Last night on ‘Touch’, Jake’s prophetic numbers led Martin to do a little soul-searching over the death of his wife in ‘Touch’s’ strongest episode to date.
Martin stares at a manila envelope, contents as of yet unknown. On the front, it’s labeled ‘Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Office of Chief Medical Examiner’. By the door, a red kite sits, waiting. It seems as if Martin can’t bring himself to open the envelope. Martin considers it for a moment before picking the kite up and exiting the apartment. “The first transatlantic cable was made of 340, 500 miles of copper and iron wire, designed to stretch 2,876.95 miles along the ocean floor. Once the cable was in place, you could use electrical impulses and signal code to send any message you want to the other side of the world.” Jake’s narration begins over images of the ocean and people and places on the other side of the world. “Human beings are hardwired with the impulse to share our ideas.” A scruffy man sits at his computer, neatly entombed by the amount of stuff he has sitting around him. On his website, labeled ‘kingroadie.com’, he has no messages. “And the desire to know we’ve been heard. It’s all part of our need for community.” A priest sits in the pew of a church, making elaborate notes while reading from the bible. “That’s why we’re constantly sending out signals and signs, and why we look for them from other people.” In a Middle Eastern village, a truck pulls down the road. Two teenage boys sit outside, one shows his friend his cellphone, the other laughs. “We’re always waiting for messages, hoping for connection.” Outside a church, Randall sits on a bench, reading a book. A newspaper resting on his knee reads ‘Search for Tristate Lotto Winner Continues.’ He looks up at the church sign, which says ‘You have questions? He has answers!’ “And if we haven’t received a message, that doesn’t always mean it hasn’t been sent to us.” He looks at his winning lottery ticket. “Sometimes it means we haven’t listened hard enough.
Martin sits at Jake’s boarding facility, waiting with the red kite. Clea meets him in the hallway and tells him that Jake’s ready to see him and to have him back by five. Martin tells Clea that he received some upsetting but not unexpected news about Jake’s mother: they could not find her remains in the wreckage of the World Trade Center. Martin says all he wanted was something to bury and give him a sense of closure. Apparently he traveled a lot when back when he was a reporter, and he thinks he wasn’t there for his wife or Jake. “I thought I had all the time in the world.” Martin contemplates taking Jake to the cemetery, but doesn’t think it’s a good place to take him. Clea disagrees, saying that it’d be good for Jake to see Martin acknowledge that he misses her.
At the cemetery, Martin tries to explain how some people leave nothing behind when they die and that Jake’s mother was one of those people. Jake suddenly begins to run ahead with the red kite, and Martin chases after him. Jake stops at a man perched on the ground by a grave. It turns out to be his wife’s grave, and Martin asks the man who he is, having never met him. He introduces himself as Bobby Ariza (I love it when people have names on this show.) and says that Sarah, Martin’s wife, was on his bike messenger route. The two became friends right before Sarah died. Jake continues to run ahead with the kite and Martin has to step away to reel him in. Bobby looks down at Sarah’s grave, which has a single rose on it, before leaving. Jake stands still, flying the kite. His notebook falls to the ground. Martin picks it up, finds it covered in the numbers 9:50. Martin pulls out his cellphone, and as the time becomes 9:50 am, Jake lets go of the kite, letting is escape into the breeze before following it.Walking down the street, they seem to have lost the kite. Martin asks, for the millionth time in four episodes, what any of this means and what Jake wants. He looks up at a “checks cashed” store offering 9.5% They both head in the direction of the store.
In the Middle Eastern village, the two boys sitting people watching. One of them, in a red t-shirt, texts ‘Band practice tonight at 9:50 pm sharp,’ A US Military convoy vehicle pulls up (I’m assuming this is Iraq or Afghanistan), and the other boy solicits them, telling that because there aren’t many troops left (Iraq?), they need a morale boost back at the embassy. He says the one in the red t-shirt in a band called Deep Lightning. “Raw metal power” he emphasizes. The soldier skeptically asks the kid if they’re actually in a band and the other one says he just warms up the crowd. The soldier agrees to hear them tomorrow at his next training patrol before driving away. They start making arrangements to practice earlier when another convoy pulls up. The “crowd warmer”, named Abdul, tells a soldier named Laura that they got an audition and she congratulates him. Abdul tells Laura he wants her to be there, saying she inspired him by lending him DVDs of Chris Rock standup, and that tomorrow he plans to tell some of his jokes. She tells him she’ll come if something doesn’t come up. “Metallica never had to audition for a bunch of foreign soldiers.” his friend reminds him, but Abdul is too excited to care.
At the church in Lynchburg, Randall Meade (the man who won the lottery in the pilot, played by Titus Welliver) listens to a pastor, who seems to fumble with the handwritten notes of his sermon. The church is under construction, protective plastic lining the floor. Randall fidgets in his seat, not sure if he wants to be there. Outside the church, the pastor shakes hands with his congregation as they exit. Randall shakes the man’s hand, but tells his that his sign is false advertising, and that he found no answers in there. The pastor, who has that wholesome clear-eyed look to him, thanks him for being honest, saying it’s refreshing. He offers to buy Randall a cup of coffee.
In New York, a subway ad reads “99.5 (degrees) in the Shade.” As Jake walks ahead in the street, they pass a construction sign that says ‘Constr on 9th street, expect a half hour delay.’ Jake walks into a random apartment building, Martin following behind in his usual beleaguered but concerned fashion. They stop in front of a door, marked ’65.’ Martin tries to tell Jake there is no 95th room, but just then, some kids pass by and kick a soccer ball into the door, knocking over the unscrewed 6 and turning it into a 9. The door opens and Bobby stands there, trying to admonish the soccer-playing kids, only to find Jake and Martin. “You following me?” he says, accusatory.
Martin tries to cover it up by saying that Jake lost his kite, but adds that he thinks they’re paths were supposed to cross. Bobby says its not a good time, but Martin asks if 95 or 9.5 meant anything to him. Bobby asks it doesn’t and asks them to leave, saying his wife is due to return. Martin begins to talk about Sarah, noting how young Bobby must have been when he met her, (he was 22), when Jake enters the apartment. He looks at a picture of a little girl, also named Sarah, who holds up a kindergarten graduation certificate. Martin acknowledges the ‘coincidence’, which makes Bobby more uncomfortable than he already is.
The convoy vehicle drives through the street, and someone clears a checkpoint. A soldier asks where their security escort is, and Laura says he’s far enough behind that they enter their rendezvous point alone. Whomever their meeting wants them to do it as equals, one vehicle per party. Before they can arrive, a bomb goes off ahead of them. One of them gets on the wire, trying to call it in, when another bomb goes off right near their vehicle. Insurgents from the rooftop are firing them upon. Laura fires back before taking cover again. One of the soldiers in her convoy is wounded and they’re taking fire from all sides. She helps get the other soldier to safety, passing through an empty building. (Yes, it is kind of like the scene from ‘Iron Man’.)
The pastor, named Stephen Whitaker III, begins explaining the history of the small church and the lineage of the other Whitaker men gone before him. His grandfather was a gifted orator, and his father took good care of the church’s upkeep, and passed away right as Stephen was ordained, and Stephen thinks his father would be disappointed in the state of the church right now, physically and spiritually. Randall tells Stephen that no one’s been able to give him a decent answer about what to do with his lottery money, to make amends for something. He takes in the state of the stalled renovations going on in the building, (there’s unfinished painting and construction everywhere). Apparently Stephen’s father had some big plans for the building but never lived to see them carried out. He looks at the blueprints, saying his father used to do construction. Stephen confesses that he had to change his life’s plans out of high school when his father had a stroke, and that he feels chained here. He wanted to follow his girlfriend up to New York and go to college with her. Randall spent the last 15 years in New York but was born in Lynchburg, and hasn’t told his family that he’s arrived yet. Stephen asks him what he feels the need to atone for. Randall says he thinks he let someone die.
Martin tells Bobby that there’s so much he doesn’t know about the last summer of Sarah’s life and asks him to help fill in the gaps. Bobby doesn’t answer and Martin apologizes, taking Jake and starting to leave but before they can get out the door, Bobby starts telling him about his wife. He says that she was the only person he delivered to who asked him about his life, and would ask to see pictures of his kids. Sarah thought that kids made life complete. She also thought that Bobby’s job was too risky, especially since he was young and had a family. She tutored him in math so that he could get his GED. Bobby received a promotion when he got his GED and it turned his life around. He also knew Sarah right up until her death. Martin says that she never mentioned Bobby, and suspects that there’s more to the story. Bobby tells him that Sarah stopped wearing her wedding ring, which seems to really shock Martin. When Bobby gets on him about traveling so much, Martin shoves him down onto the couch, one hand around his neck. “You don’t know me.” he says intensely. (I suppose 24 viewers might see ghosts of the man known as Jack Bauer in this scene). He stands back and apologizes, now upset with himself.
“How could I know those damn buildings were gonna come down?” Jake extracts a piece of baby’s breath from the rose bouquet he’s been staring at while his father’s been choking people. Bobby looks at Martin and says “I did.”
Bobby was on his route when the first plane hit the World Trade Center and that he knew he should have done more to help the people in the offices, who were told to stay put and most specifically, save Sarah. But he says he froze because he was too scared, and tells Martin how sorry he is. Bobby’s wife enters, and naturally, looks confused. Before Bobby can explain, Jake jumps up and locks himself in one of the rooms of the apartment.
Randall tells Stephen about how he carried Sarah (same Sarah, Martin’s wife) down 31 flights of stairs of the WTC tower, and how she kept telling him Martin and Jake’s name, saying how she wanted him to find them for her. But before they made it out of the building, Sarah stopped breathing. Randall says that he convinced himself that she was already dead. “The truth is, I couldn’t carry her anymore. I wanted to save myself.” He says he started obsessing with the numbers from that day: 9, 11, 87, 31, etc, as a coping method and played them in the lottery, hoping to make sense of it all. He finally won and he doesn’t feel any different. Stephen suggests that maybe he just needs time and Randall suggests that he just needs a distraction. In the basement of the church, Stephen admits he has no idea how to handle the construction going on but before they can get any further, the stairs collapse from underneath then and they fall to the floor. Above them, the door swings shut, locking them down there.
Sarah guides the wounded solider up the hill through a field, trying to find a route back to a safe checkpoint. They stop and she wraps a tourniquet around his leg. (She appears to be hit in the shoulder, but it’s hard to say.) In a house in the village, the boys sit around, trying to pull together resources for their band. Abdul tells his friend about a website that helps promote ‘hardcore musicians.’ The website is the aforementioned kingroadie.com. Abdul writes a message to the site, talking about all the things the band needs, especially a new amp for their bass, because their current one is perilously old. He asks what the maximum voltage they can use on the amp, so it doesn’t blow up. Across the world, in New York, in the same cluttered room we saw earlier, King Roadie sits asleep in his computer chair. His computer beeps, altering him that he’s received a new message and he jolts awake immediately. He’s listening to some blues music and tells someone named Anne Marie that his website has just gone “GLOBAL.” He writes back to Abdul, congratulating him on his “metal journey” and starts to tell him how to correctly power the amp, but he’s missing something. He begins searching for a red suitcase full of old instruction manuals.
Abdul practices some of his material, using proper Chris Rock inflection and diction. His friend (red t-shirt) asks him why he wants to impress the Americans, even though they’re leaving, especially with Chris Rock impersonations. “Chris Rock spreads a message about the truths of human experience.” (This is the last show I ever expected to hear this from.) His friend says he needs to write his own material and spread his own message, otherwise he’s not much on an artist.
The sun has set and Laura continues to drag the wounded soldier behind her. “One step at a time.” she quietly reminds the both of them, saying she got the advice from an old friend. A convoy tries to look for them with night vision, noting that neither of them will survive out in the desert with their wounds.
At Bobby’s apartment, Bobby gives Martin the tools to break into the room Jake’s locked himself in, while his wife interrogates him about their presence. He tries to explain how Sarah was his teacher, and the wife quickly realizes that their daughter is named after her, asking why he kept all of it from her. Martin breaks into the room to find Jake waiting on the fire escape outside before dashing off. Martin follows him out, asking Jake to go back inside before looking up and seeing his red kite stuck on the fire escape above them. Jake tries to climb higher to get the kite and Martin follows, scared that he will fall. The kite string is stuck on someone’s satellite dish.
King Roadie is at his computer. He finally has the info the band needs to power its amp, and as he tries to send it, he finds he has no signal. When he asks his girlfriend, Anne Marie, to help him fix the satellite dish, she opens the window to find Jake standing outside. Startled, she falls backwards. The man stands up to see if she’s okay and a clutter of mess falls on his laptop, changing the number in his message from 50 amps to 950. Martin begs Jake to come down and Bobby also comes out, trying to help. After a moment, he realizes that he doesn’t want Martin to come get him; he wants Bobby to do it. Jake adjusts the satellite dish again, and the message to Abdul finally sends, the Internet having been reconnected. Jake begins to climb higher and Bobby goes after him. Jake climbs out onto the ledge and tries to grab it. He almost falls and Bobby catches him. Jake begins to scream and resist, because he doesn’t like being touched, screaming until Bobby lets him go. He walks off with the kite without another sound. “Earlier you said you wanted to repay your debt to Sarah? You just did.” Martin thanks Bobby for saving Jake’s life.
Abdul receives the message and begins fiddling with the amp, turning it up to 950. The amp hums loudly and the band starts to count off. Meanwhile, the convoy continues to search for Laura and the other soldier, named Shea. He is told to go back to base but refuses to leave them out in the desert. Laura continues to try and drag Shea down the road, but he can’t go on and collapses, bringing her down with him. While the band practices, the amp shorts out their power, and the power lines around their house spark, including the one nearest Laura and Shea. The man in the convoy sees Laura’s silhouette illuminated by the sparks in the darkness. He calls in a helicopter to their coordinates. Laura looks at the sparking transformer above her and smiles
In the basement of the church, Stephen apologizes to Randall for getting him into all this, because they seem to be stuck down there. Randall, who seems to be clutching his ribs from the fall, says that he had it coming to him anyway, karma being what it is. “That’s why I’m here. Whatever happens next, it’s meant to be.” Stephen says he envies Randall because he received a sign through his numbers, and that in the bible, only prophets and holy leaders received signs, because they had important things to do and say. “You know who didn’t receive any signs at all? Everyone else who doesn’t get mentioned in the bible. People who lived their lives without meaning. People like me.” Stephen pounds on the window with a broom handle, trying to get it open.
Jake and Martin go back through the window of Bobby’s apartment and Martin apologizes to Bobby’s wife. Bobby enters, talking about the number 9.5. He says on September 5th, 2001, was his last session with Sarah before she died. He notes that Jake looks like Sarah and asks if Martin can see it. “Every single day.” he says, before leaving with Jake.
Stephen continues to try and break the window but somehow manages to hit himself in the face (or something) with the broom and lands on the floor before he hears someone knocking on the door above them. A young man comes down, avoiding the dry rot. Stephen tells him to call 911, but the man tells him that something has happened in Iraq, and that Laura’s been wounded. She was MedEvac’d to an army hospital in Germany and wants to talk to him. He seems to be surprised that she wants to speak with him, but tells the man to call 911 for Randall on the church houseline. He picks up the phone. Laura lies in a hospital bed at the army base. She tells him that her wound’s gone septic, and before he can say anything else, she tells him about the advice he gave her in high school. “One footstep at a time.” She tells him it kept her going. He reassures her that she’ll be fine and that he’ll be by her side soon. He says that the church doesn’t need him anymore, which catches Randall’s attention.
Abdul asks the convoy where Laura’s gone, and the soldier tells him what happened, condescendingly adding “this is what happens when you include the nationals.” Abdul is taken aback. “Include us? We live here, we include you!” he says. He says that Iraqis have lived there since the dawn of civilization, and that they started their party 9000 years ago. “Almost as long as the Simpsons.” he concludes, which makes the solider laugh. He asks Abdul if he wants to audition now, and Abdul says yes. We don’t get to hear what Abdul has to say because we head into Jake’s end-of-episode narration.
“In spite of all our technology and communication, no invention is as effective as the sound of the human voice.” Jake and Martin return to the boarding facility. Clea greets them with a smile. “When we hear the human voice, we instinctively listen in the hopes of understanding it.” King Roadie’s computer chair sits empty as the man and his girlfriend lay curled up on the couch. “Even when the speaker is searching for the right words to say. Even when all we hear is yelling or crying or singing.” Bobby’s daughter Sarah picks up the little spring of baby’s breath Jake left on the table, sticking it in her mother’s hair. She sits on the couch with her parents and brother. Bobby holds her tight. “That’s because the human voice resonates differently from anything else in the world. In Randall’s car, a newspaper reads “Lynchburg native claims Tristate Lottery Millions.” Outside, Randall shakes hands with a realtor and enters the church on crutches. “That’s why we can hear a singer’s voice over the sound of a full orchestra. We will always hear that singer, no matter what else surrounds it.” Stephen sits by Laura’s bedside, watching her.
Back in his apartment, Martin hangs up the red kite before remembering something, muttering about Sept. 5th and Sarah’s last appointment with Bobby. He grabs a box out of his closet and roots through it, finding what appears to be a date book. He flips through the pages and finds Sept. 5th, finding an appointment for noon marked B.A., presumably for Bobby Ariza. On the next page, he finds a receipt for a jewelry store called Thomas Brothers. We fade to Thomas Brothers, where a woman hands Martin a small box, saying it was left on hold. He pulls his wife’s wedding ring out of the box. The woman said that Sarah was having it engraved, not selling it. Inside, the engraving reads ‘1+1=3.’ (which was the title of the second episode). “That’s what she used to say when our son was born. Jake made us a family.’ The woman asks him if he still wants the ring and he says yes.
Is it me or was ‘Touch’ kind of… good last night? It still has its narrative flaws, always afraid to go the extra mile and put people in real peril or real danger or have an unhappy ending, but overall, the somewhat subdued, somber tone of this episode seem to actually fit the show. And they actually focused on things that made a difference to Martin as a character, not just sending him on quests to boost his self-esteem. Using part of this episode to resolve some of the grief over his wife was actually time well-spent, and rather than just waiting for Martin’s part of the story to resolve, I was invested in finding out what Bobby had to do with any of it and the other various connections. Things mattered tonight, and those shades of grey, the intense sadness with the interspersing of joy, it looks great on this show. Nobody had a huge catharsis or cried and I did kind of question Jake’s decision (if it can be called that) to almost plummet to his death just to help Bobby move on from his pain. The show has a difficult time making Jake, cute and mop-topped as he is, not look like some sort of puppet master pulling his father’s strings, even for good purpose.
As for the rest of the episode, even if the stories once again bordered on trite or awkward, they were still handled with a level of somberness. Even if I didn’t understand Randall’s burning need to turn to religion, I still liked what came out of it, especially the kind of switch it provided, with Stephen finally correcting his life and leaving his hometown to be with Laura. The story with the Iraqi band and Abdul was convoluted at best, but I did like his point about respecting the Iraqi nationals, and using his voice to speak to his own experiences as an Iraqi. I really do like how diverse this show is, in terms of race, location, age of its characters, and that its characters seem to come from all walks of life and have universal concerns, like being in a cool band or feeling out of place in their vocation. That is really Touch’s strength and last night it definitely came out on top of a lot of it’s weaknesses.
The performances by the whole cast were solid, which is not always the case for this show, and I always enjoy seeing Titus Welliver show up on my TV screen. They might not have advanced the overarching plot, but I think that was to the story’s advantage. I think I liked it more because most of it was Martin sorting through his own problems instead of running around and this was definitely the best performance by Kiefer Sutherland thus far, mostly because the guy actually had something to do. He had a purpose to his quest and it worked. If Touch can actually keep this kind of episode up, I think I’d remove myself from the title of ‘faithful but wary recapper’ and move into the realm of ‘actual fan.’
Miss an episode? Check out our recap of last week’s episode: ‘Safety in Numbers’.