Original Air Date: Mar 4, 2013
Karen Belgrad – Senior Editor
Before we discuss tonight’s historical, all-ASL episode, let’s start with a deaf culture history lesson that was touched upon in this hour. In March 1988, the students at Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf and hard of hearing, led a protest known as Deaf President Now. The protest came about after the board of trustees nominated a hearing person as its seventh president. The students shutdown the campus, barricaded its gates, and demanded a deaf president. The protest ended on March 13, 1988 when I. King Jordan, a deaf individual, was appointed president.
What’s truly remarkable is the way that Switched At Birth continues to draw on history and the identity of the deaf community to tell its stories. While America as a whole likes to draw attention to the history of various minorities with dedicated months, it has yet to make sure this segment of the population is given equal billing. And tonight’s episode, and the press coverage it has received, hopefully goes a long way in rectifying that.
Bay and Noah discuss what will happen if Carlton closes. Noah figures he’ll go back to his old school. Bay has no intention of going back to Buckner, especially since she’s doing so well (Dean’s List) at Carlton. Nearby, Daphne realizes her hearing aid battery has gone dead, which sets the tone for the silence of the hour. I don’t know about anyone else, but I found myself muting the background music of the show, as the signing-only event was even more powerful without it.
Melody is offered a job as the Chair of Academic Diversity, but she knows it’s just to get her to go along, quietly, with the boards plans to mainstream the students. When Emmett finds out, he accuses her of selling out, and she reminds him that she has responsibilities now that she didn’t have when she was 19 and occupied Gallaudet.
The deaf Carlton students that we’re familiar with (Daphne, Emmett, Travis, Natalie) and a few others reminisce over shared moments from their schooling together and the woes (bullying, segregation, poor interpretors). They all know they want to do something, they’re just not sure what until Daphne recalls the Gallaudet uprising. It takes very little discussion before group realizes that they want to stage their own protest and occupy Carlton. They set the plan in motion to occur when they’ll have the best access to the school, immediately following the Romeo and Juliet play.
Bay knows something is up, but she and Noah are excluded from the planning. Emmett asks her to do some artwork to represent the school’s situation, but does not tell her of the plan. Later that night, Daphne is looking to talk to Regina, but instead finds her passed out on the couch. She smells the alcohol on her mother’s breath and goes to see Bay, accidentally triggering the alarm at the Kennish house. The commotion from Toby, Bay, John, and Kathryn, and the isolation Daphne feels from it is obvious, and she opts not to say anything to Bay for the time being.
Before the play, Noah suggests a practice kiss for their roles. The fact that it goes on a little too long isn’t lost on a nearby Emmett. During the play, to which Kathryn was able to get two reports and two school board members to attend, Emmett and Travis attempt to gain access to the school. Their efforts are hampered by a security guard, so Travis returns to the play and tries to signal to Daphne. Bay witness it and when she learns what’s going on, pulls a fire alarm to distract the guard. Travis breaks a window to get in and Emmett drops a banner, with Bay’s artwork, signaling that Take Back Carlton is now in effect. The students rally inside the school, taking over the building. Against Travis’s wishes, Noah and Bay join the protest.
Inside, the students celebrate, taking videos, drinking, and making their mission go viral via social media. Daphne quickly realizes the mission statement is getting lost in the party, and asks all the students to turn in their phones until one central message can be shared. A few students take issue with her leadership role and leave, but the rest come together to come up with demands. The request of sports and arts is mostly for leverage, but how deaf Carlton should be is hotly contested. Noah admits he’s hard of hearing and wonders what is the “deaf” barometer. Bay wonders about the status of the pilot program students. Emmett also chooses this time to query Daphne about her kiss with Noah, pointing out that he is Bay’s boyfriend. Daphne scoffs at the idea of Emmett bringing up fidelity and Bay.
Outside, the parents worry about their children, with John (clearly not a flower child) thinking they should cut power to force the kids out. Melody is sent in as ambassador of sorts, but with her personal Gallaudet history, she doesn’t advocate for the students to leave their posts. Regina tries to reach Daphne, who in respond texts her angrily about being drunk and passed out. Regina looks appropriately shamed.
Inside, Bay questions Daphne about supporting her desire to continue at Carlton. When Daphne admits she isn’t sure, Bay personalizes it, ranting about how she lobbied to have Daphne and Regina come live with the Kennishes. The two are ready to argue a bit more when the silence of the hour ends with sirens, and Bay tells Daphne that the cops are there.
So… wow! What did you think of television’s first ASL episode? With next week being the winter finale, I am waiting with baited breathe to find out what happens!
Episode Title Art: To be honest, I’m not sure… it might be this. But I tweeted Lizzy Weis, the show’s creator, and I’ll let you know what she says!
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