The moms are back in town! Unfortunately, there’s not much to celebrate because the moms are also very, very sad. Apparently, Stef did an interview in which she disagreed with one of Lena’s opinions and Lena’s campaign manager chastised her for it. Lena didn’t defend Stef. Basically: The campaign is affecting their marriage and there is a lot of tension when they show up at the Coterie.
Good Trouble’s been using an interesting tactic as it brings in friendly faces from The Fosters. With the exception of Jude, the other Adams Fosters who have appeared on the show have been given their own storyline. Even if they are interacting with other Good Trouble characters, they are still the driving force on a show that isn’t theirs. In “Less Than,” Stef and Lena’s story arc ties into the general theme of the episode — fight for the people you believe in — but it really has very little to do with anyone else on the show. I’m grateful we get to continue Stef and Lena’s story, I’m just curious how this episode worked for people who didn’t watch The Fosters. Do they particularly care about Stef and Lena’s marriage when it’s taking time away from exploring actual Coterie-based drama? And maybe the answer is yes — I just wanted to ask the question.
Stef and Lena of course make up — a little political campaign can’t break up the dream team! — and in the end, they remind their daughters (who make for poor couples-mediators, as hard as they may try) that you have to stand up for the people you believe in, and that includes yourself. Oh, moms. Thank you for delivering the theme of the episode so beautifully and also succinctly.
You see, tonight, everyone is standing up for who and what they believe in. The Jamal Thompson case has entered into voir dire (jury selection). The defense is asking very pointed questions and striking pretty much every black person from the panel. It takes some time — which leads to a few nights of Callie angsting about discrimination while also banging her hot maybe-boyfriend Jamie because voir dire turns lawyers on — but finally the prosecution raises a Batson challenge. Basically, they are calling out the defense for striking potential jury members based on race. It is incredibly hard to prove, but Callie is pumped because there’s some blatant discrimination going on here that needs to be dealt with.
She’s pumped, that is, until she attends cocktails at Judge Wilson’s house.
Apologies! “Attends” makes it sound like she wanted to go, but it’s quite the opposite. Callie tells her boss that her moms are in town and immediately Wilson invites them over for dinner. Callie tries her best to get out of it, but Wilson presses until she agrees to at least pre-dinner drinks. (The back-and-forth of this sequence is the best editing trick Good Trouble has deployed yet.) Aside from the moms, Mariana and Jamie are dragged there as well, and all must bear witness to one of the most awkward toasts in the history of toasts when Wilson starts talking about Callie being a juvenile delinquent and turning it all around. It’s a very pointed speech made toward Wilson’s son Tate, also in attendance. “We’re gonna need a bigger drink,” everyone thinks, probably.
Later, Tate informs Callie that all the charges against him have been dropped. Callie is pissed. The kid punched a cop! She’s now almost certain that Wilson is being lenient with the L.A.P.D. in court in order to help his son. And when Wilson hints that he’s going to dismiss the Batson challenge, well, Callie goes into Social Justice Warrior Mode. She isn’t going to let Wilson’s bias prevent Jamal from getting the justice he deserves — she’s going to prove that the Batson challenge should be upheld.
She spends all weekend writing a memo proving there is discrimination going on and hands it in to Wilson. Oh, you guys, he is not happy. Callie is doing the job of a lawyer, not a clerk. Furthermore, she’s lost her objectivity when it comes to Jamal Thompson, and so he removes her as clerk on this case. It is gutting. And the fact that he’s handing it over to his new clerk Kate — Judge Handelman’s (oh, that dude resigned! Yay!) previous clerk who Callie suggested Wilson to take on — just twists the knife even further. No good deed goes unpunished, Cal.
That old saying could be applied to Malika, too. Standing up for Jamal Thompson just got a little bit harder. Old videos surface of Jamal saying truly awful things about black women. People question why Malika would want to continue fighting for someone who thought so little of her, but for Malika it’s not a question. Jamal was still unjustly gunned down and she isn’t going to give up on getting him and so many others justice. But yes, it does make things more complicated, both with the case and for Malika personally. Jamal’s comments echo so much of what she and other black women have had to face every day, and it certainly reminds her of the fact that when she first met Isaac, he was only dating blonde white women. The two get into a huge argument and they don’t officially end things, but it sure looks like it is headed that way. You know, in case you wanted to be any more depressed during this episode.
But wait! There is one phenomenal thing that goes down! MARIANA GETS HERS. Well, sort of. She makes some progress — on two fronts, no less!
With only one guy (bless you, Raj!) sharing his salary on the Women in Tech Fight (Byte) Club’s spreadsheet, Mariana can’t prove gender pay disparity just yet — but she does find a racial one. Mariana proposes adding a race column to the spreadsheet to show all the types of discrimination going on at Speckulate. At first, the other women think they should keep the issues separate. Prove there’s a gender pay gap first and then they can tackle race — after all, aren’t they fighting for all women?
Um, no. Mariana isn’t going to let that argument fly. She gives a rousing rooftop speech about how it’s not fair to ignore the most marginalized group here: women of color. She uses lots of facts and figures and graphs to show that women of color are hit the hardest by the pay gap and it isn’t right to ignore that as they fight for equality in the workplace. There’s no disputing that. All the ladies are on board with adding a race column. Well, except Casey. As one of two Latina engineers, Casey doesn’t want to lose her anonymity.
Mariana explains the situation to Raj and ya boy doesn’t hesitate to write down his race on the spreadsheet, even though he’s the only Indian person who works there — if anyone finds the spreadsheet, they’ll know exactly who he is. He’s not backing down on being an ally, and because she has that kind of support, Mariana isn’t scared to mark her own column. These two are so cute, I am screaming.
There’s a second victory awaiting Mariana — and it happens in, of all places, a staff meeting. Earlier in the episode, Mariana calls Alex out on a glitch in his work. You know how much Alex loves to be corrected, so he makes a snarky remark and orders Mariana to stay late and clean up his mess. When all the engineers (and Evan!) are in a staff meeting, someone facing a similar glitch asks Alex’s team how they fixed it. Evan and Josh turn it over to Alex, who had the big save. Only Alex has no idea how to fix it. He mumbles something about getting back to them. And that’s when Mariana steps in and explains exactly what she did. Suck it, Alex.
It’s so impressive that Evan asks Mariana, Josh, and HR Angela to stay after the meeting. FINALLY Evan wants to know why Mariana asked to pitch an app to him but then never followed up. From what he can see, that doesn’t seem to be like her. The truth spills out: Josh ordered Angela to shut Mariana down. That’s not going to fly with Evan. He admonishes both Angela and Josh (especially Josh!) and tells Mariana that she can pitch her app to him next week. Finally, a real win for Mariana Adams Foster.
• So, Sumi is still in love with Alice. Jealous of Alice’s relationship with Joey, Sumi invites the ladies to dinner with her and Meera. It is a disaster. Sumi is clearly sucking up to Alice and Meera doesn’t take it well. It’s Joey who points out the obvious, which had never occurred to Alice. Oh, Alice! Don’t get sucked back in.
• Wait, I love that Stef thinks Jamie is too vanilla for Callie. I love Jamie, but I do see her point about never imagining Callie ending up with a Country Club boy. The heart wants what the heart wants.
• Malika and Callie have a very moving conversation about how hard Malika has fought to find beauty in herself despite being told otherwise by television, books, and other people, her entire life. One silver lining to Callie getting removed as clerk on the Jamal case is that now this friendship can fully develop, right?
• No follow-up on what Davia decided to do about Jeff. I am waiting, show!