Monday, July 25, 2011

Switched at Birth Episode 8: Pandora's Box AKA Errabody Gone Karazy

As Daphne looks through Regina's secret stash of Bay-info, Regina walks in. And just as Regina starts to explain to Daphne how she knew, Catherine rings their doorbell. Oops! Daphne has to go to school and stew about this.

Actually, neither Daphne nor Bay go to school today it appears. Bay shows up at Carlton, and after a fast-paced monologue about their recent kiss (go easy on him, girl! He's reading your lips!), Emmett responds by just kissing her again. Then they go off to go kiss some more in the park. (Damn!)

Daphne is distracted, DUH, because she found out her biggest life-surprise ever was not such a surprise to Regina, and runs into Wilke at Buckner. Since Wilke is as delinquent as they come at Buckner, they cut class together and go off to the wrong side of town to drink from a flask. (Damn!)

Catherine and John are agonizing about their up-coming deposition, and the certain information the hospital knows about Regina that's going to mess up their case. Catherine gets all flustered in their practice-run of the court room, which just really makes me ache for some character development on her part. I have a hard time empathizing with her character because she is so ... Diane Keatonish. You know what I mean. Diane Keaton always plays these women who should be smart but spend nearly all their screen time blustering and blubbering and obsessing over her family in a more or less useless manor.

Meanwhile, Bay's crazy switch has turned on. It seems that dudes are Bay's kryptonite. Pre-kiss, Bay and Emmett were awesome. I was hoping that the two of them would just be adorable and great together, but I have realized what it Bay will undoubtedly realize after several failed high school relationships, a brief lesbian "experiment" in college, following a 30 year old Marxist to an arts commune in Germany post-undergrad and then 2 years of therapy: she gets too attached too fast. Slow your roll, chiquitita. First she asks Emmett if he's ever tried speaking--when she already knows this from Daphne, and then she goes all bezerko-psycho on his friendship with/crush on Daphne. Oh, god, my head is hurting already. Does Bay actually have friends? She needs a girlfriend to sassily tell her to get her shit togetha.

Daphne and Wilke return to his car and find a boot. Which is totally fine because they're both drunk. FYI under 21-ers, your pre-frontal cortex develops into your early 20s, as in you know, 21. If you drink alcohol before then, the development of your pre-frontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that helps you make good decisions, will be stunted. Anyway, since the only logical thing drunk teenagers with cars (or sober teenagers with cars) can do is make out, that's what they do. No, Daphne, no! Since Daphne grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, she has a whole different and classed understanding of what boys are like. Let me tell you, idiot rich boys who bet tens of thousands of dollars before they're old enough to get their wisdom teeth out are a whole different story. Don't make out with them. However, he's pretty good looking in an blonde way. When Wilke brings up The Switch, Daphne slows down and tells him "not tonight." She texts Emmett to pick her up.

Back at Emmett's house, Bay unleashes Crazy-Bay. She became aware of Emmett's unrequited love for Daphne a couple episodes back, and knowing that kind of info isn't just going to go away once you start making out with the teenaged, deaf version of James Dean yourself. She's crazy, but she's not stupid. But Crazy seems to outweigh any shred of dignity/intelligence, and she flips out on Emmett for having a photo wall devoted to Daphne (okay, I admit that might give me pause) and getting texts from her. Bay storms out in a cloud of teenage hormones, and Emmett motorcycles away to get Daphne.

I really like the ASL-only sections of the show, but I also like it when characters speak ASL to one another in front of characters who don't get it. It reminds me of a friend I had in middle school who was Albanian. Whenever this friend's cousin came to visit, they would inevitably slip into speaking Albanian asides, undoubtedly swearing or making comments about the rest of us.
Emmett: "Your taste in guys has gone from bad to worse."
Daphne: "It's not like that."
Emmett: "You missed a button."
Daphne bids farewell to Wilke. He's probably trouble, but I still sort of like his character. Every high school show needs a Dick Casablancas.

Bay returns home and immediately tries to call Ty in army-land. This obviously doesn't work. Luckily for her dignity, Toby walks in when she's only 30 seconds into leaving Liam a voicemail. Says Toby, "You just drunk-dialed Liam when you were sober. Bad judgment runs in the family." Ta-ruth.

Meanwhile, Regina is desperately trying to book it outta there with that stupid guitar case of evidence. But obviously everyone notices, since she lives with the Kennishes, and Catherine, John, and Bay never do anything but butt into others' business. Even when that business is kind of their business. She gets away undetected for the moment, but we all know the shit-storm is about to roll in. She has a pissed off, headstrong non-biological daughter to contend with.

And so John and Catherine go off to their deposition and get the shock of a lifetime--Regina has known about Bay since a blood test in 1998. Oh, crap. John, who clearly watches too much Dateline tells Catherine that she must be a psychopath.

So back at the Kennish residence, obviously everything blows up. Daphne's mad, Bay is mad, and John and Catherine are rich-people enraged (which is normal anger + a sense of entitlement stemming from their large pile of cash). And so Regina begins to tell her side of the story, which is actually pretty reasonable.

Angelo started getting itchy about having a blonde and blue-eyed daughter, and accused Regina of cheating. All the while, the two of them are alcoholics and not so good at the whole relationship thing. Daphne gets meningitis, and during her hospital stay, Angelo gets a paternity test, which proves to himself that Daphne is not his daughter, Regina must of cheated, so he splits. Regina knows she didn't cheat on him, so she gets a test done as well, and... Daphne is not her daughter. So she hires a private investigator, who figures out the whole switch thing. But Daphne was like 3 years old, and once you've had a baby for three years you get kind of attached to it. Not that I know from personal experience, but this was the conclusion I gained from the switched at birth plot line on Veronica Mars. Television informs me on how to feel about everything. So Regina cleans up her act, joins AA, and is the best mother she can be to the only daughter she has ever known. Personally. Ever known personally. Since she's curious, she follows Bay around, and her private investigator takes surveillence-style pictures of her. She knows, because she knows how America works, that if she had confronted the Kennishes about it, that they would have taken Daphne away from her. Because alcoholic single mothers don't usually make the top ten in "most-trusted" polls. Regina kept the secret because she wanted to keep the family that she knew intact. Even though it killed her to know that her biological daughter was living with someone else.

Obviously, this was not a perfect solution to anything. However, this made a lot of sense to Regina because her class position and social location had rightly taught her not to trust "the system." The Kennishes firmly believe in that system because they have always reaped the benefits of being privileged within that system, and even though Catherine said that they wouldn't have tried to take her daughter away... that's exactly what the Kennishes talked about ("We're going to get custody of both of our daughters.") in the next scene after everybody storms out, mad, and Regina goes to stay at Melody's house.

Okay, Daphne has a right to be mad. And so does Bay. Like teenagers don't go through enough identity crises on their own without you know, actual identity crises. However, I'm a little disappointed with Regina basically rolling over after her emotional confession! She limps off to Melody's house without a fight! Not that immediately after telling everyone that she knew about the switch was the best time to take them to task... but she has to know that the Kennishes are going to gang up on her! Because they will. And ... I'm trying to think of some war or sports metaphor or something to go in here but I don't actually know enough about either of those things to come up with one that would make sense to anyone. In any case, where is the strong, independent Regina who decided 12 years ago that she was going to fight for the welfare of her family by keeping a really big and serious secret to herself? Where is the savvy woman who defended her daughter through the challenges of being a single mom, poverty, and jumping into deaf culture?

So the shit has hit the fan and it's going to be hard to clean it up. I'm not expecting much from John and Kennish, but I am curious as to whether or not Daphne and Bay will actually begin to bond because of this. As Daphne said in an earlier episode, they're basically the only two people on the planet who can remotely understand what they're going through, so they should be using each other as resources. And I am always for TV examples of female friendships. Don't get me wrong, I love Daphne and Emmett's friendship, but Bay isn't actually shown with friends in this show. Perhaps they haven't been written yet, or Bay is actually a loner... but I would actually like to see Bay and Daphne become friends and get over their switched-lives-competition with each other because they are actually smart, independent female characters, and should be friends. Or at least allies.

As Regina slinks away, Toby comes out and tells her (something like), "Well, I don't want to get involved, but you were there for me. So I just wanted to say, I'm sorry."

And here I see a glimmer of hope. Because clearly Switched at Birth is the better show of ABC Family's Baby Mama Drama Monday block (the other being vomitrocious Secret Life of the American Teenager). And I have faith in Lizzy Weiss, creator of SAB. Because you don't graduate college with a degree in sociology and women's studies and go on to create stuff that isn't actually useful programming. When you major in sociology and minor in women's studies, you know stuff.

What I appreciated about Greek (RIP 2007-2011) is that it actually was a good example of ABC Family's motto: "A New Kind of Family." The families and communities portrayed on Greek were unconventional, but in the end they worked because unconventional is the new conventional. No one wants to watch TV shows like 7th Heaven anymore. Bleagh. And I think Switched at Birth has the potential to engage in some really interesting conversations on what the meaning of family is in the modern world. I think there have already been some interesting parallels drawn in the show between the Kennish's easy, affluent life, and the Vasquez's lower-class, multi-racial one, and as the two families begin to understand each other (which I hope they will), it will become clear to the viewers that family isn't just a term that refers to your mom/dad/siblings. Family members are adopted, adapted, and added. I think a part of what the feminist and QUITBAG movements do so well is redefine conventional boundaries by questioning them. Who says that one day Regina, John, Catherine, Bay, Daphne and Toby will not consider each other family? I think Switched at Birth has the potential to portray a truly modern family. (aside: I don't think Modern Family does. It's hilarious and I love it, but it's very retro. Not really modern at all.)


  1. Not cause too much of an issue, but as an advocate for lowering the drinking age (and the girlfriend of a self-described "advocate for good neuroscience") I just wanted to point something out in regards you're comments about underage drinking. The De Bellis and Tapert study* that's usually cited to back the brain development point you make found that adolescents with alcohol disorders had, on average, smaller prefrontal cortex areas than a control group. This is a classic correlation/causation mixup, though, and De Bellis himself is quoted as saying "Another explanation for the smaller prefrontal cortex and prefrontal-cortex white-matter volumes of adolescents and young adults with an adolescent onset alcohol-use disorder is an inherent vulnerability for delayed prefrontal cortex maturation that enhances the risk for poorer executive cognitive functioning and adolescent substance-use disorders" - in other words, it's equally likely that the teenagers had alcohol problems because their prefrontal cortexes were small (due to genetic or environmental factors), leading to poor decision-making, as it is that the alcohol shrunk their brains.

    Thats not to say that I don't believe in drinking responsibly or that drinking at a young age is a wise choice, it's just using science while leaving out key details such as this strikes me as misleading.

    *9/2005, printed in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research