The Fosters is known for its ability to explore difficult and rarely discussed issues in thoughtful, honest ways. “Dirty Laundry” offers yet another wonderful example of this. It’s been a while since a story line involving Callie had me engrossed rather than yelling, “WHY CALLIE, WHY?” at my television screen, but here we are.
“Dirty Laundry” has the newly single Callie (I’m happy for A.J. but also sad for us?) on a road trip to Los Angeles with her law-student friend and very patient person Aaron. Callie discovers that the ex-husband of Vanessa, Troy Johnson’s current girlfriend and only alibi, lives in Los Angeles. She thinks that if they can prove that Vanessa was having an affair with Troy during the time of the murder, Troy’s alibi will be destroyed and so will the case against Callie and blah blah blah. Is this trial over yet? Anyway, it just so happens that Aaron is headed to Los Angeles for his dad’s birthday. He needs a buffer when dealing with his family, so … two birds, meet one stone. We’re off to L.A.!
It turns out that Callie’s time in Los Angeles is less about her pursuit of the truth in Martha Johnson’s murder and more about Aaron. We are all surely grateful for the respite. The Fosters has done wonderful things with the Aaron character during his stint on the show. The quietness with which he came out as transgender was revolutionary. Now, we dive deeper into Aaron’s life to show the other side of the transgender story: how his family deals with his transition.
Aaron was right about needing a buffer at home. It does seem like his family is genuinely happy to see him, but the tension builds in small ways, like Aaron’s parents mistakenly referring to him as “Alison,” or Callie noticing that all the photos in the house are from before Aaron’s transition. Things escalate at dinner when Aaron’s father, definitely the one taking the whole thing the worst, tells Aaron that he’s mutilating his body. It’s very rough to watch. Aaron isn’t too pleased when Callie reams out his entire family, but someone needed to stand up for the guy. Aaron doesn’t want to lose his family, so he chooses to put up with their comments. It’s understandable in the most heartbreaking of ways.
Speaking of heartbreaking, Callie comes upon Aaron’s mom having a late-night cup of tea. The conversation that follows is where “Dirty Laundry” shines. She goes on to tell Callie that they really are trying, but she’s grieving the loss of her daughter. She had all these plans for Alison, and she feels like Aaron is a stranger. She also admits to how guilty she feels for any pain she may have caused Aaron growing up. The woman is hurting. Callie explains that Aaron is the same person he’s always been, but I think she also comes to understand Aaron’s mother. It would’ve been so easy for The Fosters to make Aaron’s family into villains, but instead, this episode show us that nothing is black and white. Okay, maybe the dad is kind of a villain, but here’s hoping the rest of them will set him straight.
Anyway, Callie’s meddling does some good for once! She wakes up early to bring the family coffee and doughnuts, along with a freshly printed picture of Aaron to put on the mantle. Aaron can’t thank Callie enough for helping his family make some real strides toward acceptance. But he does attempt to do so by way of making out with her. Callie’s into it! Aaron understands if it’s just a “road trip thing” but Callie goes in for seconds, so it seems like much more. Is this a little fast post-breakup and pre-felony trial? Yes. Still, I won’t knock some kissing.
Oh, and about that meeting with Vanessa’s ex-husband: Aaron finds out that she was having an affair with Troy. Furthermore, Vanessa was obsessed with Troy and would’ve done anything for the guy. I guess this will be pertinent in the Trial of the Century That Unfortunately We Cannot Avoid.
Meanwhile, back at the Adams Foster homestead, Stef is busy with her new job and Lena is left to deal with a whole slew of clunky, chaotic story lines. She’s putting out fires all over the place — I mean, Brandon causes at least three on the regular, so you know she really has her hands full. Lena has to deal with her starving family, a whole stack of paperwork Principal Drew the Terrible hands her, and Callie wanting to ride off to L.A. while her trial date looms. Those things, it turns out, are a walk in the park compared to the task Jesus hands his mama.
Jesus wants to start having sex again … like, real bad. Only Emma, wise beyond her years, doesn’t think it’s a great idea what with the brain injury and all. She wants a doctor’s note approving him for such strenuous activities. So Jesus wants Lena to call the doctor and make sure it’s okay for him to have sex. The utter shock on Lena’s face is phenomenal. Still, because she’s a woman of feeling, she does in fact call Jesus’s doctor and inquire as to whether her 16-year old son can have sex with his TBI. He can! With some caveats. Caveats that Lena has to go through with Jesus and Emma in one of the most awkward conversations on the planet. And this is a show where parents had to explain why sleeping with your foster sibling was a bad idea.
Jesus ends up having performance issues and Emma suggests that it could be due to all of his medication. He heads downstairs to take a look at his pills and figure out what the side effects are. He reads that, yes, impotence is one of them. WAIT. HE READS, YOU GUYS. The listing of medicinal side effects has never been so emotional! The whole family cheers. This show is weird and I love it so.
The other big-ticket item on Lena’s to-do list pertains to Hot Dad Gabe. Mariana wants to ask for his help with the big tree-house project, but finds him packing up for a job in Lake Tahoe. Gabe later explains to Ana that he stopped going to work and was evicted. If he doesn’t take this job, he’s living in his car. And he leaves Ana to break the news to Mariana. (MEN!) Ana asks Mike about Gabe taking the one-bedroom apartment she was going to move into, but Mike puts his foot down. I mean, he does it nicely and with very understanding eyes, but the answer is still no.
Turns out that’s okay, because Mariana has an idea. She asks Lena if Gabe can move into the garage so that he’s able to keep Jesus’s tree-house project afloat. How can Lena say no to her very cute twins? One of whom has a TBI and wears glasses that look like he stole them off the face of the guy from Up? She can’t.
Well, Stef thinks she could’ve. Too bad she’s been out “busting pimps and johns” or something. Finally, our favorite moms have a conversation about sharing the workload in the house. It’s a small moment, but it’s another thing The Fosters does so well: exploring the dynamics of a long-term marriage. It also leads to Stef saying things like, “I’m going to try to do better,” which is quite swoony if not all that reassuring.
In Other Family News
• Okay, I’m back on the Noah train. When Jude decides to bully his bully as a way of standing up for himself, Noah basically tells his boyfriend that “when they go low, we go high,” and, you guys, he doesn’t mean weed this time!
• Because Jude rethinks his plan to embarrass his bully, the boys end up at the school over the weekend and overhear Drew the Terrible’s plan to turn Anchor Beach from a charter school into an expensive private school. Dun dun dun! Okay, it may not sound like much, but when you watch it, there is some drama afoot.
• I love Mike and Ana, but that hug between Ana and Gabe? I was feeling things. THINGS, PEOPLE.
• But seriously, folks: Can Brandon do anything right? He LOSES the grocery list and ends up buying marshmallows and Red Vines, but KEEPS the letter Emma wrote to Jesus in his pants pocket so that Stef finds it while doing laundry. YOU HAD ONE JOB TO DO, B.
• The Brandon insanity of it aside, I can’t wait to see how Stef handles this new piece of information and if somebody, ANYBODY, will finally clue Jesus in. After Jesus thanks Brandon for being such a good brother, I’d have to guess that relationship will take the biggest hit.