“Dirty Laundry” (March 28) threw quite a bit at us! There’s an unexpected romance, a totally expected meltdown and more drama on the way thanks to That Letter, a debate over who gets to live in the guesthouse, a strain on the Adams-Foster marriage, Jude almost goes over to the dark side… Where to start?

Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) visits Gabe (Brandon Quinn) to ask him about helping to build Jesus’s (Noah Centineo) class project, but Gabe is acting cagey, and apparently leaving town. Visiting Ana (Alexandra Barreto), he talks about how horrible he feels about letting the twins down for the millionth time — but, also for the millionth time, he has fallen on hard times…

So Ana being Ana, she takes that info straight to their teenage daughter and makes it her problem — and Mariana being Mariana, the decree is laid down that Gabe will be living in the garage guesthouse Chez Adams Foster, of course!

The one that he abandoned so many times and inadvertently led to the complete destruction of Jesus? Yes, that same one.

Mariana

Callie (Maia Mitchell)’s trial is happening sooner rather than later, which inspires Callie and Aaron (Elliott Fletcher) to keep up their amateur Sherlocking efforts, in a last-ditch effort to prove that Troy is Pure Evil. (Can’t say that we blame Callie, with her freedom on the line and her lawyers shrugging off the “Troy is a psycho” theory because he looks so good on paper.)

Aaron suggests they investigate Troy’s alibi Vanessa by talking to her ex, who happens to live in L.A. — which coincides perfectly with Aaron’s planned trip home for his dad’s birthday. Aaron’s dad isn’t taking his gender too well, and dear Callie agrees to tag along as a human buffer in the situation, in gratitude for Aaron’s willingness to question the ex on Callie’s behalf.

Not really the makings for an idyllic weekend, is it? (Well, at least not on paper, but bear with us…)

RELATED: What happens to ‘Fosters’ kids who don’t luck out with moms like Stef & Lena? Spoiler alert, it’s awful

Out of the gate, the visit is off to a less than stellar start when Aaron’s mother insists on calling him “Allison.” It only gets worse from there, thanks to Aaron’s dad being a first class tool about Aaron’s transition. Callie steps up to deliver the glorious smackdown that Aaron’s mother and brother are too chicken to deliver… Which seems to backfire spectacularly on Callie at first, after Aaron gets angry at her for once again making it about herself and her love affair with Blind Lady Justice.

It’s exactly why we (and let’s be honest, Aaron) love Callie so much, of course, but overruling Aaron’s sense of what’s bearable — Aaron, who grew up in this house and can be expected to choose his own battles — is Callie’s White Feminism at its most obnoxious. Obviously this is leading somewhere beautiful — it’s “The Fosters,” you can’t very well lay down the hammer on a transphobic parent without getting a pony out of it — but it’s important for the show to earn this for Callie, and that means Aaron must offer legitimate pushback.

If this weren’t “The Fosters,” Callie’s innate need to tell everyone that Aaron is trans and that’s great! could, as he’s pointed out, get him murdered. For Callie, survival has always been about reading the room and assessing adult threat levels, so of course she relies on those skills here — but that’s instinct, not choice, and it’s not her circus or her story anyway.

aaron and dad At long last, the romance The Fosters has spent all season building hits    and its perfect

However, in this case Callie’s intervention does lead to a powerful one-on-one with Aaron’s mom, who delivers a raw and heartfelt description of how they’re all struggling to adjust. She, for one, is at least looking to her own part in it, and how she might have caused Aaron pain by forcing all the traditional trappings of girlhood on him during his formative years. It’s an honest look at the ripple effects of gender identity issues — and while it would have been easy enough to paint the less-than-accepting family in broad and unflattering strokes, it’s instead a “Fosters” instant classic: A heartfelt scene that does a pretty amazing job of showing a parent fumbling her way toward understanding.

The scene reassures us that even if Aaron’s dad never comes around, Aaron’s got a pretty good mom (and seemingly awesome brother) in his corner. And that’s something, if not everything, in this case… Not to mention the illumination comparison here with the multi-year arc — its peaks and valleys and two-steps-forward/one-step-back — between our beloved Connor and his dad (Gavin MacIntosh &  Chris Bruno).

Parenthood, just like growing into a fuller person at any age, is a long game — and a moving target.

RELATED: ‘The Fosters’ Noah Centineo talks portraying Jesus’ brain injury

Of course, over the course of this road trip Callie tells Aaron about the breakup with AJ, and of course we’re pleasantly surprised and deeply satisfied to finally see their full-on first kiss…

And when perfect gentleman Aaron offers Callie an easy out the next day, in case it was a whim or merely affectionate… Callie kisses him again, just to seal the deal. BAM! TWICE! If you were wondering what could overshadow the fact that Vanessa’s ex might actually be a pretty great witness against Vanessa and Troy in court (which yes, also happened), this would be it.

It’s been interesting and more than a little relevant to watch Callie dance around her attraction to Aaron from minute one, not just as a window into how woke cis people are just as blind to their privilege as any other kind of person but because of the sort of person Callie is, virtues-first, and susceptible to impulse. It’s not great that boring AJ has been most useful as a plot device — here, an obstruction to a season-long courting session; at home, something for Mike to do basically — but it does make sense that this would be the season-long arc for Callie. She needs someone enough like her, and enough unlike, to fulfill her needs.

First there was prodigy Brandon (David Lambert), who is essentially the male version of what Callie could have been with a family like his, and who represented her need to integrate and believe in this family (while sabotaging herself, of course) and the concept of safety itself, and of course there’s her journey of healing from her sexual abuse, for which he’s a fairly perfect subject in some ways if not all of them. There’s AJ, who is in some ways the “past” to Brandon’s “future” — not only is he charming and hot and devoted to her, but enough like her recent self to give her some perspective — and an enveloping compassion, giving love to that former version of herself, while exploring sex in her new, safer form.

Callie and Aaron are both epic human beings, clearly willing to go great lengths to fight for each other (and for everybody else): Callie in advocating for Aaron with his family; Aaron in doing whatever it takes to help Callie clear her name. It’s a far more solid foundation that most full-fledged adult relationships have under them. We know how this works — “The Fosters” will make them pay for this happiness! — but for now, we have the happiness, and the comfort of knowing this was inevitable, even when they didn’t.

Emma

Emma (Amanda Leighton) and Jesus are back to making out, but she’s afraid of making his head injury worse by going any further — and of course, still pretty gunshy about physical intimacy with him or in general, while she gets her body back — but our dear Jesus wastes no time asking Lena to get him medical clearance from a real doctor. Hahaha, that’s so Jesus — and so sweet, and so sad. The upshot is that it’s not about Emma this week, as the Mamas have to navigate their way through the ethical and practical minefield of not wanting to condone sex for their very messed up 16-year-old son… while knowing perfectly well that he’s going to proceed with or without their blessing.

Cut to Lena trying to explain the do’s and don’ts of sex with a brain injured patient to Emma and Jesus, which serves up a hefty portion of comedy gold. But also intentional, and necessary to compare: The Mamas approaching Jesus and his situation the same way as Jude’s recent sex-ed/Grindr — excuse us, “Pump,” bleh — adventures is exactly the right perspective on both.

Everybody has sex, everybody wants to before they’re ready, and everybody has some kind of roadblock at some point. For Jude, it’s being a kid in a straight world; for Jesus, it’s thinking he’s the owner of the same body he has always had. Jesus’s exuberant and unashamed, healthy sexuality has always been a charming detail of his character, and for him as integral to his identity as being a sports hero (or Mariana being a genius, etc.), so the focus here is not just timely overall, but for the character himself, both as a teenage boy and as a survivor of something life-changing.

Only once Jesus and Emma finally have the green light, they discover (not the hard way, if you catch our drift) that Jesus’s anti-depressants might be messing with his mojo. Interestingly, in one of the most strange and hilarious good news/bad news scenarios ever, Jesus reads the label of his anti-depressants, and discovers that impotence is one of the side effects. So at least he can read again… Right?

…But. Jesus being Jesus, clearly he’s going to stop taking those anti-depressants, which means darkness on the immediate horizon.

RELATED: The surprise wedding that has us weeping, with its characteristic ‘Fosters’ wryness

Not surprisingly, Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum)’s relationship is buckling under the strain of everything. The long, long hours that come with Stef’s new promotion are keeping her away from the house, leaving Lena to deal with an unprecedented amount of domestic drama, and household crap, while also defending her job from the new “Fosters” archvillain, Principal Drew (more on that cad in a minute).

A good heart-to-heart clears the air between the Mamas, and Stef offers to help with the backed up laundry as a first step toward amends. And yeah… About that dirty laundry. (It’s a rare “Fosters” episode title that doesn’t give you at least three meanings, no matter how blase they appear at first.) We soon discover exactly how badly Brandon (David Lambert) continues to bungle the whole “Emma letter” situation — this week, he’s left The Letter in his pocket, which found its way into the dirty laundry, which found its way into Stef’s hands.

You didn’t really think a mom/cop would be able to resist reading that, did you? And with just two episodes left, we’re a little terrified about how exactly sky-high this one’s gonna blow.

Noah and Jude

Meanwhile, Jude (Hayden Byerly)’s being harassed by the school homophobes, so he decides to strike back at the douchiest one, Todd. With Noah (Kalama Epstein) in tow, Jude photocopies and pastes Todd’s D minus history paper all over the school hallways on a Friday night. We fall that much more in love with Noah after seeing that he’s not digging Jude’s mean-spirited side. Of course, Jude eventually has a crisis of conscience, and asks Noah to help him undo the damage early the next morning.

It all seems like a perfectly adorable but innocuous little sideline, some welcome Jude/Noah time… Until they accidentally overhear Drew (Jared Ward) giving a tour to a rich stranger… With a lot of encouraging things to say about Drew’s plans to convert Anchor Bay from a charter school to a private one.

Oh, Drew. We thought you were merely an insensitive, entitled jerk when you were foisting all that extra work on Lena. Now it’s getting positively “Game of Thrones”-y. Hopefully Lena can suppress her natural Sansa tendencies and get a little more Cersei, ’cause this guy totally has it coming.

“The Fosters’ airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Freeform. Only two episodes remain before Season 4 ends — but Season 5 begins July 11.

Posted by:Julia Diddy

Julia Diddy is a freelance writer and critic in Los Angeles.