Photo: Ron Tom / ABC Family

Buckner Gets Carlton's Goat

Literally, there's a prank with a goat. And love stinks for just about everybody.

You can see a lot coming on Switched At Birth. (That's the whole point of this feature, of course.) The end of Toby and Nikki's ill-advised marriage was one of those things. What I didn't see coming was how amazingly well the show would handle it. I kind of expected it to be dealt with between seasons, but this week Nikki shows up for a surprise visit -- and with surprise news that she wants to continue her mission work abroad. Toby holds his ground, saying he doesn't want to join her; she holds her ground, saying she has discovered her life's work. When the two of them realize they are at odds and heading for divorce, it's heartbreaking, even though they've never been that likable a couple.

By comparison, Daphne and Bay deal with smaller-scale romantic troubles. Daphne finally decided she likes the bigger-name guest star Campbell more than Jorge, but she's awkward about his wheelchair use. Bay stops Tank when he tried to have sex with her, ostensibly because she isn't ready. But as her Wise Pretend Aunt Sarah, I suspect she just doesn't want to.

At least we still have field hockey! ...Did I just say that? Do we also have an example of the Switched At Birth formula in action? I hope so, just in case there are any field hockey punditry scouts reading this.

Switched-y Element Present?
Kathryn loves a project! This episode is so light on John and Kathryn that she doesn't even have a project -- just some low-key nosiness about Daphne's and Bay's love lives.
Speedy exposition! Holy field hockey! All before the opening title, Matthew (that guy who got suspended for slashing tires) returns to Carlton; Buckner pranks Carlton with a goat, TP, and a "Carlton sucks" banner with inventive font use; and Nikki shows up at Toby's front door.
John Kennish is going to solve this right now. Just when it looks like John wasn't going to be in this episode, he shows up at the big field hockey game and delivers a pep talk to the team, despite a gentle reminder from his son that he, Toby, is the coach. Don't count out John Kennish!

Daphne blurts! Daphne's filter is totally, gloriously broken this week. She puts her foot in her mouth with Campbell, comparing trying to lift his wheelchair over a curb to handling strollers when she was a babysitter. Then she goes off on the door guy at a sports bar that's clearly turning them away because Campbell's in a wheelchair. Then those damn field hockey refs draw her ire. Sharee even calls her "Katniss."
Emmett: what happened? Bay discovers that Emmett's long-distance girlfriend didn't actually take a photo she claimed was hers, which raises all kinds of red flags that Emmett is getting catfished.
Guest star from my youth Now I'm just mad that I put this in the formula.
Fleeting visits from supporting characters Matthew returns and then...nothing happens. And because his eyes are not the ones that make Daphne melt, Jorge is lucky to have dropped by even briefly this week.
Bay is in the moment Never prank Bay Kennish's school. She will pursue revenge against you with unrelentingly and artistic fervor.
Stereotypes are dispelled Just because Daphne is deaf, that doesn't mean she is totally at ease with the logistics of dating a guy in a wheelchair, although that kiss he pulled her in for probably eased some concerns.
Toby makes me sigh This was the best Toby episode ever of Switched, and that achievement is not diminished at all by the fact that it's the only good Toby episode ever. He truly steps up to get a college field hockey scout to the game to see Sharee, and he handles the heartbreaking situation with Nikki with a lot of strength.
Regina and Angelo are confusing Regina is confused, but not confusing. She's clearly having some misgivings about coaxing East Riverside business owners into selling their properties to make way for West's project, and about West's unrelenting assiness, but that "bonus" car he got her is pretty sweet.
It's hard to be switched! The Kennish-Vasquez family merger is now seeming kind of cool and easy. There's always someone around to talk to and validate that you deserve that new car.
7 / 12
About half Switched At Birth, half the surprisingly unsettling Toby spinoff where he copes with life as an elfin divorcé.
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