Monday, January 25, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Fosters' - Callie and Brandon Awkwardly Try to Move Forward with Their Lives in 'First Impressions'

Freeform's The Fosters - Episode 3.11 "First Impressions"

Callie's website gets an investor. Brandon is approached by a recruiter from Juilliard. Mariana launches her campaign for junior class president. Jesus tries to hide the reason why he doesn't want to go back to wrestling school. Mike discovers a secret about AJ and is torn about what to do. Jude faces Connor's decision to move away. A serious medical issue for Stef results in a clash with Lena. Sharon introduces the family to her liberal-minded boyfriend.

"First Impressions" is a very plot-heavy episode of The Fosters. It's introducing a lot of different plot threads that will play out over the next run of episodes. Every single major character has a story that will be of major significance. It's a lot to handle for one hour. So, it does largely amount to a lot of exposition as the show gets back into the swing of things. This episode isn't void of emotional though. Basically any time Connor and Jude appear on screen together it's great - as is Jude's whole handling of Connor leaving for Los Angeles. It's also intriguing that the show will be delving into the finances of the family this season. That's a major concern as all the kids are slowly getting ready to go off to college. That's still a full school year away for Brandon and Callie - which will probably end in another couple of seasons given the pace of the past one. But the future is on the minds of a lot of characters right now. Change is affecting their everyday lives which is forcing them to make a number of decisions that will have lasting consequences.

The show is still bringing a whole lot of attention to the fact that Callie and Brandon had sex when they thought she wouldn't be getting adopted. That was an annoying plot contrivance last summer and the awkwardness of the aftermath is still highly prevalent now. It was so rewarding to see Callie finally get adopted after the rough journey she has had. And now, she's on a new path to hopefully give back to the community she came from and make it much better. She's so relieved that she will never be separated from Jude again - even though he's a little moody right now as he's not coping well with Connor leaving. Some time has passed and both Callie and Brandon have gotten major victories in their lives. Brandon has a fantastic performance at Disney Hall while Callie's "Fost and Found" app is starting to take off. But those victories only lead to further complications. They do share those concerns and worries with each other. But there is still an undercurrent of awkward tension in their dynamic. However, it doesn't do a whole lot for the show.

Plus, it's pretty laughable that the show is still fully turning into the scandalous skid of Callie and Brandon having sex. That's the big cliffhanger at the end of "First Impressions." Callie logs onto her app and there is a story about her having sex with her foster brother. It could easily just be a red herring. The commentator could be taking about the time she was raped before she even met the Foster family. But it's enough to cause concern for Callie - as well as the audience. It's a sign that things are going to remain precarious in this situation for the foreseeable future. That honestly might be a mistake. Callie and Brandon have plenty of story potential on their own without needing to add this on top of it. It was something that happened. But it should also be something the show is actively trying to move past. It can't be the only thing to define the relationship between the siblings. They need to find a way to be in each other's lives without it being awkward or living in fear of the truth being exposed somehow.

Callie and Brandon are going to need the support of each other and the rest of the family as well. Callie's app has found a new investor who might not be as genuine as she appears to be. She wants to invest $50,000 and have Callie become the new spokesperson for improving the foster care system. Callie did seem to handle herself well during her first big speech about her app. But talking in front of a few people is not the same as effectively bringing change to the system. She's still just in high school after all. She's still just awkwardly trying to figure life out. Lena and Stef are looking out for her. But this investor does seem a little shady as well. Callie asks her to look into the case of one kid. She does and makes his situation worse. And then, she lies to Callie about it. Plus, she now has administrative access to the site. Meanwhile, Brandon is given an offer to audition for Juilliard. That's a huge opportunity that he may not even take because he's worried about how to pay for all of it. He's even naive to think that his grandmother can invest enough into the stock market to cover it all. But he is given a chance to make some money when he finds a restaurant/bar where he can play piano and get tips. That could be a fun environment for him this season as he worries about paying for his future.

Finances might be tight for the family too - considering Stef learns that she has a small tumor on her breast. It was always a little wonky that the show used the fake out of a medical problem just in order to bring Stef and Lena back together during the last episode. It felt forced and sudden. And now, it's not at all surprising that the show is actually changing course and making something wrong with Stef. She has always been so strong. She's still passionately searching for clues on the car accident the twins were in and keeping things together when Lena goes back to work alongside Monty. This health crisis could change her perspective on things and bring the family closer together. It's bound to be emotional. It certainly is in those final few moments of the episode. However, it's a little awkward getting there as well. It plays throughout the hour as a source of tension between Stef and her mom, Sharon, who then goes behind Stef's back to send the scans to another doctor. She was right to do so because something is there. But it's unclear just how serious this will actually be on the show.

Meanwhile, it's also significant that AJ decides to run away with his brother instead of staying with Mike and figuring out what his relationship with Callie really is. Mike knows that Ty was responsible for the car accident. But it's also an emotional time for the brothers because their grandmother has just passed away. It allows the brothers a chance to run away. Mike is being respectful in letting them bury their grandmother before completely changing their worlds. However, Ty gets wind of it and immediately decides to bolt. AJ spent so much time trying to find his brother. Much like Callie, he never wants to be separated again. It seems unlikely that this will be the last time that the audience sees AJ and Ty. Too much time has been spent on them for this to be the end. Plus, the hour wouldn't waste so much time setting up this date between AJ and Callie at a comic book convention if it didn't plan on having that play out in the future. The brothers may be gone to Phoenix but Callie knows one place where they might be found. The question is: will she tell anyone?

Some more thoughts:
  • "First Impressions" was written by Bradley Bredeweg & Peter Paige and directed by Peter Paige.
  • It's going to take awhile to get used to the new Jesus. Everyone is treating him just the same as before but the visual is still not quite syncing up yet. However, so much of Jesus' story over the seasons has been defined by the girls he is dating. Two of them even show up in this episode to create tension. But it's much more interesting when he's confessing to his parents about why he doesn't want to go back to the wrestling school - his teammates forced him to take steroids.
  • Lexi was never a great character back when she was on the show in the first season. And now, she's back to stir the pot for a number of characters. She feels threatened by Mariana and Emma's friendship and decides to run against Mariana for class president. Meanwhile, it doesn't take long until she's once again flirting with Jesus in the Fosters' bathroom.
  • The introduction of Sharon's new boyfriend suggests that Annie Potts will be sticking around a bit more this season. That's fine. The world can always use more Annie Potts. However, Will needs to become more than the one-note character he is right now - who's largely just against government.
  • There's also a threat for about two seconds about Jesus not being able to return to Anchor Beach because there is a waiting list of students who want to get in and he's not on it. It's incredibly pointless because Monty lets him return just in order to win over Stef and Lena again.
  • If Brandon starts regularly performing at that restaurants, how long until that cute female bartender becomes his love interest? It seems inevitable.