If you had told me that, one day, an in-depth debate about the privatization of the foster-care system would come to me in the form of a televised teen drama, I would've called you a no-good, but oddly specific liar. But I would've also been very, very wrong — and glad for it.
After an hour with a bright, beautiful focus on the matriarchs of The Fosters, "Minor Offenses" puts Stef's breast cancer story line in the background, making room for the teens of the house. That's not to say that our mamas didn't get some much needed one-on-one time. The scene in which Lena admits feeling guilty for being healthy, and Stef reassures her wife that she's what makes Stef feel better, is simple and beautiful, and can be entered into the case evidence for why Lena and Stef's relationship is the greatest thing about this show.
Back to the big debate. Shady Lady Justina Marks has put Callie in an ad that supports a foster-care reform bill. It's basically like one of those Sarah McLachlan puppy commercials, but instead of dogs it's about children — so it's much, much worse. Stef and Lena wisely hold off approval until they can all read the bill in full. Not even an invitation to the White House for a foster-care symposium can make them trust Justina without further documentation. Moms are the worst! But also really smart, and maybe Callie should listen to them.
Callie seeks support from her mentor and generally awesome person, Rita. (Rosie O'Donnell's back, you guys!) Unfortunately, she finds no help there, either. Rita has read the bill, and she tells Callie that while some of the reforms are badly needed, it also calls for half of the state's foster-care budget to be put into privatized homes — the same type of homes that put Jack and Kiara in danger, and the same type of homes she thought Justina opposed. So, it's not great news.
Callie confronts her, and Justina spins a tale about the benefits of privatized foster care. She tells Callie that the system is broken, and this type of sweeping reform is the only way to fix it. With privatized homes, people will finally be held accountable for problems — and that the profits companies will make by placing kids in those homes are just payment for a much-needed service.
All of this sounds great … because Justina is talking about the idealized version of a privatized system. That isn't the reality of it, and I'm a little peeved that Callie buys into what Justina is selling. Sure, she wants to fix the foster-care system, but she's not naïve. I find it hard to believe that Callie, who just name-dropped two friends who were almost killed in private foster homes, would be so easily turned by Justina Marks. The lady isn't that persuasive.
Maybe AJ will be able to talk some sense into her. Yes, you guys! AJ IS BACK. This is big news because: (1) AJ is great and (2) Where there is AJ there is Hot Dad Mike. I was worried that after AJ spent last week icing Callie out in juvy, we wouldn't see the dude for a while. Then he and Hot Dad Mike show up at the Adams Foster's door. Thanks to a little encouragement from Mike, AJ offers a heartbreakingly sincere apology for not turning in Ty once he discovered what his brother did to Jesus and Mariana.
AJ's free and clear, but Ty is being charged with both a hit-and-run and grand-theft auto. He's facing five years in jail. Hot Dad Mike comes to Stef and pleads with her to speak on Ty's behalf. Stef wants no parts of it, but Callie angrily reminds her that Stef once told Callie that she "wasn't disposable." So, why should Ty be treated that way?
Callie gets through to Stef. After learning more about Ty's childhood, she asks the judge to show leniency. She also has proof he didn't actually steal the car used in the hit-and-run. With grand-theft auto off the table, Ty is sentenced to 18 months — which is way better than five years. Also, it makes Hot Dad Mike happy, so, we're all winners! Well, everyone except for Ty, who still has to go to jail.
Since there's nothing left for AJ to do for his brother, he and Callie visit his grandma's grave. While there, AJ finally admits why he was prison-ghosting Callie: He felt embarrassed for blowing his shot with her. (Really?) Callie plants a big ol' kiss on the guy to let him know he's wrong. Well, either that or Callie just likes making out in graveyards. It's honestly a toss-up.
Now, here's a sentence I never thought I'd write: I really love Jesus Adams Foster. It's all Noah Centineo's fault, you guys. More times than I can remember, I've repeatedly yelled "GO AWAY!" at this character from my couch, and in a few short episodes, Centineo has infused him with more complexity and pathos than his predecessor Jake T. Austin did in two seasons.
Uh-oh. Is that the sound of thousands of teenyboppers at my door with pitchforks? Get off my lawn, teens! It is my truth, and I'm living in it.
After Mariana's discovery that their birth father was on the registered sex offender list, Jesus is struggling to process this new information. He lands on "not well." He heads down to the construction site to let Gabe know that he knows, and tosses that old tool belt at his feet. He's disgusted.
When Mariana sees how hard her brother is taking the news, she downloads Stef and Lena on the whole situation. Stef makes the twins promise that they'll never go near Gabe again, and then she does some digging of her own.
Meanwhile, Jesus is super-pissed at Mariana for telling their moms, so he decided to get back at his sister. When Terrible Nick asks for advice to woo Mariana, Jesus tells him that Mariana would love a double-date with him and her former best friend, Lexi. Terrible Nick believes this because he's terrible, and also because he's 45 years old and out of touch with the teen dating scene.
The date goes from bad — they go to a burger joint, and Mariana's a vegetarian — to worse, when the kids hop in Terrible Nick's car and Jesus encourages his friend to drag-race down the street. Mariana's appalled with both boys, but can't believe Jesus would be okay with speeding after their accident and everything their mom has been through.
Before Jesus can truly shame-spiral over Gabe, Stef has Ana come over to explain everything. As suspected, Gabe was 18 and Ana was 15 when they were dating. When she ran away with her drug-dealing older boyfriend, her parents called the police, and he landed on the sex offender's registry. Jesus is relieved, but it's short-lived. He finds Gabe and apologizes for flipping out, but he still wants nothing to do with his son. Maybe that shame-spiral is coming after all?
Terrible Choice of the Week: It's a tie. Which is worse? Brandon deciding it's full-steam ahead with Cortney, even after his adventures in babysitting prove exhausting and Cortney's ex seems a bit prickly … or Monte coming at Lena after she chides her for giving special treatment to a student? The fuse is getting shorter and shorter on both of these situations.
Great Choice of the Week: The Fosters is groundbreaking because it tackles meaty issues with honesty, but I love it just as much for depicting relatable teen problems. Mariana admitting to Lexi that she's jealous of her popularity is a small moment, but kudos to the writers for taking time to explore female friendship in the midst of more provocative story lines.