‘Touch’ is a new drama on FOX starring Kiefer Sutherland as Martin Bohm, a widower whose son has not spoken to him at all. His son Jake can see the mathematical patterns that occur in nature; by seeing the pattern, Jake can predict certain events. With the roadmap Jake provides, Martin can help people in need.
This is a recap, so there are spoilers.
The show begins with a voiceover. Jake explains that the ratio is always the same. The ratio is 1:1.61803, which is the Golden Ratio, a ratio that appears repeatedly in nature. What seems to be random chaos is actually an ordered pattern. Patterns do not lie, and only some can see how everything is connected. According to an ancient Chinese myth, the gods tied a thread around our ankles, connecting our fates. Our fates have been predetermined by mathematical probabilities, and it is his job to keep track of those numbers and of the people who need to connect. During the narration, we see various images, including a man losing a cell phone in an airport. We see Jake writing in his notebook, and in his narration he tells us his age: 11 years, 4 months, 21 days, and 14 hours. And in his entire life, he has never said a word.
Martin Bohm is a baggage handler at JKF airport. He collects a box of cell phones from Lost & Found; his son likes to take apart cell phones. One rings. Martin answers. The caller is Simon, a father who wants a photo of his daughter; he is the one we saw lose his phone during the opening sequence. The phone is the only place the photo is stored. His own phone ringing interrupts Martin. He puts Simon’s phone on a piece of luggage. Martin forgets about Simon’s phone because his son has left school without permission again. Martin leaves work, and the luggage with the phone is headed toward its next destination.
Jake is on top of a cell tower, and he writes in his notebook. Martin arrives. He warns the firefighter to not touch his son; Jake does not like to be touched. Martin does not climb the tower because he hates heights. Martin shows Jake a cell phone; Jake climbs down. This is the third time Jake has climbed the tower, and each time it is at 3:18. Because this is the third time, Child Services will have to be called.
At a gas station, Martin sees a school bus and then glances in the rearview mirror. Jake is gone; he stands behind the bus. The number on the bus is 318. Jake goes inside, and Martin follows. A man buys lottery tickets, and Jake sees 318 tattooed on the man’s fingers. Jake takes the ticket and runs to the car. He writes the numbers (87, 01, 09, 20, 31, 11) in his notebook. He gives the man back the ticket. The man makes a comment about Jake, Martin takes offense, but the man hits Martin in the gut before Martin can take a swing.
In Dublin, a man records his coworker singing in a karaoke bar on Simon’s phone. He thinks she, Kayla Graham, should be a superstar. He has looked at what is on the phone; the phone has been around, and people keep adding to the phone. He thinks by sending the phone away, she has a chance of becoming a star. He puts the phone in the luggage of a man going to Tokyo.
The lotto player, Randy, tapes his lotto ticket to the wall. Hundreds of lotto tickets are taped to the wall.
An alarm set for 3:18 wakes Martin. He checks on Jake, who is up. Phones are on the floor. Martin talks to his son, but Jake is unresponsive. As Martin leaves, all the phones go off. Each phone has the same number, the lotto numbers.
In Baghdad, a teenaged boy imitates Chris Rock; he wants to be a comic. His mother is upset because the oven is broken. Without an oven, their business is in danger. The family cannot afford to fix or replace the oven.
The woman from Child Services, Clea Hopkins, arrives at Martin’s place. Martin’s wife, Sarah, died during the 9/11 attacks; she worked in the North Tower. Martin lost his job as a reporter, and he has bounced around different jobs over the years. Jake has been in five schools in seven years. Clea is concerned that Jake is too much for him to take care of alone. He is committed to providing for his son, but the financial challenges seem to be too much. He won’t sell his home because it was his wife’s, and his wife’s money was put in a trust for Jake. Clea meets Jake. Martin sees in the paper that the lotto numbers won.
Randy, now a lotto winner, wants to go home. Simon calls his wife, says he is on his way to Tokyo, and tells her that he is going to try to make it home in time for his daughter’s birthday.
Martin thinks there is meaning behind Jake knowing about the numbers, but Clea attributes this to autism. Martin does not buy the autism label, and for eight years he has been trying to figure out what label fits Jake. She tells him that the State is mandating a two-week evaluation period. Jake will have to go to an institution for this evaluation period.
In Baghdad, the boy talks to his friend about his family’s predicament. His friend suggests he could volunteer to get blown up, but he doesn’t want to die. His friend then suggests they steal an oven from a restaurant.
Next, we see a young Japanese girl who appears to be either a stripper or prostitute and has Simon’s phone. She teases her client. She gets him out of the room; she steals his money and the phone from his bag.
Martin and Jake are at the institution. Martin tells Clea that Jake likes orange soda and popcorn; he gives her the box of phones. Martin has to wait 24 hours to visit.
Martin visits his wife’s grave. He feels guilty about not being able to connect with Jake. He sees a firefighter’s badge by the headstone. The badge has the numbers 318 on it.
The Japanese girl hangs out with her friend. They like Kayla, and they plan to start a Kayla Graham fan club. She knows someone who programs the Jumbotron at Shibuya. She plans to have him post the footage on the phone for all to see. She says she is going to send the phone to Kuwait.
Martin researches mutism and cell phones on the internet. He finds a site for the Teller Institute. The site claims that some diagnosed with mutism do not have mutism. Instead, they are communicating in a different way and are evidence of a shift in consciousness and a new step in human evolution.
Martin goes to the Teller Institute, which is a house. Arthur (Danny Glover) tells Martin that speech is a speed bump because human thoughts are connected through electromagnetic energy. Arthur, after examining Jake’s notebook, tells Martin that Jake discovered the Fibonacci sequence on his own. The Fibonacci number is one found in nature repeatedly. The universe is made of precise patterns and ratios, and Jake can see those patterns. Jake sees the past, present, and future all at once; he sees how everything is connected. Arthur tells Martin that his job now is to follow the roadmap Jake has provided him.
At the institute, Clea tries to talk to Jake. Jake dumps the popcorn and arranges the popcorn in a pattern. Clea counts the popcorn and sees the pattern: it is her mother’s phone number. Her phone rings. It is her mother calling. Clea is stunned. Jake circles a date on the calendar, the 18th; the month is March. 318 again.
Randy, the lotto winner, trims his beard and makes travel arrangements.
Martin goes through Jake’s notebook and notices certain numbers. The numbers are a phone number. Martin calls, but gets no answer. He looks up the number, and it is for Grand Central Terminal.
Clea goes to Martin. Today is March 18th. They go to Grand Central Station; they split up. Martin calls the number. He hears a public phone ring. A man is using the phone. Martin tells the man that he needs that phone. Martin grabs him; it is Randy. Martin punches him to pay him back for the gas station. They scuffle; security comes. This incident makes Randy miss his train.
In Baghdad, the boys discuss stealing the oven. Men enter. They have a bag of cell phones. One of the phones is Simon’s phone. A small child sees the boys; a man notices the child seeing something. The men find the boys. The boy’s friend gets away. The boy tries to convince the men he is a comic, but he can’t finish his joke. He tells them that all he wants is an oven. The men tell him that there is a way for him to pay for the oven.
The alarms set for 3:18am wake Martin up. Martin plays a message; it is from Randy, who turns out to be a former member of Ladder Company 318. Randy recounts how he found Martin’s wife on the 87th floor; she was still alive, so he carried her down. Randy got tired, so he put her down after going down 31 flights of stairs and checked for a pulse. He thought she was dead so he left her, but he is not sure she was dead and that fact has haunted him all this time. Every week for ten years he has played the same lotto numbers: 9, 11, 20, 01, 31, 87. He has money now because of her, and he thinks she would want him to give it away. Martin hears his voice on the message. Randy used the public phone to call Martin, and the men did not realize how they were connected while they fought.
The message ends. On the television is a news story. Because Randy missed the train, he drove. Because he was on the New Jersey Turnpike, he could save children from a burning bus. The bus was the same bus at the gas station.
Martin goes to the institute after hours. Clea tells Martin that Jake is gone. Martin knows where he is.
Simon calls a representative of his phone service. He has been trying to call his phone again, but he gets a recording about the call being block. The lady tells him that certain areas are blocked for security reasons. Simon tells her that his daughter died a year ago. He pleads with her to call the number because he needs to see the photos in the phone. Simon is in Shibuya; on the Jumbotron behind him we see Kayla Graham sing. The girl’s plan worked. Simon sees his daughter in a reflection of the Jumbotron. He turns. On the Jumbotron are the photos he has been desperately trying to see.
In Baghdad, the teen walks; he is afraid. A phone rings. He gets off the street and answers the phone. The phone is Simon’s, and it is connected to a bomb. The representative Simon called has called the teen; he tells her that he cannot send her the phone because it is strapped to a bomb. She asks him what would convince him take out the phone’s battery. “An oven.” All he wants is an oven. She promises that she will get him an oven. With no time to spare, the boy removes the battery.
Jake is at the top of the cell tower; it rains. Martin and Clea climb to the top.
There is another voiceover by Jake about how we send thousands of messages but still feel alone. We see footage of Kayla’s coworker, the one who recorded her singing, finding the video online with over a million views, we see Simon come home, and we see the teen’s family get a new oven.
At the top of the tower, Martin tells Jake that the kids on a bus are safe because of him. Martin understands what Jake is trying to tell him. Jake hugs Martin and grabs his father’s phone; he dials a number and gives the phone to his father. Martin tells the other person that they are meant to find each other.
I want to get the one thing that bothered me out of the way first: all of the 318s (the bus, the tattoo, the Ladder Company, the time, and the date) was a tad too much. I understand it was a lot because this is the pilot, and the pilot must establish the premise of the entire series. As long as the appearance of a single set of numbers does not happen this much in every episode, then the show can go in directions that surprise viewers. If the show develops a pattern of its own, then the audience might figure out the plot too quickly and become disinterested. Also, if the show stays away from injecting a lot of new age thinking and religion into plots and sticks primarily to the math, then ‘Touch’ has a lot of promise.
I liked how the episode was structured. At first I thought the plot about Simon’s phone had nothing to do with Jake and Martin, but then I remembered that Jake’s school called Martin while Martin was on the phone with Simon; if Jake hadn’t left school when he did, then Martin would not have forgotten about the phone. Without the call from Jake’s school, Martin would have gotten Simon’s address and sent the phone back to him. By forgetting about the phone, it traveled to Dublin, Tokyo and Baghdad, and Simon’s relentless pursuit to see his daughter one last time inadvertently saved the teenaged boy in Baghdad. If a different phone had been connected to the bomb, then the boy would have died. The way the phone plot was resolved and the way Randy ended up connected to Martin was unexpected and surprised me. (I didn’t expect the lady to call Simon’s phone or get the boy an oven.)
It is refreshing to see a gentler Sutherland. The worn, tired, and discouraged expression Martin has is one I’ve seen before. I’ve been a classroom teacher, and, although I’m not a special education teacher, some of my students were mainstreamed, so I’ve seen that expression before. Martin does not accept the label of autistic for Jake, but his expression is the one I’ve seen on some parents with autistic children. They love their children, but the frustration of not having the relationship they expected to have with their children can be trying at times. I was worried that Sutherland’s ‘24’ days might come back, but I did not see any trace of Bauer; I actually believed him as a parent. The look on his face when Jake hugged him briefly was priceless. And I can accept the hug. The show is called ‘Touch,’ so Jake responding with a hug after Martin tells him that he finally hears his son and knows to follow the numbers is plausible. Of course, Jake could have only hugged Martin to get the phone, which is a twist I appreciated. I think Jake hugged his father for both reasons.
This episode was emotional without being trite or sappy. I had a little something in my eye when Simon saw his daughter on the Jumbotron, and I was relieved that the boy in Baghdad lived. Every moment was earned. The premise and the acting are there. If the writers can avoid making the plots too predictable and too magical, then ‘Touch’ has the potential of lasting. This episode got my attention, and I am eager to see more when the season premieres March 19th.