Monday, January 26, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Fosters' - Callie & Stef Battle the Foster Care System as the Rest of the Family Deals with Smaller Problems in 'Stay'

ABC Family's The Fosters - Episode 2.13 "Stay"

Kiara reaches out to Callie when she is placed in an unfit foster home, but getting her out is not as straightforward as it seems. Mariana is invited to join the STEM team at her school after she tests above her class. Brandon tries to convince his parents to let him join the band on tour. Jesus shares his secret with Hayley.

The Fosters has always done a great job at showing the inner working harsh realities that are a part of the foster care system. It's a system with problems and the show isn't shying away from that. But it always makes sure to have a human component on display so it never appears too preachy. Kiara is Callie's friend. Callie cares about her well-being. It's tragic to think about her getting placed in a foster home with drug dealers as the parents or worse being homeless on the streets. It's easy to forget about how great the Adams-Foster family really is. They provide a home that is full of love. Callie has finally accepted that love and recognizes it as the thing she needs most in this world. But she also got lucky in finding Stef and Lena. Even though they are both great parents, they can't help everyone in the system. They really want to but they can't. It's sad but it's a reality for kids like Kiara.

So many things are going wrong in Callie's life right now. Robert still wants to uphold the court's ruling for weekly visitation despite everything that happened with Sophia last week. On top of that, Callie learns that some of her past school transcripts won't come through so she might not even be able to graduate in a year. She can only get beaten down so many times before she just cracks. She is a tough girl who can handle this stuff. But there's always the constant threat of her running away from her problems again. That has been her go-to response before. And it easily could be again.

However, I never fully believed in Wyatt's proposition to leave town with Callie. It just didn't seem like something that either character would realistically do - which really took me out of the story. It was manipulating of the audience without a solid reason. It does serve as reaffirmation that Callie is willing to stay and deal with all the problems in her life. But Wyatt having regrets for ruining the last time they ran away together just rang false for me. Yes, he can be upset by the two of them not being together right now. But he made the right decision in calling Stef and Lena on the road. Neither he nor the audience should be regretting that action - even if it's to serve that Callie is a much different character now. She's standing up for herself and for her friend. It doesn't often work out for her but she's still fighting.

The problems that were facing Callie and Kiara throughout "Stay" only made the other plots feel more trivial. The school is worried about their English scores not being high enough to secure grant money. Brandon wants to convince his parents to allow him to go on tour with the band. Jesus doesn't know how to deal emotionally with either his girlfriend or Ana's big news. Mariana fears her boyfriend will feel insecure if she's smarter than him. The show has often had problems like this where one story has life-changing emotions and stakes while the rest of them are silly high school drama. The pairing of them just didn't work well for me throughout this episode. Yes, it made me appreciate the core stories with Callie and Kiara more. Stef fighting on both of their behalves was awesome as well. I'm just finding it difficult to care about the other stories as strongly - even though they feel totally in line with all of the characters.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Stay" was written by Marissa Jo Cerar and directed by Elodie Keene.
  • Lena's speech to Mariana about never making herself feel small just to please a guy was so amazing and punctuated with a great joke about Mariana's stature.
  • Mariana and Emma are both a part of the STEM team. That friendship intrigues me more than the majority of Mariana's female friendships so far. That's largely because Emma has always felt genuine.
  • Is Jesus seriously only putting up with Hayley and her constant need of attention because he got her named tattooed on him? That could easily be fixed - either by covering it up with a new tattoo or getting it removed. The physical pain can't be worse than the emotional needs she demands.
  • The show seems to be working on the brotherly bond between Brandon and Jesus this year. I approve only because Jesus could really learn how to better deal with everything.
  • Every time I see Timothy I'm reminded of that pregnancy arc that didn't really work for me at all. At least the show is trying to move past it, granted by providing new conflict between him and Lena.
  • Stef and Mike are thinking about becoming partners again. Now that we know both of them as characters that could be much more interested than when they were paired together at the very start of the series.
  • Is Ana's baby daddy really Mike? The show wants us to think so but I'll never really believe that until someone comes out and says it as true. He works best as her sponsor/friend.
  • No decision has been made about Brandon going on tour. Stef and Lena both go back and forth on whether or not to let him go. Don't they seem much more happy than they were last week with their big fight?
  • It seems very smart of the show to get back into the world of the foster care system with Callie volunteering at the outreach program to help the kids in bad circumstances. As this episode reminded us, the show does great things when it focuses on that world.