she feels or what she’s thinking or if this means Callie is in even more trouble than she was already in for fighting with Cole on the first night and losing her privileges.
Cliffhangers, story progression, and character development – it’s a great combination that makes for great TV. “House and Home” is a great example. So far, so good, Fosters.
*LGBTQIA – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, Queer, Intersex, Asexual