Lena Adams Foster is mad, people. And when Lena is so mad that she's slamming doors and ACTUALLY YELLING, well, then things must be bad.
In the good-cop-bad-cop dynamic that plays out under the Adams Foster roof, Lena is almost always the good cop. Stef is the tough one with the short fuse, usually the one who needs to be talked down by her wife. Lena is the empathetic one, protective of her kids' emotions, wanting to be sure each is heard. It's a balance that serves our mamas well, a balance the kids have come to expect. When Brandon reminisces about how cool Lena was that time when she had to deal with a paranoid, Dostoyevsky-quoting, high teenager, it only emphasizes just how upset the levelheaded vice-principal is at the moment. When the good cop gets angry, all bets are off.
Of course, Lena's got good reason to feel tense: Her father is in trouble with the IRS, and because his name is on the title, the Adams Fosters may lose their beautiful, magical, pancake-filled home. That's not to say Lena has given up on her father, though. When he says he'll fix it, she believes him. Stef isn't so sure. And so, Lena isn't exactly feeling cool, calm, and collected when she rolls up to Anchor Beach to find Brandon and Cortney in the parking lot — and learns that while B is headed to class, Cortney's off to the beach. Lena warns B that he should make sure Cortney isn't taking advantage of all that sweet teenage money he's been loaning her. Money amongst loved ones is complicated, as she should know.
Since no one can make a woman angry like Brandon Adams Foster can, let's add some more fuel to the Brandon fire that's been lit under Lena: The music teacher drops off a recommendation for Brandon's application to Juilliard, only to casually mention that Juilliard doesn't require SATs for most applicants. This makes Brandon's recent SAT redo very curious. Lena's on the case.
It doesn't take long for Lena to find out that Brandon's name isn't on the list of students who took the test at the location where Jenna spotted him, and she confronts B back at the house. (If only we all looked as fabulous as Lena does as she's slamming doors and yelling at her child. The power of the knee-high boots is real.) Lena's figured out that B took the test for another student to make some money. He tries to offer up some sort of reasoning that includes paying for Cortney's lawyer, but Lena won't hear any of it. She's furious that he's put her in this position — she's professionally responsible to report his academic fraud, which means destroying his future. She's baffled by the choices he's been making, and even calls into question his sense of right and wrong. Brandon looks genuinely upset, but Lena wouldn't know because SHE CAN'T EVEN LOOK AT HIM. Both Sherri Saum and David Lambert are great in this scene. The Brandon-Lena relationship is complicated and complex, and Saum and Lambert do an excellent job of letting us feel that without saying much. If this is the reward we get for putting up with Brandon's infuriating behavior, then maybe it's worth it. Maybe.
Lena and her knee-high boots put fear into B, and he tries to make things right. He returns the money he made from the SATs, and convinces the kid to take the test on his own. (Wait, is B really that persuasive?) When he informs Lena of his valiant effort to protect his mama from compromising her integrity (yes, he says those words with a straight face), Lena's not enthused. She burns him pretty good by mentioning that time he "fixed" things by buying back all the fake I.D.s he sold, then tells him that she's more concerned that he did all of these dumb things in the first place. If B wants to win Lena's trust back, he'll have to do a lot more. Speaking of trust, what's going to go down when Stef finally finds out what Brandon's been up to and that Lena's been keeping it from her? I hope Lena wears her magical boots that day.
Brandon's not the only one in Lena's crosshairs. Deep into her mission to #FreeKyleSnow, Callie learns that Kyle's alibi witness isn't a viable avenue, so she starts digging through all the files in hopes of finding another way to reopen the case. This new passion project doesn't sit well with Lena. She comes across Callie and Aaron sifting through piles of paperwork in the garage and realizes Callie is ignoring her senior project. Turns out, Callie would like Kyle's case to be her new senior project, but Lena quashes that hope real fast. She reams Callie out for making excuses and never committing to anything. It is harsh … but pretty much true.
Bless Lena for that truth bomb. Because Callie stays the course with her photo essay, she discovers a hole in the case against Kyle. A newly discovered page in the original forensics report states that the killer had to be right-handed, but Callie's photo clearly shows that he's left-handed. He couldn't be the killer.
Wait, when did The Fosters turn into a CBS crime procedural?
Lena's truth-telling tour is on a roll. By the time Stuart drops in to tell his daughter and daughter-in-law about his foolproof plan to save the house and fix all of his problems — a plan that basically boils down to "water is the new oil," so, yeah — Lena is ready to admit that her dad may not have all the answers. She sees right through this high-risk scheme, which got him into trouble in the first place, and confronts him. It's another great scene, and Bruce Davison is wonderful. He's playing a broken man, unable to save his family on his own. The parent-child relationship is turned on its head, as Lena becomes the one to comfort her father. She also decides it's up to her and Stef to help her parents, but the only way they know how to do that is by selling the house. NOT THE HOUSE, YOU GUYS.
In Other Family News:
- The Nick Saga continues: He's being moved to a group home and still terrorizing Mariana with texts and phone calls. Thankfully, Jesus has become hip to his sister's continued relationship with Nick, and he isn't happy about it. Add this to the list of things Stef will be super-excited to discover is being kept from her.
- Speaking of Stef, if Nick's dad is capable of learning anything, hopefully it is that Mrs. Adams Foster doesn't put up with shade-throwing. Go home, Mr. Stratos, no one invited you to this party!
- In a brilliantly low-key sequence, Aaron subtly comes out as transgender to Callie. Also, Aaron playfully teasing Callie for thinking all transgender people know each other and then actually knowing Cole is a delight. And on that note, bring back Cole!
- I guess Jude's a pothead now? His new boyfriend, Noah, who has a medicinal-marijuana card for his anxiety, introduces Jude to the world of edibles and Stephen Hawking impressions, and he apparently can't get enough. He even goes to Brandon for drug advice, so obviously no good can come from this.
- We get some great girl-power moments in "Justify," despite the S.T.E.A.M. boys' attempt to sabotage Mariana's winning robot design. The ring leader ends up calling Mariana a bitch when she finally stands up to him, and she promptly informs him that "bitches get things done." In my head, the applause was deafening.
- Let's end on a hopeful note: Jesus and Emma confront their feelings head on! He thinks she dumped him because he's not smart enough; she thought she was never good enough for him. Although Jesus utters one of the cheesiest lines ever to be said on television ("Do you think I can unbreak your heart?"), their chemistry is hot like fire. Please let them be together forever and never let anything bad happen to them. Okay? Great. To Jesus and Emma!