Thursday, August 17, 2017

Review: The Fosters 5x06 "Welcome to the Jungler"


Stef: Did you know that dropping out of school is illegal?  
Lena: California is a compulsory education state.  You have to go to school until you’re 18.
Jesus: What?  So you’re gonna arrest me?
Stef: If I have to.
Tonia:  Oh, perfect.  I’m so glad we’re starting off this episode with yet another threat of institutionalization. <– Sarcasm
Tara: Completely jarring.  Completely unrealistic.  Completely unnecessary.

Jesus: [Looking to Lena] Mama.  Seriously?
Lena: The only way you can drop out is if you pass a proficiency test.
Jesus:  Okay, fine.  Then I’ll just do that.  
Lena: Okay.  Then, you can take the test at school tomorrow.
Jesus: Great.  Can I go now? [Jesus leaves at Moms’ nod]
Tonia: This whole conversation is so strained, and Moms have Jesus practically backed up against the kitchen counter.  
Tara: So, we’re going from no school for months to a high-stakes proficiency test?  This is unfair even without factoring in the brain injury.
Lena:  Thank you.
Stef: Yeah.  I will be your bad cop any day, woman.  What if he passes the test?
Lena: He won’t.  He’s having problems with memory and comprehension.  The test is gonna show that and we can use it to make our case in getting him an educational aide.
Tonia:  Wow. Okay.  So according to some old college papers I found from an intro to SPED class where we learned about TBI, to be considered school-ready, Jesus would have to be able to attend to an academic task for 10-15 minutes.  This proficiency test?  3.5 hours long.  (With no accommodations, because Jesus has not even been evaluated yet.)
Basically, Moms are both abusing their power positions (Lena in education, and Stef in law enforcement) to manipulate Jesus into doing what they want him to do.
(Also, for reference?  We have seen Lena alter Jude’s proficiency test to get into Anchor Beach.  Knowing how far she was willing to go for Jude, when she had only just met him, it’s that much more painful knowing that Lena is willing to send Jesus into this test with no accommodations and zero time to study.)
She is trying to sabotage him here, and it sucks. 
Tara: They went right for the sabotage here, instead of having another conversation with Jesus.  They don’t want to deal with his feelings, they simply want him compliant. :( 
Also, just because Dr. Bayfield the orthopedic surgeon has a friend whose son has a 1:1 aide, this does not mean that Jesus definitely needs one.  At this point, he has not even been assessed yet.  Let the professionals decide this.
And it is all kinds of exploitative to use Jesus’s (at this point perceived) deficits against him to get the outcome you desire.  Moms want to intentionally overwhelm, overload and fatigue Jesus’s injured brain to strengthen their case for an aide. 
1) Jesus has not been in school for months.
2) He is given no time to study.
3) According to old-school SPED handout:
Regular classroom placement
- for students whose cognitive, physical and behavioral limitations have resolved, regular classroom placement can be an emotional support and represents a significant level of recovery.
-CAUTION: A return to regular classroom without any level of support should be done with caution and is not recommended as an initial placement.
^Essentially, this is what Moms are doing.
4) The goal of going back to school after a brain injury is initially less about proving knowledge and more about learning strategies and coping skills.  Academic success is not the point - not right away.
 Stef: A few days ago, you didn’t think he was ready to go back to school.
Lena: Well, a couple days ago, I hadn’t threatened to send him away.  I don’t think being trapped in the house is doing him or us any good.  
Stef: He can still refuse to go, you know?
Lena: Well if he DOES, I think you SHOULD arrest him!  I’m serious!  It’s time for a little tough love around here!
Tonia:  I’d settle for regular love around here, Lena.  Because instead of sitting down with Jesus again for another conversation and really hearing him out, you’re jumping to manipulation and threats of arrest???  
Also, this is a moment where having nondisabled writers on the show really comes through.  Why?  Because we know, based on what Lena says here that she is thinking about her previous threat to institutionalize Jesus, but we don’t see Jesus talking about or thinking through how Lena’s threat impacted him.  We get really obvious insight into Lena and her thought process as the parent, but almost none from Jesus, who the threat was directed at.
This is not something someone just gets over in a day.  Jesus will carry this with him for the rest of his life.  And I think it’s irresponsible (especially if you are going to include such egregious ableism as repeated mentions of shock treatment as a legitimate option and threatening your son with institutionalization for having a TBI) to not overtly convey the harm such words inflict on the people they are used against.
Tara: To continue with Tonia’s conversation about how we do not see how Lena’s words impact Jesus… I would argue that we are seeing the impact, to some extent.  What stood out to me in this episode was Jesus Being Good.  We saw no strong emotion from him at all, which is notable on this show.  To me, this could be misinformed writing - but it also could be a tried-and-true coping strategy of a person used to impermanence.  Making a conscious choice to be unaffected.  
Can we also talk about the fact that Lena seems to be ready for Jesus to go back to school because she is fed up with him?  :/
And regarding the whole arrest thing?   Jesus is more vulnerable interacting with law enforcement with intersecting identities as both an ethnic minority and disabled person.  Disabled people make up a third to half of all people killed by police.  The fact that Moms would so cavalierly discuss this seems super out-of-character.

Jesus: And now they won’t even let me see Emma!  Which is like, total bull!  Because besides this with you, and her, I have no life!  You know, I think what makes them so mad is that I’m not going back to school.  But I have a plan!  Why don’t we turn this into a business?  You know, making tree houses!
Tonia:  I’m glad Jesus has someone he can talk to about how he’s really feeling. With all the other kids at school and Moms at work, it’s easy to see why Jesus is feeling so isolated.  And with all this time to mull over what Moms said, it’s no wonder he’s coming up with alternate plans.
Also, Moms are so mad that Jesus isn’t going back to school, but, reminder that when Jesus was ready to talk about it, they kept ignoring him and putting it off.  They didn’t even bring it up with his doctor, which was their reason for putting off a discussion in the first place.
Gabe: Uh, I mean, shouldn’t you just finish high school?
Jesus: No, I can get my GED just like you did.
Gabe: Yeah, in prison.  Look, I wouldn’t do anything like I did.  I mean, I made a ton of mistakes when I was your age.  I think your moms are just trying to protect you, you know?
Tonia:  I actually really find myself relating with Gabe here.  I’ve been in that position where you care about a kid but you don’t want to say the wrong thing for fear of not being allowed in the kid’s life anymore.  That being said, Gabe, abuse does not equal protection.
Jesus: Do you think you made a mistake with Ana?  You know, like, not trying to be with her?
Gabe: Yeah.  Yeah, all the time.
Jesus: Do you ever think about about getting back together?
Gabe: [scoffs] She’s with Mike.
Jesus: Yeah, but they’re not, like, married.
Gabe: Here’s the thing.  Choices you make today can stay with you your whole life.  And as far as Ana goes do I wish it had been different?  Yeah, I do.  She was my first love.  Maybe the only one I’ll ever have.  But it’s too late.  And you don’t wanna end up carrying around all that regret.  Trust me.
Tonia:  The first person Jesus talked about in this conversation was Emma.  She is really on his mind here (and why wouldn’t she be, as one of the only consistent people in his life?)  Things undoubtedly feel really shaky with Moms right now and they have felt really shaky with Emma until recently.  Jesus is just trying to figure out what to do to keep the people around him there.  And not to leave, like they all seem to want to.
Jesus:  Ah, hey!
Ana: [covers her engagement ring]  Hi!
Jesus: What’s up?
Ana: Is, um, Mariana here?
Jesus: Oh.  Uh, actually no.  She’s…not home yet.  
Ana: [disappointed] Oh.  Okay.
Tonia:  It always strikes me as strange that Ana shows zero interest in talking to Jesus one-on-one.  (Same goes for Gabe and Mariana.)  It’s like, they will if they have to, but only if they have to.)  I can’t help but feel for Jesus here, especially as Ana doesn’t clarify she wants to talk to them both together, so it just comes off as her not wanting to talk to Jesus.  
It’s also more than a bit irksome that Ana has joined the ranks of people who are clearly uncomortable around Jesus.
Tara: To be fair, Jesus hasn’t been willing or able to build the kind of relationship Ana and Mariana have.  And some relationships are just awkward - not all bio parent/child reunions are perfect.
Jesus: Uh, can I ask you a question…about…Gabe?
Ana: Sure.
Jesus: Do you still, like, have feelings for him?
Ana: What do you mean?
Jesus: Well, I know you’re with Mike.  And he’s a great guy.  But IF you still think about Gabe.  Well, I mean, he…still thinks about you.
Ana: Uh…  How do you know that?
Jesus: He…told me.  He said that you were the only woman that he’s ever loved.
Tonia:  I’d imagine that every adopted kid plays the “what ifs” through in their heads.  And given that Jesus currently has “no life” other than helping Gabe and trying not to step a toe out of line so Moms won’t send him away or arrest him, it makes sense that he would gravitate toward playing matchmaker for Gabe and Ana.  He knows what it’s like not to be told the whole truth, too, so of course he wants the people around him to have all the information they need on a subject.  And I’d hazard to guess that, for Jesus, love is the most important subject there is.
[Mariana walks in from school, sees Ana]
Mariana: Oh!  What are you doing here?
Ana: I just was in the neighborhood and I thought I’d come by to say hi.
Mariana: [touched] Oh.  Well, hi.
Ana: Hi.
Tonia: Keep holding onto that engagement ring for all it’s worth, Ana.  A little awkward for the kids to see it now that Jesus has confessed Gabe’s undying love for you, isn’t it?
Also, it still touches Mariana (and Jesus) to have Ana stop by even if it is to just say hi.  Because it means they’re thought of.  And being thought of means they’re valued.  And that’s always going to matter to these two.
Jesus:  Hey.  Can I borrow your phone so I can text Emma?
Mariana: No!  I’m already in enough trouble because of you!
Tonia:  The implication here seems to be that Moms are checking Jesus’s phone to be sure he has no contact with Emma.  (As the last we saw him, after Lena yelled at him, he still had his phone.)
Also, Mariana’s “I’m already in enough trouble because of you” sounds a lot like “I’m already in enough trouble because you’re disabled.”  Because if Jesus had found out about the party pre-TBI and invited himself along, they’d both be in trouble, but Mariana wouldn’t be putting the blame back on him for having a seizure.
Tara: So, Mariana still has her phone after their night out?  But Jesus doesn’t have his or is on restriction?  
Mariana: Hey.  What do you think about Scariana Adams Fostgore?
Jesus: For what?
Mariana: My derby name.  
Jesus: Come on. Moms are not gonna let you do roller derby.  Not after what happened to me.  
Tonia:  Jesus speaks the truth.  I mean, we all remember Lena hyperly quizzing Tess and Dean about why they allowed Logan to play football with its high concussion risk.  Chances are very good that they are not going to sign off on Mariana being on the roller derby team.
[Brandon walks in]
Brandon: Hey, uh, so did you guys hear about Ana and my dad getting engaged?
[Jesus and Mariana make eye contact and stand in sync with each other]
Mariana: What?  Seriously? That’s so cool!  I mean…you’re cool with that, right?
Brandon:  Yeah, I-I-I guess.
Jesus: I wonder why Ana didn’t tell us?  She was here earlier. So, are you sure?
Brandon: It’s what AJ told me.  Oh hang on. [Brandon answers his phone, leaves the room.]
Tonia:  Once adopted siblings, soon to be step-siblings too?  Let’s play How Many Ways Can Three Siblings Be Related?
Tara: Yeah, this is odd.
Jesus: I wonder if Ana didn’t tell us because of what I told her?
Mariana: What did you say?
Jesus: That Gabe still loves her.
Mariana: He does?
Jesus: Yeah.  That’s what he said to me.  It’d be kinda cool if they got back together, right? 
Mariana: Not for Mike.
Jesus: Well, yeah, I know.  But I mean, they were each other’s first loves.
Mariana: Okay.  That doesn’t mean that they should be together now.  People rarely ever marry their first loves.
Tonia:  Mariana, your tone is really close to patronizing here.  Please stop.
Tara: It feels weird that Mariana is siding with Mike here.
Jesus: Some do.  As long as they don’t screw it up.
Mariana: Yeah, well, I want to have LOTS of loves before I get married.
Jesus: I don’t.
Tonia:  I kind of love how the traditional way this might play out is flipped.  Mariana wants to have lots of first loves and Jesus only wants one.  I can’t say I’d feel any differently if everything was changed - including me - and I had no control over any of it.  Especially since Jesus’s own relationship with his Moms is shaky enough that even they have threatened to send him away now that he has a TBI…

Jesus: Hey.
Emma: Hey.
Jesus: Look, I’m really sorry about last night.
Tonia:  So, I’m a bit slow on the pickup, but it took me until now (actually recapping) to connect that Jesus is on this train of thought with Emma and talking about “unless they screw it up” because he was afraid he had screwed it up by telling her he really didn’t want to see her anyway.  
Also, we do get the specific time reference here: Jesus’s fight with Emma happened last night.  That means Lena threatened to institutionalize him last night.  :(
Emma: Me, too.  I really want to be supportive…of everything.
Tonia:  This line had me waiting for “but I can’t.”  The “but I can’t never came and the “everything” seems to refer to Jesus’s TBI which is now, officially too much for everyone :(
Tara: Yes, look at her word choice here.  She wants to be supportive, but she’s not supportive currently.
Jesus [flirting]: You mean that?
Emma [smiling]: Yes.
[They kiss]
Emma [still smiling]: Do your moms know that you’re here? [whispers] Did you sneak out?
Tonia:  A few blessed seconds of cuteness and fun.  I’ll take it wherever it comes at this point.
Tara: I love these moments.
Jesus [laughs] No, I had to take a proficiency test.  So that I can legally drop out.  
Emma [clears her throat and looks away]: How’d…you do?
Jesus: Uh, good, I think.  
Tonia:  And just like that, the support’s gone. Did Emma think Jesus was apologizing because he came around to her way of thinking?  Is that why she said she wanted to be supportive?  Right about now it sounds like the conditional way everyone else is ‘supporting’ Jesus, which is heartbreaking.
Tara: This test is written as no big deal, but it is a huge deal.  182 questions (reading, writing and math) plus a writing task.  In 3.5 hours.  Unless you want to split up the reading and writing sections, and sit for another 3.5 hours.  We don’t know if Jesus chose to do this, but regardless, he seems to have a bounty of extra energy post-test.
Cognition takes work after a brain injury.  Attending to a task takes work.  Filtering can be almost impossible.  
I can tell you that for my first few weeks back at school (almost 2 months post-injury), I took one class.  An elective.  Choir.  Something completely non-academic.  And after that one 80-minute class period, I would be completely spent.  Exhausted.  Taking 4-hour-long naps.  
So, although Jesus looks none the worse for wear, the actual, real-life implications for taking a test like this the way he did are serious.  Asking him to take the test at this point was nothing less than abusive.  And doing so would have almost certainly hindered his recovery.
Jesus:  Um, but anyway.  I have something for you.  [Jesus takes out a small box.  Offers it to Emma.]
Emma: [laughs nervously and opens the box to find a wooden ring inside]
Jesus: I know it’s not fancy.  But I made it with Gabe.  
Emma [forces a smile] It’s beautiful.
Jesus [smiles genuinely]:  I wanted to give it to you as a promise ring.  You know, until I can get you something…nicer.  Emma, I don’t want to have any regrets in my life.  And I know that you…  You’re the one.  I want to spend the rest of my life with you.
Emma [is not smiling.  Keeps looking down and away.]
Tonia:  This is like, so devastating.  Because I’ve so been here.  So desperate to keep friends that I gave them things I put my whole heart into. 
It just sucks in this case even more so because the scene plays that Jesus (previously pretty dialed into people’s cues, even in earlier episodes this season) seems to be missing all of them here.  So the scene plays out and you are automatically led to feel sorry for Jesus.  In that he “just doesn’t get” that Emma isn’t on the same page with him.
When the reality is?  He likely can’t even face that possibility, because he needs this to work.  He just can’t face one more rejection.  So he’s pushing forward, and hoping that if Emma hears all of what he has to say, she’ll come around.
Tara:  He wants the certainty that at least one person loves him unconditionally.  That at least one person won’t leave.
Emma: Jesus, we’re only 16. 
Jesus: Well yeah, I’m not saying that we’ll get, like, married right now.
Emma: I’m gonna go to college.  Maybe far away.
Jesus: That’s fine.  I’ll go wherever you’re going.  I can do construction, literally, anywhere.
Emma: So much can change.
Jesus: Not if we don’t let it.
Emma: I want change.  I wanna grow and learn and–
Jesus: Well, good.  ‘Cause we could do all that together!
Emma [hesitantly]: Not if you drop out of school.  Education is extremely important to me.  And I [sighs] can’t really see myself marrying someone who’s willfully throwing that away. [Puts the ring box back in Jesus’s hand.]
Tonia:  Ugh, this is just painful.  Emma, break up with him already!  Not that I want you to, but it’s obvious you want to break up.  Don’t string him along.  Also what did Jesus say when you gave him the box back?  That’s a convenient place to end the scene, so you have the last word.
Tara: While I respect Emma’s values, I don’t agree with her saying that Jesus passing a proficiency test is the equivalent of throwing away his education.
Jesus:  Hey.  So, I’m not gonna drop out of school.
Lena: Hard test?
Jesus: Nah.  I mean…  Well, kinda, I guess.  But no, I ran into Emma, and she won’t marry me if I don’t finish school.  So, I’ll get assessed.  Get a babysitter.  Whatever it takes.
Tonia:  So, a lot of times, I look at things from a writer’s perspective.  From a storytelling perspective.  First of all, we have the writer’s lack of a disabled presence anywhere in that writer’s room.  Because seriously how many more times are we going to be subjected to Lena thinking that Jesus is just dumb as a box of rocks when really, he hasn’t even been assessed yet and went into that 3.5 hour test with zero prep and zero accommodations.
And secondly?  This just strikes me as lazy writing.  Not only have they managed to make the conflict between Moms and Jesus (a huge deal) a nonissue, this also, effectively, lets Moms off the hook for any of their gross behavior, (educational neglect, manipulation, and threatening Jesus.)
It has not escaped me either that the writers have skirted immediately addressing how Jesus feels about Lena’s threat of institutionalization from last episode, or the fact that she is still actively pursuing shock therapy for him.  That is just beyond irresponsible.  
Don’t allow yourself to forget that these things are happening.
Tara: The lack of a disabled voice in the writer’s room is glaring when Jesus’s response to a 3.5 hour test is that it was “kinda” hard.
And yes, totally agree with Tonia - so much of this episode is about what was not said, seen or addressed.
Brandon: Has Ana told you guys about her and my dad yet?
Mariana: No.  I hope Jesus didn’t confuse her.  
Brandon: What do you mean?
Mariana: I guess Gabe told him that he still has feelings for Ana.  And then he told Ana.  I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about.  She loves your dad and she obviously said yes.  You know Jesus.  Ever since his TBI, he’s confused.
Brandon: Yeah.
Tonia:  Seriously, can we stop with the continued implication that Jesus doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  Even if it is to reassure Brandon, there are other ways to do it that are not claiming Jesus misunderstood something he clearly understood perfectly.  And Brandon agreed with her!  Come on, siblings!  Knock it off.
Tara: ^Dismissive ableism.  Presuming incompetence.  These dangerous notions that dehumanize the disabled make abuse, neglect and institutionalization okay.  None of this is okay.  
Do not let the media be your only source of disability education.  Read and watch content made by disabled people.  We exist as more than plot devices or inspiration p*rn.  We are just as human as you are.  See us.

For more:  Disability on The Fosters


  1. My biggest beef with this episode is that they treat a GED as a non education and almost illegal. A GED IS an education! This show makes people with GEDs seem like less and that’s a slap in the face to people who have them. Its a bad GED stereotype that says only traditional classrooms work. When I took my GED if you wanted accommodations you had a 2-3 month wait period to get them and you needed a note from a doc so totally unrealistic on many levels. Your right about Jesus tiring his brain too much after a test. In regards to Lena, correct me if I am wrong but isn’t she a POC herself? If so,you are right, she should be aware of Jesus and police. I don’t think this is purely a problem of non disabled writing, its just plain lazy on multiple levels like they are just pumping out episodes without any thought.
    The scene with Gabe seems natural though. He just wants Jesus on a better path than himself. The lines “everything” and “So much could happen” from Emma also seems natural after a new brain injury like her saying “what if you get injured again?” Just my opinion. GREAT REVIEW!

  2. Yes, they seem to be framing getting a GED as subpar education and not the equivalent of that education. The fatigue factor would be huge, yes, and so the portrayal of the test as "no big deal" IS a big deal as it would be so exhausting for him.

    Yes, Lena is a POC as well. And we have seen past evidence (in 4x01) that Jesus is extremely aware of himself around police.

    The lines by Gabe and Emma did seem natural to say, but Emma, in particular, was uncomfortable when saying them. Especially in this episode.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Somebody I know compared this episode to "Gaslight" the movie in regards to Lena manipulating Jesus.

    1. I have never seen that movie, but that's really interesting, and really telling...

    2. Watch the movie. Then tell me if you see a similarity.

    3. If it's all the same to you, I'd rather not watch anything else if it's like this.

    4. The woman is actually able bodied in that movie but meant to feel as through she has a mental illness by manipulation.

  4. My friend who has ADD just read this and as someone with a GED he agrees.