Switched At Birth is heading toward its season two finale, and it’s impossible to ignore that this back half of the season has been a lot less focused than the first half. It’s not unpleasant, just different; the natural consequence of shifting from the easily regimented structure of the school year to the wild open possibilities of summer. As closely knit as the stories surrounding Carlton were, the summer has everyone scattered, off experiencing their own separate adventures before the school year starts again.
While the characters haven’t come together within their stories nearly as much as I would prefer, their individual storylines have at least been mostly interesting and character-informing in a good way. The biggest stories—and admittedly the ones that have been, at times, the most frustrating—have been Daphne and Bay’s different yet equally difficult summer love stories, and those continue to be the focus here. This has been a summer of exploration for both girls, of pushing the boundaries a bit on their dating comfort zones, with decidedly mixed results. Bay found a love that might be fraught with complications dooming it from the start, but feels essential to her; Daphne’s is a more cautionary tale about her tendency to lose herself in the world of the people she falls for, and her conscious decision to back away from that.
Bay’s has been the more “epic” love story here, full of all-encompassing emotions and first times, but her relationship with Ty has always had the specter of his military service hanging over it, threatening to take him away from her at any point. With his imminent deployment, this specter has become reality, and both Bay and Ty are having a difficult time dealing with the prospect of being separated. For Bay, it becomes a problem for her to solve, but when she suggests going to her father to get his help in somehow deferring his deployment Ty pushes back with his own concerns: Bay’s ability to emotionally handle his absence. It plays out in a bit of a silly way, with Ty testing her with some sort of random physical challenge and Bay giving him a taste of his own medicine by running off in the woods and worrying him half to death, but it’s the emotional content that counts here. Bay and Ty are just two scared kids in love who don’t know what this deployment will do to their new relationship, and Ty finally agrees to let Bay try to help him get out if it—an attempt that is sure to bring problems of its own.
As for Daphne, her relationship with Jace has been far less about Jace than about Daphne figuring out exactly who she wants to be. When she refused to accept Jace’s antics last week it was really a turning point for her, opening her eyes to the differences between how she thinks and how Jace does, and that only continues here as the text they sent Senator Coto comes back in a big way. You very smart commenters were right: Nothing that big happens on this show by accident, so it was bound to return to haunt Daphne, and it does so here. Coto knows someone is onto him—and Coto’s wife suspects he might be cheating on her—and it all coalesces in an uncomfortable scene were Coto ostensibly interviews Daphne for a “best intern” award but really uses his time to intimidate her into not going any further with the information she has about his affair with Parker. The crossroad comes when Daphne tells Jace that Coto cornered her, and his response is to goad Coto with additional blackmail texts. It’s Daphne’s breaking point with Jace and her realization that although she thought they had similar values they are in fact very different. This was a frustrating story for Daphne, but it feels like it could be a great thing for her self-confidence, and a great way for her to get back to being the strong, independent girl we met in season one.
As if that wasn’t enough, Toby and Nikki also get a significant chunk of time here dealing with Nikki learning her father was a drug dealer. When her mother (played by Joey Lauren Adams, which is great casting) confirms Nikki’s suspicions, it sends her straight into a spiritual tailspin that ends up with Nikki doubting God because God didn’t have control over how her father died, her father did. There hasn’t really been enough time for Nikki to get a ton of character development, so her rejection of her religion doesn’t quite land as well as it should, but Toby’s reaction to everything that’s happening with Nikki is the good stuff here. His devastation at knowing he’s the one who sent her down this spiral and unconditional support of her wanting to change their wedding from a church service to the Kennish backyard is quietly lovely for his character, even if his deciding to get married is still breaking Kathryn’s heart. Lucas Grabeel, as always, is a genuine pleasure to watch as well.
But the big emotional guns here are from probably the most neglected characters of this entire stretch of episodes: Emmett and his family. Cameron gets his cochlear implant and turning it on for the first time becomes a family affair, which becomes a really interesting scenario as each person in the family deals with their own emotions at watching him hear sound for the first time. For Cameron and his girlfriend, him hearing her voice for the first time is an extremely touching, transformative moment—but the uncertainty on Emmett and Melody’s faces can be read plain as day. What’s wonderful about this is that while all viewpoints are quietly recognized none are judged, either by the writing or the characters themselves, just respected. Emmett’s relationship with his father has been fractured for quite a while, so to see him play the drums for his father to hear for the first time—and the pride on both of their faces as he does it—is one of the loveliest moments Emmett has had on the show to date. He might not have been around for much of these summer episodes, but at least the moments he is count for so much.
So yes, these summer episodes have scattered their characters to the wind at times, but there are still moments like Emmett’s tonight, moments that respect these characters and where the wind is taking them. And that makes all the difference.
- Carrie Wikis Some Art: I have no idea what this title is referring to so I’ll just show you my favorite image that came up while searching.
- Loved everything about John and Regina’s story tonight, right down to Regina calling them “karmically even,” and John telling her she can move back to the house whenever she wants.
- Melody got digits! Good for you, Melody. Gabe the audiologist is adorable.
- Ty really didn’t handle that little physical challenge interlude well. Maybe be nicer to your petrified girlfriend, Ty.
- Kathryn worrying Daphne might be the intern sleeping with Coto was uncomfortable but kind of hilarious. Hey, Daphne does have a history with older men!