Switched At Birth: “The Acquired Inability To Escape”
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Switched At Birth: “The Acquired Inability To Escape”

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Switched At Birth

“The Acquired Inability To Escape”

Season 2, Episode 5

After an episode highlighting the more extreme aspects of the show’s premise, tonight’s installment brought everything back to basics, focusing on the very relationships that make those extremes work. More specifically, “The Acquired Inability To Escape” was about parental relationships: fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and all the spaces in between.

Most of the episode focuses on the Kennish foursome, making it the rare episode where they actually function similar to the nuclear family they were before the switch. So much of the show has focused on the way the Kennish family interacts with the Vasquez’s, so to see their paths cross very little in an episode feels a bit refreshing. It also gives a great showcase to John and Toby’s father/son relationship and Kathryn and Bay’s mother/daughter relationship, two things that often tend to get lost in the shuffle.

The highlight of the episode is Toby’s story with John and John’s father, Bill, which starts when Toby declares he wants to go to Washington University and asks John if he can contact Grandpa Bill for an alumnus reference. It’s obvious from John’s subtle deflecting of the issue that he doesn’t have a great relationship with his father, and the reason why is highlighted when Toby goes to Grandpa Bill for a reference. Instead of getting one, he gets a lecture on how he’s not accomplished enough to be accepted into the university. This triggers all of John’s repressed anger at his father for not supporting his dream of forgoing college to become a professional baseball player.

What’s fascinating here is the way John reacts when Toby tells him he’s decided not to go to college at all, and follow his music dream instead. John isn’t his father—he’s provided Toby with all the love in the world and has always supported him—but just as his father wanted him to go to college on that football scholarship and was devastated when he didn’t, John will be devastated if Toby doesn’t go to college as he wishes. We are all products of our parents, even when we do everything in our power to be something different. This feels like it could be the beginning of John attempting to forgive his father, or at least see things from his perspective for the first time. John purposely kept his father away from his children growing up—but will he regret it?

Also wonderful are Kathryn and Bay and their story of owning their place in each other’s lives. Finding your place in life as a teen girl is such a tricky thing, a weird tightrope walk of attempting to stand out as yourself and blend in with everyone else at the same time, but as difficult as that is, it has to be harder to be the mother of a teen girl. It was many (too many) years ago, but I still distinctly remember feeling completely out of place and yet right at home at the same time at my school, but any of that tenuous security would disappear the second my mother invaded that world. She was a stark reminder of me at home, a me I was desperately trying to be cooler than while I was at school.

Kathryn and Bay experience that very phenomenon here, when Carlton has to cancel the school play for lack of funds and Kathryn volunteers to take charge of the event for free. Bay is just beginning to make inroads with rival Natalie, so when Kathryn shows up and isn’t quite up to Natalie’s strict standards, Bay at first disavows any connection to Kathryn, then very harshly insults her (which of course Kathryn overhears). Bay feels how most any teenager would feel when confronted with their parent encroaching on their territory: This play is “her” thing, and it seems like Kathryn is just trying to usurp it for herself. The heart of it is Kathryn’s truth, though—Bay only has a few short years left to be with her mother like this before she’s off on her own forever, and Kathryn just wants to cherish these times. It’s a touching scene, one that connects Bay and Kathryn where they don’t always feel connected, and it’s quite lovely.

Off on their own this week with very little interaction with the main crew are Regina and Daphne, who are basically doing the exact opposite thing from the Kennishes and communicating very little, wrapped up in their own concerns. Regina is still adjusting to her new life with her diagnosis, interviewing for jobs and ridding her life of all the things she can’t use anymore (like a hand beater, which, okay). Her frustration is at the very beginnings of manifesting itself in self-destructive ways, as she is dating Zane even though his lifestyle is a constant temptation to her. Coupled with the fact that she seems reluctant to tell him she’s an alcoholic, it’s basically a recipe for disaster, and she ends the episode taking a drink of wine she for some reason doesn’t feel like she can refuse. Oh, Regina. At least let Angelo be the one who paves your way to the dark side, as he’s responsible for all other horrible things.

Finally there’s Daphne, who is still reeling from her kiss last week with Travis and what it all means. Emmett is no help, pointing out that she might not be interested in Travis because he’s deaf, and she only seems to be into hearing guys. I really like it when Emmett challenges her like this, even though it’s kind of a jerk move for a friend to do. Still, if your friends can’t call it how they see it, who can? While Daphne is out with Travis working the taco truck and simultaneously proving she can be into deaf guys; they are both targeted by thieves who take advantage of their situation and steal all the truck money. Daphne is devastated most of all because it feels like a personal attack on her disability, not just a random act of violence. Her decision not to tell anyone else about the robbery will likely come back to haunt, as nothing stays secret in this family for long.

I’m beginning to sound like a broken record each week, but Switched At Birth is having a great second season so far, and the last two episodes are everything that makes this show the gem it is. From crazy antics to quiet analysis of the dynamics of parent/child relationships, all are welcome here. And most importantly, all will be treated with respect.

Stray observations:

  • Carrie Wikis Some Art: The Acquired Inability To Escape, Damien Hirst, 1991, sculpture. This might be my favorite art I’ve wiki’ed, which is likely more than a little bit influenced by my office-drone-by-day existence.
  • Everyone tell your most embarrassing mom or dad story! I’ll go first: My mother brought a birthday cake into my high school cafeteria one year and everyone sang to me. I didn’t even get to eat any of the cake; I was too embarrassed. (Yeah, in retrospect, it was pretty sweet. But mortifying.)
  • I liked what I thought was some casual co-parenting between Regina and the Kennishes where Daphne’s food truck is concerned, but then it appeared Daphne was lying about Regina saying she was allowed to take the truck out. Or did I misunderstand this part? It was a bit unclear.