‘The Fosters’ Delivers One of the Best of Season 2 With ‘Justify the Means’ (REVIEW)
Recap and review of The Fosters – Season 2 Episode 19 – Justify the Means:
Morality isn’t a black or white element, and The Fosters does a great job illustrating this fact with “Justify the Means”. I mean, it’s all right there in the title. Is it really that bad to do the wrong thing if it’s for the right reasons, or the wrong thing for the right reasons?
I think this may have been the most interesting episode of the season simply for how it paints the actions of the ostensible good guys. For example, Stef (Teri Polo) is having Robert (Kerr Smith) investigated in order to dig up dirt she can lord over him. She’s essentially extorting Robert into dropping his claim on Callie (Maia Mitchell) by threatening to come forward with evidence that he’s been having an affair. Well, okay, maybe that’s a bit too over-the-top a way of putting it. What Stef is really doing is blackmailing Robert into telling the judge that Callie needs more time to decide where she wants to live. Stef is hoping that, with the deadline extended, she’ll have enough time to file the paperwork to get Callie emancipated. If she’s recognized as an adult by the state, then she won’t need to get anyone’s consent in order to be adopted. And while I can see where Stef is coming from, it’s a case where she’s doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. What she’s doing is tantamount to blackmail, and as an officer of the law, Stef really ought to know better. And yet, she’s doing it out of a desire to protect Callie. Hell, she doesn’t even tell Lena (Sherri Saum) about the plan, for fear of getting her involved in an act that is right on the edge of legality. Desperation causes people to do crazy things, even against their better judgment, and I love that this episode didn’t pull punches on just how morally dubious Stef’s actions were.
That said, Stef isn’t the only one doing the wrong things for the right reasons, or vice-versa. Lena comes clean to Stef about her desire to adopt Ana’s baby, all after Monte (Annika Marks) spills the beans about Lena’s conflicted emotions at dinner. It’s an interesting storyline in that Lena is absolutely right in her observation that Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) will see their failure to adopt Ana’s baby as an outright rejection of her. And her reasons for wanting to adopt the child are noble, in their own right, since she not only wants a child for herself, she wants to give a kid a good home. But neglecting to discuss this matter with Stef illustrates that while Lena may ultimately be in the right, she went about things the wrong way, since marriage is very much about inclusion and shared decision-making. No marriage can thrive when secrets exist between spouses. Both Stef and Lena have their own secrets, and that’s why their relationship is in such disarray this week. Both are trying to do the right thing, but neither can find the right way to do it. Both Polo and Saum depict this conflict in a natural way, as Stef and Lena still love each other, but face trust issues that are difficult to overcome. Even with the silver lining of Timothy (Jay Ali) getting rehired, and the couple coming to the decision to adopt Ana’s baby, I imagine they still have a difficult road ahead.
It’s a story that comes back around with Callie, who auditions for Mariana’s dance team to show support, and ends up on the squad when Mariana can’t separate her feelings with Callie’s relative lack of ability. Both Callie and Mariana were trying to show support to one another, but neither was being honest with the other about the reasons for their actions. It’s a fairly minor subplot, but I enjoyed it for how it illustrated the reforged sisterly bond between Callie and Mariana, showing that honesty really can be the best policy. Granted, this doesn’t seem to be the case with Brandon (David Lambert), who tells Lou (Ashley Argota) that he’d rather go to Idyllwild than go on tour, but at least Brandon is being honest with himself. I mean, really, how is he supposed to look himself in the mirror if he didn’t at least try to give classical music one more shot? It’s his dream, and it’s better for him to go for the audition and fail than allow his dream to be deferred. My respect for Brandon, as a character, shot through the roof with that decision. He was always a pretty mature guy for his age, but he’s still managed to grow quite a bit over this season, recognizing when to put others’ needs before his, and when he needs to really focus on himself. It’s one of the best character growths this season.
That said, I did feel it was a bit of a mistake for Brandon to tell Mariana that Stef and Lena aren’t going to adopt Ana’s baby, for two reasons: 1) He’s wrong, he just doesn’t know it, since he has no way of knowing that Stef and Lena have changed their minds about the adoption. 2) Even if he were right, it’s not really his place to tell Mariana. That’s a conversation Stef and Lena need to have with their daughter, because Brandon can’t explain the reasons behind the decision better than Stef and Lena could. The best he can do is guess at the reasons for their rejection. Which is what he does, as he basically assumes it’s because they’re still grieving Frankie. I just didn’t get the motivation here, other than that Brandon’s heart is in the right place. Then again, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, as they say, so I think Brandon’s actions might have some unintended side effects. If nothing else, I think it was a terrible idea for Brandon to fish through the garbage and find the rejected letter Ana sent to her parents, since it’s clear the parents wanted nothing to do with Ana, and also since he was essentially overstepping Ana’s privacy. Giving that letter to Mariana with the hopes that she could convince them to adopt Ana’s baby just sounds like it’s going to end badly. And yet, I can’t stay mad at Brandon, because even if he did the wrong thing, it was for the right reasons.
Which brings us to Jude (Hayden Byerly). He sneaks out of the house to be with Connor (Gavin MacIntosh), and while he recognizes that this is a bad thing to do, he does it anyway, because his feelings for Connor override his better judgment. He’s essentially doing the wrong thing out of a feeling of fidelity towards Connor. So he joins Connor, Daria (Madison Pettis) and Taylor (Izabela Vidovic) as they vandalize a house and then break into Taylor’s house to get drunk. Once again, Jude recognizes that this is a horrible idea, but he’s pinned down by his desire to impress Connor (in an interesting twist, Taylor deduces that Jude has a crush on Connor, and this seems to upset her far more than she leads on). Connor and Jude pass a bottle of whiskey around, and things quickly go south when Taylor’s dad hears commotion downstairs and comes running down, gun in hand. He fires into the dark and…well, that’s it. Stef gets a phone call in the middle of the night, but we don’t know which kid was shot. It could have been Jude (although the preview suggests otherwise), and it could have been Connor. Hell, it could have even been Taylor, judging from how the previews lay this out.
But the fact of the matter is that despite being well-intentioned, Jude placed himself in harm’s way by willingly entering into a situation he knew would be a bad one. Yet, unlike with many of the other characters facing major right/wrong decisions this week, Jude isn’t really expected to have the presence of mind to make those types of decisions. He’s a good kid, but he’s far from infallible. That’s why Stef and Lena’s guidance has been so crucial to his development. An older Jude might not have made this choice. Then again, would it have mattered? Someone would likely still have been shot, since Connor and the girls would clearly have gone on without him. This isn’t to say that it was an unavoidable tragedy, but rather that bad decision-making is hardly native to Jude. It’s a storyline that’s causing me considerable anxiety at the moment, honestly. I love the Jude/Connor storyline, and think they make a terrific pairing for the show. Hell, I’d say they even make an important pairing, for how they shine a light on the difficulties some adolescents face in figuring out/coming to terms with their sexual identity. I would just hate for such a great storyline to come to an end in such senseless fashion. But then, maybe that’s the point. Life is as unpredictable as it is transitory.
I thought this was one of the absolute best episodes of the second season for The Fosters. It tackled a theme of the subjectivity of morality, and how our decisions have consequences that reverberate far past the moment we make them. “Justify the Means” was a compelling hour of TV, and I’m anxious to see what comes next, as the season nears its conclusion.