Monday, January 1, 2018

Review: The Fosters 5x02 "Exterminate Her"

Originally written:  July 20, 2017


Brandon:  [Slices cake, brings it over to Jesus and Emma.]  Hey.  You guys want cake?

Jesus: [Keeps his back turned, ignoring Brandon]

Emma: [Nods and smiles]  Thanks.

Brandon: [Walks away]

Emma: How long are you gonna stop speaking to your brother?

Jesus:  How long are you gonna stop speaking to Mariana?

Tonia:  Touche...

Emma:  Forever.  It's different.  [Her phone vibrates]  Sorry.  [Robotics] World's stuff.

Jesus:  When do you leave?

Emma:  Wednesday.

Jesus:  So, how's the team?  You know, without... [Nods in Mariana's direction]

Emma:  She was our best coder but we don't have to deal with her trying to micro-manage everyone.  How's the treehouse going?  Has she taken over yet?

Jesus:  No.  She just found us a tree.  

Emma:  Give her time.  She will... [Glancing at Mariana]  ...take over...

Tonia:  Wow, everyone’s crabby today, aren’t they?  Settle down, Emma.  Only a few more days and you can be really far away from Mariana.  (And Jesus.  I wonder how that will go?)


Jesus: [Walks over to where Mariana's finishing up cake at the table with Brandon.  Jesus puts his hand down on the table in front of Brandon making Brandon jump.]  [To Mariana]  Hey.  Can I talk to you for a second?

Mariana:  [Nervously]  Uh, yeah, sure.

Brandon: [Gets up; leaves]

Tonia:   I hate that everyone is now actively fearing Jesus.  It’s especially disheartening seeing Mariana react out of fear here.  And the camera stays with Brandon as he jumps and then leaves the table. I’d love for the assumption that Jesus now resides at Intimidation Station to not be a thing.

Tara:  I have been looking for statistics on how likely it is that people with TBIs assault their caregivers, since this seems to be the slant the writers are taking with 5A.  I could not come up with one link.  

I did, however, find pages of links (over 3 million results) about disabled abuse and victimization.  

One source says that disabled people are 4-10 times more likely to be victims of violence, abuse or neglect than nondisabled people.  It goes on to share why people living with TBIs are likely to encounter victimization - the list includes the use of undue force (which I covered last week when Gabe restrained Jesus), caregivers misperceptions about TBI leading to abuse or not believing us when we report abuse, or having to endure abuse “in return for” help with tasks of daily living.

Tonia:  Definitely.  In just existing as a disabled person and talking to others who are, I can say that everybody I know who is disabled, has, at some point, been abused.  (Usually, this is by a caregiver.)  Another source I found on the maltreatment of children with disabilities states that:

“Children with disabilities may have increased vulnerability to abuse because…[they] may be perceived as less valuable than other children. Their reports may not be considered trustworthy. Discipline may be more punitive and accompanied by a lack of respect.” 

Jesus: So...I've been thinking...and I...wanna do my senior project by myself.  

Mariana:  Well, you can't.  Drew said it was too expensive for just one student.

Tonia:  Um.  Wow, Mariana.  Maybe you should have been honest with Jesus from the start about this.

Tara:  Yes, this might have been a more timely conversation weeks ago.  Although, it was really up to Moms and Drew to deliver this news to Jesus, so Mariana is not the only one to blame here.

Jesus:  Well...I know...I just...I thought that...I could talk to him myself?  And see what he says.

Tonia:  You pretty much have to, Jesus.  It’s the only way you’re guaranteed the truth. 

Tara:  But wait, if Jesus speaks to Drew all on his own, who will Drew look to if there is not a suitable nondisabled person present? <– Sarcasm

Mariana:  Was this Emma's idea?

Jesus:  No.  No, not at all.  I just...  I need to prove that I can do something on my own, you know?

Tonia:  Of course, Jesus would feel strongly about this.  His family doesn’t respect him as he is.  It makes sense for him to feel like he has to prove his capability to get them to take him seriously.  Nothing else is working.

Tara:  Our society views productivity as the be-all and end-all.  You go to school to produce meaningful work so that you can graduate and get a job, thus becoming a contributing member of society.  You are useful and worthy then.  Jesus feels like he needs to produce a meaningful senior project without help to be seen as useful and worthy again.  And it doesn’t hurt that it might earn him points with Emma to distance himself from Mariana.



Gabe:  [Gets out of bed]  What?  What?  [Stubs his toe]  Ow!  [Pulls back the curtain to see Mariana outside smiling.  Gabe is mortified to be standing there in nothing more than boxers.]  [Opens the door]  Hey.

Mariana:  Hey.  Can I come in?

Gabe:  Uh, yeah.  Yeah, sure.  Come in.  [Walks over to get his jeans, struggles to put them on.  Keeps missing the leg hole because he's so thrown off by Mariana's early-morning visit.]

Mariana:  [Unfazed]  Okay.  Jesus wants to do his senior project alone...

Gabe: [Stumbles over his pants]

Mariana: ...but I need you to say you won't help unless it's both our projects...

Gabe: [Shakes out his jeans, frustrated]

Mariana:  ...because you can't choose sides...

Gabe: [Finally manages to pull on his jeans]  

Mariana:  Okay?

Gabe: [Crosses his arms; uncomfortable.  Nods]

Tonia:  Mariana, I get that you are always at least 25 billion steps ahead, seeing every possible bad eventuality but you need to try to reign in this impulse to manipulate the adults in your world.  Maybe talk about that in therapy?  (But I read 3 Reasons Traditional Parenting Doesn't Work With Kids From Trauma this morning and this?  Pretty textbook coping.)

(On the positive side, give Brandon Quinn all the points for the physical comedy of trying to put those jeans on!  So funny!)


Stef: [Watering plants]

Gabe:  Hey.

Stef: Hey.  

Gabe:  So...Mariana just told me that this treehouse project was approved for her and not Jesus, because he might not be a senior next year?

Tonia:  It was news to me, too, Gabe!  I’ve literally been thinking (for months) that Mariana went in to support Jesus for his senior project.  That it was his meeting.  And that when it was not approved for him that was the end of it, but Mariana couldn’t let it go, so she lied and said it had to be both of their projects.

Stef:  Well, we don't know that for sure.

Gabe:  But he has no idea, right?  

Stef:  You know, there are a lot of unknowns with someone who has a TBI. We just don't want to frighten Jesus with all the what-ifs.  

Gabe:  Yeah, no, I get it but keeping things from him blew up in a pretty big way, you know?

Tonia:   I mean, Gabe’s not wrong…

Stef: [Stops watering]  Listen, Gabe, we really do appreciate your helping the kids with this project.  But as far as what we tell Jesus about his situation?  That's our call.  Lena's and mine.  

Gabe:  Right.  Okay.  I got it.  I'm...sorry.

Stef:  No, it's all good.  It's all good.

Tonia:  Clearly, it isn't all good, Stef or you would feel inclined to take some of Gabe's insight into consideration.  He was there for the fallout the last time Jesus found out he was lied to.  So maybe instead of getting so defensive you could realize that what's best for your son might be something other than your current approach.


Stef: I'm excited that we have neighbors that we might actually be friends with!

Lena: [Glances out the window at Gabe and Jesus in the yard as the power saw whirs]  I wonder how friendly they're gonna be about the power saw?  Do we have any idea how long it's gonna take to build this thing?  

Stef:  Well, hopefully not long and then Gabe can be on his way...

Lena:  Something happen?

Stef:  [Sighs]  Just a little unsolicited parenting advice.

Lena:  Oh.  Well, you're the one who said 'It takes a village.'

Stef: A statment I may live to regret...

Tonia:  This part of the scene just rubs me wrong.  Even though Tara and I don't cover the rest of the episode?  In this episode, Moms have sought out Callie's rich biological father to help "get Callie on the right track."  While simultaneously resenting the crap out of Jesus and Mariana's biological father being in the picture.  The double standard just gets me every time.


Jesus: [With a tablet, showing Gabe a picture of a tree]  Yeah, so, it's an oak tree, which is cool.  And it's 25 feet tall.  It's big, man.  And the trunk is, like five feet, all the way around.  It's for a foster family that has, like, 12 kids, and some of them are special needs, so.

Tonia:  First of all, it seems illegal that one family would have 12 foster kids at once?  And secondly?  Pretty much no one in the disability community likes the term ‘special needs.’

Gabe:  Yeah, no, it's perfect.  We can start building the base.

Jesus:  Cool.

Gabe:  Mariana came through, huh?

Jesus:  Well, yeah.  But, I mean, she's not really gonna work with me on it...anymore.  

Gabe:  Why not?

Jesus:  I mean, I wanna do something by myself.  Since I got this TBI, people treat me like I--I--I'm special needs.

Tonia:  So revealing there, Jesus.  I always say, the hardest part about being disabled isn’t the disability, it’s the way we’re treated as inferior.  I imagine that dealing with a sudden disability as Jesus is, that feeling is even stronger.  (And I can’t shake the feeling that the ‘people’ Jesus is referring to is his family.  And honestly, nobody should be treated like they’re less when they’re disabled, especially by family.  It’s bad enough to experience it in general society.)

Tara:  Having a brain injury is not a bad thing, but it does take some adjustment.  The way Jesus says, “People treat me like I am special needs” is revealing, as Tonia pointed out.  People treat him like a pile of unreasonable demands - like a list of symptoms - instead of as a human being who has a brain injury.

Jesus:  Plus, you know Mariana.  She's just gonna take control of the whole thing and make it all about her.  

Gabe:  I don't think that's true, Jesus.

Jesus:  Well, I don't think you really know her, Gabe.  

Gabe:  That's...  I mean, I don't...know her very well, but, you know, she talked to me.

Jesus:  She talked to you.  Yeah, of course she talked to you.  She's trying to get you on her side.  

Gabe:  [Sighs]  You can't do the senior project without her.

Jesus:  Wait.  Okay, so you are gonna take her side?

Gabe:  The school won't let you.

Jesus:  Why?  'Cause it's too expensive?  She told me the same thing.  She's probably just making it up!

Gabe:  Oh, no.  That's not why.

Jesus:  Then why?

Gabe:  Talk to your moms.

Jesus:  All they do is lie to me and keep secrets.  They're not gonna tell me.  So, what is it?

Tonia:  I can’t say I wouldn’t be making the same call Gabe ends up making here…and so far, Gabe is one person whose ableism is at a minimum, and Jesus feels that.  He feels respected by Gabe.  His experience with Moms post-TBI has been that they treat him as less now.  They have lied to him and he doesn’t need anymore of that.  He’s out of the woods, healthwise, he doesn’t need to be ‘protected’ in this manner.


Drew: Oh, and um, until I know what's happening next year, I'm no longer funding any juniors doing senior projects.

Tonia:  Of course you aren’t, Drew…


Stef: [Walks in]  Hello?

Jesus: [Rushes in through the back door]

Gabe:  Jesus!  Wait!

Jesus: [Stops in front of Stef.  Takes his toolbelt off]  Okay.  I'm not gonna be a senior next year?!

Stef: [Glares angrily at Gabe, sighs]  We don't know that, Jesus.

Tonia:   Now Jesus knows, and Stef still won’t give him a straight answer?  Really?  At least tell him what you DO know…

Also, inquiring minds would like to know what IS happening with regard to Jesus and school?  Stef and Lena are both back at work and Jesus is home all day, talking to Gabe as he builds the treehouse.  Lena’s an educator.  School is always on this family’s radar.  Even if Jesus isn’t ready for full days, I’d think a teacher coming to the house for a bit wouldn’t be out of the question.  But school hasn’t even been mentioned by Moms except to say that Jesus is missing a lot, and taking Drew of all people as the expert on post-brain-injury reentry to school.

Gabe: [To Stef]  Look, I'm sorry.  I just couldn't lie to him.

Stef:  No one asked you to lie.  I asked you not to get involved.

Jesus:  No, I'm glad that he did!  That at least someone around here is telling me the truth now!

Stef:  Hey!  Listen to me--

Mariana: [Walks into the kitchen]  What's going on?

Stef:  Mariana!

Jesus:  I know that the senior project is yours and not mine.  Which I'm sure that you love!

Stef:  Jesus, I need you to calm down.

Jesus:  No, I am not gonna calm down, Mom!

Stef:  Then you can go to your room until you are willing to listen to me.  Now!

Tara:  In my opinion, Jesus is not out of bounds or out of control here.  He has a right to be upset, but Stef sends him away.  (Instead of sending Gabe and/or Mariana away so she can have a private conversation with Jesus.)  She tells him to leave until he is willing to listen to her - but Stef is in no way willing to be around his feelings in this moment.

Too often, disabled people are expected to “be nice” in the face of ableism.  And let’s be clear, not telling Jesus about what is going on with his schooling is ableism.  Dismissing Jesus’s current upset?  Also ableism.  

If any of the other kids found out Moms withheld information for weeks about them possibly not being promoted a grade, upset would be an expected reaction.  In Jesus’s case, it is not justified in Mom’s eyes.

Stef:  You, too, Mariana.  I need to speak with Gabe, please.

Mariana:  What?  No!  I'm not going up there!

Stef: Mariana, PLEASE.

Mariana: After what he did to Brandon's room?  What if he takes a baseball bat to my head?

Tonia:  Kids learn ableism from their parents…and Stef doesn’t refute Mariana here…  So harmful.  

Emma: [Arrives at the back door]  Is this a bad time?

Stef:  No, it's okay.  Jesus is up in his room.  I'm sure he'd like to see you about now.  

Emma: [Goes upstairs]

Stef: [To Gabe]  If you cannot respect our authority as the twins' parents, I am going to have to ask you to leave.

Tonia:  If Mariana isn’t comfortable going upstairs, the least Stef could do is tell her to go to the living room or something.  Anything so she is not right there when Stef tells Gabe this.  Awkward.  And not a conversation for one of the kids to overhear.


[It's silent as Emma takes in Brandon's destroyed bedroom door, and smashed things.]

Jesus: [grunts]


Emma: [Turns, alarmed.  Sees Jesus back in the room he shares with Jude]

Jesus: [Does not see Emma.  Kicks things over.  Screams in frustration.  Finally, braces himself on the desk, quiet.]

Emma:  [Leaves]

Tonia:  Um…  If Jesus is supposed to be being punished or taking a break or whatever, why would you send Emma up there?  (But I have a pretty good idea why.  Disability as a Plot Device, anyone?  Because up until now, Emma was the only person who wasn’t fearful of Jesus.  The choice to send her up there just to witness Jesus throwing things is a conscious choice to continue his ostracization and isolation.  To make sure he has no one to turn to or lean on.  

Tara:  Notice how this “outburst” comes immediately after being dismissed.  

Also, here is another example of how traditional parenting does not work on kids with traumatic backgrounds.  And a Traumatic Brain Injury is yet another trauma for Jesus to juggle, in addition to his unstable infancy and childhood (until age 8).  Sending Jesus to his room just drives home the fact that he, like Callie, is seen as unacceptable now.   


Lena:  Jesus is going to be so disappointed.  

Stef:  Well, the one silver lining is that Gabe can move on.  And out.  

Gabe: [Opens the back door and sticks his head in.  Hesitantly] Can I...come in?

Stef: Yes, please. Um.  [Walks to the base of the stairs and calls] Jesus!  Can you come down here, please?

Gabe:  I just wanted to apologize.  I had no right telling Jesus.  

Jesus: [Arrives in the kitchen.  Looks around.  Seems nervous.]

Stef:  Hey, bud.  Can you sit down for a minute, please?  Can everybody sit down so we can talk?

Jesus:  Um.  I wanna try to be a senior next year...even if that means I have to go to summer school.

Lena:  Honey, that's really good to hear, but your senior project will have to wait until then.

Tonia:  Okay but Jesus literally did not say anything about his senior project.  He’s talking about his education right now.  Why does no one take him seriously?  (Oh wait, I know…)

Tara:  “That’s really good to hear.” What does that even mean?  “That’s really good to hear that you still desire and value an education even though you have a brain injury?” 

It sounds as if that was Lena’s way of possibly skirting the education conversation.   

Jesus:  Wait.  Why?  Why?  Because I got mad?  Are you punishing me?  

Tonia:  Of course, it feels like a punishment.  :(

Also, I'm noticing the brief re-emergence of the loop Jesus got stuck in really early on with Mariana when she visited him for the first time and he saw her cry.  This time, though - perhaps because Moms and Gabe are calm - Jesus is able to work through it.

Stef:  No, buddy.

Lena:  No.  Drew isn't funding any senior projects for juniors.  

Jesus:  What?  [Scoffs]  You're lying.

Stef and Gabe:  Jesus!

Tonia:   Moms, remember Stef’s brilliant take on ‘trust has to be earned?’  I feel like it’s time to work on starting to earn Jesus’s.  Because right now, he can’t trust anything you say, and why should he? 

Also, I’m pretty sure Monte said last episode that Drew isn’t the principal because she hasn’t yet resigned.  So…why is the vote invalid but his word about Jesus’s senior project like signed, sealed and notarized by a judge?)

Lena: No, I'm not lying.  He's cutting a lot of things until we know what's happening with Anchor Beach.  

Jesus: [Worried] Okay, but can--can I do it anyway?

Lena:  Honey, we just don't have the money for that.

Gabe: Well, what if...  There's a lot of scrap wood I could probably get my hands on out there.  And the other materials, I could probably get Jesus's uncle to donate.

Stef: His birth uncle, you mean?

Gabe: Right.  Sorry.

Jesus:  Please?  Moms?

Tonia:  This is interesting, because we watched this episode with a friend who adopted her daughter.  And she specifically commented on this scene.  Said she never corrects her daughter when she wonders about her birth mother.  And she felt it was out of place for Moms to correct Gabe here.


Jesus:  Hey.  I thought you were coming over.  What happened?

Emma:  I know, I just have so much packing to do before we leave tomorrow.  

Jesus:  So...I'm not gonna see you before you go?

Emma:  I'm sorry.

Jesus: Well, I miss you.

Emma:  I miss you, too.  I'll call you when we get there.  

Jesus:  Okay.  I love--

Emma: [hangs up]

Jesus: [Whispers] --you.

Tonia:   Emma’s pulling away so hard and fast.  This sucks.

Tara:  I really hope that this whole Aggression Is A Symptom storyline does not end up Teaching Jesus A Lesson.


Mariana:  Did Mamas talk to you about the treehouse?

Jesus:  Uh, yeah.  But Gabe thinks he can get all the materials donated.  And Emma told me about this Summer of Service grant.  So, if I'm a senior next year, Mom says that it could still, you know, work.  Look, I get that you were just trying to help and that this is only happening because of you.  And I'm gonna need a lot of help applying for the grant, and--and other stuff.  So, I'm [shrugging sadly]  I'm gonna...ask do it with me.  If that's okay.

Mariana:  Well, you already said that you didn't wanna do it with me.  So why are you asking?  Just do what you want.

Tonia:  Ugh, and the twins aren’t getting along still.  And at this point it seems like working with Emma on the treehouse this year or next is gonna be a bust…

Tara:  Not being able to connect after an injury is a thing, and I appreciate that it is being depicted.  To add to Tonia’s comment about Emma, we don’t know what is going to happen with them.  He is trying to make things work with his girlfriend while putting Mariana in her place.  We will have to see what happens…


  1. From what I remember a teacher doesn't come to the house. Instead the parents sign up for a type of home schooling or online schooling via the state and the student can also get tutoring. At least when I was in a similar situation. I could be wrong. I find it interesting that Jesus using the term special needs because its like he is saying I feel high maintenance. The abuse statistics are awful and depressing. I think the bio uncle line has to do with the fact that Jesus probably has adoptive uncles as well as bio ones. I am adopted with multiple adopted family members who are in touch with bio parents and the adoptive parents and sometimes they need to make a distinction between the 2 sets of parents to prevent confusing about who is doing what. That's not too usual.

    1. When we were recovering from surgery, our teachers did come to the house, so that is where that reference is from.

      Yes, we agree, Jesus using the term "special needs" does seem to imply he is treated as high maintenence :(

      Yes, those statistics are terrible :(

      And re: the bio uncle line: A lot of our thoughts on that (and subsequent mentions by Stef or Lena of bio relatives) is based on nonverbal stuff, like tone of voice and facial expression. In this scene (and others) Moms seem very possessive and keen to remind Gabe who Jesus's "real" parent / relative is. (For reference, Stef is an only child and Lena is estranged from her half brother.) So the theory about needing to distinguish between birth and adoptive relatives does not hold weight here :(