The Fosters – Season Finale 2014 – Recap: Right Where You Belong

Recap and review of The Fosters – Season Finale 2014 – Adoption Day:

Two confessions:

1) I think this episode of The Fosters may have prompted more spontaneous blubbering than any TV show in recent memory short of Call the Midwife. Seriously, it was Ugly Cry Central up in this spot.

2) With each passing week, I feel The Fosters has become less of a light, issues-driven show, and more of a melodrama in which every conceivable thing that could possibly go wrong does.

I don’t necessarily mean #2 to be a criticism, since conflict is good drama. But “Adoption Day” is a gauntlet, with one figurative, slow motion car crash after another for these characters. There are highs, sure. But far more often than not, it feels like the lows just might win out. Of course, while this is awful for our characters, it’s great for viewers, since it makes for a more interesting, dynamic series. I could already envision a wealth of potential storyline directions for season two, and that’s not always the case when a series airs its season finale, particularly a series in its freshman year. All in all, “Adoption Day” is terrific TV, and it just might be the best episode of The Fosters yet.

The Fosters - Brandon comforts Mariana

Credit: ABC Family

So Brandon (David Lambert) has basically initiated one massive downward spiral for his family: sure, he came clean about confessing to having bribed Ana (Alexandra Barretto), but now Stef (Teri Polo) realizes she has to actually pay the woman now to make her go away for good. It’s an interesting digression from the usual characterization for Stef, as her tireless dedication to justice and doing the right thing is compromised in the face of her love for her son, and her desire to keep her family from ruin. Of course, this character arc is somewhat undermined when we learn that the meeting is merely a setup, and that Stef has no intention of actually paying Ana. She plans to wear a wire to the payoff in order to get Ana on tape extorting a police officer, which will not only send her to jail but also completely undermine whatever she eventually tries to tell the D.A. about Brandon bribing her to save Mike (Danny Nucci). On the subject of Mike, Brandon has sort of made things worse for dear ol’ dad. In addition to the whole bribery fiasco, Brandon is now being forced to move back home with Stef, which adds to his disappointment.

Oh, and there’s also Brandon sleeping with Dani (Marla Sokoloff). (Yes, that totally happened, and I’m going to be furious if she’s pregnant.)

Let me backtrack a bit. Basically, Brandon gets officially dumped by Callie (Maia Mitchell) in one of the weirdest breakup scenes this side of Liz Parker allowing Max Evans to think she’d been unfaithful so he wouldn’t pursue their relationship, since it causes the eventual destruction of the universe. Callie shows up on his doorstep and tells him that all she’s ever wanted was to be a part of this family, and that she wants this more than she’s ever wanted anything. However, she then tells him that she would give it all up and leave if Brandon tells her that this decision is hurting him. Callie, I love ya, but what the hell is the guy supposed to say to that? “I’ve got the Grown-Man Feels for ya, so you should probably just give up your dream of being a part of this family, and get back to road-trippin’ with Wyatt. Deuces.” Of course he’s going to pretend like he’s not bothered by the girl he loves becoming his sister. And of course he’s going to use his fake ID to buy more booze to drink the pain away, and then find some other good-looking person to help him get over his angst. I just assumed it’d be Talya and not, you know, a grown-ass woman with more issues than a newsstand. And all this on the eve of his big audition for the symphony!

The Fosters - Adoption Day

Credit: ABC Family

But what do you know, the symphony audition goes swimmingly. In fact, it’s one of the few positive things to happen to Brandon this week, along with avoiding expulsion thanks to Vico’s parents making the whole thing go away (they’re powerful board members, you see, and that basically write Principal Sanchez’s checks; seriously, it seems like every halfway affluent school district has these parents — and a jerk-ass kid like Vico to go with’em). He tackles the audition like a pro, despite the distraction of Stef nervously watching from the audience, as well as the added anxiety of Mike having gone missing after leaving a drunken voicemail on Brandon’s phone. Dani eventually finds Mike and brings him home, but his knuckles are all covered in blood. Even worse, Stef gets stood up by Ana, who was last seen arguing with some guy the night before. So the show is pretty much asking us to believe that Mike killed Ana to make the entire problem go away, which is a story I might buy if this were Twisted. But I feel as though taking the story down that path would be like crossing the Rubicon for this series. There’s no going back to light, family drama if that’s where this is headed. Ultimately, I think the show will have Mike become a suspect in Ana’s disappearance, and maybe even have Mike believing in his own guilt after failing to remember what happened the night before. But I think it’s more likely that we’ll end up with Ana having either skipped town (for whatever reason; maybe she figured out Stef was springing a trap) or meeting an untimely end (OD, suicide, verifiable accident, take your pick). In short, we’d learn that while Mike was the guy Ana was arguing with, he didn’t actually harm her; the blood on his knuckles could be from an unrelated bar fight or from beating his fists against the wall in frustration. Either way, I’m basically saying we have a bunch of storyline possibilities for season two here, and I kind of loved that about this finale.

Also on “From Bad to Worse” Theater, Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) must say goodbye to Zac (Julian De La Celle) when he comes to the difficult decision (with Mariana’s encouragement) to get help for his mother, who is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s. In her erratic state, she attacked Zac with an iron, leaving him no choice but to call his father and make arrangements not only to get his mother help, but to also move back with his dad — in Arizona. Yet Mariana goes through her own version of the Lexi-in-Ecuador story, Jesus (Jake T. Austin) is finally getting his love life back on track, convincing Emma (Amanda Leighton) to give him a second chance after he goes back on his meds. It’s a cute story with not a lot of meat to it, and frankly, this wouldn’t be the first time I found a Mariana story to be infinitely more interesting than a Jesus story. Although I hesitate to even call the Jesus story a “story,” since it’s mostly just a scene. Maybe two. Hell, even Jude (Hayden Byerly) gets more to do. It’s actually kind of a great little storyline, if I’m being honest, as Jude wonders if his jealousy over Connor potentially going out with a girl in his class could mean he’s gay. This provides us with a touching scene between Jude and Lena (Sherri Saum), in which she explains that while these feelings of jealousy are to be expected, they’d love Jude no matter what he ends up being, whether gay or straight. It’s just a lovely little subplot, and I found it so endearing when Jude and Connor make up after their argument over the girl. This finale is insanely overstuffed with story, but I’d argue it’s a welcome overstuffing, since we get a lot of cry-worthy material in the bargain.

The Fosters - Recap and Review - Season Finale 2014 - Adoption Day

Credit: ABC Family

For example, Stef finally admits to Lena that she doesn’t want her to have a baby, tearfully arguing that the five kids they have are a handful already. The argument comes about after Lena reveals that Timothy (Jay Ali) has reneged on his agreement to give up full parental rights, claiming that the idea of his child existing in this world without him would crush him. Naturally, this creates a problem, since Lena has already gone through with the insemination, assuming Timothy would sign the papers later. And so this creates friction between Stef and Lena. However, it all comes to a head at the courthouse for Callie and Jude’s adoption, as Lena reveals she’s pregnant, and we get a wonderful acting moment from Teri Polo. Her eyes completely run the gamut of emotions from terrified to thrilled to disappointed to overjoyed and even a hint of relief in there. She says that when she heard those words, she wasn’t sure what she would feel, yet all she feels now is love for Lena, and for the baby they’re going to raise together. This was the first moment at which I found myself fighting back the blubbering, as this was a gorgeous culmination to a storyline in which I didn’t even know I was so deeply invested. But there would be more to come in the climax…

The Fosters - Lena is pregnant

Credit: ABC Family

In the ultimate case of the bad getting worse, Callie learns on the day of the adoption that she can’t be adopted because her birth certificate indicates a different father than the one who raised her. In short, for the adoption to go through, they’d have to track down Callie’s biological father and obtain his consent before the process could move forward. This brings us a pair of absolutely fantastic scenes: in the first, Jude breaks down upon hearing the news that Callie can’t be adopted, and vows that he won’t be adopted without her, prompting Callie to spring into Big Sister Mode to convince him that this can still be a happy day. She argues that this is Jude’s time, and that he deserves to be a part of the Foster family. Hayden Byerly’s stone-faced, “dammit, I’m not going to break down” expression during this scene is just tremendous, and makes me wish he’d gotten more to do this season, since I think there’s a real gem of an actor underneath all the relatively lightweight stuff he’s been getting. And Maia Mitchell is every bit as good, playing Callie as someone who is struggling to maintain her facade of togetherness, because it’s the only alternative to falling to the ground and cursing the universe.

The Fosters - Callie will not be adopted

Credit: ABC Family

Which leads to our next solid scene, as Rita (Rosie O’Donnell) returns with the Girls United group to support Callie on her adoption day. Once things turn sour, Callie declares to Rita that she feels as if the universe is out to get her, prompting Rita to deliver a poignant speech about the nature of luck. Basically, the universe isn’t out to get people, but if you’re convinced it is, a paranoid mind can always find reasons. But that only begets further misery. And so Rita pleads with Callie to resist her temptation to run, and to stick around long enough for her good luck to find her. It’s such a beautiful moment, and the relief that washes over Callie’s face says a lot more than an actual response ever could have. And so they return to the courthouse to witness Jude get adopted, with all their friends and family in attendance, and I find myself wondering if perhaps this isn’t a big endpoint for the series: getting Callie to this same point where she’s signing on the dotted line, finally achieving her dream of becoming a “Foster”. Because it seems as though the only reason the show would have for preventing Callie from becoming a Foster is to keep the Brandon romance alive.

Wyatt (Alex Saxon) is worried that Callie not getting adopted might change things with her and Brandon, but she insists this isn’t the case. As we learn, she’s officially back together with Wyatt now, and it’s something Brandon has mostly come to accept after their brief, bittersweet, cordial talk at the post-Adoption party. But, in keeping with the downward spiral trajectory of some of these storylines, things end on a grim cliffhanger for Brandon. Vico, who blames Brandon for costing him his possible wrestling scholarship, gangs up with a bunch of friends to attack Brandon outside his car. It’s a vicious beating that leaves Brandon bloody and broken. Worst of all, Vico slams a car door on Brandon’s hand, potentially ending his career as a pianist. These Fosters, man. They just can’t win for losing.

The Fosters - Season Finale 2014 - Recap and Review - Adoption Day

Credit: ABC Family

“Adoption Day” is the apex for The Fosters, a culmination of all the disparate story threads the show has built over the course of this long, enthralling season. In fact, it’s one of the strongest first seasons of any show I’ve seen in recent memory, and I’m already geared up for season two. Even though it wasn’t always on-point, The Fosters succeeded by illustrating that even when hope is hard to come by, family is that one universal constant on which you can rely — provided you have a family of your own. This is largely the story of one family, and how two kids come to be a part of it, to know the comfort of dependability, and the tribulation that accompanies an attachment that deep.

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