Hailing from original series creators Amy Lippman and Chris Keyser, Wednesday’s two-episode premiere kicks off with mom Gloria Acosta (Narcos: Mexico‘s Fernanda Urrejola) and dad Javier Acosta (Narcos‘ Bruno Bichir) very much in the picture, whereas the Fox drama followed the orphaned Salinger children. But there are still plenty of similarities to the original: The first Party of Five had Salinger’s restaurant, and in the Freeform version, the Acosta parents own a family dining establishment. That is actually where the pair is detained by ICE in front of their little wunderkind daughter Valentina (Vida‘s Elle Paris Legaspi, who is an expert crier in the tradition of Po5).
Six weeks later, Gloria and Javier are still being held in a detention center, while back home, the kids are holding down the fort, badly: The house is a mess, eldest daughter Lucia (Mayans M.C.‘s Emily Tosta) skips family dinner to throw a party and is talking back to her teacher, and Lucia’s twin brother Beto (The Goldbergs‘ Niko Guardado) is barely keeping the restaurant afloat.
Eldest brother Emilio (13 Reasons Why‘s Brandon Larracuente) is a womanizer and aspiring musician who is tasked with caring for his siblings, not that he’s around much. He gets called into the vice principal’s office about Lucia’s behavior and Beto’s frequent absences. If the VP feels the kids aren’t being parented properly, she will have to report her concerns to the Department of Social Services, which puts the pressure on Emilio to keep the family together.
Emilio hires an expensive lawyer to take on his parents’ case, but the $7,000 turns out to be money down the drain. Even Val’s teary plea to the judge that she needs her mom and dad isn’t enough to convince the judge that the family is facing an exceptional hardship. “Unfortunately, heartbreak is anything but uncommon in these cases,” the judge declares. “The law is clear.”
Val worries that she and her siblings will be split up, so Emilio moves back home full-time and quickly starts ordering the others around. Like the original series’ Julia, Lucia tells Emilio to go to hell when he forbids her from going out on school nights, while Val resists her new early bedtime, just like Claudia did. Then Emilio and Beto have a fight that is eerily similar to one between Charlie and Bailey in the original pilot, about how being the oldest doesn’t make Emilio a parent and that he needs to get a job ASAP.
Meanwhile, Gloria and Javier are discussing where in Mexico they should live once they’re deported. She thinks they should stay close to the border so baby Rafa can see his brothers and sisters, but Javier argues that the baby is an American citizen and already has the life he would always be trying to get back to. Just before they’re boarded on the bus to Mexico, Gloria and Javier ask their other kids to look after Rafa. The ensuing scene, in which the parents are torn from their children and deported, is a river of tears. Even Emilio, who can’t visit his parents in Mexico because he’s DACA and won’t be able to come back, is an emotional mess. He later picks up the pieces, taking over the restaurant.
Echoing a scene between Bailey and Julia, Lucia and Beto have a heart-to-heart on the swings about their fears. Beto, who is a naturally paternal athlete like Bailey, reassures his sister that their parents figured it out with even less resources, and so will they. As the first hour comes to a close, baby Rafa starts crying in the middle of the night, waking everyone in the house. “I think he just misses them,” Lucia comments as the siblings agree to take turns sitting with Rafa. When it’s Emilio’s turn, he sings to a sleeping Rafa, then sings the song again in Spanish, and I definitely got a lump in my throat.
Because we’re all probably emotionally exhausted, I’m going to keep the Episode 2 recap semi-brief: Since the parents are still alive in this iteration, they play an active role, constantly FaceTiming with the children. But their loss is still very much felt, especially by little Val, who is having nightmares. She goes to church to pray for her parents’ return, but Lucia refuses to join her, not believing in miracles. Meanwhile, Beto is on the brink of failing his physics test, so Lucia offers to give him the answers between periods. But when the time comes to meet up, Lucia is cornered by her former BFF, who wants to know why Lucia ditched her for her new “cool” friends. Lucia explains that it’s easier to be angry with her new pals than to be sad.
Speaking of angry, Beto is furious that Lucia let him down, especially since the authority figures will be watching the entire family if he can’t cut it academically. Lucia begs their teacher to show Beto some kindness, but the woman says, “There are no free passes — not for your parents, not for any of us, and not for Beto,” who is placed on academic probation. Lucia promises to help him study every day after school and ends the episode by joining Val in church.
At the restaurant, Emilio is getting his bearings and hooking up with Vanessa (Degrassi: Next Class‘ Amanda Arcuri), the hostess/psychology masters student that Beto hired and has a crush on, à la Bailey and nanny/child psych student Kirsten. Like her predecessor, Vanessa is incredibly sweet with Beto, telling him that even though he failed his test, he is doing something none of his classmates can: the job of a mother and father, and for that, she thinks he’s incredible. But she’s only got eyes for
What did you think of Party of Five‘s two-hour debut? And what was your favorite nod to the original? My vote goes to how Bailey and Beto’s names are both shortened the same way: Bae. (Bey? Bay?)