Touch 1.03 – Safety in Numbers

“If a species wants to survive, it has to prove it deserves to,” Jake tells us in voice-over as Touch opens. Okay, yes, this does work for species that are not hunted to their extinction, I suppose. Like Fire Ants, who apparently lobby for survival by clinging together, forming a raft impervious to water for months at a time. Admirable! Except:

Oh my god, SO MANY FIRE ANTS! D:

If you guessed that we’re headed into metaphorical territory unfolding how human cooperation is essential in the face of threats, you’re right! “What if you were the one who knew what needed to be done, but you had no words?” Jake asks. “How do you make others understand? How do you call for help?” Jake’s dilemma is very moving, and reminds us there are many people who are trapped because their neurological makeup or physical impairments prevent them from communicating in standard ways. The show’s solution is also moving—that is, if you want to reach people all over the world this time, you will need to MOVE IT, MOVE IT, at the World Championship Dance Battle! 

Fair warning: if you go to the World Championship Dance Battle, you *will* be cruelly stood up, treated to pink cocktails, and meet the Beastmaster. Oh, and Touch is about a young boy, everyone's connected, yes, yes. Ahem. BEASTMASTER!!!

Someone calls Martin and says absolutely nothing. He reasonably assumes this is probably his mute son, and takes off to the Evil State Facility to check on him. Clea intercepts him, because she wants Martin to chill out on saving random people Jake’s numbers help him discover, at least while Jake’s being evaluated by social services. “The state has a lot of power,” Clea says ominously. But eff you, Powerful State—Jake Martin has once again escaped your evil clutches, escaping his room for the umpteenth time, mwahahahaha!!

They find Jake right in the building, outside Room 6, which is disappointing—I like it when he hangs on cell phone towers or ends up on bridges. “You can’t keep jumping every time you hear him calling,” Clea scolds, though luckily she misses Jake putting the clue to begin their latest adventure in Martin’s pocket before she drags him off for the important task of identifying animal sounds.

Martin takes the latest number to perennially-bathrobe-clad Arthur Teller, who talks about numbers revealing a disorder in the universe. And of course Jake has a higher purpose in all of this. “Jake feels the pain of people attached to those numbers, and until things get right, he suffers.” Gosh. I’m a little worried Jake is going to EXPLODE, given the actual number of people suffering out there in the world. Hint: IT IS A LOT OF PEOPLE, OKAY?

Cut to somewhere in Africa, where a woman named Grace takes a test to get a job in the city, away from this dusty shantytown she calls home. Jake, back in the Evil State Facility’s lounge area, begins to watch the World Championship Dance Battle get underway. And at the actual World Championship Dance Battle, which is…somewhere, some chick in a red dress won’t stop blathering on to some poor security guy, who is just trying to check people’s tickets. She’s wearing a red dress, maybe she should have chosen shorts, she’s meeting someone she found online, and oh gosh, she’s just so nervous! This exchange shows how vitally necessary this otherwise pretty girl meet people online, because she cannot shut up for the life of her.

Martin has no idea where to start finding Jake’s latest number. Luckily, a homeless woman gets hit by a cab (seriously, the homeless woman HAD TO GET HIT BY A CAB solely so that various other plot lines could rev up; more on this later). Martin is distracted from saving her by a crazed guy who snatches something from her bag; Martin leaves it to other people to deal with the accident and runs like hell after him to find out what was so great inside that homeless woman’s stash.

Back at the World Championship Dance Battle, we’re all completely distracted from the Red Dress girl’s distress at her date failing to show, because the Beastmaster has taken the stage, krunking, breakdancing, and showing his amazing abs to the audience in a way that apparently has clinched him the title the past three years.

Grace, having finished her test, goes to make sure her friend Sauda takes it too, because they need to get the hell out of this dusty shantytown!  But Sauda’s preoccupied with her abusive boyfriend, Fumbe, who immediately offers to snap Grace’s neck on a lark.

Martin finally catches his quarry, who is stunned Martin can see him. “But I’m invisible! Are you invisible too?” Turns out the thing in the woman’s bag was his all along, his notebook on which is scrawled all over with the number 3287, the exact same clue Jake gave to Martin. “It means the dragon is loose; we have to stop it,” the Invisible Knight tells Martin. And yes, Jake wrote his 3287 on a dragon illustration. Martin somehow avoids reeling with worry his son’s going to turn into a guy haunting underpasses as an adult, and instead tags along with the Invisible Prince to see what’s up with 3287.

Clea keeps trying to get Jake to look her in the eye. Seriously, has she read ANYTHING about eye contact issues for people with severe autism? Jake, quite sensibly I feel, refuses to play “the cow goes moooo,” and instead drives his little toy car along the wall, down the hall, and right under the door to Room 6.

Grace tells her little brother Thabo and his friends to stop dancing, even though Thabo wants to compete in the World Championship Dance Battle (*gasps* against the Beastmaster? Be careful, Thabo!). “Thabo needs to learn how to read and write,” instead of dancing the day away, Grace exclaims. Killjoy.

“He wants you to stop the pain,” the Invisible Prince tells Martin about Jake’s message, all the while pushing buttons for walk signals and leaving stolen flowers on bus shelter benches. “The final battle is tonight,” the Invisible Prince exclaims, even though the King took his sword and has it on the Mountain of Clare. Um. The Dance Battle? But no, Martin notices the crosswalk woman and the flower-finding woman both heading into a building with a dragon emblem on it. So this is some other skirmish, which sadly does not involve krunking.

The Red Dress girl runs into the Japanese fangirls from episodes 1 and 2, yay!  They’re using an app translator, and make distressed sounds when they realize she’s been stood up and is crying. But never fear, the fangirls immediately get her a large pink cocktail, which, we’ve all been to concerts or events like this, had to cost $40 at minimum. “Girl power!” they shout at her before running off (though this does Red Dress no good, seeing as she doesn’t speak Japanese). But not before leaving that phone that’s been traveling the world (racking up SO MANY frequent flyer miles) for the Red Dress girl to discover.

Flower woman and crosswalk woman appear to be plaintiffs in a class-action suit against the Dragon company, Morton Starling. But they’ll never win without Roger King! Martin tries to sneak into their meeting with the company representatives, only to be waylaid by his former protégé, Rush Middleton (which if that isn’t the name of a total jerkface, I don’t know what is). Rush disparages Martin in a highbrow blueblood way, but fortunately is just oblivious of source privacy enough to give Martin the street address of Roger King. Roger King, who lives on 3287 Avondale—that’s close enough to the mythical King Arthur’s Avalon resting place for me, and for Martin, who breathes, “The king!”

Room 6, where Jake likes to hang out, seems completely empty, Clea learns. Then Clea’s phone rings again, with her mother’s number on the caller id. Meanwhile, Martin heads to the address (the Claremont building, so Mountain of Clare), only to hear that “Roger King is dead,” on the intercom. “Do you know anything about the Invisible Prince?” Martin asks desperately when it seems clear King’s son is going to send him away. The son buzzes him up.

The Invisible Prince turns out to be a character in a bedtime story Roger King told “my brother Walt and me,” King’s son tells Martin. Walt was a genius with numbers, and guess where he used to work as an accountant? Morton Starling, yes, yes, and you know, Morton is close enough to Mordred for my King Arthur referencing, yes indeed. Can they look up the Morton Starling fraud case online, Martin asks. King’s son immediately kicks his kid off the computer, where he was trying to compete with the undefeated Beastmaster at the World Championship Dance Battle. *head spins*

Back in Soweto, the kids re-enter the computer lab, but without Thabo, only to discover they’re up next against the Beastmaster. “I’m no Thabo,” the little boy they choose to compete worries. “You’re better than Thabo,” his friend tells him.  “You’re here!” Well, if that isn’t the secret to life, huh? Showing up for a dance off against the Beastmaster.

Martin discovers Walt had convinced his father, and pretty much everyone he knew, to invest in Morton Starling, because he had invented an exciting algorithm or something that would make them all millions. Um. Isn’t that kind of, I don’t know. Some sort of insider trading? Anyway, the fund shot up in value, but the company bilked the investors of millions. Roger King fell into depression and died, and now “your brother is very much alive…trying to make up for everything that happened.” Martin urgently asks about the sword the Invisible Prince gave the King, the Magic Sword of Truth, and King’s son immediately agrees to let Martin go through his dad’s boxes.

I am always impressed how on this show no one ever says, “No, you know what?  That is the LAST STRAW! I am not running around on your fool’s errand based on some random hunch connected to four digits! No way am I letting you rifle through my dead father’s junk!” No, they immediately get earnestly involved in Martin’s quest and help him resolve everything.

Also, is the theme this week human cooperation, or “awww, shucks, everyone’s got a homeless clinically insane person in their family”? To explore this question, Clea heads to the hospital, because the homeless woman hit by that cab might be her schizophrenic mother. “Was it near the train tracks at Queensboro Plaza?” Clea asks. Of course it was, but why? Her mother used to take her there so she could listen to her mom scream when the trains went by. Dear god, Clea, my sympathy level just went up for you by a GAJILLION. But when she sees the comatose woman, it’s not her mother—the cell phone used to contact Clea must have been stolen.

But wait now, something truly dramatic is afoot, so hold on your hats: Dr. Arthur Teller has AT LAST TAKEN OFF HIS BATHROBE! It’s because he’s decided to snoop around at the Evil State Facility on Martin and Jake’s behalf, and so we can discover he was once a respected professor whose wacky research methods have gotten him ousted from the mental health care community.

Martin and King’s son’s search of Roger’s boxes turns up a safe to which no one knows the combo. If you guessed it’s 3-2-8-7, you win the World Championship Dance Battle! No, no, I’m just kidding. You could never defeat the Beastmaster.

Suddenly, every single storyline begins to amp up in a thronging of people and sounds. Martin rushes the evidence incriminating Morton Starling he found in the safe to that tool of a journalist, Rush Middleton. Grace hears her friend Sauda being beaten to a pulp by her awful boyfriend. Jake, in the Evil State Facility Lounge just as Arthur Teller’s tour finishes in that room, starts to hum ominously, getting louder and louder. Grace leaves her shanty, beating a metal pot with a wooden spoon, and soon all the women who live there join her with their own metal pot beating, shaming Fumbe away from poor Sauda.

And finally, the World Championship Dance Battle comes to its exciting conclusion! As the shantytown women drive away Fumbe, and Arthur Teller watches Jake start to scream in a panic, the little boy from Soweta has his dance-off against the Beastmaster. And even though the Beastmaster busts out this awesome Russian-kick-dance/robot arm combo, the crowd, weary of cheering all day in a hot tent with only $40 cocktails as refreshment, succumb to the utter cuteness of the boy from Soweto, and dethrone the Beastmaster at last.

The Beastmaster is defeated! The crowd roars! “Whatever you wrote, delete it, you’re starting over,” Martin yells at Rush Middleton! As Rush Middleton puts in a call to the plaintiff’s representatives, giving them the much needed promise of evidence to win their class-action suit against Morton Starling, we see Room 6, the empty room with nobody in it whatsoever at the Evil State Facility into which Jake sent his little red car, send that little red car rolling right back out into the hall by itself, whahaaaaat?  That’s just a weird climax topper, unless Touch wants me to do a Scooby-Doo infused “A g-g-g-g-g-ghooooost???” in reaction.

The Beastmaster meets Red Dress girl, who shows him the videos on that phone that’s been around the world, and tells him, “For what it’s worth, I thought you were amazing.” Clearly the Beastmaster has found love!

“We found the sword, slew the dragon, and saved the people,” Martin tells the Invisible Prince. “Kneel, please,” the prince requests, and Martin is a stand up guy, seriously, kneeling down to be dubbed as follows: “In honor of your service in completion of this quest, you will now be known as the Invisible Knight.” His son’s pain is gone as well, the Invisible Prince tells Martin, and clearly we’re going to meet more of these Chosen Ones as the series goes on, yes? Martin tells the Prince he doesn’t have to be invisible any more, that his family will welcome him.

Clea spots the toy car outside Room 6. Arthur Teller puts Jake Bohm’s name on a file (I guess the scream made him file-worthy?). The Invisible Prince silently watches his brother’s building, Grace stands at the computer lab to support her friend Sauda at last taking the test, and Martin tucks in Jake. And a chastened Clea comes in to apologize. “What I said this morning about not jumping every time Jake calls…I know those patterns aren’t so easy to break,” she says, obviously thinking of her mother. And the show closes as Martin tells Jake, “Once upon a time, there was an Invisible Knight, who served a Silent King. And together they helped people who didn’t even know they were there.” And I succumb to the relentless wall of Touch‘s we’re-all-connected tidal wave of emotion and reach for my tissue box.