The Fosters Recap: Mom Hugs Are the Best Hugs

Sherri Saum as Lena and Teri Polo as Stef. Photo: Eric McCandless/Disney Enterprises
The Fosters

The Fosters

If and When Season 3 Episode 13
Editor's Rating 4 stars

The latest outing of The Fosters contains two things very near and dear to my heart: sweet stories about the relationships between adults and their parents, and solid Mario Lopez comedy. We’ll start with the former, since I’m still crying and won’t be able to stop until I talk it out. God, I’m such a Lena sometimes.

One of the things I love most about The Fosters is that although it’s a teen drama on a network geared toward people younger than I am (but, like, what is a Freeform?), the show pays equal attention to the adults in the room. Main character or not, the adults don’t just show up to dole out advice before jetting off to a time-share in Boca. They fight just as many demons, learn just as many lessons, and are just as layered and complex as the kids are — many times, even more so. (But, like, what is a Jesus 1?)

As you age, adulthood tends to teach you that you’re never too old to need your parents. You also learn that it’s not acceptable to eat salsa as a meal. The parent thing, though, that’s most important here. ( Kids: Also remember what I said about the salsa.) And nothing demonstrates this lesson better than Stef’s interactions with Sharon in “If and When.”

Sharon, Stef, and Lena are still butting heads over Stef’s decision to proceed with a lumpectomy rather than a double mastectomy. Tensions are high — I’m no shrink, but it’s obvious everyone is scared — and eventually, Stef decides it would be best if Sharon and her handsome, young hippie boyfriend, Will, left for the trip they’ve been putting off. Queen Annie Potts is excellent as Sharon lays on the good-bye melodramatics. Unfortunately for Stef, Will’s RV won’t start, and Sharon’s stuck in San Diego a little bit longer.

Stef doesn’t have much time to deal with Sharon, though; she’s knee-deep in the AJ situation. She obtains a warrant for Ty and, much to Hot Dad Mike’s chagrin, for AJ as well. When Callie gets a call from AJ — who most definitely did not message her on Fost and Found (a mystery’s afoot!) — she decides to let Stef know, and based on the area code, they realize AJ is in Phoenix.

Let’s take a minute to acknowledge just how far Callie’s come: Old Callie would’ve been halfway to Phoenix on her own (okay, probably with Brandon) by now. Let’s see how she reacts once she finds out that Jack — yes, Jack, who’s been hanging around the Adams Foster house for their video-game collection and high-thread-count sheets — is the one pretending to be AJ on the Fost and Found message boards. And just when she was defending him to Jude …

Regardless, thanks to Callie, Stef is able to track down Ty and AJ. As much as Hot Dad Mike and Lena beg her to leave AJ out of this, Stef needs to find justice for her family. I’m going to put my amateur-shrink hat on again (it’s more of a fascinator, really) and guess that Stef’s unwavering determination comes from a need to control something in her life. She is having trouble with the BRCA-1 gene test results, so she grasps at the one thing she has power over.

I’m kind of good at this shrink thing, huh?

When Stef returns from Phoenix, Lena confronts her about a passive-aggressive comment Stef made about always siding with her, and Stef finally shows her wife the test results. They need to rethink their plan. Rather than a prolonged scene with Lena, we get a scene with Stef and Sharon. I love that. Stef needs her mom, you guys! Knowing that cancer is no longer a question of if, but when, Stef decides to have the double mastectomy — and what she needs most is for her mom to be there with her. Okay, talking about it did not stop the crying. I blame you, Annie Potts!

Though Sharon and Stef’s lovely chat is a show-stealer, Sharon and Will’s moment soon after is a close second. Dr. Joel Fleischman is in the building, people! Again, Will could’ve easily been a throwaway character, and Sharon isn’t a main focus of The Fosters, by any means, but thanks to Potts and Rob Morrow’s performances — and the show’s willingness to highlight all types of relationships — I found myself emotionally invested in what I originally believed to be comic relief.

We learn that Will secretly pretended his RV was broken for Sharon’s sake, and he loves Sharon for her spirit, and he wants this to be more than a fling. The only big problem with all of this? Now I love him and he’s leaving. Such is life, I guess. Kids: Add that to my list of adult lessons, right under the salsa thing.

Moms weren’t the only ones getting screen time in “If and When,” though. The dads get some attention, too. I’m not even talking about Hot Dad Mike, who was more like Sad Dad Mike for most of the hour — I’m talking about Jesus 2’s search for his birth father. Spurred on by his adult-faced teen friend, Nick, who hilariously scares Jesus with the notion that for all he knows, Mario Lopez could be his father, Jesus decides it’s time to seek out some additional information. He goes to Ana for answers. She is obviously uncomfortable, only offering only a name, Gabriel, and a thin story about a one-night stand. Thanks to a nosy cousin, Jesus learns that Ana is lying; she was in a relationship with Gabriel, and the dude works construction for Jesus’s uncle.

After a spot-on pep talk from Will (there is so much to love about him), Jesus decides that yes, he wants to know his father. He heads on down to the construction site and worms his way into a job, working side by side with Gabriel. Things are sure to blow up in Jesus’s face, but for now, let’s call it a win. The kid really needs a win.

Terrible Choice of the Week: The world’s most anticlimactic student-government race ends with Lena pulling Mariana out of class to tell her she’s lost the election. Come on, students of Anchor Beach! She chose the “confident” outfit over the “sexy” outfit! Enjoy Lexi as your Prexi — YOU DESERVE HER.

Great Choice of the Week: All is not lost! Brandon and Cute Mat select Mariana as the Juliet in their senior project … opposite Mat’s Romeo! Mat’s not too thrilled, but Mariana won the part fair and square. (Um, bye, Talya!) Something tells me the timeless story about two teens so deeply in love that they end up killing themselves even though they could’ve prevented all the tragedy with a little patience and communication might be just the thing to reconcile Mariana and Mat. Bring it on.

The Fosters Recap: Mom Hugs Are the Best Hugs