‘The Fosters’ Season 3 Episode 18 Review: ‘Rehearsal’ Preps Us For Struggles Ahead
Recap and review of The Fosters – Season 3 Episode 18 – Rehearsal:
“Rehearsal” is a pretty apt title for this latest episode of The Fosters, as we’re clearly being prepped for some rough times ahead. To say that things go south in a hurry towards the end of the episode would be an understatement: right when it seems like things might finally start working out, everything goes pear-shaped. While “Rehearsal” is far from my favorite episode of the season so far, I think it has a lot to tell us about each of these characters, and how they respond to adversity.
One of the big overarching themes of the episode is how we internalize conflict. When Callie (Maia Mitchell) learns that Justina (Kelli Williams) had her best friend, Lizzie, ripped away from her and put into the foster system as a youth, she sets out trying to track the woman down. However, Callie ends up discovering a video in which Justina tells Lizzie’s story as her own. When confronted, Justina admits that while the story about Lizzie is true, she had to adopt the story as her own in order to get people to listen. In essence, Justina is admitting to using Lizzie’s story to get money from people. Callie is understandably offended, since this basically means Justina has been using her as well. But Justina doesn’t really see it that way, stating that it’s a mutually beneficial system. Justina uses Callie to get donations, and Callie uses Justina not only to get Fost-and-Found off the ground, but to also get Daphne (Daffany Clark) a job that pays well enough to keep the state from taking her daughter. Callie is conflicted over what Justina has told her, to such an extent that she doesn’t share it with anybody, instead choosing to internalize it, since ratting the woman out doesn’t really benefit anyone. As a result, she’s more on edge than she otherwise might have been, misinterpreting a conversation in which Brandon (David Lambert) tells Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) that he once slept with someone he regrets. Callie assumes he’s talking about her, but it’s fairly clear he means Dani. The problem is that Callie has no knowledge of the whole Dani situation, and when you consider that Brandon is the first person with whom she’s ever felt normal following her sexual assault at the hands of Liam, it’s understandably distressing for her to think that she didn’t mean anything to Brandon. But that all changes when she finds out Brandon, too, is a rape survivor. She explains to him that it’s common for a victim to internalize his or her emotions, and view themselves as culpable in their rape, but she urges Brandon not to look at it that way. It’s a powerful moment for both Mitchell and Lambert, who find a more intimate level to Brandon and Callie’s relationship. This has nothing to do with their romance, really, but everything to do with the relationship they’ve formed as best friends. They’re each other’s anchor point, a source from which they respectively draw strength, whether they realize it or not. They come to a sense of understanding about how harmful it is to internalize emotions, and to allow guilt and regret to fester. It’s some of the deftest character-centric storytelling of the season, all the more so for how unexpected this entire storyline ended up being, since I was prepared for this to mostly be about Brandon and Callie arguing over invasions of privacy or something similar.
Speaking of invasions of privacy, Mariana is also internalizing her emotions, struggling to come to grips with Nick having learned she cheated on Mat (Jordan Rodrigues) with Wyatt. It causes Nick to take stock of their relationship and wonder if Mariana is really the type of girl he thinks she is, while Mariana steps back and wonders if Mat is really the stand-up guy he initially appeared to be, since the only way Mat’s co-star could have learned the truth about the Wyatt affair is if Mat blabbed about it to everyone. Rather than confront the issue head-on, Mariana avoids Nick altogether, and then throws Mat under the bus for violating her privacy and “slut-shaming” her. The unfortunate irony in all this is that if she’d simply confronted her problems head-on, she would have realized that her situation wasn’t as bad as she made it out to be. Sure, Nick is surprised that Mariana cheated in her prior relationship, but as long as she’s honest with him once she’s not into him anymore, he doesn’t particularly care about her past. By the same token, had Mariana dug deeper, she might have found out that it wasn’t Mat who told his co-star, it was Talya. Granted, it was still Mat’s fault for having told Talya in the first place, but it was bad enough for her to cheat on Mat. It would have reached a whole other level of cruelty if she THEN expected him to not be able to talk to a friend about it. Hell, it’s the only way many people are ever able to move on, as evidenced by the various “shoulders to cry” on that Mariana had at her disposal in that situation. Of course, where Mariana redeems herself is in the way she handles each situation after the fact, showing grace in the face of her hang-ups, and illustrating that she’s capable of moving on. At least in theory: Mariana and Mat share a kiss under the pretense of rehearsing their song for Brandon’s Romeo and Juliet musical, but that kiss was FAR more emotionally charged than either seemed to be expecting. So perhaps that relationship isn’t entirely off the table just yet.
If nothing else, Mariana certainly needs a win, considering how this episode ended for her. After finally hitting it off with biologically father Gabe (Brandon Quinn), the cops arrive after receiving a notice of a tripped alarm in the warehouse Nick’s father owns. Because he’s alone with a minor, Brandon is arrested on the spot, as Mariana can only look on in horror, fearing she’s ruined everything (and it seemed Gabe was really close to finally getting off the sex offender register, considering Ana and Mariana’s grandparents each signed letters of recommendation for him, to go along with Jesus and Mariana’s own). It was really just bad luck, and not at all Mariana’s fault, but it’s hard to imagine that she won’t internalize these emotions and allow guilt to overcome her. Here’s hoping she comes to the more mature realization that there was nothing she could do, and that some bad things just happen, unfortunately, without anyone being at fault. It’s likely to have the biggest effect on Jesus (Noah Centineo), who has been struggling to finally connect with his birth father. This week, when Gabe tells Jesus that nothing good came out of his relationship with Ana, Jesus takes his words literally. And I’m not sure he was necessarily wrong to have done so, considering Gabe’s words prior to that statement were about how he tried to convince Ana to get an abortion once he learned she was pregnant. But it isn’t until Jesus finally stops internalizing his anger and confronts Gabe about what he said that he gets any sort of closure, as Gabe explains that he didn’t mean it the way Brandon took it. Gabe admits that he has no idea what he’s supposed to say, so he’s probably going to say a lot of stupid things in the process of getting to know Jesus. But he DOES want to get to know him, which is important, because this could be the first meaningful connection Gabe has made in years, judging by how his family basically exiled him once he was put on the registry. Jesus finally sees a potential relationship with his birth father, which makes the ending so much crueler. Gabe was getting so close to finally being free of his past and starting a new future with his biological offspring. But now, that’s a dream deferred — at least for the time being.
Meanwhile, Stef (Teri Polo) discovers that she suffers from internalized homophobia and body issues, in what turns out to be one of the episode’s best storylines. After a gloriously awkward moment in which Stef and Lena (Sherri Saum) consult with women who’ve opted for different procedures on their breasts (and after Jesus picks the worst moment in the world to walk in), Stef comes to the realization that she has to stop caring about what other people think if she’s ever going to feel comfortable in her own body again. And so she cuts her hair! It’s a stunning change in appearance, but it absolutely works, because it plays into the prejudices Stef used to hold herself. Stef initially worried about not having breast implants because she didn’t want to look too “butch”. But with her short hair and flannel shirt, Stef essentially tosses that previous remark by the wayside, illustrating that she no longer cares whether or not she looks butch. This is what makes her feel comfortable. And she IS going to get those implants, but not because she needs them to feel feminine, but rather because she simply likes having boobs. It’s an artfully simple storyline, showing how a woman discovers her truest self by opting not to care what other people think her true self should be. Polo is never more vulnerable than in the scene in which Stef confesses all her fears and insecurities to Lena, as a means of explaining why she’s now happy with who she is. It’s an absolutely love scene, and a wonderful bit of acting that has me wondering why Polo doesn’t get more attention. Ultimately, no storyline tonight better illustrated the dangers of internalizing your emotions than this one, in my opinion.
“Rehearsal” is a harrowing episode for our characters, as they learn how to move on from past mistakes, regrets and traumas. The Fosters excels at this sort of character study, but this was about much more than exploring internalization. This episode lays the groundwork for what can only be more difficult struggles to come, since it doesn’t seem like the troubles will ever truly stop for this family. After all, if they did, we probably wouldn’t have a show worth watching. And The Fosters is worth watching.
But what did you think of The Fosters Season 3 Episode 18, “Rehearsal”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Fosters, check out our review of last week’s emotionally complicated “Sixteen”!