cheat sheet

Good Trouble 101: What to Know If You Didn’t Watch The Fosters

Photo: Tony Rivetti/Freeform

So you’ve never watched an episode of The Fosters, but you’re interested in watching its new spinoff, Good Trouble? Welcome! Also: Where have you been? The Fosters is a national treasure and this is the age of streaming! Get on it!

Alas, The Fosters — an endearing, topical, and sometimes straight-up bananas drama about a family of biological and adopted kids led by fierce matriarchs Stef and Lena — ran for five seasons, or 104 episodes, which means you definitely do not have enough time to catch up before the spinoff premieres on Freeform January 8 (although you are encouraged to try). But fear not! You can still watch Good Trouble, which follows sisters Callie (Maia Mitchell) and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) Adams Foster as the now-20-somethings (the final three episodes of The Fosters made a five-year time jump) take on Los Angeles, even if you have very little knowledge of the show from which it came.

Good Trouble’s first episodes do a nice job of establishing its two main characters in their new world while also providing the right amount of context from their past. So even if you know nothing about The Fosters, you’ll be okay! (In the TV viewer sense, not in the emotional one, since your soul isn’t complete until you watch The Fosters.) But should you prefer a leg up, Vulture is here to help! Here’s a basic “who’s who” cheat sheet to give you a foundation in the Fosters-verse before you, um, get into Good Trouble (I’m only a little sorry).

Callie Adams Foster 101

Photo: Beth Dubber/Freeform

Oh, you guys don’t even know. We had five seasons with Callie on The Fosters, but honestly, with all the drama she’s gotten into, it has felt like a lifetime. Or at least, like, seven seasons.

Callie had a rough go of it in the foster-care system (she was raped by a foster brother and sent to juvie multiple times), until she and her brother Jude (Hayden Byerly) landed at the Adams Foster house. Even in a safe, loving home, things weren’t easy — sometimes because of situations out of her control, but sometimes due to situations very much in her control. She’s been in jail. She had an ill-advised, very forbidden love affair with her now-adoptive brother Brandon (David Lambert), which we will get to. She helped her friend kidnap her own child. She almost ruined her chances of formal adoption multiple times. At one point she willingly decided to work for a pimp as part of a ridiculous scheme to save someone and also NOT LISTEN TO HER MOTHER. It was this whole thing, you guys.

But, for all the terrible life choices Callie’s made, she’s also done some remarkable stuff and really turned her life around. She fought against foster-care privatization. She fought for Dreamers. She helped an innocent kid get out of prison! It is because of these battles for justice — and the fact that her dreams of becoming an artist were crushed by an admissions counselor — that Callie has decided to pursue the law in Good Trouble. We’re all very proud of her.

Mariana Adams Foster 101

Photo: Beth Dubber/Freeform

Mariana is a real treat! Whereas Callie took on a whole heap of superheavy subject matter (I’ll never get over the pimp thing!), Mariana held it down for the real teens. She dealt with mean dance girls and shady theater boys, she learned about letting go of certain friendships, how to fight the patriarchy in Robotics Club, and why dying your gorgeous dark hair bleached blonde is a little extreme. Don’t get it wrong, Mariana was also involved in some heavy drama — trying to reconnect with her recovered-addict mother? A stalker ex-boyfriend who brings a gun to school and then holds her hostage in her room? Intense! — it’s just that relative to her sister, Mariana usually had the more relatable story lines on The Fosters.

The best thing the show ever did with this character, though, was make her a boy-crazy fashionista as well as a math and science nerd. With Good Trouble picking up with her fresh out of MIT and starting a software-engineer job in L.A., she’ll be breaking stereotypes and disrupting the boys’ club of tech on an even bigger level. But let’s be honest, all you need to know in order to understand Mariana is that when a boy called her a bitch, she simply replied “bitches get things done.” She is a queen.

Meet the Other Adams Fosters

Photo: Eric McCandless/Freeform

At the very least, you should know the names and some basics on Mariana and Callie’s immediate family, since we already know that they are all going to show up on Good Trouble at some point. Their moms are Stef (Teri Polo), a former detective who now runs a child-welfare agency and shelter for homeless families, and Lena (Sherri Saum), vice-principal turned principal of their high school in San Diego, Anchor Beach. At the end of the series, Lena decides to run for a state assembly seat — that will definitely come up again. The Mamas are loving and wonderful and have been through Some Things, including but not limited to: Stef’s breast cancer and double mastectomy, Lena’s late-term abortion, Stef getting shot on duty, Lena’s emotional affair with a woman legitimately named Monte, and a whole slew of biological parents causing drama for their family. Also, teenagers. So many teenagers.

Brandon (David Lambert), King of Horrible Decisions, is the oldest of the siblings. He’s Stef’s biological son from her first marriage with Mike. (Fun fact: Mike (Danny Nucci) is now married to Mariana’s biological mom, Ana (Alexandra Barreto)! See what you’re missing out on?) Brandon and Callie had a very intense love affair throughout the run of The Fosters, ultimately ending it so Callie could be adopted, but there is always residual tension. (Brallie shippers are hard-core.) Brandon also lives in Los Angeles with his new wife Eliza.

Jesus (Noah Centineo — yes, Fosters fans knew about him before To All the Boys I Loved Before) is Mariana’s twin brother. They were adopted by Stef and Lena as babies, after their biological dad, Gabe (Brandon Quinn) was put in prison for being a sex offender (he was 18, their mother was 15), and Ana became addicted to drugs. (They’ve made amends with both biological parents, don’t worry.) Jesus suffered a traumatic brain injury by way of nail-gun accident and made us weep with his struggle. His first love was Emma (Amanda Leighton), Mariana’s sometimes BFF, but they ended things in the finale. The kid has had A Time. He is very tall, but you already know this.

Jude, or Judicorn if you prefer, is the youngest Adams Foster and Callie’s biological half-brother (you can bet that reveal was A Thing). They were put into the foster-care system after their mother died in a drunk-driving accident caused by Jude’s father, who went to prison. (Yes, it’s a lot.) He came out at an early age, went through a short pothead phase, had a somewhat successful career as a live video gamer that I still do not understand, and currently goes to college in Los Angeles. When last we saw him, he was not doing well alone and away from home. Because of this, Callie decides she wants to be closer to Jude, and so takes a job clerking for a federal judge in L.A. even though he’s extremely conservative and goes against everything she stands for. Sounds fun! Callie encourages Mariana to join her and thus, Good Trouble is born. So, good or bad, we have Judicorn to thank for this spinoff.

Other People Who May or May Not Show Up in Los Angeles — a.k.a Boys, Boys, Boys!

Photo: Eric McCandless/Freeform

Mariana and Callie are rolling into Los Angeles single, as two young ladies ready to take over the world should be, but they come with a lot of boy baggage. It’s safe to assume a few of these guys will pop back into their lives at some point, but regardless, they’re good to know about even if just their names are mentioned as the girls enter into other relationships.

Obviously, we all know about Brandon. Aside from Callie’s great love, she also had a lovely relationship with Aaron (Elliot Fletcher), a law student who came out as transgender. He breaks her heart in the end, but here’s hoping he still shows up, lest we be robbed of more time with a great character. She also dated AJ (Tom Williamson) who became Mike’s foster son, but she ended up breaking his heart. If AJ knows what’s good for him, he’ll stay away (but also come back?). Early in the series, Callie dated a glorious head of hair named Wyatt (Alex Saxon). They fizzled out, but Mariana ends up losing her virginity to him on the beach because, sisters, man. Also, California!

At the end of the series Mariana is basically bopping between Wyatt and her first love, Mat (Jordan Rodrigues). She ends up with Mat while in college, but by the time the finale rolls around, Mariana and Mat’s on-again-off-again relationship is toxic (he gave her crabs!), so she cuts him off for good. He’ll definitely be showing up on Good Trouble. Oh, and let us not forget the newest entry into the Adams Foster Sister’s Boy-Toy Club: Jamie (Beau Mirchoff). In case you needed more boy drama, Jamie is Eliza’s older brother, which means he is now Brandon’s brother-in-law. Callie immediately dislikes Jamie because he’s a corporate lawyer and is very nice to her. She comes around eventually. They have insane chemistry, so here’s hoping Jamie returns. He does conveniently live in Los Angeles, after all.

Good Trouble: What to Know If You Didn’t Watch The Fosters