After Ana's relapse, I was waiting for The Fosters to delve into the long and windy road addicts face. When the show seemingly glossed over the aftermath of the twins' sweet 16 party in a quick, exposition-filled conversation — Ana's going to two meetings a day, everyone knows it wasn't Gabe's fault — I wanted to be mad. But when I realized it was just making room for two surprising, important, and rarely explored-on-television conversations, well, how could I ever be mad? Oh, The Fosters, you had me at nipple tattoos.
Since Stef's decision to undergo a double mastectomy, The Fosters has subtly been exploring her emotional and physical recovery process. The physical one is perhaps more impactful. Don't get me wrong, it was moving to watch Stef realize her hummus-induced freak-out during EQ class was due to her frustration and anger. But when have you ever watched a couple discuss the pain of breast expanders, or the pros and cons of "going flat?" It's not the sexiest or most dramatic conversation to tie to a major story line, but it's an important story to tell.
It all starts when Stef bemoans the physical pain of preparing for her breast-reconstruction surgery. Tissue expanders and saline fills hurt, y'all. Lena suggests forgoing the implants. Stef doesn't need them if she doesn't want them. Stef's uncomfortable with the thought of having no breasts. As a lesbian cop, she's already teased for being butch — being flat would only make it worse. Lena insists she'd still find her wife sexy, boobs or no boobs, but Stef's not convinced.
And then, in possibly the most shocking scene in the history of The Fosters — nay, the history of Freeform itself — Lena asks Stef to talk to some women who've also had mastectomies because LENA HAS NO MORE ADVICE TO GIVE.
Up is down. Down is up. Lena Adams Foster is out of advice. I told you it was shocking.
Jokes aside, it's a nice sentiment, and Stef begrudgingly takes her wife up on the offer. She meets with two women — one who opted for implants, one who did not. Stef, Lena, Ellen, and Karen sit in the Kitchen of Dreams and Bad Decision-Making and calmly discuss each option, completely free of any judgement or self-consciousness (except for Stef, who is awkward as hell).
To help Stef really understand what both of these realities look like, Ellen and Karen remove their shirts and Karen even has Stef and Lena feel her implants. The fact that a scene like this is happening on a show geared towards teens is amazing, then even more amazing: Jesus walks in to find both of his moms feeling up a stranger in their kitchen. But also the ground-breaking TV thing. That's pretty important.
Even when Lena "doesn't have advice," her advice works. Stef is inspired by the confidence Ellen and Karen displayed. In that vein, she waltzes in with an extremely short, extremely cute new haircut. She was always afraid to have her hair short because of what others would think. After this whole ordeal, she's come to realize that long hair and boobs are not what makes a woman a woman. Letting go of other people's definition of "feminine" has, in turn, made her feel more feminine than ever before. And she's getting boobs because she likes having boobs. So there, SOCIETY.
The other important conversation in "Rehearsal" is one that's been tiptoed around for some time: the trouble with the sex-offender registry. When most TV shows deal with a sex-offender story line, it's black and white: Sex offenders are bad. The Fosters isn't most TV shows.
Through Gabe, The Fosters has shed light on what happens when not-so-bad-people are saddled with the scarlet letter of being a child predator for the rest of their lives. Like, for instance, an 18-year-old boy with a drug problem who fell for a 15-year-old girl. Gabe was by no means a good kid, but he certainly wasn't and isn't a threat to minors. Because of the strictness of the law, his entire life is informed by a decision he made as a teenager.
Here's hoping the letters of support Mariana managed to get from her bio-grandparents, Ana, and even Jesus, help turn things around for Gabe. When Stef delivers those letters to him in person, she's upfront about the effect he's having on Jesus. She wants to know point-blank if he intends to have a relationship with his kids. He confesses that he would like to know Jesus and Mariana, but has nothing to offer them. I guess Gabe didn't get the memo, but everyone knows the first rule of Hot Dads Club is to feel completely inadequate as a father. You're doing okay, guy!
Stef certainly knows what Gabe has to offer: his carpentry skills. She brings him down to Terrible Nick's Warehouse turned theater to help Jesus build the set for Brandon's musical. Since Stef is there to supervise, everything is on the up-and-up. Let's all take a moment to applaud Stef for basically being Mom of the Year in this situation. She knows her son wants a relationship with his biological father, and she goes above and beyond to make that happen.
Unfortunately, the father-son "let's make a stage" time doesn't go smoothly. Gabe goes on and on about the terrible choices he made as a kid, how he told Ana not to have the twins, and that nothing good came out of him and Ana being together. Now, I know the guy isn't around kids much, but he is a human with a brain (I think?), so I find it hard to believe he wouldn't immediately realize what he just said was rough.
When Jesus eventually calls Gabe out on it, he pleads ignorance. As in: Gabe doesn't know how to do this (CLEARLY), but he does want to know Jesus. He asks for help. When he says or does something wrong, he wants Jesus to be honest with him. Okay, Gabe, you're back in the club.
Later, Gabe is working after hours at the warehouse alone, Mariana pops in to grab a script she left behind. Gabe thanks his daughter for her letter and she insists he come see the musical. The loveliness of this scene is marred by a twist that was obvious from the moment Gabe was given the security code for the place — the police respond to a tripped alarm, and after figuring out who Gabe is, they arrest him. The dude can't catch a break.
But wait! If mastectomies and the intricacies of sex-offender laws are too much for you, there is also some kissing!
Mariana and Mat are not gelling in rehearsals for the big show. Mat crosses a line when he makes a comment about Juliet being a virgin and Mariana singing like Ariana Grande. This is offensive to all women, Mariana, and most especially, Ariana Grande. To make matters worse, Mat's make-out buddy, "Rockabilly Barbie" Zoe, tells Nick that Mariana and Mat broke up because she cheated on him.
Mariana feels slut-shamed, and eventually confesses the whole Wyatt (!) story to Brandon. Brandon and Mariana are always a great pairing, but usually for their comedy. Him being there for his little sister is a welcome change of pace. He makes sure she knows she's not alone in having regrets of the sexual variety, and reassures her she'll get through it.
Mat eventually apologizes — he was never going to be a bad guy — and finally they are able to let go in rehearsals. And by let go, I mean mash faces passionately.
You guys, this musical is going to be so good.
Great Choice of the Week: Never forget Crazy Dani. The Fosters does a pretty decent job remembering old story lines, and I'm glad they finally circled back to Brandon's rape. It's obvious he still feels the ramifications. Callie's speech about letting Dani and Liam be the ones who feel ashamed about what they did — along with her confession that sleeping with Brandon was the first time she could be with someone without feeling ugly since her rape — almost helped me come to terms with their cabin sex. Almost.
Terrible Choice of the Week: Callie selling out to Justina in order to get Daphne a job. Although Callie only wants to help her friend prove to the court that Daphne can take care of her daughter, it's tough to watch our girl get in deeper with Justina Marks. The Callie I know would be appalled after hearing a woman justify pawning off a sad foster-care story as her own because it "opened hearts and it opened wallets." This is going to get real bad, real soon.