Monday, October 2, 2017

Review: The Fosters 4x13 "Cruel and Unusual"

Originally written: February 15, 2017

Now that The Fosters is on a bit of a break, I thought it might be good to go back to the past episodes that focused on Jesus and his TBI. There will also be a bit of new commentary, as I did not originally comment on any scene where Jesus was on screen and Tara usually didn't comment on anything else. But now, with our reviews focused exclusively on Jesus, we feel we can give these moments ample attention.

Previously on The Fosters (in episode 4x07) Jesus accidentally shot himself in the head with a nail gun while trying to help Gabe (his biological father) finish the garage remodel.  Jesus had surgery to remove the nail and stated in subsequent episodes that he needed to not lift anything heavy because he was "at increased risk of having a seizure."  

All seemed well until episode 4x10 when his twin sister, Mariana, was found by her ex, Nick (who had previously held her at gunpoint.)  Fearing the worst, Jesus rushed to Mariana's aide, tackling Nick in an effort to protect his sister.  Nick punched Jesus in the head and knocked him out.

He ended up seizing twice (on the way to the hospital, and at the hospital) and needing brain surgery.  He spent at least 24 hours in a coma and woke up (the end of 4x12) able to understand language, but not able to speak in a way his parents could understand.


Stef:  Going to the hospital.

Mariana: Can I come?

Stef: [sighs]  No, sweetheart, because Jesus--he's just--he's not up for visitors yet.

Tonia:  Stef, you can’t keep Mariana and Jesus apart forever.  Twins need each other, even moreso than siblings who were born alone.  I even mentioned this to my Grandma, and while she does not watch The Fosters, she was quick to say: “They have to let them be together.  They’re twins!  They’ve been together their whole lives!” <3 

Tara:  As soon as I saw Tonia after my injury - which was not long after regaining consciousness post-craniotomy - I pointed to her and finger-spelled the letters O and K.  I did this over and over until she understood that I was asking if she was doing okay given my sudden hospitalization.  

Keeping the twins apart during this time will do nothing but increase anxiety for both of them.  There is no reason Mariana cannot sit quietly in Jesus's room if she wishes.  Come on, Moms.


Ana:  Poor Stef and Lena.  They must be so stressed out between Callie and Jesus...Do you think they would let me see him?  I mean, I don't want to overstep, but...

Mike: Yeah, let me just ask Stef.

Ana:  Thank you.

Tonia:  I love that they show Ana asking about going to visit Jesus <3  

Tara:  If Moms aren't letting Mariana visit, I don't think Ana will make the list...


Dr. Danville:  Hi there.

Stef:  Hi.

Dr. Danville: Good to see you again.  

Stef: Good to see you again.  Yeah.

Dr. Danville: So um...before we go in, I want to prepare you.  There are so many unknowns about traumatic brain injuries, so you have to be patient.  Manage your expectations.  There can be significant ups and unpredictable downs.  The milestones reached are not always milestones held.  

Tonia:  Good words from the neurologist, I think.  Glad Moms know ahead of time to manage their expectations and their faces.

Lena:  Okay.

Stef: Okay.  Can we see him?

Dr. Danville: Of course.  

Stef: Right.

Dr. Danville:  Um, just stay positive.  Bolster him.  Recovery can be frustrating for the patient.  So, uh, he's going to need encouragement.  

Lena:  Okay.

Dr. Danville: Just make sure that the only thing he sees in your eyes is absolute confidence that he's going to get better.  

Lena: Yeah.

Stef: Great.  We can do that.  

Dr. Danville: Shall we?

Stef: Thank you.

Tonia:  I get what Dr. Danville is trying to say here.  But I can't help thinking that his focus on "getting better" is going to be hard on Jesus...and will mislead Moms into what to expect down the road.

Tara:  "Absolute confidence that he's going to get better..."  

The doctor unfortunately gives Moms the wrong impression before he even assesses Jesus.  A better phrase would have been, "Just make sure that the only thing he sees in your eyes is absolute love and acceptance, regardless of his limitations."


Stef:  Hey, buddy.

Lena:  Hey.  Hey bud.  

[Jesus stirs and wakes but looks exhausted.]

Lena: Hi sweetheart.

Stef: Hi, love.

Tara:  First, things first:  I have to suspend my disbelief in terms of the room Jesus is in.   It is way too bright for someone recovering from a brain injury. I don’t think I saw daylight or fluorescent light until almost a week later.  The ICU was dark and quiet, and I slept a lot. 

Now for the positives: The first thing I appreciate seeing is how exhausted Jesus looks. There is no way to adequately convey the level of fatigue that comes with a brain injury, but Jesus shows us that he does not have even half of his usual energy. As Stef kisses his forehead, we see him struggle to keep his eyes open.  I can’t comment much on the right-sided tremor/twitching/neuro symptoms that Moms notice - only that it must be unnerving for Jesus especially, having so little control over his own body.
Tonia:  I do remember one fluorescent light on above your bed the first night, but I can't imagine it was on for too terribly long.  (Because, speaking of cruel and unusual...)  In general, the room was kept extremely dark, even during daytime hours.  I remember even when your speech was evaluated, the speech pathologist conducted her assessment in near darkness.  (Curtains were drawn.  Lights were off.)  It wasn't until you went onto rehab (5 days later) that light became a thing you saw regularly.  In short, I agree, the room is definitely too bright, especially for right after a brain injury.

Dr. Danville:  I’m Dr. Danville. I’m your neurologist. Can you tell us your name?

Tara:   Time to suspend disbelief again: because a neurologist would not do a speech evaluation. This is pure simplification for TV viewers. A speech language pathologist would do this in real life (and would most likely not whip a hammer out of their medical bag.)

I appreciate the doctor’s use of pauses and simple sentences here, though. It is crucial that Jesus be given adequate processing time when spoken to, because when the brain is injured, there is often less capacity to filter sensory input and process information. (In 4x11, we saw how agitated Jesus became when subjected to the rapid fire interview by the police officer - this is why. It is also why disability training is so important for law enforcement.) Dr. Danville is not pausing excessively or speaking in a manner that suggests Jesus does not understand, he is simply clear and patient.
Jesus:  Jesus.
Tara:  It takes Jesus about 10 seconds to speak his name here. We see his brow furrow as the word he is looking for is not readily accessible to him, as well as some stress-induced blinking. 

Think of a time when a word you want is on the tip of your tongue. You know it. It’s in your mental files somewhere, but for the life of you, you can’t say it. This is where Jesus struggles. He knows his name. He knows he should be able to say it. It’s just not there for him to access in the moment when he is asked the question. So instead, he verbalizes. He approximates. And eventually, the word - Jesus - comes back to him. He looks to Moms for reassurance, and they in turn look to the doctor with relief.
Dr. Danville:  Good.  [Dr. Danville inexplicably takes a hammer out of his medical bag.] Can you tell me what this is that I’m holding?
Jesus: A screwdriver. 
Tara:  And here we have the most unsettling moment. Where it appears that Jesus cannot identify a simple tool. As someone who deals with aphasia as well, let me attempt to shed some light on this. We have another situation here where Jesus knows what the object is. His fatigue makes the recognition difficult to see, but bear with me. The doctor asks Jesus to name the object. We see that once again, the word Jesus is looking for is not there immediately. He is, however, able to assign a name to the object within a few seconds.
Dr. Danville [to Jesus]: Are you sure?  Good.
Tara:  Here, the doctor asks if Jesus is sure about his identification. Jesus raises his eyebrows in an affirmative response.
Dr. Danville [to Moms]: That’s actually a positive sign. He knows the category. That it’s a tool.
Tara:  Moms look super concerned at this moment, and the doctor takes the time to reassure them. I don’t necessarily like that the doctor talks about Jesus in front of him here, but it definitely does happen in real life unfortunately. 

We also are able to see Jesus’s face when the camera pans out. He’s staring at Stef with so much fear and uncertainty. This is the moment where I believe Jesus realizes that his identification of the object was actually just an approximation. His brain supplied him with a word in a matter of seconds that was close - in the same category - and he said it, assuming that it was correct. Hearing the doctor’s words, however, let Jesus know that something was amiss. And there is nothing scarier than that feeling.

Tonia:  I notice too that at this moment, Stef is reassuring Jesus (who is looking at her really freaked out) by rubbing his shoulder.
Dr. Danville [to Jesus]:  It’s a hammer, right? You hammer nails. Can you say hammer?
Jesus: Hammer.
Tara:  I appreciate the doctor’s matter-of-fact demeanor while he corrects Jesus. He also shows him how the hammer is used, as well as contextualizing it by saying, “You hammer nails.” All of these things will help Jesus’s brain to form a connection to the word. Also, by asking Jesus to repeat the word, the doctor is further assessing the type of aphasia he has. (Certain types of aphasia are characterized by an inability to repeat words or phrases.) I feel terrible seeing the fear on Jesus’s face as he says, “Hammer.” He’s obviously confused as to what is happening with his brain and body. :( We see that even though Jesus is supplied with the word hammer, it still takes several seconds for him to process and verbalize the word. He is going to need time and patience from those around him as well as from himself to start to work through this new reality.
Dr. Danville: Good.
Stef: That’s it, bud. Way to do it. Way to do it.

Tara:  Love the reassurance Moms give, even though Stef in particular looks scared to death. 

Dr. Danville [takes a brush out of his bag]:  Can you tell me what this is?

Jesus:  Mmm...  It's a brush.

Dr. Danville: Good!  Good, good!

Tonia:  He's getting a little faster.  Whether it's because a brush is a more familiar object or not I don't know.  I did notice in addition to his arm twitching, his face actually twitches here.  Looks like it could be in reaction to the effort Jesus is putting toward finding the word.

Tara: In my experience, it is easier to say the category for the word - a catch-all - rather than attempting to find one specific word for the object I want to name.  

The first object was a tool - Jesus further specified to "screwdriver" in his search for the word "hammer."  However, in the case of the second word, the object is a hairbrush.  Saying "brush" is acceptable as all brushes can technically fall under this category.  (Toothbrush, hairbrush, paintbrush, make-up brush, toilet brush and so on.)
Dr. Danville:  As you can see, he’s experiencing some cognitive deficits.  Some neurological symptoms. The hand tremor.  The leg twitching.  
Tara: This terminology seems to have been used on purpose to sensationalize what Jesus is experiencing rather than to contextualize it as normal, given the trauma his brain has endured.  Dr. Danville taking Moms aside is better than talking about Jesus in front of him, like before.  They are still in the room with him, so he is not alone.  I’m sure, at that point, frequent breaks from everything are needed. Jesus would not deal well with someone by his side engaging him 24/7.

Tonia:  What I notice here is that despite how totally exhausted Jesus is, we can see him craning his neck and watching Moms and his doctor, discussing him in low tones, out of his earshot.  No doubt, Jesus is wondering what they don't want him to hear...
Dr. Danville: He’ll need some assistance walking, at least for a little while.  Just a, you know, walker or a cane.  I don't think he needs a wheelchair.  
Tara: Stop the presses!  Dr. Danville is a mind-reader!  He can tell just by looking at Jesus in the bed that he’ll need some assistance walking, (but not a wheelchair) even though the majority of brain injury survivors need a wheelchair, at least early on…  God forbid, Jesus might need one.  It’s not as if a wheelchair might offer him mobility and/or stability.  A walker or a cane are clearly superior options.  <--- Sarcasm

Tonia:  As a wheelchair user myself, Dr. Danville's reluctance to admit Jesus might need a wheelchair is just plain irresponsible.  If he needs the stability and safety that a chair provides early on?  Not providing him with one is just plain negligent and dangerous.  If he's making adaptive equipment recommendations, Dr. Danville would be the first to admit Jesus will likely need a wheelchair, at least for a bit.

Dr. Danville: Listen.  I am optimistic about his prognosis.  He's one of the lucky ones. But I have to warn you: his full recovery is going to take a long time.  

Tonia:  And here we are again with Dr. Danville talking about Jesus's 'full recovery' which is leading Moms to believe that such a thing is possible.  I feel like this could have been phrased differently, but I'm drawing a blank as to how...

Tara:  "I am optimistic about his prognosis.  He's one of the lucky ones.  He should regain a certain amount of function, but how much exactly is unknown.  Some things will remain different and perhaps more difficult.  But with your love and support, he will learn to accept himself as he is now and adapt accordingly."

Stef:  Okay.  Well, when can he come home?  

Dr. Danville: He's gonna need round-the-clock care.  But actually the hospital has a terrific inpatient rehab facility that specializes in TBI.  I'm sure I can get Jesus a room.  

Stef: Okay.  Well, we'll talk about it then.  We appreciate it.  Thank you.

Dr. Danville:  Good.  Okay.
Dr. Danville [to Jesus]:  So, I'm going to see you soon.  But before I go.  [He holds up the hammer again]  Do you remember what this is?
Jesus:  It’s a screwdriver. 
Tara:  I was given a heads up by a fan that this particular scene starting with the neurologist asking Jesus to identify the hammer looks to have been almost entirely lifted from a documentary on coma patients recovering.  (The scene in question starts at about 8 minutes and 30 seconds into the video.)   It’s notable that they lifted the entire scene from the coma documentary except for the very end.  In the documentary, the woman can correctly identify the hammer when she sees it again.  But Jesus is shown to persist in calling it a screwdriver, as if  to make him seem like an especially hopeless case.

Tonia:  Yes, and the ominous music seems to lend to this notion...
Mariana:  I’m afraid something’s really wrong with Jesus.  And Moms don't want to tell us anything 'cause they don't want to freak us out.  I just really want to see him.

Mat:  Hey.  He's gonna be alright.  I promise.

Mariana:  Okay.  Thanks.
Tonia:  Seriously, Moms need to let Mariana see Jesus.  It feels terrifying enough to know your twin is in serious medical danger, but to not be allowed to see him after the fact?  I was allowed to see my sis a couple hours after she was out of surgery.  It was scary, but good to be able to see her and talk to her.  I didn’t leave her side for two weeks, except at night.  I was always there.  I don’t know how Mariana’s dealing right now.  Or how Jesus is dealing with not being able to see her when we know his coma dreams were pretty exclusively focused on his sister.  They’re twins.  They need to be together. :(  I am very glad she has Mat, though.  In those moments, whenever friends reassure you, it’s super helpful.

Tara: This plot point is just done for drama and is super unrealistic, in my opinion.

Lena:  Oh.  Hey.  I just stopped by to pick up some papers.  Is it okay if I work from the hospital today?  Stef's got a thing and we didn’t want to leave Jesus alone.  

Monte:  Of course.  Hey. I don't want to add to your stress but did you happen to finish the, uh--

Lena:  The budget report.  I am so sorry, Monte.  I didn't get it done.  

Monte:  It's fine.  You can get it to me tomorrow.  How's Jesus?

Lena [tearfully]:  He's uh--  He's gonna be fine.

Monte:  And how are you?

Lena: know...  We're all just a little overwhelmed.

Monte:  I can imagine.  

Lena:  Yeah.

Monte:  Hey.  You know, if you need to take a leave of absence?  That's okay.

Lena:  Oh, no, no.  No.  Thank you.  But honestly, we couldn't afford it.  We're gonna be out of pocket on a lot of these expenses and we're gonna need both incomes.  

Monte:  Of course.  I understand.  Well, if there's anything I can do to help.

Lena:  Thank you, Monte.  For being so supportive.  I really appreciate it.

Tonia:  I love this conversation between Lena and Monte and how respectful Lena is of Jesus and his privacy.  Looks like she is struggling to keep up at work, though and does not want to take a leave of absence since they’ll need to pay for a lot out of pocket and honestly I'm not sure how I feel about the emphasis on financial burden here.  Healthcare in the US sucks, and unexpected injuries do cost.  

But focusing on that, and Monte saying she doesn't want to add to Lena's stress (implying that Jesus is her stress) is just kind of disheartening.  I can think of a billion things I'd rather see on The Fosters other than how much Jesus's brain injury is going to cost the family...

Mariana:  Jesus.  Jesus.  

Jesus:  [wakes up]

Mariana:  Hi.  I snuck in here to see you, so don’t tell Moms that I’m here.
Jesus:  What?  Wait.  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  What?  Why?  What?  Why?  What?  Wait.  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?
Tara:  I feel like they’re using this scene as shock value. When, in reality, Jesus is trying to ask questions, but he is overwhelmed and stuck repeating the same words over and over (perseveration.)  His questions actually make a lot of sense, given that Mariana just let him know that she had to sneak in to see him and that he should not tell Moms.   If they had just adequately prepared Mariana and answered her questions honestly, she could have reassured Jesus better, and this could have been an entirely different scene.  One focused on them connecting, after a long time of not seeing each other. 

Tonia:  I agree.  This scene is clearly focused on Mariana, and her reaction to Jesus.  Not Jesus and his legitimate questions.  As he asks "What?  Wait. Why?" again and again, the camera's focused on Mariana, who is quietly crying.  Jesus's question narrows, until he is only asking "Why?"  It's softer.  He's concerned.  But no one has been honest with Mariana, and I'd hazard to guess no one has been honest with Jesus either, about his aphasia.  So neither one really has a fair grasp of what is happening here.  When, like Tara said, if Mariana had been prepared adequately, and known ahead of time that Jesus's speech has been affected, it wouldn't be as much of a shock.  As it is now?  This scene feels nothing short of exploitative.

Stef: Mariana.  Honey.  

Jesus:  [glances from Stef to Mariana, scared]

Stef [to Jesus]: Hey, bud.  Hey, hey, hey.  Hey.  Everything's fine, bud.  Everything's fine.  You're doing good.

Jesus:  [looks even more frightened.  Stef's words are clearly not reassuring]

Stef [to Mariana]: Why don't we let Jesus get some sleep?  [To Jesus]:  Get some sleep, baby, all right?  Get some sleep.

Jesus [watches Stef shepherd Mariana out of the room]

Tonia:  I really hope that Lena is at the hospital somewhere at this point.  Or that she's in the bathroom and will be back momentarily.  It seems so cruel for Stef to separate the twins here.  For Stef to make Mariana leave and to leave with her.  Because that leaves Jesus all by himself.  

And Stef is clearly uncomfortable with Jesus here.  Her tone is all fear and fakeness and false optimism, and Jesus can tell.  Who does he have to reassure him?  What does he do after Mom leaves with Mariana?  Maybe he does sleep out of sheer exhaustion but I have no doubt that seeing Mariana - and seeing her like that - was difficult for him.  But no one is there to reassure him.

I always notice, too, the camera shot that's used at the end of the scene.  Jesus watches Stef and Mariana leave.  But we don't see his face.  Instead we see a his POV, but in a way that emphasizes the small patch of shaved hair post brain surgery.  And that's always felt unnecessary to me.

The most distressing part for me?  At this point, Jesus doesn't have a reliable way to communicate (other than a nurse button to summon someone, but that's assuming it's on his unaffected side, and has not fallen somewhere unreachable.)  And that will only get someone to the room at some point, it will not help Jesus communicate what he needs.  That's why he needs family there to follow what's going on and read his cues.  I'm not saying don't leave him ever.  He's in a hospital and he needs to rest, but he's clearly upset.  Leaving him now is just mean.

Tara:  Stef is scared about Jesus's communication difficulty here, and it shows.  We see how simple it is to isolate a person who cannot communicate easily.  We see Stef dismissing Jesus's worries and concerns for the first time post-injury.  She silences him.  Tells him to go to sleep for her convenience, because it is easier than starting to learn how to navigate his communication difficulties.  This is also where we see that the doctor's words do everyone a disservice.  By stating that the only acceptable facade expression terminology (google: "what is confidence") thing* emotion Moms can show to Jesus is confidence, he has robbed Jesus of being actually reassured by Stef. 

*I thought it might be interesting for readers to see word-finding difficulties in action, so the words under the strikethrough are the ones I went through trying to find the one I meant.  

Tonia:  I love seeing it, as I am not inside your head with you and do wonder at the process.
Stef:  Listen to me.  I know you are afraid.  Okay?  We're all afraid.  But you cannot cry in front of Jesus.  It scares him, love.  We gotta put on brave faces.  You hear me?
Tonia:  Yesterday, before this episode aired, Tara and I were talking, and I brought up what I was told before I went in to see her for the first time.  It was very similar to what Stef is telling Mariana here.  
I was told not to talk about school with her (because she was worried about having not been able to finish classwork, and thinking her teacher would be mad at her.)  But at 16, our whole lives were focused on school.  We did not have big social lives so most of our interaction with friends was at school.  To have such a huge limit placed on what we could discuss was beyond difficult.  Especially because she knew I wasn’t being honest with her.  She could always tell.  And it bugged her.  (Rightly so!)  
Prior to this, we told each other absolutely everything, so when she was recovering in the hospital, to have to resort to sanitized half-truths, when I really wanted to say sometimes: “You know what?  This friend really sucks right now,” was tough.  It created a rift between us that took years to begin to mend.
I was told to keep things as calm as possible, and not to get upset in front of her, because it would make her upset, too.  This conversation impacted how we interacted for years.  Until we realized that I had been functioning within this set of rules the entire time.  I would make sure I left her vicinity if I needed to cry.  
The big difference between myself and Mariana is that my family did answer all my questions honestly, and I appreciate that.  I was told how she looked early on.  I was told that they didn’t know what to expect when she did wake up.  So, unlike Mariana I always had all the facts. And that first night, hours after my sis was out of surgery, my family made sure I could come and see her.  Even though it was 9:00 at night and we didn’t leave until 11:00.  Our family always knew that as twins we needed each other.  She needed me as much as I needed her.  Often, in those early days, I just sat in the room with her as she slept.  It was comforting for both of us just to be near each other, and it makes me sad that Jesus and Mariana don’t have that. :(

Tara:  To say that they can't cry in front of Jesus because it scares him infantilizes him.  It suggests that, like a baby, Jesus reacts to emotions while not fully grasping words.  It is important to note that in Jesus's case, he does seem to understand speech even though he cannot reliably produce speech.  

To presume competence is to allow a person honor, respect and dignity.  
Mariana [still crying, nods]

Stef:  Okay?  We all do.  For him.  And you have got to stop disobeying us.  

Mariana:  Okay.

Stef:  No, it's not okay.  When are you gonna understand that you can't do whatever you wanna do whenever you wanna do it?

Mariana:  [crying]  I just wanted to know if he was all right.  And he's not, is he?  

Stef [hugs Mariana, whispers] He's gonna be.  And it's not your fault.  You hear me?  None of us blame you.  I think we gotta get you back in therapy.  So that you can look at these decisions you're making and why.

Mariana: [nods]  Okay.

Stef: I love you, baby.

Mariana: I love you, too.

Tonia:    This is really frustrating for me, on a couple of fronts.  First, I really hate that Mariana's getting lectured here about 'disobeying' when honestly in the same situation and given the means?  I would have done the exact same thing.  It frustrates me to no end that Stef keeps missing how important it is for Jesus and Mariana to have each other right now.

And secondly, that she tells Mariana not to cry in front of Jesus instead of reassuring her and explaining to Mariana what aphasia is and how it affects Jesus.  How she can best support him.  If Stef could address the root issue here, the twins would be a lot better for it.  The Gap post brain injury between twins is real, but it does not have to be this big right now between Jesus and Mariana...

Also while I agree that Mariana needs therapy (the whole family does, to be honest) bringing that up after Mariana takes seeing Jesus into her own hands just seems silly.  Mariana's making "these decisions" because no one's being honest with her about how Jesus is doing.  I will keep saying this forever: twins need each other.  Mariana's actions make sense.  Don't punish her for wanting to be close to her brother when he's hurt.


Lena:  How much longer are we gonna be able to keep this up?

Stef: As long as it takes, babe.  

Lena:  When they move him to that rehab center?  I can't imagine leaving him there at night.  

Stef: Well, I can't either.  But, I mean, we have to.  

Tara:  At what cost, though?

Tonia:  I forgot about this scene. It looks like Moms are packing so that, at least one of them (maybe Stef as she has the bag) will stay the night at the hospital.  It would explain how stressed they are at the idea of leaving Jesus alone overnight.

Staff Member at Inpatient TBI Rehab:  But we have twenty beds.  And, of course, a full time nursing staff.  We don’t have private rooms and we don’t allow families to stay overnight, but we have plenty of visiting hours.  Any questions?

Tara:  Though fairly typical as far as rehab facility rules, this would not work for Jesus, given his background, so I understand why Moms made the decision they did and brought him home.  He is not without follow-up care, as he will be doing outpatient therapy.

Tonia:  I don't like how the people's rooms are just there for everybody to see.  And that they all seem to be organized around the rehab room.  What a terrible view.  

Tara:  Yeah, the room set up is so not a thing.  It is likely an issue of only having so much room for sets and wanting to make full use of the sets they do have.


Jesus:  It's actually...pretty comfortable.

Stef: Yeah?  

Brandon:  Check it out!  Finally your own room!

Tara:  Um, that’s the living room, Brandon.  It’s pretty damn public and not good for taking breaks or sleeping.  Also, I am not sure about how much time has passed between the last time we saw Jesus in the hospital and now.  But we can see that he is able to speak more now.  This is similar to my own experience.  I had no speech prior to surgery.  Shortly after waking up, I progressed quickly, speaking one-word sentences, then two-word sentences and eventually full sentences in the same evening.

Tonia:  As someone who uses adaptive equipment, I always notice whenever we don't see the moments where accessibility could be an issue.  Jesus is just magically in the living room in the hospital bed but we don't know how he got there or how his brain injury may have affected his movement.  We haven't actually seen him ambulate at all, which is something I'm curious about, as I feel like he would not be released if he didn't have a way to move around.

Everyone: [laughs softly]

Jesus:  Yeah.  It only took a nail in the head.  [Reaches for a glass of water with his right hand, affected by the tremor.  Struggles to drink as his hand shakes]

Stef: Oh, it's all right, bub.  

About 3 people: [reach for Jesus to steady the cup]

Tonia:  It's just plain inaccurate to show Jesus reaching for a cup with his more affected hand.  It's instinct to reach for and hold things with whichever hand is steadiest.  Even if he is right-handed as he seems to be, realistically he'd reach with the other hand.  This seems to be yet another excuse to depict Jesus as childlike, or inept.
Jude:  [in a tone like Jesus is a toddler]  Good job!

Callie:  [smacks Jude]

Tara:  Jude’s talking down to Jesus here in what he says and how he says it but he’s at the perfect age for not knowing how to react in this situation and assuming incorrectly that Jesus just doesn’t understand.

Tonia:  ...and Jude responds to Jesus like he is both childlike and inept...

Stef: [to Jesus]  It's all right.  You're all right.  You're all right.

Jesus: [to Jude] You should see me pee.

Everyone: [laughs]

Jude:  [laughing] No, thanks.

Stef:  Hey.  You hungry, sweetheart?

Jesus:  Who, me?

Stef: Yeah, right?  Good!  We got pizza!  Pizza coming up, everybody!  Pizza, pizza pie!

Tonia:  It just bothers me to no end that Jesus still has water dripping off his chin here.  Somebody show him a little dignity and offer him a tissue to wipe his face.  All this work to unnecessarily infantalize Jesus just feels insulting.

Tara:  The effort made to diminish Jesus throughout this episode is disheartening.


Stef:  Thank you, by the way.  

Lena:  For what?

Stef:  For taking a leave of absence.  

Lena:  Well, you make more money, babe.

Stef:  Yeah, but still.  A lot’s going to fall on your shoulders, and I just want you to know that we’re going to give you lots and lots of support.  Okay?  

Lena: I just couldn't bear the thought of leaving our baby in that place every night, all alone.  

Stef: I know.  But he's home.  Everyone's home.  

Tonia:  I’m glad to know Stef and the rest of the family are planning to give Lena lots of support, because she will need it.  But I’m nervous that it will become about how much is falling on Lena’s shoulders and how Jesus’s injury is impacting the rest of the family and not so much how it’s impacting him, and his own adjustment to it.


Brandon:  I’m really sorry, Mariana.

Mariana:  It’s not your fault Mat broke up with me.

Tonia:  What strikes me most about Brandon coming to talk to Mariana here is where she is in relation to the rest of the family.  She’s distancing herself, most likely, because she’s not okay, and does not want to upset Jesus :(

Emma [helping Jesus hold a get well card and reading it aloud]:  Get a moooove on and get well quick!

Tonia:  There is seamless adaptation in this scene as Jesus holds the card with his less dominant hand and Emma is right there to assist, not only with the holding but also with the reading of the card.  We also had an Emma during this time in our lives and are of the firm belief that natural, easy help is the best kind <3


Stef: All right!  We got your pizza pie, my babies!  We got your pizza pie!

Lena:  Make room!  Make room!

Stef:  And the first piece goes to the man of the hour!  Jesus!

Jesus: [looking to Emma, unsure]  I, um--

Emma: [pats his shoulder and cuts him off]  It's okay.

Tonia:  Emma, you don't have any idea what Jesus is gong to say!  Don't cut him off!  Rude!

Tara:  Stef did the same thing earlier in the episode. Imagine if, every time you had something to say, someone quieted you.  

Lena:  [hands Jesus a hefty ceramic dinner plate with a slice of pizza on it]  Here you go.
Jesus:  Uh, Mom?  What is the round thing?

Lena:  That's a pepperoni, honey. It’s your favorite.

Jesus:  No.

Emma:  You love pepperoni.

Jesus:  I don’t want it, so...

Lena:  Okay.  Well, why don't you just take a bite and see how it tastes.

Jesus:  No.  No.

Lena:  Okay.  Let's uh--  Let's just take it off.  We'll just take it right off and then there's no more pepperoni.  

Stef:  We’ll just take it right off!  And then there's no more pepperoni!  So it's just--  It’s a cheese pizza pizza!  There we go!

Lena:  There you go.  So this is just cheese.

Jesus:  No!  I don’t want it!  I told you

Tara:  This is dismissive ableism in action.  Jesus’s brain injury seems to have flipped a switch in Moms and Emma so that his consent (or lack thereof) no longer matters.  They treat him like a toddler, instead of the teenager he is.  This is alarming because it is so normalized.  The way the scene plays, Moms seem completely in the right for not hearing Jesus out.
We can see that Jesus says no three times.  He tells them he doesn’t want it.  They still insist he try it.  They remove the pepperoni and call it a cheese pizza.  (Belittling much?)  
Now that he is injured, his words fail to have weight.  Jesus knows that, based on how he is treated.  He has told them no multiple times, but they are not listening.
When a person has limited speech, their loved ones need to listen more, not less.
As disabled people, the common assumption is that our needs and our reactions are unreasonable.  Even though in any other situation, they would be seen as unreasonable for not listening to him.  I’m not saying throwing the plate was okay.  But given his limitations and his loved ones’ ableism, it is an understandable last resort.
Speaking of the plate - who has pizza on fancy plates during a pizza party?  
Why would heavy dinnerware be the go-to option in this case?  For no other reason than shock value.  Throwing a paper plate on the floor might seem silly or pitiful.  Shattering a ceramic plate on a hardwood floor?  That seems violent.  Aggressive.  Dangerous.  This was an intentional choice on the show’s part to further dehumanize Jesus.
Jesus is going out of the frying pan and into the fire here, so to speak.  To take him from the hospital room where he only ever saw Moms, and then bring him home, where he’s surrounded by all the siblings, Moms and Emma?  It’s no wonder he got overwhelmed.  In this moment, when he’s saying no, no, no?  He needs a break.  He needs the lights off.  He needs quiet.  But they don’t realize that yet.
The truth is, Jesus is doing the best he can in his current situation, and his actions make complete sense.  But the way the scene is framed leads the audience to believe that Jesus is being aggressive for no reason.  Do not be misled.  Put yourself in Jesus’s shoes.  Try to imagine what he is going through.  He wakes up in a hospital bed, and all he is told is that he is okay.  That everything is fine.  Clearly, something has happened to his brain and body, but he is not being given the full picture.  And those he loves most are treating him like he is two years old.  Personality changes, my ass.  These reactions are legitimate.  Jesus has changed, yes.  But he is still Jesus. 
Jesus says no 4 times, and I don’t want it twice. 
 His words are dismissed 3 times by Lena, twice by Emma and once by Stef. 
And aphasia gets worse with stress.
Prior to this scene, Jesus was speaking varied sentences. As he gets repeatedly dismissed, we see him perseverate. Stress restricts ability to find the words he needs, and he is forced to repeat the ones he does have. The important thing to remember in these situations is that the few words being said could actually stand for a myriad of possibilities that Jesus is not able to verbalize in a moment of stress.
I don’t want it could mean:
- I am overwhelmed by the noise I am unable to filter, and I need a break.
-I am overwhelmed by the smell of the pizza, and I need it removed.
-I am exhausted, and feeding myself will take too much energy.  I need to rest first.
-I don’t feel well, and I need something lighter than pizza.
-I am embarrassed and self-conscious to eat in front of people now, because my tremor causes me to spill. 
And no means no.  Always.

Tonia:  Contrary to what's shown here, Jesus is not diminished because of his brain injury.  It did change him but it did not take away his right to advocate for himself and to have his words respected.  

For more:  Disability on The Fosters


  1. "When a person has limited speech, their loved ones need to listen more, not less." - I originally lost this in 'cut and paste' so it needs to be there. Ecoutez bien - listen well!

    "As disabled people, the common assumption is that our needs and our reactions are unreasonable. Even though in any other situation, they would be seen as unreasonable for not listening to him. I’m not saying throwing the plate was okay. But given his limitations and his loved ones’ ableism, it is an understandable last resort.
    Speaking of the plate - who has pizza on fancy plates during a pizza party?"

    Glass throwing scenes - what you think works on the page doesn't work on the screen or on stage.

    I did this in April 1997. And I wanted also to carry a cultural frisson; a sense of history.

    And a wooden block would have done the job if they were having wood-fired pizzas.

    And if you are all wound up and provoked like Jesus is in this scene and the scenes around there...

    And that is way too much attention/standing out.

    Can't the gentleman eat a pizza piece as and when he wants to? Maybe from the fridge? A cold pizza piece is a known quantity.

    "I am overwhelmed".

    "I am exhausted".

    "I don't feel well"

    "I am embarrased".

    "I am self-conscious".

    And it is good to see word-finding problems in action in this way, Tonia and Tara.

    1. Adelaide,

      Your point about plate-throwing working on the page better than it does on stage and screen is such a good one! Thanks for drawing our eye to that.

      We don't do wood-fired pizzas much - at least not where we live - in the States. In the pizza scene, they were brought in boxed, ordered from a takeout place. (But again, usually, when we eat pizza like this, we also eat it on paper plates. So like you're saying, the choice of a ceramic plate seems out of place at best.

      Yes, Jesus was very upset already and didn't need additional focus on him. He needed to be listened to. He needed for his parents to take him seriously when he told them no.

      I also loved the way Tara showed (and explained) aphasia in this recap. I haven't seen it articulated in this manner anywhere before, so I do agree that it is really important.

      And absolutely! Listen well, Moms!

      Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment. We realize this was a lot to read, but we really do appreciate knowing your thoughts!

    2. Tonia and Tara:

      It may well help you next time you write something. And then there's the whole visual and auditory imagination.

      There were no virtual/holographic screens to try it out on.

      The aphasia application / articulation was wonderful.

      And I may yet find other things to comment about.

      Wood-fired pizzas only became cool after the Meditterrean in the early 2000s.

      Seem to care more about externals/aesthetics with the set design and dressing.

    3. I look forward to any more comments you have <3

  2. Hi ladies,
    My computer is broken so I logged on somewhere else to tell you this is a wonderful review! I'll give more feedback next week hopefully. I especially love your thoughts on the pizza scene. Very informative!

    1. Hi Margot,

      Thank you so much! We're glad you enjoyed it and we look forward to your thoughts and POV. (I agree, Tara's thoughts on the pizza scene were extensive and sorely needed!)

  3. Great review. While I do definitely think a big chunk of what this show has in it is for shock value, I thought the “What? Why?” scene was still a bit effective because she’s still young and even if she had been prepared it might still have been startling to see Jesus’s verbal functions be effected. I do agree that they should not have left Jesus alone. Both should have stayed with Jesus. The scene with Stef telling Mariana to be strong for Jesus is exactly like what I was told when my friend was brain injured like he was suddenly so “fragile” and that really bugs me! :( Like I said, I completely agree about the pizza scene!

    1. It would still be startling to see firsthand that Jesus's speech was impacted, but Mariana's reaction would not have been that severe IMO. If she had the information prior, while still difficult, at least she would have some idea of what to expect, which in my experience, did help.