Friday, September 1, 2017

Review: The Fosters 5x08 "Engaged"



FAMILY DINNER - KITCHEN:
Mariana: We moved prom up this year, so we don’t have to compete for venues, but now we’re way behind.  So I was hoping my lovely family could pitch in?
Jesus: Can I even GO to prom?
Callie: I’m probably not gonna go…  Aaron’s in college.  
Brandon:  Yeah. Same here.
Tonia:  So…is no one gonna answer Jesus’s question?
Tara: It is referenced later that Moms have been actively avoiding conversations that may lead to “outbursts.”  However, in doing so, Stef is literally pretending Jesus does not exist here.  Please don’t be like Stef.  All people appreciate being acknowledged and feeling heard - disabled people included.
Brandon:  I know this is kinda last minute but Dad and Ana’s engagement party has to be this weekend.
Jesus: Uh, can Emma come?  Come on, it’s been a week.  So I can see her, right?  
Tonia:  I was surprised to learn Lena specified a time limit on banning Jesus from seeing Emma.  It’s been a week since Jesus has been threatened with institutionalization.  A week since Lena started her scary-as-hell search for cures for him.  We know they’ve gone gluten free for him, controlling what he eats, already.  I guess I should be glad he’s eating spaghetti with the fam?
Tara: It has also been a week since the 3.5 - 7 hour proficiency test and less than a week since the neuropsychological assessment that took “all day.”  It is a fact that these tests took place within days of each other.  I am so horrified.
Lena: Honey, it’s a family party, so no girlfriends or boyfriends.
Tonia:  Since when don’t Moms allow SO’s at parties?  (Just since trying to control every move Jesus makes?  Yeah, I thought so…)
Jesus: [scoffs]  Uh… Emma’s not just my girlfriend…
Mariana: [teasing] Right.  She’s your FIANCEE.
Stef: Mariana…
Jesus: [puts his napkin down, gets up from the table]  I’m done.
Tonia:  This stuck out to me when we watched.  The re-emergence of “I’m done” which we heard Jesus say really early on in his recovery.  He’s clearly stressed.  And Mariana just gets a mild reprimand for totally mocking the legitimacy of Jesus’s engagement to Emma.  No wonder he’s done…
Tara:  Aphasia worsens with stress.  Aphasia worsens with stress.  Aphasia worsens with stress.
Moms and Mariana do not take his engagement seriously.  
Jesus is forced to revert to what he can say, which is “I’m done.”  It is important to note that this is not an issue of impoliteness. 
Also, remember that with aphasia, the phrase “I’m done” might communicate more than “I am finished with my dinner, and I would like to be excused.”
Other possible meanings include but are not limited to:
- “I’m frustrated, and I need a break.”
- “I’m overwhelmed, and I need a break.”
- “I’m upset about Mariana teasing me, and I need a break.”
- “I’m upset that Moms won’t allow me to see Emma even though I’m not grounded anymore, and I need a break.”
Lena:  Hey.  Could you please ask to be excused?
Jesus: Yeah.  Can I be excused?
[pause]
Lena: Yes, you may.
Jesus: Thanks.  [Jesus leaves the kitchen]
Tonia:  My favorite thing about this is the way Jesus asks to be excused, because as words on the page, his tone might read as Jesus “being good.”  Quiet.  Obedient.  But there’s an urgency here.  His tone of voice communicates so much more than his words.  He’s losing patience.  Can’t put up with being treated like this.  Nor should he have to.  
Tara: Lena does treat this as an issue of politeness.  She is policing Jesus’s speech and forcing him past his limits.
In this instance, Jesus has enough framework to be able to complete the required exchange, but the fact remains that Forcing “Acceptable” Speech When Confronted With Someone’s Limits Is Abusive.  
Consider what may have happened if Jesus had been unable to ask to be excused:
1) He may have been forced to sit with the family, while stressed and physically unable to take a break.
2) Jesus decides to leave the table without being excused, prompting Moms to reprimand him.
If either one had happened, Jesus would be receiving punishment for his communication disorder.  
As the scene played out, Jesus’s limits were not respected.  He was treated not with understanding, but as someone being willfully rude.
Tips: 
1) Accept the communication the person is able to give you.  (Remember that behavior is communication.)
It may not be pretty.  It may seem “rude.”  But give them the benefit of the doubt.  Chances are high that they are using the only words available to them at a given moment.
2) Ask clarifying questions that the person in question can say/indicate yes or no to if needed.
3) Set aside a time (ideal for the person with aphasia) to discuss how you can best support them communication-wise.  Realize that this will likely be an ongoing conversation.
4) Be patient.  Know that the person with aphasia is doing the best they can.  
Mariana: Is he ever gonna be normal again?
Tonia: Okay, Moms you seriously need to derail this ableism train.  I’m not kidding.  Jesus is normal.  It’s normal for someone to want to get away from being consistently dismissed, controlled and not taken seriously.  The fact that Stef and Lena are just letting comments like this slide and not taking anything Jesus says seriously is only hurting him more.
Tara: This notion hurts not only TBI survivors but disabled people in general.  Our brains and bodies will never conform to a nondisabled standard.  To ask us to “be normal” is asking us to hate ourselves.
JESUS AND GABE - GARAGE APARTMENT
Gabe: [eating a plate of spaghetti]  Mmm.  Thanks for the food.
Jesus: Yeah, it would’ve gone bad anyway.  So, we’re having a party on Saturday for Mike and Ana…
Gabe: I know.  Ana invited me.
Jesus: Yeah, well, you gonna go?
Gabe: I don’t think Mike would want me there.  I know her parents won’t.  
Jesus: But they wrote you the letter.  To get you off the sex offender list.
Gabe:  It’ll get awkward.  Trust me.
Jesus: Why?  ‘Cause you still love her?
Gabe: I never said that.
Jesus: Yeah, you did.  You said she’s the only woman that you’ve ever loved.
Tara: (What was that about Jesus having trouble with memory and recall?) ;)
Gabe: Okay.  But she’s marrying Mike, so–
Jesus: Because she doesn’t know how you feel about her!  Maybe.  I–
Gabe: Well, neither do I.  But I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t make a difference anyway.
Jesus: Okay.  Well, they’re getting married in a MONTH.  So just…if you figure it out?  Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Tonia:  So much about this exchange stands out to me.  First, I just breathe a giant sigh of relief that Jesus and Gabe are having a legit conversation where Jesus’s words have weight.  
But also?  Jesus only knows one way to relate to his bio parents (referenced in season 2) and that is to take care of them.  Here, he brings Gabe food.  This always feels especially poignant knowing how thoroughly the twins were neglected as babies and prior to foster care at age five.  He’s looking out for Gabe.  Taking care of Gabe.  Making sure he has enough to eat, and also trying to ensure that Gabe’s relationships are repaired and he has no regrets.  
Because if Gabe is happy, then he won’t leave, and Jesus won’t be abandoned again.
STEF AND LENA - THEIR ROOM, BEFORE BED:
Stef: How long are we gonna let Jesus think that he’s engaged?  I mean, I say we go in there right now and tell him that he’s not getting married.  He is going back to school or I WILL arrest him.
Tonia:  Oh that sounds like a perfect plan, Stef <— Sarcasm  Also, newsflash?  Emma accepted the ring! 
Tara: Jesus does not think he’s engaged. He is actually engaged.
Lena: That’s not gonna work.  Trust me.  I’ve seen it.  The more we demand, the more defiant he gets.  Besides, does it matter what the motivation is if it gets him back to school?  
Tonia:  OH MY GOSH MOTHERS.  
Maybe you could try this thing you seem to employ with all your other children?  And instead of assuming Jesus is automatically going to get defiant you sat down and talked with him.  
Since his brain injury, I have not seen one conversation that is just them checking in with their son because they genuinely want to know how he is feeling emotionally.  Even the conversation when Jesus found out about Emma’s abortion was brought about because he came to them, and they were checking in with him to cover the fact that they already knew about the abortion…
I wish they would just respect him enough to talk to him…
Tara: I don’t even know what to say.  Stef thinks the engagement is a figment of Jesus’s imagination. Lena doesn’t care that he (thinks he’s) engaged as long as it gets him back to school? 
Stef: What does Emma think about all this?
Lena: Well, you said yourself she’s got a good head on her shoulders.  And for all we know, with Jesus’s TBI?  This whole thing could be in his head.
Tara: Dismissal is ableism.  
Lena:  I seriously doubt she agreed to MARRY him.
TaraWow. And here we have the notion that Disabled People Are Unattractive And/Or Unworthy Of Being A Spouse.  By Jesus’s own mother. A kick to the chest would hurt less.
Stef: I think that we should find out.  
Tonia:  I can’t explain how painful it is to see, so consistently, how little faith Moms have in Jesus now.  Just how little they value him and respect him as a human being.  
This is a very real depiction of ableism that people with brain injuries can and do endure.  But it’s also shown that Moms are right in treating Jesus so terribly, because he has a brain injury.  And that is just plain dangerous.  No matter what disability someone has, always presume competence (assume they are capable of understanding you, of making decisions, etc.)  A brain injury is not a free pass to abuse someone.  Being family to someone with a brain injury is not a free pass to control and dismiss them.  To threaten them with institutionalization and look up torture methods to “cure” them.  That’s not love.  That’s not help.  That is ableism.  That is abuse.
I guarantee you, though, if the ableism around Jesus were not a thing (even just from his family) he’d feel that.  His stress level would go down, and then, maybe, he’d be able to open up to his family when he needed to talk, or needed advice or help with something.  Jesus would be able to start to come to terms with what’s happened to him.  And he’d be able to feel loved while he did it.
Tara: These types of comments chip away at the self-worth of the disabled community.  
LENA AND EMMA - LENA’S OFFICE AT SCHOOL, THE NEXT DAY:
Emma: You wanted to see me?
Lena: Oh, Emma.  Hi. [Lena walks over and takes Emma’s hands, looking to see if she is wearing Jesus’s ring.]  How are you?  [Emma isn’t wearing the ring.]
Emma: Is everything okay?
Lena: [Lets go of Emma’s hands.]  Yes.  Everything is fine.  We just wanted to let you know why you haven’t been allowed at the house.
Emma: [nervously] I get it.  I told him, he shouldn’t have gone to that party.
Lena: Well, we didn’t want you to think it had anything to do with YOU.  And we are so grateful for how supportive you’ve been of Jesus and his recovery.  Thank you for convincing him to come back to school.  Honestly, we don’t know what he’d do without you.
Emma: I–I’m happy to help.  Whatever it takes.
Lena: [nods and smiles.]
Tonia:  Of all the comments I have seen on this scene with Emma and Lena, none have addressed how truly gross this scene is.  
To call Emma down to your office just to tell her how awesome she is and how grateful you are for her to be there for Jesus.  Like, would they do that for any of their other kids’ SO’s?
Making a point to praise a nondisabled student for being a friend/SO to a disabled one (and your son at that) communicates that disabled people are hard to be around and hard to love.  That we are burdens and that it takes someone heroic to “put up” with us.
Moms truly think so little of Jesus, it’s breaking my heart.
Tara: Let’s also not forget that the real reason she’s checking in is to check the legitimacy of the engagement.  Jesus has told her that they are engaged, but Lena needs the Authorization of a nondisabled person to make it true.  Jesus’s words do not carry weight on their own.
STEF AND LENA - THEIR ROOM, THAT NIGHT:
Lena: So…Emma is not wearing the ring.  I called her into my office today just to, you know, check in, and thank her for supporting Jesus.
Stef: Well did you happen to ask if they were engaged?
Lena: No, I didn’t want to embarrass her.  But she seemed perfectly fine.  Everything between her and Jesus seemed status quo.  You know, I really just think this whole engagement thing is all in his head.
Stef: Alright.  Good.
Lena: Oh, also…I invited her to Mike and Ana’s party tomorrow.  
Stef: Oh?
Lena: If she’s the one keeping Jesus on track, I really don’t think keeping them apart is the best idea, do you?
Stef: I guess not.
Tonia:  Emma’s keeping Jesus on track?  So Jesus gets no credit for his own progress?  (And way to micromanage everything Lena, after you said that Emma couldn’t come to the party…)
Tara: Notice how Lena is concerned with not embarrassing Emma.  She is unconcerned about embarrassing Jesus because she feels he is not himself - just a pile of TBI symptoms. 
JESUS AND EMMA - FRONT DOOR, AS EMMA ARRIVES FOR THE PARTY:
Jesus: [smiles] Come in.
[They kiss]
Jesus: I missed you so much.
Emma: I missed you, too.
Jesus: You look amazing.
[Emma laughs as Jesus looks at her in her dress.  They are still holding hands]
Jesus: Oh.  You’re not…wearing…the…ring?
Emma: Oh, yeah…  I was worried about your moms seeing it.
Jesus:  Don’t be.  They know we’re getting married.  And they’re totally cool with it, too.
Emma: [looks freaked out] Really?
Jesus: Yeah.
[Emma searches her purse, finds the ring and puts it on]
Jesus: Come on.
Tonia:  Really, though, what else is Jesus supposed to think?  When Moms don’t talk to him.  They haven’t said a word to him about his being engaged.  I’m sure he figures if they didn’t approve he’d know it.
And Emma accepted the ring!  (I know I said it before, but it bears repeating, especially as Emma’s carrying it around in her purse!)  I resent the fact that Moms are persisting in believing it’s “all in Jesus’s head” when no one around him has given him a reason not to think it’s not true.
Emma said, “I can’t marry someone who isn’t going to school.”
Not, “I can’t marry you.”
So of course Jesus thinks if he goes to school, Emma will marry him!
Tara: Right.  These are not Unreasonable Assumptions.
ANA, MIKE AND ANA’S PARENTS, VICTOR AND ELENA AT THE PARTY:
[Victor spots Gabe across the yard]
Victor: Is that…?
Ana: Yes.
Elena: What’s he doing here?
Mike: Oh good!  Gabe decided to come!
Ana: Stef and Lena are letting him live here while he helps Jesus with a school project.  Please be nice.
Tonia:  A reminder that Gabe is here only and essentially as a pity gift for Jesus and that as soon as Moms are tired of having him there (which, they were from the start) Gabe won’t be there anymore :(
JESUS ARRIVES AT THE PARTY IN THE BACKYARD:
[Jesus spots Gabe across the yard and acknowledges him happily.  Then, he stops to say hi to Victor and Elena]
Victor: Look at this guy!
Elena [hugs Jesus] So handsome!
Jesus: [hugs Victor.  Poses for a picture with Victor and Elena.]
Tonia:  The moments with Jesus, Victor and Elena were very much background, but I noticed them, because of how happy Victor and Elena were to see Jesus.  How warmly they received him.  How, to them, he is the very same boy.  With the very same worth.  To whom they give the same love and the same respect they ever did.
Especially as Jesus missed out on spending time with Grandma and Grandpa Adams, it was nice to see him being loved on by Victor and Elena.
Tara: This was a much-needed breath of fresh air.
STEF AND EMMA - PARTY:
Stef: Emma.  Hi. [hugs her.  Emma looks uncomfortable probably because she knows Stef is not a hugger.]  How are you?  
Emma: Good!
Stef: Good to see you!  Thanks for coming!
[Emma gets water from the water cooler.  Stef sees the ring on her finger]
Stef: Oh!  The–  That’s the, um, the ring that Jesus gave you?  
Emma: Yeah.
Stef: [takes Emma’s hand] Oh, it’s–that’s–  Wow, that’s very pretty…
Emma: Thanks.
[Stef tries to catch Lena’s eye across the yard.  Eventually gets her inside with some excuse about Stef having something in her eye.]
Tonia:  Again, Stef can barely disguise her disgust for the ring Jesus made.  She says it’s “very pretty” but her tone says the ring is dirty, cheap, and worthless.
Tara: I think it may have been less disgust and more Oh-My-God-I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-True-I’m-Freaking-Out.
STEF AND LENA - KITCHEN, CONVERSING IN HUSHED TONES:
Stef: She’s wearing it!
Lena: What?
Stef: The ring!  The engagement–it’s out of Jesus’s head and on her finger!
Lena: [sighs] Well, maybe she doesn’t think it means what JESUS thinks it means.
Stef: I think we need to ask her: ARE THEY ENGAGED?
Lena: Right now?  In the middle of the party?
Stef: No, not now.  But soon.  Very, very soon.
Tonia:  Because God knows now that Jesus has a brain injury, he clearly does not know what being engaged means… <– Sarcasm  Moms, please stop this nonsense.  You need to start accepting the child in front of you.  Because your ableism, your lack of confidence in him, your abuse of him is harming him more profoundly than his brain injury.
Tara: Um yeah. It was out of Jesus’s head the moment he proposed.  Catch up, Moms.  And stop being gross.
JESUS AND GABE - PARTY:
Jesus: Hey!
Gabe: Hey!
Jesus: Did you talk to Ana yet?
Gabe: What?  No!  No, I’m not going to, Jesus.  This is her engagement party.
Jesus: Maybe that’s why she invited you.  So that you’d realize that this is happening and you would say something.
Gabe: [considering]
Jesus: Come on.  What’s the worst that happens?  She says no?  [Ana walks up, Jesus tells Gabe under his breath] Say something.
Ana: Hey!  Glad you came!
Gabe: Yeah, I’m not so sure your folks feel that way…
Ana: Oh, they’re fine.  I promise.
Jesus: I am gonna go grab some food.
Tonia:  Jesus, still working so hard to make sure Gabe is happy.
Tara: In this week’s episode of AfterBuzz TV, Brandon Quinn who plays Gabe was being interviewed.  He made a point to say that the episode made it seem like Jesus was leading Gabe, but that actually those thoughts had been in Gabe’s head all along.  Jesus is not being Unreasonable here.
Adriana (Jesus and Mariana’s bio cousin, and the official photographer for the party): All right!  Let’s take a birth family photo!  Come on!
Jesus: Come on! (Jesus, Ana, Gabe and Mariana all stand in a line, arms around each other)
Adriana: Okay, everybody, get close!
Victor (looking on with Elena) They are a beautiful family.
[Stef and Lena look uncomfortable and do their best not to watch as Adriana takes the picture.]
Adriana: Three, two, one!  Perfect!  Oh, it’s so cute!
[Jesus takes the camera and shows the picture to Ana, Gabe and Mariana.  Jesus and Mariana are really happy.]
Tonia:  Moms’ reactions to this picture is just aggravating to me.  Your kids have biological parents.  One of those biological parents is getting married to Stef’s ex.  You both agreed to host their engagement party at your house.  So your twins’ biological family is going to also be present.  
We saw back in Quinceanera, that Jesus and Mariana have very few pictures of themselves from when they lived with Ana.  Mariana kept one in her room in the pilot, that Jesus ripped.  In the Quinceanera photo montage, there is one baby/toddler photo a piece for the twins.  They go from being babies to five in no time flat.  They had maybe one picture with Ana.  They have no pictures with Gabe, and certainly none of the four of them together.
in short?  This picture is important to Jesus and Mariana.  Moms have a ton of pictures with their twins over the last eleven years.  You can’t let Jesus and Mariana have this one with Ana and Gabe?  It’s probably the only one they’re ever gonna have.
Stef and Lena have had the privilege of having family pictures.  They have so many they probably don’t even consider it a privilege.  But to be photographed with a biological parent or parents is a privilege.  To get to see your own features reflected back in someone’s face. To have proof that you look like them.  You came from them.  To see your smile in their faces.
Jesus and Mariana look so happy that this picture is being taken.  I wish Moms at least tried to act supportive.  After all, when the party ends and everybody goes home?  Jesus and Mariana are their kids.  The twins know it and so do the Moms.  I just wish they could have been happy their kids get to have this moment with Gabe and Ana, and this picture, which, they might never get an opportunity to get again.
And particularly after Victor and Elena talk genuinely about “what a beautiful family” they are, Moms’ reactions just seem rude and immature…
Tara: Yes, it is a shame that they seem so threatened by something so small that will mean so much to their kids.
JESUS AND EMMA - PARTY, LISTENING TO BRANDON AND GRACE SING FOR MIKE:
Jesus: Someday soon they’re going to be throwing a party like this for us.
Emma: [looks uncomfortable] Be right back.  [She walks in the house.  Lena sees this.]
Tonia:  Ugh, Jesus is so happy.  And again, no one is telling him the truth.  Stop lying to him, please.
Tara: She still can’t treat him as fully human by giving him the dignity of the truth.
MARIANA AND JESUS - PARTY, TOASTING ANA AND MIKE:
Mariana: Hi!
Mike: Hi!
Mariana: That was beautiful, Grace and Brandon.  Ana, I just wanted to say congratulations.  I’m so happy that you found Mike.  He’s an amazing guy.  And you guys are totally soulmates so… I’m so happy for you!
Jesus:  Uh, yeah!
[crowd laughs gently]
Jesus: So, I, um–  Well, I guess I never really…uh, thought that I’d be at an engagement party for my birth mom.  I never really thought that we’d have a relationship with you.  Or you, Gabe.  But um…one thing that I know is that it’s never too late.  Even if you think it is.  So, yeah, that’s pretty much what I wanted to say…
[crowd laughs again]
Tonia:  I was so secondhand embarrassed when Jesus was giving this toast, but it wasn’t out of bounds. 
It annoyed me, though, that we heard Stef say: “Hear, hear!” to Mariana’s toast and when Jesus is speaking, she and Lena are just standing there with their arms crossed.  Like they are waiting for him to say something wildly inappropriate…
Tara: Very sweet toasts. 
[Brandon shepherds Jesus aside, whispers]  What the hell was that toast?!
Jesus: What do you mean?
Brandon: This is my dad’s engagement party!
Jesus: Okay.  Look.  Brandon, if Gabe and Ana still have feelings for each other?
Brandon: It’s none of your business!
Jesus: Do you really want your dad to marry Ana if she still loves Gabe?
Brandon: You’re unbelievable.  Just stay out of it, okay?
Tonia:  One of the only moments in the episode where ableism was not at the center of the family’s interactions with Jesus.  But he’s still shown to be out of line here.  Like he needs to be taken in hand.  So maybe the ableism isn’t so distant as I thought?
Tara: Just because Brandon read into the toast doesn’t mean that it wasn’t completely sweet and appropriate.  Jesus does not need scolding. Ana, Mike and Gabe are all grown adults.  Let’s just take a breath.
LENA AND EMMA - LIVING ROOM:
Lena: Hey.  What are you doing in here all alone?
Emma: [tearfully]  Sorry.  I was just taking a break.
Lena: Honey, are you all right?
Emma: [nods, holding back tears]  I really want Jesus to get better and go back to school, but I’m not ready to be engaged.  
Tara: Emma is verbalizing the trope that Romantic Love Cures Disability.  She thinks because she agreed to marry Jesus, that he will not only go back to school but Get Better. 
Lena: Jesus’s recovery is not your responsibility.  It’s his.  And it’s mine and it’s Stef’s.  And I’m so sorry that I didn’t think about the burden I was putting on you.
Tonia:  Lena!  Seriously? Jesus’s recovery is his responsibility?  What kind of ableist ridiculousness is that?  Your son has a brain injury.  No matter how hard he works, he will always have a brain injury.  You cannot change him.  He cannot change himself.  Please stop trying and start being there for him.  He doesn’t need a drill sergeant, another doctor or another therapist.  He needs a mom.  
He is not a burden.  He’s your son.
These kinds of depictions of disability…they like…slowly seep in. And when we must watch them over months?  Without a single contrary voice daring to speak up and say, “This is wrong?”
It feels like Moms are right.
And that is devastating.
Tara: re·cov·er·y rəˈkəv(ə)rē/noun 1. a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.
Again, usually there is a certain amount of improvement to be expected post-brain injury.  A certain amount of recovery, if you will.  But the brain injury will never go away.  
Burden, Lena?  Kick me in the chest again.  As disabled people, we are constantly expected to justify our existence because of ableist beliefs like this.  The belief that disabled people are burdens leads to the justification of our murders at the hands of our caregivers.  
Emma: So you’re not okay with us being engaged?
Lena: No.  No, of course not.  Honestly, honey, we just thought that maybe it was all in his head.  We should have asked you.
Emma: It’s okay.  I think it sort of IS all in his head.  I never said that I would marry him.
Lena: We’ll talk to him, okay?
Emma: Would it be okay if I talked to him first?
Lena: Yeah.  Yes, of course.  Come here.  [Lena hugs her]
Emma: Thank you.
Tonia:  Emma, you gave Jesus a nonverbal yes by accepting the ring.  You didn’t give him solid no, verbally or otherwise.  You put the ring on today in front of him.  That’s not in his head.  It’s a reasonable conclusion to draw.
Tara:  Lena tells Emma OF COURSE WE DON’T APPROVE, but has said nothing to Jesus over the past week to indicate this.
[Stef comes in, Emma says “hey” as they pass.  Stef comes to join Lena in the living room]
Lena: Maybe my mom was right about indulging Jesus.  
Tara: Indulging him how? I am seriously asking. 
Lena: I can’t take the path of least resistance just because I’m afraid of the outbursts.
Tara: Hello Ableism, my old friend… It’s the tried and true TBI = AGGRESSION stereotype.  Can’t say that I’m happy to see you.
Stef: Hey.  There’s no “I” in this.  It’s “we.”  We’re not giving up, okay?  We’re not giving into this thing with Jesus.  We’re going to fight to get our boy back.  Whatever treatment it takes, we’ll try ‘em all until something works.  Okay?  When are we gonna see that doctor in LA?
Lena: In a couple weeks.
Stef: Okay.  So in the meantime?  We take away that treehouse and whatever else we have to, to get his attention.
Tonia:  So many things disturb me in this conversation:
The notion that they are in a “fight” to get “their boy back” when Jesus is literally right there in front of them.  He did not get body-snatched or stolen.  
That they are cavalierly going to try “all” the treatments.  Including shock therapy, because that’s what’s in LA.
Their method of “getting Jesus’s attention.”  Perhaps the treehouse was a project that Moms let Jesus do out of pity or indulgence, but that is not on Jesus.  He has done nothing that would merit their arbitrarily revoking the one thing that’s giving him any joy.  It’s been days and I still, truly don’t know what Jesus did wrong that would merit such a crushing consequence.
Also?  By taking away the treehouse?  They will be sending Gabe away.  The only person other than Emma who Jesus has felt like he can confide in.
I keep saying this - but it keeps being true - I am so beyond devastated for what this will mean for Jesus.
Tara: This “thing” with Jesus?  It is called disability.  It is not something to fight, but rather something to accommodate. His brain is not holding him hostage.  It is working overtime to create new pathways - trying to help him.  
There is no cure for brain injury.  There is adaptation.  Accommodation. Apology when you make a mistake. Patience. Presuming competence. Respect. Love. 
Shock treatment  is abuse.  It induces seizures and causes subsequent brain injury.  To continually pitch this as a legitimate treatment option is irresponsible and harmful.  
It makes me sick that while Moms would never consider ECT for each other or Jude to cure their homosexuality, they would jump at the chance to use it on Jesus. 
Please writers, value disabled life more than this.
And as if the looming threat of torture is not enough, Moms are now taking away the treehouse and presumably Gabe.  
Because existing as a disabled person is wrong and apparently requires punishment.  
JESUS AND EMMA - JESUS’S ROOM:
Jesus: [smiling]  There you are.  Should we, uh–  Should we shut the door, or?
[Emma does]
Emma: I love you.
[Jesus smiles]
Emma:  But…  But I can’t wear this if it means what you think it does.  [Emma takes off the ring and gives it back to Jesus]
Tonia:  It means engagement, and you knew that when you accepted the ring, Emma.
Tara: Yes, let’s not keep up the facade that it’s all in Jesus’s head.  Just admit that you didn’t want to hurt his feelings and that’s why you accepted the ring.  Tell him you don’t want to marry him.
Jesus: Wait.  Wait, wait, wait, um…  Are you…breaking up with me right now?
Emma: No.  I’m…not.  But we’re too young to be engaged, Jesus.  And I can’t be your only reason for going back to school.  You need to do that for yourself.
Jesus: Wait.  I’m sorry.  So that’s why you said yes. [He drops the ring on his desk]
Emma: I never said yes.
Tonia:  OMG Emma, just say you’re breaking up with him!  Stop pitying him.  You’re not doing him any favors by staying with him because you feel bad for him.
Tara: The truth’s out. Even accepting Jesus’s proposal was a manipulation.
Jesus: Well, if that’s how you feel then maybe we SHOULD break up.
Emma: Jesus.
Jesus: No, I’m not a charity case!
[Mariana overhears, comes into the room]
Emma: I never said that you were!  
Jesus: Well you think that I can’t survive without you?!
Emma: That’s not what I meant!
Jesus: You know what, Emma?  I don’t need you.
Tonia:  Yes, Jesus!  So happy to hear him tell Emma he is not a charity case!  It feels so beyond gross to know that you are a “project” to someone, not an equal.
Tara: Trust that we can tell when you hold these beliefs about us.  And consider whether you would want someone to hold these beliefs about you, right now, as you are.
Mariana: Yes, you do, Jesus!  She stuck by you this whole time!  She’s been, like, the best girlfriend ever!
Tonia:  Again with the Nondisabled Savior nonsense.  Stop it, Mariana.
Tara: You do not get to tell Jesus what he needs, Mariana.  He can figure that out for himself.
Jesus: Oh, and now, all of a sudden, you like her?  You guys are friends again?  Well, that’s great, but you know what?  Leave me the hell alone.
Emma: Jesus.
Jesus: I mean it, okay?  Let’s just call it.  
Mariana: Don’t do this.
Jesus [to Mariana] You need to stay out of this.  [To Emma]  And if you don’t want me forever, then I don’t want you at all.  So just go.
[Emma and Mariana stand there as Jesus turns away]
Jesus: Just GET OUT, Emma!
[Emma leaves]
Mariana: You’re so stupid.  [leaves too]
Tonia:  So again, we have Emma and Mariana not taking Jesus seriously.  He has to tell Emma to leave four times - has to raise his voice and yell before she will.
Tara: And stupid appears to be Mariana’s go-to insult for Jesus these days.  This word is second only to the R-word in terms of the harm it does to those with disabilities, particularly those with brain injuries.  She does not respect him or his decisions. She does not view him as competent.  It is heartbreaking that even his twin thinks so little of him.
Jesus [slams his hands on his desk.  Looks up and out his bedroom window to see Moms talking to Gabe and Gabe walking away from them]
Tonia:  And cue my heart breaking some more, because this moment?  Is Moms telling Gabe he has to move out because they are taking the treehouse away from Jesus.  And Jesus has no idea yet. :(
Tara: This just keeps getting worse.
MARIANA AND EMMA - FRONT STEPS:
Mariana: Emma!  He doesn’t mean it!
Emma:  I know.
Tonia:  Ladies, lets have a talk:  Jesus does mean what he says. Feeling like a charity case sucks and it’s completely reasonable for him to want to break up with Emma after finding that out.  
Tara: Yet another version of Not Presuming Competence.  Saying Jesus “doesn’t mean” something because he is disabled takes away agency over his own life.  It is another means of nondisabled control.
Mariana: He’s gonna get better.  He really is.  
Emma: When?
Mariana [hugs her]  I miss him, too.
Tonia: Jesus may make more progress, he may not.  He has a brain injury.  That did change him, but not the way you think.  Because it did not steal him.  He is not gone.  He’s right in front of you.  And he’s rightfully angry that no one is treating him with any dignity or respect at all.
You both are the ones who need to change.  Accept Jesus as a person.  Talk to him, don’t just react to what you think he might do.
Tara: This conversation spoke to my worst fear post-brain injury - that I was a different person.  An unlovable burdensome shell.  
felt so different in my brain and body that I could not fathom that my family’s love for me had not changed.  Despite their reassurances, this is still something I am struggling to come to terms with almost 20 years later.
Mariana and Emma don’t love Jesus for who he is now - they tolerate him.  
They’re waiting for the “old Jesus” to come back.  And that specific version of Jesus does not exist anymore.  This is a new version of the same person.  
And the notion of “getting better” in the colloquial sense will not happen with Jesus.  His brain is injured.  And while the brain is able to make new pathways, the injury itself will never go away.  Waiting and expecting him to “get better” in the way one “gets better” from a broken leg is an exercise in futility.    
JESUS AND MARIANA - HANGING POSTERS AT SCHOOL, THE NEXT DAY:
Jesus: You know, Stratos doesn’t even care about Anchor Beach Academy.  He just wants revenge against Anchor Beach ‘cause of Nick!  
Mariana: [shakes her head]
Jesus: I mean, it’s crap! If anyone deserves revenge, it’s you and me because of what Nick did to us.
Mariana:  You’re right.
Tonia:  It’s interesting.  This is the first time I can recall that Jesus has mentioned Nick and what he did to both of them.  (Previously holding Mariana at gunpoint and then in a later episode, knocking Jesus out, causing his TBI.)
Tara: This strongly mirrors my experience.  It took months for me to 1) heal physically enough and 2) to even begin to come to terms with what happened to me to be able to discuss it.
[Jesus and Mariana continue down the hall]
Jesus: I gotta go to the bathroom.
[Jesus stops short of the bathroom to look at the model of Anchor Beach Academy]
LENA AND STEF - KITCHEN:
[Mariana and Jude walk in]
Lena: Hey!  How’d it go?  Did you get the posters hung?
Jude: Yeah.
Mariana: No one was there.  It was perfect.
[Lena’s cell phone buzzes with a call from Drew Turner, principal at the kids’ school]
Lena: Hello?
Drew: I need you to come to the school now.
LENA AND DREW - AT SCHOOL:
Drew: So, I come in today to get a little work done, and I find this.  [Drew gestures to the model of Anchor Beach Academy, smashed]
Lena: Oh my God.  Who did this?  Why would someone–
Drew: No idea!  So I checked the security cameras…and your kids were the last ones in the building.
Tonia:  I don’t like the insinuation that Jesus hulked out and smashed the Anchor Beach Academy model.  And it makes me really nervous because I still feel like Moms have it in their back pocket to send him away, especially if they are sure it will “help.”
Tara: Hmmmmm… I wonder who will be the fall guy? :/
JESUS - GARAGE APARTMENT:
Jesus [knocking]  Yo, Gabe!  
[Jesus opens the door to find Gabe gone.  His stuff is gone.  The bed is stripped.  Blankets folded on top.  There’s a letter left behind, Jesus’s name is on the envelope.  He sits down, holding the envelope.  His face is stunned and sad.]
Tonia:  No matter what that letter says, you can bet Jesus is going to take Gabe’s leaving personally.  
(And I love how Moms did not even bother telling Jesus and Mariana that Gabe moved out.  So Jesus - and eventually Mariana - will have to find out whenever and however, and be shocked and hurt.) <– Sarcasm
So now, Jesus doesn’t have Emma or Gabe to talk to and confide in.  I am so worried for him.  I hate that Moms did this.  :(
Tara: This show gets harder and harder to watch every week.  We feel a sense of duty to speak out against the horrific offenses against our community.  
Representation matters.  
TV teaches people how to treat people who are different from them.  
But we are hurting.  And we are tired.  And we have never been more glad that the hiatus is just a week away.  Because we need a break.
And during that break, we will hope that our words have made a difference.

3 comments:

  1. Great review. I completely agree about the beginning scene(I took it as Jesus saying “I’m sick of being teased”) and the engagement ring plot. I know many people with brain injury who are perfectly capable of handling the complexity of a relationship directly after injury.


    “It is not something to fight, but rather something to accommodate. His brain is not holding him hostage.  It is working overtime to create new pathways - trying to help him.  
    There is no cure for brain injury.  There is adaptation.  Accommodation. Apology when you make a mistake. Patience. Presuming competence. Respect. Love. “

    Amen to this! His brain is no monster, his brain is not hurting him.

    “This is a new version of the same person. “

    Amen to this also. People around me tried to scare me into thinking my brain injured friends were entirely different,in reality some of their needs changed but they never did.

    In terms of the tests, highly unrealistic yes and yeah they probably could have stuck a few “weeks” in between episodes, but in a TV series you have to move things along quickly so I can kinda understand how that got screwed up.

    Tara, I’m so sorry you felt unlovable! :'(

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! <3

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    2. You're welcome Tara and please know you were NEVER a burdensome shell! Your body is beautiful.

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