It was immediately evident that "Ecce Mono" was going to be unlike any other episode of Switched at Birth - and, I daresay, it was the best episode to date.
John has always been a rather contentious character, at times raising blood levels of viewers and, last week, raising his own to the point of a heart attack. The person who found him, and saved his life, was the one person who, if he had had his way 14 years earlier, he would have driven to her death.
Part of what made this hour so special was because we have to assume all of the thoughts and re-imagination of the life that could have been were directly from John's psyche. We have not been the only ones who have seen Bay's struggles and the special treatment Daphne has received; it just manifested differently under the situation as it unfolded.
In the world John saw while he was out, Regina did the right thing when she learned their daughters were switched at birth - and he and Kathryn punished her for it. She was denied any access to either child and never saw either of them again, dying from what could be surmised to be a suicide as it was on the day of their birth, years later.
The girls lived in the dark about the mysterious woman who was Bay's birth mother and raised Daphne for the first three years of her life. The family never learned ASL because John didn't want to paint her with the brush of being deaf, so she grew up with a cochlear implant. That didn't stop her from using it as a "disability" to get whatever she wanted from her parents, however. When she got a C-, she was given special privileges, while Bay's 98 on a test seemed to go unnoticed.
Bay's grandmother reminded her mother often that they shouldn't expect much from her because she's a Puerto Rican, which drove Bay to succeed in areas OUR Bay didn't much care for, such as academics. Bay was reserved and felt like she was only at the Kennish house because her mother was a loser, and she was a charity case.
Daphne, meanwhile, couldn't keep up a conversation with a college pre-med student at a frat party, and instead of trying harder to bend his ear with with intelligence, she had sex with him. There has always been an undercurrent of sexuality to Daphne, but being raised with Regina and Adriana, she learned the importance of breaking away from the hard neighborhood in which she grew up. Bay never turned to sex because her artistic side painted her as an outsider, which she still was in John's imagination, but for different reasons.
For Emmett fans, John sees the potential of he and Bay because even though John made sure to distance his family as far from the deaf community as possible, Bay still found Emmett. It was Emmett who encouraged her to find out about her birth mother so that she could have a sense of belonging, something he understood quite well given his inability to hear. It was almost a match made in heaven.
Throughout the seasons, John and Kathryn have had their difficulties. As she has tried to find her place, he has somehow always managed to step in and usurp her dreams, making them his own. Kathryn's life has predominately been her children, but in a world where they were more self-reliant, she turned to another man for the creature comforts she couldn't get from John.
There finally came the moment Bay and Daphne decided to find the woman John had kept from them for over a decade, even issuing a restraining order to ensure she'd be prosecuted if she decided to breach the decision. It was the discovery and the realization that he had, essentially, killed Regina by denying her place in the life of their daughters that showed him how integral they are all to to each other, and he awoke in his hospital. Without Regina in their life, he would be dead. As he said Kathryn's name, and Bay's, I teared up. But it was his acknowledgment of Regina that really started the faucet running.
I am so excited by the potential John's heart attack brings. He has had so many great moments. Last season, when he caught up with Bay on the road and had that fantastic father/daughter talk with her, we saw a hint of who he really was inside. His sense of humor has been essential to the success of the later episodes. Now he has a chance to take control, not in an all-encompassing beat-his-chest in a manly sort of way... but as a man who has almost lost it all and saw what he may have done if he had been given the chance.
Will it be the end of special treatment and nepotism? Will he learn to support his children, wife and new extended family for the individuals they are, faults and all, and accept them and nurture the family they must be to survive? The window to his soul was opened, and what he brings out of it could reshape the show we've come to love.
Are you as excited about what comes next as I am? What did you think of the alternate world, and do you think John picked up on the nuances of Daphne's and Bay's behavior we've been witnessing all season? Definitely check out the Switched at Birth quotes, because there were some great ones. Then, hit the comments. I'm hoping for a lively discussion!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA), enjoys mentoring writers, wine, and passionately discussing the nuances of television. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.