The Acosta siblings are becoming more defined, and the more we spend time with them, the more we love them.
Party of Five Season 1 Episode 4 was aptly titled "authentic Mexican" because of the deeper look into who these characters are, what they want out of life, and what their identity means to them.
In truth, most people spend their lifetime trying to shape and mold their identity and figure out who and what they are, but the Acosta siblings are at ages where it drives them more than ever.
The siblings are deeply afraid of being like their parents. It's complicated with them loving and being grateful for everything their parents sacrificed for them while simultaneously wanting better for themselves.
We see this the most with Lucia and Emilio, both were the most resistant to accepting their new reality, and had the highest expectations placed on them as the oldest male and female out of the brood.
They were the most selfish and self-absorbed at the beginning of the series, but the series has since fleshed out more.
Emilio has benefited the most from this, but the hour gave us more background and insight into what makes Lucia tick. She's so much more than the book worm and the girl who has turned to rebellion.
Lucia: I'm not a cook, OK?!
Val: What did I say? I don't understand!
One of the best aspects of Party of Five is how they turn gender roles on their head.
Up until this point, Beto was the most prominent example of this. He is a soft, gentle, and nurturing figure who channels as much as the maternal energy as any of the kids could muster.
He's a natural caretaker, and they never present it as something that makes him less masculine, nor is it something that offends him.
He doesn't have a complex about how well he does at taking care of people. If anything, he's pleased to be good at something given his academic struggles.
And aside from his possessive and entitled nature when it came to Vanessa, he rarely comes off as toxically masculine, which is refreshing for a teen boy.
Beto: Can you maybe help out with Val sometimes? Like, at least with the girly stuff? I'm clueless.
Lucia: Fine. I'll try.
Beto: What's a training bra train anyway? Don't they just know what to do on their own? Stupid question?
But Lucia was front and center when it came to this. While it's not necessarily new to explore a young woman in current times rejecting traditional gender roles, the cultural component to it adds something extra.
Lucia was never interested in being like her mother. When she recalled how her mother pulled her aside in the middle of watching one of her favorite shows with Beto to teach her how to cook, you could hear the resentment in her voice.
In her mind, Gloria only chose to teach her because of her being a girl, and Lucia hated the idea that she was supposed to learn these things, but Val also pointed out that maybe Gloria wanted to spend time with Lucia.
It's so many different ways of looking at an act like that. Yeah, it can come across sexist, and it's possible that for all of Gloria's intentions, she was perpetuating a deeply ingrained sexist paradigm by clinging to tradition.
However, Gloria probably thought she was sharing something she enjoyed with her daughter. She was passing down a tradition-- a family recipe like it was passed down to her.
If it was what Gloria had to offer, does it have to be a negative thing?
How does one maintain their personal identity without rejecting culture and family history and vice versa?
Val: That girl has two mothers. Two! And I don't even have one.
Beto: You still have a mother.
Val: Why did you leave me alone? I wouldn't have called her if you had been here.
Lucia: Emilio needed me.
Val: I needed you. We were having a good time, and then the second the phone rang, it was like you couldn't wait to get out of here.
Lucia: It's hard to explain. It's not about not wanting to spend time with you. It's about not wanting to be mommy. I don't want to be good at the things she's good at because what if it's all that I'm good at?
It's something all of them can and will struggle with, but Lucia's experience as a young woman grappling with this is so specific.
It's also a tight line to walk when Lucia so vehemently opposes anything that traps her into traditionally feminine roles while attempting to support Val, who is the most traditional of them all.
How does Lucia not alienate or inadvertently make her sister feel inadequate as, a feminist or a modern young woman for liking to cook or going to church?
Val couldn't understand Lucia's position, and so she had too much room to feel like her sister was looking down on their mother and rejecting her.
She thought her sister was running away at the first opportunity they had to spend quality time together as sisters.
It was all compounded by Beto serving as the Val whisperer. He takes the lead handling all Val's needs which included taking her to buy her first training bra.
He always seems to manage, but his connection to Val compared to Lucia is noticeable, and he had to ask Lucia to help him out with more of the "girl stuff" when it came to his little sister.
Beto always gets it right with Val because of how natural it comes to him, and Lucia was perfectly fine with none of that coming natural to her, so she freaked out when Val told her that her dish was better than their mother's.
She also freaked out upon seeing her reflection in the window, wearing an apron and holding Rafa on her hip.
She knows what she doesn't want for herself, and that is great. She just needs to realize that there isn't anything inherently wrong with liking or being good at any of the traditionally feminine things.
It won't be a limitation for her unless she allows it to be, and being such a hard anti- to anything remotely "girly" isn't the answer.
If I had limited myself to women you haven't slept with or tried to sleep with, I would've had no one to call.Beto
As much as her crashing into that car was a hassle, she also found it exhilarating. She could go off on this man who underestimated her because of her being young and a woman.
Her knowledge of cars was impressive, and I was rooting her on when she negotiated a fair deal and refused to let that jerk exploit her. It also made me think of how ingrained gender roles are no matter what.
It never crossed uncle Louie's mind to loan his car to Lucia, right? Only Beto.
Lucia was beaming with pride when she recounted how the man said she would make a fantastic lawyer. It's along the lines of her aspirations and goals.
The complicated relationship between the sisters is well done. They're so different from one another.
And the show started to scratch the surface of how they feel about each other and why their relationship is the way it is.
It seems Val has some resentment that Lucia would rather spend her time helping Matthew outside of the home rather than her inside.
Now, she feels the same about the young girl whose house Gloria cleans. Gloria could be pouring some of her maternal energy into her client's child, but Val feels like she doesn't have a mom anymore.
And the more she feels that way, the harder it is for her to understand Lucia. For the most part, all she has is Beto filling that void.
It's a smart way for the series to touch on womanhood and what it means and how it varies for everyone.
For his part, Emilio is adamant about not being like his father. He loves him, but he also, in his own way, has been looking down on him all this time. He thinks he's smarter and less naive -- stronger even.
You don't think it's weird that white people are asking us to dress in Mexican costumes?Beto
Emilio resents being stuck as a restauranteur. He would prefer living his dream as a musician.
The band had a gig abroad, but he had to work at the restaurant and take care of his siblings.
Emilio has often given the impression he viewed his father as desperate and willing to take anything. After his experience, he saw how convoluted everything is.
He jumped at the chance to cater at a rich party in Beverly Hills. At first glance, it seemed like a good business opportunity and a chance to expand their clientele and make more money.
His siblings objected, but he made the choice. He's getting his feet wet running this business, and his choice wasn't necessarily wrong.
Lucia: What the hell are you wearing?
Emilio: It's fine.
Lucia: Excuse me? This is not fine. This hat is not fine.
Emilio: It's a little gross, ok. I can't exactly make a stink.
Lucia: Why would you have to make a stink? Simply just say "excuse me, ma'am, I feel uncomfortable dressing like a Mexican bobblehead."
Emilio: I don't need you to go all social justice warrior okay, Lucia?
Lucia: I can't have a point of view?
Emilio: Yes, you can have a point of view. Just keep it to yourself.
He could add catering to the mix. It's a solid business choice and his special touch to the restaurant. He doesn't have to scrap the idea, only put control back in his hands.
Emilio saw firsthand some of the compromises one makes for money. He's a proud man like his father, but he not only was humbled by this catering job but humiliated.
He excused a lot of things from the woman's poor treatment of others to her racism coming in the form of demanding he and the staff dress like Mexican stereotypes and caricatures.
That's my brother, and as long as I'm around, no one, and I mean no one, is going to talk to him like that.Emilio
The twins challenged him on it, but he didn't put his foot down until the groom demanded he fire Beto because of Ella kissing him.
It was the final straw and Emilio's shining moment during the hour when he stood up for his brother. He was not willing to humiliate his brother nor compromise his family and dignity for a lousy tip.
But it was humbled him stepping into his father's shoes and understanding why Javier did some of the things he did. As Emilio said, Javier had people come to him.
By the time the night was over, they would've made more money at the restaurant staying open on Saturday than they did at the catering job.
I guess the third Vanessa is the charm, huh?Lauren
At $75 a head for 60 people, they could have covered a decent portion of that if they kept the reservations for that one family of 12 celebrating their Abuela's 90th birthday.
But you live, and you learn. Emilio may have also taken that approach with Vanessa too.
It's no secret I haven't been a fan of this pairing, especially this soon into the series. As much as Emilio loathed being thrust into a family life with loads of responsibility, he settled into playing house with Vanessa.
He has no choice in taking care of his siblings and the business, but he's not ready to settle down or be exclusive.
Emilio: I don't want to break up, and I don't want to see anyone else.
Vanessa: Then what's the problem?
Emilio: One day I will. One day, I'll want to be with somebody else.
Vanessa: How do you know?
Emilio: Because I don't want everything I have in this moment to be everything I have.
Vanessa: And I'm the only thing that's optional?
Emilio: Can we just go back to the way things were?
Vanessa: I don't think I will like myself very much if I just agree to that.
Emilio: So what are you thinking?
Vanessa: I'm really going to miss your family.
He has enough commitments, and the truth is his relationship with Vanessa is the one case where he has control over whether or not to commit.
Initially, it seemed like Lauren was there to tempt Emilio into cheating on Vanessa. She made her moves on him, but it was more about making Emilio come to grips with his relationship with Vanessa and what he wanted from it.
They didn't want the same things, and he wanted to go back to the way things were, but Vanessa didn't want that.
It's for the best for now. I'm still reeling from the two of them trying to have sex at the house again, and Vanessa -- the selectively astute Psych major -- thinking it was a swell idea if Emilio went to see if Beto had a condom for them to use.
You know what would help? Would you maybe kiss me?Ella
At least Beto moved on to an age-appropriate girl; although, Ella's father should've scared him off.
Ella is a handful, but her vulnerability draws in Beto.
Beto is happy for now, but Ella's presence can go either way.
As customary, the best of this series are the moments between the siblings.
Over to you Party of Five Fanatics.
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Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.