One of the more interesting things about Switched At Birth is how it tells long-form stories. This is a show with a memory; long-forgotten emotions and story threads threaten to pop up again at any time with little warning other than a brief reminder in the “previously on” opener. Where in some circumstances this could feel jarring, Switched At Birth uses it to its advantage in the face of such a large cast to service, dropping in and out of emotional and story beats in a way that ends up feeling much like how things trickle and bubble to the surface in real life.
Tonight’s first trip to the wayback machine comes courtesy of Kathryn Kennish and her new (and very adorable) relationship with Emmett. Kathryn and her rapidly improving sign language take Emmett on a bit of a journey into the history of Bay, a journey that includes details of Bay’s very broken heart when Ty (who?) left to join the military. Finding out Ty and Bay were closer than he realizes rattles Emmett and that—coupled with the crumbling remnants of his parents’ marriage—cause him to doubt if he and Bay have any shot at a long-lasting relationship. In what is becoming a character trait, Emmett takes the news in basically the worst way possible, acting distant toward Bay and generally passive-aggressive about the whole situation. Only when Bay pleads does he actually reveal why he is generally acting like an asshole. Once the truth is out, they resolve it in their typically heartwarming way, this time by saying “I love you” for the first time. This story was generally pleasing, but the show’s reliance on creating some sort of conflict for Bay and Emmett to work through in every episode is getting a bit stale. Conflict is good; mandated conflict is boring. An episode or two where they’re perfectly in sync would be welcome.
Also dredging up long-forgotten story threads are John and Toby, who the show has finally realized are related and might enjoy being in the same room as each other from time to time. The reason they haven’t been featured is also the main conflict of the night: They have nothing in common. More specifically, John would like them to have baseball in common, but although Toby is very talented, he’s not interested. John, who never met a problem he didn’t think he could steamroll through, doesn’t understand why Toby would choose to ignore such a talent, but what he doesn’t see is Toby’s passion for another talent: music. It’s a simple conflict, and not remotely unique, but it plays out in what feels like a real way for the characters, which elevates it beyond the triteness a bit. Seeing John start to shed his impenetrability and try to understand Toby’s love for music at the end was a welcome sight, and good for the character as a whole.
While bringing back old story threads is a bit of a theme for “Protect Me From What I Want,” they were also threaded together with the continuation of a few more recent events and the introduction of new ones. Bay and Regina’s nascent relationship is put to the test when an art-gallery owner comes into their lives and, instead of leaning toward the obvious in Bay’s art, is more inspired by one of Regina’s pieces. This is satisfying on two levels, the first being getting to see Bay and Regina’s continued circling of each other take on a different angle. Regina’s unbridled pride and enthusiasm over Bay’s talent is one of the first times we’ve seen her character truly own Bay as her daughter in a way that felt all-encompassing and her disagreements with Kathryn over decisions made in Bay’s life (rather than Daphne’s) was a good note for both mothers to play. It was also very satisfying to see Bay’s art through the eyes of an impartial observer; he called it derivative and without a voice because it really is derivative and without a voice. Television characters who are into the arts are so often portrayed as geniuses with singular visions in their particular fields, so it was nice to see it acknowledged that perhaps a 16-year-old might not be fully artistically developed.
The final story of the night was the continuation of the Simone arc, and what might be considered the payoff, as we finally get definitive proof Simone isn’t all she’s cracked up to be as a human being. She began to show her true colors last week when accusing the East Riverside girls of stealing her watch, a move that we find out got them kicked out of using the Buckner facilities for good. Good thing Simone found her watch and let those girls off the hook, right? Yeah, not so much. Instead, she sold the watch she found to pay for private fancy basketball lessons, sold Daphne out to their coach, and then accused Daphne of plotting against her the entire time simply because Daphne wanted to tell the truth. That, coupled with Bay’s horrible story about how Simone tortured some poor girl in the eighth grade for no real reason, paints a picture of Simone as a mean girl and paranoid bully. Daphne may want to try to patch things up with Simone, but it’s looking like the deeper the story goes the more Daphne is going to get hurt. Here’s hoping Wilke shows up again to give her someone to talk to about it. (Seriously, where’s Wilke? Come back, Wilke!)
- Carrie Wikis Some Art: Protect Me From What I Want, Jenny Holzer. Art on a car!
- Adriana moves back in! Now, let’s see her more often than once every three episodes.
- Now that we know Toby can play baseball and sing, I’m going to need him to perform the “Play Ball” number from High School Musical 2. Immediately.
- “I look like a ho!”