As the episode opens, Gwen and Rhys are out on a date. Bowling! Dinner! Discussions of how Gwen starts her new “special ops” job tomorrow! Gwen’s just said that they should “have an early night” (wink) when a giant flaming ball of something shoots across the sky and crashes outside of Cardiff. Her mobile goes off with a text. Torchwood. She turns to Rhys. “I’ve got to go to work!”
Reunited, Torchwood speeds down the road in the kitted-out SUV, headed for the crash site, hoping to get there before anyone else does. Gwen is intimidated by the sheer amount of electronics occupying the space around her; she’s also surprised to find that Torchwood apparently has access to every private database in the entire world. “You shouldn’t have this.” Jack reminds her that she should stop saying “you” and starting saying “we.
When they pull up to the crash site, the army is already there. Or, as Owen calls them, “the amateurs.” Gwen is not super convincing yet as a Torchwood operative and gets stopped by the blockade and called “little girl” by some guys in funny hats; I will direct them to Gwen Cooper in about twenty-five episodes and leave them to mess their camo pants in fear. Jack comes to collect her and they go out to the site: there is a large meteoroid surrounded by police tape, “bog standard space debris.” Tosh, Owen and Jack work as a unit, tossing tools to each other and taking samples and readings like an efficient machine, while Gwen watches, not sure what to do. Owen is not charming as he gives Gwen cutesy nicknames and tells her to give him the big chisel from the toolbox; she throws it to him with a quip about his “tool” not being “big enough for the job,” but botches the throw and the chisel ends up buried in the meteoroid. The rock starts to emit a gas, and Jack throws gas masks to all of them while they watch a large cloud of dusty purple vapor lift up from the meteoroid and speed off into the night. Accusatory looks are exchanged over the masks; Gwen feels like a prat.
Meanwhile, at a night club, Carys Fletcher (Sara Lloyd Gregory) stands in an alleyway and speaks to her ex-boyfriend’s voicemail through angry tears, before hanging up and turning around to notice the cloud of purple gas floating behind her. Surprised, she staggers back against a wall, and it presses her there, before pouring itself into her mouth. When Carys comes back around the corner towards the club, she’s obviously changed somehow; when the bouncer tells her she can’t come back in, she pulls him into a long kiss, and he breathlessly lets her inside. I guess this is where I should warn you: this episode has a lot of sex!
Like a shark, Carys cuts through the crowd, honing in on one guy standing alone at the bar, who looks unsure until she reaches out to him and yanks him into the ladies’ room, at which point he’s delighted. “I don’t even know your name!” She puts his hands on her ass. “Overrated, names!” They have sex for all of forty seconds when the guy gives her the ten second warning. My friend, if you had longevity, you would have lived a little longer. No use wondering now; he “arrives,” and promptly explodes into a golden dust, which Carys absorbs, looking sated.
Back at the Hub, Gwen can’t stop apologizing. She promises that she’ll deal with whatever’s happened. Owen is very blamey. Tosh is very strikingly attractive and also tells him to give Gwen a break. Ianto breaks into the party with his efficient little clipboard to tell them about a nightclub death with suspicious circumstances which might be related to their missing alien gas. Ianto is also very strikingly attractive. Thought I should mention.
At the night club in the cold blue light of dawn, Gwen runs into Andy for the first time since she changed jobs. “Bloody hell, look at you, all posh!” She can’t stick around and chat; she has work to do. Andy is obviously disappointed. In the ladies’ bathroom, everybody+the bouncer stares at the little pile of dust on the floor, all that is left of the victim. The bouncer knows it was once a guy because he was watching via the security cameras while our friend exploded. The bouncer is a creep. But at least they have footage. They need to find the girl from the video.
Over their communicators, Jack sets Ianto the task of finding a body in their supply with the same build as the victim, giving it the same clothes, disfiguring its face and dumping it somewhere to make it look like a suicide attempt. Gwen asks, “You have a stash of bodies?! What about his family, you can’t just fake his death.” They can, they do, all the time. “Would you rather tell his family he died screwing an alien?” In the alley beside the club, Jack uses a bit of tech to detect that the elements they recorded at the crash site are also here, strongest beside the wall, where Carys was possessed. “Something happened here.” Right in front of a CCTV camera. On tape, they see the alien take on a host body. Gwen blames herself for the guy’s death. “We can’t let it kill again.”
Here I’ll take a moment to let you know that between almost every scene, there is a random shot of some Cardiff site, like Cardiff Bay, or Millennium Stadium, with a sting of music. It’s like the Welsh Tourist Board paid the BBC to insert helicopter shots of its most visitable locations.
Anyway! At home, Carys clutches a cup of tea and looks blankly into the middle distance while her father complains about work. He asks if she’s all right. She tells him that can’t remember what happened last night; she was just drunk. She looks terrible. Her father leaves.
In the Hub, Jack is “using sattelite tracking data to detect the inward trajectory of the meteorite.” He’s figuring out where it came from. Gwen compares his equipment to a route planner; Rhys is a transport manager, so “he does this sort of stuff.” Tosh is surprised to hear that Gwen has a boyfriend. Gwen asks around; does anyone else have a partner? Negatives across the board. “I’m not being rude or anything – well, maybe I am, but – how do you switch off from all of this stuff? What do you do to relax?” There is a long silence, all of them looking at each other. Finally, Owen says, “I torture people in happy relationships.”
Carys is having trouble dealing with the knowledge of what’s she’s done, and what’s happening to her. She cries in the shower.
Back in the Hub, everybody’s working together by the workstations. These are my favorite kinds of scenes in the show! Oh, I am such a fan of teams. Tosh is running the image of Carys they caught on the CCTV through facial recognition software, but it comes up with 119 matches. The image is too low-res to give a clear match. Ianto, having finished handing out coffee, says, “Let’s narrow the numbers down, I can look through the rest. You know, the old fashioned way. With my eyes.” Jack tells Tosh to follow Carys back through her route to the club via the CCTV cameras, which will take forever, given the number of route possibilities, but it’s all they have. Gwen suggests cross-referencing that with the addresses of the 119 matches, and Owen gives her his first glimmer of approval. “Good one, newbie! That’s a bit more like it.”
Carys sits at her vanity, brushing her hair, then clutches her abdomen in pain. Whatever’s inside of her, she knows what it wants. “No!” The doorbell rings, and Carys opens the door for a delivery man, then pulls him inside. She has his fly down and is straddling him on the couch before he thinks to refuse, and then Torchwood bursts through the doors, all wearing suits and gas masks. Jack says, “Put your trousers on and get out! Now!” The delivery man does. “It always breaks my heart to say those words.” Carys breaks away and almost makes it to the door before Owen stops her by throwing a portable cell chamber to trap her. Jack chides him for taking another piece of alien tech out of the Hub, but at least they caught her.
At the Hub, Gwen takes Carys down to the cells to lock her away and question her. It quickly becomes apparent that there are two Caryses: gas!Carys and normal!Carys. Normal!Carys is sweet and terrified; gas!Carys is big-eyed and unstable and desperate. She dreamily recognizes Gwen. “You broke my ship.” Gwen asks where she’s from and what she wants, “because you can definitely forget about enslaving us.” But the alien doesn’t want that; she’s just here for the high. She feeds off of the energy humans release when they climax. “You’re the best hit there is.” Gwen is just as confused by that as we are, don’t worry. Carys fights the alien inside of her for control of her body, and the alien throws her against a wall. Gwen rushes into the cell to help, and that’s when the alien takes over again. She pins Gwen against the wall and kisses her. Gwen kisses back. “Okay, first contact with an alien, not exactly what I expected.”
Upstairs, Owen notices on the security cameras, but takes a moment to enjoy it before alerting anyone else. When he does call Jack and Tosh over, they just watch for a minute, too. “I thought she had a boyfriend,” Owen says. Jack scoffs. “You people and your quaint little categories.” Tosh is a bit breathless: “We should really get her out of there.”
“Yeah,” Jack says vacantly, staring. He snaps out of it. “I mean, yeah, come on.” And they run down to the cells. Owen stops to record a little bit before he follows.
Gwen is surprised when the alien pushes her away; she tries to keep going, but the alien won’t let her. “No! It’s no good. It’s got to be a man.” Gwen comes to her senses and Carys comes back briefly. “I’m losing,” she says. “Promise me you’ll help me. Promise me.” Then Gwen’s phone starts ringing and she ducks out of the cell as the alien takes control again. She says, “I promise,” then answers the call. Rhys wants to know when she’ll be finished at work; she doesn’t know. Tosh, Jack and Owen appear at the end of the hall and she gives them a thumbs-up to say she’s fine.
When she leaves the cells, Owen gives her a slow clap, saying, “Way to go, newbie, that is what I call a methodical investigation! I can’t wait to see you take down her particulars.” At which point Gwen ATTACKS him with her hand against his throat. Carys is trapped and he thinks it’s funny. “We should be helping her, she’s not some lab rat!” Jack appears beside them. “You know, strictly speaking, throttling the staff is my job.”
Ianto appears on the stairs holding a big box of takeaway containers. “So!” he says brightly. “Who’s for Chinese?”
There is a very, very hard smash cut to everybody sitting around the table in the conference room eating their lunch and laughing about a story they’re telling Gwen about a previous investigation. When Jack excuses himself to use the restroom, Tosh and Owen descend on Gwen. What has he told her? They know nothing about him, apart from Owen’s assumption that he’s gay. Tosh doesn’t think so. “And I don’t care,” Ianto says. They can guess about where he’s from and who he is all they want, but they’ve never found anything on him. Gwen keeps what she knows about his immortality to herself, and interrupts the conversation when she hears crying coming from somewhere in the room. “What’s that sound?” Owen turns the conference room screen over to the cameras in the cells. Carys is sobbing by herself; Gwen feels bad for them eating while Carys is fighting for her life. Jack, having returned, explains that while they eat the computers are analyzing everything they can about her to come up with answers. Gwen says they’ve been down in the Hub too long. They’ve forgotten how to be human. Jack tells her to show him.
So she does; she compiles all of the information about Carys that she can and tapes it up to show Jack. She tells him that Carys said she was losing; they have to use what they know about her to find a way to keep her fighting and holding on to who she is. Jack is moved and impressed by what she’s done. “It’s brilliant. You are brilliant.” Gwen thinks they should bring in her dad. “You’re kidding, right?” Tosh calls them over to show them an analysis of the air in the cell; it turns out that Carys is emitting a huge amount of pheromones, acting like an aphrodisiac, which is why Gwen made out with her. Still want to put her dad in the cell? “God, no, we can’t let any man near–” They all realize at once. Where’s Owen?
Owen is hanging out naked and alone in Carys’ cell! She tricked him into giving her his swipe card and now she’s loose in the Hub. Jack meets Carys up on the main level. She runs for a door, but it doesn’t open, and they square off over a table of weapons. They both reach at the same time. Carys gets a mace. “You want a little rough and tumble, huh? Well, let’s make it a fair fight!” And he grabs a bokken. Jack, a mace versus a wooden practice sword is not a fair fight, but I admire your restraint.
He chases her and gets in front of her to block her way. She goes for the first thing she sees: the hand in a jar near the door. Jack immediately panics. “Put it down! That’s worthless to anyone but me!” She takes it as a hostage into the elevator with her, and Jack takes the stairs. They meet again on the top level and Jack chases her down the hallway and into the Tourist Information Center, to Ianto’s surprise. “Need me to do any attacking, sir?” Jack appreciates the offer, but tells him to just open the door. He gestures to the hand that Carys is holding. “Now give me the jar.” Instead, Carys throws the jar and runs when it smashes. Tosh and Gwen appear in the doorway just as very familiar music begins to play in the score; it’s the Tenth Doctor’s theme, Torchwood-ized. WHAT COULD IT MEAN? Jack cradles the faintly wiggling hand while Tosh and Gwen run out to follow Carys, but it’s useless. She’s gone.
Back inside, Gwen is annoyed that after all she said about Carys, a severed hand was still more important to Jack than her life. Owen calls everyone into the autopsy bay to look at what he’s found out about Carys’ body. He couldn’t get a good fix on her readings, because they kept changing whenever she switched between herself and the alien. So Owen decided to recreate and accelerate the circumstances on a lab rat. The heart rate triples, the brain swells, the lungs shrink, the pressure increases on all of the internal organs until – boom! “Rat jam!” he cries. The perspex box once containing the rat is now coated with the rat. We are all suitably grossed out. They need to find Carys before she explodes.
Then there is a bunch of random commentary about how sexualized advertising has become in the form of Carys walking down the street and looking at sexy billboards set to to Goldfrapp. At the Hub, Torchwood is discussing what Carys’ next move will be. Where would she go if she needs sex but she knows it will kill the person? Tosh says, “I know what I would do.” And that’s just what Carys is doing. She arrives at her ex-boyfriend’s house. She tells him that he was a crap lay and asks him if he ever loved her; he says no. “You could have saved yourself.” Then she’s on top of him.
Torchwood bursts in way too late! She’s already gone, and just a pile of dust remains. “Tosh was right, though,” Jack says. “She went for the ex-boyfriend. Lucky she’s young. Work through my back catalogue, we’d be here till the sun explodes.” In the SUV, they try to figure out where to go next. It’s using Carys’ life to get what it needs; what else about Carys makes her useful to the alien? Tosh pulls up her workplace: a clinic. Owen recognizes the name and groans. “It’s a bloody fertility clinic.”
At the clinic, Carys punches out the receptionist at the desk and starts calling men back into the private rooms. In the SUV, everyone arms up. The plan is to get the gas alien out of Carys’ body before it can do her permanent damage. They burst into the clinic to find all of the rooms empty but for little piles of dust. They find and corner Carys; she says that one more time will make her strong enough. “Each time the feeling’s weaker. Make me feel alive, make me feel human!” Gwen can’t, but Jack steps up, always willing to kiss someone “I’ve got a surplus of alive. I’m giving it away. You really want to feel something?” He kisses her, and she glows a little and then passes out. “Not exactly the reaction I anticipated.”
Gwen cradles Carys’ head and tells the alien to leave Carys and take her instead. Jack objects, but Gwen doesn’t care. “I’m stronger than she is, I’ll last longer. You might be able to save me.” Jack steps back and lets her do it. The alien gas floats up out of Carys’ body, and as it starts to move for Gwen, Jack throws the portable cell and traps it. It crashes around angrily for a moment, then dies and turns to pink dust. Jack kneels down to touch it. “Travel halfway across the universe for the greatest sex, still end up dying alone.” Gwen reaches over and kisses him briefly. “Thank you.” Jack, looking very surprised, touches his lips.
They reunite Carys with her father, all smiles, and then Gwen is back at the Hub, taking down the information she’d taped up about Carys. Jack finds her. “Still here?” She just wanted to finish up. Jack says, “Do one thing for me. Don’t let the job consume you. You have a life. Perspective. We need that.” Gwen, never afraid to ask the hard questions, asks, “Who are you, Jack? You can’t die, you tell me that the twenty-first century is when it all changes, we have to be prepared. But how can you know?” Jack asks if she thinks knowing the answers will make her feel any better. “Go home, Gwen Cooper. Eat lasagna, kiss your boyfriend. Be normal. For me.” So Gwen does. Lasagna, Rhys, kissing, and an “early night.” If she’s slightly distracted, well, that’s to be expected, right?
Next week: ghosts, kind of! Post-cognition! Precognition! Murderers! Weapons training! Owen BAMFing it up!