De eso no se habla. We don’t talk about that.
From the time that she was a little girl, Isabel Salazar was taught that being gay was shameful. So when Victor decided to come out a few months ago, she didn’t know how to talk about it, nor was she equipped to deal with the aftermath of his life-changing revelation. How does she reconcile this seemingly unconditional love that she has for her firstborn child with a religious Scripture that says he is going to hell? The reality is … she hasn’t really tried yet, which explains why her youngest child, Adrian, has still been left in the dark about his brother’s sexuality. (In Victor’s words, they now live in “a constant state of weirdness” that he calls “the Catholic way.”)
But when she returns from the grocery store one day and meets Rahim — Pilar’s larger-than-life friend who has sought Victor’s advice about how to come out to his own devout Iranian parents — Isabel realizes that she needs to start making an effort and invites Rahim to stay for dinner, much to the surprise of Victor and Pilar. Bonding with Rahim over their shared love for high-school theater, Isabel offers some surprising words of wisdom when she discovers that Rahim, too, fears the fallout of coming out in a traditional and religious family. “Well, I hope they surprise you … but if they do take it badly, just know that they love you so much, and part of the reason they might struggle is because … they thought they knew everything about you and then all of a sudden … they didn’t. So even if they say the wrong things, I hope you don’t give up on them,” she says before getting up and patting Victor on the shoulder briefly on her way to the kitchen.
It would be extremely easy for the writers to make Isabel the bad guy in this situation, but I really appreciate the care and the nuance they have infused into her character since the series premiere. Despite all of the flawed choices she has made as a wife and a mother, Isabel is still so inherently likable — a lot of which has to do with what Ana Ortiz brings to this role — that you can’t help but understand where she’s coming from and hope that she will quickly undo the hurt and damage she has caused. Later in the episode, Ortiz and Michael Cimino share the strongest scene of the episode when a shaken Victor confronts Isabel about her conversations with Father Lawrence at the church. “I’m trying so hard to be proud of who I am. And it’s almost impossible when my own mom thinks I need to be fixed,” Victor says. (I’ve been waiting for Victor to say these exact words since the season premiere, but I’m glad they have chosen to zero in on the religious implications of coming out in this episode. And Victor is finally standing up to his mom!)
Isabel rightfully apologizes and brings up an aunt named Yoli who never got married, never wore dresses, and always had a “roommate” — but she was never allowed to talk about it. “These things that I was taught when I was younger, they are so ingrained in me. I wish I could just snap my fingers and be a perfect mother for you. But for now, I will say this: The next time Benji wants to come over to the house, I promise I will make him feel welcome. And I will tell Adrian — we will tell Adrian soon,” she says, with Victor not exactly accepting her apology but acknowledging that she has taken a step in the right direction.
Meanwhile, after sharing a passionate kiss in Mia’s driveway, Mia and Andrew — who apparently had an adorable little playground wedding in first grade — have officially begun dating, but Mia isn’t exactly sure if she is ready to commit to another person, and she definitely isn’t ready to bring Andrew to her dad’s upcoming wedding. That realization becomes an early source of tension in their seemingly picture-perfect relationship, but as it turns out, Mia hasn’t fully recovered from her failed relationship with Victor and her estranged relationship with her mother. “I think I’ve gotten used to people I care about leaving me. My mom took off; my dad travels all the time. Then Victor, which obviously wasn’t the same, but it still hurt. And I’ve known you ever since I can remember, but the deeper things get, the more I start to care … and that’s just kind of terrifying for me,” she admits before Andrew reassures her that he has waited his whole life to be with her and that he’s not going anywhere. (Finally! Mia is getting some well-deserved peace and happiness for once.)
After a disastrous ending to their first dinner with Lake, Felix and his mother, Dawn, feel unsettled when Lake’s mother, Georgina, makes an impromptu visit to drop off some fresh pears (and conduct an unofficial welfare check). While he insists he doesn’t need any help to control his mother’s manic depression, Felix can’t help but feel touched when Lake says she has a family friend who is a high-demand psychiatrist who has agreed to see Dawn for free. But when she discovers that the Meriwether family has been meddling in her personal life, an embarrassed Dawn decides to confront Georgina at her workplace. “You think I’m crazy, and you’re trying to take my son away from me. This is not your business. He has a mother. Why would you try to break up my family? He’s all that I have. This is not your problem,” she says before being admitted on a 72-hour psychiatric hold at a local hospital.
Feeling betrayed by Lake and with nowhere else to go, Felix and his social worker show up at the front door of the Salazar house, where he asks Isabel if he can stay for a few days. When Isabel agrees without a second thought and asks what’s wrong, Felix — who has likely been suppressing his own feelings for months — breaks down and falls into Isabel’s arms as Victor and Pilar look on. This final scene had me on the verge of tears, but the use of the song “Brave,” by Riley Pearce, was enough to send me over the edge. Felix has truly become a part of this family, and it’s heartbreaking that he has had to go through so much of this alone. Isabel has definitely risen to the occasion in this episode as a loving mother (and mother figure).
• While Isabel begins to make some progress with Victor in this episode, it’s clear that Benji’s patience is wearing a little thin (and understandably so), because he still doesn’t feel welcome in the Salazar house and he doesn’t want Victor to get his hopes up about a reconciliation. It looks like this will definitely be a major source of tension in their relationship going forward, judging by Benji’s forced apology at the coffeehouse.
• When Mia and Andrew have that important conversation about their relationship, they actually meet near a hospital vending machine. Mia has driven Veronica, her father’s pregnant fiancée, to the hospital after she thought she was having a miscarriage, but thankfully she was just having some stomach pains due to an irritable uterus.
• Veronica knew to go to the hospital right away because she actually had a miscarriage in grad school that forced her to have two surgeries, and she never thought she would be able to get pregnant again until she met Mia’s father. This show certainly hasn’t shied away from difficult conversations about sex, religion, and depression this season, so I thought it was interesting that the writers chose to highlight the heartbreaking reality of miscarriages as well.