The Fosters Recap: Just Keep Swimming

The Fosters

Under Water
Season 3 Episode 14
Editor’s Rating *****
Tanner Buchanan as Jack. Photo: Isabella Voskimova/Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Hey, Fosters fans! We’ll get this recap started in a minute, but first I need to finish sweeping up the million pieces of my shattered heart. I mean, did you see that final montage? It was so moving that “Under Water” gets five stars, even though Terrible Nick is in the episode being extra terrible. That ending could move mountains, is what I’m saying.

Sure, the montage “technically” ends with the discovery of a registered sex offender in our midst — which we’ll get to later, because I have thoughts — but technically-schmechnically, you know? Let’s focus on what made it so emotional, which, as is true with most things on The Fosters, is Stef and Lena.

There’s been a lot of tension between our mamas, what with Monte, Sharon setting up shop in San Diego, and the built-in stress that follows a breast-cancer diagnosis. To watch them both finally be honest with one another about how this surgery will affect them and their relationship was a big, beautiful relief. Teri Polo and Sherri Saum are wonderful in this outing — which, yes, is like saying the sun is hot, or the sky is blue, or Brian Littrell is the best Backstreet Boy. But just because something is a fact doesn’t mean it isn’t nice to be reminded of its truth once and a while.

As Stef’s double mastectomy draws closer, she’s adamant about getting all of her affairs in order. It’s not the most positive way to go under the knife, but we’re all well aware that Stef is the rational, crisp-oxford-shirt-wearer, while Lena is all emotions and flowy dresses.

In a surprise move, Stef gives power of attorney to Sharon. Sharon will do whatever her daughter asks, but she warns Stef not to shut Lena out. Easier said than done. Stef heads to Anchor Beach to talk to Lena, and finds her wife having a closed-door crying sesh with the Full Monte herself. Although Lena is dealing with some serious emotions, I’m so glad she doesn’t fully unburden herself to Monte.

Lena eventually learns of Stef’s decision through Sharon. When Lena asks Stef why she didn’t tell her, Stef offers up the Monte meeting as an excuse. Instead of rehashing the same tired fight about an affair, though, Stef admits what’s bothering her: She’s worried that Lena meant what she said about Stef’s sex drive and post-surgery body while the two were discussing her options. Sure, Lena said those things, but she admits it was mostly a way to convince Stef to go with the lumpectomy. Thankfully, Lena makes up for it by laying out a particularly wonderful list of all the things she loves and finds attractive about her wife.

Then Lena tells Stef she’s her home, and Stef finally admits just how scared she is, and my robot heart malfunctions with all the emotion. I cannot handle these two women. Cannot. Handle. Them.

Now that Stef and Lena have been open and honest with one another, it’s time to tell their kids about what’s going on. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been waiting for this reveal since the moment Stef got her DCIS diagnosis. There’s nothing I love more than an Adams Foster family meeting.

The Fosters has always been adept at conveying a lot of emotion within small moments. In this instance, we don’t even need to watch Stef deliver the news — we only need to see the kids after they learn their mom has cancer. The five teens look understandably stunned. It’s that moment when you realize your parents are human, and it changes you. It will change them. Stef calls on her babies — I’m not crying, you’re crying — to keep up with their chores, stay close to one another, and circle up for a group hug.

After such an intense day, Lena surprises her wife with a late-night swim, the one thing Stef asked for when Lena wanted to know how to help. This isn’t just any swim, though — they’re  skinny-dipping. (“Last one in is on top tonight!”) The scene starts out playful but leads into, you guessed it, THE MONTAGE.

Lena and Stef hold onto one another in the pool, Brandon stares sullenly at a picture of him and his mom, Jesus and Jude can’t sleep, Mariana and Callie sit in bed together researching Stef’s surgery, Lena and Stef have sex one last time before things change. It’s a simple, evocative way to show how these characters cope.

Yep, there goes my heart again: a million little pieces.

If only Terrible Nick could be, like, one fourth as lovely as any of that. Alas, he is the Worst. How is he the Worst this week? Terrible Nick is still, for some unknown reason, pushing Jesus to confront Gabe about being his biological father. When Jesus fills Mariana in on what he’s been up to at the construction site, Mariana lets her brother know that he could just tell Nick that their biological father is actually none of his business.

I’d stand up and give the girl a hug if: (1) she weren’t a fictional character on my television, and (2) she didn’t end up falling so easily for Terrible Nick’s “charms.” After he got caught doing doughnuts in the school parking lot, I thought maybe she had him handled once she realized he only asked her out to soften up his chances with the Student Honor Board. He lays it on thick, reminding them that it’s really hard to start at a new school as a 30-year-old junior, and he’s just trying to impress people. Mariana doesn’t buy it, but will let him off with a warning if he cleans up the tire marks he left in his wake. She hands him cleaning supplies and knee pads for good measure.

Terrible Nick decides to hit on Mariana again. This time, he tries to woo her with a blow-job joke (the knee pads … don’t ask), and follows that up by blaming her for the way he acts. (She’s just too hot, you know?) I told you, he’s the Worst. I hoped she was only entertaining him to make Cute Mat jealous. But … teenagers.

Further evidence that Terrible Nick is terrible: Jesus follows his advice and tells Gabe that he’s his son. Gabe flips — but not for the reason you may think. He tells Jesus to leave immediately; he cannot legally be around him. When he breaks the news to Mariana, she assumes Ana must have a restraining order against Gabe, but upon further digging, she finds out Gabe is registered as a sex offender. Best-case scenario: Ana was underage while they were dating. But is there really a best-case scenario?

Terrible Choice of the Week: Brandon dating someone with a child? This will not end well for anyone. Run, Cortney! Run while you can!

Great Choice of the Week: The Fosters putting the foster-care system on blast — again. Jack’s decision to tough it out in an abusive foster home rather than risk being placed in juvie is disturbingly sad. Once again, The Fosters is shedding light on (and providing a vocabulary for) a subject that begs to be discussed. If only the Jack story line weren’t going to crash down on Callie, thanks to that shady Justina Marks.

The Fosters Recap: Just Keep Swimming