TOUCH - Recap: Pilot Premier

This is not 24: The Next Generation
By Ruthie

Welcome to our premier look at the new Fox drama, TOUCH. Whether you’re here because you missed last night’s premier and want to know if it’s worth your time, you saw it and loved it, you saw it and hated it, or you just can’t get enough of my rambling on about TV, you’re in the right place.

This show begins with an opening montage that is nothing short of beautiful. Seriously, it’s cinematically very pleasing. It tickled my pretty bones. In voice-over, a child explains to us that things most people perceive as chaos are actually governed by subtle laws of behavior. He tells the story of an old Chinese myth of the red thread of fate, which is theoretically tied to all the people who the gods will touch. (This is a real myth? I’d only ever heard of it in webcomics. Yes, that’s right. I read manga-style love comics.) We see a montage of very different people going about their daily lives with that same red string delicately hanging in the air above them, connecting them to each other. The boy tells us that their fate is often determined by mathematical probability, and it’s his job to keep track of the numbers and make the connections for those who must meet. He tells us he is 11 years, 4 months, 21 days, and 14 hours old, and in all that time he has never spoken. When we finally see his face, he’s an adorable kid.

Baggage handler Martin Bohm, or Kiefer Sutherland, accepts a box of lost cell phones from another employee. He explains that his kid likes to take them apart. During the opening montage, we saw a man drop a cell phone with some pink bear stickers on the back onto the floor, and sure enough, the same be-stickered phone begins ringing as Martin walks away. After a bit of opening snark, the phone’s owner pleads with Martin to return the phone. He says it has a picture of his daughter on it that he needs—something about her birthday. Martin is probably about to return it, but then his own phone rings. It’s his son’s school, and there’s some kind of trouble. He dashes off, leaving the phone forgotten on the back of a green suitcase zipping up the baggage return.
Martin Bohm: Lost phone thief.

The next moment we see the boy, precisely where he was before… only now we can see that he’s sitting on some sort of scaffolding WAY up in the air, blithely scribbling out his numbers. I think it’s a cell tower. Below him there’s a swarm of emergency response vehicles. Martin coaxes him down with the box of old cell phones, and Jake (that’s the boy) smiles slightly. The police chastise Martin, and a hard-hatted man informs us that all three times Jake has climbed this particular tower, he tripped the security alarm at exactly 3:18. The police will be informing child services.

They stop at a gas station, and Jake ducks out of the car. He stands behind a bus scribbling numbers; it’s schoolbus #318. Inside the store, Martin watches a news teaser about the Children of 9-11 while a man buys a lottery ticket. Jake steals it, and runs to car to copy down the numbers: 87, 1, 9, 20, 31, 11. The man says something rude about Jake, and when Martin says “Hey, what?” the guy punches him in the stomach.

Man, it looks exhausting being Jake’s dad....

Elsewhere, in a bar, a man in glasses films a woman singing a pop-star-girly-style Three Little Birds. Ooh, they’re Irish. Niles tells Kayla that another friend of theirs found that phone in his luggage from JFK, and it’s chock full of videos and photos from around the world. He’s filmed her and thinks the phone will be her rocket ship to stardom. She reacts to this suggestion with all the skepticism it deserves. Niles, however, is a believer, and when a Japanese man hails a taxi in front of him, Niles slips the phone into his luggage.

Lottery-ticket man, who we shall otherwise know as Beardy McPunching-Fist, hangs his ticket on the wall. He’s showing some signs of obsessive disorder, however, because we quickly see that all the walls in his entire room are completely covered with hundreds of identical lottery tickets.

Martin and Jake live in a really schnazzy apartment. Wow. That place must cost a fortune. Martin is asleep on a pile of Family Law books when an alarm on his laptop alerts him that it is now 3:18. He goes into Jake’s room, slams his hand in a drawer, and sends his son to bed. Just as he’s leaving, however, all the dead cell phones from the airport, carefully arranged in a precise spiral by Jake, begin to buzz and ring. And they’re all getting a call from number 8719203111—the string of numbers from the lottery ticket. “Jake,” his Dad says, awestruck. “How did you do that?”

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, a teenage boy mimics a Chris Rock routine to his mother’s dismay. She cries that the oven which is their sole source of income has failed. The boy promises to figure something out.

Back in New York, the prettiest social worker ever, Claire Hopkins, shows up to do an assessment of Jake. She also notices the posh digs—and honestly, this apartment is ridiculously gorgeous—which leads them into a discussion that reveals he left a high paying job as a reporter for a series of increasingly poor-paying gigs, including his current stint as a baggage handler. Claire suggests selling the apartment, a 3 bedroom loft in the meat-packing district apparently, and Martin outright refuses, explaining that it belonged to his wife who died on 9-11. Her family was wealthy, and all of her money went into a trust for Jake. She tries to shake hands with Jake, and Martin warns her that he doesn’t let anyone touch him.
Child Services is going to demand a haircut.

A moment later, he glances at his newspaper and jumps up shouting “My god! The numbers!” The numbers from the phone were the winning lottery numbers. Which means Beardy McPunching-Fist is a millionaire! Beardy picks up a phone and in a tortured voice tells a woman, “I really want to come home now.”
     On a plane headed to Tokyo, the man who originally lost the cell phone with the bears on calls a woman. He tells her he wants to get home, and she angrily says she doesn’t see the point. She’s sitting in what is clearly a young girl’s room; the bear stickers are on some furniture behind her. He asks if on a holiday to Brighton the previous summer, the only pictures they’d taken of Lily were the ones on his phone; they are. They’re both very emotional.
    Martin is trying to convince Claire that Jake’s focus on the numbers 3:18 is an attempt to communicate, and she blows it off as him trying to find a connection where none exists. She thinks he’s overwhelmed, and frankly, I agree. She explains that Jake is going to be put in a boarding care facility for a two week evaluation to determine if he would benefit from institutionalization. Behind them, Jake is carefully sorting his fruit loops by color.

In Baghdad, the Chris Rock fan and his friend are wondering how to get 8,000 dinar for a new oven. The friend jokingly suggests suicide bombing. “Your parents would have the money by nightfall.” Ha. Ha. The friend knows how to break into a restaurant, and they decide to do it.
In Japan, a woman in a sailor-suit dress is filming herself with the bear phone. She sends the businessman from Ireland off to shower with promises of delights after. Instead, she robs his luggage and runs off.
"Seriously, you could have given me those lotto numbers..."
At the care home, Martin promises Jake that after the two weeks, he’s coming home. Claire comes out to greet them and get him settled; she tells Martin he’s a very brave man. He promises to come back the next day, and as he says goodbye, his desire to touch Jake is almost painful to watch. He watches Jake walk away, then visits his wife’s grave. He sorrowfully tells her he’s over his head, and as he looks down he notices a fire fighter’s badge tucked beside the grave. It’s emblazoned with the number 318.

Back in Tokyo, the woman and her friend watch the video of Kayla singing in Ireland. They appear to be in a dressing room at some sort of hostess bar; it’s filled with pretty young women dressed in a variety of fetish-y costumes. The phone thief is dressed like Barbie, her friend is a costume-y punk with painted on tattoos. Barbie-chan suggests they start a fan club—she knows a guy who can put Kayla’s video on the Jumbotron at Shibuya station—and then she’s going to pass the phone off to her next client, a man on his way to Kuwait.

Martin does a search on mutism and cell phones which leads him to the website of something called the Teller Institute. The website suggests that Mutism is often a false diagnosis, and “We are witnessing an evolutionary step.” Then they namedrop string theory and quantum entanglement. It looks like what is possibly one of the dodgiest and least helpful websites ever, but Martin is a desperate man, and he notes the Institute’s address, which is on Tesla street. Hey-o! Nice touch.
He goes looking for the Teller Institute and instead, finds a residence. The door is answered by grumpy Danny Glover in a bathrobe. “Let me guess,” he says. “Your kid keeps climbing a cell tower.” Wow, good guess. Glover, or rather, Arthur DeWitt explains that all of life is interconnected, and some, particularly kids, are like air-traffic controllers for that inter-connectivity. He talks about patterns and how Jake discovered the Fibonacci Sequence on his own. He claims that the universe is made up of ratios and patterns that we can’t see, but if we could, life would be magical. Jake, apparently, sees everything. Arthur claims that Jake doesn’t speak because he is in thrall to the beautiful connectivity of the whole of being. He tells Martin that Jake has laid down a road map, and it is Martin’s destiny to follow it. A quest!

At the boarding facility, Jake dumps out a bowl of popcorn and arranges it into rows. When Claire counts the rows, the numbers make up her mother’s phone number. “I haven’t thought of that number in years,” she says, and an instant later, her phone rings. Guess who’s calling. No one on the other side speaks. Claire looks up and sees that Jake has circled the 18 on a March calendar and has an epiphany.

Beardy McPunching-Fist is busy trimming his beard. He’s arranging for a trip from New York to Lynchburg, VA. (Hey! I went to college in Lynchburg! Go Wildcats!)

Martin goes through Jake’s notebooks, and on one page, finds a sequence of numbers with arrows between them. When he puts them in order, it’s a phone number, and he calls it. No one answers, but reverse lookup tells him that it’s a phone in Grand Central Terminal. Just then Claire shows up and tells him that 3:18 is today’s date. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen at 3:18, giving them just 22 minutes. They go to the station and split up to look for the phone.

Martin finds the phone, but just as he spots it, a gray-haired man grabs it. He frantically asks for the phone, and the man ignores him. He spins the guy around, and look—it’s Beardy McPunching-Fist, only he’s now shaved his beard. Martin punches him, and they start rolling around on the ground. Two police officers pull them apart and cuff them. Martin glances past Beardy’s conspicuously large red duffel bag and notes that it is now 3:19; he grimaces in his misery at having failed in his mission.
Back in Baghdad, the two boys break into the restaurant. Before anything happens, three terrorist-types and a little girl come in and dump a pile of phones on the table. The teddy-bear phone, still playing Kayla’s video, is among them. The little girl gives away the two hiding boys when she waves at them. They catch the boy, and when he admits he wanted the oven, they menacingly ask what he’s willing to pay for it.
"Look Danny, Mel just doesn't want to do these movies with you anymore, and...oh fuck, you're shitting your pants right now, aren't you? You really are too old for this shit." Submitted by Jason Cicalese via Facebook
Martin is awakened at 3:18 by the alarm on his laptop; he notices a message on his home phone, and it’s from Randall Mead, a fireman from ladder company 318. He explains that on 9-11, he carried Sarah, Martin’s wife, down 31 flights of stairs, but had to stop and rest. He thought she was dead, but he was tortured by the thought that she wasn’t. He had played the same lottery numbers every week since, 87, 1, 9, 20, 31, 11, trying to make the numbers come out right. And he won. Oh no, you guys. It’s Beardy. Beardy is the fire fighter who tried to save Martin’s wife.

At this point, Martin hears his own voice in the background, trying to get at the phone. As the message ends, he hears Randall’s name on the news broadcast playing in the living room. He darts in to discover that on his way home, Randall came across a school bus that had tipped over and caught fire. He pulled all the kids out, saving their lives. The bus? Why, number 318, of course, the very same bus that Randall punched Martin in front of at the gas station. Randall mentions that the only reason he was there was because he missed his train. If he and Martin hadn’t gotten into a fight, all those kids would have died.

Martin runs to the boarding facility to see Jake, but Jake is missing. Martin knows where he’s gone.
In Tokyo, the man who lost the phone stands in Shibuya station, trying to place a call. He reaches a call center where Kayla, who works for the cell company, explains that his phone is now in a zone that’s blocked for security reasons. Behind him, Barbie-chan and Punk-chan are delighted to see that their plan worked, and Kayla’s video is now playing on the big screen.

Simon, the man who lost the phone, explains that he needs it because there are photos in his phone of his daughter, who died a year ago on March 18. Awww. Poor guy. Kayla agrees to ping his phone, puts him on hold, and he turns around—only to see his daughter’s face on the big screen. Barbie-chan’s friend put everything on the big screen, not just Kayla. And there she is, his daughter, happy and smiling on the beach. This is exactly what he needed: to see her face again. He cries.

In Baghdad, the comedian walks toward a crowd of people wearing a coat that’s much too heavy and puffy for the weather. Oh no. He seemed like such a sweet kid. His bomb begins ringing, and he darts into a dark alley to answer it. It’s Kayla. The phone they used for the detonator was Simon’s. He tells her about the bomb, and she pleads with him to take the battery out of the phone. She asks what he wants, what would be enough to stop him from blowing up the bomb. He answers that he needs an oven.

A moment ago, Simon told her that he sells restaurant supplies. She promises to get him an oven if he’ll pull out the battery. He asks if she’s sure, and she assures him. He takes out the battery with a second to spare.

Jake is on a cell tower in the rain.

In Ireland, Niles shows Kayla a video of her singing in Shibuya Station that has already made it to YouTube. It has almost 2 million views. But, um, is there sound? Can they hear her singing?
Simon gets home, and it’s clear now that his wife is not angry with him, but just dealing with her own sadness. She helps him with his jacket.

The comedian’s family installs their new oven.

Martin, afraid of heights, climbs the tower after Jake.

Randall boards a bus bound for Lynchburg.

Martin pleads with Jake. He assures him that he did what he wanted and followed the numbers. “I can hear you,” he tells him. “I can hear you now.” For the first time, he seems to have Jake’s attention. Jake looks at him, steps forward, and falls into his father’s arms. The sudden gesture shocked me enough that I actually gasped.
Hot New Trend: Indoor, number-based graffiti.

Jake takes the phone his father offered and dials a number. Martin places the call, explaining, “It’s a road map,” to Claire. Someone named Artie answers, and Martin tells him, “I think we’re supposed to find each other.” 

Whew. Wow. That was intense.

I have to say, a beautiful story and beautifully put together. I enjoyed it immensely, but I have to wonder if they’ll be able to sustain it over the course of a series. They’ll be hard pressed to make this kind of interconnected story work in the long term without feeling like a prolonged Hallmark commercial. I certainly hope they have a top-notch creative team; they’ll need it.

So what did you think? Was it enough to make you come back in March for the rest of the series? Talk to me in the comments below and let me know what’s on your mind. While you’re here, you can also check out the many other fine features available here on Wicked Theory, including our other recaps, or check us out on Facebook.

I’ll be back in March to recap the rest of Touch—watching so you don’t have to!

1 comment:

  1. You know it sort of reminds me of "LOST". If you could follow that show you can follow this show.

    And looks like Jacob the "bad brother" of the ruler of the island is one of the characters on this show as well.