The Fosters tackles heavy subject matter on a weekly basis, so when the show tossed up a disclaimer at the start of this episode, I knew we were in for something that could be a tad overwhelming.
"EQ" explores teen and young-adult suicide in two separate story lines. Now, I'm all for parallel plots to drive a point home, but it's a little heavy-handed to have students at Anchor Beach take up arms against Brandon's Romeo and Juliet musical for glamorizing teen suicide in the same episode in which Rita's daughter Chloe returns and attempts to kill herself. Not to mention, The Fosters quite beautifully dove into the topic of teen suicide and depression during the Sophia arc. (Also, where is that girl? Can someone put out an APB? I could use some more Robert Quinn in my life.)
Now, I'm not against discussing teen suicide on a show that's geared primarily towards teens. It's an admirable choice, and The Fosters should be commended for making it. I'm just saying that "EQ" was ... a lot.
Mainly, I'm concerned for Callie. The poor girl was the one who had to deal with Sophia after that scare, and here she is again with Chloe, being asked to help someone else deal with her demons. She barely finishes a cute study session with AJ (easily winning the Best Boyfriend Award on this show — the dude made calculus sexy!), and she's faced with yet another crisis. Why can't Callie have nice things?
Callie gets a weird voicemail from Chloe, whom we haven't seen since the slap heard round the world, in which she implied that she's going to hurt herself. When Callie confronts Rita about helping Chloe, Rita makes it clear she isn't falling for Chloe's act again. It sounds harsh, but Chloe's pulled as much before: threatening suicide, only to ask for money afterward.
Callie calls Rita out for her self-righteousness, and their conversation devolves into another argument about the foster-care bill. Callie insists she's only there to talk about Chloe, but these two need to iron things out yesterday. We're all suffering for it.
Since Rita wants nothing to do with Chloe, Callie goes to check on her. Chloe isn't looking so hot. She's at a seedy motel, she just lost her job, and she's clearly off her meds. Within minutes, Chloe asks Callie to spot her some money for rent. Rita seemed to be right. For a little while, anyway.
Later, Callie receives another voicemail from Chloe. This time, something is really wrong. Callie calls an ambulance and heads on over to the motel. Watching her watch the EMTs as they turn over a barely alive Chloe is stomach-churning. I'd say that Callie deserves a sunny island vacation after this whole thing, but knowing Callie, she'd probably just get pulled into a drug-running operation or something equally as terrible. Remember her paragliding adventure across the border? The girl can't have fun without the cops showing up.
Regardless, in a very exposition-heavy scene between Callie and Rita, we learn that Chloe survived her overdose, and for the first time in her life, Rita believes Chloe actually wants to get better. The clunky conversation at least leads to something good: Rita and Callie apologize and forgive one another. I know they were only fighting for one episode, but Rita and Callie are each other's allies — they aren't supposed to be fighting. It was a very trying time (for me).
The other end of the two-pronged discussion of teen suicide comes in the form of a protest against Brandon's musical production of Romeo and Juliet. Sally — the student-council president, creator of urban gardens, and unfortunate target of Monte's creepy favoritism — is calling for R & J to be cancelled because it romanticizes suicide. Of course, if the show is cancelled, B fails his senior project and won't graduate. So, instead of making a decision as principal of the school, Monte wants the student honor board to handle it. Because teens are always capable of making good decisions in tense circumstances. Have you read Romeo and Juliet, Monte?!
Sally makes her case. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 25, and Romeo and Juliet suggests that suicide can be an act of true love. The message Sally tries to get across is noble, but the girl clearly wasn't paying attention in English class.
Guess who was? Brandon Foster. I know, I can't believe it either.
He rebuts Sally's argument with a very astute reading of the play. Shakespeare never romanticizes suicide. In fact, he does the complete opposite: Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy about two impetuous teens, Brandon says pointedly at Callie, who dismiss the value of their lives and make bad choices. In the play's closing lines, it even refers to itself as a "story of woe." Not to mention, banning this musical is akin to banning books. Art that forces people to question the world around themselves is important, especially for teenagers.
The room erupts in applause — but applause doesn't equal honor-board votes. R & J is cancelled unless Brandon can find an off-campus venue.
Sally, Shakespeare's greatest enemy, should be out celebrating her "victory," but instead she ends up in tears when she goes to see Lena. The girl can barely get a word out, until finally she manages three: "Monte kissed me." Record scratch. I knew my creep-o-meter wasn't going off for nothing.
Elsewhere in the Adams Foster abode, Stef is dealing with her own emotional issues. She's been asked to teach an Emotional Intelligence (EQ) course for at-risk kids. Her first class is a disaster. A rather rowdy student, Javier, makes it a point to comment on Stef's "great tits" and then insult her choice of hummus. Stef blows up at him and he is quickly removed from the room. Javier doesn't get it half as bad as Jesus does, though.
Jesus is struggling after being shut out by his biological father. To deal with the pain of rejection, Jesus has taken to being surly at breakfast and packing screwdriver roadies with Stef's vodka in his lunch — so, yeah, he's being a rebellious teenager about the whole thing. One (or three) drunken visits to Gabe's construction site later, and Gabe rats the kid out to his moms. Gabe could be arrested for being anywhere near Jesus, and he begs Stef and Lena to keep their son away from him.
Unfortunately, it's not before he can avoid a run-in with Mariana. It was an awkward first meeting, to say the least, but it does come with a gift for us all: a sincerely heartfelt twin scene. Mariana and Jesus bicker with the best of them, but they always have each other's backs when it counts.
Jesus doesn't get the same sympathy from Stef and Lena. In fact, he gets no sympathy from Stef at all. She screams at him for drinking and harassing Gabe. She doesn't care that he's hurting. Life's hard, get over it.
The next day, Stef and Jesus are still at it. Finally, Stef forces Jesus to attend her next EQ class. Jesus needs to learn about making positive choices. Lena calls Stef out for being insensitive, and wants her wife to pay attention to her own emotional reactions. She knows Stef is angry and having a hard time processing her feelings post-surgery, but she shouldn't be taking it out on their kids. This, of course, cuts to the core of Stef, because Lena cuts to the core of us all.
Back in class, Javier returns. He's a reminder of inappropriate reactions Lena mentioned. Stef decides the only way to get through to these kids is to open up. So, she tells them about her mastectomy, and explains why Javier's comments set her off. There's a laundry list of other ways Stef could've handled the situation, including, as Javier notes, simply telling Javier he hurt her feelings. He's right. But also, he threw out a perfectly good container of hummus, so he was kind of asking for it.
Great Choice of the Week: Terrible Nick momentarily redeems himself when he offers up one of his dad's abandoned warehouses (conveniently, it has great acoustics) as a home for R & J. Momentarily is the operative word because …
Terrible Choice of the Week: Mariana, please beware the man who brings you to his dad's abandoned warehouse and asks you to ride hover boards with him. I wish that were a euphemism.