Saturday, October 28, 2017

Review: The Fosters 4x16 "The Long Haul"

Originally written: March 15, 2017

Mariana:  Mama's not busy.
Lena:  Yes, I am, honey.  I have to take Jesus to physical therapy every day and --
Jesus:  Well, I'm not going anymore.
Lena:  What?  Yes, you are.
Jesus:  No, I'm not.
Stef: Jesus.
Tara: This sounds an awful lot like Jesus is a chore and not a human.  Also, I am 99% positive that he waited until family dinner with Grandma to drop that little info nugget about therapy.  Everybody trying to make nice for the relatives means less of a chance of an argument.  (And more of a chance that the family hears Jesus out.)  No follow-up conversation in this episode, though, so we’ll have to see what comes of it.
Tonia:  Yes, and while I am sure Jesus hates PT with a passion, I wonder if also isn’t saying this to lessen the ‘burden’ of caring for him on Lena.  I hate that Moms just keep warning him silent whenever he says something they don't like.  (Also, at this point, 5A has aired and we have yet to see a followup to Jesus saying he's not going to therapy anymore.  In fact, we've yet to see him in therapy again at all.)
But I love how Jesus’s cane is right next to his chair.  One of the things I always remember eating dinner with my family at home, was feeling like I had to prop my crutches in a nearby corner so no one tripped.  But that also meant they were out of my reach when I needed them and I always had to ask someone to get them, which was annoying.  And he’s finally in a chair with a back on it!  Hallelujah!  No need to use up all that energy keeping his balance when he can use it on eating.

Brandon:  Hey.  Um, Jesus isn't feeling well right now.  
Emma:  I know.  He texted me.  
Tonia:  Well, don’t we just love hearing about how Jesus is doing via Brandon and Emma and not Jesus himself? (Sarcasm.)

Emma:  I just wanted to [pulls a letter out of her pocket] give him this.
Brandon:  Oh, um...  You know, he's really sorry.
Emma:  He's not the one who should be sorry.  He's not just being paranoid.  What he said.  I mean, there IS something going on with you and me.  We're not hooking up or anything, but there's this...secret...  
Tonia:  I wish you both could have told Jesus this instead of letting him walk around thinking you’re betraying him or that his reactions were too big for the situation.

Emma:  I just can't face him and not tell him the truth, so I've been avoiding him.  So, I wrote him this.  It doesn't say anything about you.  He doesn't ever need to know that you went with me.
Tonia:  Nice to know Emma can respect Brandon, by not outing his involvement to Jesus…

Emma:  But I just can't tell him to his face.  I mean, what if he freaks out, or--?
Brandon:  I think the letter is a good idea.
Tonia: Emma and Brandon, you are so frustrating.  It’s beyond irritating to see all this stuff that directly concerns Jesus being discussed with Brandon, of all people.

Tara: Also, Emma is bringing up Jesus "freaking out."  Perpetuating the idea that the TBI makes him dangerous.
Emma:  Thanks.  Will you give it to him?
Brandon:  Yeah.
Emma:  Thanks.
Narrator:  ..treehouse was constructed with permanence and sustainability in mind. The design allows for flexibility...
Tara:  Jesus seems so isolated and subdued here.  

Tonia:  Yes, it's really clear in scenes like this that he has no one.  :(
Brandon:  [knocks on the doorframe]  Hey.  So I, uh, I talked to Emma today.  
Jesus:  Yeah?  What did she say?
Brandon:  Not much.  She just, uh, wanted me to give you this.  [Hands Jesus the envelope.]  
Jesus:  What?  Do you think it's like a breakup letter or something?
Brandon:  No.  
Jesus: [nods]
Brandon:  Did you want me to stay?
Jesus:  No.  Nah, I'm okay.  Thank you, though.
Brandon: Yeah.  [Pats Jesus on the shoulder.  Walks out.]
Jesus: [Opens the envelope and tries to read the letter.  The words blur and move around the page.  Jesus is distressed, and puts the letter down, focusing on the laptop again.]
Tara:  I am glad to see that Brandon offers to stay while Jesus attempts to read the letter.  But really, there is no excuse as to why Jesus’s reading difficulties have not been caught by this point.  
In reality, a reading assessment is one of the first things done when a patient enters rehab.  And even if the show only covers about a day at a time, Jesus has been home for at least five days.  (And as Lena said, going to physical therapy every day - and for the sake of TV time and TV simplicity, all of Jesus’s rehab falls under this “physical therapy” category.)  Five days is more than enough time for a reading assessment.  Dragging this plot point out for drama is just cruel, in my opinion.  

Tonia:  Yes!  A person's difficulty due to disability is not a plot device nor should it be used as one.  Especially when there is plenty of story that could be told respectfully, should the writers choose to do so...
Lena: [to Will] Thank you for making dinner.
Jesus:  What is in this?
Will: Grilled carrots!  We wanted to thank you for letting us have the wedding here, and inviting our friends.  They were pretty insistent.  And we want all of you to invite your significant other's too.
Brandon: [to Jesus] Are you gonna invite Emma?
Jesus:  Yeah.  Probably.
Mariana:  Why wouldn't he?
Brandon:  Just asking...
Tonia:  Yeah, Brandon, you're so subtle with your curiosity.  Also, I love how Jesus loads up on potato salad after Will tells him that's not a hot dog he's eating, but a grilled carrot.  Not a happy surprise...

Jesus: [Still in bed, and trying to read the letter again, but the words still blur and move.]
Grandma: Knock, knock.
Jesus: [sets the letter aside]
Grandma:  I got a bunch of meds your mom sent up for ya.  I tell ya, with all those prescriptions, you'd fit in with some of my friends.  
Jesus: [takes pills]
Grandma:  So, what do you got there?
Jesus:  It's a...letter from...Emma.
Grandma:  Hmm?  
Jesus:  Yeah, I just...I kinda have a headache and my eyes are tired.  I've been trying to read it but I can't really focus.  
Grandma:  [gently holds onto his head] Aw, I'm sorry.
Jesus: [laughs softly]
Grandma:  I could read it for you, if it's not too personal.  
Jesus:  No.  Yeah.  [Hands Grandma the letter]
Tara:  Again, it’s just plain negligence that this reading issue has not been caught.  Regardless of whether Jesus is doing inpatient or outpatient therapy, the facility has had ample time to assess him, given his current level of functioning.  Also, while Jesus uses the fact that he has a headache as an excuse for not reading the letter, his pain and other symptoms remain real and valid.

Tonia:  It's good to see Grandma and Jesus connecting here, and good that Jesus feels comfortable asking her for help, but absolutely.  His reading difficulties should have been caught by now.  So unnecessary to have Jesus in a position like this, having to deal with it by himself.
Grandma:  All right.  Let's see what Miss Emma has to say.  [Puts on her reading glasses; starts to read]  "Hey!"  What is it with you kids and "Hey!"  Whatever happened to the old "Dear," you know?  "Dear,"  "Dear, Jesus!"  
Jesus: [laughs]
Grandma:  I'm not going to editorialize anymore.
Tara:  Yeah, why don’t you try really hard to do that, Grandma?

Tonia:  Right????
Grandma: "First I wanna say I love you" Aww...  "Even when we were just friends with benefits" [Grandma pauses and raises an eyebrow at Jesus]
Jesus: [laughs]
Grandma: [laughs too] "Even when we were just friends with benefits, I loved you."  Ah.  So far not so bad, huh?
Jesus:  I feel like...there--there's a 'but' coming, though.
Grandma:  Hmm.  "But things have been hard, with all that you're going through.  I'm sorry I pulled away the other day but it wasn't you.  It was me."
Emma's letter continues [Grandma reads this part to herself, not to Jesus]:  "I was pregnant.  And I was scared to tell you because you're dealing with so much.  But, I decided to have an abortion.  It wasn't an easy decision, but it was the right one for me.  I was upset and afraid and I didn't want to tell you."
Jesus:  Is that it?
Grandma: [Takes off her glasses]  These progressive lenses, they are just a nightmare. [Clears throat]  Here it is: "I'm just trying to deal with everything the best I can.    And if you wanna talk about it, I'm totally willing.  I hope you understand."  [Folds the letter]
Tara:  While I get the need to “protect” your kids/grandkids from life’s difficulties, keeping something like this from him is not nice or good or helpful.  Emma chose to share information with Jesus, and Jesus is relying on Grandma to give him that information.  Her choice to only give him part of the story?  That helps Grandma get out of an uncomfortable situation.  It does not help Jesus.  
When a person with a disability asks a nondisabled person for help with a personal task, we are asking for that person to be an extension of ourselves.  Our hands.  Our feet.  Our eyes.  If a nondisabled person takes the liberty to omit, edit or otherwise change what we aim to know, accomplish or experience, that person is taking away our agency.  
Not only is Grandma taking away Jesus’s agency in this moment, she is, by extension, taking away Emma’s.  Because, despite being given the full letter, Jesus still does not have the whole story.  And Emma intended for Jesus to have that.

Jesus: [laughs to himself, relieved]  I thought she was gonna break up with me.
Grandma:  Mm-hmm.  No, I think she's just looking for a little...reassurance from you.  
Jesus: [nods]  Yeah.
Grandma:  But I think you're gonna wanna look at that letter yourself when you feel a little better.
Tara: And then, he’ll realize you lied to his face, and won’t that be nice?  

Tonia:  Horrifying...
Jesus:  Thanks.
Grandma: [gives Jesus a hug, leaves]
Jesus: [voice-to-texting Emma]  I read your letter and you have nothing to be sorry for.  I'm not mad at you.  I totally understand.  And we definitely don't need to talk about this. And I love you, too.
Tara:  Oh Jesus.  You’re doing the best you can with what information you have.  

Tonia:  Heartbreaking...and my saying that is drawing my attention to yet another place where Jesus not having the full information Emma meant for him to have is used as a reason for the audience to pity Jesus.  
Jesus: [answers the doorbell, finds Emma on the other side, all dressed up, smiles]  Hi.  Come in.  You, you, uh, look really, really nice.
Tonia:  So many rugs on the floor for Jesus to slip on. Come on, Stef and Lena and up your accessibility level…
Emma:  Thanks.  Is...that what you're wearing? [smiling]
Jesus: [laughs]  No.  No, I haven't--I haven't dressed yet.
Emma:  Are we...good?
Jesus:  Yeah.  Yeah, I was gonna ask you.  I mean, are you really...?  You okay?
Emma:  Yeah.  Especially if you are.  [Hugs Jesus hard.  He hugs her back.
Tara:  This is just heartbreaking. :(

Tonia:  I know!  Emma really does believe that Jesus read the whole letter, and Jesus believes he was read the whole letter.  This is terrible :(
Brandon:  Hey.  What did Jesus say about the letter?
Emma:  Just that he's not mad and he understands.
Brandon:  Well, that's good, right?
Grandma:  Here comes the bride, almost!  
Brandon:  Hey, Grandma!  You know Emma, right?  Jesus's girlfriend?
Grandma:  Yes, of course!  I remember you!  Hi.  How are you?
Emma:  I'm fine.  Thank you.  Congratulations!
Grandma:  Why thank you!  You know, I could use a little help with my dress.  You got a minute?
Emma:  Sure!
Grandma:  Wanna zip me up there?
Emma:  I love your dress.
Grandma:  You don't think I'm too old to pull it off?
Emma:  Not at all.
Grandma:  Thank you.  Listen, I wanted to tell you that, um, Jesus asked me to read the letter you wrote him.  
Emma:  Why?
Grandma:  Not for me.  He asked me to read it because his head hurt and his eyes were tired.  I didn't read ALL of it.  I mean...I...did.  But not out loud.  I skipped over the part with the...  I just wanna tell you that I support your choice.  Do your parents know?
Emma: [shakes her head]  I was gonna tell my mom, but she'd maybe want to talk to Stef and Lena, and I didn't know if Jesus was okay with that.
Grandma:  Right.
Emma:  I wanted to tell him.  You know?
Grandma:  I'm sure you did...but I can understand why you couldn't.  
Tonia:  And again, all this conversation around Jesus but he is not included in it.  It is a sweet scene.  I’m glad Sharon is there for Emma.  But it has to do with Jesus so directly that it gives me weird feelings.  Again, everybody’s talking about him, nobody’s talking to him.

Tara: From the way these scenes are written and shot, it is obvious where the impact is meant to land.  
Grandma:  Well you don't have to worry about me, okay?  I mean, I wasn't even supposed to see that.  So...I would never tell anyone.
Tonia:  You've got that right, Grandma.  You won't even tell Jesus! :/
Grandma:  I just needed to know that you were okay.  [Hugs Emma]
Emma:  Thank you.

Emma:  So, I know you said we don't need to talk about it, but you read all of my letter, right?  Yourself?  I mean, obviously, you read it yourself.  
Tara:  This is just so difficult.  And then, she tacks on “Obviously,” which is pretty much like a slap in the face, even though she doesn’t realize it.

Tonia:  No, Emma, "obviously" he didn't read it himself...and this wouldn't have needed to be a conversation if Grandma could have done what Jesus asked and read him the whole darn letter...
Jesus:  Can we please just stop talking about it?  
Emma:  Yeah.
Jesus:  We're good.
Emma:  I don't see our cards.
Jesus:  Yeah.  Me, neither.
Emma:  [rounds the table to stand by Jesus] I hope we're sitting together.  [Catches sight of her own place card right beside Jesus.  His own is right next to Emma now.  She smiles at him as if expecting he'll tell her he's kidding, but Jesus just keeps scanning the table.  Realization dawns that it's not a joke.  The smile falls from Emma's face.]
Tara: Well, he’s not lying.  I did like the way Amanda played Emma’s realization - as if it must be a joke at first, and then quickly realizing it’s serious.

Tonia:  Yet another moment when disability is portrayed as tragic and sad.  It's "Oh God, he can't read" not "Well, he might need accommodations.  Let's see what we can do to make that happen," (which would be on the doctor's part, a very long time ago, not something Emma should ever have to discover or something Jesus should ever have to worry about people discovering in this way.)
Emma:  So, Jesus didn't read my letter.
Brandon:  What?
Emma:  He definitely didn't read it.
Brandon:  How do you know?
Emma:  Because he can't read.  I'll explain later.
Tonia: Wow, Emma, way to out him.  And to Brandon of all people.  If you’re gonna tell someone that at least have it be Stef and Lena, the adults, who need to know.  Though you can’t tell me that in early evaluations Jesus’s ability to read was not among the first things to be evaluated?  And if not, somebody else in PT, or OT or ST should have caught on, especially by now.  Anything less is just negligent.
Tara:  I’ll just add on that Emma should not have been in that situation in the first place, had the facility done its job.  And that her choice of who to go to with Jesus’s medical information has been severely limited due to Sharon only reading Jesus part of the letter.  If she tells Moms, they will most likely ask how she knows what she does, which means she might feel compelled to tell Moms about the abortion before Jesus knows, which Emma is trying to avoid.

For more:  Disability on The Fosters

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