Cierra Ramirez as Mariana, Bianca Santos as Lexi.
Gather round, friends! Welcome to the first installment of The Fosters recaps on Vulture. I promise that, much like the Adams Fosters’ copper pan-filled kitchen, this will be a safe space for us to express whatever it is we may be feeling — probably everything — about our favorite family. We’ll hash out all the drama (mainly Callie’s), eye roll at the inane decision-making (hi, Brandon), and cry into our wine glasses (thanks for nothing, Stef) together. Because we’re a family now. Get over it.
Last week’s winter premiere was a nice welcome into a post-adopted Callie world, and it threw some interesting wrenches into story lines previously thought to be tied up. “Mixed Messages,” however, is focused more on slowing down and setting up story lines for the rest of the season. Does that make for the most engaging hour of television? Not really, but I can appreciate the effort. And honestly, the promise of a Shakespearean rock opera is enough for me to forgive almost anything, on TV or otherwise.
Not every plot treads water, though: There were some pivotal emotional moments, a couple of which, oddly enough, were drilled home via bathroom mirror.
After getting her stage 0 breast-cancer diagnosis, Stef has come down with a serious case of the “I’m fines.” Lena, of course, has been researching DCIS and doesn’t want her wife to do anything drastic without thinking it through. Sharon (national treasure Annie Potts), who battled ovarian cancer with a hysterectomy, wants her daughter to be pro-active and opt for the mastectomy. Stef just doesn’t want to talk about it. She’s totally fine, you guys.
She’s not fine. How could she be? She stares at her reflection in the mirror, at the body that’s betraying her. Stef repeatedly tells us how much pressure she’s under to be the leader of the household, so it’s only natural that she’s panicked with the thought of losing control. She simply doesn’t know what to do.
Lena and Sharon are really not giving their girl any breathing room when it comes to making such a life-altering decision. I applaud The Fosters for representing all of the viable options when it comes to DCIS, as it is a personal decision — however, Lena’s push for Stef to avoid multiple surgeries that might disfigure her “beautiful body” got a little preachy for my taste.
Sharon’s approach isn’t much better: She decides to use reverse psychology on her daughter, making sure that Stef knows she won’t support a mastectomy under any circumstances. (Hint, hint.) Though I’m always in favor of reverse psychology on kids because it’s hilarious, she may be misjudging the situation here.
Turns out, the only person Stef is able to have a truthful conversation with is Mike. And guess what? Hot Dad Mike handles the news with the utmost compassion. Hot Dad Mike is the best. Even though he’s been in crisis mode after realizing AJ and Ty have run away (he waits for them to show up at their grandma’s funeral, but to no avail), his focus is Stef. Stef admits that she’s the type of person who hates waiting around for something bad to happen and would want the mastectomy, but she still doesn’t sound convinced. The two proceed to have a sweetly awkward back-and-forth about how great Stef’s boobs may or may not be, demonstrating how any episode of The Fosters is immediately elevated with a Stef and Mike scene. The Mrs. Brady mullet: Never forget.
In the end, Stef decides to go with a middle-of-the-road treatment to start: a lumpectomy. Sharon still thinks Stef should reconsider. And Stef very well may have to — she’s tested positive for the BRCA-1 gene, which means an increased likelihood of ovarian and breast cancer. Stef keeps the results from Lena, and after the way everyone reacted to her DCIS diagnosis, I don’t blame her.
The other Adams Foster staring forlornly into the bathroom mirror is Callie. Last we saw Callie, she was internally freaking out over a post on the Fost & Found message board calling her out for having sex with her foster brother. It was quickly deleted, but she still stomps on down to visit her ex-lover-now-brother Brandon to see if he’s told anyone about their recent visit to Humptown, U.S.A. True, B almost always deserves a good talking to, but this time Callie should slow her roll — she’s the one who told Daphne.
Speaking of Daphne, she might be the smartest teen on this show. (Aside from that time she, you know, kidnapped her daughter.) First, she recognizes that AJ is “foine,” and then points out that the post could be referring to someone knowing about Callie being raped by her one-time foster brother Liam. This, of course, is terrible, but no one knows her Brandon Secret.
When Callie downloads this to B, things get rough. Although Brandon kind of has a point about Callie being scared to move on from “the poor foster girl who needs to be saved” and that she’s her own worst enemy, him yelling at her is like, way harsh, Tai.
B says he wants to move on, which is why he’s playing Blue Crush with the cute bartender from the piano bar. But when Callie returns all glammed up from a Fost & Found photo shoot, and Brandon chides her for being “America’s Next Top Foster Model,” Callie calls B out for his hypocrisy. He tells her to go out and be a role model, but when she attempts to do just that, he ridicules her. She lays into him about needing to be the guy who always saves her. Have we figured out a way to high-five fictional characters from our couches yet? Asking for a friend.
Callie’s obviously hurt by his reaction. She takes a long look at herself in the mirror, then removes her makeup. You’re breaking my heart, kid.
In other news, we’ve got some teenage-level problems. Mariana and Lexi continue their battle for junior class president. In a genius move, Lexi has selected Hayley — yes, that Hayley — to be her campaign manager, which means Brandon’s joke about the Jesus Ex-Girlfriend Convention has so beautifully become reality. There’s a heated debate full of low-blows, but in the end Mariana and Lexi make amends. Lexi will still be running for … Prexi (eww) though.
Jesus is feeling down after his moms inform him that as punishment for taking steroids at boarding school, he won’t be wrestling at Anchor Beach this year. I, for one, am thankful we circled back to this. Having Stef and Lena let Jesus run from his problems seemed false, and this punishment somewhat makes up for that. Jesus befriends Nick, an apparent 25-year-old who has just started his junior year. Where does he think he is, Beverly Hills 90210? The two take Nick’s car out for a 120-mph spin, and Jesus has a flashback to his car accident. Jesus 2 is 1,000 times more interesting than Jesus 1.
Terrible Choice of the Week: There are a lot of contenders, but I’m going with Sharon’s reverse psychology. She was so great consoling Jude as he tackled his first long-distance relationship, but she really blew it with her daughter.
Great Choice of the Week: Co-creator Bradley Bredeweg has blessed us all by taking his rock opera (Romeo & Juliet: Love Is a Battlefield) and making it Brandon and Mat’s senior project. We’re getting a musical-within-a-show, you guys. And Corbin Bleu will be there. Dreams — admittedly, weird ones — do come true!