Switched at Birth can leave you feeling pretty mixed up.
Bay is the artistic daughter of John and Kathryn Kennish, a well-to-do family in Mission Hills, Kan. Daphne is the athletic daughter of struggling mom Regina Vasquez and occasional lagabout Angelo Sorrento. But Bay is also the daughter of Regina. And Daphne's the biological progeny of John and Kathryn. Thanks to a little hospital mix-up, the two kids got switched at birth.
But you probably figured that out already.
Now, ever since John and Kathryn invited Regina and Daphne to live in their guest house, the whole clan is together for the first time. The great news here is that, after a few first-season bumps, everybody gets along (at least most of the time), and thus gives audiences a really encouraging look at how a seriously blended family can go about things. Bay and Daphne consider the parents who raised them to be their true parents, even though they're literally a stone's throw away from their birth moms. They also enjoy hanging out with their birth folks.
For families who've adopted kids or are adoptees themselves (particularly in this era of open adoptions), Switched at Birth tells us that love doesn't necessarily need to be divided between members of a family. Rather, it multiplies if allowed to do so.
It's also cool to see a show that deals with hearing impairment with such deft humor and refreshing sense of normalcy. Daphne is deaf. And there are lots of other deaf characters on the show too: Emmett, Daphne's best friend and Bay's one-time love interest, can't hear and refuses to speak; and deaf Oscar winner Marlee Matlin plays recurring character Melody. Travis is Daphne's newest beau. None of them are token figurines playing, simply, their disability. They're fully fleshed-out people—at least by teen drama standards—going about their business as anyone else would. And I love the fact that, when two hearing characters hold a conversation in the midst of a deaf one, the hearing characters still often sign—a common courtesy, really. No one's trying to exclude anyone else here, no one's trying to keep secrets.
OK, some of them are trying to keep secrets—just not by refusing to sign. This is, after all, a teen soap opera. And it's on ABC Family. So screenplay writers, when they sign up to work for the channel, are likely ordered to write in a full quota of secrets, deceptions and cons.
These teens are also prone to drink alcohol. But the bigger problem here is sex. While Switched at Birth is more restrained than, say, Gossip Girl, it's not unusual to see characters sleep together in any given episode. Graphic nudity's not in the frame, but vivid implications and visuals sometimes are.
Switched at Birth contains some really nice messages about the bonds of family and friendship, even in the midst of trying circumstances. As such, it feels at first like a well-meaning series. But when it comes to talking about certain kinds of morality, this ABC family goes not deaf, but dumb.
"Dressing for the Charade"
Toby invites Lana, the woman carrying Angelo's baby (Bay's biological sister), to meet the extended family. The awkward dinner grows even more uncomfortable when an immigration official stops by to confirm that Regina's moved out of the Kennish guest house and in with Angelo (in support of a sham marriage helping Angelo stay in the country). Regina hasn't moved out, so the extended family collaborates to lie and fool the official—culminating in the official barging in on Travis clad only in a towel (while pretending to live in Regina's room). After Travis gets dressed, he and Daphne smooch passionately in the hallway.
John and Kathryn Kennish are shocked to see a charge for an ultrasound on their credit card. "I thought Nikki was a good Christian girl," John says, referring to Toby's girlfriend. Turns out, Toby was just trying to help out Lana. John, involved in a political campaign, can't resist using an underhanded campaign tactic which suggests his opponent is in favor of legalizing marijuana. Travis lies about his fractious relationship with his mother.
Regina is a recovering alcoholic, but she and Kathryn go out to a music club where Kathryn orders a "pink panty dropper," boasting vodka and beer. Characters say (or sign) "h‑‑‑," "a‑‑" and "p‑‑‑ed" once each. God's name is misused a handful of times.
"Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time"
It's time for prom, and Bay goes to the big dance with Emmett—not knowing that he slept with Simone in the previous episode. On the plus side, John and Kathryn, after a few rocky months, recommit to each other. That latter happiness only happens after Kathryn nearly kisses her hunky lawyer. Still, give her props for deciding to walk away from temptation.
Kathryn says she's allowing son Toby to spend after-prom in a hotel room, where they'll be girls, adding that she put some condoms in his bathroom—just in case. Her only hope is that if he's having sex, he'll be responsible. She says she'll resist counting the condoms afterwards. Meanwhile, Daphne "arrests" Wilke as a "will you go to prom with me?" stunt. "I thought you'd like the handcuffs," she cracks.
Teens drink what appears to be champagne, along with harder alcohol from a flask. Later, chaperones sneak sips from the same flask. Kids and adults alike lie and mislead; they say "a‑‑" (twice), "h‑‑‑" (once) and "d‑‑n" (once). They misuse God's name (at least twice). A crazed character claims a hospital she worked at put barcodes on babies and was preparing the way for the Antichrist.