Human relationships rarely exist in a straight line; they’re more like the tide, ebbing and flowing in fits and starts as we muddle our way through life. Switched At Birth’s storytelling structure is perfectly set up to illustrate how people’s importance to each other changes as their relationship evolves, by keeping a stable of regular characters and bringing them in and out of each other’s lives in a surprisingly natural way. Above all others on the show, Emmett and Bay’s relationship is probably the best example of how Switched At Birth tells its stories, and it is perfectly exemplified in this episode.
Of all the romantic relationships on the show so far, Emmett and Bay’s is perhaps the most iconic. Introduced in season one, the story of their unlikely romance sparked something in the show and in viewers, and watching their love story evolve was one of the signature stories of the first season. When it all fell apart, it was an interesting examination of people making mistakes and then having to learn how to live with them (or, in Bay’s case, how to learn how to get past being hurt). Since their relationship ended, their friendship has come in and out of focus on the show in a surprisingly realistic way, following Bay through new relationships in the foreground while Emmett remained mostly in the background, only emerging for a short arc involving his father. If there was one complaint throughout this transitional period, it was that we weren’t getting nearly enough time with Emmett. He’s a great character—and Sean Berdy a very compelling presence—so these protestations were completely understandable. But after seeing how Emmett and Bay’s story came back together in this episode, his absence now almost feels necessary in order to tell this story.
And what a good story it is. Bay started the season reeling from the discovery that Ty was cheating on her (even though he wasn’t, not really), making her two-for-two in boyfriends who cheat. When Bay’s story this season focused on her relationships, it was always in the context of her turning these betrayals on herself, trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with her that made men do this instead of realizing that the fault lies with them. In order to move Bay past this point, she had to have one final confrontation with Emmett. It wasn’t until that confrontation happened—after she kisses him in the midst of a panic after learning he has a new girlfriend—that it became glaringly clear that the confrontation happened not because we needed to know what Bay felt, but because we needed to know what Emmett felt.
Emmett cheating on Bay was a huge deal for his character. Up until that point he was almost too good, too perfect, and the cheating made him come crashing down to reality. After the incident he got his many moments of contrition, he got to apologize, but it never felt like Bay and Emmett’s relationship was dealt with in a way that felt final. Here, we find out why: Bay continues to hold what he did with Simone over his head, and for that very reason their relationship can never return to what it was before. It’s a simple statement, but so very poignant in light of everything that has happened between them. Sure, Emmett was in the wrong, but by not truly forgiving him Bay is preventing both of them from moving on, either together or separately. Their confrontation was a long time coming, and opens a door that felt like it might be closed for good.
In other complicated relationship news, Daphne suddenly finds herself in a bit of a love triangle with the two new men she met at the free clinic, Jorge and Campbell. When they were introduced, it seemed likely one or both of them would be future love interests, but it is still a bit surprising to see them both become interests at the exact same time. This is the first episode where Jorge gets a bit of shading. Daphne connects with Jorge at a party in East Riverside, just as Campbell breaks up with his longtime girlfriend to give things a shot with Daphne. This is a high-class problem, but it’s still a problem—Daphne is going to have to decide exactly which relationship she wants to pursue while not making the rest of her time at community service too awkward. At least both love interests her are distinct, fairly interesting, and don’t seem like horrible people, which considering Daphne’s dating history, seems like a win.
The final big story of the week is Regina’s ongoing story with her new boss, Wes, who thanks to Angelo’s complete fiscal mismanagement is now Regina’s sole account keeping her in business. Wes is brash and angry and abrupt, but there’s an interesting energy to him. It’s easy to why someone hungry for success like Regina would be drawn to him. The storyline where she advances her idea to renovate an old historical auditorium in East Riverside—only to have him swoop in and start making plans to redevelop other, unrelated parts of the neighborhood that have longstanding roots—marries her desire to be successful with the nostalgia and respect she has for the neighborhood she lived in for so long. As someone who lives in a neighborhood not unlike East Riverside, a story of gentrification and redevelopment is one that interests me greatly, especially in the context of how it affects Regina’s self-identification and heritage. Once again, it’s Switched At Birth tackling everyday social and societal issues that you just don’t get to see anywhere else on the television landscape, and that makes even a story about real estate seem pretty darn exciting.
- Carrie Wikis Some Art: It Hurts To Wait With Love If Love Is Somewhere Else, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, 1971, silkscreen. The Wikipedia entry on this art style, transautomatism, is sadly brief but very interesting. (Also: Best artist name ever?)
- John’s midlife crisis is confusing and sudden. I’m having a difficult time tracking exactly what his emotional state is this season: He’s angry that Katherine has her own life, he disapproves of Kathryn’s new friend, and he’s dissatisfied with his political career, but what does this all mean and where does it leave him, other than kind of being a jerk all the time?
- Someone in the writers’ room caught up on Catfish over hiatus: There was a Manti Te’o reference in this episode and then Bay went all Nev Schulman on Emmett’s girlfriend.
- Bay and Tank as sudden best friends might be my favorite thing about this season. Tank fits into this world so easily and nicely.
- Ugh, Angelo.