‘The Fosters’ Season 3 Episode 16 Review: Excellent ‘EQ’ Centers On Accepting Reality
Recap and review of The Fosters – Season 3 Episode 16 – EQ:
Moving on is hard enough, but it’s even more difficult when you refuse to accept reality. “EQ” is the kind of episode The Fosters does exceedingly well, as it centers on the difficulty of overcoming what you aren’t willing to accept.
The episode hangs its hat on two incredibly difficult revelations that prove hard to accept in the moment, much less in retrospect. As if her falling out with Rita (Rosie O’Donnell) didn’t prove difficult enough, Callie (Maia Mitchell) finds herself approached by a desperate Chloe (Marcella Lentz-Pope), Rita’s biological daughter. Chloe wanted her mother’s new phone number in order to contact her, yet Rita didn’t want to reopen those lines of communications, assuming Chloe only wanted to hit her up for money. This nearly ends in tragedy, as we discover that Chloe was struggling with suicidal thoughts, and needed her mother for emotional support. Rita’s inability to accept that Chloe could ever need her for anything more than money nearly proves to be Chloe’s undoing. Honestly, Callie is just as guilty of writing Chloe off, albeit not without the same good reasons Rita had. After all, despite trying to help Chloe through the hardships with her mother, the girl still has the gall to ask Callie for $600 so she can make rent on a room a friend is saving for her. So it’s not surprising that Callie hits ignore when Chloe tries to call her later, as Callie now has the same preconceived notions about her as Rita. Yet, Callie manages to save the day by calling 911 after Chloe leaves a distressing voicemail. Turns out, she’d swallowed a bunch of pills, and if Callie hadn’t reacted as quickly as she did, we’d be prepping a funeral right now. This shock to the system prompts Rita and Callie to finally make amends, bonded over Chloe’s close call, and the reminder of everything they’ve been through together. It’s as if to say that we have a greater potential for personal growth when we let go of our preconceived notions and accept the reality of our situations. Rita and Callie don’t have to agree on the foster care reform bill in order to get along, for example. Their disagreements don’t need to result in either person thinking less of the other.
It’s all part of a thematic direction for the episode that works exceedingly well, as characters are forced to face their preconceived notions about the people in their lives, and reassess those relationships. Case in point, although Lena (Sherri Saum) has her doubts about Monte (Annika Marks), she refuses to believe that Monte is a bad or vindictive person, even while evidence against her begins to mount (such as Brandon’s Romeo & Juliet play getting rejected by the Honor Council, in what could be retaliation for Lena reprimanding Monte for getting personally involved in helping straight-A student Sally Benton with her senior project). Sure, Monte is a bit unconventional in the administration of her duties — without even rehashing the kiss with Lena — but her heart generally seems to be in the right place, no? And yet, is it really that shocking when, at the end of the episode, Sally comes into the office to log a formal complaint against Monte for allegedly kissing her? Despite Lena wanting to believe the best about Monte, she was plagued by doubts in the back of her mind. Yet she just wasn’t willing to accept that Monte was a bad person. She had a preconceived notion of Monte as a flawed but fundamentally good human being. Now, we don’t know if these allegations against Monte are true or not, but it speaks volumes of our perception of Monte that these accusations are plausible. In much the same way Rita must inevitably accept that her daughter could need her for reasons beyond finance, Lena must face the harsh reality that her boss and friend could have this darkness residing within her. Because, make no mistake about it, if the accusation against Monte is true, there’s no real defense or justification for it. How Lena will handle this mess is anyone’s guess, but it’s clear she can’t let Monte get a pass on this. Maybe Monte is innocent, maybe she’s guilty, but Lena must do her due diligence and accept the reality that this accusation isn’t going to just disappear.
Another thing that isn’t about to disappear any time soon? Callie’s relationship with AJ (Tom Williamson). The sooner Brandon (David Lambert) accepts this, the better off he’ll be. Yet he’s having serious trouble coming to grips with it, for reasons even he seems to have trouble quantifying. I mean, he’s practically dating Cortney (Denyse Tontz) already, so you’d think he’d at least try to move on from Callie. But his bitterness over the relationship is evident here, and it’s not a good luck for him. Granted, part of it could simply be the stress he’s under, as the Honor Board rejects his proposed Romeo and Juliet rock opera on the grounds that the suicidal ending will be a trigger for some students (namely, Sally Benton, who lost a friend to suicide). Brandon makes a hell of a pitch to the board about how the story doesn’t glorify suicide at all, but in fact condemns it as a foolish, selfish act. But with his proposal rejected, he’s left with no other choice but to stage the play in the warehouse provided by Nick’s father, since the play can still count towards Brandon and Mat’s senior projects as long as it’s performed off-campus. Nick (Louis Hunter) coming through for Brandon earns him brownie points with Mariana (Cierra Ramirez), since this allows her to keep her starring role in the play. In fact, Nick ends up getting a kiss out of the whole ordeal, and even manages to secure a second date when he intercepts a drunk Jesus (Noah Centineo) and makes sure he gets home safely. So maybe Nick isn’t such a bad guy after all, although I have my doubts about anyone on a teen show who looks almost nothing like a teenager at all. But hey, at least he’s trying to keep Jesus out of trouble, not that Jesus really CAN be kept out of trouble these days.
Basically, Jesus has a drinking problem now, sneaking vodka into his drinks and replacing the missing booze with water. This has the end result of Gabe (Brandon Quinn) discovering Jesus at the job site and bringing him back home to Lena and Stef (Teri Polo), who is absolutely livid about her son’s behavior, and with good reason. Ever since discovering that Gabe isn’t the creepy sex offender he assumed his biological father was, he hasn’t been able to accept the reality that Gabe wants nothing whatsoever to do with him. And yet, Stef is struggling with problems of her own, namely the double mastectomy. To that end, she’s been assigned to desk duty, fronting a community outreach program centered on emotional intelligence, with the goal towards reforming offenders and at-risk youths. It’s an eye-opening plot for the episode, as it allows both Stef and Jesus to confront some very harsh issues in their own lives. Stef’s ongoing animosity with one of the students, Javier, results in a mutual understanding about the sorts of things both have been through. This isn’t to say Stef isn’t still bitter, in some ways, that she was stricken with cancer. But she at least seems open to accepting the reality of what happened to her, and accepting that she must move on. By that same token, Jesus must start to realize that, at least for now, attempting to form a bond with Gabe just won’t produce the results he’s looking for — and that’s if Jesus even knows what he wants out of Gabe. It’s emotional stuff, to be sure, and part of why The Fosters executes these types of character explorations so well.
But what did you think of The Fosters, Season 3 Episode 16, “EQ”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Fosters, read our recap and review of last week’s terrific “Minor Offenses”!