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Switched At Birth: “Duel Of Two Women”

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Switched At Birth is doing some interesting things with its characters’ expectations right now. Bay expected Carlton to be the solution to her problems at Buckner; instead, those problems just got worse. Regina expected to return to signing; instead, she finds out she can’t sign ever again. Kathryn expects to be highly involved in the political side of John’s campaign; instead, she’s shipped off to discuss recipes. Emmett expects Bay’s attendance at Carlton will lead to their reconciliation; instead, it leads to a more permanent breakup.


This is a massive amount of disappointment to cram into one episode, and it’s to the show’s credit that it doesn’t seem like a dour episode in spite of all of this. The main focus is Bay and her continued battle with Natalie over the new hearing pilot program at Carlton. So far the most compelling thing about this plot is how balanced it’s been, with every character allowed to have their own reaction—even Melody, as an administration presence at the school. When things escalate to Natalie putting derogatory notes in all of the hearing kids’ lockers, Melody calls a mandatory “student tolerance retreat” to attempt to work everything out.

The retreat itself is kind of insane—a sort of free-for-all trust building and insult sharing fest—but it culminates with Bay and Natalie sharing a mutual agreement to call a truce, even if they don’t plan on being best friends. This is a far more realistic option than them actually liking each other, at least for now. For now, Bay’s bigger concern at Carlton is her new friend Noah and Emmett’s reaction to him. Noah as a character has a lot of potential; exploring the journey of a person who is in the process of losing his hearing (due to Meniere’s disease) is a new aspect of deaf culture to explore, and the character seems interesting enough to want to follow through it. Emmett, however, sees Noah as a rival to his affection, and his confrontation with Bay about it doesn’t go well: She doesn’t see Noah as more than a friend, but she isn’t ready to get back into a relationship with Emmett, either. The show has done a good job with not pushing their reunion too hard, and still Emmett and Bay’s sadness here feels earned.

The more crushing blow comes to Regina, who learns her wrist damage is due to osteonecrosis, and is so severe that she cannot sign nor do hair ever again, lest it get worse. This is devastating to Daphne, who has a hard time accepting her mother can never sign with her again. Melody takes it even worse, accusing Regina of lying about the severity. The person who is hurt the most of this is obviously Regina, though, who must now not only find an entirely new career but also come to terms with the fact that she cannot speak to her deaf daughter in her own language. The circumstances are sad, but Regina has needed a meaty storyline for a while, and this looks to be a good one.

As for Kathryn, she’s having a hard time of her own adjusting to life as a potential politician’s wife. When she was passed over for John last week some resentment on her part was inevitable, but the way the show is framing that resentment is a bit more pedestrian than the initial storyline promised. Kathryn’s supposed mistake here is to overstep her bounds and actually talk politics, when all John and his Republican Party leader friend want her to do is be the pretty wife who wants to talk about recipes and wifely things. This is sadly likely very realistic, but the rise of Kathryn as a formidable woman since the show began is one of my favorite character arcs, so to see her shut down like this is disheartening. The question is: When will John realize having his wife behind him as a woman with a mind is more valuable than her being simply a prop?


Finally, in the one story that completely didn’t work for me this week, is Toby and his encounter with Angelo’s pregnant medical student. Never mind the improbability that he would run into her at a local auto repair shop, leading to them getting in a car accident together and him at the hospital seeing her ultrasound (because every pregnant woman wants a random teenage boy in the room when she’s getting a medical procedure), the part that bothered me was him getting involved in her decision about what to do with her pregnancy. Yes, the show probably had to find a way to get Bay and/or Daphne involved with this storyline, but the way this came about was clunky and uncomfortable for me. Toby was trying to help, but him suggesting that the baby had a family and therefore perhaps shouldn’t be given up for adoption was over the line for me.

Still, this was a slight bump in an overall strong episode, and the Angelo story is bound to be uncomfortable the whole way through. I just wish Toby—who had a fantastic story of his own last week—didn’t have to be the awkward lynchpin that moves it forward.


Stray observations:

  • Carrie Wikis Some Art: Duel Between Two Women, Jusepe De Ribera, 1636, oil on canvas.
  • What the heck were the teams doing with the sticks and the running at the retreat? That was very unclear.
  • “Hearie Bitch”? Natalie is definitely a bully.

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