Moms make everything better. Especially these moms. Our Moms. THE MOMS. It’s a tricky thing to have Stef and Lena pop by because on the one hand, they give us a truly excellent episode of Good Trouble, but on the other, for those who watched The Fosters, they remind us of one of the greatest losses we suffered when that show ended.
Sure, Stef and Lena had their fair share of drama, but they always anchored the show, providing guidance and comfort — and holy hell, the best hugs around — when their teens had problems or made mistakes or, you know, were just Brandon. Not to mention, theirs was one of the best portrayals of a marriage on television post-Tami and Coach Taylor. Sherri Saum and Teri Polo’s chemistry was insane from the very beginning, yet somehow got even better with time. And all of that is very much on display during “Parental Guidance Suggested,” as Stef and Lena come to visit their daughters at the Coterie for a weekend, where they teach Mariana and Callie a very important lesson that everyone learns in their 20s: Your parents are always your parents, no matter how old you get.
I wanted to laugh at the fact that Stef and Lena arrive and win over literally everyone at the communal living building, helping more than just their daughters with some emotional problems along the way — but honestly, it tracks. How could you not love these two moms, especially when they walk in concerned about fire extinguishers (that’s so mom), accidentally get high from cannabis cookies (honestly, how often does this happen? Because it happens A LOT on TV), and then proceed to make improv fun and cut to the core of so many Coterie residents? Though it’s been said many times, in many ways: We do not deserve these moms.
Before we get to Lena and Stef doing damage control on their daughters, we must talk about our latest Coterie resident deep-dive. Dennis! Oh, Dennis. He broke my tiny heart in this episode. He is not just the creepy older dude who only sleeps with younger girls — which completely sets off detective Stef “Once a Human Trafficking Detective, Always a Human Trafficking Detective” Adams Foster — he is also very much a broken man.
Because Dennis just can’t seem to help himself, he organizes an improv night at the Coterie. It seems to be going well — until Very-High Stef joins in and basically trolls him about his proclivity for younger women the entire time. It’s both entertaining (has Lena ever laughed so hard? Have Mariana and Callie ever been so embarrassed?) and cringe-inducing. Later, a sober Stef runs into Dennis in the bathroom and apologizes for her behavior. She tries to explain that her background and the fact that she’s a mom dealing with letting her kids go had her on edge around him. Maybe once he has kids, he’ll understand, she says. It’s a condescending thing to say, period, but it is especially so in this situation, because, as Dennis informs her, he had a kid.
Dennis had a kid, you guys! Because Stef has some mystical mom powers, Dennis spills his entire Sad Story about his son who died from cancer when he was 6, how it would have been his 8th birthday this week, how his marriage fell apart, and how he came to the Coterie so he could be surrounded by people too young to have kids and “too self-involved to ask what [his] story is.” Great 20-something burn aside, Dennis is the saddest. He breaks down crying there at the sink and Stef has to remind him that he is surrounded by people who care about him. HE IS NOT ALONE. Oh, friends, I had a “Stef and/or Lena Has a Heart-to-Heart With Someone in Need” shaped hole in my soul and it has been filled.
Do not fear: The Mamas spread the heart-to-heart love around to their own daughters, too. After an extremely dramatic family dinner at which Mariana outs Callie’s relationship with Gael, whom the Mamas had seen making out with Bryan in the rooftop pool the evening prior, and Sandra Thompson shows up to see Malika, causing Callie to flee the building (I told you it was dramatic!), Stef and Lena have a sit-down with their girls. Callie’s not pleased to learn that on top of the Gael thing, Mariana also told their mothers that Callie’s working the Jamal Thompson case, so Callie retaliates by informing them that Mariana currently has $20,000 in credit card debt. The sisters have a little screaming-slash-crying match in which they both end up admitting how much they hate their jobs and that they were scared to present themselves as anything but capable adults to their moms.
Stef and Lena, like the angel people they are, pull their daughters onto the sofa with them (Stef calls Mariana “Miss Thing” and I am still crying about it) and make everything better with a group hug. They remind their daughters that their moms are always there for them and also that being an adult is hard. Even I, a person much older than the Adams Foster sisters, needed to hear that. How did they know? I told you they are angel people!!
They take this Feelings Party up to the rooftop pool, where Stef and Lena tell Callie that she should most definitely disclose her relationship with Malika to Judge Wilson, and they tell Mariana that she should most definitely not be $20,000 in debt. But they also open up about themselves. Lena’s considering dropping out of her State Assembly election because people think she might be “too black” or “too lesbian” to win. We even get a flashback of Lena being harassed and spit on by a racist during one of her campaign events. (Yes, Lena gets her own flashback, which is a weird choice since this isn’t her show … ) It’s awful and makes it very clear as to why Lena, one of the most optimistic humans on the planet, is feeling defeated.
And so the Heart-to-Heart students become the masters. Mariana and Callie (and Malika, who has joined them on the roof) give Lena a rousing pep talk about how they need someone fighting the good fight to have a voice in government. Lena is especially inspired by the picture of Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, that Malika keeps on her wall to give her courage. She isn’t going to let “the ugly minority” win this without a fight, and so it is official: Lena’s back in the race. Since Good Trouble has dedicated so much time to this storyline for a tertiary character, we better get a resolution down the road. It only seems fair.
What a productive weekend! Unfortunately, Stef and Lena have to head home — their sons probably set some fires they need to put out — but they have made a lasting impact on the Coterie and its inhabitants. There are hugs and knowing nods and Callie is so moved that she wants to put off work to spend some time with her sister. What a world! Not everything is fixed (what a boring show this would be!), but everyone is in much better spirits. Moms, man.
• No offense to Bryan, but why in the hell is Gael still dating him? Are they, too, having extremely intimate conversations about their childhoods and feeling like failures during, after, and in between sex sessions? I would guess not. Both Callie and Gael admit that this thing between them is much more than casual … yet he won’t make things exclusive? Ditch the extra weight, Gael!
• Gael meeting Stef and Lena after hopping out of the pool: “Sorry, didn’t mean to get you wet.” Stef: “I bet you say that to all the ladies.” Mariana’s face: EXACTLY AS YOU WOULD EXPECT.
• Ben is social media-stalking Callie in the hopes of finding some evidence of her relationship with Malika, which he finds on Instagram. THIS DUDE.
• Non-Fosters fans won’t fully get it, but Stef complaining about Lena making her watch TED Talks is so Stef and Lena and I just miss them so much.
• Alice, upon meeting Stef and Lena: “You guys have amazing hair.”