Monday, October 9, 2017

Review: The Fosters 4x14 "Doors and Windows"

Originally written: February 22, 2017


Stef:  Hey!  Come on, Miss Thang.  Let's go.  Time for school!

Mariana: [appears to be asleep]

Stef: Hello!  Come on!  I know you're awake!

Mariana:  I don't wanna go to school--

Stef: Oh, come on!

Mariana: --ever again.

Stef: [sits on Mariana's bed] Honey, listen...

Mariana: I wanna be homeschooled!

Stef: Okay.  Well, that is not an option, Mariana.

Mariana: Just the thought of seeing Mat and - and the whole school knowing that we broke up again.  It's completely humiliating.

Stef: I hear ya.

Mariana: I just can't believe we're not gonna be together.  

Stef: Well, I am sorry about that, love, but that is no reason to drop out of school.  'Kay?  You can talk about it in therapy today.

Mariana: [quietly] I don't wanna go to therapy.

Stef: So, you don't wanna do anything?  Come on.  This is not open for discussion.  He comes highly recommended, my love.  This is gonna give you a productive place to talk about all of these feelings.  

Mariana:  Ugh.  [flops back in bed]

Stef: Okay.  Enough with the melodrama.  Let's go.

Tonia:  Wow, Stef.  Dismissive much?  Mariana’s obviously having a tough time.  While I get that school is not optional, she needs to feel heard.

Tara: I agree.  I think, as parents, it may be difficult to strike that balance between hearing a child's concerns and letting them know that they can get through said emotional hardship.  Stef could be showing a bit more sensitivity to Mariana's upheaval here.


Lena: [approaches Brandon still waiting in line for the bathroom] Brandon, why aren't you dressed?  You're gonna be late.

Brandon: Can you talk to Mom?  Please?  We need our doors back!

Lena: Brandon, please, not now.  I--  The last thing I need is more stress.

Tonia:  Lena, if you, Stef, Brandon, Callie and Mariana are all upstairs and Jude left, who is downstairs with Jesus? 

Tara: No one.  No one is with Jesus.

Tonia:   Also, I’m more than a little uncomfortable at the fact that this episode seems like it is going to be all about everyone else’s stress (which is, apparently, Jesus) :(

[Callie leaves goes downstairs.  Stef, Lena and Brandon are still in the hall.  Mariana is now in the shower.]

[A thud sounds from downstairs]

Callie:  Moms!

[Stef, Lena and Brandon all rush to see what happened.  They find Jesus sprawled face down, head against the bottom step.  Callie has him under the arms, trying to help.  His cane is on the ground as well as a lamp and a framed picture that must have fallen when he did.  Jesus is not moving.]

Lena:  What?  Oh, my God.

[An inadvertent pause on Netflix had us terrified at this image of a prone Jesus lying on his face at the foot of the stairs]

Jesus: [gasps in pain]

Stef:  What happened, honey?!  What happened?!  

Lena:  What is it?

Jesus:  [crying] I just--  I just-- I just--

Stef: [sitting behind Jesus, whispering in his ear] Shhh...

Jesus: --wanted to be upstairs with, with, with everyone...

Stef: Okay, okay.  Okay, baby.  [Kisses Jesus]

Jesus: [sobs]

Stef: Take it easy.  Take it easy.

Tara:  The isolation is real, guys.  We see physical isolation in that the entire family is upstairs, leaving Jesus alone downstairs.  Normally?  No big deal.  (And probably why no one thought twice about it.)  However, Jesus realizes upon attempting to climb the stairs that he is literally cut off from his family.  (Which becomes even more poignant later in the episode, when Mariana verbalizes a memory from early childhood wherein the twins were abandoned in their crib for a day or more.)
With something like a brain injury, it is impossible to come to terms with all of the ways it will impact you.  In Jesus’s mind, he is perfectly capable of climbing the stairs.  He has been able to do so most of his life.  So, being forced to confront his physical limitations here is crushing and frightening for him.
Also, the show has made sure that we do not forget about PERSONALITY CHANGES that can occur post-TBI.  AGGRESSION.  The truth is that emotions in general are closer to the surface.  So, we see Jesus cry here.  And the family rallies around him.  
Note: In real life, a subsequent head injury is a very real concern.  Technically, Jesus should be wearing the helmet we see later all the time, now that he is ambulatory (but unsteady).  If this were real, the first question asked would be, “Did you hit your head?” And even if the answer was no, a trip to the hospital would not be out of the question.

Lets also talk about the fact that this scene is actually a comment on isolation post-brain injury.  There are numerous ways to write a scene about isolation without putting Jesus in harm's way completely unnecessarily.  

We could have gone downstairs to Jesus throughout the morning in a montage-like fashion, with him hearing the entire family upstairs.  We might see him look toward the stairs in frustration or sadness.  We might see what other lengths Jesus might go to in order to be seen and heard - knocking something over, attempting to call someone.  Or he may have attempted to cope quietly.  Play some evocative music over the scene, and you have a more respectful take.  And Jesus is less likely to have a subsequent head injury in the process.  Win/win.

Tonia:  This scene feels nothing short of exploitative, unnecessary and ableist to me.  

As Tara pointed out, this scene could have been done any number of ways that did not include Jesus falling and getting injured unnecessarily.  To me, it plays out as yet another excuse for Moms especially to coddle and/or baby Jesus.  Stef's tone in particular absolutely is that of a parent who just heard her toddler fall on the stairs and came to investigate.  She asks him what happened and then proceeds to shush him when he tries to explain?  Please have more respect for your son, Stef.  Hear him out.  You asked him what happened, at least have the courtesy to listen to what he's telling you.

This is an example of a scene that just did not need to happen this way at all.  Its intention is to draw attention to just how tragic and sad Jesus's life is now that he has a disability.  He's unnecessarily vulnerable in a situation where he could have had (and should have had) accommodations in place for his own safety.

When Tara's brain injury happened, we were also 16.  Our parents room was upstairs.  All of us older kids had rooms downstairs.  As such, when Tara came home, our parents put an intercom in our room so that they could hear her, should she need something.  This is always what I think of when I consider Jesus down in the living room alone.  He needs a way to connect with his family, not only for his emotional health but for his own safety.

It's also notable that later in the episode, we see Jesus wearing a helmet, but this morning, for whatever reason, he is not.  So he's exceptionally vulnerable to subsequent injury.  There is no reason that if he has a helmet, he should not have it on while he's walking around.

Similarly, once home, Tara had a transfer belt (which Jesus wears in one of the therapy scenes).  This was so that someone could hold onto it to help her keep her balance.  She also had a wheelchair (which most every single brain injury survivor we have ever seen has had, especially early on.)


[A notice from Anchor Beach Charter School reads in part:   "Dear Lena and Stef, We are pleased to introduce you to the newest member...ABCCS team, a Speech and Language Pathologist! A note from Taube Leah Davidovich: I am happy to be a new member of Anchor Beach Community Charter School, a truly extraordinary school, working with students referred for Response and Intervention for speech and language. As a former professor of Music Therapy and Music Education and California State University... "]

Emma:  How's Jesus?

Mariana:  He fell down the stairs this morning.  

Emma: [looks shocked and scared]

Mariana: Well, up, technically.  I think he just really wants to get back into his bedroom, and out of that dining room, you know?  

Emma:  [nods]

Mariana: It can get pretty lonely down there.
Tonia:  How devastating, especially knowing what’s coming up as far as the reveal about the twins’ past.  Mariana totally gets how loneliness could drive Jesus’s actions here.  Her adding, “It gets pretty lonely down there,” shows that Jesus’s feelings are reasonable and that they make complete sense to her.  It’s not like, “Oh, Jesus was ridiculous and tried to climb stairs by himself when he shouldn’t have.”  These two don’t handle being alone well, which, given their early history, makes complete sense :(

It also strikes me that Mariana's guessing (accurately, but still) at why Jesus was climbing the stairs.  But it seems like they have yet to actually have a conversation.  The family isn't talking to Jesus.  And even when they do, he is immediately shushed.


Jesus: [is doing exercises with weights as he sits on a ball trying to keep his balance.  It's worth noting that in this scene, he is also wearing his helmet]

Tomas:  Up.  Down.  You got it.  You got it.  Good.  Now side to side.  Uh-huh.  Good.  The sooner you get your balance back, the sooner you'll get up those stairs.  

Jesus:  [softly] I hate you.

Tomas: [laughs gently] Just wait til we add the flash cards.  [To Lena] Combining physical activity with cognitive exercises actually helps the brain re-wire itself.  Okay, Jesus.  What's this say?  [Tomas holds up a flashcard that reads boat]

Jesus: [visibly sweating with exertion and looking scared.  He eventually drops the weights beside him.]  I'm done.

Tomas: No.  Come on.  Not yet.  Five sets of flash cards.  Here we go.  Come on.

Jesus:  No.

Lena:  Honey, you can do this.

Jesus: Shut up!

Lena:  Jesus...

Tomas:  Okay.  Hey, let's just take a little break.  Louise?

[Another therapist approaches and starts helping Jesus]

Tomas: [To Lena] Let me get you a cup of coffee.

Lena: [passing in front of Jesus] Is it too early for Vodka?
Tara:  Imagine walking into room, and not realizing that it is actually a live rock show.  The intensity of the music through the amps, so loud you can feel it.  The crowd of people.  Flashing lights.  Colors.  Smells.  Screams.  Applause.
Now, imagine that you’re expected to take a final exam while you’re there.
Seems pretty ludicrous, right? 
But this is what it is like after a brain injury.  The ability you once had to seamlessly filter information is compromised.  So, while neurotypicals like Lena and the therapist are able to carry on conversation and focus on what needs to be done, someone like Jesus struggles.
The activity in the room, extraneous conversations and other noise, the bright colors, fluorescent lights all assault Jesus’s senses simultaneously before PT or cognitive therapy even begins.
Now, lets add another layer.  Jesus is sitting on an exercise ball trying to balance while contending with his right-sided tremor.  (During a live rock show.)
He is simultaneously using free weights - again, while contending with the tremor.  (During a live rock show.)
Also, Jesus has to pick out the therapist’s voice from the sea of other noise. Listen to him.  Process what he is saying.  And follow his instructions. While sitting on the exercise ball and using the free weights.  (During a live rock show.)
Then, the therapist introduces flashcards. :/
Aphasia can also affect a person’s ability to identify letters.  And reading is also an act of filtering, believe it or not.  
1. Jesus may or may not recognize all of the letters in the word boat.  (I had trouble identifying/saying letters that had similar counterparts, like b, d, g, p, q, m, n, u and w as well as those that I did not use frequently such as x, y and z.)
2. He may experience all of the letters in the word rushing at him simultaneously. (Because of an inability to filter.)  This is understandably overwhelming, and it can impact Jesus’s ability to pause and attempt to read the word.
3. Most importantly, Jesus realizes that he should know this stuff.  Not all that long ago, he would have been able to accomplish everything asked of him easily.  He is not unaware of that fact.  So, he is understandably embarrassed and crushed.
And the live rock show plays on.
Again, we see that the stress of therapy has limited his speech:  
I hate you could mean This is hard / I hate having to struggle through things I used to do easily.
I’m done first and foremost means that for the moment, he is done and needs a break.  It could also mean I’m embarrassed to have not been able to immediately recognize and read the word.  
No means no.
Shut up (responding to Lena’s “Honey, you can do this”) could mean 

No I can’t / Listen to me / Respect my limits.
This is the hardest part of the scene to watch.  Lena is attempting to encourage Jesus, as the neurologist recommended.  
However, both of the adults in the scene have failed to listen to Jesus.  He drops the weights and says “I’m done” - a clear message despite limited speech - I need a break.  He is immediately countered by the therapist that not only does Jesus need to read the boat flashcard, but a full 5 sets of flashcards when he is already at his limit.
He says no, which Lena follows up with “Honey, you can do this.”  Which is well-meaning and also ableist.   He clearly could not read the card in that moment, so she is not respecting his limits or the fact that he said no. 
They take a break after Jesus yells.  Not when he says he’s done.  And the break is clearly for the adults, who promptly leave Jesus in the care of an aide of some sort, so they can procure coffee and/or vodka.  
What is Jesus’s break like?  Does he even get to leave the room? 
Tonia:  Also, I just rewatched 4A, and in particular 4x09, (the episode where Jesus finds Stef’s journal and reads what she wrote, that Lena didn’t want to adopt him and Mariana.)  We can see it affects him by how abruptly he closes the journal and tries to hide it from Mariana, and the way in which he tells Moms what is upsetting Mariana.  It is obviously affecting Jesus, too.  This discovery is in the episode before he is injured, and while we know that Lena followed through with Mariana and went into more depth about where she was coming from at the time, Jesus was not included in this conversation - though it applied to both twins.
While he is in the coma (4x12) we can see just how big his fear of being abandoned is.  He dreams his family moved and left him behind, with no forwarding address.  Little Mariana is there, cautioning and trying to protect, but there is no sign of actual Mariana, no other sibs, and notably, no Moms.  Lena plays a very specific part in his dreams, too.  She is actually physically there and he follows her, at one point, and keeps trying to get her attention, but she never turns around.  Most difficult, when Jesus dreams of being at Mariana’s funeral, Stef says, “It’s all your fault,” but it’s Lena who says, “We wish it were you.”

To have her walk away and joke about needing a drink now that Jesus has this brain injury?  It speaks so directly to his fears of her abandoning him.  It’s every (older) adopted kid’s nightmare.  To have their deepest fears of being left confirmed.  She is walking away.  And Jesus may feel like now that he is struggling with so many things, and having honest, big feelings about it, it’s gonna be too much for Mama to handle.  And maybe she won’t love him anymore.  Being disabled and adopted is so complex.  And adoptive parents are not immune from saying and / or doing things that reaffirm their adopted child's deepest fears that they will no longer be loved or wanted, because that is what their experience of parents tells them is the norm. This fear always exists and being disabled (for an adopted child) can seem to give an adoptive parent a concrete reason to stop loving them.  To leave them.  Even, to mistreat them.  
Tomas:  Outbursts like that are totally common in people with TBIs so try not to take it personally.  

Lena:  Yeah, uh, our doctor warned us.  How long is he gonna be like this?

Tomas:  It's hard to say.  For some people with TBI, the short fuse never goes away.  

[Ominous music plays as Lena swallows and looks at Jesus who is struggling with the help of a therapist to finally sit in a wheelchair]
Tara:  Lena asking this question and being met with explanations by the PT about “outbursts” and Jesus’s “short fuse” ignore and dismiss Jesus’s perspective.  
This is also the first moment in the episode where we stay with the caregiver POV, instead of with Jesus.  We see that Lena and Tomas both dismiss Jesus’s anger as a symptom, instead of a legitimate reaction to his treatment and circumstances.  The crying earlier was not seen as a symptom, however.  Comfort was given in that moment, because crying is seen as an acceptable reaction.  Disabled people are generally pitied by society, and it is expected that we pity ourselves.  Disabled anger is rarely viewed as valid.  Our public existence is linked inextricably with how we make nondisabled people feel.  We are, in many instances, viewed as objects of inspiration.  If we cry, a nondisabled person can comfort us and feel good about that.  Being in the vicinity of anger, though, does not feel good.  And as such, it is often dismissed as an overreaction or a symptom.

Tonia:  Imagine Lena is at work, and overwhelmed, and needed a break, and made it clear not once but twice.  Instead of supporting her, though, Stef (who is watching her work) says, "Honey, you can do this," after Lena has made it clear that she can't, would Lena's reaction to that be called a short fuse?  Or would it be seen as reasonable that Lena might get up and walk away, for example? 

Jesus cannot get up and walk away here, as Lena might in a similar situation.  He's forced to rely on words only here.  And as Tara noted, his words become restricted in times of stress.  Yelling is a last ditch effort.  He's said "I'm done."  He's said "No."  But as disabled people, we are often pushed past our own limits.  They are not acknowledged because it's often assumed that nondisabled people know better than we do about what we need and what we can handle.


Jesus: [works on separating coffee beans and pennies from a plate into their own containers.  This is a struggle as he has to use the hand affected by the tremor.]  This is hard.

Lena:  I know, honey, but Tomas said that it will help you with your tremor.

Tonia:  Wow, Lena's sitting right there, isn't she?  And if that's not enough, in the audience during The TBI Show (that is, Jesus doing therapy) Emma is also observing.  Tara did have friends over during recovery, but they never came to watch her do therapy.  That's when you're super vulnerable.  No one wants their friend or significant other watching them do this stuff, especially a high schooler...

Jesus: [struggles to keep hold of a penny but it drops on the table just short of its container.  Mama and Emma look on.]

Tonia:  Oh, now this is just brutal and humiliating.  Stop watching him!  Get a therapist to come to the house or set him up to work on this and keep yourself busy on your phone or in the next room.  This is terrible.

Tara:  Oh, fine motor tasks.  How I loathe thee.  Jesus is painstakingly separating coffee beans from pennies, and I feel for him.  Because we see clearly that, with brain injury recovery, the therapy literally never ends.  Not only is the task tedious - it’s boring.  And it is complicated further by the fact that it is actually difficult for Jesus to do right-handed, which is super embarrassing in and of itself.  Never mind that Lena and Emma feel the need to hover and/or supervise such a mundane exercise.  So, something that already makes him feel excruciatingly self-conscious quickly becomes unbearable the moment he makes a mistake in front of two people he feels he needs to impress.

[Lena and Emma exchange glances]

Jesus: [not looking at either one]  Can I have some water?

Emma:  I can keep an eye on him.

Lena:  Yeah.  

Jesus: [picks  up the dropped penny and puts it where it goes as Lena walks to the kitchen.  When she is out of sight, Jesus uses his other hand to empty the plate into the correct container.]

Emma: [comes to sit closer; admonishing softly]  Hey!

Jesus: What?  [throws a coffee bean at her]

Emma: Don't.  [laughs and throws one back]

Jesus: [laughs too]

Tara:  With so much of the day scheduled within an inch of its life, it is no wonder that Jesus jumps at the opportunity to get Mama out of there and goof off a bit with Emma.  I love seeing them able to just breathe and enjoy each other, and that Emma does not try to “parent” Jesus.

Tonia:  I agree.  I love this moment where they are just with each other having fun.

Lena: [walks back in with a glass of water, which she inexplicably sets across the room from Jesus.  She knows Jesus has 'cheated' the fine motor task. It's clear in her skeptical tone]  Oh wow...  That's--that's great...

Jesus: Yeah.  I'm--I'm done.

Lena:  Nope.  One more time.

Jesus: No.

Lena: Just one more time, honey, and then you can take a break.

Jesus:  [sweeps the plate, pennies and beans onto the floor] I said no!

Lena:  Jesus!

Tonia:  Okay, so Jesus asks for water.  Mama agrees to leave him for two seconds because Emma promises to "watch" him.  Then, Mama comes back with the water.  In a glass.  Come on, Lena.  Your son has a hand tremor and iffy balance at this point.  Give him something that's not breakable, please.  Also, how is he even supposed to get that water, all the way across the room?  Is it a "reward" for completing therapy?  Because it shouldn't be...

Tara:  Mama is not happy when she comes back.  And when Jesus says, “I’m done,” it is once again disregarded.  :(  The AGGRESSION does not come out of the blue.  It is communication that Moms actually acknowledge.

Jesus: [gets up and struggles to climb the step out of the living room.  Brandon, who came in a bit ago, spots Jesus and puts an arm out behind him.]

Brandon:  Okay.  Alright.  Alright.  Alright.  Alright.  [puts a hand on Jesus's back, but removes it when Jesus shrugs it off]

[Brandon and Emma make eye contact.  Emma's eyes are full of tears]
Tara:  It is nice to see Brandon respect Jesus’s body language and resist the urge to help him up the step when he leaves.  
Tonia:   It is, but again, as the camera lingers on Emma's face here.  We don't even know where Jesus goes at this point.  (For reference?  He's doing therapy in his bedroom essentially.  Which gives him nowhere to retire to when he needs a break, as he clearly does.)  


Lena: [gets the broom, breathes and paces with it, trying to get herself together]

Brandon:  Hey, you know, I--I got it.  [Takes the broom from Lena]  And why don't you let me take Jesus to therapy tomorrow?  You could use the break.  [Leaves with the broom]

Lena: [exhales]
Tara:  Here we have the second time that a choice was made to stay with the caregiver POV rather than with Jesus.  Isn’t it interesting how, in this moment, Brandon is able to see that Lena needs a break by taking her nonverbal cues?  He gives her the space she needs, and even offers to further accommodate her by taking Jesus to therapy the next day. 

Tonia:  Right?  Lena doesn't even have to say she's overwhelmed here.  Brandon knows she is, and responds in a way that respects that she is at her limit.  


Mariana: [Tracks lights back and forth with her eyes for a few seconds, finally blinks and looks away]  Okay.  Why am I doing this?

Therapist: Ah.  Well, EMDR uses rapid eye movement to lessen our distress when recalling traumatic experiences.  Lets us talk about our feelings.  And it also helps us reprogram our responses to those upsetting memories.

Mariana: [softly, upset] Okay...

Therapist:  Let's just...give it a try, see how it feels, okay?

Mariana: [tracks the lights]

Therapist: Why don't we begin with the moment you discovered Nick in your room?  You saw the gun.  How did you feel?

Mariana: Scared.

Therapist: Anything else?

Mariana: Powerless, I guess.

Therapist:  Okay.  You ever felt that way before?

Mariana: Yeah.  Sure.  Bunch of times.

Therapist: Like when?

Mariana: Like when the whole robotics team turned on me.  

Therapist:  Okay.  Any others?

Mariana: When my mom got shot and we thought she was gonna die.

Therapist:  Yeah.  When was the very first time you remember feeling powerless?

Mariana:  Jesus and I were babies.  We were in our crib crying, calling out for our mom, but she never came.  

Therapist:  How long did you wait?

Mariana:  I don't know.  It could have been a day.  Maybe longer.

Therapist:  And how did you feel as that abandoned little baby?

Mariana:  [as tears fall]  Scared...and powerless.
Tonia:  We just watched a podcast about PTSD and EMDR yesterday, so it was really interesting to get to see Mariana do EMDR here.  
Though Mariana and Jesus are very much separated in this episode, each dealing with their own stuff, and even though their stuff is different, it is bringing up the same feelings for both of them.  In Jesus’s case, dealing with medical trauma brought back his early feelings of being abandoned and feeling responsible for Mariana, as we saw in his dream in 4x12.  And in Mariana’s case, Nick hiding in the house and pulling a gun on her triggered feelings that date all the way back to when they were babies.  

Definitely adds even more insight to why Mariana so sympathetic to Jesus's loneliness, being by himself downstairs.


Stef: [hears tapping and comes out of her room to investigate.  She finds Mariana hanging a sheet in her open doorway.  Previously, Stef had the kids remove their bedroom doors because she was tired of them keeping secrets]  What the hell are you doing?

Mariana:  [pulls back the sheet and smiles]  It's okay.  My therapist gave me permission.  

Stef:  Your therapist gave you permission?

Mariana:  Yes.  An important part of my recovery is taking my power back.

[Lena approaches]

Stef: By disobeying your mother?

Mariana:  Look.  This isn't about you.  This is about me.  

Stef: [gapes at Lena]

Mariana:  And I feel powerless having zero privacy so I'm changing that.  Also, he wants to talk to all of us together but...I told him that wasn't gonna happen since you guys are so busy...  But he assured me that since you guys love me, you'll make time to come in.  

Lena:  When?

Mariana: Tomorrow.  At three.

Stef: Tomorrow.  Hm.

Mariana:  You know what?  Forget it.  It's fine.

Lena:  No--  No, honey.  We will--we will make the time.  

Mariana:  Are you sure?

Lena: [nods]

Mariana:  [bright smile]  Great!  Well, if you have anymore questions or concerns about my privacy, we can discuss them then.  Good night!

Stef: [gapes at Lena again]  Uh, are we in trouble?

Lena:  I think the point is, Mariana is.

Stef:  Yeah, I get that!

Tonia:  The thing that leaps out at me the most in this scene is that how clear Mariana is about her boundaries.  Putting them up physically and making them with Moms even in terms of the conversation.  She does this, though, with her Smart Voice.  With her reflexive smile.  Both are like armor, that she is clinging to.  (Likely because she does not feel listened to when she is vulnerable and honest with Moms.)  Mariana needs them to take her seriously, so she goes over their heads here, and does not give them a choice.  It all feels a bit manipulative, too, which is not surprising, given just how little she and Jesus could trust adults to take care of them as babies.  She is used to using manipulation to get her needs met, to a certain extent.  It’s a survival skill that she has not totally lost.


Jesus:  [is standing between the parallel bars with his right foot - affected by the leg twitch - on a BOSU Balance Trainer which looks like half an exercise ball mounted on a rigid frame.  His other leg is behind him on solid ground.  Jesus is struggling with this.]

Brandon:  All right.  You got this bro.

Jesus:  I'm not...your bro.

Brandon:  Actually, you are, or did you forget that, too?

Tara:   Inappropriate.  (But so true to life.)  A little tip for our readers?  Don’t be like Brandon.  To insinuate that someone is in brain injury rehab because they “forgot” how to perform certain tasks is so minimizing.  Because what Jesus is doing right now is not “remembering.”  He is actually retraining his brain.  Forming new connections, making pathways around the damaged areas.  

Jesus: [Reorganizes his balance.  Glares at Brandon.]

Tomas:  Come on, Jesus.  Stay focused.

Tonia:  Huh.  Here's an idea.  Maybe Jesus could stay focused if Brandon would stop talking to him while he was trying to work...

Brandon: Come on, bro!  You got this!  Come on!  Let's do this!  

Jesus:  It's hard!

Tonia:  Visible in this shot, on the wall behind Jesus, is a poster that advises:

We recommend that you teach the survivor to use the six R's coping strategy:

- Recognize

- Reduce
- Retreat
- Relax
- Rethink
- Return

First?  This feels like a lot of steps to keep in one's head when they're already dealing with pain, filtering sensory input and making new pathways in their brains.  And secondly?  It strikes me that Jesus has already attempted (on more than one occasion) to implement this based on gut instinct alone.  But it doesn't work if the family does not also recognize his limitations and allow him to take breaks as needed.  So it seems much more prudent to teach the survivor's family to use the Six R's as a coping strategy...

Brandon:  I know!  But you can do this!  Come on!  Let's go!

Tara:  Brandon, your cheerleading is super annoying.

Jesus:  Just go away, man.

Tara:  Miraculously, Brandon listens.  (PSA to the family: If Brandon can do it, you can too!)

It is such a delicate balance, because you do want and need support in rehab from family and friends.  However, you feel embarrassed to your very core to be working on such basic things.  And everything everyone says feels condescending, so it’s almost intolerable having people watch you.  
Tonia:  As Brandon is walking away, we got to see this hideous poster on the wall that reads:  HEALING IS WORTH IT!  DON’T GIVE UP!  In it, a person is standing up victoriously from a wheelchair in the sunshine. I’d like to know what it implies if an injury means you must use a wheelchair to get around?  (Giving up?  Not trying hard enough?)  Also, where is the super ableist store where these awful posters are procured?  Ew… 


Grace:  Hi!  Can I help you?

Brandon:  My brother is, uh, a patient here, and I was just wondering - this class - what is it exactly?

Grace: Music therapy.

Brandon:  That noise was therapy?

Grace:  That...noise can actually re-wire an injured brain.

Brandon:  Well, maybe I should have my brother come check out your class then.  He uh...has a TBI and he's getting really frustrated in physical therapy, so...

Grace:  Ah.  Yeah.  You know, music works wonders when it comes to improving movement.  It shares the same circuit as motor control, so... 

Brandon:  Wow.  I'm a musician as well.  I play piano.  But I've just never heard of music being used that way.  Are you free now?  Could I maybe get you a cup of coffee?

Grace:  Whoa, there, Beethoven.  I have a boyfriend.

Tara:  At this point, there is a poster behind Grace that reads:  TODAY, I’M TELLING MY TBI I’M IN CHARGE!  Because, you know, it’s that easy.  And all disabilities can be cured by the power of positive thought. (<-- Sarcasm)

Brandon:  Oh, I, um... I'm not like looking for a girlfriend or...or anything.  I just wanted to ask you some questions to see if I could help Jesus.  That' brother.  
Tonia:  While I think it’s great that you’re asking about music therapy, Brandon (possible avenue for you?) how about you ask Jesus what he needs from you instead of asking everyone else how to rewire his brain?  I’m sure his answer would be much different than theirs, as well, considering that it seems like he just wants to be connected to you guys and not so isolated.  Everybody is so afraid to ask him questions and I feel like they could learn so much if they did.  Also, we are not sure how we feel about Brandon outing Jesus to the music therapy student here.  While it is assumed that patients here are recovering from TBI, and Jesus did tell Brandon to go away, I’m not sure he’d like knowing you talked about his injury to a perfect stranger…

Grace:  Oh.

Brandon:  Yeah.

Grace:  Um...I'm busy right now.  I have to do some homework.  But, uh, you're welcome to sit in on one of my classes.  I'm here every day at this time.  I have to ask my supervisor, but I'm...sure it will be fine.  

Brandon:  Okay.  Yeah, maybe I will.  I'm the way.

Grace:  Grace.


[Lena walks in the house hearing Row, Row, Row Your Boat being played on piano.  Stops in the living room doorway to see Jesus and Emma at the piano, and Brandon standing alongside it]

Jesus and Emma: [laugh as they play]

Brandon:  There you go!  That's it, Jesus!  That's great! Emma, not so much...

Tara:  I love that this scene is included.  We see Jesus and Emma both engaged in playing Row Row Row Your Boat, where Brandon could have asked Jesus to play it himself.  But there is so much less pressure this way.  Brandon gives feedback to both and is not afraid to correct Emma.  Being able to succeed at a task gives Jesus a much-needed sense of accomplishment, which is rare in the days of brain injury recovery.  Also a plus?  Music feels fun and less like work.

Tonia:  Brandon's got the full-on Pity Voice in action for Jesus.  Emma gets Brandon's regular voice.

All: [laugh]

Lena: [claps from the doorway]

Brandon:  Uh, try it again guys.  Try it again.
Jesus and Emma: [start again, still laughing]

Brandon: [walks to Lena, speaks quietly]  It's great, right?

Lena: [looking surprised and happy] Yeah!

Brandon: I met this music therapy student at the rehab center that works with TBI patients.  And she was telling me how music can re-wire the brain.  

Lena:  Really?

Brandon:  Mm-hmm.

Lena:  That's amazing.  Thank you.

Tonia:  Because every hour of Jesus's day must be dedicated to therapy, because he is not enough as is :(

Tara: Does anyone else find it odd that Lena is thanking Brandon here?  Just me?  Okay then.

Tonia:  Nope.  Not just you.  It's super gross.

Emma: [to Jesus, laughing] You're so good!

Jesus: [laughing] You're so bad!

Brandon:  Okay, guys.  Let's do this from the top, one more time.  Let's go.  One, two, three, four...

Jesus and Emma: [start playing again]

Brandon:  That's good.  That's good.  And, Emma, just make sure you keep your hands here [Brandon steps between Jesus and Emma and places a hand on Emma's] and then go all the way to the top.  That's good.  There you go.  Just like that.  Got it?

Emma:  Yeah.

Brandon:  All right.  Let's start over.

Jesus: [watches Brandon and Emma interact silently]

Brandon: [to Jesus, patting him on the shoulder] You're doing good.  You're doing good.

Tonia:  Yeah, except Jesus totally had a dream in his coma that you and Emma were making out, Brandon.  And that she said Jesus was "too dumb for her."  Pretty sure that's where Jesus's thoughts are right about now, especially as you two have never previously interacted.  Definitely never touched.

Therapist:  Well, I think she does have PTSD, which is not surprising, given what happened to her with Nick.  But I think it goes deeper than that.  All the way back to early childhood.  And unfortunately some of those same feelings - feelings of fear and powerlessness - are being re-experienced by her at home.

Stef:  Well, I mean, does this have to do with the doors being taken off?  

Therapist:  That's one example, yes.

Lena:  That's one example.  So, in what other ways does she feel powerless at home?

Tonia:  Pretty sure those feelings are being exacerbated by Mariana being so isolated from Jesus and him from her.  They were each other's only constant through some pretty major trauma as babies and through early childhood.  To keep them apart now is super damaging.  (I know I keep saying it, but it keeps being true.)

Stef: 'Cause honestly, from my perspective, she exerts her will on all of us, pretty much all of the time.

Therapist:  I'm glad you used those words, 'from my perspective', because that's really the issue here.  

Tonia:  Ooh, ouch, Stef.  Mariana’s therapist just got done telling you he thinks she has PTSD and that she’s reexperiencing feeling powerless at home, and that’s what you’re going to say?  I feel like Moms could probably use therapy, too, to be honest.  I’m glad the therapist is there, guiding them through this so that Mariana knows her feelings are valid.

Therapist: [lays a card down on the table.  Looks to Stef]  Tell me what you see right there.

Stef: Um...I guess that's a "W".

Therapist:  Lena?

Lena:  Um...I see a "3".

Therapist:  How about you, Mariana?

Mariana: Obviously, it's an "M".

Therapist:  Well, I see an "E".  My point is that we can never assume that our perspective is the only perspective.  Which is why communication is so important.  
Tonia: So true.  OMG.  Her therapist is so wise.

Stef:  All right.  Well, communication is not the problem in our family.  I don't think it is.  The secrets are, which is the failure to communicate.  Not to mention deliberately withholding, misbehaving, flat out lies...

Therapist:  And that's why you took all your kids' doors off.

Stef: Yeah.

Therapist:  I absolutely hear your frustration.  However, bedroom doors aren't the reason kids shut their parents out.  Lack of trust is.  Trust that you're going to hear them.  Trust that you're going to respect their feelings without assigning your own perceptions to them.  
Tonia:  This is also so true.  And I’d imagine it’s really hard for parents to listen without letting their own perceptions get in the way of hearing and respecting their kids’ feelings.

Stef:  Okay, but do we do that?  When have we done that?  

Lena:  We always encourage the kids to talk to us.  All the time.  About anything.

Mariana:  But then you call me melodramatic, and act like my feelings aren't as important as...Jesus's injury, or Brandon's drama, or Callie maybe going to prison.  Okay, well, maybe their problems are a lot bigger than mine, but--

Lena:  No, honey.  Don't do that to yourself.  Nick held a gun to your head.
Tonia: I love this exchange between Lena and Mariana.  How Mariana can clarify how she feels about being called melodramatic and that it literally makes her doubt the validity of her feelings in front of them.  Lena can see that and cautions her about it, reminds her that her feelings do matter.
Therapist:  And that's the challenge, isn't it, as parents?  To treat every child respectfully?  And that's one way we can earn their trust.  And hopefully then they'll share their secrets.

Tonia:  Do you hear this Moms?  Every.  Child.  Respectfully.  Including your son in the living room, Jesus.  (Oh, gosh, who is at home with Jesus????)  His injury does not exclude him from deserving your respect.

Brandon: [walks upstairs, hears crying, looks behind the sheet to find Emma crying on Mariana's bed]  Oh, I'm sorry.  I thought it was Mariana.

Emma:  She's at therapy.

Tonia:  So, Brandon’s home, but doesn’t know Emma’s in Mariana’s room and Brandon doesn’t know that Mariana’s at therapy.  So he doesn’t know Moms are at therapy with her.  Again, I ask, who is with Jesus?  I get that he does not want to be stifled all the time but it seems that the only people home are on a completely different floor of the house and no one seems concerned that he has no way to reach them if he needs something.

Brandon:  Are you okay?  Did Jesus yell at you?  You can't take that personally.  It's just because of his injury.  It's like he has no filter.  
Tara:  Exhibit #554992 - Jesus’s anger is not legitimate.

Tonia:  Perhaps if the actual medical professionals were not informing the family that Jesus's anger has suddenly become a symptom and not legitimate they wouldn't treat it like a symptom.  (I can't watch this scene and not think of Tomas telling Lena earlier in the episode that "outbursts like that are totally common in TBI patients" and that she "shouldn't take it personally."  Instead of advising her to listen to what he's able to tell her / communicate and to take that seriously...)

Emma:  No, I know.  He's never yelled at me.
Tonia:  Look at that!  Maybe it’s because you treat him like a person, Emma!

Emma:  It's just...there's something that I need to tell him and I'm not sure that I should.  

Brandon:  Is it something you can tell me?

Emma:  I think you already know.
Tonia:  Emma, yes you should tell Jesus.  If it concerns him, he deserves to know.  And Brandon, just because Emma isn’t sure she should tell Jesus doesn’t mean she should tell you.  This is not your business.
Jesus: [Starts climbing the stairs while Brandon and Emma are upstairs talking, presumably, because he is now downstairs alone again.]

Tara:  This is a blatant excuse to further the plot by having Jesus witness something he is unable to contextualize due to his physical limits.  We see him struggle to do something without proper accommodations or safety precautions.

Tonia:  Totally.  We see Jesus climbing the stairs, the day after he took a scary fall and hit his head.  Again, he's not wearing a helmet.  Brandon is apparently the only one home with Jesus right now, and again, Jesus is stranded on the bottom floor away from everyone and without a way to make contact, should he feel lonely or need something.  Just plain dangerous.

Brandon:  How far along are you?  

Emma:  A few weeks.  I don't know what happened.  I mean, I'm on the pill.

Brandon:  Can you talk to your parents?

Emma: [shakes her head no]

Brandon:  What are you gonna do?

Jesus: [pauses for a break.  He is about halfway up the stairs]

Emma:  I don't want to be a 16 year old with a baby.  Is it horrible if I don't tell Jesus?  I'm just afraid that in his condition, this would be too much for him to handle.
Tonia:  So, first things first: your body, your choice, Emma.  But you are taking the choice about what Jesus can handle away from him.  Let him decide what he can take.  I’m pretty sure that lying to him is going to make him feel so much worse than the truth.  You were the one person he could count on who treated him, for the most part, like a friend and not a parent.  This is gonna be so awful.

Jesus:  [is now near the top of the stairs, where there is no railing to hold onto]

Brandon:  I think it would be a lot for Jesus to handle, even without the brain injury.
Tonia:  Not your call to make, Brandon!  Though I do appreciate that he didn’t just cite the injury as the reason not to tell Jesus.

Jesus: [is now climbing the second flight of stairs]

Brandon:  What if you talked to my moms?

Emma:  I can't tell your moms and not Jesus?

Jesus: [stops climbing near the top of the second flight and sits down, exhausted.  He is close enough to hear the rest of Brandon and Emma's conversation especially as Mariana still only has a sheet hanging for privacy, not an actual door.]

Brandon:  Does Mariana know?

Emma:  No...and please...don't tell her...

Brandon:  Okay.

Emma:  You know how she is with secrets.  Ones that aren't hers anyway.

Brandon: Well, I'  If you need anything.  Even if it's just to talk.  

Emma:  That's sweet.  Thank you.

Brandon:  Yeah.

Emma: [wipes her face]

Brandon: [holds the sheet aside.  They walk out into the hall]

Jesus: [leans forward on the stairs to try to see what's going on]

Emma:  I'm just gonna...clean up a little...

Brandon:  Yeah.

Emma: [walks by the stairs]

Jesus: [leans back against the wall]

Tonia:  So...I have questions. How has Jesus managed to acquire the balance needed to climb two flights of stairs unassisted in one day?  How is Jesus going to get back downstairs?  He looks exhausted.  

Again, this is just an excuse to use Jesus's disability as a plot device to further the story, and in doing so, blatantly endangering him.  It's so he can only have part of the story, going forward.  This will serve no other purpose than to make Jesus seem even more pitiable and tragic.


Emma: [happily] You got a ton of cards from both the volleyball teams.  [Piles them on Jesus one at a time, laughs]

Jesus:  [pushes one card out of the way; he's not laughing]

Emma:  Check out this one from Laurel.

Jesus:  [brushes it out of her hand]  You have too much...make up on...

Emma:  [hurt] God, Jesus.

Jesus: Well, I'm tired.  You should go.  [Jesus turns away from her, faking sleep until Emma gets up and leaves.  We can see then that Jesus is still awake.]

Tara:  Jesus drives Emma away here by saying something mean.  He is understandably too embarrassed to admit that he’s having difficulty reading.  Dream!Emma did tell him, “You’re too dumb for me,” after all…

Tonia:  Yes, he's got the reading (which somehow Dr. Danville has not caught???) and the fact that he knows Brandon and Emma are having conversations in private.  Based on what he's seeing, he has every reason to not be reciprocating her happiness.


Mariana: [softly]  So, I talked to Emma.  Everything's cool.  She's not pregnant.  

Brandon:  Uh, thanks for telling me.

Both: [hear a tapping noise outside Brandon's room and go to investigate.  They find Mariana and Callie's door back.  Moms open it.]

Stef:  Hey.  Um.  So, I've been doing some thinking, and I don't think that doors are really the problem here.  Secrets are definitely an issue.  And trust.

Stef and Lena:  Trust.  

Lena:  Yes, which we are working on developing.  

Stef:  Yes, we are.  But no more secrets.  Deal?

Mariana:  Deal.

Brandon:  Yes.

Stef:  Okay.  Well, doors are at the bottom of the stairs.  Feel free to help.  

Stef and Lena: [continue down the hall]

Mariana: [to Brandon]  You're welcome.
Tonia:  Stef, I’m glad you and Lena put the doors back on, but it’s not as simple as expecting the kids not to keep secrets when you guys are still working on developing trust with the kids.

Incapable of Expressing Herself/Paranoid/Dangerous/She Was Defiant

Tonia:  How stark and sad.  To reduced to your behavior without taking your motivations into account.  (Kind of exactly how the family is treating Jesus.  Everything about him now is coded through “brain injury” and that stops them from considering all of the valid reasons Jesus could be reacting as he does.)


Mariana: [logs into Twitter with the handle @NoSecretsAnymor, types]  I'm tired of secrets, so toxic, lets start telling them.  Me 1st - I stole my brother's ADHD meds.  Who's next?

Tonia:  Mariana changed her Twitter handle and she just told the whole Twitterverse that she stole her brother’s ADHD meds.  (Though, perhaps this is a separate account and more anonymous, which would be good.  Keep taking that power back, but don’t forget to respect your fam’s privacy, too.)


Jesus:  [looks at his pile of cards on his bedside table.  Reaches for one and struggles to pick it up with his hand affected by the tremor.  He closes his eyes, then opens them and focuses on the card.  All the letters blur and move.  Jesus tries to rip the card, but ends up putting his hands over his eyes and crying.]
Tara:  We finally get Jesus’s POV!  And it is so effective. I hypothesized that something like this may be happening earlier in the recap, and aside from the blurring, this is very similar to how reading was for me in the beginning of my recovery.  
No one is there for him in this moment.  He is as isolated physically as he is emotionally.  No one can understand the fear he’s feeling.  So real.  So powerful.  Jesus’s recovery is far from over, and unfortunately, there will be many more instances of loneliness and isolation to come.  Not to mention the long journey toward self-love and acceptance in the face of a life-changing injury.

Tonia:  This is just bothersome to me, because, again, it is definitely something that would have been addressed while Jesus was still hospitalized.  When Dr. Danville came around and tested his speech, there would have been other tests around that same time that determined if he struggled with reading, filtering, counting, etc.  The fact that this has not been caught yet just feels cruel.  Because it leaves Jesus totally alone with this knowledge, afraid and not knowing how to cope with this.  It's just an unrealistic and unfair depiction.  Instead of telling a real story about brain injury recovery, so far, this is just playing out like tragedy p*rn.

For more:  Disability on The Fosters


  1. The scene with Jesus falling on his face does mainly seem to be there for dramatic effect only so I agree that they could have done it differently, even if they wanted a falling scene they could have toned it down.
    In regards to the physical therapy scenes while I completely agree it is embarrassing for Jesus and they do need to respect him way more, I did need to be pushed passed my perceived limits in the therapy so the first scene with Tomas doesn’t bother me as much since I was kind of a complete jerk to my PTs growing up and needed the kind of language here in order to learn what I know now and I’m grateful that I was pushed past some of my old limits. Lena joking about drinking in front of Jesus,Tomas dismissing Jesus, takes it too far as does Emma watching the PT however. I find it interesting how Mariana is dismissed in this episode by the moms to some extent too. I love what the therapist said to the moms about communication. Now why can’t a character tell them to communicate with Jesus that way. Great review!

    1. Yes, they did dismiss Mariana quite a bit here as well, and we thought it was prudent to include her scenes as well, as they dealt with her PTSD and Moms' reaction there.

      I can understand you needing to be pushed in PT but Jesus was WAY past his limits in therapy here. It wasn't that he was being a jerk, he was overwhelmed and overwrought and needed to be listened to.

      Glad you enjoyed the review!