Culture / Family

The Fosters Roundtable: Quinceañera (Episode 4)

graphicly FostersOnTheBeach

attentively Spoiler alert-o-rama!  These weekly Roundtables are your place for lesbofamily banter about the new ABC Family show The Fosters, and they’re chock-a-block with SPOILERY content.  You’ve been warned! 
Episode Synopsis:  Lena wants Mariana’s quinceañera to be perfect, but Mariana uncovers a secret that may ruin her day. Meanwhile, Lena’s mom visits; and Stef reminds Brandon of the dating rules when she observes his and Talya’s friction over Callie.   First aired: Jun 25, 2013


This week at the table: N & Sandra in dialog in the same time zone, Polly chiming in after watching the free Hulu version post-midnight in a later time zone. Hey. It works. Sort of.


Teri Polo, Cierra Ramirez, Sherri Saum in a “mama sandwich” [Adam Rose, ABC Family]

N: OK! I loved that they touched on issues of community and race, and on Mariana’s embarrassment.


Polly: Bam! Right into it in the first two minutes: “Ella no tiene un padre; ella tiene dos mamas,” Lexi says. Pitch-perfect: a nonjudgemental friend’s matter-of-factness; the dressmaker’s awkward but sweet recouping; Lena’s subterranean concern (but so subtle; as it would be); and Mariana’s tight-lipped discomfort. So rich and complex.


Sandra:  Yes!  I’ve been waiting for them to delve a bit more into the race and ethnicity issues, and I think that drawing a parallel between Lena being biracial and Mariana growing up with a family that isn’t the same ethnicity as her was a good way to bring it up.


I grew up with a mother who was born and raised in Mexico and didn’t speak English fluently until she moved to the US and a father who was the all-American guy.  I also grew up in a very white and upper-middle class suburb, so I struggled with similar feelings.


I remember when I was in first grade my grandmother (who didn’t speak English) picked me up from school, and when she spoke to me I pretended I couldn’t understand her.  I was embarrassed and didn’t want anything to make me different.


N: Ouch.


That’s one that, while it wasn’t an aspect of the storyline that I could relate to from my own personal experience, I feel like they handled it so well that I really felt for them. For Mariana, and especially for Lena.


In the conversation with her mother, I had a physical reaction, when Dana told Lena that she didn’t know what it was like to be a Black woman in America.


Sandra:  Yes, that was rough.


Polly: Very. I will say that though I was really excited that the conversation was happening in a Prime Time TV drama, it seemed a little implausible that it was the first time her mom “went there.” The way it happened was a bit frontal. Still, I was glad for the issue appearing. And Lena’s talking about it at the beach with Stef rang way more true–less frontal, more credible, so the truth of the situation could actually radiate. Which I was grateful for.


Sandra: I also really liked the Quinceañera – it really reminded me of the one for my sister.  My sister even had a bedazzled bodice on her dress and super cheesy waltz choreography.  I remember it well because I was in her court and danced with gay friend because I didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable dancing with a girl.


Polly: !


N:  I loved the party, and I loved that – whatever the reasoning – Stef and Lena gave Mariana the party she was hoping for.


Polly: I’ll say it. I loved the hot moms all dressed up. “Wow,” says Stef, when she first sees Lena dolled up. “Wow, yourself,” says Lena. “No doubt,” I thought. There. I said it.


Sandra:  It was a beautiful party.  And it really is a rite of passage.  I always regret not having a Quince.


Polly: I loved the double-meaning of the background music (Kari Kimmel’s “Shooting Star”–look, they have music guides for every show), when Mariana was dancing with “family friend Mike.” The moms looking on from the sidelines, being a mix of sincerely, deeply happy for their daughter and trying to keep a lid on the pain of being x’ed out of the dance.  (Teri Polo’s depth and complexity as an actor is wonderful to watch.) The camera cut back and forth from the moms’ faces to Mariana as the lyrics went “No one can change who we areNo one can take that away from me / I know that I’m good enough / and I know that I’m beautiful  /And no one can take that away from me.”  Just, a really nice detail. And its return at the end, at the denouement, with yet another layer of meaning. Oooof.


N:  Beautiful. Even with the Epic Bitchfights going on on the dance floor. I swear, if looks could kill, that party would’ve been a bloodbath.


Sandra:  ABC Family sure knows how raise our curiosity about the Liam storyline.  I was glad to see Brandon cut out Talya – but I doubt that’s the last we will see of her.


N:  I’m guessing she’ll be happy to cause problems for all of the Fosters and their fosters. ABC Family is definitely good at bringing the drama – do you think Liam was the boy at the end? In the “Scenes from the next episode of…” things weren’t looking too good for him and Callie.


Or is he, perhaps, just Random Guy On The Beach?


Polly: Or maybe even Einstein On the Beach? Sorry.


Sandra:  My guess is random guy on the beach – I actually assumed it was the guy she went to see.


I was just very glad to see race and ethnicity addressed – and I felt a strong connection to the storyline because of parallels to my own life.  I hope they keep exploring the issues around race and ethnicity.


N:  Me, I’m still having a tough time with Mike, and his role. If Mariana was too embarrassed to dance with her moms, I guess I can get that, but I feel like picking just about any other male figure would’ve been more appropriate. But how is that my call to make?


I feel like he’s feeling almost as uncomfortable as I am, though, given how much he drank at the party.


Polly: In such a manly way. “Another double. Neat.” While Stef comes up and orders white wines. White. Wines.


N: And I’m digging Jude’s role as The One Who Watches.


Polly: Little Ashley Judd Who Watches. Am I right? Ashley Judd. Watching. Even noticed the tall, longish-haired, nameless guy smelling his corsage. Nice touch.


NHe had, I think, my favorite line of the episode. When Callie says, “I’m not stupid,” and he comes back with, “But sometimes you do stupid things.” Not that it was an important line, just one of those reminders that we can all make mistakes.


Sandra:  Interesting.  I liked Jude’s character development this episode, too. I was not feeling connected to him at all until now, but now I’m invested.


I was okay with the choice of Mike for the dance.


Polly: Particularly because (given how the episode ends with Mariana’s epiphany), it shows her really authentic, believable, complex conflict.  A sample size of a few friends and an in-law doesn’t make this more than anecdotal, but I will say that folks I know who have been cross-racially adopted, particularly kids of color in white families, have talked about how normalcy was really really important when they were younger, the more so because of the racial difference in their family. So for that reason, maybe I give Mariana more complexity behind what might seem on the surface a reactionary conformity.  At least I extend the benefit of the doubt before I judge. It is a rich topic, for sure.  Anyway, it would have been too neat for Mariana to be utterly fine bucking tradición, especially if it has been at arm’s length for her. Yet it also would have been untrue for her love of her moms to not emerge, too. So I think it was really nicely done.


Sandra: I do feel like Mike’s character is being painted more and more sad and lonely (I didn’t get an uncomfortable vibe from him so much as wistful).  I like him more as the well-intentioned but prone to missteps guy than the longingly drinking his sorrows away guy – but we shall see.


N:  I just said the same to J – only time will tell.


So what do you think? Pull up a chair and tell us!”


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  1. I have two comments, one to point out and one that is my crazy speculation about Liam.

    First, remember, when Callie is talking about Jude (I think to Brandon) she talks about why she was sent to Juvie and mentions hitting her then-foster father’s car (I believe with a baseball bat or something). Remember that she did this because her foster father was hitting or possibly just being verbally aggressive towards (it’s been a long time) Jude. Did anyone else catch that she tells Brandon/us that he hit Jude because he found Jude wearing one of his wife’s dresses?

    Second and unrelated, I can’t help hypothesizing over Liam. The guy she went to see at the beach was the guy she knows from English class, the guy who was flirting with her at school, I really don’t think that’s Liam. Liam’s someone she feels guilty about, someone from her past. I’m willing to bet that her guilt has something to do with Jude. I don’t think Liam was the foster father, she’s mentioned him enough times, it would be awkward to have the two characters actually be the same and not have let the audience in on it by now unless there was some big secret or tension regarding his name, and I just don’t think that’s the case. So my stab in the dark guess is that Liam was Callie’s boyfriend, or someone she trusted in some way, and he hurt Jude (possibly molested him?). I’m also guessing that Callie didn’t notice right away what was going on, possibly even told Jude he was overreacting in his dislike of the guy, and let it continue for some time. Just my crazy stab in the dark ^.^


  2. Wow. Cool. I was thinking (more incriminating and damning, I would imagine, of Callie’s character) that Liam was another foster “sibling,” major emphasis on the air quotes. But someone she got involved with but shouldn’t, and the involvement jeopardized, if not deep-sixed a previous placement. Which would be why the tension w/ Brandon is so toxic/ reminiscent/ magnetic/ etc. What’s interesting about that kind of plot thread, is that it goes right into taboo territory, something the writers seem to be addressing. In a thoughtful, real way.

    Even more intriguing, though less plausible, is the idea that they have no idea what to do with plot thread and are even as we speak brainstorming in some San Fernando Valley Starbucks about just what to make of it.

  3. They are using music very well on the show which is something I always pay close attention to.

    Jude gives off a weird vibe. There I said it, Polly.

  4. I agree, re: music’s prominence. JLo is promoting the show so actively (all over Twitter), & her music is featured in it, too (right before the Kari Kimmel song). When I saw the spiffy music guide, I realized: yeah, of course! Given the teen-centric audience, and JLo’s profession, I realize it’s probably going to be a huge narrative element.

    Not touching the Jude-baiting. Beyond: you will rue the day. Slow nod.

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