When I was in my early twenties, my father got remarried and only told me about it after the fact. It felt very much like a betrayal, but it was certainly a surreal one; after all, how much participation in the process did he really owe me as an adult who lived thousands of miles away? It was handled poorly by everyone involved—me included—but things like this happen between parents and children. You both make mistakes, you work through them, and you move on, because despite your differences the love remains. At its best moments, Switched At Birth recognizes these essential tenets of the complicated relationship between parents and children and spins magic out of them, as it does over and over again in the excellent “Oh, Future.”
This episode is full of parents and children and the many ways it is easy to both fail and support your children, but the reason for my somewhat embarrassing confession above is Emmett’s story and how close it obviously hemmed to my actual experience. Emmett’s father Cameron handled his surprise wedding and pregnancy announcement entirely wrong, springing the news on Emmett (and, to a lesser extent, Melody) without even a courtesy warning that his life was about to completely change. Interestingly, the show chooses to tell the story of how Emmett is hurt by what his father does and eventually comes to accept it, rather than the story of Cameron apologizing for his mistake. There is actually no mention of Cameron’s feelings at all once the announcement is made; this is Emmett’s story, through and through. What it turns into is a nice showcase for Sean Berdy, Vanessa Marano, and Marlee Matlin to show what a lovely little family until they’ve become (even with Emmett and Bay’s relationship being brand new).
While Emmett’s father is making mistakes, Regina, John, and Kathryn are at odds about how to co-parent their daughters. The delicate dance these three must do in order to make this family unit run smoothly—despite their frequent opposing viewpoints—is one of my very favorite Switched At Birth story beats, and it’s handled with incredible grace and dexterity here. The idea of class, money, and race has long been the thinly-veiled tension sitting just behind all of the Kennish/Vasquez interactions, and that subtext comes back into full text again here when Daphne starts realizing that going Pre-Med is going to require a much bigger financial commitment to her college education than she and Regina planned. It seems like an easy solution—John and Kathryn have the money, and are happy to help—but when you’ve grown up like Regina and Daphne did, money coming too easy feels suspicious and wrong, like a rug that can easily be pulled out from under you.
But the show isn’t content to stop at one very complicated conflict, increasing the complexity tenfold by also bringing Daphne’s identity as a Latina into the fold. Daphne’s status as a Latina-by-name-and-upbringing only hasn’t been outwardly addressed much before, but Daphne’s college application process is the perfect time to bring it to the forefront. Is Daphne a Vasquez, a Kennish, or both? Did she experience less overt racism in her life because of her Caucasian features, and if so does that make her less of a Latina? Switched At Birth wisely doesn’t really answer these questions, just gets Daphne to ask them and the people around her to question them. Most striking is what is done silently, when Daphne arrives for an interview for a Latina scholarship and sits down amongst the candidates, the camera pulling back to show just how outwardly different she is from them. Regina is insistent that brown skin and brown hair don’t make you Latina, while Sharee is insistent that it’s almost impossible for Daphne to know what it feels like to be racially profiled when she doesn’t look like her identifying race.
It’s complicated and tricky, and doesn’t get an actual “answer,” because it’s not a story about what is objectively correct (if that’s even possible). It’s a story about how both Daphne and Regina are still figuring out how to navigate this tricky life they were accidentally thrust into, and the mistakes both of them will make along the way. Daphne might be accepting the Kennish money to send her to college, but that doesn’t make her a Kennish, just like not accepting it would make her a Vasquez. She—along with Bay, John, Kathryn, Regina, and even Toby—are somewhere gloriously in the middle, just trying to muddle their way through.
- Carrie Wikis Some Art: Oh, Future!, Nicholas Roerich, 1933, tempera on canvas. A new technique!
- Kathryn became friends with her enemy Sarah Lazar, took Sarah’s advice and got what she wanted from her editor, and also learned that John never cheated on her. Kathryn had a decent day.
- Travis and Mary Beth return here, in a nice story that thematically fits right in even when they are completely separate from the rest of the cast. Travis’ continued struggle with his truly awful parents is just as heartbreaking when he’s simply talking about it as it was when we actually saw it.
- Derrick Coleman cameo! Very cool.
- Melody: “Oh God, I’m wearing white.”
- Travis: “Did I just tell Derrick Coleman to ‘go hot or go home?’”
While Switched At Birth was all about the heavier moments, The Fosters went lighter this week with the obligatory “teenagers throw a party” episode. Does this ever end well? (The answer is no. No, it doesn’t.)
Considering all the over-the-top drama that continuously surrounds these kids, it was admittedly a bit refreshing to see them deal with simple teenage problems here, like a clogged toilet or a friend getting too drunk and throwing up on Stef and Lena’s bed. Callie is especially fun to watch, as she takes on the role of the responsible one, discouraging everyone from having the party and then being the minder of the house when she is overruled. After a full season of Callie making the absolute worst decisions, it’s nice to see the progress she’s made integrating back into this family and how much she wants to maintain that status.
Also nice to see is the evolution of Brandon and Callie’s relationship from “awkward” to “somewhat less awkward,” as Callie seems to have moved on with Wyatt and Brandon is in the midst of moving on himself, even if he doesn’t quite know it yet. Brandon becoming some sort of instant rock star in this band is somewhat farfetched, but the moment when he played Callie’s song as something other than Callie’s song was a signpost of where this twosome is headed, at least for now; they’re siblings, if reluctant ones, and they must figure out a way to navigate that minefield. I doubt this is a door closing for good, but at least it feels like a swinging door that’s swinging the other way for a while, giving us a break in the constant drama of their star-crossed love.
The biggest surprise of this episode for me was Jude’s story, and that the show confronted it head-on rather than backing off as it has in the past. Connor’s father calling Jude gay opened something inside Jude he isn’t quite prepared to deal with but it is obvious he wants to at least try. What’s great about this is that the show has kept Connor very consistent in all of this, having him apologize for his statements last week and insist that his father can’t dictate who he can be friends with. When everyone is playing spin the bottle and Jude’s spin lands on Connor, the show didn’t need to show the two boys kissing. The leadup and tension was enough to show just how delicate this friendship is going to be to navigate in the future, no matter who comes out as gay or straight.
- Stef and Lena’s strange distance this season got a nice showcase here on their babymoon as they discuss why they just aren’t connecting lately. I love how natural the ebbs and flows of their relationship feel; it’s not all good, or all bad. Just all honest.
- Disaster Brandon Watch: He was the one who encouraged this whole party thing, so despite recent progress he is still firmly on the Disaster Scale.
- Why is Jesus having sex with random girls? His storyline is kind of all over the place this season.
- Mariana’s story with the dance team is a complete dud so far but her very, very early stage flirtation with Christian from Dance Academy (I’m sure his character has an actual name, right?) remains promising. Listen to Christian, Mariana! You don’t want to be like those girls.
- “Why do I have to be anything?” Jude remains the best.