By Breanne L. Heldman
August 29, 2016 at 12:29 PM EDT
Gilles Mingasson/Freeform
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SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you’ve already watched Monday’s “Collateral Damage” episode of The Fosters.

Whoa. So pretty much everyone is in some pretty dire straits as the summer season winds down on The Fosters. Callie’s in a car with a possible murderer, Jesus needs to be rushed to the hospital after a hit to the head, Brandon won’t be going to Juilliard after all, Jude is God knows where getting high with his boyfriend, Mariana is mid-meltdown, and the moms are filing for divorce in an effort to save the family’s house. And that still wasn’t everything going on in the Adams-Foster clan.

While trying to catch our breath, we caught up with executive producer Peter Paige to dissect these considerable bumps in the road and give us a sense of hope in these trying times as we look forward to season 4B.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: That finale was a whole lotta drama, even for The Fosters. What are you trying to do to us?

PETER PAIGE: [Laughs] What we found as we were building the season is that all of these stories that had been building for 10, 20, more episodes were coming to this natural head and there was an opportunity to collide them at this music festival, so that’s what we did. I don’t think we set out to make it the most intense Fosters finale ever, but I kind of think that’s what we ended up with.

Give us some hope — whose negative stuff is going to turn around first?

Well, there’s always hope in The Fosters. These are fundamentally good people who are all trying their best and making some terrible, terrible decisions, but they’re trying their best. And there’s always hope for those people. They are smart, resilient, resourceful characters who have navigated incredibly difficult things in their pasts and will find ways to do so again.

Has Mariana learned her lesson with regards to taking Jesus’ ADHD medication?

Mariana is a hyper, hyper over-achieving student and she has put so much pressure on herself. She’s decided junior year is everything, it’s going to determine college, it’s going to determine the entire course of her life. This is an incredibly real problem. So she needed support and unfortunately she looked to the wrong thing for support. She knew medically there was a little bottle of mama’s little helpers in the house and it would help her through the night to get the paper done and that’s all she’s thinking about, not realizing that the more dependent she becomes on those, the more they’re going to screw with her.… I definitely think Mariana is facing a pretty serious reckoning. I think Mariana and Brandon are the two who are really staring down the consequences of their choices.

After getting caught taking the SAT for someone else, does Brandon have any chance of ever going to college?

The real-life consequences for that action are sort of a one-year suspension from academia. Basically, you can reapply after that year.

So is he going to reapply to Julliard? They’re going to take that?

Who knows how that’s all going to play out? On our show, it took three and a half seasons to do one year, so it could be a very long time. We’ll see. But there are many, many roads to Mecca.

I was glad to see things came back around to Justina and the foster care debate. Are we going to see more of that in the back half of the season?

I think that’s one of the most important stories we’ve ever done.… It’s a thread that’s still alive. I don’t know that there will be a lot of screentime given to it [in the next half], but it’s out there. It’s definitely ongoing. And, as you know in The Fosters, anything can come back.

Is Callie ever really going to be successful in her attempts to help someone?

Callie does have victories. The problem with Callie is that she takes those victories and turns them into new challenges. If you look back at her journey, there are lots of victories along the way, it’s just that she does not ever rest on her laurels or stop to take stock. She’s always onto the next person who needs to be saved.

I am surprised to see it be Jude who’s becoming a bit of a pothead.

Jude is a teenager now, and it was important to us to honor that. Yes, he’s sweet Jude, but the truth is, there is no kid in the history of the world who doesn’t become a bit mouthy, a little bit rebellious, a little self-actualized in perhaps not the most fun way when they become a teenager. And so we’re honoring that and playing that out and part of that for Jude is smoking a little weed with his boyfriend.

Are we going to have to sit nervous about this whole divorce thing? Or can we have some faith that it really is just about the house?

Look, our moms love each other very much. Yes, they have some fundamental problems that never seem to go away — I don’t know a relationship that doesn’t have those — but our moms love each other very much. I think even if there are challenges and complications to this divorce story around saving the house and pissing people off who thought they had a contract, I don’t think you need to worry that our moms aren’t still in love.

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