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'Switched at Birth' fan react: It's complicated

Season 4 | Episode 6 | “Black and Gray” | Aired Feb 10, 2015

“Black and Gray,” the second act of Switched at Birth’s big two-parter event dealing with campus rape, picks up after the events of last week’s shocking “At First Clear Word.” We’re fresh off the aftermath of the traumatic events at the college party in which Tank sexually assaulted Bay.

Or, you could say, “Black and Gray” picks up after the events of last week’s shocking “At First Clear Word,” fresh off the traumatic events of the college party in which Bay and Tank had sex, but it’s a bit murky as to the hows and whys. It all depends on how you choose to interpret it. We see what we want to see—more important, what we need to see—and this episode of Switched at Birth is a case study in just that.

At this point in Bay’s story, the secret is out. Due to the investigation put forward by Melody and UMKC to look into the account of sexual assault that allegedly happened the night of the party, everyone knows it was Bay and Tank one way or another.

Regina and Kathryn know after putting two and two together, after Daphne spins the same fake story about a “friend” who experienced this situation. They go to Bay to ask outright if it was her. John knows because Kathryn told him. Travis knows because he connected the dots after Bay asked him to help her recount the events of that night. And Emmett knows because Daphne flies all the way to L.A. to tell him what happened.

The investigation is not what Bay wanted; she spends the majority of the episode wishing Melody hadn’t instigated it, and struggling with everyone telling her what to do and what to think, as opposed to having her own time to deal with it herself. She wants to forget the whole thing and go on as if it never happened.

It’s clear she feels this way because she still does not actually equate what happened with rape—more specifically, being raped by someone she once really cared for. Her journey from embarrassment and guilt to the revelation she might not have consented in the first place, from being angry because she’s lost control of the situation to coming to grips with talking to the investigator, is a truly beautiful arc for Bay. Vanessa Marano once again knocks it out of the park.

A lot of time is devoted to Bay not actively seeking guidance or advice from a confidant, but more so, those who care for her seeking her out to lend a shoulder or an ear for her to confide in them. Regina’s anger and frustration that she can’t seem to do anything to help Bay is a sentiment any mother wold have. It’s a problem she tries to remedy by enlisting a university crisis center volunteer to talk to Bay about sexual assault. But this (predictably) backfires, as once again advice is being solicited by someone other than the person who needs it.

Bay insists that the whole thing is “so messy” and “complicated.” There still is no obvious right or wrong, no obvious “I said no” or “I said yes” to her. When Kathryn tells her she’s done nothing wrong, Bay squeaks, “How do you know? I don’t even know.” The unknown of anything is always scarier than the known, and when it comes to the distinction of being raped or not, it’s a fear all-consuming.

But that’s not the only advice Kathryn has to offer; she confides in Bay that she, too, was sexually violated when she was just 17 years old. She didn’t tell anyone, and she tried to trivialize the incident to make it seem unimportant, which in turn made her feel unimportant. It’s a powerful message, and one Bay needed to hear amid the unsolicited advice and the prying investigation questions.

Vanessa Marano as Bay Kennish and Lea Thompson as Kathryn Kennish on ABC Family

The other moment that really stuck out to me was when Travis told Mary Beth that the investigation was about Bay and Tank. Mary Beth is obviously horrified this happened to her good friend, but it’s her explanation of why this shouldn’t have happened in the first place that struck a nerve. She says that Bay should not have drunk so much that she blacked out; she shouldn’t have put herself in the situation to begin with. How many times have we heard that? A college coed gets gang-raped and goes to the cops, and all we hear from the sidelines is, “She should have been more careful,” or, “She was asking for it in that outfit,” or, “She should have known better.” Travis is aghast; how can she, a girl, say something that might imply Bay should have protected herself better because of the off chance she might get raped? As if the assault was somehow her fault?

Mary Beth lays it out for Travis like this: “BECAUSE I’m a girl. I know we have to be smart. We can’t let out guard down. It sucks it’s that way for us, but that’s how it is.”

The fact that Switched at Birth even ventured to show this opinion coming from someone who knows the victim is something I applaud. Loudly. While I don’t agree with Mary Beth’s opinion that Bay should have “known better,” I do agree that as women, we have to be so much more vigilant to protect ourselves than men. It does suck to constantly be fearful you’ll get raped, but it does not mean that Bay should have avoided the party if it meant she was being responsible enough to avoid being assaulted. Again, I’m glad to see the show give us very polarizing perspectives on a topic like campus rape, which isn’t something I can say about most other TV shows.

Bay eventually does speak to the investigator, even though her gut reaction is to not identify the incident as rape. It’s complicated, she says. She can’t remember consenting or not, and deep down, she knows Tank would never hurt her. But Bay trusts her instincts and tells the investigator that she and Tank both made bad mistakes.

In the end, she finally says aloud that “something happened and I wasn’t okay with it.” Which is enough for the school to expel Tank, and for Bay to try to move on with her life. I think we know this is going to have lasting effects on Bay, and I’m very much looking forward to the intrepid team at Switched at Birth to make sure it’s a journey worth following.

Oh, and by the way:

  • Emmett is still furious with Daphne and thinks all of his and Bay’s problems are because of her. Ugh.
  • Still crying from that John-Bay embrace. Hard.
  • When Bay tells Tank she’s going to talk to the investigator, he shows his cards and reminds me of all the times we’ve heard similar arguments from men accused of raping/sexually assaulting/abusing women: “This will follow me forever!” or, “I don’t deserve to be kicked off the team/kicked out of school/go to jail for this!” or, “This will ruin my life!” Those arguments are disgusting and meant as a way to essentially guilt the victim into not coming forward and telling the truth. If the victim is made to feel badly for the assailant, as if her assault is somehow less important than someone’s lost chance at a football scholarship, what have we come to? Rape will follow her around forever; it could very possibly ruin her life. It’s horrific that those arguments are ever used by those accused of such a crime. But I love Switched at Birth for voicing a very real reaction from Tank like that.

Switched at Birth airs Tuesdays at 9/8C on ABC Family.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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