In some ways, I wish last week’s episode could have been Switched At Birth’s spring finale. Not just because it was one of the finer episodes the show has ever done, which it was, but also because—as Noel so perfectly stated in his review—it encapsulated so many of the reasons Switched At Birth is such an unexpected delight. “Venus, Cupid, Folly, And Time” doesn’t quite reach those heights but it does do a commendable job of tying together all of the sometimes disparate threads of the last 11 episodes into a respectable (if somewhat lopsided) narrative bow while still featuring some of the wonderfully intimate character moments we’ve grown to love and expect.
The thing tying everything together this week is an oldie but a goodie: the prom. Typically, though, Switched At Birth puts its own unique twist on things by showcasing the Carlton prom instead of showing the more typical Buckner soiree. The main difference? The decibel level of the music, which necessitates earplugs for any hearing folks—a conceit which allows for an adorable scene where Emmett asks Bay to prom by presenting her with her very own pair in a ring box. It’s almost enough to make us forget what shaky ground Emmett and Bay’s relationship is currently resting on and how quickly things might fall apart.
That’s really what this episode is about: the ever-shifting foundations all human connections are based upon, and how our choices can either reinforce those connections or threaten to sever them completely. For Emmett and Bay, it’s what happened with Simone; for John and Kathryn, it’s Kathryn’s long-gestating fear of his infidelity and her own temptations; and for Daphne and Wilke, it’s the crime of being young and unable to fully choose your circumstances. For two of the three, a happy ending is reached (if bittersweet, in the case of Daphne and Wilke) but for Emmett and Bay, things are much murkier.
Seeing a repentant Emmett return to the non-sulky, perfect-seeming boyfriend he was at the beginning of his and Bay’s relationship is like a 40-minute knife to the heart, especially because the truth coming out was so imminent. Although the confession is inevitable, the gravity of the moment isn’t affected, mostly due to the perfect choice to have the moment occur with no non-diegetic sound. This leaves both Bay and the audience left to deal with the cold, brutal facts of Emmett’s misdeed and nothing else. You don’t need a soundtrack underlay to tell you how horrible both Emmett and Bay feel; it’s written all over Sean Berdy and Vanessa Marano’s faces. Even before Emmett’s dalliance with Simone their relationship was careening towards some sort of a head. Having it happen with such a harsh act as cheating is a tough pill to swallow, but it isn’t one that feels forced on the characters in any way. This is a testament to both the writing and the wonderful chemistry between Berdy and Marano. It’s unclear where Emmett and Bay will go from here, but I’ve never been more interested to find out.
As for John and Kathryn, the story of John’s past with Sarah Lazar has been simmering for quite a while, as has Kathryn’s small flirtation with their lawyer. These things finally merge this week in a way that strangely seems to put the blame for the whole situation on Kathryn. I’m not sure this is a bad thing; her almost kissing Craig is a natural way for her to remember how making a choice to be in a marriage is just that—a choice you make every day—and a choice she has no real reason to believe John stopped making with her. Still, even though everything about the situation is presented as Kathryn being in the wrong, it feels a bit like she is capitulating to John yet again. Still, Lea Thompson is very good at playing those moments and D.W. Moffett has an excellent episode of being all-around hilarious (The dancing! The drinking of the purloined flask!) that I’m more than willing to let it slide. Also, I have no desire for John to be ever revealed as a cheater so the show sweeping that possibility under the rug is very pleasing.
Finally there’s Daphne and Wilke, a couple with great chemistry who never got off the ground. Daphne spends much of the episode mad at Wilke for not telling her he’s being shipped off to boarding school, while he spends a good portion of it being annoyed at her for inviting the obnoxious Travis along on their date. Now their connection is being severed through forces out of their control, which is not a strange situation for teenagers but still a disappointing one. The most disappointing is the concern Travis is going to be her next love interest, and perhaps this is just me, but his shtick is definitely not as appealing. Still, if Wilke has to go, at least he and Daphne get a few lovely scenes of their own before he is gone.
Bringing up the rear in a story that feels almost divorced from the rest of the proceedings is Regina, her new boyfriend Patrick, and the return of He Of The Worst Timing Ever, Angelo. Angelo has always been a problematic character for me, showing up only when it seems the story needs a little bit of melodrama and then disappearing before any truly good character insight is gained. In that way, he’s almost the exact opposite of every other character on the show, as they are always handled with the utmost of respect and nuance. Angelo’s return is as story-juicing as ever, as he’s primed to become the monkey on poor Regina’s back again, this time as John suggests the only way he will be able to stay in the country is to marry her. Yes, as in immigration fraud. A few weeks ago I wrote how wonderfully this show nails emotional moments. It’s the plot moments like these that still struggle to fully marry with those emotional beats.
As much as John’s final suggestion—the last thing we’ll see of this show until it returns, and isn’t that a shame—rankled me, it’s simply one small moment in a world populated with much more interesting and subtle ones. Because I know I won’t spend the hiatus thinking about Regina and Angelo’s foray into Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell territory. I’ll spend it thinking of Emmett and Bay, and especially Bay’s face as she forlornly throws her newly personalized motorcycle helmet away.
- Carrie Wikis Some Art: Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time, Agnolo Bronzino, circa 1545.
- Great moment alert: Regina and Kathryn discussing the nuances of preparing a boy for the prom versus preparing a girl.
- Although I know Austin Butler was cast in a pilot, I selfishly want him to stick around. Wilke adds a great dynamic to the show. Also, he’s just adorable.
- Bay looked fabulous in her prom dress. Daphne looked like a nude Muppet. The wardrobe department is frequently not kind to the gorgeous Katie LeClerc.
- Special thanks to Noel Murray for filling in last week. Now that’s a tough act to follow.