The Fosters (ABC Family) Review “Family Day”

The Fosters Episode 14 Family Day (2)

As a critic, I want to objectively analyze “Family Day,” breaking down the ways in which it addressed the fuzzy lines between the personal and the political, the way it ruminated on what family means and the depth it gave to the stories of children lost in the system and those who fight to care for them. However, as a person, it’s hard for me to be analytical in the face of such overwhelming emotion. What people often fail to understand when discussing “social issues” is that they are the issues that define us right down to the very core of our being. There is nothing more personal, and The Fosters is unique in the way it brings to light that people are not issues, they’re people and they deserve love, respect and families no matter what.

“Family Day” was the most poignant example of the series’ philosophy yet. I want to start with the happy moments: Stef and Lena’s elation that Jude and Jesus had their first brotherly fight, Mariana asking Callie to share her new found cooking skills when she comes home, Callie and Brandon’s sweet (but so, so reckless) stolen moment in Daphne’s new apartment. The Fosters excels at drama, but it is equally adept at creating wonderful, familial scenes that remind viewers of home, of being a teen or a parent. Seeing these moments makes it particularly hard to watch Callie pull away from the family, not because of Brandon, but because, as Rita so eloquently put it, she wants to live life with one foot out the door. She’s terrified of believing she can be wanted, cherished and loved. Lena and Stef want to give her everything she has been denied, but Callie is terrified and that terror comes at a cost.

After Callie turns a blind eye to Cole obtaining hormones from the street, he ends up being rushed to the hospital for an overdose. The only person at his side is Rita because his parents won’t allow him to come home unless he “acts like a girl.” He truly has nowhere else to go, no safety net, not even justice– his transition is in limbo because at sixteen no doctor will perform the procedure or give him the hormones he needs to be his true self. The girls in the home are all in a similar situation, and they confront Callie for putting herself above the needs of the group. The truth is she doesn’t belong there, when Family Day comes, she has a room full of people who want nothing more than to take her home. It has to be her choice though, she has to embrace the idea that not everyone will let her down.

Meanwhile, Lena struggled with a dream of having a child. It’s an idea she hasn’t told Stef about yet, but it’s clearly something she has wanted for a very long time. With their home overflowing with children, I suspect it will be hard for Stef to accept the idea of adding another person to their brood, particularly a baby. They would essentially be starting over just as the kids are all nearing an age when they will be going off to college. Lena has a limited time to make her decision, and moving forward, this could put the couple at odds– or maybe, eventually strengthen the family even more.

The most heartbreaking part of “Family Day” came at the end. Earlier in the episode, Stef’s father bought the family a new car, a gesture Stef believed was made in order to buy them off. Lena pointed out that even if Stef’s father never fully accepts who his daughter is, he still loves her and her family. From Lena’s point of view, Stef and Frank’s stubbornness only perpetuates the hurt and loss. Unfortunately, Stef is too late to do anything about the relationship. When she goes to see her father later, she finds out he died alone, watching a football game. It is a moment that evoked a visceral reaction from me. The finality of it was sobering, the message clear: nothing is dearer than family, even when you disagree, even when they can be infuriating. If we are one of the lucky ones who has a family that cares even a little, then we owe it to ourselves to hold on to them.

In the end, that’s what The Fosters represents to me: proof that nothing is more important than family. It doesn’t matter if it is the family you were born into, or the one you chose, or a combination of both. The political will never be as dear as the personal. A truly stunning hour of television.

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