'Switched at Birth' Season 3 premiere: Changes abound in 'Drowning Girl'

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switched-at-birth-season-3-premiere-recap-katie-leclerc-rj-mitte-abc-family.jpgWith the return of "Switched at Birth" on Monday (Jan. 13) for Season 3, ABC Family's groundbreaking series finds itself in a world of change.

The biggest change? Bay ( Vanessa Marano) and Daphne ( Katie Leclerc) are entering into their senior year at Carlton, which is undergoing some change of its own. After surviving the threat of closure thanks to the protest in Season 2, Carlton and its students are forced to face the reality of the slight victory and accept the plethora of new hearing students bused in after their under-performing schools were shut down. Things quickly escalate to "Dangerous Minds" territory when Daphne's English class erupts into a fight over reading aloud. It could veer into ridiculous and over-the-top territory, but it mostly worked in the premiere.

Carlton isn't the only place of change. There's a palpable shift in the Kennish-Vasquez home following Daphne getting caught blackmailing Senator Coto. John ( D.W. Moffett) is particularly chilly to his daughter, something that's giving her more stress than her community service sentence. At least there, she has the cute Campbell (guest star RJ Mitte) to slowly fall for.

But it's the idea that John and Kathryn ( Lea Thompson) might throw her out of the house -- and their lives -- for her major screw-up, which has been making John's life miserable at work, that terrifies her -- especially after seeing just how bad it can get for homeless kids at the clinic. Her freakout may be a bit over the top, but it does lead to a lovely heart-to-heart with Toby ( Lucas Grabeel) that seems to calm Daphne's fears for now. Getting back into John's good graces though? That feels as though it'll be a season-long mission.

As for Bay, she's still reeling from Ty's departure and the immature way he went about it -- making her believe he cheated on her when he, in fact, didn't. It's an unfair wound for her because, as far as she knows, this is the third boyfriend who has been unfaithful. That's got to sting a 17-year-old something wicked. To top it off, art classes at Carlton have lost their funding. Not a great start to a senior year.

She finds out about a program that lets seniors take one course at a local college for credit, though, and lands herself in an art class lead by none other than Sandra Bernhard. It's here she meets a frat doofus played by Max Adler ("Glee"). I'd say he's positioned to become her next unexpected love interest, but to think that would be to let go of hope that she and Emmett ( Sean Berdy) will reunite. And I just can't do that.

The most interesting change may be occurring to Kathryn, though. Feeling adrift over all the turmoil in her family, she goes to visit a therapist, who quickly prescribes her medication and ends the session. On the way home, she passes by a dance school and joins an adult tap class on the insistence of immediate new gay BFF Renzo ( Alec Mapa). She begins lying to John to get out of obligations to spend time with Renzo instead. Considering Renzo's gay, that likely won't sit well with her Republican senator husband -- whenever he finds out.

It's nice to see "Switched at Birth" push its characters into new territory based on consequences from earlier actions, rather than just create issues out of thin air. Three season in, the series still feels as natural and realistic as a show centered around two girls who were sent home with the wrong parents can ever hope to. And that's a very good thing.

Spare Parts:

- This money issue with Regina ( Constance Marie) and Angelo ( Gilles Marini) is frustrating. Here's hoping it doesn't send Regina back to the bottle. Of anything, the show really shouldn't visit that well again.

- Poor Toby. Just sitting around, missing his new wife. It's nice that he'll be integrated into his sisters' stories more now that he'll be coaching Carlton's new girls' field hockey team.
Photo/Video credit: ABC Family