Teri Polo is a champion. In “Prom,” the summer finale of The Fosters, Stef Adams Foster goes from watching her straight daughter, Mariana, make out with Emma on a dance floor, to listening to her high-school crush come out after years of repression, to assisting Callie with saving Ximena from getting caught by Immigration — all in the span of one episode. The moment when Callie taps her mom on the shoulder and tells her ICE is outside, just as Tess admits her marriage might be a sham, would be laughable in another actor’s hands, but Polo deftly moves through the wild extremes of Stef’s emotions. How she makes it through prom alive is, honestly, a miracle.
Let’s start with the Mariana high jinks, because The Fosters has never been so funny. Yes, Mariana single-handedly saves Anchor Beach prom after Drew canceled it because someone smashed the model of what a private Anchor Beach High would look like. (This school-privatization story line needs to wrap it up, agreed?) Even though Mariana is somehow a teenage miracle worker when it comes to event planning — seriously, how did she pull off a classy prom in a roller-derby warehouse in such a short amount of time? — she is still a mess when it comes to her love life.
To prove Logan’s hostile girlfriend Olivia wrong about Mariana trying to steal Logan (even though she’s very right), Mariana lies and says she’s actually headed to prom with an ex-boyfriend. And thus begins Mariana’s Ghosts of Boyfriends Past portion of the evening. The first stop on her reunion tour is … WYATT. He still goes to Anchor Beach, who knew? Unfortunately, Wyatt is useless to us now. He cut off his luscious locks and he shows up at prom too drunk and definitely too high to pull off Mariana’s convoluted plan.
So, Wyatt’s out. Next up: Mat. Aw, Mat. There have been some good teen couples on The Fosters, but Mariana and Mat definitely have a shot at the top slot. It’s immediately obvious that both Mat and Mariana have some lingering feelings for one another. Unfortunately, as Mariana gathers up enough courage to ask Mat to dance, Zoe pops by and asks first. Mariana assumes the two are dating and glumly takes a seat on Sad Sack Row next to Emma. Emma’s been partaking in Wyatt’s “special water” (seriously, this kid is back for one night and already causing so much trouble — I love him), and suggests that instead of presenting Logan and Olivia with a fake boyfriend, why not give them a fake girlfriend? Thus the hard-core make-out sesh on the dance floor. Stef’s face in the background as she watches this go down deserves to be framed and hung on a wall.
I’d be remiss not to mention Cierra Ramirez’s comedic chops in this episode, as well. Eventually, Callie’s prophecy that Mariana’s plan will blow up in her face comes to pass. When Emma and Jesus have a tearful reunion because prom is a magical night (and also Jesus realizes he was being a dufus), Mariana is psyched to see them together … until Logan and Olivia point out that her “girlfriend” is kissing her brother. “My own damn brother!” Mariana yells, feigning outrage for her audience. Can Mariana make more plans that go completely to shit? The show needs to sprinkle in more story lines with levity like this one.
Thankfully, prom is not completely ruined for Mariana. Mat finds her sitting alone, tells her that he and Zoe are just friends, and yes, he would like to dance with her. It is all quite lovely and here’s hoping these two become a thing again before he goes off to college.
You know who is having the worst prom, though? Callie. She didn’t even want to go in the first place! She’s been in a bum mood ever since the protest went totally awry. In “Engaged,” we saw the two sides of the campus protest getting heated, and “Prom” picks up right where that left off. (It’s pretty eerie how relevant this story line is to what’s currently going on in our country.) Ximena gives an impassioned speech about how this is not the America she knows, while also outing herself as undocumented. Things escalate from there, and Callie eventually decides she and A.J. need to scram before they get arrested. When Callie runs into Ximena at the derby warehouse prom, she’s less mad at Callie for ditching and mostly just upset at the state of our nation. She and her parents have worked so hard, but are faced with so much hate.
Callie goes from one downer of a conversation to another. Aaron, who has been trying all day to get Callie to admit A.J. was with her at the protest, finally just asks. The conversation devolves into a huge argument in which Aaron puts his foot in his mouth. Callie assures him he has no reason to be jealous of A.J., but Aaron reminds her that it was easy for him to steal Callie from A.J., so won’t it be just as easy for A.J. to steal her back? OH, BOY, YOU GUYS. Callie will have none of it. She’s not a piece of property and if that’s how Aaron thinks of her, she is done. Is it weird to be moved to tears with pride for a fictional character? Callie is finally valuing herself!
Callie has little time to deal with the fallout from this fight, because in typical prom fashion, ICE agents show up looking for Ximena. It seems Callie has learned something over the course of countless crises, because she immediately gets Stef involved. Stef believes the best way to handle the situation is to arrest Ximena for a different charge and take her to the station — she has jurisdiction over the Immigration officers, so it would at least buy them some time.
Remember when I said Callie proved to be maturing as a human by allowing her cop mom to handle a very serious and complicated situation? Yeah, that lasts for all of two minutes. While Stef is arguing with ICE, Callie and A.J. sneak Ximena into his car because they want a better solution than just biding time. The situation culminates in Stef having the kids get Ximena to a church so that she can declare sanctuary. (Callie has Jude call Noah and his mom, who is a pastor.) They race into the church with the ICE agents right behind them, and the episode ends with Ximena, Callie, and A.J. standing amid the pews, with law enforcement outside. They aren’t going anywhere until Ximena can walk out of there without being detained.
And so, the summer season ends with Callie trapped in another precarious situation after not listening to Stef. I am very much #TeamXimena, and want the best possible outcome for her, but will it always be two steps forward and one step back for Callie?
In Other Family News
• The Anchor Beach privatization story line has dragged on forever, but there are two interesting developments: First, Monte is ready to give up the fight after she gets a cushy job offer at another school, and she wants to take Lena with her. Jude is not amused. Second, Mariana receives mysterious texts from someone who knows who destroyed the model and how to save Anchor Beach. Those texts end up being from yet another one of Mariana’s exes: Nick Freakin’ Stratos.
• Tess finally tells Stef that she did have feelings for her when they were in high school. Now she wonders if the problems in her marriage are because she’s gay. Stef doesn’t get a chance to respond, but I’m sure we’ll be unpacking all of this when season five returns. There is so much to unpack.
• Didn’t everyone look extra snazzy for prom? Jesus goes button-down-no-tie, which is so him, Callie looks appropriately edgy, and Mariana’s dress is adorable. Olivia may be a she-beast, but damn if her dress isn’t the best of them all.
• Grace’s mom informs Brandon that Grace has an aggressive form of leukemia, and she’s going home for last-ditch-effort chemo. Brandon never tells Grace he knows, but he does try to give her the best prom night of her life. When he pulls out the little tiara for her, you guys, my heart broke into a million pieces. Why Brandon still wants to date after all the pain he’s been through, I will never know.
• True confession: I never thought I’d get emotional over two people talking about going to Coachella, but here we are.