Switched At Birth: “Like A Snowball Down A Mountain”/ The Fosters: “Take Me Out”
B+
Teri Polo, Sherri Saum
Teri Polo, Sherri Saum

Switched At Birth: “Like A Snowball Down A Mountain”/ The Fosters: “Take Me Out”

Small stories have big impact

Switched At Birth: “Like A Snowball Down A Mountain”

Well, Emmett’s story sure did take a turn. Last week in the stray observations I remarked that Matthew was a sociopath who needed to be taken down. This week, Switched At Birth flipped the switch on Matthew’s story completely with the revelation that Matthew is in love with Emmett. This is a plot bombshell that could go horribly wrong, but to the show’s credit, it’s handled with the utmost of grace.

First, the potential bad: Having a gay character basically be outed because he was catfishing the object of his affection—a person he then physically assaulted—is tricky business. There are a lot of ways this could be viewed as troublesome, but the show smartly handles the actual revelation very carefully and respectfully. It is spearheaded by Bay, who is in the midst of her own emotional minefield with Emmett, and Tank, realizes just how delicate the situation is and goes to Natalie for help. It’s great to see Natalie back on the show again, and her valuable insight informs everything that happens next, as Bay asks Emmett to let Matthew off the hook and Emmett in turn confronts Matthew. The final scene between Emmett and Matthew is almost achingly sad, as it’s obvious just how painful this whole thing has been for Matthew. What’s ultimately lovely about this story is that it turns out to not be a story of anger but one of sadness and confusion. It doesn’t excuse the way Matthew behaves; it contextualizes it, and makes it more human, in turn making it far more interesting.

This was a big episode for both Emmett and Bay, so it is no surprise that it’s a strong one. Bay is still dealing with the aftermath of sleeping with Emmett while she was still dating Tank, and she doesn’t get let off the hook easy: She ends up having to admit the truth about what she did, first to Tank, and then to John. It’s a horribly awkward situation, but one completely of Bay’s own creation, and to her credit she handles it extremely well for a girl of her age. She feels terrible—and Tank helps her feel even more terrible by pointing out the hypocrisy of what she did (not that it’s hard to blame him)—but it’s John who ends up making her feel better. She isn’t a horrible person, just a person who made a mistake and now she has to deal with the consequences of that mistake.

What’s consistently great about how Switched At Birth handles stories like this is its refusal to pass judgement on its characters, and to allow them to make mistakes like these. Just like in life, there are no perfect people here. Just human people who make mistakes, fall down, and get back up again. It’s this quality, shared with The Fosters, that makes them the perfect Monday night pairing for ABC Family and thematically a great match to write about in this space.

Stray observations:

  • Carrie Wikis Some Art: Like A Snowball Down A Mountain, Damien Hurst, 2002, etching on paper. 
  • Apparently Daphne and Campbell were still dating? Daphne getting a job at the clinic is a nice turn for the character, and Campbell not being able to handle her in a position of power was certainly telling. Between this and Emma and Jesus on The Fosters, it was certainly a frustrating night on ABC Family for strong, independent women.
  • I am loving the Vasquez family scenes and Angelo’s continued attempts to sign. This is a version of Angelo I can deal with.
  • Kathryn deserves to be having these issues with her book considering she based a character on Sarah Lazar and named her TARA MAZAR. ARE YOU KIDDING ME, KATHRYN?
  • Regina, gunslinger? This isn’t going to end well.
  • Emmett:  “I think we just planned our first heist.” (You guys are bad at heists. No more heists.)

The Fosters: “Take Me Out”

The Fosters gets a lot of well-deserved credit for its effortless diversity and lived-in exploration of a long-term same-sex relationship, but one of the quieter ways the show is breaking ground is in its portrayal of Jude, a young boy on the edge of puberty who is just starting to confront his sexuality. The best thing about Jude’s story is how slow and deliberate it has been, appearing in the narrative not because the show wants to tell a big, loud story, but because of the natural progression of Jude as a person in the midst of growing up.

Most of Jude’s story has presented itself through his friendship with classmate Connor, who has been portrayed as Jude’s best friend and one confidante outside of the Foster family. Throughout the friendship there have been small hints that Jude’s feelings could be deeper than friendship, but they’re always just that: hints. The show is not interested in presenting them as much more than that, and always presents them in the cocoon of safety that is Jude’s home. Jude and Connor’s friendship takes on a different light in this episode, when Connor’s father sees Jude comforting Connor by putting his hand on Connor’s back. It’s a small gesture—a gesture so typically sweet and Jude—that to us as the audience, it’s very unremarkable. But the show very obviously frames this moment with Connor’s father as the outsider, seeing it from afar, and suddenly it becomes obvious that Jude and Connor’s friendship is about to experience some outside intervention.

The beautiful thing about The Fosters is it isn’t really all that interested in labeling Jude. Is he gay, straight, or something in between? Does it even matter? When Connor can’t sleep over at Jude’s house, he says it’s because his father thinks Jude is gay, but very quickly follows it up with “I know you’re not.” But it’s Jude’s response that feels singular—a simple “What if I was gay?” left to dangle without a response. It’s like the show’s mission statement in a single tiny moment; an almost-silent declaration that this is a show about acceptance, not about labels. And honestly, it was great.

Jude’s story is only a tiny part of a packed episode, however, the most compelling again being one of the smaller threads. The politics of the Stef/Lena/Mike co-parenting situation normally run very smoothly, so it was interesting to see Lena feel left out (and then lash out) when she felt slighted out of the decision-making process regarding Brandon’s potential hand surgery. Because Mike is so involved in parenting Brandon it’s easy to overlook that Brandon has three present, loving parents, and it’s especially easy for Stef to forget this fact as well. There’s a bit of emotional territorialism present here, and little human threads like these will always be what The Fosters does best. Perhaps the most satisfying thing about this story is that they allow both Stef and Lena to make mistakes here, before eventually coming together in the end. Just like the rest of the show, there are no sinners or saints here. Just people trying to do the best they can.

Stray observations:

  • I really, really like Callie’s story with her biological dad so far. It’s nice to see Callie in a story that might not lead to total heartbreak for once, and I’m looking forward to seeing her interactions with her half sister.
  • Brandon’s new storyline is apparently going to involve being in a band, which is the most cliché teen story ever. Still, at least Christian from Dance Academy is in the band! (Side note: I just started watching Dance Academy and a girl hits another girl in the face with pointe shoes in the second episode. Highly recommended for a fun summer binge-watch.)
  • “You’re so bossy sometimes; it’s kind of a turnoff.” Jesus has a lot of things to learn about having a girlfriend.
  • The Mike/Ana storyline is still hanging around, with Stef directly confronting Mike about it this week. Whether he’s being truthful or not is yet to be seen. (Maybe Brandon just murdered her? Let’s blame everything on Brandon.)
  • Best small moment: The opening scene with Stef and Brandon. I know many are resistant to the show’s attempts to soften Brandon after last season’s debacle, but I think the writers are going about it in a really nice, natural way.

More TV Club