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'Switched at Birth' shocker: Death comes knocking

Season 3 | Episode 16 | “The Image Disappears” | Aired July 14, 2014

Last week I tweeted, “Will this be the last selfie Angelo ever takes?” Never in a million years did I think that it actually would be. Tonight we say goodbye to Angelo Sorrento.

Following the aftermath of last week’s car-crash cliffhanger, “The Image Disappears” picks up right where we left off: Angelo is in the hospital in surgery, while the rest of his family—Kennish and Sorrento alike—huddle together, waiting with bated breath.

All seems well when the doctor comes out with good news: Angelo is out of surgery and stable. With a positive prognosis, the family can breathe a little lighter. So when Regina remembers that Daphne is supposed to be taking the SAT, she insists Daphne leave at once to take the test. After all, Angelo is doing well. Daphne begrudgingly leaves, but asks Toby to notify her if anything should change with Angelo’s condition. But SAT test be damned: Her phone goes off like crazy during the exam, and she hurriedly flees to get  back to Angelo’s side.

Back at the hospital, Bay is so stricken with feelings of helplessness that she decides to donate blood. She has a blood-draining-induced dream of her future, a future in which she is in labor, Angelo at her side. She’s terrified, but Angelo comforts her by recalling the first time he held her in his arms. “In life, there are moments where time stops,” he says. He tells Bay he knew, from that very moment, that he would never do anything more important than be her father. It’s only one of the many break-my-heart-into-a-million-pieces moments from this episode, and one that hits especially close to home, given the fact that he missed out on exactly that—on being her father—for most of her life.

When Daphne returns to the hospital, Bay rails on her for leaving Angelo in a time of need to go take the SAT. But Daphne has no time to defend her decision because as they wait outside Angelo’s room, she comes to a horrifying realization while reading the doctor’s lips: Angelo is brain-dead.

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For a moment I genuinely thought this would end up being a mistake, that Daphne would have misread the doctor’s words, that this would all just be a crazy medical mix-up, and Angelo would wake up in the next scene. I was wrong.

When the doctor breaks the news to Regina and the Kennish clan, she is urged to take a step she never thought she would have to: remove Angelo’s life support. Cue the spiraling and denial from almost everyone on the show, but mostly Regina and Bay, who both are completely unable to cope. While Daphne and Emmett and Kathryn are all reeling from the news that Angelo is gone, they are quicker to realize that he really is gone, and there’s nothing they can do about it. Bay and Regina? Not so much. Their first pit stop on the grief highway is refusing to accept that Angelo is dead, which results in hurtful, regretful outbursts that only true grief can manifest. So offended that Daphne would even suggest organ donation for Angelo, Bay flies off the handle again, this time with a really low blow: “What do you know about what he would want? He’s not even your dad.”

Spinning from the news that Angelo is dead and Bay’s more-than-hurtful words, Daphne has her own dream about a future with Angelo in it: It’s her wedding day, and Angelo is there to walk her down the aisle. Angelo is as caring as he’s ever been, consoling Daphne when she admits feeling scared and unsure that she’s making the right decision. He calls love an “imperfect science,” saying some of the truest words he’s ever spoken: “[With love,] you cannot feel it, touch it, measure it. Only you can know how he makes you feel.”

“I feel like the luckiest girl to get to have two dads walk me down the aisle,” she says. And my heart broke into a million more pieces. Angelo is able to say in this dream what I think he had only just been able to discover for himself. Love can’t be measured by blood or a DNA test, it just is. And Daphne has only just begun to create a beautiful, growing relationship with the father she never knew. To see them share this moment knowing it would never come was almost too much for me to bear.

Later, it’s proven that apparently grief-stricken insults are, in fact, genetic, when Regina, equally unable to accept Angelo’s fate as her daughter, spews this hurtful blow at John: “You get to be their only father now. Well, congratulations—this is working our great for you.” This would sting anyone, but it does doubly so for John, who had confided in Kathryn just moments earlier how guilty he was feeling over the last conversation he had with Angelo.

Back at Angelo’s apartment, Bay and Emmett come across Angelo’s will while searching for his mother’s phone number. At first Bay refuses to acknowledge it, even suggesting to Emmett that they just keep it a secret. Luckily Emmett convinces her to do the right thing, and she delivers it to Regina, who can see for herself that taking Angelo off of life support is what he would have wanted.

And just like that, with the heaviest of hearts, the decision is made. But it’s the heartbreaking conversation that follows this decision that reveals another layer of ache in this tragedy: Angelo’s accident was caused by a brain aneurysm, one that likely burst due to high levels of stress and anger. As if Regina didn’t already feel at fault for Angelo speeding off from K&D after their big blowup, now she’s almost certain that it was their fight that caused all of this. And naturally, Daphne now believes this whole thing is Regina’s fault as well. Though I wish there wasn’t going to be another storyline that centered around Daphne hating Regina, this is a very realistic turn for this tragic story to take. My only hope is that the grief that follows Angelo’s death is handled with as much care as I know Switched at Birth is capable of. If so, we’re in for some truly ugly, painful, heartbreaking and moving character development in the weeks ahead.

RIP, Angelo Sorrento. You may not have always been the greatest father or husband, but you had been trying so hard lately that it’s a real shame to see it all taken away from you so quickly.

Oh, and by the way:

  • When Bay called Angelo’s mother, I nearly lost it. “Mon petit cheri,” her grandmother cooed. And then I cried forever.
  • The flashbacks to when Angelo left Regina the first time after getting the DNA test on baby Daphne was just a normal flashback—until it turned into the flashback that could have been in Regina’s dreams, when Angelo turned around right then and there and they decided to make it work. If only.
  • John Kennish has always been an interesting character to me. He makes some big mistakes, but he also does a lot of things right. But I’ll be darned if he isn’t one of the most realistically and honest written characters on TV. For him to admit to Kathryn that he thought, “Yeah. You deserve it” when Angelo told him he was broke—that was big. I applaud Switched at Birth for refusing to back down on his character’s flaws. They’re not always pretty, but they’re honest.
  • Seriously, though, I really did not think Switched at Birth had it in its bones to kill someone off. *angrily shakes fists at sky*

Switched at Birth, rated TV-14, airs Mondays at 8/7C on ABC Family.

Get more of Brandi’s take on all things entertainment over at ReelSnarky.com!

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