The Fosters – Winter Premiere 2015 – Recap: Family Practice
Recap and review of The Fosters – Winter Premiere 2015 – Over/Under:
While the winter premiere of The Fosters for 2015 features some moments of deceptive editing trickery, “Over/Under” is still very well-organized as an episode of television, as each storyline illustrates the ambiguities of real life. No one is completely right nor completely wrong. It’s a mixture of scenarios where people do the wrong thing for the right reasons, and the right thing for the wrong reasons. It’s this complexity that makes The Fosters one of the most dramatically rich shows on television.
Now, onto the editing trickery that isn’t really “trickery,” per se. Ever since the summer finale, and into the Christmas episode, the show has wanted us to think that Sophia (Bailee Madison) was about to commit suicide, and that the ambulance seen rushing to the Quinns was in response to her suicide attempt. We get further evidence of this here, as the episode opens with Sophia sitting alone in a bathtub, filled to the brim with water. She dips her head below the water and appears to let go of herself, as if welcoming death. In an interesting visual that draws attention to just how good the casting is on this show, Sophia virtually morphs into Callie once her head is below water, as the waves of the water seem to distort her face until she ends up looking like her half-sister, in a strange way. It’s a trippy little sequence, and done with apparently no other aid than the obvious physical similarities between Bailee Madison and Maia Mitchell, who look more related than me and my brother do. But I digress. The opening is actually a fakeout, as the ambulance is there to treat Robert Quinn (Kerr Smith), who is having heart problems as a result of a panic attack brought on by the argument he had with Callie (Maia Mitchell), in which she revealed that she doesn’t love him and never would.
Now, for why this isn’t necessarily “trickery”: Sophia IS actually intending to commit suicide. She resolves to end it all once a judge declares that Callie will remain with the Fosters until a decision on the adoption can be reached, but will be forced to visit with Robert once a week in the interim — a stipulation to which she agrees, but under the condition that she doesn’t have to interact with Sophia, whom she still blames for the adoption failing to go through. Sophia tries her best to make amends, but it’s no use, as Callie wants absolutely nothing to do with her half-sister. Her despair prompts Sophia to go walking into oncoming traffic, causing a rear-ender when a car has to slam the brakes to avoid hitting her. Afterwards, Sophia tries to play it off as an accident, claiming she simply wasn’t paying attention. But Callie lets Robert know that this was no accident, prompting Sophia to, presumably, be placed in treatment. Yet Callie still has other issues beyond her suspended adoption process, as her relationship with Brandon (David Lambert) apparently has no hope of getting off the ground: Brandon is committed to making things work with Lou (Ashley Argota), so much so that he passed on a lucrative classical music scholarship in order to go on tour with the band. When Callie tries to talk some sense into him by saying that classical music has always been his first love, Brandon responds by saying that we don’t always get to have our first love. In detailing why he can’t be with Callie, he explains that her indecisiveness makes it hard for him to trust her. She doesn’t know what she wants, and he can’t put his heart on the line with someone as uncertain as her, even though he does have strong feelings for her. It makes sense, as Brandon notes that even though Callie has reached a setback in her attempt to be adopted, he doesn’t want her to give up on her dream, no matter what it means for their connection.
Of course, it’s all easier said than done, since Callie is someone who is still attempting to find some measure of self-acceptance in her situation. She doesn’t particularly like Robert at the moment, but she doesn’t appear to hate him as much as she leads on, understanding his grief over Sophia’s suicide attempt, and even reaching out a comforting arm to him at the end of the episode. These are baby steps, but it’s progress for Robert. Sure, it’s a jerk move for him to renege on signing the adoption papers like he said he would, even as it becomes apparent that what Callie really wants is to just be a Foster, far more so than she wants a father in her life. On the other hand, Robert was robbed of the opportunity to have a life with his eldest daughter, since he was never told about the pregnancy. I feel he at least deserves some kind of chance to be in Callie’s life, even if just as an ancillary figure in her life. He seems to want at least the chance to practice being a family with Callie, even if it doesn’t work out. Still, Stef (Teri Polo) confronts Robert at his home, and declares that she has no intention of letting Robert be in Callie’s life, considering how dishonest he’s proven himself to be. But I think this is less a matter of dishonesty, and more a situation in which a father didn’t want to let his only chance at connecting with his daughter slip away. Then again, there’s a certain irony in how much better he and Callie were connecting when he was intent on letting her be adopted by the family she wanted, rather than forcing a father-daughter bond that isn’t there. The Quinns facing off against the Fosters in a custody battle for Callie could make interesting, although heartbreaking, television. But the show needs a way to keep the possibility of Brandon and Callie alive, and the only way they can do that without making things weird is by keeping them from becoming brother and sister for as long as possible. I’m still of the mind that this series will eventually end with Callie becoming a Foster through marriage to Brandon, enough that I’d stake money on it, if I were the gambling type. But I’m not, so this is the best I can do in trying to come up with a rationale for why Callie and Brandon continually fail to actually ever be together (you know, other than that whole “foster siblings can’t hook up” legal clause, which is as perfectly valid a reason as any).
But there are issues for others on the show, not just Callie and Brandon. For one, Lena (Sherri Saum) is able to get her job back, but it’s contingent upon holding a meeting between Jude (Hayden Byerly), Connor (Gavin MacIntosh) and Connor’s father, in which they discuss what happened during the school sleepover trip. Basically, Jude and Connor went into a tent with some girls and ended up making out with them, and that’s pretty much it. They’re both punished, but it’s a relatively light scolding, considering just how angry Connor’s father was before, and how adamant Lena was about Jude being inappropriate in his actions. However, the consequences go beyond punishment from adults, as Connor is livid with Jude for telling Lena about what happened. He essentially ends his friendship with Jude, saying he can’t be friends with “a little bitch” who goes and tells his mom every little thing that happens. It’s a harsh moment, all the more for how genuine it feels. Teenagers can be cruel and vindictive, and very reactionary, saying things they might not mean in the moment, but which cut to the bone nonetheless.
Thankfully, not everything in the episode is as big of a downer. Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) gets a quaint little storyline in which she forms her own dance team with Tia (Samantha Logan), as both girls have grown tired of Kaitlyn (Hannah Kasulka) and her domineering ways. Also, while less lighthearted in nature, there is an interesting development for Jesus (Jake T. Austin) as well, as he sits in on an A.A. meeting and overhears Ana (Alexandra Barreto) confess that she’s pregnant with another child. Who is the father? I doubt it could be Mike’s, since that implies he would have been cheating on Dani, and nothing about how he’s acted suggests as much. But I suppose anything is possible. Even if the father is someone whom we’ve never met, this is still an interesting development, because it shows Ana doing her best to do right by this new baby in ways she never did for Jesus and Mariana. In essence, jealousy and resentment is bound to arise. And that makes for a rich character conflict, particularly for someone like Jesus, who doesn’t have a whole lot going on at the moment, narratively.
I’m stoked to have The Fosters back, since this is genuinely one of my favorite shows on TV. “Over/Under” illustrates why, by taking a crowded narrative and finding ways to address each individual storyline in such a way that the episode doesn’t feel crowded. Everything gets time to develop incrementally, and no one is really given the short shrift. It’s what makes the ensemble feel so effective. Any individual member of the family could be the lead of their own series, and it’d actually be fairly interesting to see that theory put to the test. Would a Jesus-centric episode be as dramatically compelling as a Callie-centric episode? This season, The Fosters have taken more risks in their storytelling, between the editing fakeouts, and the shocking twists (such as Sophia destroying the adoption papers, or Lena losing baby Frankie). It’s enough to get me excited for what’s ahead, as The Fosters continues to be one of the more narratively engaging family shows on TV, at the moment.