Friday, February 23, 2018

Recap: The Fosters 5x14: Scars & Review 5x15: Mother's Day

We didn't review 5x14 last week mainly because Jesus was not there.  But there were a couple of notable things that happened so I'll review those quickly and then we'll get to 5x15:



As seen above, Stef goes to the gynecologist, who tells her, as she does not have a history of anxiety or depression that she is likely in perimenopause which can cause anxiety.  She is given a mild sedative to treat it.  At this point, Stef still is not comfortable with going to therapy for her anxiety.





However, later in the episode, Stef has a panic attack while shopping.  She texts Brandon to come and pick her up.  He leaves the hospital where he has been trying to help Grace run interference between her divorced parents, as her dad showed up out of the blue to spend time with her.  Brandon goes to pick up Stef and tells her he will stay with her as long as he needs her.


Back at the hospital with Grace, we see paperwork get dropped off fo her.  She tells Brandon she'd like a root beer and asks him to get it for her.  He leaves.  And we see Grace signing paperwork that names Brandon as her proxy - the person whom she trusts to make medical decisions for her - should she not be able to make them herself.

--

Tara and I found the most recent episode, Mother's Day, to be very strong.  We really enjoyed the return of focus to the family and felt like we got to catch up a bit with each family member.  There were several strong scenes, and some really important subjects covered.  So we will get right to it.




STEF AND HER THERAPIST - THERAPIST'S OFFICE

Stef: Lena felt terrible telling Jesus she couldn't be his para-professional anymore, but uh, the teachers were up-in-arms about her being in the classrooms, which I'm sure Jesus wasn't thrilled about either.  Of course he's not thrilled about having a new para, but if he wants to finish his junior year and be a senior next year, he's gotta have one.

Tonia:  Glad to hear Lena is finally no longer Jesus's para, but it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity here.  Especially with Jesus approaching Brandon a couple episodes ago and asking how he was supposed to tell Mama she was "bugging."  He struggled with that for a while.  I, personally, would have liked to see that conversation on screen.

Tara: Same.

Tonia: Stef's wording here, saying she is "sure Jesus wasn't thrilled about" having Lena in classes with him suggests that they did not talk to him about how he felt about it.  Lena just told him he was getting a new para.  Stef may not have even been present for the conversation.

Tara: Stef definitely seems as if she does not see herself as part of this conversation, particularly.  She is relaying things happening around her, but not how she feels about them.

And while I can appreciate that, sadly, we only have a few more episodes in this series - I too would have liked more information about this whole para situation.  To me, based on the information we have, it seems the teachers forced Lena's hand.  (Nondisabled comfort being more important than a disabled student's needs - but luckily - Lena was able to find a quick replacement.)

Tonia:  Stef also sounds super anxious here, barely even pausing for breath.  Glad she has finally come around to the idea of therapy.

Therapist:  Anything else?

Stef: [Inhales deeply]  Um, my friend, Jenna?  I told you about her.  She came by to make up, so to speak, and let me know that nothing was going on between her and Tess, which um, you know, I don't know if I exactly BELIEVE, but...whatever.  That's Jenna.

Therapist:  Would it bother you if there was something going on between Jenna and Tess?

Stef: Well, what bothers me is that Tess is keeping her husband in the dark.  You know?  He has no idea what the hell is happening.  

Therapist:  Was Mike in the dark?  About your sexuality?

Stef:  Um...uh...  Mike has nothing to do with this.

Therapist:  Well, it just seems that your situation is similar to Tess's.  You were married to a man, questioning your sexuality.  How did you feel about ending your marriage?

Stef:  Uh, I felt badly.  For Mike.  I certainly didn't mean to hurt him.  And, uh, for my son.  Uh, he was only five, but it's, uh...it's pretty hard to tell your son, your little boy, that you all won't be living together [voice shakes] in the...s-s-same house...anymore.  I didn't have much support from my family.  I didn't have much support from my parents.  When I came out, my father didn't speak to me for a year.  Uh, so...  When you asked me how I...f-f-felt..I felt, uh... [Breath catches]

Therapist:  Ashamed?  [Pauses]  Unlike guilt, which is the feeling of doing something wrong, shame is the feeling of BEING something wrong.  And this assault on the self?  It can cause deep depression and severe anxiety.

Tonia:  This hit me super deeply.  Because whether the writers know it or not?  What they are telling right now with Stef and her feelings of shame for "being wrong"?  The "assault on the self?"  That's also a disability story.

People with disabilities face ableism every single day of their lives.  Some (like me) have visible disabilities that cannot be hidden, so that, from the time I was born, I was being judged against nondisabled babies and toddlers.  

The first time I remember hearing an ableist comment made about me I was only three years old. I was struggling to get my shirt over my head when I heard (in a mean, teasing, laughing voice):

"You have a square head!"

"No..."  (I'm running shapes in my mind.  Heads are round like circles.  A square has four sides and four points.  He's wrong.  Must've forgot his shapes.  But why is he laughing?)

"Yes, it is.  Look," he puts his hands, not careful, on both sides of my head by my ears.  Then on the front and back.  "It has four sides just like a square.  I'll call you Square Head."

He pulls my shirt down over my head, rough.  Because my Square Head can't fit through the Circle Hole.  He has to pull hard.  It feels like the hole is too small.  But that's not what's wrong.

My head is wrong.  

I feel it go all inside me.  All the wrong.  I wish my head was a circle.  But I can't make it change.

It feels like I am bad.  

Every time he calls me Square Head, the feeling grows bigger and bigger.

[Me, left, and Tara, right.  We are smiling at 3 years old.  My face is wider than my sister's because I spent the first year of my life living in the hospital, and the constant lying down affected the shape of my head.]

I share the above example to illustrate that we, in the disabled community experience that feeling of "being wrong," sometimes, from as early as toddlerhood.  I share the picture above to drive home just how young some of us are when this "assault on the self" begins.  We experience this constantly, to the point where anxiety and depression are almost always comorbidities along with whatever our disabilities are. To experience this level of abuse, for such a prolonged period, it's really no surprise that we have resulting mental health conditions.

Coming out is a trauma for an LGBTQ+ person.  A real and valid trauma that deserves time and attention.  But I could not watch this scene and hear the therapists words, and not apply them to my own experience as a disabled woman in a nondisabled world.  (As a disabled child growing up in a largely nondisabled family.)

There is no break from the ableism.  From the time I was born until now, it has been a constant onslaught.  Trauma and rejection on top of trauma and rejection.  

All these years later?  I'm still self-conscious about the shape of my head.

Tara: The "being something wrong" line got to me, too.  Exist with a disability for long enough, and you will invariably hear the question: "What's wrong with you/him/her/them?"  And usually, the answer is something like, "Nothing is wrong, I/he/she/they have a disability."  But wrongness and disability remain closely connected, thanks to ableism.  

I have been told, essentially, to act my age and to not act [the r-word].  But what if acting my age and acting disabled are one and the same?  Because my age is not negated by my disability.  (This is why I push back against the concept of "mental age."  A person's age is not negated by their disability - they have however-many years worth of human experience on the planet.  Period.)

JESUS AND LENA - LENA'S OFFICE - WAITING FOR HIS NEW PARA


Lena:  She should be here any minute, Jesus.


Jesus: [FIDGETS WITH A LETTER-OPENER] Mm-hmm.


Lena:  I'm gonna keep a close eye on this para, honey, I promise.


Jesus:  Yeah, you and everyone else, Mama.  I mean, you have no idea what it's like having everyone just staring at you, wondering why some old fart's following you around.


Tara: Lena, now would be the time to offer some type of reassurance to Jesus regarding his discomfort.


I'm sure, though, that she probably has no idea what to say to him.  And this is part of why being a disabled child in a nondisabled home can be so isolating.

If I were Lena, I would try to empathize with Jesus - "I think I might feel uncomfortable with everyone staring at me, too." - and follow that up with a question about whether anyone in his support group feels the same way?

Tonia:  Her back is also to Jesus this entire time.  Part of me thinks this makes it easier for Jesus to speak his mind without added pressure of her looking at him, but the other part of me notices the disconnect between them here.

[A YOUNG FEMALE FILLS THE DOORFRAME BEHIND JESUS, UNBEKNOWNST TO HIM]


Lena: [TURNS TO LOOK AT JESUS] 


Jesus:  Fartess, excuse me.


Tonia:  Hahahaha!  Oh my God, Jesus....


Tara: Perfect.

Priya:  Sorry, I'm a bit early.  Would you like me to wait?


Lena:  No, no.  Please, come on in.  Priya, this is my son, Jesus.  Jesus, this is your new para.


Jesus: [DOES A DOUBLE-TAKE.  STANDS, SMILING BIG]  Hi.  


Priya:  [SHAKES HIS HAND]  Hi.  It's really nice to meet you, Jesus.  


Jesus:  Hi, uh, me too.  Uh [stammers] --you.  Nice to meet you.


Tara: Strong emotions can make aphasia more pronounced.  But if you didn't know, you'd likely just think Jesus is tongue-tied at the sight of a beautiful woman.  The way the scene plays, it is almost comedic.


Oftentimes, our disfluent speech can be laughed at - stammering or stuttering, using fillers, circumlocution, or the wrong word altogether - but know that even if we're laughing too, our aphasia is likely a source of anxiety and self-consciousness.

Tonia:  Priya's warmth and professionalism are a welcome change here.  I noticed, too, that even though Jesus is smiling / laughing uncomfortably, Priya does not join in the laughter.  (While this is a painfully low bar, I've experienced paras laughing at me after I accidentally injured myself on camera, when I was a lot younger than Jesus. They just kept filming.)  So, Priya's professionalism sticks out to me in a good way here.


JESUS AND PRIYA - MATH CLASS

Priya:  28, 29, 30 and time.


[ALARM BUZZES ON PRIYA'S PHONE]


Jesus:  So...what does this do?


Priya:  We're working on building up your ability to focus by starting with short periods of time and building on that.  30 seconds of complete focus can be far more productive than 30 minutes of struggle.


Jesus:  That makes sense.


Priya:  I'm going to go ask Craig for tomorrow's assignment.  That way we can plan ahead.


Jesus:  Okay.  Thanks.


Tonia:  It's immediately evident that Priya is head and shoulders above David in professionalism and respect level. 


She and Jesus are actually sitting toward the back of the class, which indicates she takes into account his comfort level (and that he may want the relative anonymity of being in back while working on building up his focus, rather than doing it in front of everyone.)

Priya takes time to explain what they are doing and why (possibly more than once, assuming she explained the task before he began.)  She doesn't ignore his questions or wrongly assume he is not listening or paying attention to her.

When it's clear Jesus has no more questions, Priya gives Jesus a heads up about what she's going to do next and why.  She also alligns them together ("so we can plan ahead")  Which is a night-and-day difference from Lena in 5x11 telling Jesus he had a para "to help you catch up on everything you've missed."  Priya phrasing it this way, lets Jesus know he's not alone in having to manage the overwhelming demands of school by himself.

Tara: Also noteable?  Priya is not just insisting Jesus focus.  She is meeting him where he is.  She is acknowledging his focus is currently limited, and she is working within those boundaries.  I loved seeing this portrayed - acceptance of a current difficulty as opposed to insistence that Jesus push past his limits to (never) achieve a nondisabled standard.

[PRIYA WALKS TO THE FRONT OF THE ROOM]





[A GUY NEAR THE FRONT OF THE ROOM TURNS AND FLICKS A PAPER FOOTBALL TO JESUS]


Tonia: So clear the writers went to school the same time we did.  When paper footballs and written notes were a thing.


[JESUS OPENS IT UP.  IT READS 'YOUR PARA HAS A NICE PAIR-A TITS.'  JESUS TUCKS IT INTO HIS MATH FOLDER.]


Tonia:  Oh, for Pete's sake.  That's right, Jesus, tuck that note away before Priya comes back and sees it...


Tara: No.

JESUS - HIS LOCKER - SCHOOL HALLWAY


[GUYS FROM MATH CLASS APPROACH JESUS]


Guy 1:  Sup dude?


Jesus:  Hey.


Guy 2:  Where's your hottie?


Jesus:  Oh, she went home for the day.


Guy 1:  For real, Foster.  I'd take a nail in the head to nail that any day.


Jesus: [THESE WORDS HIT HIM]


Tonia:  We hear comments like these over and over, and are expected to just let them go and move on, as Jesus is shown doing here. 


I'm hoping he is still going to support group where he can talk through these moments and know he's not alone in experiencing them.

Tara: This is sort of like the equivalent of telling a wheelchair user that they're SO LUCKY THEY GET TO SIT DOWN ALL THE TIME. :/

Guy 2:  But, like, how do you focus with her rack in your face all day?


Jesus:  Well--I--yeah.  I'd probably focus a little bit better if she SAT on my face.


Guys: [Laugh]


Guy 2: [Notices someone behind Jesus]  Uh, see you later, dude.


Jesus: Peace.


[JESUS TURNS TO SEE MARIANA HAS WALKED UP BEHIND HIM]


Mariana:  Seriously?


Jesus:  What?


Mariana:  You're disgusting.  [Walks away]


Tonia:  This response from Jesus, in particular, initially seemed very out of character to me.  I approached it from a writer's perspective.  Related to possibly wanting to tell a particular story and using the character available to do so.  But, Tara, you had some good insight into why Jesus says what he does here. 


Tara: I feel that Jesus might feel relieved that the focus is on Priya for something "positive" like her appearance as opposed to "Oh, you're really different and you need a lot of help now, and that's weird."  

And the inappropriate comment Jesus makes?  First, it is a socially acceptable (if disgusting) deflection.  He is attempting not to make this about his difficulty focusing - and Priya is thrown under the bus.  By objectifying her as nothing more than a hot body, she is no longer a para he feels embarrassed to rely on in a school setting.  

It is also worth noting that there are times with aphasic speech where what comes out of our mouths first may be inappropriate and not what we mean.  Or it is what we mean, but it is said in a crass, insensitive manner.  Once, in a work meeting, I said diddling around in my search for a word that meant wasting time.  (And yes, technically these are synonyms.  But the slang definition is far more common.)  

I'm not saying that Jesus should not be held accountable for his words.  I'm simply saying that there may be more than meets the eye in this exchange.


JESUS AND LENA - HIS ROOM

Lena:  Do you need some help with your homework?

Tonia:  Yes!  Look at this follow-through!  I'm pretty sure this is what Jesus imagined when he first asked Lena to help him with his homework.

Tara: I know! They even look all comfy!

Jesus:  Uh, yeah.  Do you wanna write this practice college essay?

Lena:  What's the question?

Jesus:  'What event or experience has had the greatest impact on your life?'  I'm gonna write about my TBI.  

Tonia:  Love this insight into what Jesus is planning to write about.  (Also feels very true to life.)  And it's notable that he feels comfortable sharing this with Lena.

Tara: I also appreciate that she did not micromanage the fact that Jesus said "Do you want to write..." instead of "Do you want to help me write..."  She took the communication he was able to give. :)  

Lena:  That's great.  You should have plenty to say about that.

Tonia:  Good encouragement here, Lena.

Tara: Yes, not over-the-top or pitying!

Jesus:  Yeah, it's just...how...to say it, you know?

Tonia:  As close as I have ever heard any TV show comment on the reality of aphasia.

Tara: ^Exactly.  Would love more follow-up here.

Lena: [OPENS JESUS'S MATH FOLDER, FINDS THE NOTE FROM THE GUY IN MATH CLASS, READS] 'Your para's got a nice pair-a tits.'

Jesus:  Yeah.  Uh, some guy...passed me that in class today.  

Lena: Well, what did you say to him?

Tonia:  Lena, I'm so not here for your condescending tone.

Tara: Yeah, I'm a bit lost as to how receiving a note makes Jesus the bad guy in all this, aside from advancing the plot.

Jesus: Um...

Mariana: [WALKS IN] He said that he wanted Priya to sit on his face.

Jesus:  Mariana!

Mariana:  What?  You did.  I heard you.

Lena:  Jesus, why would you say something like that?

Tonia:  But this is a big step in the right direction.  Asking Jesus calmly why he would say something like that is a far cry from yelling at him or scaring him quiet.

Tara: Mariana, this is not your conversation.  Let Lena and Jesus have it.  

Jesus:  Mama, it's just, like...guy talk.

Tonia:  I wonder what Jesus might have said if it wasn't so high-stress?

Lena: Guy talk.

Jesus:  Yeah!  I mean, they started it!  What do you want me to say?

Tonia:  Valid question, when you don't always have the words to say what you mean.

Lena:  That it's completely inappropriate.  

Tonia:  Short and to-the-point answer.  Nice job here, Lena.

Jesus:  [Scoffs]  Yeah, right.  I...

Mariana:  What is so crazy about that?

Tonia:  Mariana, could you let Jesus finish his thought here?

Jesus:  Fine, then get me another para.  One that's not mean or hot.  Look, I can barely handle school as it is.  I cannot deal with all this other stuff.  

Tonia:  He can't handle being made fun of, so, since Jesus knows he cannot get rid of his TBI, he wants to get rid of Priya, who is attracting more attention that Jesus does not want.  (Unfair to Priya, but completely resonates as true to me, and makes sense.)

Tara: I'm glad that Jesus felt comfortable saying more.  (There's also part of me that wonders if Jesus hopes that by being "high-maintenance" about which para he requires, Moms might eventually tire and say that he does not need one?)

LENA, STEF AND SHARON - KITCHEN

Lena:  So...  It looks like I'll have to find Jesus yet another paraprofessional.  

Stef:  Why?  What happened?  The new one's no good?

Lena:  No, she's VERY good.  The problem is, she's too HOT.

Sharon:  Hot?

Lena:  Yeah.  Jesus's friends are teasing him.  

Tonia:  I'm glad to hear this is what Lena took from her convesation with Jesus.  

Lena:  Which is why I didn't hire her to begin with - because I thought she might be a distraction for him.

Tonia:  But this reveal was just jaw-droppingly negligent.  She made the choice to hire David even though Lena knew he was less qualified???  We still have not forgotten the way David abused his authority particularly after math class, keeping Jesus until he finished his test, even though he was already past his limit.  

Stef:  Well, YOU'RE hot.  Do you think you shouldn't be principal simply because boys won't behave?

Sharon:  Yeah!  I agree!  Girls should be judged on their brains, not their bod.  That's why I raised her to be a feminist. 

Stef:  Well, we shouldn't just raise our daughters to be feminists, we should raise our sons to be feminists, too...Boys and girls are raised with double-standards.  I don't think we should give our sons a free pass.  If we are complicit in this behavior - if we just say 'boys will be boys' - then you know what?  We're misogynists, too.  [LEAVES]

Tonia:  Agreed, Stef.

Lena:  She's right.

Sharon:  She's also VERY wound up.  I mean, more than usual.  Is anything going on with her?

Lena:  No, she's fine.

Tonia:  It should be noted here that Lena's response to Stef's mom is a direct result of a conversation earlier in the episode where Stef asked that Lena not disclose to Stef's mom about her anxiety, because she would dismiss it.  Good to see Lena respecting Stef's wishes and privacy here.

GRACE, BRANDON, SUSAN AND DR. CHOI - GRACE'S HOSPITAL ROOM

Dr. Choi:  Your fever broke and your not having other side effects which is a good sign that the modified T-cells aren't attacking your immune system, and hopefully just the cancer cells.  I'll check back tomorrow.

Susan: Actually, Doctor, do you have a sec?

Dr. Choi: Absolutely.

[SUSAN AND DR. CHOI STEP OUT]

Tonia:  Conversation outside of Grace's earshot.  No, I say to that, no!

Brandon:  It's great how quick the treatment works.

Grace:  IF it works...

Brandon:  It will.

Grace:  I made you my proxy.

Tonia:  Grace is trying to have a conversation here about the reality of her situation.  She knows this treatment is a longshot.  She's been sick (or in remission with the possibility of becoming sick again) for more than half her life.  Brandon's cheery optimism is just dismissing what Grace is trying to say here.

She has to bring up making him her proxy so he will begin to take her seriously.  (I am very glad they had this conversation.)  

Tara: I feel also that Grace is trying to temper Brandon's assumption that the treatment has worked.  She is the veteran in this situation, and he is very much a newbie.

Brandon:  What?  What--what's that?

Grace:  The person who makes all of my medical decisions on my behalf if I can't.

Brandon:  [Stammers]  I mean--  Shouldn't your mother be that person?

Grace:  No.  I don't want her being that person, because I don't think she'll do what I want if things go bad.  Which is why I NEED you to be that person.

Tonia:  So important.  Grace addresses a very common theme in growing up with a disability.  Often, the people who are supposed to love and respect disabled people the most (their parents) are actually the ones that do (or have the potential to do) the most harm.

Which is why it is so major that Grace be the one to choose the person that she trusts to make decisions on her behalf.  And that she is able to choose someone who will respect her and her wishes if that time comes.

JESUS - HIS ROOM - WRITING HIS PRACTICE ESSAY


Practice College Essay

What event or experience has had the greatest impact on your life?

The event that had the greatest impact on my life was the time I got a nail in my head, resulting in a traumatic brain injury (TBI).  I was helping [my birth father work on] our garage and without [thinking I shot] myself in the head with a....

Tonia:  Thought it might be interesting to see Jesus's answer to the essay question he's working on.  I had to approximate the words that are in brackets due to blurriness in the shot.  I do think it's important to get to see Jesus's own words about his injury here.

Lena: [KNOCKS, COMES IN, RUBS JESUS'S SHOULDERS]  How's it going?

Jesus:  [Sighs]  Um....  Slow.

Tara: Truer words have never been said.

Lena: [MOVES A PILE OF JESUS'S DIRTY LAUNDRY FROM A CHAIR BESIDE HIM.  SITS.]

Tonia:  Oh, the laundry.  So typical.  Love it.  (I did notice Jesus's desk looks pretty neat, too, which is good.  Having a quiet, organized place to work should help.)

Jesus: [Glances at the laundry now behind him on the floor]

Lena:  So, um, I've been thinking about the Priya situation.  And I'm really sorry.

Jesus:  [Shrugs]  It's okay.

Lena:  No, it's not okay.  Because...I hired David instead of Priya the first time around.  

Jesus: [Looks down]

Tonia:  Right about here, Jesus is hearing that you put him in danger, Lena.  Bad form.

Lena:  Even though I knew she was more qualified.  And I did that because I'm sexist.

Jesus: [Glances at Lena, worried]

Tonia:  Can't help but thinking that Jesus is still worried about doing the wrong thing, and making Mama mad enough that she will send him away.

Lena:  And I thought that she might be a distraction for you.

Jesus:  [Cringing]  I mean, you were right...

Tonia:  Always safer to take the blame on yourself.  :(

Tara: Also, to say she was a distraction to Jesus is technically misstating things.  Jesus worked well with Priya.  His classmates were distracted.  Jesus joined in their harrassment as an ~acceptable (in the culture of toxic masculinity anyway) diversion away from him and his accommodations.  This still doesn't make it right.  (Harrassment never is.)  But the full picture is not being presented here.

Lena:  No.  I was wrong.  To assume that you couldn't rise above 'locker room talk' and be the man we raised you to be.  A man that has the courage to stand up to his friends and say, "No.  It's not okay to sexually harass women.  Physically or verbally.  To their faces or behind their backs."  That you're a man who not only respects his moms and his sisters and his girlfriend but all women.

Jesus: [Looks down]

Tonia: This is a lot of information, Lena...

Tara: Yup.

Lena:  That's who I believe you are.  

Jesus: [Nods]

Lena:  That's who I hope you are.  So, I'm not gonna tell Priya that it's not working out.  And if you can't show Priya the respect she deserves, you can tell her that yourself.  And you can tell her why.

Tonia:  While I am glad, overall, that Lena addressed this with Jesus and does not assume anymore that they cannot hold him to a certain standard of behavior due to his TBI, it also feels like there's an important piece of this conversation that's missing.

If Jude got in trouble over something that was directly impacted by his being gay, Moms would be able to sit down with him and address the issue in a complete way, not leaving out the way his sexuality might complicate things.  They'd address those things.  They'd understand that aspects of Jude's life are going to be more difficult due to his sexuality.

They don't have that insight here with Jesus.  And that means they're not able to discuss with Jesus how his aphasia impacts day to day speech and conversation.

Tara: At this point, Priya has only been Jesus's para for one day.  It seems potentially harmful for Lena to remove herself from a position of ascertaining Jesus's safety and comfort regarding his accommodations just to teach him a lesson.  

Instead of:

 So, I'm not gonna tell Priya that it's not working out.  And if you can't show Priya the respect she deserves, you can tell her that yourself.  And you can tell her why.

Lena could have said:

You need to come to me if there are issues of safety or ableism with Priya.  But I expect you to communicate with her if your sole reason for being unable to work with her is a lack of respect on your part.  Does that make sense?

BRANDON AND CALLIE - BRANDON'S ROOM

Callie:  She must really trust you.

Brandon:  I don't know if I could--I could do it, though.  You know?  [Choked up]  Like, pull the plug or whatever, you know?

Callie:  You should tell her that. [Touches his arm]

Tonia:  The first thing my eye is drawn to in this scene is Brandon's dang bedroom door that is still patched over with cardboard and duct tape.  I get that the fam probably doesn't have $250 just lying around, but it's been long enough IMO.  It should be replaced by now.

Otherwise, I appreciate that the conversation between Brandon and Callie is about Brandon, not Grace.  And I love Callie's advice that Brandon talk to Grace directly about his feelings.

Tara: Yes, good job show!

JESUS AND FAMILY (PLUS SHARON, TESS AND LOGAN) - MOTHER'S DAY BRUNCH - BACKYARD




[The other kids have given Moms presents, and Sharon has also given Stef and Lena something.  We have seen Jesus a few times, looking nervous and regretful as he watches the exchanges.]

Jesus:  So, I kind of screwed up.  I thought that the brunch was our present?

Mariana:  [Sarcastically]  Oh, is that why you helped out so much?

Tara: I still wish Mariana would lay off him with regard to his participation with kitchen chores..

Tonia:  Hear, hear!

Jesus:  I cut the kiwi!

All: [Laugh]

Jesus:  Anyway, sorry.  




Jesus:  But I did finish writing my essay, and instead of writing about my TBI as..the...greatest thing...that impacted...my life.  I wrote...about...my two moms.  So [STANDS]  I'm not gonna read the whole thing, but I do wanna read the last paragraph:

"So, my moms saved me and my sister from more nights of despair and terror.  They gave us the one thing we dreamed of but didn't dare actually hope for: family.  They made us feel safe.  And, for the first time in our young lives, loved.  So loved.  They made us feel like we were worth something.  That we mattered.  That someone in the world wanted us.  And I know that there's nothing that I could ever give back to them that could equal what they've given to me, but I want my two strong, beautiful, brilliant moms to know that they don't have to hope I'll be the man that they've raised me to be because that's the man I want to be.  And I'll always do my best to never let them down."

Tonia:  There is this feeling of being incredibly indebted as an adoptee, and I am glad Jesus addresses that here.  If your own biological parent(s) don't want you, don't value you, don't love you, how on earth can anyone else?  The idea of it feels ludicrous.  And I think the feeling of being so indebted is closely tied to fear of abandonment.  Jesus is taking this opportunity to let Moms know he will always try to never let them down...so that they do not give up on him or send him away.  

It seems like the entirety of his paper is about finding Stef and Lena, (which happened when they were five years old.)  I love being able to see even a little bit of Jesus's perspective on his past.  We've gotten a lot from the other siblings but not much from him, which is what makes this so important.

Tara: Yes, I appreciated that this aspect of Jesus's history has not been forgotten.  In fact, this seems almost a full-circle moment from the dream he has in 4x12.  

It also makes sense to me that before writing about his TBI, he had to back up and work through this early childhood stuff.  The security he finds speaking about this (and hearing Lena's response) will only help when he does begin to process the ways his TBI has affected him.

A sidenote: It is likely that Jesus would experience an uptick in aphasia symptoms if giving a speech in real life.  

1. He is standing, so part of his focus would be on keeping his balance.

2. We see his hand(s) shake - so he has to try not to drop the paper.  (This also likely affects his ability to track the words on the page.)

3. Jesus is having to read here.  We know reading was a huge issue for him in the past.  It is unlikely that his reading ability is 100% recovered.

4.  Public speaking can create anxiety.  Anxiety impacts aphasia symptoms.

For all of these reasons, in my opinion this speech would have sounded much more disfluent, if not for the magic of TV.  And while part of me understands why it was shot in the way it was, another part of me feels as though part of Jesus was erased for the sake of a feel-good moment.  (A sort of Overcoming Disability / Inspiration Porn perhaps.)

Tonia:  ^Such good points here, yes!  I noticed when transcribing the scene that Jesus was far less disfluent than would make sense in the situation.  Thanks for addressing this in more depth.

Lena: [Crying]  I want you all to know that the gift that you give to Mom and me...that it isn't the gift of loving us.  It's the gift of love that you inspire in us.  And the way that you've opened our hearts bigger than we ever thought possible.  And that feeling of loving someone so much?  Loving YOU GUYS so much?  We can't ever repay you.  We love you.  [Blows a kiss]

Jesus:  Love you, Mama.

Tonia:  All these kids can never hear this enough.  So glad Lena takes the time to say it here.

Tara: Every day, please! ;)

Brandon: [GETS A TEXT, LEAVES THE TABLE]

Stef:  Where's HE going?

Brandon: [INSIDE THE HOUSE, ANSWERING THE FRONT DOOR.  FINDS SUSAN ON THE OTHER SIDE]  Hey.  Is everything all right?

Susan:  Who the hell do you think you are?

Brandon:  What do you mean?

Susan:  I KNOW Grace made you her proxy!  Who's idea was that?  Yours?

Tonia:  No, that would be taking away Grace's agency, and Brandon recognizes that's not a thing you do to a fellow human being...

Brandon:  No!

Susan:  No?  It wasn't yours?

Stef:  Is everything all right?

Brandon:  This is Grace's mom.

Susan:  Hi.

Stef:  Hi.  Is she okay?

Susan:  Somehow YOUR SON convinced MY DAUGHTER to put him in charge of all decisions regarding her health.  

Stef: [is clearly stressed by this]

Tonia:  There's a commercial break here, where it's assumed that Brandon clarifies Grace made him her proxy on her own, and that he just found out about it recently himself.

Susan:  Why would she do this?

Brandon:  I think she's afraid that you won't honor her wishes.  The only person whose choice it is here is--is Grace.  And if she trusts me to do what she wants then maybe it's up to her.

Tonia:  YES, BRANDON!  Oh, my God!  It makes scenes like this so much more respectful to have an ally there, advocating for the disabled / chronically ill person.  Love that Brandon does not hesitate to do this here.  His respect for her shines through.

Tara: You know how often I cheer for Brandon. I'm not his biggest fan. But this? This is how you advocate for a loved one - by using your privilege to amplify their wishes / needs.

Susan:  Brandon, what you don't know is that Grace didn't want anymore chemo the last time she got sick.  She just wanted to give up, but she wasn't old enough to make her own decisions, so I made her keep fighting.  That bought her six more years, and because of those six years there are new treatments like the gene therapy she just did!  Which could very well cure her!  

Tonia:  This just illuminates Grace's choice of Brandon as her proxy so much.  To not have rights to make your own medical decisions?  Rights over what happens to your body?  To suffer through painful treatment at 13 years old and not have anybody listening to what you want?  This is exactly why Grace chose Brandon.  History has shown Susan does not respect her.  It has also shown that Brandon does.  Grace needs someone in her corner right now.  She needs an ally.  Don't back down, Brandon!

Susan:  So, you see, what Grace wants may not be what's best for Grace.  Don't kid yourself, honey.  When it comes to whether my daughter lives or dies, you are not capable of taking on a decision like that.  

Tonia:  See, Susan, here's the thing:  What Grace wants?  IS actually best for Grace.  It's not best for YOU.  You are making decisions based on what is best for you, not listening to her, and respecting her.  And just because you are not capable of respecting Grace's wishes, does not mean that Brandon can't.

Susan: [LEAVES]

[LENA ENTERS]

Lena:  What was that all about?

[MARIANA AND SHARON ENTER]

Mariana:  Logan thinks that his dad is cheating on his mom, and if no one else is gonna tell him the truth, then I will!

Sharon:  What is going on in here?  It's very rude to just leave your guests sitting outside all alone!

Stef:  [Under her breath]  I cannot... [LEAVES]

[SHARON FOLLOWS HER]

Lena: Sharon, wait.

Tonia:  Oh, Lord.  Ever since her mother's been here, Stef has been super stressed out.  It's coming to a head here...


STEF - BATHROOM - SHAKING A PILL INTO HER HAND

Sharon:  What are you taking?

Stef: [Takes pill]  It's medication.

Sharon:  Yeah, I can see that.  What kind of medication?

Stef: [Whispering]  It's none of your business, Mother. [Walks back into her bedroom]

Tonia:  Yes, Stef!  Your medical information, your privacy!

Sharon:  Okay.  Don't talk to me.  But don't you dare blame me for not knowing you were gay.  Okay?  Because you never talked to me.  You never cared what I thought.  I mean, you wanted your father's approval.  Oh, yeah.  Yeah.  You always went to him.  You used to just gang up against me, you know?  Just always the two of you.  You thought I was silly.  

Stef:  What about when you did know I was gay, Mom?  When I told you?  How you disapproved?

Sharon:  I did not disapprove!

Stef:  Yes, you did!  You were upset because I was going to break up my marriage and my home but, you know, you're fine with Tess breaking up HER marriage.  Cheering her on.  Taking her out to gay bars and stuff.  Where was that support for me, huh?  Your own damn daughter!  

Sharon:  That was different!  Mike was my son-in-law!  I cared about his feelings!

Tonia:  This is one of the most telling moments to me.  Sharon cared about Mike's feelings because she could relate to Mike.  She could feel for Mike because Sharon and Mike are both straight.  Sharon struggled to care about Stef's feelings because she could not relate to her.  And that felt personal.  Instead of being able to be there for her daughter unconditionally, Sharon's love is very clearly conditional, which I am sure, breaks Stef's heart.

Stef:  [Breathless]  You think...I didn't...care about his feelings?  You think I didn't...hurt when I saw him hurt?  You think I wanted...Brandon, my son...to be a kid from a broken family?  To have to be shuttled back and forth between the two of us?  You think I wanted to disappoint you and Dad?  I tried so hard, Mom!  I tried!  [Gasping]  I tried...to be... 

Sharon: [Arms crossed]  To be what?

Tonia:  Wow, Sharon just doesn't care at all, does she?

Stef:   [Gasping]  I--to be--  I tried to be straight, Mom.  I tried.  I tried to be normal.  [Breaking down]  I tried...to make Daddy proud.  [Loud gasping] I tried!  To not be [gasping] ash--ash--ashamed of my...self.  [Still gasping.  Has turned her back.]

Tara: After all these years, the trauma of repressing herself and trying to pass is so obvious.  

Tonia:  And I wonder if it is not seeing her mother so unmoved by her emotional distress that pushes Stef over that edge to have a panic attack here?

Sharon:  Hey.  Hey, what--what--what's happening?

Stef: [Gasping for air]

Sharon:  What's happening?  Are you having--  You're having a panic attack.  [Tries to take her hand.]

Stef: [Pushes back, gasping]  No... Please...

Sharon:  No, no, no.  I need you to breathe.  It's--it's a stress response.  Just breathe.  Breathe from your abdomen not your chest.  I need you to--

Stef: [Paces away from Sharon, still gasping]  Just sh--

Sharon:  Please.  Alright?  Listen to me very carefully.

Stef:  [Still gasping, tearful]  Please, I can't...

Sharon:  [Holding onto Stef]  I need you to touch four things.

Stef: [Sobbing]  I can't.

Sharon:  Just touch four things.

Stef: [Still crying, gasping]

Sharon:  Touch four things.

Stef: Please!  I can't!  Chair!  Pillow!  

Sharon:  Thank you.

Stef: [Gasping] Curtains!  The wall!

Sharon:  Okay.  Now, three things that you hear.  Just listen.  Three things you hear.

Stef: [Backs up, sobbing]  I--I--I--I hear your voice.  [Gasping rapidly]  I hear my breathing.  I--I--

Sharon: [softly] Shh.  Good.  Good.

Stef:  I hear a really annoying bird!

Sharon:  Good, okay.  Two things you smell.

Stef: [Inhales]  Your breath!

Sharon:  [Gently]  Okay, that's uncalled for.

Stef:  Bacon.  I smell bacon.  From brunch.

Sharon:  Good.  One thing you can taste.

Stef:  Fear.  Fear.  [Breaks down sobbing]

Sharon:  [Hugs her]  Oh... Shhh...  Darling girl.  [Rubs her back]

Tonia:  Seeing Sharon be able to come alongside Stef here and help her calm down is powerful.  Stef really needs someone to help her get grounded in this moment, and I'm glad Sharon could be that person for her.

Tara: This scene was super well-done and powerful.

BRANDON - WALKING DOWN THE HALL TOWARD GRACE'S ROOM - HOSPITAL

[SUSAN AND GRACE'S VOICES CAN BE HEARD FROM A DISTANCE]

Susan:  None of this is making any sense...

Grace:  The reason - the real reason - why I won't let you be my proxy isn't because I don't trust that you're gonna do what I want...

Brandon: [ARRIVES JUST OUTSIDE GRACE'S HOSPITAL ROOM.  HE CAN SEE HER AND SUSAN.  THEY DO NOT SEE HIM.]

Grace:  It's because...I know...if you do, you'll never forgive yourself.  You won't see it as you respecting my wishes, you'll see it as you [GETTING EMOTIONAL] giving up on me.  And you'll always question whether you should've made me fight and you'll blame yourself.  And I--I could never leave you with that burden, Mom...

Susan: [Crying]  Oh, honey.  No... [LIES HER HEAD DOWN ON THE BED, SOBS]

[BRANDON HAS HEARD EVERYTHING.  HE'S STILL JUST OUTSIDE THE DOORWAY]

Tonia:  On one hand, I'm glad Grace and Susan have the type of relationship where they can have these conversations.  

But on the other?  It breaks my heart that Grace feels she owes her mom an explanation for making her own call about who she'd trust to make medical decisions.  Instead of being able to trust that her mom would have enough respect for Grace to make those decisions on her behalf, if it ever comes to that.

Tara: As a mom, though?  Even though I'm not one, I would hazard to guess that most moms might need a conversation like this with their kid about a situation like this.

I also think it's pretty great that The Fosters decided to highlight this particular conversation with two more minor characters - to make sure Brandon hears it, and in the process, the audience hears it too.

STEF AND SHARON - STEF AND LENA'S ROOM

Stef:  How do you know so much about panic attacks, Ma?

Sharon:  I used to have 'em.

Stef:  I didn't know that.

Sharon:  Yeah.  When I was in my early 40's, right about the age you are now.  

Stef:  [Sighs]  Do you think it, uh, might have something to do with being in perimenopause?

Sharon:  Oh, I'm sure it does.  Back then, they just thought you were nuts.  [Chuckles]  Your dad, Frank, he thought I could control it if I would just...THINK HAPPY THOUGHTS.  

Tonia:  Still such a common belief regarding mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

Tara: The equivalent today is, "Have a positive attitude." Ugh.

Stef: [Scoffs]

Sharon: [Laughs]  Exactly!  But you can't know what that experience is.  You can't have any idea unless...[Sighs]  Unless you know it.  But now you know, if, uh, you ever need anybody to talk to who understands.  [Flashes a thumbs up.  Shrugs]

Tonia:  Another scene where I find myself torn.  

I love that Stef has Sharon to lean on here.  That she has access to someone who has insight into exactly what a panic attack is like and who can help her through them.  She needs that.  She deserves to have that.  

But I also can't not think about Jesus here and how alone he is.  No one really understands disability (and more than that a specific disability) unless they have it, too.  Jesus's only connection (and such a good one) thus far has been his hot second in that support group meeting listening to Madison speak about her experiences as a TBI survivor.

Jesus so needs connection to his community, too, but it IS very hard to find.

Tara: This is so true.  Often, we must wait until well into adulthood to begin to find our community/support system.

Stef:  I'm sorry that Dad and I ganged up on you sometimes.

Sharon:  It's okay.  Ganging up was the way you two bonded.  I knew it.  But...it didn't feel good being on the outside.  It still doesn't.

Stef:  I'll try not to do it anymore, okay?  Thank you for helping me.  I love you, Mom, I hope you know that.  

Sharon:  That is the very, very, very best Mother's Day gift ever, ever!  [Hugs her] Which is a good thing, because I noticed you didn't get me anything.

Both: [Laugh]    

Tara: I do love Sharon, and I was happy we got to see her again!

Tonia:  Yes, Annie Potts is a treasure!

BRANDON - WALKING INTO GRACE'S HOSPITAL ROOM

[GRACE IS SITTING UP IN A CHAIR, NOT IN BED AS SHE HAS BEEN]

Grace:  Hey.

Brandon:  How you doing?

Grace: I'm good.

Brandon: Well, it seems like it.  Where's your mom?

Grace: She just left to grab something to eat.

Brandon: Uh, well, there's something I wanted to--to tell you.  About being your proxy person.  I, uh, I thought about it...and I'll do it. [Nods]  If that's what you really want.

Grace: [Tears up, smiles, moves to sit next to Brandon]  Thank you.  [They kiss]

Tonia:  So glad to see Brandon's firmly in Grace's corner here.

Tara: Not something to go into lightly, so I'm glad he is taking it seriously.  I liked that this storyline made it into the episode - I'm sure for tragic reasons later - but that's neither here nor there.

STEF, LENA AND CALLIE - CALLIE'S ROOM

Sharon: [From a distance]  Hey, you guys!  You gotta come out here!  We're having a dance party!




Stef: [Walks out the patio door]  Good God, what is happening?

Sharon:  We're having a family dance party!  Come on!  This family needs to have some fun!  [Hugs Stef]

[MUSIC PLAYING: "Don't care where we're going.  Anywhere you are will do.  Don't need nothing else as long as I'm here with you."]

Family: [DANCES TOGETHER, JESUS CAN BE SEEN DANCING WITH JUDE AND AROUND ALL THE OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS, TOO, SMILING AND HAVING FUN]

Tonia:  Jesus being included in the family dance party is such a welcome change from him being yelled at and punished and benched from dancing.  I love seeing him with the family, having fun here.

Tara: Yes, super noteable that Jesus is allowed and welcomed to dance here.  I am so happy that the "Dancing Is Bad" storyline has been dropped. This scene reminded me of when he came back from Flintwood Academy! <3 Awwwww!

4 comments:

  1. Hi ladies,
    Once again wonderful review! I also thought the therapists words regarding guilt and shame were quite interesting. I never felt like I was “wrong” but I know quite a few disabled people who felt that they were worthless mistakes. I always try to make the people in my life feel needed and loved for that reason. Tonia, you have a beautifully shaped head!!! Gross that the kid touched you and bullied you :( I also love the new para! I wish my paras were like her! I think Jesus was going through both a natural reaction to a beautiful woman and the aphasia together. Nice to see Jesus feeling comfortable about writing about his TBI. That’s a big step and a really good idea! I don’t have aphasia but my CP goes bonkers when I speak publicly so I sound whiny, too soft and stutter so I see what you mean about the speech seeming a bit too physically perfect. Stef’s panic attack and the way the mom helps is so interesting. I have never seen that technique before.

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  2. Hi ladies,
    Once again wonderful review! I also thought the therapists words regarding guilt and shame were quite interesting. I never felt like I was “wrong” but I know quite a few disabled people who felt that they were worthless mistakes. I always try to make the people in my life feel needed and loved for that reason. Tonia, you have a beautifully shaped head! Gross that the kid physically touched you and bullied you. I also love the new para! I wish my paras were like her! I think Jesus was going through both a natural reaction to a beautiful woman and the aphasia together. Nice to see Jesus feeling comfortable about writing about his TBI. That’s a big step and a really good idea! I don’t have aphasia but my CP goes bonkers when I speak publicly so I sound whiny, too soft and stutter so I see what you mean about the speech seeming a bit too physically perfect. Stef’s panic attack and the way the mom helps is so interesting. I have never seen that technique before. The one thing I do like about Jesus’s distasteful comments is that it depicts disabled characters as having flaws.

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  3. My CP symptoms ramp up when I speak publicly too! I get breathless and my voice sounds low and gutteral.

    I have seen Stef's mom's technique talked about before by people with panic attacks so it felt extra authentic.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! So glad to find another person with CP who gets why public speaking is so hard. I can feel my tense muscles react immediately. That technique looks very effective and grounding. I'm glad that it is a real thing! Perhaps the writers finally learned how to do proper research. :)

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