Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Switched At Birth: “The Art Of Painting”

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With a lot of characters to service and a lot of storylines to maintain, Switched At Birth isn’t a show that thrives on thematic consistency within an episode. This is likely a good thing, as tying up so many emotional bows each week could get tiring. It’s also a good thing because when the show does manage to converge the characters’ emotional arcs—like they did tonight—it elevates the entire emotional pitch of the episode accordingly. This was a good one.

The characters’ emotional through line here was a fairly simple one: the choice to do what they felt was right, damn the consequences. Original, no, but like so much on Switched At Birth, it was so very well-rendered it felt fresh. This is best exemplified in the Emmett storyline tonight, with Bay having to make a tough choice to go to Melody when she thinks Emmett is in trouble. Emmett’s descent from obedient son to slacker drop out has been quite a few episodes in the making, slowly simmering on the back burner until it exploded tonight with his revelation to Bay that he was planning on dropping out of school to become a photographer. It’s your typical don’t need it/won’t use it school argument, the one made by so many young and stupid people on television (and probably in real life as well). The oddest thing about Emmett’s downward spiral—other than Melody sort of knowing what was happening since she is a guidance counselor at his school—is how nonchalant he is about the situation, and more importantly, how nonchalant he expects Bay to be. Between his alcohol-fueled speech therapy sessions, oversensitive reaction to the Ty revelation last week, and his general surly demeanor, something is going on with Emmett far deeper than what has been shown. More development of this aspect feels needed, simply to tie up a few of these loose character threads.

Although this was Emmett’s story it was played through Bay’s eyes, from the perspective of Bay’s choice. Her telling Melody was exactly the right thing to do, even though she knew she would face Emmett’s wrath if he found out. That’s a tough choice for anyone to make, let alone a teen, and I really enjoyed how at every turn they framed it through the prism of Bay’s affection for Emmett. It was also nice to see this put a thaw of sorts between Melody and Bay; they’re actually more similar than they think, and it would be nice to see them grow. That is, of course, if Bay and Emmett survive this latest relationship test.

Also making choices was Kathryn, except hers are far more potentially harmful. After learning the nurse testifying in their case against the hospital was fired and is now thinking of dropping out of the lawsuit, Kathryn and John go to their lawyer to see if they can help her financially until she finds a new job. They are smartly advised by their lawyer to stay away lest they harm the case, but Kathryn simply cannot watch her suffer when all she wanted to do was help them so she trades in her car and gives the monetary difference to the nurse. It’s absolutely the wrong thing to do legally; morally it’s a little grayer. What’s right about it is how it feels perfectly like something Kathryn would want to do. She’s been set up as a more and more empathetic person who honestly doesn’t want to see others suffer when she herself is not. The tricky part here is this is a really convenient way to put a giant wrench between Kathryn and John and in the lawsuit, plot-wise, and it felt like it. It might pass the emotional test but the plot test is still a little iffy.

For me, one of the more interesting choices this week was Daphne as she struggled again with her choice to be part of both the Buckner and Carlton worlds. Just as Buckner is soaring, recruiting big-shot sponsors to build them a wildly ostentatious-sounding “Aquatic Center,” Carlton is facing budget cuts and the dissolving of their own rapidly improving basketball team. Ever-impulsive Daphne decides to try to woo some of Buckner’s sponsors over to Carlton, much to the chagrin of Wilke, who is doing his best to keep them on the Buckner track. It’s a great little standoff precisely because of the way the show handles it, with neither of them definitively being right or wrong. Wilke wants to do well in his presentation because his father is on the Buckner board and he wants to impress him; Daphne wants to help Carlton because it pains her to see one school having so much while her school struggles. Switched At Birth has such respect for its characters and their viewpoints, and this was a perfect example of a way to demonstrate this respect. The story was also an easy way to get Daphne back on the Carlton team, where she has really wanted to be all along.

This wasn’t necessarily the flashiest episode, but if anyone ever wants me to point out the things I love and respect about the show, this will be one I point them to in an instant because it gets so many things right. And getting those things right is more important than flash any day of the week.


Stray observations:

  • Carrie Wikis Some Art: The Art of Painting, Vermeer, 17th century. Gorgeous. And once owned by Hitler!
  • Emmett practicing his speech was heart-rending, each time. Sean Berdy is always so great in those private moments.
  • Regina’s art show story wasn’t the highlight, but I did enjoy her anger over Patrick using her story to sell art, no matter how effective it was. Them dating I’m less excited about.
  • Regina and Bay had a truly wonderful moment this week as they bonded over the art piece she did representing Bay. Incredibly touching.
  • It was a bit strange how they made such a big deal out of Simone’s potential mean girl “payback” last week and it essentially went nowhere.
  • Regina is a lovely lady but what in the world was she wearing to her art opening? Constance Marie deserves better.
  • Daphne: “Aquatic center? This is a high school, not the Olympics.”
  • Emmett: “Are you happy? Now you heard me talk.”