Touch 1.08 – Zone of Exclusion

Let's see, Jake's got red string, a red kite, a red t-shirt, a red notebook. Do you think red is significant on Touch? SIGNS POINT TO YES!

Jake tells us the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. As I reel in shock from this (why did no one TELL ME?), he clarifies if the path gets blocked and direct connection becomes impossible, the universe will find another way. Meanwhile, we see our Characters Whose Lives Will Be Forever Changed by Numbers and Patterns o’ the week: a cabbie, a French guy leaving his partner by slipping a note under a door, a woman breaking a mirror, and Jake creating a cat’s cradle of pattern-ly significance with a red string.

A man on a bus with a ham radio under his arm unwittingly drops a part as he starts to exit. Lucky for him, Martin Bohm is on the bus, and hands him the vacuum tube he would have left behind. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if that was the quest for the week already done? But no, no, this is simply the first indicator on our mystical road map.

As Martin and Clea ready Jake to go on an outing to a museum with the other kids from the Evil State Facility, Sheri walks out briskly to tell them to hurry, saying, “Let’s light a fire.” That’s an ominous little bit of vernacular there, Sheri.

If Martin wants to have a dog in the custody fight Jake has to show improvement, Clea whispers to him. I actually can’t figure out why that has to happen—Jake is pretty well-functioning for a kid who is supposed to be seriously autistic, and Martin showing he’s just reliable seems the main thing to me. But apparently Jake has to make eye-contact like crazy, laugh politely at terrible jokes, and generally become a hit at birthday parties for his dad to keep custody of him.

As they’re leaving, Clea gets sidetracked because she’s utterly shocked that Jake knows how to make a cat’s cradle. Because, let’s face it, this shows some exciting new dexterity—no, no, it’s because the string pattern mimics the symbol used by the company Evil Auntie Abigail works for, Aster Corps. Don’t even try to pretend you don’t love this weekly mystery, Clea!

In front of the museum, Jake’s constant silent sidling (he’s a real sidler!) has him bumping into a woman. When her phone falls out of her spilled bag, Martin apologizes while Jake slips the phone into Martin’s pocket. Jake takes his red string inside whilst wearing his red shirt, no doubt thinking of his red kite and his red notebook. Inside, there’s an exhibit live-casting the museum visitors in exchange for a live-cast of people in various major cities. A woman in Paris steps up in a red coat, so we know Jake’s destined to disrupt her life in exciting new ways! They touch hands to the screen, but when a person changes the live-cast to Tokyo, Jake has an eensy freak-out on the floor. I’m certain having a truly autistic child react strongly and unexpectedly to random stimuli with rocking or screaming or by lashing out is incredibly frustrating. But Jake’s episodes last all of ten seconds, always make sense (put the woman in Paris back on the screen! give him the kite! fix the universe’s pain—do it, it’s easy!), and are so quickly addressed, he’s seeming like a better behaved ten-year-old than a bunch of the ones I know.

While Martin’s trying to flag down the woman in red to come back so his son can calm down (and it’s one thing to say, “Ssshhh!” to muffler-challenged cars going by, as one dad I know does, but expecting people in cities on entirely different continents to humor your child is some seriously entitled parenting), there’s a whole hullabaloo with phones. The chaos results in Martin figuring out the number of the woman they bumped into outside (555-0101), Veronique, the woman in red, spotting that woman and realizing it’s her presumed-dead mother Simrin she hasn’t seen since her birth, yikes, and Jake calmly going back to his cat’s cradle while Clea and Martin flail around.

“I want to follow the road map, I do,” Martin pleads with Jake. “But there isn’t a number this time, and I don’t understand what the triangles mean.” Clea, obviously moved by Veronique’s tale (because of course poor Clea has to deal with someone else with mother abandonment issues), is Wrong in the Museum when she thinks that may not be Veronique’s mother. Jake’s “you have got to be kidding me; do I not connect disparate people into fateful encounters EVERY WEEK?” stare tells us it is!

Sal, the man Martin helped on the bus with his ham radio part, heads into his taxi dispatcher job, and tells his drivers to do him a solid and talk to their customers, for cripes’ sake! The drivers, who are apparently conspiring to drive Sal to an existential crisis, say nothing at all in reply.

While Clea listens sympathetically to Veronique’s relationship issues—wait, the leaving-guy at the beginning was her boyfriend, skedaddling because apparently her parental abandonment issues have made her reluctant to have kids? Touch is big big big on people embracing the having of babies, yo—she notices this exhibit is sponsored by the obviously sinister Aster Corps where Auntie Abigail works. Aster Corps! We’re in everything!

The woman who broke her compact—bad luck for her!—gets on the horn, calling her space station orbiting astronaut husband. She designed the wacky communications system in his suit, including a ham radio he’ll never, ever have to use because it’s just such a crude technology now (ensuring he will HAVE to use the ham radio in his suit by the show’s end). Then, and I kid you not, they space-sex each other. That’s what all that looking out the window/looking out the space skylight meant, for real.

A cab nearly hits Jake when he leads Martin on a merry chase outside the museum—it’s the cab driver from the start, who picks up the jerkiest guy in the world. Martin asks Jake, “You okay, sweetheart?” and I melt all over my wing chair. When the phone number Martin saw on Simrin’s phone goes through to The Hotel Trio, they leave the museum to find out what’s the what, and of course to endanger Martin’s chances of keeping custody even more.

The housekeeper did it! At least, there’s a housekeeper who looks EXACTLY LIKE Veronique at the hotel.

We check in with our astronaut friends, Allegra inside the shuttle and Gio repairing some satellite outside, so that Allegra can make a joke or two about how if just one. thing. goes. wrong, Gio will be so screwed. Then, guess what???  SOMETHING GOES WRONG! No more communication with Gio, whose space suit is rapidly filling with poisonous air, yikes.

Though Nundu, the Hotel Trio maid (haha, Trio = triangle—oh, Touch, so cunning you are!  *bops Touch on the chin*), insists she’s an only child, Martin knows he’s supposed to reunite her with her sister. Back at the museum, Clea deflects Sheri (i.e., lies like hell and tells her Martin and Jake are elsewhere instead of having skipped out on the outing), while Sheri plays dumb about Aster Corps sponsoring the exhibit in a suspiciously sinister way. With Clea’s help, Martin figures out enough facts from Veronique to convince Nundu what’s going on.

The jerky guy who jumped in the cab earlier conducts a couple of meetings in the cab on the way to JFK. These mainly entail him accepting huge sums of unmarked bills and telling the people he’s meeting with he’s serving a greater purpose. The cab driver side-eyes him in the mirror; he’s on to you, jerky guy! Sal, the dispatcher, tells the drivers including our pal ferrying the jerk, that they’re done for the day, and advises them to hit the bodega on the way home and buy some flowers for the wife. Seriously, this part could be hokey, but the actor playing him (I think it’s Vincent Guastaferro, but wow is it hard to find out who the hell guest-stars on Touch) does a fantastic job projecting determination and yearning to connect with people. No one responds to him, because all these cab drivers are apparently heartless twits.

Nundu’s followed Jake and Martin back to the museum, and is face-to-face with her twin sister for the first time. The cab driver tries to engage Dr. Knox, the jerkiest obstetrician in the world, who says, “Why don’t you just focus on the road so I don’t have to pretend to be interested in anything you have to say?” So we KNOW he’s mean! Though seriously, have you ever been stuck with a chatty cabby for an hour?

Back at the Evil State Facility, Clea insists Martin has to stay for the rest of the day’s activities to help show Jake’s progress. “I know, no more meltdowns,” Martin sighs (guess who is going to melt down???). Even though Martin connected Veronique, Nundu, and Simrin, a triangle of familial angst, Jake starts rocking and doing his cat’s cradle again, so they’re still missing something.

Though Allegra can’t get Gio to respond to her, Houston’s telling her to “go ahead and keep your scheduled rendezvous ” because they are terrible no-good heartless meanies (there is a lot of that going around this ep). Turns out Allegra’s rendezvous is to make a webcast for the kids who spent the day at the museum. “Unfortunately, communication is down temporarily,” Allegra tells the kids, which is astronaut code for “My partner is floating near death in his space-suit just outside, oh my god, what do I doooooo? How will I tell his sexy communications-expert wiiiiiife?”

Allegra entertains the kids with talk of the triangulation of communication, the 5,191 miles separating each of their mission’s three checkpoints. Hey, that’s May 1, 1991, the birthday for twins Veronique and Nundu, Martin realizes. Allegra’s little math problem gives Jake, and Martin, the new number 1604. Unless we want to see Jake have a melt down (and it is just going to be inevitable, and also, extremely short), Jake has to leave the event and talk to the twins even though Sheri is staring at him with the eyes of extreme custody-stripping judgment. Whoops, Allegra has to go, kids, because there’s an ominous red light beeping, meaning Gio’s even closer to death than he was before!

Turns out 1604 is a medallion number for Nundu’s taxi-driving dad. That’s right, the guy driving The Nefarious Dr. Knox is the twins’ father! Flash to the cab, where it turns out that, oh my god, Dr. Knox is the one who took Veronique away from Simrin and her husband. What, you’re not totally grateful I tore your family apart and ruined your life, Dr. Knox asks incredulously. Surprisingly, driver 1604 is not at all grateful, and Dr. Knox bolts from the cab to run awaaayyyy.

Martin catches up with the cabbie dad (who seems to have no name, sorry), and hears the story of how they gave up one of their daughter so they could get the money to provide food and shelter for the other. “He wouldn’t even let us hold our baby,” the man tells Martin, who is horrified. And now Dr. Knox is planning to sell more babies—really, he’s probably sold hundreds upon hundreds at this juncture—and Martin wants to hear all the stops they made so he can stop Dr. Knox from ruining more lives.

Allegra FINALLY remembers the suit Gio’s wearing is outfitted with a ham radio device, though they’re now two minutes away from the Zone of Exclusion, from which no communication is possible. I sad-face like a champ while Allegra proceeds to lose contact with Houston.

Martin runs to catch up with Dr. Knox at JFK, and drops a penny. Ipolita, Gio’s communications-expert wife, picks it up. “My lucky piece!” she explains, so thank hell, Gio’s not going to die in that space suit.

Sheri pulls Clea aside: “We need to have a conversation.” Hey, Clea, Sheri’s on to you. She knows Jake and Martin weren’t in the museum for large parts of today. She’s going to tell the review board what a huge liar Clea is. “I thought we were going to have a conversation?” Clea interrupts, asking her who exactly was in Room 6. She has Sheri’s conspiratorial number! And curse Sheri for actually expecting someone working for her to follow procedure and be where they promise they’ll be. What a mega-bitch! Seriously, though, I get that she’s apparently evil beyond the telling of it.  But maybe Touch can portray this in another way besides her finagling cool tablets for the kids and taking them on fun field trips and expecting her social workers to, you know, be accountable for stuff.

Okay, thank god Sal the awesomely cheerful and friendly guy has a ham radio, because he picks up Allegra’s distress call. And it’s the vacuum tube that Martin returned to him that clears up the static! “Holy crap, I’m talking to space!” Sal exclaims.

Sal’s able to get through to Gio and tell him to head to the airlock. He’s saved! “I don’t know who you are, but I owe you a beer,” Gio says, to which Sal replies, “Just tell me this, how do we look from up there?”  “Beautiful,” Gio says. I hereby demand Sal shows up in several future episodes, because he’s just that cool, and I need some of this fun stuff in between all the moments of angsty significance.

Martin confronts Dr. Knox, telling him the taxi driver recognized him, because “It’s hard to forget the face of the man who stole your child.” You’ll never catch me, never, Dr. Knox says, cackling wildly. Joke’s on you, Dr. Knox, because Martin knows he’s holding fraudulent adoption documents, and has one of the taxicab meeting people to act as an eyewitness. “Nobody has the right to separate a child from the parent they love. Nobody,” Martin scowls as the police cuff Dr. Knox. I really do love your commitment to this, Martin, how your love for Jake keeps you helping others. But in between solving everything for everyone else ever, maybe vow to do one thing a day that won’t sink your custody suit?

Sal keeps on truckin’, doing his cheerful dispatch even though no one replies, and tells his drivers he just saved an Italian astronaut. “Seriously?” “You’re pulling our leg!” “That’s incredible, Sal!” they chime in, and awww, Sal HAS FRIENDS NOW, and this was seriously the most touching moment of the ep for me.

Ipolita and Gio toss the lucky penny into a fountain together. The two sisters reunite and hug, and as Veronique turns to meet her parents for the first time, we see she’s brought her boyfriend, who’s back with her now that she’s got her pesky family issues sorted. Jake’s doing his cat’s cradle again as his closing monologue tells us nature always finds away. “I need you to know that you make a difference,” Martin tells Jake. “Together we change things.” Jake holds out his cat’s cradle to Martin. “Do you want me to make the next move?” Martin asks, and takes the string on his hands in formation.  Okay, this was the OTHER touching moment in the ep for me, because my heart is not made of stone. Here’s a huge example of a breakthrough for Jake, connecting with Martin so deliberately and strongly! But of course there’s no one there to see it.

Next, Clea finds them to tell them she’s off Jake’s case. Oh man, Martin is so, so screwed. Can we have an episode where Martin fixes things for himself, please, Touch?