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Series / Switched at Birth

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ABC Family Teen Drama about two 16-year-old girls who were switched at birth.

Bay was raised in a Big Fancy House by the wealthy John and Kathryn Kennish. Daphne, who went deaf after catching meningitis as a toddler, was raised by single mother Regina Vasquez in a tough neighborhood. Neither girl knew that they weren't biologically related to their families, and in fact didn't know about each other, until Bay requested a DNA test. Once the secret is out, the Kennishes invite the Vasquezes to move in, and the two families start to get to know their biological daughters. In addition, we have generalized family drama in the form of boy problems, the growing pains of the elder Kennish sibling Toby, and various personality conflicts between the parents. The show debuted in 2011 and ran for 5 seasons until concluding in 2017.


This show provides examples of:

  • Absentee Actor: Sean Berdy gets an onscreen credit for "Las Dos Fridas," but Emmett only appears in the Previously On… segment and not in the episode itself. Similarly, Gilles Marini gets Promoted to Opening Titles in season 2, but Angelo doesn't appear in every episode. He's credited on a few episodes even after Angelo is killed off.
  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: Toby loses thousands of dollars in poker because Daphne misread the other players' body language.
  • Abusive Parents: In season 3, Sharee's mother is shown to be verbally abusive, and implied to be physically abusive, although she has an unspecified mental disorder.
  • Age-Gap Romance:
    • Sixteen-year-old Daphne starts a romance with her boss, the much older Chef Jeff, to her family's disapproval. In fact, it's later shown that he was interested in her at first because he thought she was in college; it's only when she tells him that she wants it to happen that he gives in and kisses her.
    • Advertisement:
    • In season 5 Regina dates Luca, a college student.
  • All Gays Are Pedophiles: After Travis tells his mom her brother had molested him as a kid, she replies it's not true-because he isn't gay.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Daphne sneaks out of school to have a drunken make out with Wilke. She later dresses very sultry in order to attract the caustic Chef Jeff. Regina calls Daphne out on this trope after finding out about her involvement with Nacho.
  • Alliterative Name: Kathryn Kennish
  • Alternate Reality Episode: Done twice:
    • In "Ecce Mono," John imagines that Regina came clean about discovering the switch in 1998 but lost custody of the girls due to her drinking. Daphne is raised with the Kennishes, getting a cochlear implant to help her hear and not identifying as Deaf—but is a manipulative brat. Bay is now a studious young woman who falls in her sister's shadow; Toby is still gambling, and Kathryn is having an affair with another man (Chip Coto)). The girls grow up thinking that Regina stopped contacting them altogether. She actually has tried to make contact with them their entire lives, but the Kennishes stash away the letters and presents instead of giving it to the girls. When they find this out and go to find Regina, they instead only find Adrianna; they find out from her that Regina died of drinking on their birthday.
    • In "Yuletide Fortune Tellers," the girls are upset about their families' Christmas traditions only to wake up in a world where the switch never happened. Daphne is Bay, a star athlete, with Toby a moody musician and John and Kathryn having marriage problems. Bay is Daphne, raised with a younger brother but Regina still drinking and Emmett only a friend.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Bay's new boyfriend Alex reads about Emmett in Kathryn's book, and tells Bay that "[Emmett] sounds hot."
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Katie Leclerc and Vanessa Marano appeared in character in a PSA about the dangers of texting while driving.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love:
    • Daphne to Emmett, after she finds out about him and Bay.
    • Emmett to Bay, later in the same episode:
      Emmett: [speaking]
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    Melody: [signing, to Emmett] You started going with Bay, and now you're sneaking around, lying, and talking about going to speech therapy!
    • Subverted—this is actually an extremely important point for Melody.
  • Best Woman: Bay fills this role at Lily and Toby's wedding. Conveniently, she already has a tux from the prom in season 3.
  • Better as Friends: Daphne and Emmett.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Daphne's the Betty and Bay's the Veronica to Emmett's Archie. Complete with hair colors.
    • Melody was the Betty and Olivia was the Veronica to Cameron's Archie.
    • And earlier in the series, Emmett was the Betty and Wilke was the Veronica to Daphne's Archie.
    • After Bay and Emmett broke up in season 1 and she starts dating again, there are several Betty and Veronica's with Emmett pining for Bay. Whether he's the Betty or the Veronica depends on the other guy.
  • Big Fancy House: The Kennish residence, with a nice guest house in the back.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • Daphne and her friends use sign language, which is usually subtitled or interpreted for the audience's benefit; and Daphne's mom and grandmother both speak Spanish. Specifically, they're signing using ASLnote  and SEEnote , in a mixture called Pidgin Signed English.
    • Angelo speaks Italian and French.
  • Birds of a Feather: Emmett and Bay share a passion for art. Then again, both Emmett and Daphne can communicate easier and relate with each other because they are both Deaf and able to sign fluently.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • In the season 2 spring finale, John wins his state senate campaign by default, but admits that he had hoped he would lose, and that Kathryn should have run instead of him.
    • Also the season 3 finale, in which Bay, Daphne and their friends graduate from Carlton, but learn Carlton will be permanently closed. Bay confesses to vandalizing the construction site so that Daphne won't go to jail and ruin her chances of going to medical school, although this means Bay can't move to LA with Emmett.
  • Blackmail: Daphne and her Temporary Satellite Love Interest Jace blackmail Senator Coto about his affair with an intern, in order to kill an abstinence-only education bill. Coto eventually catches Daphne, and blackmails her (and John) right back. In order to spare John from having to pay off Coto, Daphne sends info of the affair to the news media, taking Coto down with her.
  • Blessed with Suck: Emmett's father's family is open-minded and giving, but because of their youthfulness he's often forgotten.
  • Bookends: "This Is The Color Of My Dreams" begins with Regina having a dream that she's marrying Angelo and ends with her marrying him for real to keep him from being deported.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Both the Kennishes and Vasquezes are forced to realize this during their attempts to live together peacefully.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: A gender-flipped version. Ty lies to Bay that he cheated on her, because the alternative—admitting that he's going into a high-risk warzone with a serious chance of getting killed and leaving her heartbroken—is something he can't do.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Most of the characters (more or less), but Daphne is the most vulnerable target. Before finding out about the switch, she was very positive and well-adjusted. Afterwards, well....
    • Even more so in Chef Jeff's kitchen. While she was working there, Daphne was guaranteed to mess up and freak out Once an Episode.
    • Daphne again, with the food truck robbery.
  • Bus Crash:
    • Averted. Ty doesn't die in the attack on his unit in Afghanistan.
    • The Bus Came Back: Ty comes back home from war with psychological trauma after losing an Army buddy in the attack.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: Wilke promises that Guitar Face will open for a notable band, but they end up playing the D Stage.
  • Cessation of Existence: Discussed by Regina and John. He believes there's some afterlife where you can meet your loved ones again, but Regina doesn't, unfortunate as she finds that.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The guest house is this in the first episode.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Daphne's abilities as a human lie detector. They're established early in the first season when Toby takes her to a poker game to help him identify the other players' tells. Later on in the season, she asks Emmett if he cheated on Bay with Simone, and he lies and says it didn't happen. Daphne instantly knows he's lying, and he realizes that she now knows for sure.
  • Childhood Memory Demolition Team: A variation; Bay and Daphne must work together to save Emmett's motorcycle, which he built with his dad.
  • Chocolate Baby: Daphne. Unlike both her presumed birth parents, Regina and Angelo, she was pale-skinned, plus red-haired. Naturally, Angelo thought Regina cheated on him and Daphne wasn't his. He was right on the latter, though wrong about the reasons, as she was switched for their real daughter while in the hospital. Later it turns out that John had also suspected this of Bay for just the same reasons, getting both their DNA secretly tested. It explains why he's not surprised about the DNA results when Bay later gets them to as well. However, though he thought Kathryn must have cheated on him, he'd already decided that no matter what, Bay and she are still his family.
  • Citizenship Marriage: Regina marries Angelo in order to keep him in the country for Bay's sake. However, the two have to keep up the facade that they're happily married and living together, so they don't go to jail for immigration fraud.
  • Conflict Ball: Good grief, every character has at least one. Some are juggling two or three, when they aren't playing hot potato with another one.
    • Such as Daphne and Bay fighting over Liam, then Ty, Emmett, and later Noah.
    • John suing the hospital for an apology.
    • Regina and Kathryn fighting over whether or not Regina can date Bruce.
      • Regina and Kathryn fighting, period.
      • Regina and everyone fighting.
    • Toby and his gambling woes.
    • Emmett and his mom disagreeing about him taking speech therapy and dating Bay.
    • Angelo showing up and pretty much making everyone upset, though Bay eventually warms to him.
    • Bay and Emmett having a huge spat about Emmett's living arrangements...which happens at the same time that Toby and Simone have a spat about Simone's trustworthiness, leading to Emmett and Simone sleeping together.
    • Toby shoving Emmett for cheating on Bay with Simone.
    • John screaming at Regina about the grudge he's felt against her for her knowing the truth about the switch, but keeping Daphne out of his life.
    • John and Kathryn's marital problems—he was fine with the status quo, and she was unhappy and seeking a change in the routine. As with most marital issues in Real Life, both parties were obstinate and unwilling to hear each other out.
    • Daphne takes the ball and runs wild with it after Angelo dies. Pretty much everyone calls her out on it.
  • Continuity Nod: To Emmett and Daphne being fans of Deaf horror films when they make a "Dawn of the Deaf". Also, when Daphne's room is shown you can see the poster Emmett gave her in an earlier episode.
  • Cool Bike: Emmett's motorcycle. John gets one of his own in season 3, but it doesn't last long.
  • Cool Car: The Kennishes have a whole fleet: a BMW convertible for the kids, Kathryn's Mercedes G-Wagen, and John's Porsche Panamera (which was an Aston Martin in the pilot). This all might be justified—John is a former major league baseball star, and currently owns a successful chain of car washes.
  • Cool Loser: Daphne sees herself as a loser after dressing more sultry and failing to get Chef Jeff's attention, even though she's a basketball star and very social.
  • Curtains Match the Window: The biological Vasquezes have dark hair and dark eyes.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Bay and Emmett get cut on some barbed wire during an attempt to tag an unused billboard. Bay explains her wounds as a nasty rosebush incident, and Emmett tells his mother he fell on a sprinkler head playing football at his friend's house.
  • Dance of Romance: John and Kathryn reconcile with one of these while chaperoning at the Carlton prom.
  • Dance Party Ending: "Dance Me To The End Of Love" has one of these. Seriously.
  • Dark Secret:
    • The Kennishes kind of suspected that Regina knew something about the switch. And they were right. Around the time of Daphne's meningitis infection in 1998, Angelo had Daphne DNA tested, and Regina figured out then that the hospital had switched the girls at birth in 1995. Fearing that, as a poor alcoholic, she'd lose Daphne, Regina kept the secret to herself. Later, she hired a private investigator to track down Bay, and watched Bay from afar for several years. And now it's not a secret anymore.
    • Later, when Regina begins drinking again she tries to keeps this a secret as well.
    • So is Simone and Emmett sleeping together. Both felt too guilty to tell anyone else, though everyone finds out eventually anyway.
    • After Angelo's death from an aneurysm, Bay finds out that aneurysms can be genetic, and that Angelo had a sister who died of one when she was 18, the age Bay is currently. She doesn't tell her family about her concerns, or when she gets an MRI.
  • Dating What Mommy Hates:
    • Kathryn and John disapprove of Bay's relationship with the older Ty. They are "relieved" when he joins the army.
    • Melody greatly disapproves of hearing/Deaf relationships. However, she eventually warms to Bay when Emmett dates her.
    • Toby thinks this trope is in play after Elisa tries to jump his bones in a hot tub—she forgot to tell him that her mom is his dad's opponent in the election, and she opposes her mom's policies. That said, Elisa genuinely was interested in Toby.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Angelo is the central focus of "The Image Disappears" which follows on from his car crash at the end of the previous episode... and switches tropes to become A Death in the Limelight around halfway through.
  • Daydream Surprise: Daphne imagines that she and Emmett kiss while they're studying.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Bay.
    Reporter: What will you do next? Was anybody hurt in there?
    Bay: Um, you know he's deaf, right?
  • The Determinator: Daphne, apparently inherited from her biological father.
  • Disabled Love Interest: The series has several deaf characters, all of whom are quite attractive—Daphne, Emmett, Emmett's mother—and have relationships with hearing people. However they're all played as ordinary people, with some of the relationships lasting a very long time.
  • Disabled Means Helpless: Emmett thinks that Bay thinks this when she tries to help him communicate with hearing people.
  • Disappeared Dad: Bay's biological father, Angelo. She's not happy about this. He eventually shows up out of the blue in the midseason finale, after reading about the switch in a newspaper. Then disappears again. Then comes back. You can understand why Regina told him she wants off his roller coaster of comings and goings. Before this, he'd also left after Daphne was born, rightly suspecting she wasn't really his daughter given that she looked distinctly different from both him and Regina. Then he disappears at last for good, dying of a cerebral hemmorhage caused by injuries he received from a car accident.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: "Uprising" starts with Katie Leclerc (speaking in her normal voice) and Vanessa Marano explaining the setup for the episode, including Marano assuring the viewers that "there's nothing wrong with your TV." All of the episode's dialogue is delivered in ASL, and the only spoken conversations are in the first scene between Bay and Noah. The only other spoken line of dialogue is the episode's final line, when Bay tells Daphne (who can't hear the approaching police sirens) "The cops are here."
  • Dream Sequence: Daphne has a dream in which the switch never happened. Regina dreams she is at her and Angelo's wedding and Patrick is marrying them. Daphne has a dream in which she is a doctor and dances with Jorge and Campbell.
  • Even the Subtitler Is Stumped: A season 2 episode has a scene where the usual subtitles for sign language are barely working. This is to show Bay's POV and how much trouble she has following what a teacher is signing to the class.
  • For Want of a Nail:
    • Touched on every so often, as Bay, Daphne, and their families wonder how the girls would have ended up had the switch not taken place. Notable when Emmett and Daphne talk about Bay in the first episode:
      Emmett: Who's that?
      Daphne: Me, in another life.
    • It's later touched on in a Dream Sequence. Daphne dreams that the switch never happened, and that she was Bay and Bay was Daphne. The Christmas special between seasons 3 and 4 takes this idea and runs with it—Bay was raised by both Regina and Angelo and has a biological brother, Regina never overcame her alcoholism, Toby is an emo hipster, John and Kathryn are on the brink of divorce, Emmett is dating a different hearing girl, and Daphne is an Olympic hopeful soccer player.
    • The episode "Ecce Mono" revolves around what might have happened if Regina had revealed the switch when she first found out. Both girls live with the Kennishes after a custody battle in 1998 and have had no contact with Regina. Daphne has a cochlear implant and is spoiled and shallow, Bay is an overachieving outsider because of her status as the adopted sister, Toby never kicked his gambling addiction, Kathryn is unhappy in her marriage and schtupping Senator Coto on the side, and Regina is dead.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Daphne and Kathryn both love to cook.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Nikki and Toby get engaged after dating for only three months, having just recently broken up over their religious differences. Not to mention Toby was making out with Elisa two episodes ago. Needless to say, John and Kathryn aren't happy about it, and their marriage quickly fails.
  • A Friend in Need: Emmett often rides to Daphne's aid when she's gotten herself in a sticky situation. Even after he starts dating Bay, he still genuinely cares about her well-being.
  • From Bad to Worse:
    • Daphne's already having a bad day, having just found out about Emmett and Bay dating. Then Angelo shows up to see Bay.
    • In the season 2 winter finale, Bay gets chewed out by Daphne for speaking to the press after the sit-in, gets dumped by Noah after finding out he has feelings for Daphne, finds out Regina is leaving for rehab, and then has to watch Angelo dedicating himself to taking care of his new daughter, making her realize what she missed out on.
  • Gay Best Friend: Renzo for Kathryn in season 3.
  • "Gender-Normative Parent" Plot: Downplayed; John prefers his son Toby's baseball to his music as hobbies and professions.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Subverted and then played straight with Lily in season 4. She and Toby at first think abortion is the obvious choice, although the word "abortion" is never mentioned, but Toby convinces her they should keep the baby after he visits a school for children with special needs.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: Among the girls. Even "sweet, innocent Daphne" has been known to occasionally drink, almost had sex with Wilke, and seduced the older Chef Jeff.
  • Hands-Off Parenting: Emmett's dad.
  • Hand Signals: Since a good amount of the characters use ASL/PSE, it's a given.
  • Happily Married: John and Kathryn, until Season 2. They still love each other very much, they're just having some problems.
  • Hidden Depths: Toby turns out to be pretty good at baseball, in addition to being a musician.
  • High-School Dance: Carlton's prom happens in the first season spring finale, and in season 3's "Girl on the Cliff."
  • Hollywood Atheist: Averted. Regina says she's an atheist when Angelo is injured, explaining to Kathryn that she won't pray since it would make her a hypocrite, "one of those people who only believe in God when something goes wrong". This is not shown to be bad (nor does she begin to pray, though Kathryn says God won't mind).
  • Homage / Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: One of Daphne's favorite movies is Deafenstein, an incredibly cheesy Frankenstein adaptation performed entirely in ASL. It's a takeoff of the Real Life film Deafula, a 1975 version of Dracula done in ASL, with a similar reputation.
  • How We Got Here: "And We Bring The Light" starts with Kathryn being woken up by her phone ringing; when she answers she's told there's been an accident—and after the opening title we flash back to twelve hours earlier. At the end of the episode we find out Angelo was in the accident, with medical staff seeing to him over the end credits.
  • Humiliation Conga:
    • Played for Drama with one of the protagonists. Everyone eventually finds out that Regina knew about the switch (and Bay's whereabouts) as far back as 1998. Daphne disowns Regina for lying to her for years. Bay disowns Regina for not trying to be a part of her life. The Kennishes are so put off that they pretty much evict Regina and make plans to take custody of Daphne.
    • Daphne goes through one too. She finds out that her mother knew about the switch; and then when she realizes that she is in love with Emmett because he has always been there for her, she finds out he is dating Bay.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Emmett's angered when Daphne disapproves of him and Bay, whereas he's judged every love interest she's had during the show's run.
    • Bay has basically instructed Daphne to stand aside with every boy from Bay's world she's dated during the show's run—despite the fact that she's dated both Ty and Emmett, friends of Daphne.
    • Bay is furious at Emmett, and later Ty for cheating on her, but in season 3, she doesn't exactly break up with Tank before hooking up with Emmett.
  • I Call It "Vera": Emmett named his motorcycle Ripley.
  • I Fight for the Strongest Side!: Daphne wants to quit the Carlton basketball team because of their lack of determination. She eventually returns, though.
  • The "I Love You" Stigma: In "Human/Need/Desire," Nikki accidentally blurts out that she loves Toby, then flees in embarrassment before he can say anything. He reciprocates the next chance he gets, though she breaks up with him later in the episode.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Daphne lets Bay ride with Emmett on his last ride of the motorcycle.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode is named after a work of art, such as American Gothic, or Dogs Playing Poker. This is because Bay and Regina are both painters (although not all episodes are named a paintings specifically).
  • Informed Flaw:
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged:
    • Deconstructed when the Buckner basketball coach only recruits Daphne to get a grant for a new locker room.
    • Possibly played straight when Carlton goes to Springfield. Deaf people from all over come to see the match and it's mentioned that a person in Japan was cheering for them.
    • Defied by Chef Jeff, who tells Daphne that he doesn't buy into it, and was forced to hire her by his superiors. To drive the point home, he tells her she's a hazard to the rest of the kitchen, and demotes her to dishwasher where she won't get in anyone's way.
  • It's All About Me: Both Daphne and Bay believe they are victims of this from each other. Daphne thinks Angelo exhibits this trope, too.
  • Jerk Jock: Liam's friends. Bay worries that Tank is one, too.
  • Just Friends: Daphne claims that she and Emmett are this when the Kennishes assume that they are dating.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: One of Toby's plot themes.
  • Lamarck Was Right: Daphne gravitates toward athletic endeavors, as her biological father John is a retired major league ballplayer. She is also a really good cook like her mother Kathryn. Bay is an aspiring artist, a trait that she seems to have inherited from her biological mother Regina. Daphne even states that she believes she inherited her basketball skills from John.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: Subverted. Emmett and Daphne kiss, but he decides to stay with Bay.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Woe be to anyone who missed the episode "Game On," since ABC Family is already showing previews that deal with the hitherto unforeseen twist of Emmett cheating on Bay with Simone.
  • Latino Is Brown: Regina, Adriana, Natalie and other Latinos in East Riverside are all dark-skinned. Regina's daughter, Daphne (fair-skinned, red-haired, green-eyed) is revealed to have been Switched at Birth. Regina's biological daughter Bay, played by a white actress of Italian descent, is very pale skinned (which is really unlikely given her heritage). This becomes a plot point in one episode where Daphne applies for a Latina scholarship, and every other candidate there is very stereotypical of a Latina. She laments to Regina that even though they think she's Latina, no one else sees it that way. Later though when she's introduced to Jorge's family, none of them questions it. A chemistry professor who she has is fascinated, remarking how rare red hair is among Puerto Ricans.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Outside of the main characters, we have a ton of other additional recurring characters. Many of them are Love Interests and the like, and many come and go, but each one plays some kind of role in the plot at some point.
  • Lonely Piano Piece:
    • Plays whenever Emmett doesn't understand what someone's saying and we cut to the conversation from his perspective.
    • Daphne also had a scene like this during her first breakfast with the Kennishes.
  • Love Triangle:
    • Bay and Emmett become a couple—right about the same time that Daphne realizes that she has a thing for Emmett herself. Bay and Daphne also compete over Noah in early season 2.
    • The triangle between Daphne, Campbell and Jorge in season 3 is exceptionally blatant.
    • In season 5 there's Travis/Bay/Emmett.
  • Love Dodecahedron:
    • Wilke decides he likes Daphne, who decides to fight for Emmett, who wants to make things work with Bay.
    • Plus Toby dates Simone, who has an affair with Emmett.
    • Then there's another deaf teen named Travis, who very blatantly likes Daphne, who has the hots for Chef Jeff, who is seeing and sleeping with Melody.
  • Manly Tears: Toby after he and Nikki decide to get divorced so she is free to travel doing missionary work, and again in season 4 after learning that Lily is pregnant, and the baby has Down's Syndrome.
  • Masculine–Feminine Gay Couple: Natalie is fairly feminine, in contrast to her girlfriend Hilary, who's more masculine and has short hair. The latter pointedly refuses to wear a dress for the prom, going in a tuxedo instead. They get barred as a result, because their school dress code requires girls wear dresses. In protest, they stage their own prom dance on the lawn outside with friends.
  • Mistaken for Cheating:
    • Before the families reveal to the public that Daphne and Bay were switched, Kathryn's friends think that John had a relationship with Regina.
    • John, with Sarah Lazar. Daphne calls John out on it when she sees the two together at a restaurant, but he promises her that there's nothing going on, and that he was trying to talk Sarah out of writing her book about the switch. Kathryn also once had the same thoughts about John and Sarah.
    • Years back, Angelo suspected that Regina had cheated on him, because Daphne's eyes and hair color didn't match either of them. Daphne's DNA test, during her illness at age 3, appeared to confirm his suspicions and caused him to walk out on Regina and Daphne.
    • Bay tries to tell Emmett what happened with Tank, but he initially thinks she's confessing this, enraging him.
  • Mistaken for Gay:
    • The Kennishes' lawyer, which proves to be a plot point since she has a relationship with the hospital director.
    • Daphne introduces Chef Jeff to her two mothers, Regina and Kathryn. Jeff is unaware of the switch, and thinks the two are a lesbian couple.
    • During a trip to New York for the release of Kathryn's second book in Season 3, she and Regina intentionally play this up to get a creepy guy with whom Kathryn once had a one night stand to leave her alone. Kathryn's publisher loves the buzz it creates and encourages them to keep up the charade.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: This is used by many female characters after they've had sex.
  • My Beloved Smother:
    • Emmett's mom Melody is this, and it's hinted that it's because of her ongoing divorce. It eventually drives Emmett to move in with his father.
    • Regina follows both Daphne and Bay around at certain points in their lives.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Toby tells Wilke this about Bay and Daphne in the fourth episode, but warms up to the idea of Daphne/Wilke.
  • Mysterious Informant: Angelo had an informant who knew the inner workings of the hospital and had relevant information about the switch. Kathryn eventually suspects that it's a maternity ward nurse who Angelo may have had a fling with.
  • Myth Arc: The show features a fair amount of continuing Soap Opera-esque storylines about relationships, as it is an ABC Family show and all. But the predominant storyline is the big mystery concerning the switch, and who knows what about it.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Minor but a lot of the previews use different takes than the take used in the episode when aired. A notable example is during a confrontation with Regina, John says in an angry but somewhat restrained tone “You kept my daughter from me for thirteen years!” But in the episode proper John employs Suddenly Shouting with “You daughter from me...for THIRTEEN YEARS!!!
  • No Bisexuals: When Kathryn is discussing with John whether her mother Bonnie and Bonnie's friend Lucille are lovers, she expresses skepticism at the idea of her "turning gay" now after all the years of being married to Kathryn's father. The idea she might be just bi never comes up.
  • No-Dialogue Episode: The second season episode "Uprising" isn't exactly lacking dialogue, but it is entirely in ASL, without speech.
  • Nonuniform Uniform:
    • Buckner Hall's dress code seems to be "as long as it looks kinda-sorta preppy, no matter how revealing it is, it's fine by us."
    • A particularly egregious example is during one episode where Bay walks around the campus in a tank top and plaid skirt that vaguely resemble the school colors.
  • No Party Given: John's run for office. He's either an old-school New England style Republican (in Kansas!) or a Blue Dog Democrat—liberal on "live and let live" social issues, fiscally conservative. Good luck getting through the primary! Later he's explicitly called a Republican, but the problems above remain.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Averted.
    Wilke: So if Bay's not really your sister, you could totally take a run at that?
    Toby: NO!
    • In the season 3 Christmas episode, alternate universe Toby senses a "connection" with Bay and hits on her. Bay is appropriately squicked.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Cassi Thomson's Australian tones poke through from time to time, most notable in "Human/Need/Desire" when Toby and Nikki are in the car and she says "I love it."
  • Off the Wagon: Not long after seeing Simone at an AA meeting, Regina catches a guy buying booze for Simone. After getting chewed out, Simone tells Regina that she fell off the wagon after her indiscretion was spread around the school, and that she felt like she had no friends anymore. Regina later falls off the wagon herself, though she gets sober.
  • Office Romance: Daphne dating her boss, Chef Jeff, leading to trouble with co-workers and management.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: A brief one between Bay and Simone. Bay is trying to console Simone about the tournament loss, and Simone is still feeling guilty about hooking up with Emmett. Simone eventually catches on and doesn't reveal what happened.
    Bay: So I heard what happened at the tournament...
    Simone: [HUGE Oh, Crap! look on her face] Yeah, about that...
    Bay: Don't worry about it, you shouldn't blame yourself.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Toby had a few issues, but he almost always can keep a level head in the most tense of situations.
    • John and Kathryn were close to this early on in the series, but slowly lost it in future seasons. Especially in season 3.
    • Mary Beth also seems to qualify.
  • Operation: Jealousy: In "The Declaration of Independence," Daphne flirts with and makes plans with Travis, but only does this to get Chef Jeff's attention.
  • Overprotective Dad: Subverted with John, who's more concerned about Emmett's driving abilities than his potential relationship with Daphne.
  • Parent with New Paramour: Emmett's father. He eventually marries another woman, and they are expecting a baby.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me!: Daphne to John.
  • Portmanteau Couple Name: Happens in-universe, with Emmett/Bay referred to as "Ebay".
  • Practice Kiss: Noah suggests to Daphne that they practice kissing before going on stage as Romeo and Juliet. Emmett points out afterward that the kiss looked pretty real, and for Noah, it was. Daphne still denies there was any connection there.
  • Prom Is for Straight Kids: When Natalie brings her girlfriend Hilary to prom they're informed that because Hilary's in a tuxedo instead of a dress they can't go in (this violates the dress code). Although not due to their sexuality, it's clearly restrictive about gender expression (since Hilary doesn't wear dresses). Some of the other girls too wear tuxs in solidarity with them, then stage a prom of their own on the lawn outside. They also mention other same-sex couples being refused entry elsewhere.
  • Product Placement: Kathryn revealing her new Camry Hybrid was basically a Toyota commercial, complete with description of Internet features and screenshots. Given Regina's constant financial woes, at least this means her circa-1990 Camry probably won't be breaking down anytime soon...
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The school board votes to keep Carlton open, but to expand it to 50% hearing students, and not require those students to learn or use ASL. Daphne and Melody try to convince the other students that the sit-in was a success, and this was the best result they could have hoped for, but it only sort-of works.
  • Questionable Consent: This issue is raised when Bay wakes up next to Tank and can't remember what happened. After he reveals they had sex, she's skeptical that she'd consent to that, but he insists that she did. Others, however, note that being so drunk would cast doubt on her consent to start, or even automatically make it a sexual assault.
  • Racist Grandma: Kathryn's mother, Bonnie. Not only that, but she alienated Bay when she learned she wasn't her granddaughter and tells Kathryn that she sees Bay differently. Becomes a Tear Jerker when we see Bay overhearing.
  • Rape as Backstory: After what happens with Bay, Kathryn reveals her best friend's brother once molested her when she was seventeen. Later Travis reveals that a family friend had molested him too.
  • Rape as Drama: A season 4 storyline explores this.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Whether Bay kissed Tank, or Tank Bay, is told by their two opposing stories, with no agreement.
  • Reading Lips: Daphne, Emmett, and Melody can.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Bay is Red. Daphne is Blue.
  • Relationship Sabotage: Initially, a pissed-off Daphne pretty much tells Bay that she intends to do this to Bay and Emmett. As of late, however, Daphne seems to have backed off with a I Want My Beloved to Be Happy.
  • The Reveal:
    • Regina knew about the switch way back in 1998 but kept it quiet.
    • In the series finale, Kathryn discovers John knew about the switch via a blood test a full month before Bay did the blood test to find out.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Season 5's storyline about campus racism is similar to events that occurred at the University of Missouri in 2015-16.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Wilke's the savvy to Daphne's energetic.
  • Self-Demonstrating Episode: "Uprising" chronicles the attempts of the students at Carlton Academy for the Deaf to keep the school open. It is being closed by a School Board decision, which Melody claims will stand until hearing people walk a mile in Deaf shoes. Appropriately, it has only one scene (and one Wham Line at the very end) with audible spoken dialogue (when deaf characters are forced to read lips, the dialogue is italicized).
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Regina's attempts to keep custody of Daphne caused John and Kathryn to start a custody battle. However, it could be argued that they would've done it even if she had told her Dark Secret.
  • Sense Loss Sadness: Daphne feels a little bit of this after her first day taking classes at Buckner Hall.
  • Sensory Overload: Both Daphne and Emmett are shown to become distressed whenever they're forced to lip-read groups of people all at the same time, like Daphne at her first breakfast with the Kennishes or Emmett at the car wash with Bay.
  • Shipper on Deck: Regina for Bay and Emmett. In "The Declaration of Independence," Melody for Travis and Daphne. In the same episode, Bay for Toby and Nikki.
  • Ship Tease: "Ecce Mono" brought back Bay/Emmett. Except it was in an Alternate Universe / Dream Sequence; in the real storyline, Bay was in the process of hooking back up with Ty.
  • Shout-Out: Emmett's motorcycle was named Ripley, and Regina mentions The Matrix. Bay comments on how she should watch more sci-fi movies.
    • To Twilight:
      Bay: If vampires can date humans, I really feel like Deaf people can date hearing. At least neither of us wants to suck the other's blood.
    • In "Dance Me to the End of Love," Toby dances around his apartment very similarly to Tom Cruise in Risky Business, although to a different song.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Both Ty, and later Emmett, do this to Bay. In season 2, Bay does it to Noah.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Daphne, who has green eyes and red hair (see the image above), much like her biological mother Kathryn. It's all the more jarring when Regina refers to Daphne as having been a blond, blue eyed baby.note  This indicates to them she isn't Regina's or Angelo's child biologically, which is confirmed by a DNA test.
  • Silence Is Golden: Season 2 episode "Uprising" is told entirely in American Sign Language. Aside from the prologue and the ending, no sound (aside from the Background Music) can be heard.
  • Sitcom Archnemesis: Kathryn and Sarah Lazar.
  • Slut-Shaming: Someone finds out about Simone's indiscretion with Emmett, and posts it on a Slut Shaming website for the world to see. Toby had long since broken up with Simone over it, but he does call out some classmates for reading the website and being Slut Shamers themselves. Simone later confides in Regina that the slut shaming was the reason why she fell off the wagon. Later, with the sexual assault storyline, this happens to Bay.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist:
    • After Regina's secret comes out, the Kennishes' lawyer advises that it's too late for a custody battle, since by the time it's settled the girls would be eighteen (legal adults in the US) anyway.
    • Also, if this happened in real life it would be national news, with possible federal kidnapping charges for Regina whether the Kennishes forgive her or not.
    • Subverted in one instance where Social Services almost took Daphne away from Regina.
  • The Speechless: Melody and Emmett mostly, but Emmett does speak in the summer finale. Melody occasionally does as well. Tyler also speaks once in a while. Natalie never does however, along with other deaf students.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Bay and Emmett.
    • The show seems to be setting this up with Toby and Elisa, the daughter of Patricia Sawyer, John's opponent in his senate campaign, but this subplot is abandoned when Toby decides to reunite with Nikki instead, and Patricia ends her campaign in favor of spending more time with Elisa, who is revealed to be bipolar.
  • Suddenly Shouting: John during a confrontation with Regina
    John: You kept my daughter from me... for THIRTEEN YEARS!!!
  • Switched at Birth: The premise of the series, pretty obviously.
  • Tactful Translation:
    • Daphne sometimes does this for Emmett.
    • The police interpreter for Melody.
      Melody: [Signing] That is a load of crap!
      Interpeter: [To Police Officer] ...she doesn't believe you.
  • That Which Must Not Be Named: Bay's biological father, aka Regina's ex-husband. Regina, Daphne, and Adrianna absolutely refuse to tell Bay anything about him, other than that he left when Daphne was three. However, he does end up showing up.
  • Their First Time:
    • Repeatedly subverted with Bay. She backs out of having sex with Ty in the first season since she feels she isn't ready. Later, right around the time she decides she wants to do it with Emmett, they argue about Angelo, and Bay refuses to sleep with him when he gives a half-assed apology. Later on, after hearing about him cheating with Simone, she obviously backs out completely. She eventually does the deed with Ty in "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living".
    • Daphne mentions that her first time was at camp in a boat house, on a tarp with an archery counselor-in-training.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: ABC Family is pretty bad about this when it does its "next week" promos.
    • A "next week" trailer spoiled the intended Wham Line about Angelo being a fugitive.
    • Previews for the last leg of the first season blatantly spoiled the very end of "The Declaration of Independence" by way of showing Daphne kissing Jeff.
    • Previews for "Dressing for the Charade" in season 2 blatantly spoiled Daphne and Travis kissing and becoming a couple.
  • Translator Buddy:
    • Daphne operates as this for Emmett when he's around the Kennishes.
    • Emmett worries that if he and Bay keep dating she will come to resent him for making her fit this role.
  • Unexplained Recovery: After Travis and Natalie are hit by a drunk driver, they're both injured. We see him with his arm in a sling, and Natalie has a neck brace on. She also complains of pain in her back and an MRI is ordered to see if her pelvis was fractured. That is the last we see or hear about these injuries-their next appearances have them perfectly fine, and they're never brought up again.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Emmett and later Daphne.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: When Emmett gets over Daphne and starts pursuing Bay, Daphne realizes she's loved him all along.
  • Unusual Euphemism: As a running gag with Emmett, Bay intentionally calls herself a "vegetable" in sign language whenever she means "virgin."
  • Unwanted Assistance:
    • In-Universe. Emmett gets offended when Bay tries to interpret and defend him.
    • Again when Bay tells Melody about Emmett's desire to drop out of high school. And again when Bay expresses concern to Cameron over Emmett's well-being, leading to Cameron giving up Emmett's custody to Melody. To say that Emmett isn't pleased would be an understatement.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Emmett turns out to have a surprisingly deep voice for a teenager, although that also can have something to do with him being deaf—the deeper your voice goes, the easier it is to feel the vibrations and know you're making sound. For instance, compare the pitch of Katie Leclerc's normal voice to Daphne's.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Memory is Your Image of Perfection, in which Sharee's mother stabs Dr. Jackson, Bay loses all movement in her right hand, and Kathryn tells John that she's unhappy and the life they had created together isn't the life she wants anymore.
    • At First Clear Word, in which Bay is sexually assaulted.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Regina's mother has been absent for most of (if not all of) the past couple of seasons, even in the episodes where Regina really could have used her.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Regina is on the end of several after her Dark Secret is revealed.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: The gay bar that the gang goes to trying to find Daphne and Bay's 'dad.' It's obvious that it's a gay bar to everyone except Bay.
  • Written-In Infirmity: Constance Marie's wrist injury has been written into the show. In-Universe, the injury was caused by signing so much combined with hairstyling, and has caused conflict between Regina and Daphne because Regina's been unable to sign.
  • Yoko Oh No: Simone tries to change Guitar Face's sound as soon as she starts dating Toby. However, she specifically denies being this, with varied evidence.
  • You're Not My Father:
    • Invoked by Bay in the first episode, after she discovers the truth. Her parents aren't happy to hear this.
    • Invoked by Daphne to Regina after she learns Regina knew about the switch, and later in season 3 during Daphne's angst following Angelo's death.
    • Played for Drama in "The Shock Of Being Seen." John restricts Bay to homework in the evenings, with no socialization. Angelo happens to walk by and offers to help Bay with her French homework. John says no, but Bay says yes, and implies to John that Angelo is the better father for offering.
      • Slightly deconstructed later in the episode. When Angelo fesses up and says he covered for Bay sneaking out, John calls him on it and tells him that's NOT how a father is supposed to behave.

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