After a few episodes that left me wondering about the show’s direction, Switched At Birth returned to form tonight with a well-rounded episode full of meaningful character interactions. What had felt like sporadic character beats fit in between long stretches of plot for the past few weeks finally evened out into a more cohesive marriage of character and plot-driven moments, creating an extremely entertaining, heartfelt, and even funny hour of television. It’s good to have you back, Switched At Birth.
Central to the proceedings tonight was Angelo, as his story touched every character in a different way and allowed for a strong narrative center for the episode. He’s rekindled his relationship with Regina, which in turn affects her relationship with Daphne and Adriana when they find out. He’s also developed a newfound bond with Kathryn, who is finally realizing he will have a permanent place in Bay’s life. He also has a dark secret about his past in Italy which hints at being something sinister but is actually revealed to be something sympathetic, when we learn he only has a warrant out for his arrest because he beat up his best friend upon learning that best friend was sleeping with his fiancé. Although the reveal was somewhat sympathetic it still brought out the anger in the rest of the family, especially since they were all starting to forge bonds with him. In the end, Regina and the Kennishes (with Daphne as Angelo’s unlikely cheerleader) decide to help him, just as we learn Adriana called immigration and had him deported to Italy for his outstanding warrant.
It’s unclear where the show will go with Angelo’s character, but the moment was surprisingly dramatic and has definite implications for the family dynamics as a whole. Adrianna has been a sorely underused character – having her come out of nowhere to turn in Angelo made sense for her, but still does feel a bit like a deux ex abuela – and now is a good chance to explore her relationship not only with Regina but with Daphne and Bay as well. Here’s the thing about Angelo’s story, though: Does it even make sense? Perhaps I’m not tracking it correctly but Angelo’s missing two years were said to be spent as a kept man in Chicago, I am assuming under the fake name he used to get into America. Does this mean the Italian warrant is over two years old? Why all of a sudden were the authorities alerted to his presence, prompting the call from his Italian friend? I have so many questions.
Despite these questions and continued concern about Angelo’s true intentions, this episode really felt like a step up for the character in terms of getting to know him as a human being and not just a plot machination. His moments with Regina felt sincere, and his time with Kathryn was especially lovely (particularly her realization he is part of Bay, which Lea Thompson played very nicely). I do hope the Kennishes are able to help him out of this trouble, as the show was just beginning to scratch the surface for what the character can bring to the whole family dynamic. You know, other than chaos, that is.
Daphne also had a very strong episode. She’s finally a bit free from the despair that’s been hanging around her neck like a heavy chain all season, and even managed to have some fun with Wilke, who grows more likeable as a character and potential love interest by the day. What’s great about Daphne is she refuses to be a pushover in her relationships. We saw it last summer with Liam, and now we’re seeing it with Wilke: Daphne Vasquez has self-worth, and if you don’t respect her she isn’t going to have much time for you. It’s refreshing to see a teen girl with a definite backbone. Especially lovely for Daphne this week was her story with John, as she confronts him with the suspicion he is cheating on Kathryn. He’s not, of course; he’s simply using an old friendship to actually help Kathryn. But John and Daphne’s heartfelt conversation about her desire for the perfect family – or at least a dad who’s willing to stick around – was pitch-perfect and a wonderful example of how this show gets family dynamics right.
The big revelation from last week’s (now habitual) cliffhanger tag was that Emmett was moving out of Melody’s house and in with his father. It was a bit disappointing to have him simply move in without seeing any discussion about it between him and Melody (or Melody and his father), but the reveal of how different his father’s world view is from his mother’s is going to be rife for drama in the future. Where Melody is uptight, he is loose, with a free-spirit girlfriend and a bong in his living room. Girlfriend Olivia’s free attitudes towards teen sex also lead to a very interesting conversation between Emmett and Bay about their status as “vegetables”, and we learn while Bay is a virgin (surprise!) Emmett is not. With so many teen shows dealing with the “first time” in a very casual manner these days, it felt like a nice throwback to get a couple who actually discuss the matter with the importance a lot of teens feel before that moment. Emmett and Bay haven’t taken the next step yet, but having the possibility be out there in the ether adds yet another interesting angle to their relationship.
Overall, this was simply a very simple, thoughtful, heartfelt episode that, for the first time this season, felt like a finished piece of television with an emotional through line, rather than a collection of moments. And it was lovely.
- Carrie Wikis Some Art: Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Masaccio, 1425.
- Does Regina work out a lot? Why is she always wearing exercise clothes?
- There’s a date set for the trial. Does this mean we’re going to get courtroom scenes? Boy, I hope not.
- “I can’t believe you signed ‘penis’ to my dad.”
- “Well, I don’t think we’ll be doing The Amazing Race any time soon.”
- “I told you if you got a rash from the capybara, that’s your problem.”