Monday, November 20, 2017

Review: The Fosters 4x17 "Diamond in the Rough"

Originally written: March 22, 2017


Lena: [holds up a picture of a car]

Jesus:  [sighs, softly] Car.

Lena:  Good.  [holds up a picture of a lamp]

Jesus:  L-l-lamp.

Lena:  Nice.  [holds up a card that reads 'pony']

Jesus:  Where's the--the picture?

Lena:  Nope.  No picture this time.  What's it say?

Tara: I have soooooo many feelings about this scene.  It is obvious to me that Lena has been tipped off about Jesus’s reading difficulties.  For the record, this is a really crappy way to confirm said difficulties.  I would even go so far as to say that it’s cruel.  Forcing Jesus to do something he is not physically able to do?  Actively humiliating him, when a one-on-one conversation would accomplish the same thing?  I expect far more of Lena, who has a background in child psychology and education.  
Also, just the way she is speaking to him - terse and not at all warm.  The whole situation is super disheartening.

Tonia:  Agreed.  Lena's going out of her way here to humiliate Jesus here, which is in no way okay.  

Jesus:  Um... It's the--the--

[The letters on the card blur and move making it impossible to read.]

Jesus:  [shuts his eyes; sighs]  I have a headache, Mama.  

Lena:  No, you don't, Jesus.

Jesus: [looks at her, scared]

Lena:  You can't read it, can you?
Tara:  This is a huge issue for the disabled community.  Nondisabled people presuming to know a disabled person’s body and experience better than the person actually inhabiting said body, having said experience.  Nondisabled people dismissing our legitimate symptoms because they seem like an excuse or come at an inopportune time.
For the record, headaches are common post-brain injury.  (I would say that it was more surprising if I didn't have a headache in the months after my injury.)  They are also a common symptom of visual disturbances post-brain injury like those Jesus is experiencing.  
Lena is not in Jesus’s body.  She cannot feel what he is feeling.  Therefore, it is ludicrous for her to dismiss his legitimate pain out of hand.  And to follow it up with, “You can’t read it, can you?” She could have phrased that question a million different ways that were more sensitive to his self-esteem.  Because these “little” comments and dismissals?  They chip away pieces of us.

Tonia:  Couple what Lena says with how she says it, and this is a double-whammy for Jesus.  Lena's tone is impatient and disappointed.  As if Jesus's difficulties are his own fault and as if he is having them to make Lena's own experience even more stressful, which could not be farther from the truth. 

Jesus has obviously been afraid to tell his parents this.  (And it should not have gotten this far at all, to be clear.)  Jesus never should have been put in a position where his inability to read was on him to deal with and him alone at 16.  This aspect of the story should have been handled more accurately and in a way that's more respectful of the things people with brain injuries experience.  

To depict these things in a way that suggests their symptoms are their fault?  Well, that doesn't help anybody.

Jesus: [still scared; sighs; knows Lena knows]

Lena:  Honey.  Why didn't you just tell us?

Tonia:  And again, we have Lena putting the blame for this back on Jesus's shoulders.  (Lena, this is not Jesus's fault.  This is the doctors' fault for not doing their job thoroughly.)

Also?  Let's talk about Lena's use of 'just' in 'just tell us?'  Jesus is struggling with communication right now.  To suggest that he 'just' tell them something that makes him afraid and embarrassed?  As Tara often points out: aphasia gets worse with stress.  Jesus has been under tremendous stress this whole time trying to deal with not being able to read by himself.  The chances of him being physically able to say those words (and be listened to and not dismissed when he did?)  Pretty small.

Jesus:  Because--  I--I am so done with the doctors, and the tests, and the-- the sessions. [Breathes shakily]  Why can't anyone...fix me?  [Puts his head down on the table]

Lena: [Rubs his shoulder; softly]  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.
Tara: Jesus asking why can't anyone fix him hit me right in the heart.  I’ve been there.  It is a legitimate question, especially in light of all the focus on what he cannot do or needs to improve on in therapy.  I hope Jesus begins to realize that some of his abilities will come back with time.  And some never will.  And that is okay, despite what he is constantly being told about “getting better.”  His abilities do not define him.  He is different now, and that is okay too.


Brandon:  How'd it go?

Lena:  Well, there's nothing wrong with Jesus's eyes.  It's his brain that can't read.  So they're giving him these glasses and they're supposed to help, you know, his brain sort things out.

Tara:  Prism glasses are a thing.  But wow, way to out Jesus’s medical info to the sibs.  For a show usually so focused on Moms respecting each kids’ private information, this was disappointing.  (Assuming, of course, that Jesus did not give off-screen permission for her to share.)
Also, just the language used in this scene is so negative.  “Wrong,” “can’t read.”  How about “Jesus’s eyes are fine.  His brain is still sorting things out, and the glasses should help with that.”

Jesus:  Yeah, but th--they're not even working.  I mean, I-- I st--still can't read.

Lena:  Honey.  You have to be patient, you know?  The doctor said it might take a while.  

Brandon:  You look like a minion. [laughs]

Jesus: [takes off his glasses; softly]  They're--  They're giving me a headache.

Tara:  Making fun of adaptive equipment is never cool.  We would never consider making fun of someone’s wheelchair - glasses are no different.  
Yes, Brandon is Jesus’s brother.  Yes, brothers poke fun.  This instance is different because Jesus needs the glasses to (hopefully eventually) alleviate symptoms such as headaches, aching eyes, motion sickness, visual overload, difficulty with depth perception, visual attention, visual scanning and visual memory.  By insulting Jesus’s appearance, Brandon is implying that Jesus’s adaptive equipment is unsightly.  And it suggests that a nondisabled person’s comfort is of utmost importance, superseding even a disabled person’s medical necessity.
This is not even to begin to speak about the issues around identity and brain injury.  Brain injuries are complex because, while they impact our abilities, they also impact how we think.  And how we think is very closely linked to who we are.  Often, post-brain injury, we do not “feel like ourselves.”  This can be very frightening, because if I don’t feel like “me,” then who am I?  I may not like the way I’m acting or the loss of my abilities or myself.  So, then why would anyone I love continue to love me?  Comments like Brandon’s, small as they may seem, really drive Jesus’s self-esteem down even further.

Lena:  Why don't you go ahead and lie down, okay?

Mariana: [gives Brandon a withering look]

Lena: [whispers]  Really, Brandon?

Brandon:  Minions are CUTE!

Mariana:  And you're a jerk.

Tara:  Nice half-hearted reprimand, Lena.  

Tonia:  Right?  Jesus's self-esteem is super low and to know that he can't even count on his parents to stand up for him must be super devastating...

Mariana: [to Lena] Is he...getting worse?  I noticed that his speech is all messed up again.
Tonia: Mariana, seriously?  This is awful.  If you’re wondering about Jesus, you know who you can talk to?  Jesus.  Not Mama.  And you don’t have to make comments about how ‘messed up’ his speech is.  This just makes me think of all the other times Mariana has come to Moms regarding something about Jesus.  The first thing they did, always?  Was to call Jesus into the room to talk to him, too.  Now?  Instead of going to him and including him in the conversation, or telling Mariana you’ll discuss it later when Jesus is up (and if he wants to talk about it) you’re having this whole conversation behind his back.  To quote Ellen DeGeneres: “No, I say to that!  No!”
Tara:  Also, Jesus’s speech is “messed up” because the stress of admitting he could not read was ridiculously high.  It’s called aphasia, Mariana.  Look it up.
Emma: [texting Brandon]  Hey.  Can I get that letter I wrote to your brother?  Don't want anyone else to find it.

Brandon: [texting Emma back] Sure.

Tonia:  Again, Emma.  This would be something to ask Jesus.  (But we know by now that Jesus has been sent from the room to lie down, and it’s the perfect time for Lena to keep talking about his medical issues behind Jesus’s back…) <— Sarcasm
Tara: Not cool, Emma.

Tonia:  And I'm so glad Brandon's decided to give Jesus's property back to Emma... <-- Sarcasm

Lena: [to Mariana] I mean, that's the thing with TBI.  It's two steps forward, one step back.  The doctor isn't worried about it.  The only worry is how it will affect Jesus's morale.
Tonia:  This makes me think that at least part of this conversation with Jesus’s doctor was held without him being present.  And how about not discussing Jesus’s medical stuff in front of his brother and sister without him there?  If you think he does not want to talk about it,don’t talk about it…especially with the siblings…come on Lena.  With Stef, I understand, as you’re his parents and that conversation would be held in private.  But as it stands now, it’s just you guys, talking about him behind his back.
Tara:  Also, I take issue with the whole nebulous idea of “two steps forward, one step back.”  Again, it takes legitimate issues that brain injury survivors deal with, and shoves them off to the side.  

Tonia:  Yes. Jesus's speech difficulties make sense given the stress of the current situation, not to mention being made fun of by his brother.  Lena minimizes that here with a gross overgeneralization that "with brain injury survivors" it's "one step forward, two steps back" instead of clarifying that stress makes speech harder for Jesus.  It absolutely strips any legitimacy from the real issues Jesus is dealing with here.

Mariana:  Okay.  So, maybe, comparing him to a cartoon character isn't very helpful.

Brandon: [walking by Mariana]  Sorry.
Tonia:  Mariana got an apology from Brandon, but Lena wouldn’t even call Brandon out for that in front of Jesus, so Jesus thinks it’s okay for the sibs to make fun of his adaptive equipment.  Okay, then…
Tara:  Yes, Mariana got an apology from Brandon.  You know who didn’t?  Jesus.  The person Brandon actually insulted.


Mariana:  I think you look cute in your glasses.  Like Clark Kent.

Jesus:  Mm-hmm.  No.  You mean Urkel?  [Takes his glasses off.]
Tonia:  Mariana, you’re trying to boost Jesus’s morale.  Too bad it’s coming directly after Brandon’s assy comment.
Tara: We see Jesus’s self-perception here. :(

Mariana:  You're gonna get better.  

Jesus:  Yeah.  You know the more...people say that?  The less that I--I believe it.
Tara:  The problem with comments like this is, what if he does not have a miraculous recovery?  Most brain injury survivors have long-lasting symptoms.  By constantly “encouraging” Jesus in this way, his family is likely amping up his anxiety.  Because what happens if he does not fulfill his family’s expectations?

Mariana:  Are you drawing again?  Can I see?

Jesus: [flips his sketchbook against his body]  No...

Tonia: I love that Jesus’s drawing is still a thing!  I’m excited.  I want to see it, too.  But Jesus said no, so we should respect that, right Mariana?  Right???

Mariana:  Okay.  Fine.  [grabs the sketchbook]

Jesus:  Look-- Mariana!

Mariana:  [looking at Jesus's sketch of a treehouse]  Oh!  This is so cool!
Tara: That right-sided hand tremor must be improving, looking at this drawing.  

Mariana:  Do you remember those Magic Treehouse books?  About the treehouse that could travel back in time?  

Jesus: [laughs softly] Yeah.  Those were the first chapter books that I ever read.  

Mariana:  You used to say I was just like the sister.  She was always getting her brother into some crazy adventure.  

Both: [laugh]

Mariana: We used to always want a magic treehouse of our own.  

Jesus:  Yeah, I wish that we had one.  Then, I'd go back in time, before any of this happened.  
Tara:  This is a common feeling - wanting to go back to Before.  I hope Jesus can begin to reconcile that he is in the After now, and that he can build a life here.


Mariana:  You know who ISN'T alright?  Jesus.  He needs a project.  Something to look forward to.  And I have an idea.
Tonia:  Of course, you do, Mariana...

Stef:  Oh my God, your ideas scare me.  Should we be sitting down for this one?  

Lena:  [sits]

Mariana:  Okay, so Jesus has been watching this show about treehouses.  And he's actually been designing his own sketches and they're really good!  See? [shows Jesus's treehouse sketch to Moms]

Stef:  Oh wow.  Look at that!

Mariana:  What if we asked Gabe to help him build one?

Tonia:  I’m so on board with you through this point, Mariana.  As Moms would need to know.  And assuming you spoke to Jesus about this since you have his sketchbook.  (But of course, we’re not privy to that conversation.  Only the ones where Jesus is talked about.)

Stef: Oh, no.  Absolutely not.  Jesus is in this condition because of Gabe and his nail gun.  

Mariana:  Okay, but Gabe wasn't there to supervise Jesus.  And Jesus won't have to do any of the actual building.  He could be like...the architect.

Stef:  All right.  All right.  Exactly how do you plan to pay for all these materials?  We certainly can't afford all that.

Mariana:  See, I anticipated that question.

Stef: Of course you did.

Mariana:  What if...this was Jesus's senior project?
Tonia:  On the one hand, I like this because it shows that Mariana has confidence in Jesus’s ability and his future, but it’s a lot to be planning and I do wonder if Mariana talked to him about this aspect before pitching it to Moms..
Tara:  Why is Jesus not included his own potential senior project idea?  This is getting old, family.  Just saying.

Lena: [studies Jesus's sketch]

Mariana: There have been juniors that have been allowed to start their senior project early.  And if he builds the treehouse in a park or playground, he could apply for some of ABCC's community outreach budget and he can fundraise through the school.

Lena:  Well, I don't think it's a bad idea.  It could help Jesus get out of his depression.  It could help his brain make connections and the design is pretty cool.  
Tonia: Because you’re Lena and everything has to be about rehab.  It’s never okay for Jesus to be legitimately struggling…

Lena:  But you would still need to get faculty approval.  

Mariana:  Perfect!  Vice-Principal.  Approved.  Done.  

Lena:  Honey, I'm not the acting VP.  Drew will still have to sign off on this.  

Mariana:  Well, can you at least put in a good word?

Lena:  I will do what I can.


Brandon: [Looks on the desk, through a pile of magazines, on a shelf above the desk, and finally, in the desk drawer.  He moves some get well cards and finds Emma's letter to Jesus just beneath them.]  Oh.  [Turns to see Mariana in the doorway, still holding Emma's letter]  You haven't seen my good sneakers around here, have you?  'Cause Grace is gonna be here, I think, any minute.

Mariana: Forget the shoes.  You need to lose the animal print before you get friend-zoned.

Brandon: What's wrong with my shirt?  It's got a bunch of, like, tiny little foxes on it.  See?  I'll change.

Tonia:  If Brandon had been snooping through Jesus's actual room here?  His actual desk?  To find Emma's note that is actually Jesus's?  A question would be raised as to what Brandon thought he was doing going through Jesus's things.  I guarantee you Mariana would not just come in and sit down on his bed and chat with Brandon...  I feel like the kids feel that because Jesus is technically living in Brandon's room currently, that it is okay to go through Jesus's things.  Which, let's be clear, it isn't,

Mariana:  What's that?

Brandon:  Um, it's the letter that Emma wrote to Jesus.

Mariana:  And what are YOU doing with it?

Brandon:  Well, Jesus didn't read it because he--he can't.  And Emma didn't want anyone else finding it.

Tonia:  Weird, Brandon!  Nobody else would find it if you would just leave it where it is!

Mariana:  So, why doesn't she just tell him?

Tonia:  She did tell him.  The minute she wrote Jesus that letter and Jesus had it in his hands, Emma meant for the message to reach Jesus.  

As for the actual letter-writing of it all?  That is a plot device, because Emma could have just as easily texted him if she didn't want to tell him face to face, and that way?  Siri could have read the entire text to Jesus.

Brandon:  Well, she realized that with everything else going on, it was gonna be too much.

Mariana:  Okay, well, I don't think that she should be putting you in the middle of this.  And for your sake?  I hope that he never finds out that you knew all along.

Tonia:  Oh, Jesus will find out, Mariana.  Not just about Brandon knowing, but about basically everyone in the family lying to him.  And it’s not gonna feel good…

Mariana:  Don't worry.  It's Saturday.  No one's here.

Jesus:  Good.  'Cause I look like a...dork.

Tara: There is nothing more scary than returning to school changed.  :(

Mariana:  No, you don't.  Think of your helmet and glasses as a fashion statement.  You're basically a hipster without even trying.
Tara:  Nice thought, Mariana.  This still feels condescending, though.

Jesus: [scoffs, softly]  Why are you wearing your glasses?

Mariana:  I just felt like it.
Tara: I do appreciate glasses-wearing solidarity.

Kid on the Wrestling Team:  Jesus!  What's up, bro?  When are you coming back to school?

Jesus:  Soon.  Soon.  You guys are winning the meeting today?  

Kid #2:  You mean the meet?  Yeah, we're up by a couple points.  We actually gotta head back.  It was good seeing you, dude!  And the shades are dope!

Jesus:  Okay.
Tara:  In a situation with high stress, Jesus’s speech is more affected.  (He says “meeting” instead of “meet” because he is thinking about the meeting with Drew.)  I appreciated the awkwardness of this encounter, but also that the kids were so excited to see Jesus. :)

Mariana:  You ready to do this?

Jesus: [nods, nervous]

Mariana:  You're gonna be great.  


Mariana: [knocks]  Hey, Drew.  Are you ready for us?

Drew:  Yes.  Come on in.  [Stands and comes to shake Jesus's hand]  You must be Jesus.  Nice to meet you.

Jesus:  [shakes his hand]

Drew: Please, take a seat.

Mariana:  Thank you for seeing us on a Saturday.  

Drew:  Oh.  No worries.  I had to come in for a parent board meeting anyway.  Well, let's hear it.

Mariana:  [takes out Jesus's sketch; hands it to Jesus]

Jesus: [hands it to Drew; his tremor is back so the paper shakes]

Drew: [takes the sketch]  [To Mariana] Is this a treehouse?

Jesus: [nervously] Yes.  [breathes shakily]

Mariana: [smiles encouragingly at Jesus]

Drew: [looks at Jesus as if he is incompetent]
Tara:  This whole meeting was infuriating.  Drew seemed ready to take the drawing from Mariana.  (She passed it to Jesus to hand to Drew instead.)  Drew looks to Mariana first before the presentation begins.  (A small thing, until you’ve been the disabled person in a scenario where the person you’re interacting with continually looks to the person with you instead of you.)  

Tonia:  Yes!  (I once had an entire conversation at the bank, where the teller addressed my brother the entire time, despite the fact that I was the one answering all of the questions...)

Tara:  Drew makes a clear snap judgment in these first few seconds with Jesus, and it’s very disappointing.  (That aphasia impacts his intellect, specifically.)  The kids in the hall interacted with Jesus better than Drew did.  
I’m proud of Jesus for persevering through such a difficult speech situation.  It’s good to get used to how something like that feels and realizing that you can get through it.  

Lena:  Hey honey?  So I spoke with Drew and he's not going to approve Jesus's senior project.

Tonia:  Of course he’s not…also, Lena, why are you having this conversation with Mariana and not with…I don’t know…Jesus?
Tara:  Also, is a phone call to Mama the usual way to unapprove a senior project?  Jesus did come in to present to Drew - the least Drew could do is extend the same courtesy by actually calling Jesus.

Mariana:  Wait.  Why not?

Lena:  Well, I mean, he loved the idea, but he's not convinced Jesus will BE a senior next year or even if he'll be back at Anchor Beach at all.  He thinks...we might have to send him to a special school.
Tonia: Okay, but really?  First of all, apparently, because ABCC is a private school, Drew can get away with the egregious ableism and overt discrimination of dismissing Jesus’s senior project idea on a one-time meeting (ahem, snap judgement.)  Also who exactly does Drew think he is to be telling Lena that Jesus might have to go to a ‘special school?’  That’s as bad as Dr. Danville saying that Jesus wouldn’t need a wheelchair based on Jesus lying in bed for two minutes.
Also, Lena?  Why didn’t you fight for your kid?  The idea that Drew could dismiss a project idea that he loved based on discriminatory ideas is just a bunch of malarkey and Lena should have been the one to point out that Drew is not in the position to judge what Jesus will or won’t be able to accomplish academically based on one meeting.

Mariana:  He's getting better.  Isn't he?

Lena:  He is but with TBI there can be setbacks.  He can't read right now and he's missing a lot of school.
Tonia:  Wow, Lena.  Seriously.  I get that you’ve got to be realistic about this but it just feels like one more betrayal of Jesus that you’re just lying down and not even speaking up on his behalf about this.  I get that you might not be able to make headway but it sounds like you didn’t even try at all.  Like you believe what Drew does, which is pretty devastating.

Mariana:  Okay, well, what if he goes to summer school to catch up?  

Lena:  [sighs]  Maybe.  If he can.  But we just don't know yet.  

Mariana:  You can't tell him this right now.  It'll crush him even more.

Lena:  I know.  

Mariana: I just got his hopes up and now I have to let him down again.
Tonia: Great.  I’m so glad Mariana and Lena are continuing the theme of these episodes which seems to be: Leave Jesus Out of Absolutely Every Pertinent Conversation and Lie to Him All the Time. <-- Sarcasm

Mariana:  Guess what?  Drew approved your senior project.

Jesus: Wait.  Really?  No way!

Mariana: Well, kind of.  He said it needed to be both of our projects because it was so expensive and all...

Tara: Okay, so Mariana is telling Jesus it is both of their senior projects.  HIS drawing.  HIS vision.  HIS work.  But he will not even get a GRADE for it?  And Mariana will?  Oh yeah, this will end well. <— Sarcasm

Jesus:  You want this to be your...project?

Mariana:  Yeah.  Why not?  I can be, like, the project manager, and you know I'm very good at bossing people around.  

Jesus: [laughs]

Mariana:  And that way we can be done and not have to worry about it next year when everyone else is freaking out.  

Jesus: [nods]  Thank you.

Mariana:  Now all we need to do is get Gabe on board.

Jesus:  What's that?

Mariana:  It's The Magic Treehouse.  The one where they go to the Ice Age.  I found it in the attic.  

Jesus: [puts his glasses on and opens the book; tries to read it but can't]  Um...  [scoots over in bed]  Do you me?

Tara:  Why can’t everything in this episode be just like this?  I absolutely adore these twin moments and the respect present here.

Mariana: [gets on the bed too.  She and Jesus each hold one side of the book.  Mariana starts to read]  "One summer day in Frog Creek, Pennsylvania, a mysterious treehouse appeared in the woods."

Jesus and Mariana: [smile at each other]

Mariana: "Eight-year-old Jack and his seven-year-old sister, Annie, climbed into the treehouse."


Mariana tweets:  I know I said no more secrets, but I'm keeping one from my brother.  Don't know what to do.
Tonia: Here’s an idea.  Maybe stop lying to his face :(

Mariana: [scrolls through phone numbers; calls Gabe]
Automated Voice:  We're sorry.  The number you are trying to reach is no longer in service.

Tonia:  Oh no!  Gabe, where are you?

For more:  Disability on The Fosters

No comments:

Post a Comment