“Switched at Birth” returned on Jan. 20 with the all-new episode, “Your Body is a Battleground.”
This heartwarming installment finds Daphne (Katie Leclerc) and Bay (Vanessa Marano) awkwardly adjusting to life at the start of their senior year at Carlton. The school is newly populated with hearing underachievers from district schools that were shut down. These kids clearly don’t want to be there and the deaf Carlton students aren’t thrilled with their arrival.
Daphne and Bay distract themselves as Daphne continues meeting her probation requirements at the clinic and Bay seeks inspiration in her art class. Both girls get more than they bargained for when two very different conversations shift their perspective.
You Can’t Miss What You’ve Never Had
“Switched at Birth” continues to be a pioneer in terms of a television series which features people with disabilities in a positive, high-functioning capacity. RJ Mitte’s appearance as Daphne’s dashing fellow clinic volunteer Campbell is a brilliant example.
Daphne is amazed at Campbell’s upbeat attitude, given everything he suffered following a snowboarding accident. He's wheelchair bound and drives, helps underprivileged people at the clinic and talks about his injuries and accidents with a smile. He even makes a self-deprecating joke about his speech impediment which is lost on Daphne because she can’t hear the flaw or anyone’s voice, for that matter.
She marvels even more when Campbell talks about the medical advancements being made on spinal cord injuries and how he’s determined to walk and skateboard again. She can’t understand wanting to do something that caused him such harm.
He asks her if someone could give her back her hearing, would she want them to do it. She surprises him by saying, “No. It’s part of who I am.”
Daphne doesn’t remember what it’s like to hear. But, Campbell remembers what it’s like to walk and he tells her he wants to do it again.
These two young people touch on an important fundamental truth: You can’t miss what you’ve never had. It also brings some important things into focus for Daphne. She’s not had something taken away in the same sense that Campbell has. So, she's not missing something being deaf.
“Switched at Birth” creator Lizzy Weiss beautifully and fearlessly weaves these very genuine feelings into the storyline, and viewers with disabilities and injuries, or those who have suffered traumatic loss can easily relate to Daphne and Campbell’s different points of view.
Furthermore, actors like RJ Mitte, Katie Leclerc, Ryan Lane, Sean Berdy and Marlee Matlin continue to serve as an inspiration to disabled persons who are aspiring to act or pursue a career in the creative arts or entertainment industry.
Mitte hails from the Emmy and Golden Globe winning series, “Breaking Bad” for which he received the SAG-AFTRA Harold Russell Award at the 2013 Media Access Awards for his portrayal of Walter "Flynn" White Jr. and he presented his SAB co-star Ryan Lane with the eponymous RJ Mitte Diversity Award. Mitte also carries the distinction of being the Screen Actors Guild Spokesperson for actors with disabilities and is a representative for Inclusion in the Arts and Media of Performers with Disabilities. Mitte has a mild form of cerebral palsy, which his "Breaking Bad" character also had.
Mitte makes a great addition to the stellar “Switched at Birth” cast. It seems a small spark has ignited between Daphne and Campbell. Although, she’s clearly disappointed when a girl comes to see him at the clinic and kisses him. Is she misreading Campbell’s friendliness? Is the attraction one-sided?
Daphne has thus far been very unlucky in love. Jeff and Jace were gorgeous but terrible choices. It’ll be interesting to see if things progress any farther with Campbell.
Looking at a Different Angle
Bay misses Ty terribly and we wish so badly she knew that he wasn’t really unfaithful. She strikes up a friendship with her art class partner, played by “Glee’s” incomparable Max Adler. Sandra Bernhard is the quintessential quirky art instructor. Bay and Tank are charged to draw each other as they see each other and the instructor berates Bay’s first attempt, charging her to do better.
Bay goes to a frat party, drinks too much and is about to make a terrible mistake with a strange guy and Tank thankfully comes to the rescue. She gets sick and he takes care of her, so there’s no time for him to sketch her.
The instructor kicks him out of the class and Bay appeals to her to give him another chance. He’s grateful and she’s impressed by his willingness to help run plays on a football team. She draws him again, as a leader using a series of small “Xs” and “Os” which signify the football plays. The drawing is stunning and the teacher is duly impressed.
The whole experience makes her reconsider quitting Toby (Lucas Grabeel) and Daphne’s Carlton field hockey team. They wanted a basketball team and the only support they could get was a bunch of free hockey sticks. Tank’s generosity inspires Bay to see things in a completely different light and Vanessa Marano is brilliant in depicting Bay’s frustration and eventual change of heart.
Max Adler shines as good-natured Tank and Tank's friendship with Bay is a fun dynamic to explore.
Finally, tires are being slashed and Daphne is convinced someone in the new group of tough students is doing it. However, Emmett catches the slasher on camera while he’s filming practice. It turns out it’s Natalie! She’s obviously reverting to her old ways of trying to make trouble between groups. Is Emmett going to turn her in? If he does, what consequences will she face?
Overall, season three is off to an exciting start. So, many questions hang in the balance about our favorite couples. Will Regina (Constance Marie) and Angelo (Gilles Marini) finally make it work together, or is financial trouble going to rock the boat? Will John (DW Moffett) and Kathryn (Lea Thompson) weather her depression? Can Toby and Nikki make a long-distance marriage work? Will Bay discover the truth about Ty, or is the flame going to rekindle between her and Emmett?
Watch “Switched at Birth” on Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC Family to see what happens next.