The Fosters – Recap: In Search of Home
Recap and review of The Fosters – Season 2 Episode 13 – Stay:
While it tackles a host of relevant issues for a family show, The Fosters is still largely a show centered on the plight of foster children. The situations these kids face are hardships no kid should have to endure, and yet, we’re shown how this is a system that fails these youths again and again. “Stay” is the story of kids looking for the place they belong, taking their future into their own hands when the system, or their respective circumstances, let them down.
Callie (Maia Mitchell) is torn, as she’s going to soon begin her court-ordered visitation with Robert (Kerr Smith). For someone who feels she’s already found the place where she belongs, it can be frustrating when the system doesn’t take her desires into account, instead preventing her adoption by the Fosters in order for Robert to have a crack at being a father too. But Callie quickly gets a distraction from her own worries when she receives a desperate phone call from Girls United pal Kiara (Cherinda Kincherlow). A tweaker has broken into her foster home, and is threatening the lives of the people in the home, all over a bad drug deal set up by her foster parents. In essence, Kiara is the foster child to a pair of drug dealers. So Callie acts quickly, turning to Stef (Teri Polo) for help. In moments, Stef and a squad of police officers are at the foster home, breaking up the drama and taking Kiara back home. But Stef is incensed to learn that child protective services plan on sending Kiara right back to the home, potentially placing the child in danger since the foster parents now know it was Kiara who ratted them out to law enforcement. This prompts Stef to go over to the foster home and threaten the parents, in a scene that allows Teri Polo to really bring the intensity, as Stef nearly goes too far in threatening them before Mike (Danny Nucci) is able to intervene.
Recognizing that CPS isn’t going to do much for Kiara, Callie tries to take Kiara to a drop-in facility for at-risk teens, hoping they’ll be able to find her safe placement. But more bureaucracy abounds, as the waiting list is way too long to accommodate someone with no time to wait. Callie lets out a passionate, heartbroken rant about how the system does absolutely nothing for kids like them, expecting them to just wait around as their situations get worse, adding that by the time any help arrives, they’ll probably be 18. And by then, they’ll be expected to survive on their own, having come from the terrible circumstances of their crooked foster homes. It’s a wonderful moment for Maia Mitchell, who imbues the speech with the pain of someone who’s spent the better part of her life so far being bounced from one bad foster home to another, finding each subsequent “solution” worse than the one before. And yet, even while it plays as an indictment of the system, it also reads as a defense. The poor employee Callie tears into isn’t really at fault. Hell, he even understands Callie’s frustrations. But he simply can’t service Kiara ahead of other people on the waitlist, some of whom may have situations every bit as desperate as Kiara’s. So it’s no surprise when Kiara eventually runs away, desperate to avoid being sent back to her foster home. And it’s also no surprise when Callie ends up doing her work-study volunteering at the drop-in facility, since Callie is someone who’s dedicated to making a difference in the lives of people who weren’t as lucky to find a family like the Fosters. The employee she ranted at earlier is more than happy to bring her on-board, and for a moment, there’s the hope that a new system could one day arise, thanks to the work of people who’ve experienced the broken system before it.
The rest of the episode has moments of varying poignancy. Callie attempting to talk Wyatt (Alex Saxon) into staying in California is touching, as their relationship has been one of the more effective of the non-familial bonds in the show. Here, Wyatt claims he no longer has anything tethering him to CA, now that he and Callie have broken up. He’s initially still in his bitter phase over the breakup, but eventually lightens up and offers Callie the chance to come with him to Indiana. For a moment, it seems as though she’s considering it, but in a neat little editing trick, it’s revealed that Callie isn’t packing to meet up and runaway together with Wyatt, she’s returning the art he made for her. She expresses her belief that he’ll need it more than she does, since he’ll probably want something to remind him of home. And…well, that seems to be it for Wyatt. I sincerely doubt it will be, but if it somehow is, I’ll miss Callie and Wyatt as a pair, if only for their friendship. That said, Callie still does have chemistry with Brandon (David Lambert), even though Brandon is about to go on tour with Lou. Naturally, Brandon expects that Stef and Lena aren’t going to be okay with it, but Stef is actually the one who’s all for Brandon going on tour, whereas Lena and Mike are the ones opposed. Granted, Callie makes a strident observation when she notes that no one would be for the tour if they knew he was offered a scholarship to Idlewild. But he hasn’t exactly told anyone else about it yet, and he plans to keep it that way.
Speaking of smart kids getting smarter, Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) has shown a surprising aptitude for math, as she’s apparently a part of Anchor Beach’s STEM Club for honors math students. However, Mariana isn’t too keen to have her intelligence advertised, even telling principal not to read her name at an assembly honoring the students with high math scores. Turns out, Mariana is worried that Mat (Jordan Rodrigues) might get jealous of her high scores, and that this would fundamentally change their relationship. Lena (Sherri Saum) picks up on Mariana’s hesitation, and has a heart-to-heart with her daughter, telling her that Mat should be able to accept both her girly side and her math wiz aspects. Otherwise, he doesn’t deserve her. It’s one of the episode’s warmest moments, and both Saum and Ramirez imbue it with a mother-daughter tenderness that they haven’t always gotten the chance to show in recent weeks. I also enjoyed the choice of showing Mat to be a considerate, mature guy, assuring Mariana that he accepts her for who she is, and that he would never get hung up on math scores.
If only Jesus (Jake T. Austin) were as considerate, as he’s still dating Hayley (Caitlin Carver) despite being largely annoyed by her. But Jesus is less distracted with Hayley than he is with news of Ana’s pregnancy, as he attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery of just who the baby’s father is. Suspecting it’s Mike, Jesus starts acting weird around him, resulting in some pretty amusing “awkward teen” acting from Austin when Jesus and Mike encounter each other in the kitchen. There’s also some brother-to-brother poignancy, as Brandon hangs out with Jesus en route to an Alateen meeting for kids of addicts. Granted, I do wish the show had found time for Jude somewhere in the narrative, but this was a hugely overstuffed episode as it was, so I could understand how the exigencies of the plot dictated the amount of screen time each story got. For the most part, the episode made the right choices.
“Stay” is a strong episode in a stronger second half for The Fosters Season 2. The show once again works back around to the central premise of kids looking for where they belong in the world, an echo of the show’s terrific theme song. I’m not sure where this episode fits into the larger narrative of the season, but even if most of these storylines don’t weave into wherever the overarching story of the season is headed, I still enjoyed the detour.