'The Fosters' Review: 'Idyllwild' Compellingly Marks the Point of No Return

Recap and review of The Fosters - Season 3 Episode 9 - Idyllwild:

The Fosters has been building to the point of no return for many of the relationships at its center. "Idyllwild" is the culmination of that slow burn storyline, as each of the characters crosses a path that fundamentally alters the nature of that respective relationship. It makes for compelling TV, even as the story is predicated on the heartsick suffering of people we've grown to care about over the past three seasons.

Of course, I'm not really all that shocked by what happened here, as a lot of it was a long time in coming. You can make the argument that Brandon (David Lambert) and Callie (Maia Mitchell) finally consummating their relationship was a huge mistake, and yet, from their perspectives, neither has anything to lose anymore. For all they know, this is the last night they'll ever spend together: in exonerating Rita (Rosie O'Donnell) from her assault charge, Callie takes an audio recording in which Carmen admits to making up the story about Rita hitting her, in order to keep Brooke from tattling on her drug use, which would put her entire army career in jeopardy. Naturally, if Callie comes forward with the audio, Carmen has vowed to rat her out to the social worker, who's having serious doubts about allowing Callie and Brandon to live under the same roof. By episode's end, Callie has sent the audio file to Rita, and sealed her own fate. She can't return to the Foster house, and she can't return to Girls United, so she'll either need to have Donald take her in, or end up going back into the system (although I don't know why Robert isn't an option, and if there IS a good reason, I sure as hell can't recall it. Seriously, someone get Kerr Smith on the horn!).

The Fosters - Season 3 Episode 9 - Recap and Review - Idyllwild
Credit: ABC Family/Tony Rivetti

Ultimately, Callie laments her situation, finally admitting that basically every mistake that's been made so far has been her own doing, since people wouldn't be able to leverage her behavior against her if she'd stop making out with Brandon every time she's upset. Granted, Brandon is guilty of this too, and we end up with a scenario in which Brandon and Callie go a whole hell of a lot farther than making out, all over their mutual despair over Callie's situation. Or maybe it's love? It certainly felt like a connection that goes beyond a mere physical attraction, to such a degree that (once again) I feel like marriage might be the only way to get Callie into the family. But they're both minors, so it'd be...well, "complicated" would be putting it mildly. But even in spite of the emotional complications of their relationship, Callie and Brandon hook up in the cabin after Brandon wins the competition at Idyllwild (by performing the piece he composed, which is preceded by a big speech about learning not to compete against his fellow artists. Irony). We don't get confirmation that Brandon and Callie went all the way (since the scene fades out with both of them shirtless but still wearing pants), but it's hard to imagine a scenario where this line isn't crossed. Well, unless this is a cliffhanger that gets undone next week. However, the storyline possibilities seem richer if they actually had sex, particularly since I'm convinced Callie and Brandon will be cleared by the social worker, making this act an unnecessary mistake that will cause further complications down the road. And that's only if Callie doesn't end up pregnant out of all this. But now I'm putting the cart before the horse. I have no idea what's coming next, but I'm anxious for the summer finale nonetheless.

Callie and Brandon have sex on The Fosters
Credit: ABC Family

Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) actually crosses a point of no return...by not crossing a point of no return. When faced with the possibility of reconciling with Mat (Jordan Rodrigues) and, as a byproduct, taking his virginity in the cabin at Idyllwild, Mariana does the mature thing: she comes clean to Mat, not only telling him that she's no longer a virgin, but that she made this mistake while they were still together. Mat is devastated, and all we hear later is that Mariana ended up spending the night alone. But that's all we really need to hear, as it becomes clear that, by admitting her mistake to Mat, Mariana has completely lost the chance to get him back (unless Mat somehow manages to get past this, which I wouldn't really expect him to, considering this act paints Mariana as someone he can never trust again). And yet, in losing Mat, Mariana grows as a person. She puts someone else's wants ahead of her own. She knows coming clean will likely mean the end for whatever they might have had together, but despite the momentary lapse in respect she showed by sleeping with Wyatt in the first place, Mariana still has enough respect for Mat as a person to let him go. It serves as a mirror, of sorts, to the unfortunate business between Lena (Sherri Saum) and Stef (Teri Polo), as it's looking like the marriage is in its roughest patch yet. In short, the relationship between Monty and Stef's friend comes to an end, all because -- to the surprise of Stef, and basically no one else -- Monty has feelings for Lena!

Ultimately, Stef learns about Monty kissing Lena, and now she not only feels like a fool for allowing Monty into their home in the past, she also feels like she's been played by Lena, who's spent all this time in therapy complaining about Stef's secret while keeping a bombshell of her own. Lena insists the kiss meant nothing, but makes the teary-eyed observation that Lena wouldn't have kept it a secret all this time, if that were the case. Naturally, in much the same way Mariana crosses a point where she probably won't be able to win back Mat, the reveal of Monty's feelings basically puts Lena on the offensive after making Stef out to be the bad guy. I suppose you could argue the extent to which Lena was actually wrong for concealing a kiss that she didn't even ask for, but I still think Stef has a point when she states that Lena would have told her about the kiss if it had truly meant nothing. Ultimately, we're left with a marriage that is in shambles, and while I doubt that this will be the end of Stef and Lena's marriage, it should still signal a significant change in their relationship, as the dynamic has fundamentally changed. Mistrust goes both ways in this relationship now.

The Fosters Idyllwild
Credit: ABC Family/Tony Rivetti

On the subject of mistrust, Mike (Danny Nucci) makes progress in the investigation into the hit-and-run that nearly killed Mariana and Jesus, but not without complications. Mike has finally got his foster license, which means AJ (Tom Williamson) can finally move in with him. But no sooner do they become foster father and foster son than AJ learns that his grandmother has had a stroke. They rush to the nursing home, and they meet Ty there. Ty is bitter about AJ finding a home without him, and decides to bail, but not before Mike sees him rolling away with Stef's prime suspect in the hit-and-run. This, coupled with the bus driver's eye witness testimony about a black guy being on the scene, prompts Mike to suspect Ty was the man driving the car that afternoon. So he takes a pen Ty used to sign into the nursing home, and takes it over to the lab for prints, and I get the feeling it's only going to be a matter of time before the truth comes out, whether it was Ty who committed the hit-and-run or not. I will say, however, that it feels clumsily written to have Ty be the one behind the accident, if only because that would make this a pretty damn small world. To such a degree that it almost defies coincidence. Mike just happens to foster the younger brother of the guy who almost killed his ex-wife's adopted children? It just feels so contrived, almost needlessly so. But I'll reserve judgment until we see how this all plays out, because the show is usually written in a less writerly fashion.

The Fosters recap - Idyllwild
Credit: ABC Family/Tony Rivetti

With all that having been said, I thought "Idyllwild" was a great episode for The Fosters. We're heading into the summer finale with a host of questions that need to be answered, and yet I'm not certain what those answers will be. What will be the result of Callie and Brandon's hookup? What will be the social worker's ruling on Callie's adoption case? Will Rita get out of jail? Will Stef and Lena separate? Is Ty guilty? Will AJ run? So many questions, and I'm interested in all the answers, which I wasn't sure I would have been able to say prior to this episode. It speaks to the quality of the writing on The Fosters that it can overdramatize scenarios of family life without making it seem cartoonishly melodramatic. I enjoyed "Idyllwild" a lot, and while I've had my issues with this season of The Fosters, I'm excited to see how the summer finale plays out.

But what did you think of The Fosters, "Idyllwild"? Sound off in the comments!

And for more on The Fosters, check out my review of "Daughters"!

Also, for more articles, news and reviews, follow me on Twitter: @NickRomanTV