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Switched At Birth: “The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living”

Illustration for article titled Switched At Birth: “The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living”
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Other than the all-ASL episode, this is the episode of Switched At Birth I anxiously awaited the most. How would the show follow up its powerful alternate reality episode? Would it brush it off completely? Or would it treat John’s subconscious projections as the emotional touchstones the “what if” episode portrayed them to be?

The answer, thankfully, lies comfortably in between those two extremes. John’s heart attack—and his attitude toward his subsequent recovery process—is the focus of the episode, an over-arching story that touches each of the satellite stories in different ways. John doesn’t overtly mention his dream, but the footprints of it are in everything he does, from being genuinely happy to have Regina in his house to working unnecessarily hard to make sure his family is properly taken care of. Everything about John’s recovery plays into his stubborn nature, especially when he feels his orders to rest will only make him look weak in front of his fellow senators.

As a successful businessman and former baseball star, much of John’s self-worth is tied up in his virility and ability to excel, so looking weak plays into every one of his insecurities. After rebuffing all of Daphne’s increasingly panicked attempts to get him to rest and eat healthier, it takes a desperate plea from Kathryn to realize that instead of helping his family by immediately resuming his role as head and provider, he’s actually in danger of ruining everything he’s worked to build. It’s one of the best and most emotional scenes John and Kathryn have shared, capped by Kathryn’s perfect, “This is a new reality; don’t leave me alone in it.” It’s this new reality—along with John’s subconscious memory of a different reality, a reality that proved he can’t control everything even if he tries—that snaps him out of it, gets him to admit to his colleagues he had a heart attack, and finally accept help from his family.

Daphne is the most directly affected by John’s heart attack, working overtime to make sure he follows doctor’s orders and watching over him so closely it affects her nascent relationship with Jace. Because she can’t tell Jace about her father’s health scare, she spends most of the episode breaking plans with him without telling him why. This causes Jace’s frustrations to build until Daphne finally tells him about the heart attack (which leads into a weird and unflattering soliloquy from Jace about how his parents are aid workers and therefore are in danger all of time, so Daphne should just suck it up). Telling a political blogger a secret about a senator’s health problems seems like a terrible idea, and although Jace promises not to write about it, I can’t help but think Jace’s blog is just some strange ticking time bomb, ready to go off on the Kennish family at the most inopportune time. In the meantime, Jace is becoming a marginally less annoying character ,and Daphne is going to teach him how to swim, because Mr. Unicycle is apparently too opposed to learning anything normal to know how.

Also greatly affected by John’s health issues is Toby, who is running the car wash full time and finding it far less satisfying than he anticipated. Toby’s reluctance is felt by Travis, who gets offended he didn’t get the job when Toby admits he doesn’t really want it all that much in the first place, especially after hearing stories from his buddies about the glories of college. Toby even goes to John with what looks like the intention to quit, until John praises the job he’s doing and intones he couldn’t feel comfortable resting if he didn’t have Toby taking the reins. Although the initial Toby and Travis car wash story wasn’t my favorite, the added wrinkle of Toby realizing he might be making a mistake in skipping college (leading to a potential realization he might be making a mistake with this young marriage) remains a very compelling arc for a character that has been neglected in the past.

The biggest non-John storyline of the episode, though, goes to Bay and her intensified relationship with Ty. When Ty said he wanted to get closer to Bay, it’s obvious that closer meant sex, and Bay appears game until she’s interrupted by news of her father’s collapse. Like in all good first time stories, this pause in the moment gives Bay way too much time to think, and to dwell, and to worry about what her first time with Ty would actually be like. In one of the best sister scenes of the show to date, Bay goes to Daphne for advice—and more than advice, to assuage all of her insecurities about losing her virginity to an older, more experienced guy. It’s basically the perfect sister sex talk, with no judgment and great advice, and it made me so pleased for the potential development of this sister relationship in the future. In the end, Bay and Ty work through a mountain of jealousy and insecurity about the fact that Ty has a sexual past and Bay doesn’t, and together, they make the decision to have sex. It’s not a textbook perfect moment, but it’s real and sweet, which is far more important.


The whole time, though, I couldn’t help but wonder what Emmett is going to say when he inevitably finds out. Where is Emmett lately, anyway?

Stray observations:

  • Carrie Wikis Some Art: The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living, Damien Hirst, 1991, Tiger shark, glass, steel, 5% formaldehyde solution. Sharknadoes! They’re everywhere!
  • Are Regina and Angelo headed for reconciliation? I have to admit, of all the Angelo stories, this one interests me the most, though I don’t quite get a sense of his real feelings for Regina yet.
  • Will Regina not telling her boss Angelo is actually married to her come back to haunt her? I hope not, but I don’t see how it can’t.
  • The shot of Daphne and Bay looking in on John’s unconscious body, together as true sisters, was lovely.
  • John’s debate with Jace was not my favorite thing. In the future, can we maybe avoid having one of the few overtly Republican characters on television refer to President Obama as a socialist?
  • Does Regina’s car only have lap seatbelts? That was weird.