Monday, December 11, 2017

Review: The Fosters 4x19 "Who Knows"

Originally written: April 5, 2017


Stef: What was this letter doing in your pocket?

Tonia:  Nothing!  You know, Jesus just was telling Brandon what a good brother he was, so Brandon reciprocated and Jesus thought better of frisking him…

Brandon: Emma asked me to take it so no one else would read it.  

Lena:  Who's read it?  Has Jesus read it?

Brandon: No.  Just me and...Grandma.

Stef: Grandma?

Brandon: She read it to Jesus because he couldn't read.

Lena:  Okay, so then Jesus does know about it.  

Brandon:  No, she skipped the part about...

Stef: The abortion.  You can say it.

Lena:  So, how do you know about this?

Brandon:  I...took her to go get it.  

Tonia:  It’s so horrifying that now, Brandon, Grandma, Mariana and Moms all know about Emma’s abortion, but Jesus still does not…

Brandon:  Are you gonna tell her you know?

Stef: I don't know if that's our place.

Lena: Do you know if she's told her parents?

Brandon:  I don't think so.  Are you...gonna tell Jesus?

Lena:  I think--

Stef: I think that's our choice?

Lena:  I think so.

Brandon:  She really wants to tell him.  As soon as he's well enough to handle this.  

 Tonia:  I hate that Jesus is being left out of this discussion, but what else is new?

Lena:  Okay.  Let us just think about this for a while, okay?  And in the meantime, please just keep it to yourself.

Brandon: Okay.

Stef:  Oh, hey love, um...  Thank you very much for taking Emma and being there for her.  That was good of you.  

Lena:  It really was.  

Tonia:  Lest any of us forget - even for a moment - what a Super Brother Brandon is...

Brandon: [leaves]

Lena: We just told Emma and Jesus they could have sex in the house...

Stef:  I can't believe my mother didn't tell us!

Lena: What are we gonna do with these kids?

Tonia:  It doesn't feel so good to be left out on information that you should have, does it, Moms?  And yet still, your inclination is to not tell your son...


Gabe: Oh wow, Jesus.  These are really cool.  

Jesus and Mariana: [smile at each other]

Gabe:  But before we nail down a design we have to find a tree that we're going to build in.  

Mariana:  That's my department.  I'm going to a bunch of daycare centers and public work projects, so what should I look for?

Jesus:  I--I--I would say a h-h-hard...wood tree?  Right?

Gabe: [looks concerned]  Yeah.  Like an oak or a walnut.

Mariana:  Got it.

Tonia:  I appreciate that when Mariana asks what kind of tree they should look for, she asks Jesus, she does not automatically refer to Gabe.  Again, a show of respect and confidence in Jesus's abilities.

Tara:  So, I love that this project is a thing.  But I hate that it is still Jesus’s fake senior project.  I am glad that we can still hear that aphasia impacts Jesus’s speech.  (I also noticed his prism glasses in his hand - not being worn despite one of the moms saying that he would have to wear them for a bit longer.  And while some disabled people do not need or use their glasses/braces/crutches/canes/wheelchairs 24/7, it seems that in this episode, the glasses and cane are nothing but a visual reminder for the audience.  They exist as little more than set dressing.)

Also, we get to see how Gabe interacts with Jesus post-injury for the first time.  And while Jesus stumbling over words seems to make Gabe momentarily uncomfortable, he is able to keep the conversation going and not make it a huge deal.

Ana: [walks out with baby Isabella]  Hi.  I hope I'm not interruping.  We were on our way to daycare and it's near here.  

Gabe: [stands up; looks at the baby, smiling]  So this is Isabella?

Ana:  Mm-hmm.

Mariana: You've never met her?

Gabe:  No.  Uh-uh. [Shakes Isabella's hand]

Ana: Isabella, this is Gabe.  [laughs]

Gabe: She looks like you.

Ana:  You think so?

Gabe: Yeah.

Jesus and Mariana: [Meet each other's eyes.  There's pain there.]

Ana:  Hey, do you wanna hold her?

Gabe: Yeah.  Sure.  

Ana:  There you go.

Jesus and Mariana: [Watch silently as Gabe happily holds Isabella in his arms, as Ana looks on, smiling.]

Gabe: [to Isabella]  Hello.  Hi.

Ana:  Be careful.  She likes beards.

Mariana: [Looks blank and sad]

Gabe and Ana: [laugh]

Mariana:  Um...I should get going if I'm gonna find this tree.

Jesus: [watches Mariana go, concerned]

Tonia:   How heartbreaking, seeing Jesus and Mariana’s reaction to Ana and Gabe with Isabella.  And hearing Ana talk about dropping her off at daycare when the twins know how they were treated by her as babies?  It’s all in their eyes as they look at each other.  Mariana can’t even hang around after that intro.

Ana: [to Mariana] Talk to you later.  [To Gabe]  So, I talked to my brother, and he's starting a big commercial job, and he's willing to give you another chance.

Gabe:  Oh, uh, thanks.  Yeah, I'll call him.

Ana:  Well, I should probably let you boys get back to work.  

Gabe: Goodbye. [Hands Isabella back to Ana]

Ana:  Let me know if you need any help.

Gabe: Okay.

Ana: [To Jesus]  I'm really glad you're feeling better.

Jesus: [smiles]  Thanks.

Ana: [leaves with Isabella]

Gabe: [sits; clears his throat]

Jesus: you tried to get any help from, like, a doctor or something?  Just 'cause Mariana told me that you're depressed.

Gabe:  Yeah, I mean I went and saw someone.  But, you know, they wanted to put me on pills.  They got a lot of side-effects.  I think they screw you up more.

Jesus:  Yeah.  Definitely, I see that.

Tara:  Totally a valid choice, Gabe.  Not ideal for Jesus to hear, though.

Tonia:  Right?  This is so not the moment for Jesus to hear somebody he looks up to talking abot how bad side-effects are and how they make him not want to take anything for a medical condition...


Mariana: [comes in]  Hey.

Jesus:  Hey.

Mariana: Does it ever make you feel bad?  Seeing Ana with Isabella?  How good of a mom she is to her?

Jesus:  No.  I don't think about it.

Tonia:  I’m so glad that Mariana feels like she can talk to Jesus about these feelings, and contrary to what Jesus says here, his face tells a whole different story.  It has since they saw Gabe, Ana and Isabella together…seems like, maybe he can’t think about it, or it will hurt too much.

Mariana:  Do you remember Ana leaving us in our crib when we were babies?  For, like, a whole day or more?

Jesus:  Yeah.  Actually, I had a...I had a dream about that when I was in my coma.  We were in our crib and you were crying...and I was...I was trying to take care of you.

Tonia:  How devastating.  As much as this is so horrible for both of them I am so glad they have each other to talk to about it with.  That they believe each other.  They know what happened because they both remember it.

Mariana:  We were babies.  It wasn't...your job to take care of me.  My therapist thinks that I should confront Ana about it.

Jesus:  What?  What would--  What's the point of that?  She was--  She was a drug addict.  

Mariana:  So that lets her off the hook?

Jesus:  No, Mariana.  But she was also, like, really, really young and she never...should've...had us.

Mariana: that what you would've done?  If you were Gabe, would you tell her to get an abortion?

Jesus:  No.  I would've been a dad.  No matter how young I was, I would've stepped up and I would've had the kid, and I would've taken care of him.  

Tonia:  It struck me last night how Noah’s Jesus really is a completely different character than the first Jesus.  Because in season one, he was all about getting that morning after pill for Lexi.  Maybe that’s because now the writers can portray Jesus the way they always intended to.  I’m not really sure.

But I do really find this statement by Jesus in this scene to fit with the way he is now.  Very tender, quiet, and driven to do what’s right.  Especially after having that conversation with Gabe in season 3 about how Gabe did tell Ana to abort the twins when she was pregnant, and how terribly that sat with Jesus.

Jesus:  But they are not us, okay?  And it does us absolutely no good getting mad at them.  

Tonia:   This is such a twin thing.  Mariana is so upset at Ana abandoning them (as she should be.  They deserved to be taken care of.)  And Jesus is on the other end of the spectrum where it seems he’s trying to put distance between himself and that time because he knows it can’t be changed.

Tara:  Twins do tend to try to balance each other out, I’ve found.


Mariana: [While walking away]  Jesus should be out back.

Emma:  Are we okay?  

Mariana:  What do you mean?

Emma:  You've barely been talking to me.

Mariana: Well, you haven't really been talking to me, have you?

Emma:  Can you stop playing games and just tell me?

Mariana:  Okay, I'm not the one playing games.  Look...I know you had an abortion.  And that you didn't give Jesus a chance to tell you what he really wanted.  Which was to be a dad, by the way.  No matter what.  

Emma:  Well, it really wasn't his choice.  

Mariana:  True.  But we're adopted.  So maybe you could've considered that.

Tonia:  I adored this conversation between Emma and Mariana.  I love the honesty.  How Mariana didn’t hesitate to tell Emma how Jesus felt about it but also acknowledged that it wasn’t his choice.  It also felt really accurate that she would talk about how she and Jesus are adopted and how that’s also a valid option.

Tara:  However, it remains endlessly frustrating that these two are discussing this while Jesus still doesn't know about it.


Jesus: [Picks up a box]

Gabe:  You got it?

Jesus:  Yeah.

Gabe:  You sure you should be lifting stuff?

Jesus:  Yeah, I'm fine.  It's good for me to move around.

Tara:  The thing about brain injuries and disability in general is that you’re always contending with your limitations.  And those limitations can shift and change day to day, depending on any number of things.  With the visual disturbance plotline pretty much gone, it follows that Jesus probably does feel markedly better than he has.    

Gabe: All right.  Well, it won't take long....

Jesus: [Sets the box down; begins to hear a high pitched tone.  Gabe continues talking in it sounds distant and muffled.  Jesus stands still.  Eventually the sounds stop.]

Gabe: Jesus!  Hey!  Are you all right?

Jesus: [Looks around, confused, trying to get his bearings]  Um...  What are--  What are--  What are we--  What are we doing?

Gabe:  Uh...  We're movin' my stuff in.

Jesus:  Why?

Gabe:  Should I call your mom?

Tara:  And this is why it is not advised to go off medication without a doctor’s knowledge and supervision.  Yes, Gabe, please do call Lena.  (Also, notice Jesus’s speech being impacted by not feeling well.)

Jesus:  N-no.  No.  Um...  Um...  No--no.  This--  This--  This happens to me sometimes.  I just--  I forget what I'm--what I'm doing.  [Sits down with a hand to his head, like he is in pain.]

Gabe:  Well, Jesus, are you sure I shouldn't go get your mom?

Jesus:  Yeah, no, don't.  Don't.  I'm--I'm--I'm fine.  I'm fine.  I just--I stopped taking my meds.  Because of the--the side-effects.  Uh, like you were saying.  Just like you were saying.  And...yeah...I can't have--I can't have sex...when I--when I take my meds.  

Gabe:  Well, I mean, maybe that's okay?  For now?  Until you get off of them?

Jesus:  What, in five years?  'Cause they said it's gonna take five years and I don't--I don't--I don't....need...them...I'm...I'm getting...better, okay?  So just, please, don't tell my moms.

Tara:  To recap: Felbamate is a last-resort anti-convulsant with dangerous side effects.  Impotence is not one of said side effects.  Also?  I cannot find any research that supports the arbitrary 5-years-on-anti-convulsants thing.  

Lena:  Hey!  You gettin' settled in?  

Gabe:  Yeah.  Yeah, I think so.

Lena:  You guys hungry?  Do you want some lunch?

Gabe:  Oh, I'm--I'm fine.  Thank you.  I don't wanna impose more than I am.

Lena:  No.  Lunch is not an imposition.

Gabe: Thanks, but I'll grab somethin' later.  And I just wanted to thank you again for letting me stay here.  Honestly.  Um, I won't be here long.

Jesus:  What?  No, man, you can stay as long as you want.

Lena: [Forces a smile]  So, Jesus, it's time for you to take your pills.

Jesus:  Okay.

Tonia:  Of course, Jesus would want Gabe to stay as long as he wants.  (And I'm hoping Gabe tails Lena inside and tells her that Jesus isn't actually taking his pills.  So dangerous.)


Brandon:  Have you told Emma you know?

Mariana:  Where's Jesus?

Brandon:  Downstairs.

Tonia:  Because, God forbid you inform Jesus of something that Emma actually informed him of already...

Mariana:  I didn't tell her that you told me.

Brandon:  Well, she's not stupid and she's really upset.  So, what did you say to her?  

Mariana: All I said was that she never thought of what Jesus would've wanted to do.  Maybe he would've wanted to keep the baby.

Brandon:  You think Jesus is capable of being a father?

Tonia:  Oh, do not even go here, Brandon!  Disabled people are capable of being parents.  Don't push this trope that we can't be...

Mariana:  I don't know.

Brandon:  That's right, Mariana!  You don't know!  You have no idea what it's like taking care of a kid!

Mariana:  Oh, I'm sorry!  I forgot that you were a step-dad for, like, five minutes!

Brandon: After everything that Ana put you and Jesus through...

Mariana:  At least she didn't get rid of us!

Tonia:  God, twist the knife a little more, Brandon!  You can’t bring up how badly Mariana and Jesus were neglected as babies as justification for Emma’s abortion.  How do you think that makes Mariana feel?  Oh right, you’re not thinking of her feelings…

Brandon:  So, why are you making Emma feel worse for something that was really hard for her to do?  Because this is exactly why she didn't tell you, Mariana.  Because you can't keep secrets.  You're a crappy friend!

Tonia:  And you're a crappy brother.

Jesus:  What's going on?

Brandon: Nothing [leaves]

Jesus:  Did I hear something about Emma?

Mariana:  What?  No.  He's just...mad because...I didn't fill up the car when I used it last.

Lena:  Jesus, can I talk to you for a sec?

Jesus:  Yeah.


My therapist says I'm making good progress, but I'm still scared.  Tired of not feeling normal.

Tonia:  I wish someone was there to tell Mariana that healing does not happen all at once.  That it's gradual, and that it's okay to be scared.  That being scared is normal after what she went through.


Jesus:  What's up? 

Lena:  So, when did you stop taking your anti-seizure meds?

Tara:  I’m frustrated that this conversation is off-page.

Tonia:  You and I both.  Such a significant conversation and we are not privy to it.  When we get what is likely pages and pages of dialogue where Jesus's family discusses things that directly concern him without his knowledge or presence, but scenes like this are cut short.

I can't even like the fact that Lena takes Jesus to his room for the conversation because any sembelence of privacy is gone due to the fact that she does not close the door.  So any siblings in the hall might easily overhear this.


[Close up on Jesus's mouth as he drinks water, swallows, and Lena starts to cue him]

Lena:  Mouth open.  Tongue up.  

Jesus: [complies]

Lena: [tips his chin a bit to scope out his mouth; nods slightly when she is satisfied]

Tonia: I am really horrified by the way Lena physically handles Jesus here.  It could be that I'm really sensitive even watching any kind of invasive touch around the face or mouth, but this does feel unnecessarily dominating and/or controlling.  Instead of asking Jesus to incline his head a certain way, she just takes inititative and does it herself.  It feels really awful to watch, like I am witnessing a mother objectifying and dehumanizing her disabled kid.

[Camera pans out and we see that Brandon's in the kitchen with Jesus and Lena, eating breakfast and looking on]

Tonia:  Then to know that this whole thing has unfolded - not in private - but with Brandon sitting right there watching?  Let's add unnecessarily humiliating to that list of 'unnecessaries' I have going...

Jesus: [defeated]  How long are you gonna make me do this?

Lena: Until I can trust that you'll take them.  So, probably forever.

Tara:   Okay, so apparently the off-page conversation did not go so well.  While I understand the importance of taking the medication until a doctor’s appointment can be scheduled, forcing your kid to take it “forever” despite the (fake) side effects?  Not okay.  Understandable if there are no other options, but it appears that Lena is not interested in looking into those options.

And I can’t help but entertain the thought that perhaps in Lena’s mind, the impotence might be a blessing in disguise - a way of controlling Jesus?  Which is such a gross thought, but the truth is that many disabled people undergo forced sterilization as a matter of convenience even today.  Is keeping Jesus on Felbamate despite his objections due to a convenient “side effect” so different?

Gabe: [arrives, coming through the kitchen door]

Lena:  Hey, Gabe.  [To Jesus]  So I'm gonna run an errand.  I'll be back in about an hour.  [Pats Jesus's shoulder; leaves]

Tonia:'re leaving Jesus with...eighteen-year-old Super Brother, Brandon?  Who just witnessed his humiliation?  Sounds like a great idea....

Jesus: [Pulls his bowl of cereal closer.  Hunches over it.  Upset.  Eats a spoonful of cereal.  His hand tremor is evident here.]

Tonia:  I notice a couple of things in the above moment:

1) Jesus seems very protective of his food here.  One arm is completely around the bowl and he's hunched low over it.  While it might be an adaptation to minimize spilling, I also saw it as rare evidence of his and Mariana's food insecurity.  Being that vulnerable around a parent might trigger that same early fear.  He did just talk to Mariana about the dream he had about them being left alone in their crib with no food for a day or more as babies.  It would make sense that, perhaps even just subconciously, he'd want to make darn sure he had access to food right now.  Even though the combination of a pill like that and his upset might kill his appetite, this does not seem to be a factor and I wonder if - in this moment - having access to food supersedes any potential stomach upset.

2) We have another instance where Jesus is using his affected hand to eat with. For reference: instinct is if one hand is injured or otherwise out of commission (even if it is your dominant hand) you'd automatically use your less dominiant (unaffected) one.  This seems to be another instance of either a lack of knowledge or insight or a moment with plenty of insight where the writers, director, etc made the choice to intentionally portray Jesus as tragic and / or helpless here.

Gabe: Hey, Brandon.

Brandon: Do you want me to--?

Gabe:  No, it's fine.

Tonia:  That seems to be the sentiment in general, regarding Jesus.  He doesn't deserve privacy.  So even if the siblings ask (as Brandon did and was right to do), the adults in Jesus's world do not treat him as though he is worthy of a private conversation.

Jesus: [To Gabe, but with his head down, quietly]  I should have known I couldn't trust you.

Gabe:  That's not true.  But I couldn't let you hurt yourself.  

Jesus: [Looks at Gabe.  Hurt.  Betrayed.]

Gabe: I mean, your brain's not right.  You forgot what we were doin'.  You coulda had another seizure.

Jesus:  What, my brain's not right?  What about your brain?  You're so depressed that you got evicted!  Maybe you should take your meds!

Tara:  Oh my.  I know this seems most unfair, Jesus.  And it is.

Tonia:  Jesus is very quiet until Gabe starts in with the casual ableism.  Given that Jesus is already feeling so down I'm sure having his bio dad say "your brain's not right" when he's been one of a few people who has treated Jesus with respect thus far does feel like salt in a wound.

Gabe:  I wanna be here for you, Jesus.

Jesus:  No, you don't.  You almost left town without telling us.  The only reason you're here right now is so that you have a place to live.  

Tonia:   Ouch, but Jesus speaks the truth.

Gabe:  I had a job in Tahoe--

Jesus:  [With tears in his eyes]  Well then maybe you should go!  I'm sure it's still available!

Gabe: We'll talk about this later.  [Leaves]

Tara:  I have to say, as far as adults go, Gabe is actually doing okayish avoiding the whole ableism thing so far.  Just the fact that he does not dismiss Jesus’s anger as a “TBI outburst,” and lets him know that they will talk later is huge in light of how the family has been treating him in past episodes.

Jesus:  [Ducks his head.  Trying hard to keep it together.  It's not working]

Brandon:  You know, he did the right thing, telling Mama.

Jesus: Don't need a lecture.

Brandon: I know you're going through a tough time with this TBI--

Jesus: I can't have sex...on my medication.  I can't do anything on it.  [Crying]  I don't wanna live like this.

Brandon: [Gets up and comes around the table to sit with Jesus]  Hey.  Don't say that.  Okay?  You're gonna get better.

Tara:  There definitely is such an adjustment to life with a brain injury - and depression is often a part of that.  And while I appreciate that Brandon is trying to make Jesus feel better, telling him that he will “get better” is harmful in the long run.  While Jesus will definitely make improvements, he will not return to who he was pre-injury.  The promise of this is false hope.  (I mean, this is TV, so a “miraculous recovery” might still happen.  But in real life?  Please avoid the phrase.  “You’re going to improve, but I respect your limitations.” holds the same sentiment.  And it’s okay to be different post-injury.  Life happens.  We evolve.)

Brandon: And sex isn't everything.

Jesus:  That's easy for you to say.  

Brandon:  Okay, but you can talk to your doctor.  Right?  He can put you on something else, or give you something.

Jesus:  Like what?  Like Viagra?  Like I'm an old man, or something?!

Brandon:  I don't know.  I don't know.  But I'm pretty sure you're not the first patient to have this kind of problem.

Tara:   Why is Brandon, of all people, having this conversation with Jesus?  This is a conversation Lena should have had with him when she found out he was not taking his medication.

Tonia:  Absolutely.  Instead of insisting she would be humiliating him by forcing him to take his pill and check his mouth afterward "forever."

Jesus:  And what about Emma?

Brandon: She'll understand.

Jesus:  I'm pretty sure everybody knows that, like, she's not with me for my mind.  You know, our thing, it's physical.  You know?  It's--

Brandon:  Jesus, there is nothing wrong with your mind.  Okay, you have a TBI, but you're funny, smart, and a really good guy.  She has to love you for all of that.

Tara:  Brandon, you and I have a love-hate relationship.  And lets be real, it’s mostly hate.  But this?  This was the perfect thing to say.  “There is nothing wrong with your mind.  You have a TBI.”  Please get this engraved on a plaque and place it in the kitchen for all to see.

Brandon:  And, you know, you could always just take care of her...  You know?  Maybe learn a few things?

Jesus:  What?  Like what?

Brandon:  I'm...not...  Just...ask her.

Jesus: [nods]  Are you sure I'm gonna get better?

Brandon: I'm sure.  [hugs Jesus]

Tara:  :/


Mariana:  [to her therapist]  I thought about what you said about getting my power back and talking to Ana about things that I've kept inside.  So...

Therapist:  And Ana, how do you feel?

Ana:  I just wanna help Mariana feel better.

[Ana and Mariana smile at each other]

Therapist: Well, coming here with her today is a meaningful gesture.  

Ana:  Of course.

Therapist:  So, Mariana.

Mariana:  Do you remember leaving us...alone in our crib when we were babies?  

Ana:  What do you mean?

Mariana:  Well, I remember you leaving us for a long time, like, longer than a day.

Ana:  I never did that.

Mariana:  Jesus remembers, too.

Ana: Well, I don't know how you could remember something like that when you were babies.  

Mariana: We remember because we were scared...and hungry...and our diapers were full...  We were covered in our own--

Tonia:  One of my favorite scenes in the episode is this one with Mariana and Ana in therapy.  I was just thinking how much I hoped we would see some kind of through-line with this.  I’ve  been wondering how Mari’s coping with her PTSD.

The tweets in Mariana’s secret Twitter account were revealing in that sense because we get to see that she’s still scared.  She’s still dealing with things, and obviously she’s been trying to process this memory of her and Jesus as babies for several weeks.

I like that this kind of thing was included because it is fairly common from what I’ve read that kids who’ve known severe abuse or neglect do have memories from the time they’re babies of their experiences of those things.  And they’re doubly difficult to process because as babies, Jesus and Mariana were preverbal.  They didn’t have the vocabulary to articulate how they were feeling.  Which is why it’s so good that Mariana’s able to start working it through now, and figuring out how it did make her feel.

Ana:  Okay.  Look. I did a lot of things.  I never left you like that.

Therapist:  Is it possible, Ana, that you don't remember?  If you were using drugs?

Ana:  Look, I didn't come here to be judged, or ambushed by memories that she dreamt up.  I came here because I thought that Mariana needed my help, not to make up horrible things about me.  No, I am sorry.  I'm not gonna do this.  [Leaves]

Tonia:  I also really loved the realism in Ana’s reaction.  It feels so viscerally true that she, as a mom, and especially with a baby now, to be super defensive and dismissive of the idea that she did neglect Mariana and Jesus so thoroughly.  And it is complicated by the fact that she was using at the time so she very well might have zero memories of things she did and/or times that she left them alone.

I feel so much for Mariana, though, and I do hope that her therapist helps her process what happened in the office, so that she can start to realize Ana’s reaction is about Ana and it doesn’t make Mariana and Jesus’s memories of what happened any less valid.


Jesus: So, you know, it might be, like, a while until I can--

Emma:  That's okay.  I don't care about that.  I mean, I do.  But that's not all I care about.  

[They both laugh; start making out]

Jesus: Well, you know, we can still do stuff.  You know, for you?

Emma:  Hell yeah.

Tara:  I’m glad Jesus and Emma are still working on their relationship and trying to figure things out.  (Check out the cane standing next to his bed.)

[They go back to making out]

Emma: [Stops suddenly]  Oh my God.  Did you hear about Anchor Beach?  

Jesus:  No.

Emma: [Takes out her phone]  There's a rumor they're turning into a private school.  

[Close up of Emma's phone screen which shows the tweet from Mariana's secret Twitter]

Tweet reads:  Rumor has it ABCC is going private if u can't afford 30K/year better start looking 4 a new school

Jesus:  Where did you hear that from?

Emma:  Frannie sent me a screen shot from some anonymous Twitter account.  Does your Mom know about this?

Jesus: [Gets his own phone; looks up @nosecretsanymor]

Emma:  We might not be able to graduate from ABCC.

Jesus: [Knows instantly this is Mariana's Twitter.  Scrolls through it.  Sees tweets about her going to therapy, about Jude being bullied, and then...]

Tweet reads:  Talk abt secrets.  Found out my BFF doesn't trust me - she was pregnant & never told me! Could have been there 4 her.  Guess I'm not HER BFF.

Jesus:  [is stunned]

Emma: Did she say anything?

Jesus:  Who?

Emma:  Your mom.  Does she know?

Jesus: [turns back to his phone again, still reeling]

Tara:  I have a hard time believing that Emma would not check out the anonymous Twitter before sharing it with Jesus.  The very first thing Jesus did was check out the handle and the tweets.  And now, he knows.  Finally.  Oh crap.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Review: The Fosters 4x18 "Dirty Laundry"

Originally written: March 29, 2017


Mariana: Gabe!  Hey!  What's going on?  What are you doing?  I...tried calling you but your phone's disconnected...

Gabe: Uh, yeah.  I am, uh, moving.  Got a job in Lake Tahoe, so...

Mariana:  Wait.  You what?  Were you gonna tell us?

Gabe:  Of course.  Yeah. happened really fast and...  So, why were you looking for me?

Mariana:  Jesus and I wanna build this massive treehouse and - I don't know - I thought that you could help.  

Tonia:  Uh-oh.  Mariana found you, Gabe.  And you don’t seem like you’re doing well.  Hope you’re okay.  (I’m also with Mariana, please don’t leave without saying anything.  That’s so hard.)


Brandon:  Hey, so, what do you guys think about giving Jesus my room?  Like, permanently?

Stef: Really?  That's awfully nice of you, B...

Tonia:  Glad to know Brandon is still being “so nice” to Jesus.  Also, speaking of Jesus, where is he?  We know Mariana’s off finding Gabe, but it’s breakfast time.  Maybe still sleeping?

Tara:  Seriously.  Especially as this appears to be an angle to move into the garage.

Brandon:  Well, not so nice.  I was kinda hoping I could move into the garage?

Tonia:  I mean, fair, I guess.  But also random, Brandon.  If you and Jude are having trouble living together, it’s news to me…

Tara:  They’re not.  B just wants the best space in the house.

Stef: [chuckles]  Well, Callie and Mariana might have an opinion about that.

Callie: Well, I'm sure Mariana will have an opinion but I'm fine with it.  I don't wanna sleep out there.  

Jude:  I think that's a great idea.

Stef:  Oh, do you?  Well, we will talk about it.  Why don't you guys get a move on?  Your brains are not going to enrich themselves.

Tonia:  Again, I notice Stef is worried that Callie and Mariana might have an opinion about the potential switching of rooms, but Jesus is not even in the room for this conversation...


Emma:  Is this safe for you?

Jesus:  Yeah.  Yeah, I think so.  

Emma:  But you're not sure.

Jesus:  What do you want?  Like, a doctor's note, or something?

Emma:  Kinda.

Jesus: [blinks, surprised]

Tara:  This conversation is a little sour for me due to the last time Emma asked about this.  However, she is asking legitimate questions.  I do like this scene, because it portrays Jesus as desirable.


Gabe:  I shouldn't have said yes!  I gotta take this job!  You know, but I just...didn't wanna disappoint the twins again.

Ana:  So, don't.  Stay.

Gabe: I'm living in my truck.  I got evicted that's why I took the job in Tahoe.  

Ana:  Wait.  You got evicted?

Gabe: Yeah.  I was going through a rough time and I just--I stopped showing up for jobs.  Now Mariana and Jesus need me and I can't help them because I messed up.  Again.  Look, you gotta talk to them for me.  Please, I just don't think I can face them.

Ana: I will.

Gabe: [sighs in relief, hugs Ana]  Thank you.

Mike: [just arriving home]  Everything okay?

Tonia:  Oh no, Gabe :(  But you still told Mariana you’d help her and Jesus build their treehouse?  How is that gonna work?  Kinda glad you and Ana are amicable so you can help each other out when you need to talk to the twins about stuff but I’m not sure where this will go.


[They finally stop kissing]

Emma: Okay.

Jesus: [softly] Have fun at wrestling.  Bye.

[Emma leaves; Jesus turns to Lena]

Jesus:  Can I have sex?

Lena:  Uh... Wow...uh...okay...  Well, as you know, Mom and I don't encourage it, because you're so young, but if you do, we insist that you practice safe sex.  

Jesus:  No.  Yeah, yeah.  I know that, Mama.  I mean, like, with my TBI, is it...uh...dangerous?  

Lena:  Uh, sex with your TBI?  Maybe, honey.  I don't know.

Jesus:  Okay.  Well, can you call my doctor?  

Lena:  You want me to call your doctor and ask if my 16-year-old son can have sex?

Jesus:  Yeah.  Please.

Lena:  Okay.  Fine.  I will.

Jesus: [smiles; starts to head upstairs; stops]  So, are you gonna call now?

Lena:  Jesus!

Jesus: Well, I just-- [continues upstairs]

Lena: [scoffs]

Tara:  I so appreciated this scene.  Lena does not shame Jesus for talking about wanting to have sex, and she doesn’t infantilize him either.  Nice job, Mama.


Lena:  You wanna hear what's on my list?  Besides trying to keep my job and taking Jesus to rehab?  Callie wanted to know if she could go with Aaron to LA for the weekend and Jesus wants to know if he can have sex.

Stef:  Wait.  I hope you said no to both.  Lena...

Tonia:  First, Lena's list seems to be of obligations she has to complete and it makes me wince a little to hear Jesus's rehab listed in this manner.  I know how it feels to be listed among things people don't want to do.  And second, Stef, why would Lena say no to Jesus having sex?  You've never actively discouraged him like this before.  Oh wait, I know why...


Ana: I feel bad for him.  I just wish there were a way that he could stay in town.  I think it would be good for him and for the twins.  

Mike: He's gotta have some options.  I mean, isn't there family, or somebody who can help him out?  

Ana:  He has us.  What if he moved into the one-bedroom?

Mike:  The one-bedroom you're moving into next week?

Ana:  It would just be temporary.  Just until he got back on his feet.  

Mike:  And where are you and Isabella gonna live?  You can't live with me and AJ?

Ana:  I guess we'll just stay with my parents a little longer.  Gabe needs help.

Tonia:  Ana, if you’re moving into the one-bedroom next week what are you doing spending the night with Mike now?  Is that allowed?  Where is AJ?  Is he there?


Lena:  So, I just got off the phone with Jesus's doctor.  

Stef:  Mm-hmm.

Lena:  And after one of the more awkward conversations I've ever had in my life, Jesus is now cleared to resume sexual activity with some limitations.

Stef: Hey, well, thanks for the help, Doc.  So...if we pass this along...does that mean we're condoning him having sex?

Lena:  He's having it anyway.  What my concern is where he's having it.  I don't want it happening in a car or God knows where especially in his condition.  

Stef:  You're saying that we should allow him to have sex in the house, in his room?

Lena:  I don't know.  I mean, the kids are getting older, and part of safe sex is having it in a safe, private place.  

Stef: Great!  So, at any given time, our five kids could be having sex here behind closed doors.  What are we running a brothel?

Lena:  No, of course not!  And Jude is too young.  But I think that maybe we need to think about relaxing the rules for the others.

Stef:  Okay!  Well, think...honey...

Tonia:  Oh Moms.  From the pilot episode, you two were all about buying Brandon (16 then) condoms.  You’ve talked to Mariana about not putting her underwear in boys’ pockets, got Jesus’s girlfriend the morning after pill and had super awkward conversations with Brandon and Callie about not having sex with each other.  That does not all go out the window because Jesus has a brain injury.  I like what Lena had to say about how part of having safe sex is having a safe, private place to have it.


Jesus: Um, what is this about?

Lena:  Well, I finally heard back from your doctor and I wanted to talk to you.  I thought it'd be good if Emma were here, too.  So, Jesus was wondering about his regards to sexual activity.

Jesus: Mama, she--she knows.

Lena:  Okay.  Emma, before we start, I want to make sure that you're comfortable discussing this.

Emma:  Yep.

Lena:  Good.  Because I think it's important that you two are on the same page...with parameters.

Jesus:  Uh, like--like what?

Lena:  Well, like, um--  How do you--  How do you guys have sex?

Jesus: [laughs]  Um, the normal way.  I mean, I--I think, right?

Lena:  What I mean is...don't do anything too strenuous, okay.  No standing.  No picking up.  No in the shower stuff.  Just no acrobatics, basically.  

Emma:  Got it.

Lena:  And the doctor also suggested that Jesus be supine.

Jesus:  What's--  What is that?

Emma:  On the...bottom.

Lena: Right.  So, uh, that way, you won't exert yourself so much.  

Jesus:  Yeah.  Less work for me, no problem.

Lena:  Okay, also, um, given your circumstances, we have decided to waive the "Closed Door" rule.  For now, okay?  We don't want you sneaking off somewhere doing something unsafe.  Okay?

Jesus:  So, so I can--  I mean we--  We can do it in my room?

Lena:  I am neither encouraging nor condoning.

Jesus: Got it.

Lena:  And use protection!

Jesus:  D-done!  And done!  So, are we good?

Lena:  We're good.

Tara:  I love the follow-through!  Lena honored Jesus’s request, and now she is giving him important medical information.  This is noteworthy because it’s maybe the first time since sustaining his TBI that Jesus is shown being given full and complete information from a family member or friend.


Ana:  Gabe came by yesterday.  He's not gonna be able to help with the treehouse.  

Mariana:  Seriously?  But he--

Ana:  It's not what you think.  He wants to help.  He really does.  

Mariana:  Yeah, right.

Ana:  The thing is, he doesn't have a place to live, and if he doesn't take this job up north, he's gonna be living out of his car.  I think he's depressed.  

Mariana: Well, he could have just said that...

Ana:  He was hoping he could work something out.  Anyway, he has a new number and he wanted me to give it to you.  

Mariana:  Thanks.

Ana: You'll tell Jesus?

Mariana:  Yeah.

Tonia:  Bummer for Mariana, finding this out.  But she is super cute watching Isabella and I loved seeing Ana passing on information that Gabe wanted her to (though I’m not positive he wanted her to pass on Ana’s guess that Gabe is depressed.)  Still.  Mostly a nice job.


Emma:  This is weird, right?

Jesus: Mm.

Emma:  I mean, every time your door is closed, it's like we're announcing to your moms that we're having sex.

Jesus:  I could live with that.

[They go back to making out, Jesus starts to lean in toward her]

Emma:  Remember, don't move too much.

Jesus: Oh, right.  My bad.  [Goes comically limp and still]

Emma: [giggles]  Okay.

Jesus: [laughs too]

Emma:  Less work for you does not mean no work at all.

Jesus:  Mmm!  [Nods]

[They start making out again; Emma starts grinding against him.  She pulls back.  Jesus looks worried.]

Jesus: I think all the Mama sex talk is just like getting in my head, I guess.  [He smiles]  Screw the rules, right?  [Jesus moves so he is on top.  They make out some more.  Jesus starts grinding against Emma, but in no time, he stops, just lying beside her.]  This has never been a problem for me.

Emma:  Trust me, I know.  Maybe...Maybe it's your meds?  My aunt's on anti-depressants and she says that she has no sex drive at all anymore....  ...She's an over-sharer...

Tara:  I hate this part of the storyline, because it appears to have been completely fabricated.  Disability as a plot device much?


Mariana:  Question..

Lena:  What now?

Mariana: Gabe's homeless.  Can he move into the garage?

Lena:  [laughs derisively] Sure, why not?

Mariana: Oh, thank God.  'Cause I already told him 'yes'!

Tonia:  Oh wow, Lena.  Weren’t expecting that from Mariana, were you?

Mariana: No one's out there!  It's just empty!  Please, Mama.  Jesus needs Gabe to help him with the treehouse.  He can't do that from Tahoe.

Lena:  Mariana, it's a really big ask.

Mariana:  I know.  But I'm sure he'd only be living out there for a couple months, tops.

Brandon: [walks into the kitchen] Out where?  The garage?

Mariana: Gabe's moving in!

Lena:  Nothing has been decided yet.  

Brandon:  What about me?

Mariana:  What about you?

Brandon: I'm gonna move into the garage.  So that Jesus can keep my room!

Mariana: [sarcastically] How generous.

Brandon:  Hey, I'm the one who offered Jesus my room in the first place!

Tonia:  Well, hurry, quick, someone get Brandon a prize.  (Also, I heart Mariana’s sarcastic “how generous.”)

Mariana: You have Jesus's bed.  Gabe doesn't have anywhere.  

Jesus:  Whoa.  What-- What about Gabe?

Mariana:  He needs a place to stay if he's gonna help us, so I volunteered the garage.  

Jesus:  Well, Mama, can he?

Lena:  I really need to discuss this with Mom first.

Jesus:  But if she says no, does that mean that we don't get to build the treehouse?

Lena:  I'm sure we can work something out.  Brandon?

Brandon:  Yeah.  Of course.  Sure.

Tara:  Brandon?  Why are we deferring to Brandon, of all people, right now?  This is a parent decision - don’t push it off on your kid!

Lena:  Okay.  Jesus, your medication.  

Jesus: [sighs]  How long do I have to take this for?

Lena:  Five years, honey.

Tara:  I’m calling BS on this.  Particularly the arbitrary “Five years” line.  According to the Mayo Clinic:

People who’ve had a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury are at risk of having seizures during the first week after their injury.

An anti-seizure drug may be given during the first week to avoid any additional brain damage that might be caused by a seizure. Additional anti-seizure treatments are used only if seizures occur. (x)

Also, Felbamate has super severe side-effects that mean that it is only prescribed as a last resort.

Jesus: Are there any...side-effects?

Lena: Well, they usually list them on the bottle.  Let me have it.

Jesus: 'Side-effects include dizziness, blurred vision, skin rash and impotence...'

Lena:  Wait.  Wait a minute.  Are you reading that?

Jesus:  What?  Am I?  Whoa!

Mariana: [gasps]

Jesus: I am!

Lena: Oh my God!

Brandon:  You're reading!

[All of them rush to surround Jesus happily]

Lena:  Are you sure?

Jesus: Yeah, yeah!

Lena:  Keep going!  Keep going!

Jesus: Um, 'Take one capsule by mouth two to three times a day!'

Tara:  1. Impotence is not listed among side-effects of Felbamate.  Stop making things up to further this ridiculous storyline.

2. Apparently, the whole visual disturbance storyline existed so that Jesus could not read Emma’s letter.  Now that Brandon has removed it from Jesus’s room, Jesus can read again.  Disability as a plot device.  (Didn’t Lena say that even with the prism glasses, it could take some time for his brain to sort things out?  And literally the very next episode, Jesus is reading fluently.  Okay then.)


Stef:  Hey!  That's the happiest I've seen you since the accident.

Lena:  Oh, I know, I'm just so grateful.  

Stef: Although I am gonna kinda miss those glasses...

Lena: Well, he still has to wear them for a little while.

Stef: Yeah.

Tara: ^Adaptive equipment reduced to something cute for Moms to comment on.

Stef: ...You seem to be doing fine, making all the decisions without me.

Lena:  I'm making all the decisions because you're not here!  I had to have the sex talk with Jesus and Emma alone.  I had to deal with Mariana wanting to move Gabe into the garage alone.  

Stef:  You wanted me to take this job.

Lena:  I know.  I just didn't think I was gonna feel like a single parent.  

Stef: I appreciate everything you're doing for this family.  I do.  And I realize the majority of the burden is falling on your shoulders and I am sorry for that.  I am.  

Lena: Well, I appreciate all the extra hours you're working to make up for me being on leave.  

Stef: Okay, but it was never the deal that you do everything.  And I'm gonna try and do better.  

Tonia:  Just in case we forgot, here is a reminder that Lena is the overwhelmed, overstressed super parent with the 'burden' of doing 'everything' for the family and that Stef's working herself to the bone to make up for Lena's being on leave because Jesus got hurt.  In case it isn't clear, I despise these conversations.

Stef:  But I do think the kids can help out more.  They're old enough.  

Lena:  Okay.

[They hug.  Stef spots a bag of marshmallows on the nightstand]

Stef: Are those...marshmallows?

Lena:  Shut up.  I was eating my feelings.  And I have a lot of feelings.

Stef: And there is a lot of laundry.  Would you like me to do the laundry?

Lena: Yes, please!

Stef: Okay. [Kisses Lena, gets up]  Please tell me that you didn't say Gabe could move in?

Tonia:  Well, after consulting with Brandon, who is not only technically an adult but also apparently a co-parent of his siblings, it seems like they worked it out between themselves.  Brandon said they could work something out, so it seems like it’s all settled.  Stef, surprise.  Brandon’s your proxy when you’re not home.


Brandon: [knocks on the doorframe]  Hey.  So, Mama said you forgot to take your pill.  

Jesus:  Thanks.  

Brandon: Yep.

Jesus: Um...  Have you seen the letter Emma wrote me?  

Brandon:  No.

Tara:  Frisk him, Jesus!  It’s in his pants!

Jesus: [Puts the pill in his mouth; chases it with water]  I wanna read it.  Now that I can.  [laughs]

Brandon:  Um....  Yeah... [Turns to leave]

Jesus:  Hey, thanks, by the way.

Brandon: For what?

Jesus: For giving me your room.  Helping me with rehab.  You're a good brother.

Tara:  Excuse me while I go vomit.  For the love of everything, please stop pushing the Super Sibling angle.  It’s gross - even moreso when Jesus himself believes it.

Brandon: And you're a good brother, too.  [Leaves]

Jesus: [Turns away from the door and spits the anti seizure pill he's cheeked in to his hand]

Tara:  Also, for the record, it is extremely dangerous to stop taking anti-convulsants without a doctor’s knowledge and supervision.  (Especially for fake side effects.)


Stef: [Checks the pockets of a pair of Brandon's pants.  Finds Emma's letter to Jesus.  Opens it.  Reads: 'I was pregnant...I decided to have an abortion...'

Tara:  Annnnnd now pretty much the whole house knows.  Except Jesus.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Review: Speechless 2x05 "N-I--NIGHTMARE ON D-I--DIMEO STREET"

On the Halloween episode of Speechless, JJ, Ray and Dylan are all looking for the Halloween candy, while their parents are out.  In a moment of positive representation, we see JJ finding the candy with the help of a Gopher type tool.

[Image is: a pumpkin-shaped bowl full of candy corn beside jack-o-lantern stencils for eyes and a smile]

It turns out, though, that the candy JJ finds is ancient and despite knowing this, he eats a whole bunch.  He has a few funny lines where he thinks he's in a diner and keeps trying to order a patty melt and curly fries.  

Mom asks which movie he'd like to watch to get him through his illness.  JJ says no (three times) to a movie because all the Halloween ones portray disabled people as angels or victims and he wants to be the bad guy for once because "they'd never see it coming."  Mom settles on The Exorcist because JJ saying no three times clearly has no bearing on whether or not she will actually pick a movie.


JJ has a nightmare which starts out with a man on a ladder in the high school hallway, hanging puzzle piece signs about disability.  He won't move out of the way.  Meanwhile, Kenneth (JJ's aide) tells JJ that "When you say 'Don't karate chop my board in half!'  It means I'm gonna karate chop your board in half!"

Yep.  In JJ's nightmare, his aide destroys his communication device just because he can.  

They go on to try and find a replacement board, and Kenneth thinks a Ouija board will do the trick, even though it makes his hands tingle when he touches it.  He sets it down in front of JJ and it's clear something happens to him instantly.  His eyes glow red, and he starts hurting and killing people.

The demon inside JJ talks to the family all about how much it's learning about disability issues.  (Mom's on the phone with insurance to replace JJ's board and she gets through right away.  First try.  They say it will be three weeks until he can get a new one.  The demon is surprised.)  

For most of the rest of the time, JJ is on screen, the demon is speaking for him.  For a few moments that JJ communicates for himself in the nightmare, he tells his mom not to have him exorcised because he's feeling empowered.

But JJ doesn't really say much at all.  And meanwhile Ray and Dylan are trying to stop the demon's rampage - which is possible because Principal Sea Slug has made the school "too accessible."  ("You're welcome," Principal Sea Slug says, just in case JJ and fam aren't grateful enough.)  Ray and Dylan are making the school less accessible to stop demon!JJ from wreaking anymore havoc.  The demon leaves JJ because JJ's mom asks it to, and it tells her she's a great mom and it has learned a lot today.


People as props, anyone?


The sibs dream that they get body-swapped a la Freaky Friday.  

When Ray tries to tell Dad he "feels different" and "not like himself" it goes over like a lead balloon.  But when he tries to tell Mom?  She calls the doctor, who puts Ray in a straitjacket and carts him out of the house as his parents smile and wave.  As Ray tries to tell them what's wrong, Mom talks to him like he is suddenly an infant.  ("That's RIGHT, Ray!  It IS a bowl!")

I'd seriously like to know why it's funny to have a nightmare-sequence that involves parents happily sending one kid off to an institution, when history shows, not too long ago?  Kids like JJ were institutionalized.  Not to mention the completely disrespectful way it portrays people with mental health disabilities as needing to be restrained and carted off.  As not being worth listening to once a professional has deemed them "crazy."

By the end of the episode, we do learn the entire thing was Kenneth's Halloween dream, which may actually explain some of the terrible ableism and saneism that was going on here.

Next week's episode looks intriguing, too, so I may have to get back on the Speechless-reviewing train...

FOR THOSE WHO ARE WONDERING: The following episode was the worst I have ever seen.  Too much ableism to even begin to process and/or write about.  Not intriguing in any way.  Will not be reviewing anymore of these.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Disability on The Fosters

5B - Promo

5x09 - Prom

5x08 - Engaged

5x05 - Telling

5x04 - Too Fast, Too Furious

5x03 - Contact

5x02 - Exterminate Her

5x01 - Resist

4x20 - Until Tomorrow

4x19 - Who Knows

4x15 - Sex Ed

Review: The Fosters 4x17 "Diamond in the Rough"

Originally written: March 22, 2017


Lena: [holds up a picture of a car]

Jesus:  [sighs, softly] Car.

Lena:  Good.  [holds up a picture of a lamp]

Jesus:  L-l-lamp.

Lena:  Nice.  [holds up a card that reads 'pony']

Jesus:  Where's the--the picture?

Lena:  Nope.  No picture this time.  What's it say?

Tara: I have soooooo many feelings about this scene.  It is obvious to me that Lena has been tipped off about Jesus’s reading difficulties.  For the record, this is a really crappy way to confirm said difficulties.  I would even go so far as to say that it’s cruel.  Forcing Jesus to do something he is not physically able to do?  Actively humiliating him, when a one-on-one conversation would accomplish the same thing?  I expect far more of Lena, who has a background in child psychology and education.  
Also, just the way she is speaking to him - terse and not at all warm.  The whole situation is super disheartening.

Tonia:  Agreed.  Lena's going out of her way here to humiliate Jesus here, which is in no way okay.  

Jesus:  Um... It's the--the--

[The letters on the card blur and move making it impossible to read.]

Jesus:  [shuts his eyes; sighs]  I have a headache, Mama.  

Lena:  No, you don't, Jesus.

Jesus: [looks at her, scared]

Lena:  You can't read it, can you?
Tara:  This is a huge issue for the disabled community.  Nondisabled people presuming to know a disabled person’s body and experience better than the person actually inhabiting said body, having said experience.  Nondisabled people dismissing our legitimate symptoms because they seem like an excuse or come at an inopportune time.
For the record, headaches are common post-brain injury.  (I would say that it was more surprising if I didn't have a headache in the months after my injury.)  They are also a common symptom of visual disturbances post-brain injury like those Jesus is experiencing.  
Lena is not in Jesus’s body.  She cannot feel what he is feeling.  Therefore, it is ludicrous for her to dismiss his legitimate pain out of hand.  And to follow it up with, “You can’t read it, can you?” She could have phrased that question a million different ways that were more sensitive to his self-esteem.  Because these “little” comments and dismissals?  They chip away pieces of us.

Tonia:  Couple what Lena says with how she says it, and this is a double-whammy for Jesus.  Lena's tone is impatient and disappointed.  As if Jesus's difficulties are his own fault and as if he is having them to make Lena's own experience even more stressful, which could not be farther from the truth. 

Jesus has obviously been afraid to tell his parents this.  (And it should not have gotten this far at all, to be clear.)  Jesus never should have been put in a position where his inability to read was on him to deal with and him alone at 16.  This aspect of the story should have been handled more accurately and in a way that's more respectful of the things people with brain injuries experience.  

To depict these things in a way that suggests their symptoms are their fault?  Well, that doesn't help anybody.

Jesus: [still scared; sighs; knows Lena knows]

Lena:  Honey.  Why didn't you just tell us?

Tonia:  And again, we have Lena putting the blame for this back on Jesus's shoulders.  (Lena, this is not Jesus's fault.  This is the doctors' fault for not doing their job thoroughly.)

Also?  Let's talk about Lena's use of 'just' in 'just tell us?'  Jesus is struggling with communication right now.  To suggest that he 'just' tell them something that makes him afraid and embarrassed?  As Tara often points out: aphasia gets worse with stress.  Jesus has been under tremendous stress this whole time trying to deal with not being able to read by himself.  The chances of him being physically able to say those words (and be listened to and not dismissed when he did?)  Pretty small.

Jesus:  Because--  I--I am so done with the doctors, and the tests, and the-- the sessions. [Breathes shakily]  Why can't anyone...fix me?  [Puts his head down on the table]

Lena: [Rubs his shoulder; softly]  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.
Tara: Jesus asking why can't anyone fix him hit me right in the heart.  I’ve been there.  It is a legitimate question, especially in light of all the focus on what he cannot do or needs to improve on in therapy.  I hope Jesus begins to realize that some of his abilities will come back with time.  And some never will.  And that is okay, despite what he is constantly being told about “getting better.”  His abilities do not define him.  He is different now, and that is okay too.

Brandon:  How'd it go?

Lena:  Well, there's nothing wrong with Jesus's eyes.  It's his brain that can't read.  So they're giving him these glasses and they're supposed to help, you know, his brain sort things out.

Tara:  Prism glasses are a thing.  But wow, way to out Jesus’s medical info to the sibs.  For a show usually so focused on Moms respecting each kids’ private information, this was disappointing.  (Assuming, of course, that Jesus did not give off-screen permission for her to share.)
Also, just the language used in this scene is so negative.  “Wrong,” “can’t read.”  How about “Jesus’s eyes are fine.  His brain is still sorting things out, and the glasses should help with that.”

Jesus:  Yeah, but th--they're not even working.  I mean, I-- I st--still can't read.

Lena:  Honey.  You have to be patient, you know?  The doctor said it might take a while.  

Brandon:  You look like a minion. [laughs]

Jesus: [takes off his glasses; softly]  They're--  They're giving me a headache.

Tara:  Making fun of adaptive equipment is never cool.  We would never consider making fun of someone’s wheelchair - glasses are no different.  
Yes, Brandon is Jesus’s brother.  Yes, brothers poke fun.  This instance is different because Jesus needs the glasses to (hopefully eventually) alleviate symptoms such as headaches, aching eyes, motion sickness, visual overload, difficulty with depth perception, visual attention, visual scanning and visual memory.  By insulting Jesus’s appearance, Brandon is implying that Jesus’s adaptive equipment is unsightly.  And it suggests that a nondisabled person’s comfort is of utmost importance, superseding even a disabled person’s medical necessity.
This is not even to begin to speak about the issues around identity and brain injury.  Brain injuries are complex because, while they impact our abilities, they also impact how we think.  And how we think is very closely linked to who we are.  Often, post-brain injury, we do not “feel like ourselves.”  This can be very frightening, because if I don’t feel like “me,” then who am I?  I may not like the way I’m acting or the loss of my abilities or myself.  So, then why would anyone I love continue to love me?  Comments like Brandon’s, small as they may seem, really drive Jesus’s self-esteem down even further.

Lena:  Why don't you go ahead and lie down, okay?

Mariana: [gives Brandon a withering look]

Lena: [whispers]  Really, Brandon?

Brandon:  Minions are CUTE!

Mariana:  And you're a jerk.

Tara:  Nice half-hearted reprimand, Lena.  

Tonia:  Right?  Jesus's self-esteem is super low and to know that he can't even count on his parents to stand up for him must be super devastating...

Mariana: [to Lena] Is he...getting worse?  I noticed that his speech is all messed up again.
Tonia: Mariana, seriously?  This is awful.  If you’re wondering about Jesus, you know who you can talk to?  Jesus.  Not Mama.  And you don’t have to make comments about how ‘messed up’ his speech is.  This just makes me think of all the other times Mariana has come to Moms regarding something about Jesus.  The first thing they did, always?  Was to call Jesus into the room to talk to him, too.  Now?  Instead of going to him and including him in the conversation, or telling Mariana you’ll discuss it later when Jesus is up (and if he wants to talk about it) you’re having this whole conversation behind his back.  To quote Ellen DeGeneres: “No, I say to that!  No!”
Tara:  Also, Jesus’s speech is “messed up” because the stress of admitting he could not read was ridiculously high.  It’s called aphasia, Mariana.  Look it up.
Emma: [texting Brandon]  Hey.  Can I get that letter I wrote to your brother?  Don't want anyone else to find it.

Brandon: [texting Emma back] Sure.

Tonia:  Again, Emma.  This would be something to ask Jesus.  (But we know by now that Jesus has been sent from the room to lie down, and it’s the perfect time for Lena to keep talking about his medical issues behind Jesus’s back…) <— Sarcasm
Tara: Not cool, Emma.

Tonia:  And I'm so glad Brandon's decided to give Jesus's property back to Emma... <-- Sarcasm

Lena: [to Mariana] I mean, that's the thing with TBI.  It's two steps forward, one step back.  The doctor isn't worried about it.  The only worry is how it will affect Jesus's morale.
Tonia:  This makes me think that at least part of this conversation with Jesus’s doctor was held without him being present.  And how about not discussing Jesus’s medical stuff in front of his brother and sister without him there?  If you think he does not want to talk about it,don’t talk about it…especially with the siblings…come on Lena.  With Stef, I understand, as you’re his parents and that conversation would be held in private.  But as it stands now, it’s just you guys, talking about him behind his back.
Tara:  Also, I take issue with the whole nebulous idea of “two steps forward, one step back.”  Again, it takes legitimate issues that brain injury survivors deal with, and shoves them off to the side.  

Tonia:  Yes. Jesus's speech difficulties make sense given the stress of the current situation, not to mention being made fun of by his brother.  Lena minimizes that here with a gross overgeneralization that "with brain injury survivors" it's "one step forward, two steps back" instead of clarifying that stress makes speech harder for Jesus.  It absolutely strips any legitimacy from the real issues Jesus is dealing with here.

Mariana:  Okay.  So, maybe, comparing him to a cartoon character isn't very helpful.

Brandon: [walking by Mariana]  Sorry.
Tonia:  Mariana got an apology from Brandon, but Lena wouldn’t even call Brandon out for that in front of Jesus, so Jesus thinks it’s okay for the sibs to make fun of his adaptive equipment.  Okay, then…
Tara:  Yes, Mariana got an apology from Brandon.  You know who didn’t?  Jesus.  The person Brandon actually insulted.


Mariana:  I think you look cute in your glasses.  Like Clark Kent.

Jesus:  Mm-hmm.  No.  You mean Urkel?  [Takes his glasses off.]
Tonia:  Mariana, you’re trying to boost Jesus’s morale.  Too bad it’s coming directly after Brandon’s assy comment.
Tara: We see Jesus’s self-perception here. :(

Mariana:  You're gonna get better.  

Jesus:  Yeah.  You know the more...people say that?  The less that I--I believe it.
Tara:  The problem with comments like this is, what if he does not have a miraculous recovery?  Most brain injury survivors have long-lasting symptoms.  By constantly “encouraging” Jesus in this way, his family is likely amping up his anxiety.  Because what happens if he does not fulfill his family’s expectations?

Mariana:  Are you drawing again?  Can I see?

Jesus: [flips his sketchbook against his body]  No...

Tonia: I love that Jesus’s drawing is still a thing!  I’m excited.  I want to see it, too.  But Jesus said no, so we should respect that, right Mariana?  Right???

Mariana:  Okay.  Fine.  [grabs the sketchbook]

Jesus:  Look-- Mariana!

Mariana:  [looking at Jesus's sketch of a treehouse]  Oh!  This is so cool!
Tara: That right-sided hand tremor must be improving, looking at this drawing.  

Mariana:  Do you remember those Magic Treehouse books?  About the treehouse that could travel back in time?  

Jesus: [laughs softly] Yeah.  Those were the first chapter books that I ever read.  

Mariana:  You used to say I was just like the sister.  She was always getting her brother into some crazy adventure.  

Both: [laugh]

Mariana: We used to always want a magic treehouse of our own.  

Jesus:  Yeah, I wish that we had one.  Then, I'd go back in time, before any of this happened.  
Tara:  This is a common feeling - wanting to go back to Before.  I hope Jesus can begin to reconcile that he is in the After now, and that he can build a life here.


Mariana:  You know who ISN'T alright?  Jesus.  He needs a project.  Something to look forward to.  And I have an idea.
Tonia:  Of course, you do, Mariana...

Stef:  Oh my God, your ideas scare me.  Should we be sitting down for this one?  

Lena:  [sits]

Mariana:  Okay, so Jesus has been watching this show about treehouses.  And he's actually been designing his own sketches and they're really good!  See? [shows Jesus's treehouse sketch to Moms]

Stef:  Oh wow.  Look at that!

Mariana:  What if we asked Gabe to help him build one?

Tonia:  I’m so on board with you through this point, Mariana.  As Moms would need to know.  And assuming you spoke to Jesus about this since you have his sketchbook.  (But of course, we’re not privy to that conversation.  Only the ones where Jesus is talked about.)

Stef: Oh, no.  Absolutely not.  Jesus is in this condition because of Gabe and his nail gun.  

Mariana:  Okay, but Gabe wasn't there to supervise Jesus.  And Jesus won't have to do any of the actual building.  He could be like...the architect.

Stef:  All right.  All right.  Exactly how do you plan to pay for all these materials?  We certainly can't afford all that.

Mariana:  See, I anticipated that question.

Stef: Of course you did.

Mariana:  What if...this was Jesus's senior project?
Tonia:  On the one hand, I like this because it shows that Mariana has confidence in Jesus’s ability and his future, but it’s a lot to be planning and I do wonder if Mariana talked to him about this aspect before pitching it to Moms..
Tara:  Why is Jesus not included his own potential senior project idea?  This is getting old, family.  Just saying.

Lena: [studies Jesus's sketch]

Mariana: There have been juniors that have been allowed to start their senior project early.  And if he builds the treehouse in a park or playground, he could apply for some of ABCC's community outreach budget and he can fundraise through the school.

Lena:  Well, I don't think it's a bad idea.  It could help Jesus get out of his depression.  It could help his brain make connections and the design is pretty cool.  
Tonia: Because you’re Lena and everything has to be about rehab.  It’s never okay for Jesus to be legitimately struggling…

Lena:  But you would still need to get faculty approval.  

Mariana:  Perfect!  Vice-Principal.  Approved.  Done.  

Lena:  Honey, I'm not the acting VP.  Drew will still have to sign off on this.  

Mariana:  Well, can you at least put in a good word?

Lena:  I will do what I can.


Brandon: [Looks on the desk, through a pile of magazines, on a shelf above the desk, and finally, in the desk drawer.  He moves some get well cards and finds Emma's letter to Jesus just beneath them.]  Oh.  [Turns to see Mariana in the doorway, still holding Emma's letter]  You haven't seen my good sneakers around here, have you?  'Cause Grace is gonna be here, I think, any minute.

Mariana: Forget the shoes.  You need to lose the animal print before you get friend-zoned.

Brandon: What's wrong with my shirt?  It's got a bunch of, like, tiny little foxes on it.  See?  I'll change.

Tonia:  If Brandon had been snooping through Jesus's actual room here?  His actual desk?  To find Emma's note that is actually Jesus's?  A question would be raised as to what Brandon thought he was doing going through Jesus's things.  I guarantee you Mariana would not just come in and sit down on his bed and chat with Brandon...  I feel like the kids feel that because Jesus is technically living in Brandon's room currently, that it is okay to go through Jesus's things.  Which, let's be clear, it isn't,

Mariana:  What's that?

Brandon:  Um, it's the letter that Emma wrote to Jesus.

Mariana:  And what are YOU doing with it?

Brandon:  Well, Jesus didn't read it because he--he can't.  And Emma didn't want anyone else finding it.

Tonia:  Weird, Brandon!  Nobody else would find it if you would just leave it where it is!

Mariana:  So, why doesn't she just tell him?

Tonia:  She did tell him.  The minute she wrote Jesus that letter and Jesus had it in his hands, Emma meant for the message to reach Jesus.  

As for the actual letter-writing of it all?  That is a plot device, because Emma could have just as easily texted him if she didn't want to tell him face to face, and that way?  Siri could have read the entire text to Jesus.

Brandon:  Well, she realized that with everything else going on, it was gonna be too much.

Mariana:  Okay, well, I don't think that she should be putting you in the middle of this.  And for your sake?  I hope that he never finds out that you knew all along.

Tonia:  Oh, Jesus will find out, Mariana.  Not just about Brandon knowing, but about basically everyone in the family lying to him.  And it’s not gonna feel good…

Mariana:  Don't worry.  It's Saturday.  No one's here.

Jesus:  Good.  'Cause I look like a...dork.

Tara: There is nothing more scary than returning to school changed.  :(

Mariana:  No, you don't.  Think of your helmet and glasses as a fashion statement.  You're basically a hipster without even trying.
Tara:  Nice thought, Mariana.  This still feels condescending, though.

Jesus: [scoffs, softly]  Why are you wearing your glasses?

Mariana:  I just felt like it.
Tara: I do appreciate glasses-wearing solidarity.

Kid on the Wrestling Team:  Jesus!  What's up, bro?  When are you coming back to school?

Jesus:  Soon.  Soon.  You guys are winning the meeting today?  

Kid #2:  You mean the meet?  Yeah, we're up by a couple points.  We actually gotta head back.  It was good seeing you, dude!  And the shades are dope!

Jesus:  Okay.
Tara:  In a situation with high stress, Jesus’s speech is more affected.  (He says “meeting” instead of “meet” because he is thinking about the meeting with Drew.)  I appreciated the awkwardness of this encounter, but also that the kids were so excited to see Jesus. :)

Mariana:  You ready to do this?

Jesus: [nods, nervous]

Mariana:  You're gonna be great.  


Mariana: [knocks]  Hey, Drew.  Are you ready for us?

Drew:  Yes.  Come on in.  [Stands and comes to shake Jesus's hand]  You must be Jesus.  Nice to meet you.

Jesus:  [shakes his hand]

Drew: Please, take a seat.

Mariana:  Thank you for seeing us on a Saturday.  

Drew:  Oh.  No worries.  I had to come in for a parent board meeting anyway.  Well, let's hear it.

Mariana:  [takes out Jesus's sketch; hands it to Jesus]

Jesus: [hands it to Drew; his tremor is back so the paper shakes]

Drew: [takes the sketch]  [To Mariana] Is this a treehouse?

Jesus: [nervously] Yes.  [breathes shakily]

Mariana: [smiles encouragingly at Jesus]

Drew: [looks at Jesus as if he is incompetent]
Tara:  This whole meeting was infuriating.  Drew seemed ready to take the drawing from Mariana.  (She passed it to Jesus to hand to Drew instead.)  Drew looks to Mariana first before the presentation begins.  (A small thing, until you’ve been the disabled person in a scenario where the person you’re interacting with continually looks to the person with you instead of you.)  

Tonia:  Yes!  (I once had an entire conversation at the bank, where the teller addressed my brother the entire time, despite the fact that I was the one answering all of the questions...)

Tara:  Drew makes a clear snap judgment in these first few seconds with Jesus, and it’s very disappointing.  (That aphasia impacts his intellect, specifically.)  The kids in the hall interacted with Jesus better than Drew did.  
I’m proud of Jesus for persevering through such a difficult speech situation.  It’s good to get used to how something like that feels and realizing that you can get through it.  

Lena:  Hey honey?  So I spoke with Drew and he's not going to approve Jesus's senior project.

Tonia:  Of course he’s not…also, Lena, why are you having this conversation with Mariana and not with…I don’t know…Jesus?
Tara:  Also, is a phone call to Mama the usual way to unapprove a senior project?  Jesus did come in to present to Drew - the least Drew could do is extend the same courtesy by actually calling Jesus.

Mariana:  Wait.  Why not?

Lena:  Well, I mean, he loved the idea, but he's not convinced Jesus will BE a senior next year or even if he'll be back at Anchor Beach at all.  He thinks...we might have to send him to a special school.
Tonia: Okay, but really?  First of all, apparently, because ABCC is a private school, Drew can get away with the egregious ableism and overt discrimination of dismissing Jesus’s senior project idea on a one-time meeting (ahem, snap judgement.)  Also who exactly does Drew think he is to be telling Lena that Jesus might have to go to a ‘special school?’  That’s as bad as Dr. Danville saying that Jesus wouldn’t need a wheelchair based on Jesus lying in bed for two minutes.
Also, Lena?  Why didn’t you fight for your kid?  The idea that Drew could dismiss a project idea that he loved based on discriminatory ideas is just a bunch of malarkey and Lena should have been the one to point out that Drew is not in the position to judge what Jesus will or won’t be able to accomplish academically based on one meeting.

Mariana:  He's getting better.  Isn't he?

Lena:  He is but with TBI there can be setbacks.  He can't read right now and he's missing a lot of school.
Tonia:  Wow, Lena.  Seriously.  I get that you’ve got to be realistic about this but it just feels like one more betrayal of Jesus that you’re just lying down and not even speaking up on his behalf about this.  I get that you might not be able to make headway but it sounds like you didn’t even try at all.  Like you believe what Drew does, which is pretty devastating.

Mariana:  Okay, well, what if he goes to summer school to catch up?  

Lena:  [sighs]  Maybe.  If he can.  But we just don't know yet.  

Mariana:  You can't tell him this right now.  It'll crush him even more.

Lena:  I know.  

Mariana: I just got his hopes up and now I have to let him down again.
Tonia: Great.  I’m so glad Mariana and Lena are continuing the theme of these episodes which seems to be: Leave Jesus Out of Absolutely Every Pertinent Conversation and Lie to Him All the Time. <-- Sarcasm

Mariana:  Guess what?  Drew approved your senior project.

Jesus: Wait.  Really?  No way!

Mariana: Well, kind of.  He said it needed to be both of our projects because it was so expensive and all...

Tara: Okay, so Mariana is telling Jesus it is both of their senior projects.  HIS drawing.  HIS vision.  HIS work.  But he will not even get a GRADE for it?  And Mariana will?  Oh yeah, this will end well. <— Sarcasm

Jesus:  You want this to be your...project?

Mariana:  Yeah.  Why not?  I can be, like, the project manager, and you know I'm very good at bossing people around.  

Jesus: [laughs]

Mariana:  And that way we can be done and not have to worry about it next year when everyone else is freaking out.  

Jesus: [nods]  Thank you.

Mariana:  Now all we need to do is get Gabe on board.

Jesus:  What's that?

Mariana:  It's The Magic Treehouse.  The one where they go to the Ice Age.  I found it in the attic.  

Jesus: [puts his glasses on and opens the book; tries to read it but can't]  Um...  [scoots over in bed]  Do you me?

Tara:  Why can’t everything in this episode be just like this?  I absolutely adore these twin moments and the respect present here.

Mariana: [gets on the bed too.  She and Jesus each hold one side of the book.  Mariana starts to read]  "One summer day in Frog Creek, Pennsylvania, a mysterious treehouse appeared in the woods."

Jesus and Mariana: [smile at each other]

Mariana: "Eight-year-old Jack and his seven-year-old sister, Annie, climbed into the treehouse."


Mariana tweets:  I know I said no more secrets, but I'm keeping one from my brother.  Don't know what to do.
Tonia: Here’s an idea.  Maybe stop lying to his face :(

Mariana: [scrolls through phone numbers; calls Gabe]
Automated Voice:  We're sorry.  The number you are trying to reach is no longer in service.

Tonia:  Oh no!  Gabe, where are you?