‘The Fosters’ Summer Finale Review: ‘Lucky’ Is Outstanding Television
Recap and review of The Fosters – Season 3 Episode 10 – Summer Finale – Lucky:
The Fosters had a lot of ground to cover when “Lucky” started, to such an extent that I thought the busy nature of the episode would end up hurting it. Several ugly cry-inducing moments later, and I found myself thinking this could have easily served as a series finale, given what an outstanding hour of television this ended up being. Was everything tied up in a neat little bow? Of course not. But there’s a pervasive sense of accomplishment here, of ends finally meeting.
And yet, we need to talk about Jesus first. Because, really, I feel the debut of Noah Centineo as Jesus Foster is going to be the lingering impression this episode leaves behind. Granted, it’s only a short scene at the end, but already, his appearance feels incongruous. Gone is the moody Jesus, who’s a nice guy but very much above all this family togetherness stuff. In his place is a Jesus who’s all too excited to be home, and incredibly disappointed to have missed Callie’s adoption. It’s one of the most utterly perplexing reversals of character that I’ve seen in some time, because it essentially turns him into this cross-section between the old Jesus and the current Brandon. Of course, it’s a bit early to really say anything substantive about this version of the character, since we don’t know where it’s headed. The ending of the episode implies he got kicked out of boarding school, as he turns to Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) and whispers about how he can’t go back to the school. This alone gives me hope, because it suggests that some of the bad boy Jesus is still in there. But just from the two minutes we get of Centineo onscreen, it’s difficult to believe this is the same character Jake T. Austin played. More than anything coming up in the second half of season three, I’m looking forward to seeing how Centineo plays Jesus, and how the character is written, now that he’s been added back into the fold. At the very least, Centineo seems very natural with the cast, so it shouldn’t be as awkward as it would have been if they’d simply cast someone who looked like Jake T. Austin, but who had no chemistry with his co-stars. That said, I wish they’d have held off on introducing him, mostly because I felt it overshadowed what turned out to be the best episode of The Fosters this season, if not ever.
From day one, I’ve been of the mind that Callie (Maia Mitchell) would inevitably become a Foster through marriage to Brandon (David Lambert), so I was a bit surprised when the adoption actually went through tonight. And yet, I like what actually happened just as much, if not more. Here, Callie asserts her own agency in securing her adoption, standing up to the judge who blocked her adoption, and getting him to admit that the system is fundamentally broken. When the judge declares he was wrong about Callie, and that he’s proud of her for being the voice of the voiceless, Callie’s journey basically reaches its culmination. This is what Callie’s story has been building towards, and what the character has been working for ever since we met her. This season has gone a long way in showing us that Callie has been the one responsible for a lot of the mistakes that have delayed her adoption, but this finale goes on to illustrate how she’s managed to overcome those shortcomings, and end up stronger for it. Granted, she has to lie to the judge (and to basically everyone) about having feelings for Brandon, and this in itself is a fresh mistake to add to her growing list, but the net positive of adoption — for Callie — pretty much outweighs the negative of any lies she has to tell to make it happen. Sure, she told Brandon she loved him, and he returned the sentiment, but this is ultimately a story of family. At least, this finale is. When Brandon tells her that the Adams-Foster clan is her family, and that she deserves it, that pretty much seals the decision Callie is going to make, because she now knows that while Brandon may have feelings too, he also realizes that it’s better for Callie to have a family than a boyfriend. He’s essentially taking himself off the table in order to make Callie’s decision easier. And for all we know, she would have made the same decision anyway, but the moment itself is still significant because, for once in her life, it seems as if all the forces of the universe are aligning to make this adoption happen for Callie.
This isn’t to say there aren’t close calls. Callie appears to contemplate running away when she learns, the morning after sleeping with Brandon, that the social worker has recommended her adoption after all. Callie also discovers that Rita (Rosie O’Donnell) used her audio clip to exonerate herself, but kept the bit about kissing Brandon to herself. Then, to make it a hat-trick of lucky breaks, Callie learns that Rita was able to talk Carmen out of spilling the beans to the social worker about the makeout session with Brandon. Basically, there’s no way Callie shouldn’t have been caught, but fate seemed cosmically aligned to actually help her out, for once. It all culminates in Callie standing up to the judge, earning her adoption, and receiving applause from a courtroom filled with Fost and Found users, in a scene that feels lifted right out of a Frank Capra-esque courtroom drama. It’s a beautiful moment to see Callie waver between smiles and tears as she embraces her family — her official, legal family — and it was hard not to cry, honestly. This has been a long time in coming for Callie, and while she’s made mistakes of her own along the way, it’s hard to argue she doesn’t deserve this, considering everything she’s been through. Callie admits she’s one of the lucky ones, but there’s something to be said for doing the work necessary to change, to give up juvenile delinquency and keep on the straight-and-narrow. Callie could have been another statistic, and the fact that she isn’t is the true triumph of her story. Well, provided she doesn’t end up being pregnant with Brandon’s kid. But I’m skeptical that the show would go in such a blatantly soap operatic direction. I suppose we’ll see in January.
The rest of the episode was like a montage of emotional, tear-inducing moments. I’ll admit I haven’t always been that invested in the marital discord between Lena (Sherri Saum) and Stef (Teri Polo), but the storyline resulted in two of the best scenes of the episodes. In the first, Stef breaks down when questioning Lena about why she didn’t shut down Monty’s flirtations, prompting Lena to admit that she liked the attention. Stef tearfully shouts that although she knows Lena wants to be her first priority, she simply has too much going on in her life for Lena to always come first. It’s an amazing scene for Polo, as Stef lists off the responsibilities weighing on her mind, stopping just short of including “my health”, since she’s trying to keep Lena from finding out that she had to undergo a second mammogram when the doctors found something in her first. It’s a powerhouse moment that’s matched only by the scene in the shed later in the episode, in which Stef comes clean about the mammogram, and then reveals that she’s been given a clean bill of health. The relief both Lena and Stef feel in that moment is enough to shock them back to life, and recognize the love they share for one another.
It might seem cheap, in a way, to resolve a season’s worth of marital discord with little more than a cancer scare, but I actually think this is a genius way to reach that resolution. Only through facing the possibility of a life without one another could Stef and Lena recognize that their love is worth more than the sum of their problems. The resolution also helped spare us from a potentially season-long cancer storyline which, frankly, would have been a bit of a time-waster, mostly because we know Stef wouldn’t be killed off. The end to this storyline, with Stef confessing her undying love for Lena, is about as satisfying an end as I could have asked for, and twice as emotional. It also adds to the overarching theme of forgiveness for one’s mistakes, as represented by Lena’s dad finally burying the hatchet with Nate over the racial slur he hurled at Lena’s mother so many years ago. The material may not be inventive, but it’s undeniably powerful. In fact, I felt the same way about Mariana’s storyline. She tries to fix things with Mat (Jordan Rodrigues), but he’s not interested. This prompts a response from Mariana that might be her best moment in the series (well, alongside that awesome cover of “Love Will Keep Us Together” she performed tonight!). Mariana tells Mat he knows how she feels, and if he doesn’t want to work things out, that’s fine, but she isn’t going to beg and grovel anymore. “I’m not gonna beg you to forgive me, because…I forgive me,” she says. In a bittersweet moment, Mat says that he has no intention of working things out with Mariana, but he’s glad she could stop beating herself up about it. It’s about as close to a clean break as Mariana was ever going to get with Mat, but I think this development was a necessary component to Mariana’s growth as a young adult. Hell, as far as breakups go, this could have been far worse. Not everyone’s breakups can go as smoothly as Jude (Hayden Byerly) and Connor’s (Gavin MacIntosh).
Then again, calling it a break up is probably the wrong term, considering their relationship appears to have shifted to a long distance one. Long story short, Connor’s dad catches him making out with Jude while both boys are shirtless, and this apparently scares him enough to send Connor to live with his mother in LA. Jude is upset, but not quite as upset as when he discovers Connor’s dad isn’t the one sending him away at all. Connor asked to be sent to live with his mother. And we don’t find out why until Callie’s adoption. Jude realizes that Connor wants what Callie has: a family support system. Sure, his father is trying, but it’s not really the same as being loved and accepted for who you are, without any strings attached. Connor simply wants to go where he might have a shot at acceptance, and Jude understands this. “I want you to have that,” Jude says. “Cuz…I love you.” Connor says it back, and it marks the second time in the episode that we get a first-time declaration of love, after Callie and Brandon’s. And yet, it’s still another tear-jerker of a scene. It also suggests this might not be the end for Connor on the show, as Jude insists LA isn’t that far away. It’s a happy ending for a romance, on a show that doesn’t always give us those for romances that aren’t Stef and Lena’s.
“Lucky” is a wonderful hour of television, bringing the first half of The Fosters Season 3 to a great close. Granted, some storylines seem to have been dropped for the night, such as the investigation into the hit-and-run, and basically anything having to do with AJ, but I’m hoping the show will come back to those story threads in January. For now, The Fosters has ushered in a new era, as Callie’s adoption basically splits the series into two categories: everything before Callie’s adoption, and everything after. Ultimately, the “everything after” has a pretty high bar to clear, but I wouldn’t be watching this show if, I didn’t think that, for as good as it’s been so far, the best was yet to come.
But what did you think of The Fosters, “Lucky”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Fosters, check out my interview with star Hayden Byerly on the development of the Jonnor romance!
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