The creative team of Switched at Birth found out the fifth season would be its last shortly before writing Tuesday's penultimate episode, but that didn't stop them from swinging for the fences and sending another one out of the park.
The central plot of the episode reunited Travis (Ryan Lane) with his biological mother (Suanne Spoke) over a dinner that also brought Travis face to face with the man who molested him when he was 12 years old. The subject had only been brought up in conversation in the past to connect Travis and Bay (Vanessa Marano) after she was raped in Season 3. Bay was the first person that Travis ever told about the traumatizing experience because he grew up in a home that didn't even try to communicate with their deaf child. With no one to talk to, Travis was forced to deal with the trauma alone.
Despite his personal growth over the past four seasons of Switched, the baggage of what happened to him as an adolescent stuck with Travis. The surprise encounter at his mother's dinner forced Travis to face his anger issues and the deeply rooted emotions that led to his explosive temper head on, and also delivered some of Switched at Birth's most important scenes.
Travis never confronted his molester head on, but he was forced to explain to his mother what happened all those years ago and how her inability to communicate with her deaf child left him alone and defenseless against such a terrifying predator. Travis was abused because his predator knew that Travis wouldn't be able to tell his parents what happened. Even if he could find a way to communicate, his parents weren't the type of people who would listen at that point in his life.
It's a tough topic to crack, especially in only a handful of episodes. There are shows that have attempted to tackle such heavy subject matter without the adequate space to explore it, but Switched at Birth did it deftly here. Mostly, the show didn't pretend to heal Travis entirely of these wounds simply because he had this one conversation with his mother. It also didn't attempt to assess all of the emotional trauma that Travis incurred from these events. Instead, the drama focused on one specific aspect of the abuse — Travis' stolen voice — and used the hour to give that voice back to him in a very powerful way.
Travis is not an oral deaf character, meaning he doesn't speak like Daphne (Katie Leclerc) does. In his early episodes on the show, Travis was reluctant to speak to any hearing people because of his parents' lack of trying to learn sign language or talk to him. Travis not only evolved into having a romantic relationship with a hearing person, but went on to a primarily hearing college and is an integral part of UMKC's baseball team. The encounter with his mother in this episode pushed Travis to such an emotional state that he did eventually yell at her.
It's in that moment that Travis' mom became desperate to calm her son down and to find the right thing to say so that she didn't lose him again. Bay coached her in the right direction and showed her how to sign "I believe you" to Travis. The two were able to connect on Travis' level, which was something he's been waiting for his entire life.
There's only one episode of Switched at Birth left, so unfortunately we won't be able to fully see how this revelation will fully effect Travis, but the episode went far to show that no matter how much time you have on the air it's important to make it count, to make it say something.
Switched at Birth's series finale airs Tuesday, April 11 at 9/8c on Freeform.