“Switched at Birth” returned on Jan. 7 with the emotionally intense season two premiere, “The Door to Freedom.”
The latest installment picks up after the trial verdict, in which Angelo (Gilles Marini) is awarded five million dollars and the Kennishes only receive one dollar. Plus, Daphne (Katie Leclerc) is still reeling from her break up with Jeff and Bay (Vanessa Marano) is looking for focus after trying to run away for the sake of her art.
Sharing the Wealth
Angelo buys presents for his daughters, the Kennishes and Regina. He gets Daphne a food truck as a means of a new focus after quitting her job at Maize. Everyone seems happy with his generosity, except John (D.W. Moffett), who still doesn't trust Angelo’s ultimate intentions.
It’s nice to see Angelo in a place where he can give, as he was emotionally and physically absent from both of his daughters for most of their lives. We know the old saying, “money can’t buy love,” though, and Angelo still has a lot of work to do to build relationships with both of these girls and earn their respect and trust.
Gilles Marini is doing a great job painting a picture of Angelo as of a man of mystery, with many layers. We don’t know whether to trust Angelo, yet, either. Is he a good guy or a self-serving scam artist?
Caught in a Lie
Angelo is, at least, stepping up to help Bay through her French class. But, when she suddenly gets a great grade on an exam, she’s accused of cheating. She faces expulsion and Angelo agrees to go to an honor board meeting and vouch for her new study habits and the progress she’s made.
Before going into the board, Toby (Lucas Grabeel) tells Bay that Angelo got someone pregnant (the lady at the courthouse looking for Angelo after the trial). Bay is shocked because Angelo told her the woman was a reporter from “People” magazine who wanted to interview him.
Marini and Marano share a particularly strong scene as Bay confronts Angelo about lying to her. He tries to assure her the woman means nothing to him, she’s probably after money and wants nothing to do with him. So, it won’t upset their lives.
Bay throws an emotional punch when she tells Angelo that he’s only doing what he did with her and Daphne all over again, walking away from another child, leaving them with questions about their father and where they came from.
Marano is very adept at displaying teenage angst and uncanny wisdom in Bay’s impassioned speech and Marini does an amazing job depicting the emotional impact and weight of Bay’s words. Angelo's pain and frustration is visibly apparent and in many ways, we feel sorry for him. Let’s remember, this lady was a one-night stand, Angelo doesn't even know her.
Here’s a big question: Is it possible the baby’s not his and the woman’s claim is based on the fact that he just won five million dollars? Only a paternity test will give Angelo (and us) the answer we seek.
Plus, Bay is totally unhappy at Buckner and she vents to Emmett (Sean Berdy). She also tells him she’s glad she’s got him and reaches out to grab his hand during the conversation. Is she opening up to move on from Emmett’s past mistake? Are they headed back together?
No Easy Cure for a Broken Heart
Katie Leclerc delivers a brilliant performance in this episode as Daphne faces Jeff for what seems to be the final time to discuss whether she can use him as a reference for future job prospects. Jeff tells her because he’s on probation, he’ll have to reveal the reason for her termination if a prospective employer calls him and this may not be the best thing for her.
He also makes it clear it’s her decision to use him or not and she shouldn't text him when she does. And, even more devastating for Daphne, he tells her they can’t be friends. She tells him she understands and valiantly fights to hold back her tears.
Leclerc is a brilliant dramatic actress and her emotions in this scene and surrounding the entire break up are just so raw and real. We ache for Daphne’s naive innocence and despise Jeff for drawing in someone so young and vulnerable. Who wouldn't fall for a handsome, successful guy like him?
We know, though, the age difference is totally inappropriate. We also believe Daphne will find her true Prince Charming someday. But, to a young lovesick heart, the future doesn't matter—all that matters is now.
The worst thing about this break up, though, is the career opportunity Daphne trashes along the way. Marlee Matlin and Katie Leclerc share another emotionally intense scene as Melody points out what Daphne lost because she quit her job for Jeff. She reminds her jobs like that don’t come easily for deaf people and she needs to think about her future in lieu of this, with every future decision she makes.
As a series, “Switched at Birth” continues to be a leader in terms of employing actors who are deaf, incorporating ASL into the storylines and painting an accurate portrayal of deaf people and the challenges they face. The show also excels at portraying deaf people functioning in a normal capacity, with all of the ups and downs that everyone, hearing or non-hearing, can face in life on any given day.
This episode, specifically, shines a big light, in Melody’s speech, about the challenges deaf people and/or people with other kinds of disabilities may face in seeking and obtaining gainful employment.
In 2011, ABC aired an episode of “What Would You Do” that featured two deaf women who applied for a job but the manager turned them away, due to being deaf. While all three parties were actors, the situation highlighted a real life problem. This kind of discrimination does happen.
A Feb. 2011 About.com article, “Work and Being Deaf,” states: “Finding work can be challenging for a deaf or hard of hearing person. Deaf and hard of hearing people may experience discrimination, both before and after finding employment. An employer or co-worker may be uncomfortable with deafness.”
Thankfully, there are employment laws in place, like the Americans with Disabilities Act, that protect people with disabilities from employment discrimination. Unfortunately, the practice still happens and many discrimination victims don’t push their legal rights or follow through with filing a lawsuit against the employer who wronged them.
In Daphne’s case, she got the Maize opportunity via a friend of Kathryn’s and she and Jeff initially struggled to communicate. He even said her deafness presented safety issues in the kitchen. So, he made her wash dishes for a while. Then he eased up on her and found a way to communicate that unfortunately brought them too close together and it evolved into an inappropriate relationship on several levels.
Fortunately, Daphne takes Melody’s words to heart. She decides to keep the food truck and we hope something great will come from her endeavor.
Overall, the “Switched at Birth” season two premiere episode is a brilliantly written and played episode, with particularly strong performances delivered by Gilles Marini, Vanessa Marano and Katie Leclerc. Angelo and his daughters are all at important crossroads and it will be interesting to see where things go from here.
Our most burning final questions:
- Is Angelo going to be a father again? Will he push for a paternity test and will Lana agree to it?
- Does Regina hope for a future with Angelo?
- Are Bay and Emmett finding their way back together?
- Will Daphne be able to move on, now, and get past her feelings for Jeff?
“Switched at Birth” airs Mondays at 8 p.m. EST in Flint on ABC Family. Click here for a Flint area channel guide.