‘The Fosters’ Review: ‘Father’s Day’ Explores How Mistakes Do (and Don’t) Shape Us

Recap and review of The Fosters – Season 3 Episode 2 – Father’s Day:

While I would say that all of the characters on The Fosters are well-developed, I’d argue that the fathers aren’t as well-rounded as, say, Stef or Lena. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you, as their development comes as the demands of the story dictate. “Father’s Day” is the time for fathers to take center stage, while also illustrating how mistakes do, and don’t, shape us.

“Father’s Day” offers the rare clash between Jude (Hayden Byerly) and Callie (Maia Mitchell), as Jude wants to invite his father along for a dinner being held at the Adams-Foster home with Connor’s dad. Callie doesn’t get why Jude wants Donald in his life, while Jude struggles to understand why Callie is so hostile against the man. Both sides of the argument make sense: Callie argues that Donald caused their mother’s death, while Jude argues that at least Donald was there for Callie when Robert wasn’t. The divide between the two siblings is compelling enough on its own, but the episode digs deeper by illustrating the faults and merits of both men, so we can get a more full look at both Callie’s and Jude’s arguments. Donald proves he’s a good guy in how he defends both Jude and Connor (Gavin MacIntosh) when Connor’s dad lashes out upon learning that all of the kids at Anchor Beach know his son’s sexuality. His observation that getting bullied at home can be just as bad as, if not worse than, being bullied at school is a trenchant one, and his declaration that he simply wants his son to be proud of who he is provides the episode with perhaps its most poignant moment. Similarly, Robert (Kerr Smith) illustrates his inherent goodness by…basically explaining why he’s really no better than Donald. He and Sophia’s mother are undergoing a trial separation because Robert cheated on her. He understands that Callie is still resentful towards Donald for the drunk driving accident that killed her mother, but he notes that Callie’s mother should have known better than to get in the car with a drunk guy in the first place.

'The Fosters' Review 'Father's Day' Explores How Mistakes Do (and Don't) Shape Us

Credit: ABC Family

Naturally, Callie is furious that Robert is trying to pin this on Callie’s mom, but that’s not really what he’s doing: his point is that everybody makes mistakes, so it’s shortsighted to judge a human being for…well, being a human being. Donald has already judged himself harsher than Callie ever could, and he’s going to have to live with himself for the mistakes he’s made. But he’s trying to do better with his life, and that should count for something. Hell, Callie herself should know better than anybody that a person shouldn’t be judged solely by the mistakes they’ve made, particularly if those mistakes shaped that person into being the type who wouldn’t make the same mistake again. It’s poignant stuff. And it also ties into the cliffhanger of the episode, as Mike (Danny Nucci) steps up into a father figure role in much the same way Donald stepped in for Callie (despite her not being his biological daughter): he will foster AJ…but until he gets his foster license, it looks like AJ will be living with the Fosters. This is going to be awkward as hell, to say the least, especially since AJ is a person who’s governed solely by his desperate need to reunite with his brother, an emotion that makes him reckless and a difficult person on which to depend. But part of that risk is somewhat negated by the fact that neither AJ nor Mike have any idea where AJ’s brother is, or if he’s even still alive, since AJ sneaked away last week to meet up with his bro only to get stood up. What’s the deal? We know AJ’s brother isn’t in prison because Mike checked the system. Is AJ’s brother dead? Is he trying to move on and forget about AJ? And how will AJ’s presence in the Foster-Adams household affect the dynamics in that home? I’m not entirely invested in this storyline yet, but I have enough trust in the creative forces behind this show that I’m not going to outright condemn it yet.

The Fosters AJ is moving in

Credit: ABC Family

On the subject of judging oneself harsher than others will judge you, Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) declares herself a “slut” for having slept with Wyatt last week, and she’s mortified that this could lead to her becoming just like Ana (Alexandra Barreto). But Ana illustrates the depth of her maturity as a mother figure by essentially allaying all of Mariana’s fears about how she’ll turn out. As with Donald, it’s stressed that people make mistakes, but it isn’t the mistakes that shape the person, it’s how they respond to those mistakes. Ana asks Mariana to consider not how this happened with Wyatt, but why it happened, as there are deeper causes at play. When Mariana reveals that she’s afraid Mat is going to sleep with other girls on tour, that’s a concern with which Ana can actually engage, since they’re putting words to the problem. The emotional issues that caused Mariana to sleep with Wyatt aren’t vague anymore. So Ana deftly explores why Mariana is worried that Mat will cheat on her on the tour, at which point Mariana reveals it’s because Mat wouldn’t sleep with her. Again, this is something Ana can engage with, explaining to Mariana that just because Mat turned down sex doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to do it, but rather that he wanted to do it when they both were ready. By the end of their talk, Mariana has a firmer sense of self, no longer judging herself for what happened, but instead accepting that this was a mistake from which she can learn and grow. Similarly, Mariana provides support to Ana as she goes to a family reunion at her parents’ bakery. Mariana and Ana finally feel like mother and daughter, and it’s quite a beautiful relationship. To me, these storylines are worth more than a thousand romantic entanglements. I mean, you just know Brandon (David Lambert) is going to inevitably hook up with Kat, but I find his sleepy conversation with Mike far more compelling than the love-hate relationship he has going on with the Music Partner From Hell.

The Fosters AJ is moving in

Credit: ABC Family/Ron Tom

“Father’s Day” is another solid brick in the wall for The Fosters, culminating in an emotional moment in which Callie forgives Donald, and they embrace as father and daughter. In a lot of ways, Callie is lucky to not only have two mothers in her life right now, but two fathers as well. It’s a familiar emotional progression for the show, as the show has gotten a lot of mileage out of pitting the kids against their parents in the past, and then building to the emotional resolution in which all his forgiven. But it’s a well-worn trope for a reason. It works, just as it did here, in my opinion. It may not work forever, but for now, it’s a downright lovely story.

But what did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!

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