Three weeks in, this season of Switched at Birth has so far surpassed the quality of the first by quite a way. Last year gave us the usual relationship drama and family strife to the backdrop of a world many viewers were completely unfamiliar with but, now that audiences have become acquainted with that world, the show can delve into some meatier storylines. In this week’s episode, ‘Duel of Two Women’, you get the sense that these are the stories they’ve always wanted to tell, and there is an innate honesty that comes along with that tough subject matter.
With Natalie still hating on Bay for her presence at Carlton, Melody organizes a tolerance retreat in order to iron out the problem. No one is happy about this, of course, but Bay, Natalie, Daphne, Emmett and new hearing student Noah all head off into the wilderness to learn about teamwork and acceptance. Natalie is always going to be a nasty person, but bullies with a half-valid point are the hardest to chastise. She and Bay manage to sort out their differences by realizing how similar they actually are, and it looks as if the rivalry at school will now die down.
Bay is distracted this week by her vulnerable new friend, Noah, who suffers from Miniere’s disease and wants to get a head start on signing. On a personal note, my own mother has had this condition for years and has just lost the hearing in her right ear, so I appreciated this storyline immensely. It’s my understanding that actress Katie LeClerc also suffers from it, and am surprised the issue hasn’t been raised before. Thankfully, the impending doom that comes with possibly losing your hearing is treated well, with the fear of losing music from his life the main concern for Noah.
Noah’s presence leads Emmett to a brief spell of jealousy, and he realizes that being friends with Bay is hurting him more than losing her completely. The nerve of him holding her reluctance over her after he cheated a few months ago surprises me but I guess that, after around a year passing in real time, the storyline can’t continue forever. Audiences want Bay and Emmett together, and I guess this is a relatively believable way to drag out the storyline. As she attests, Bay does have a lot going on in her life right now, but she may now have lost Emmett for good (of course she hasn’t).
Meanwhile, Regina finds out that she may never be able to sign again, and this causes a rift between her and Daphne, and her and Melody. The first relationship can survive anything, of course, yet the realization that a mother can no longer speak to her daughter is really heartbreaking. Melody, on the other hand, is convinced that her friend is playing up her symptoms, and inadvertently shows the same intolerance that she is trying to avoid in her students. It was always nice to see this friendship but, with Melody less used to relying on lip-reading to communicate, it’s hard to imagine how the relationship can withstand this turn of events.
Toby does something interesting this week for a change, even if his storyline isn’t really about him. Bumping into Angelo’s baby mama while getting his car fixed, he decides to help her out by driving her home. After an unfortunate crash, he accompanies her to the hospital where she reveals that the baby is destined for adoption. I wasn’t sure about the show’s judgement on this decision, seeing as she is a medical student with minimal support from the father and no family around, but Toby convinces her to get to know Bay before she makes a decision. Will the baby be born into the Kennish/Vasquez family? That house is pretty crowded as it is.
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