‘The Fosters’ Review: Callie Closes a Dark Chapter In Her Life In ‘Not That Kind of Girl’
Recap and review of The Fosters – Season 2 Episode 20 – Not That Kind of Girl:
How much does our past define us? And how much do our relationships tell other people about who we are? The Fosters is bringing Season 2 to a close next week, but “Not that Kind of Girl” would be a stellar episode even if it weren’t in place to set up the finale.
As a standalone hour of TV, I thought we got a lot of great material out of tonight’s show. I was taken aback by the return of Liam (Brandon Jones) and Sarah (Mary Mouser), so much so that I worried it might turn out to be some grim narrative conceit meant to give us a revenge hook that’d create peril for Callie and the rest of the Adams-Foster clan for the finale. Because, really, it’d be easy to see Liam somehow finding a way out of jail time and coming back to torment Callie at full force. But that isn’t what happened here. What seemed like the beginning of a new nightmare for Callie turned out to be the closing of a dark chapter in her life. This Liam saga has been continuing intermittently since the show’s beginning, with Liam weaving in and out of Callie’s life to cause new despair with each arrival. But here, it’s Callie who reclaims control, not only for herself but for the abused Sarah. It’s a wonderful storyline for Maia Mitchell, as Callie discovers her credit has been ruined by someone who’s stolen her identity. And bad credit means no emancipation, which means no adoption by the Fosters for Callie. So we embark on an episode-long journey down the rabbit hole into identity theft.
However, while the eventual investigation leads to Sarah, and then to Liam, Sarah is still in love with the guy and refuses to roll on him. It isn’t until Callie proves that Liam is also scamming Sarah that she has all she needs to put Liam away for a long time. It plays out like a Law & Order scene, with Callie getting in a room alone with the perp, and needling him about his crimes until finally revealing the smoking gun. Mitchell plays this season with exactly the amount of gravitas it requires: this isn’t some fun send-up of a primetime procedural, it’s a milestone moment in Callie’s life. She’s finally won. She’s beaten Liam, and she did it using her wits. Even though she still can’t be legally adopted by the family of her choice just yet, being able to send Liam away to prison for a long time is a major victory for Callie — one that allows her to feel in control for once in her life. I really can’t express how much I enjoyed this storyline, since it’s rare for a show these days to actually offer proper comeuppance to its villains, since a lot of shows appear to be adopting this “The good guys have to lose a LOT before they win, and even their victories are Pyrrhic” mentality that you see in shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. It’s so prevalent in TV today that this sort of clear-cut, good/bad morality is actually a breath of fresh air. Liam is a jerk, and while it was two seasons in coming, he did eventually get his comeuppance. Because there are no shades of grey there. He’s a terrible person, and he deserves all the jail time that the California justice system can dole out. But beyond its cathartic qualities (at least with regards to how Liam is FINALLY punished), it’s a major moment of character growth for Callie, who’s had to play victim for far too long.
But the show also brings Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum) to a crossroads: yes, they’re going to adopt Ana’s baby, but what do they do about Ana (Alexandra Barreto) herself? As it turns out, the solution is to allow her to move in with them. It’s a decision Stef makes hastily, and I can’t imagine it’s going to sit well with Lena once the chaos clears, since Ana’s arrival at the end of the episode is followed immediately by Stef telling Lena that maybe now would be the time to tell the kids about their decision to adopt Ana’s baby. In essence, Stef has terrible timing for a spouse/parent, but she has wonderful timing for a character on a primetime drama, since this opens up a wealth of new storyline complications.
For example, Brandon (David Lambert) takes Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) to meet her grandparents, and although they’re initially hesitant to speak with her, she breaks down their walls and reveals to them that not only is Ana clean, she’s pregnant as well. Cue the long story of how the grandparents wanted to adopt Mariana and Jesus (Jake T. Austin), but didn’t find out about their existence until it was too late. It’s actually fairly poignant stuff, as Mariana comes to realize she and Jesus were wanted, despite how things appeared. But this introduces a complication: Mariana more or less convinces her grandparents to adopt Ana’s baby, unaware that Stef and Lena are planning to adopt the child. This introduces a situation where Stef and Lena could find themselves fighting to adopt Ana’s baby, since there’s now another claimant. So even while this was a win for Mariana, it could turn into a net loss if she ends up inadvertently preventing the idyllic family unit she envisioned, with her mother, brother, and baby sibling all sharing the same roof with the Adams-Foster family.
Another win that could result in a net loss is Jude (Hayden Byerly) finally bringing Connor (Gavin MacIntosh) to the realization that he’s gay. Or perhaps it’s a realization he’d come to long before meeting Jude. Either way, his friendship/relationship with Jude has given him enough courage to come out to his father. It’s done in a strange fashion too. Basically, the episode starts out by revealing that Connor was the one who was shot at the end of last week’s episode, but the bullet only hit his foot (how would that angle have even happened? The implication was that the bullet went through the top/front of his foot, except Connor was running away at the time, so his back was to the shooter. Anyway, now I’m just picking nits. Moving on…). When Connor’s dad presses him for information on why he was sneaking out, he admits that he went to see Jude. Aaaaand we don’t hear about Connor again for much of the episode, beyond a brief hallway conversation between Jude and Taylor (Izabela Vidovic), and an even briefer scene in which Jude flips out on Callie for suggesting he shouldn’t be friends with Connor anymore. And while I can see why the show would choose to preserve the mystery in this manner, I actually found it to be pretty crummy of the show. Considering how long the story between Jude and Connor has been building, it felt like such a copout that we didn’t actually get to see/hear Connor come out. Granted, it’s still pretty powerful when Jude receive a text from Connor (from Taylor’s phone) in which he admits “I told my dad I’m gay,” and Jude’s internalized reaction (which borders on vindication) is a terrific moment for Byerly. But considering how great this story has frequently been, and how much emotional weight it’s carried over the course of two seasons, I almost feel like we deserved to see that moment.
Of course, the biggest reason I can think of for why the show would do things this way is that Connor didn’t actually come out to his dad. Since Taylor knows Jude has a crush on Connor, and since it was her phone that Connor was allegedly using, it could just as easily have been Taylor impersonating Connor to put one over on Jude. Granted, beyond last week’s reckless display, we haven’t been given much of a hint to suggest that Taylor is some kind of secretly dark person, but I feel there’s more to her story than meets the eye, especially since she went from being relatively quiet last week to being the person who suggests they all break into her house and get drunk. Either way, we don’t find out what Jude’s response is to Connor’s admission, since Connor’s dad has forbade him from seeing Jude anymore. But I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t the storyline I’m most interested in seeing advanced next week. At the very least, it carries far more interest than some of the other storylines this week: Brandon leaving a voicemail in an attempt to fix things with Lou (Ashley Argota) — and on the surprisingly insightful advice of Jesus, no less! And during a manic DRIVING lesson! — is a hurdle that needed to be cleared, but it didn’t feel like it fit with the rest of the episode.
I felt the same way about the peculiar semi-flirtation Monte (Annika Marks) attempts with Lena, suggesting that perhaps she should give up on men and try women. Maybe it’s part of the whole “Stef and Lena: Trouble In Paradise” story that’s been building all season, but Lena just doesn’t strike me as the kind of character who’d even entertain the possibility of an affair, even if she ends up being livid over Stef’s decision to bring Ana home. Similarly, I wasn’t sure what narrative purpose was served by having Emma (Amanda Leighton) get bullied by the wrestling team for being on Mariana’s dance team. I don’t mind that it was there, since I love Leighton as Emma and wish we got more of her on the show. But much like the aforementioned Monte stuff, I didn’t feel it fit here, considering how busy and crunched for time the rest of the episode ended up being. But I trust all of it is going somewhere, even if it only ends up being character development for the supporting cast.
“Not That Kind of Girl” is a great setup for the finale, but it’s also a wonderful piece of television in its own right, serving as a standalone conclusion (hopefully) to the Liam saga, while also advancing some of the major overarching storylines of the season that have been in place since Season 1 (Jude/Connor, Ana/Everybody). I’m not sure what next week’s season finale holds, but I trust The Fosters will deliver.