Monday, December 8, 2014

REVIEW: 'Switched at Birth' - Bay and Daphne Make a Wish and Their Lives Get Switched Again in 'Yuletide Fortune Tellers'

ABC Family's Switched at Birth - Episode 3.22 "Yuletide Fortune Tellers"

As the Kennish and Vasquez families prepare to celebrate Christmas in their traditional ways, Bay and Daphne find themselves living each other's lives as if the switch never happened.

"Yuletide Fortune Tellers" is set on almost its own plane of existence within the Switched at Birth universe. It does not serve as a bridge between the end of the third season this summer and the start of the fourth season next month. The sooner you accept that, the more likely you are to enjoy this episode as a fun holiday event episode it is clearly designed to be.

The characters are simply just asked to be their usual selves but during Christmastime. No one is worried or talking about past or future events. The hour presents a story and hurdles that both Bay and Daphne have to deal with that are introduced and resolved over the course of this one episode. It's a very typical story from the movies about this time of the year. Bay and Daphne don't appreciate or understand the holiday traditions their families do every year. They are magically sent into an alternate universe where they were never switched at birth to learn the true meaning of Christmas and their families while trying to work back to their better actual realities. It's cheesy but it's also fun and kinda sweet.

Switched at Birth has already done a "What If?" episode depicting what would have happened had Bay and Daphne never been switched. This is just another take on that concept - but with Bay and Daphne actively aware of the other universe out there. In this world, Bay has grown up as Daphne and vice versa. Meaning Daphne can hear and Bay cannot. They are each more successful in this universe as well - with Daphne as an Olympic hopeful in soccer and Bay about to have her first art exhibit. They trade names too but for the purpose of this review I'll still refer to them as the names they've always had.

Bay and Daphne come to realize that their wish to never have been switched has only made things worse in their lives. Kathryn and John are worse than they've ever been because he has devoted so much time and focus to Daphne while neglecting Toby, who becomes the oddball out in the family. Regina and Angelo had another kid - named Angelo, Jr. - but Angelo is still dead and Regina is still drinking. All of those details make this universe so weird for both Bay and Daphne. It's great but they also realize that they have to return to the way things were to help their loved ones be happy too.

And it's not as simple as wishing over the magic garlic knots that threw them in this predicament in the first place. They have to come to some character realizations and embrace the specific holiday traditions of their parents. Kathryn and Regina both have their ways because of what they meant to them years ago. Kathryn goes all-out at Christmas because she wants her family to be together and happy. And nothing says that like dozens of different cookies, Christmas karaoke and gift-giving that lasts up to three hours. Regina, meanwhile, enjoys a simple day of sneaking into a movie theater with chinese food. It's different but holds a very special memory for her: It's what she and her mom did when her father drank himself up into a drunk rage. Neither Bay nor Daphne knew about these reasons and it makes them appreciate their lives and their parents even more.

Of course, everything works itself out in the end. Bay and Daphne are reunited with their real lives as Christmas morning breaks. The family gathers in the living room to sing together. It's the kind of heart-warming ending a holiday special like this deserves. It just makes you feel good. Plus it's great hearing this family sing together. This hour never feels like a waste of time. It does exist outside of the linear timeline but it has a lot of fun with its characters. And that is just a pleasure to watch.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Yuletide Fortune Tellers" was written by Terrence Coli & Lizzy Weiss and directed by Michael Grossman.
  • The whole new Toby look is hilarious - as is Bay's reaction to him checking her out and flirting.
  • The change with Emmett isn't that drastic. He's still dating a hearing girl. It just happens to not be Bay. And yet, in this universe he still sees the girl he grew up with as a sister and nothing more than that.
  • That video with Angelo really was a great and sweet moment. 
  • The casting people really did a great job finding someone to play Angelo and Regina's son.
  • For the most part, the plot of this episode doesn't allude to future developments. But could the fact that both Regina and her father were alcoholics mean that Daphne may soon be struggling with that too? Just a thought.