Ever since Angelo died, Daphne has been a girl standing on the edge of a cliff. Toes to the edge, leaning forward inch by inch, trying to figure out if she should fling herself off and surrender to the freedom of the void or take one big step back to more stable ground.
The thing about being the girl standing on the edge of the cliff is that it’s scary. With every misdeed, Daphne has angled herself a little more over that edge, and it’s as if she suddenly realizes that if she leans out just a fraction of an inch more, she might never be able to pull herself back. But this realization doesn’t come easy. It comes after her family stages an intervention about her behavior, confronting her about her cocaine use during the Northwestern visit. It comes after she makes yet another bad decision and steals a bottle of Oxycontin from the clinic. It comes as she pours those very same pills down the sink and makes the decision to stop hurting herself, and everyone else in the process. The problem with Daphne’s cliff is that even though she’s made the decision to take a step back, the momentum of what she did while out on that edge still threatens to fling her over. Stealing the pills gets her fired from the clinic. She neglected to even apply to Northwestern, jeopardizing her big pre-med plans. And, worst of all, both Regina and Wes now know she was the one who vandalized the East Riverside construction site.
What’s beautiful about this episode is that it never excuses Daphne’s actions; those consequences are still out there in the ether, threatening her future. But in the moment, the show is far more concerned with Daphne the person and why she did what she did. Katie Leclerc plays this entire episode as if she’s trapped in a horror movie, and it’s a perfect choice; essentially Daphne is trapped in a horrific landscape of her own design, and she has no idea how to get herself out. It’s her terror that eventually wakes her up and pulls her back from the edge, and it’s this terror that leads her to the big realization at Angelo’s accident site that she’s messed everything up. It’s here where she takes the anger she’s been radiating at Regina and puts it firmly back onto herself, blaming herself for “wasting time” being angry with Angelo when she could have had so many more good days with him. And it’s Kathryn who makes her realize that any amount of time this messy, crazy family has spent together has been worth it, because at least they all eventually found each other. Time for this family was never a given. It was a bonus.
If there’s one thing that makes me sad about this episode, it’s that all of Daphne’s realizations were happening while Bay and her friends were busy dealing with their own issues at the prom. No Daphne and Bay sister moments at the prom is a tough pill to swallow, but having Bay on her own gives her the rare opportunity to take on a challenge that, traditionally, Daphne might have been the one to handle. When Carlton decides to institute a dress code for the prom stipulating dresses for females and suits for males, it alienates Natalie’s girlfriend Hilary, who doesn’t wear dresses. Once Bay is crowned prom queen (before the prom; just go with it) she uses her power to stage a peaceful protest, ditching her planned dress for a suit along with all of her female friends. When they aren’t let into the prom—courtesy of a school official who calls them “freaks”—they stage their own prom outside the school. It’s lovely and a nice way to do a spin on the very traditional “alternative prom” trope. Would it have been nice to see Daphne dancing with all of her friends? Sure. But Daphne has a cliff to back away from, one step at a time.
- Carrie Wikis Some Art: The Girl On The Cliff, Augustus John, 1936, oil on canvas.
- The Daphne-tervention was pretty outstanding, especially when everyone’s secrets came out all at once. I especially liked how it lead to a lot of co-parenting scenes, as those are well-established as my favorite thing.
- Vanessa Marano looked absolutely stunning in her prom dress. She also looked stunning in her suit, but I wish she had a funky tie instead of a necklace.
- I was actually surprised and impressed that Regina told Wes Daphne was involved in the vandalism. Very interested to see where that goes in the finale.
- At least Daphne got into Gallaudet? (Didn’t she?)
- The Matthew moment was a bit shoehorned in but felt like it worked in the end. But Sharee knows Matthew? Okay, sure.
The Fosters’ greatest strength is that it never forgets. It’s like it has an emotional supercomputer working at all times, tracking each individual character’s arc and making sure it is never forgotten (even if it is put on pause for a while). Keeping all of these emotional threads alive and consistently satisfying is an immensely tricky balancing act, and so far in season two while the plot points might not be perfect, their emotional counterpoints have been spot on.
This emotional consistency shines here as Stef and Lena slowly and quietly deal with the loss of their child in their own ways; first separately, then finally together. Lena being gone for these past two episodes (due to Sheri Saum’s real-life pregnancy, I believe) could have been immensely stark and awkward. Instead, their intimate Skype conversations have had an emotional rawness that’s almost helped by the technology and distance between them. While Lena’s grief was outwardly textual, Stef’s grief snuck up on her, only revealing itself when she was alone and vulnerable from attempting to fix a leaky faucet. The faucet is a metaphor—a fairly clumsy one, in all honesty—but it’s clumsily effective. For Stef, these feelings were something to put away and deal with later, just like their leaky faucet, until all of a sudden the sudden rush of water just can’t be stopped. Stef is such a consistent and solid character that it’s easy to forget what a remarkable one she is as well; a tough, hard-line woman who is also incredibly feeling and openly warm to her family. That Callie scene at the end was a perfect example of all sides of her character at once, and a perfect example of The Fosters’ dexterity with emotional shorthand.
The rest of the action takes place at a local Mexican street festival, and it’s one of those wonderful teen show scenes where all of the characters end up at the same event and casually interact. It’s one of the features of the genre to me, and is deployed reasonably well here while still maintaining individual storylines for each character within the location. The biggest is probably Callie’s continued attempts to get over her panic attacks, which are foiled when Liam shows up and Wyatt confronts him, which leads to a physical altercation. Wyatt is essentially a good guy so it’s hard to watch Callie reject him for not knowing exactly what she needs, but no matter how good a guy he can be her own mental health is the most important thing for her to protect. It’s almost radical to see a teen girl break up with an all-around good guy just because she can’t figure out how to feel safe around him (rather than the teen boy swooping in and “saving the day” for the girl).
The festival has bigger implications for Mariana, however, as her long-simmering insecurity about her cultural heritage comes rushing to the forefront when Mat brings her to the Mexican street festival. She’s so obviously uncomfortable with her unfamiliarity with her own background, and while this theme has been rather clumsily rendered throughout the season, it’s handled with grace here. When Ana wasn’t able to take care of her and Jesus she did more than abandon them as a mother; she also abandoned them as a sort of connection to what it means to be a Mexican American, and this disconnect hits Mariana hard here. Mariana’s uneasiness with her cultural identity and disconnection with her community is something she touched upon with Lena earlier in the season, but it was then quickly glossed over for basic teen drama. Her conversations with Mat are a welcome return to what looks like it could be a great story thread for Mariana, especially now that Ana is back in the picture.
- Consistently, my favorite scenes are becoming the family scenes in the kitchen. They have such an easy, casually realistic family vibe. Like a warm hug.
- Before everything went wrong with Callie and Wyatt they had the adorableness turned up to 11. Meatballs!
- I am officially checked out of this Jesus story. He got a tattoo of HAYLEY on his body? A big one?? Dude, no.
- Brandon tells Lou he’s not ready to be in a relationship, which is nice because of what happened with Dani. It’s also kind of strange, however, because it also feels like it is possibly setting up a Brandon and Callie rehash? I hope this instinct is wrong.