The Welsh countryside is kind of terrifying, as we open on an artsy shot of a car speeding down a lonely single lane road through the hills, with the clouds rolling by fast in the dark overhead. The driver answers her ringing phone and shouts over her very loud music that she’ll be there in an hour and a half, tops, and then loses reception, so she tosses her phone into the passenger seat, annoyed, only to look up and see someone sprawled in the middle of the road.
They’re in a big hoodie and facing away from her, and they look tied up. She stops the car, looking cautious and a little freaked out, and gets out, being sure to slide a huge wooden baseball bat out from under her seat, because she’s awesome and has more of a brain in her head than I would. She approaches the body slowly, not getting an answer when she calls out to it. She pokes it with the bat a few times, and when she tries to roll it over, a soccer ball rolls out of the hood. It’s not a body at all. It’s a decoy. Someone behind her pulls the keys out of the ignition in her car, and the music dies. When she runs back to it, it’s settling on four slashed tires. She gets back in, but the keys are gone, so all she can do it lock the doors and try to use her useless phone to call for help. Then there’s something walking on the roof. She panics, following the sound with her eyes, and then something unlocks all of the doors with her keyfob and yanks the driver door open. She screams! Welcome to Torchwood!
In not-terribly-less-terrifying-but-very-pretty daylight, Team Torchwood drives down that same stretch of rolling Welsh emptiness. Owen espouses his opinions about the countryside. (“It’s dirty, it’s unhygenic, and what is that smell?” “That would be grass.” “It’s disgusting.”) At a roadside food stand, Jack spreads a map over the hood of the SUV and explains why we’re here: there have been seventeen disappearances over the last five months, the last known whereabouts of each person being in a twenty mile radius of where they’re standing. No bodies found, no patterns among the victims, so he’s suspecting Rift activity. They have no idea how far the Rift spreads, and it’s getting more active all the time, so it isn’t totally out of the question that it dumped something out here in the middle of nowhere.
Over Owen’s loud arguing, the team sets up camp as something watches from nearby. Gwen starts a rousing game of “Who’s the last person you snogged?” because camping brings out the twelve-year-old in all of us. Hers was Rhys, obviously, but Tosh’s was Owen. “3am, New Year’s Eve, in front of the Millennium Center waiting for a cab. I had mistletoe.” Owen’s was Gwen, during Cyberwoman, which he has no problem pointing out with an evil little smirk, and Tosh is hurt. She has an obvious crush on Owen. Gwen is embarrassed and annoyed at him. “It was complicated.” Gwen pulls Jack into the game and he asks whether they’re counting non-human life forms, which sends giggles all around, quickly cut short by Ianto, saying softly, “It’s my turn, is it? It was Lisa.” What was left of the happy mood is officially shattered. Gwen apologizes, and Ianto asks whether she’s sorry Lisa is dead or sorry she mentioned it. Gwen says she just didn’t think. “You forgot,” Ianto says. After a huge, uncomfortable silence, Owen stands up and says that they should collect some firewood, and Gwen goes to help him.
Off in the woods, Gwen and Owen are arguing about Owen telling everyone about their kiss. Owen says that she wants him, but she’s afraid of it. “We’d be amazing, and that scares the shit out of you.” They are at this point pressed against a tree, very close to some outdoor-inappropriate activities, when over Owen’s shoulder Gwen notices someone watching them through the trees. Both looking as though it pains them to leave this position, Owen coordinates their move and counts down, and they both run with their guns drawn to try and catch the peeping Tom. They lose him, but Gwen notices something on the ground covered in a tarp, and they approach it slowly. Owen uses a branch to pull the tarp off, and reveals a decaying body, stripped of all flesh. Obviously, they’re horrified. The team seals off the area and throws around ideas: did Gwen and Owen interrupt a burial? Was it left here as a warning? As they wonder, they hear the sound of a car nearby, and realize that it’s the SUV. They all run to see their campsite being wrecked and run over by whoever their joyriders are. They try to chase them, but the SUV guns it away, and they’re left stranded in the middle of nowhere. Joy.
Among the wreckage, the team (mostly Owen and Tosh) argue about whose fault it is, while Ianto gets a tracking signal on the SUV. It’s about three miles away; Owen says that they must be gunning it, but Ianto tells him that it’s been stationary for four minutes. “I’d go so far as to say it was parked.” Gwen, looking at a map, says that there is a small village in that area, but nothing else for miles. “Call me suspicious, but this has all the hallmarks of a trap,” Tosh says. Jack was thinking the same, but is totally unperturbed. “Anyone fancy a walk?” And they get moving.
They take a moment to pause dramatically among the beautiful scenery, and then end up in a tiny little village. Jack sends Tosh and Ianto to find the SUV, while he, Gwen and Owen look around here and talk to the locals. Thing is, there are no locals. No one is around. The pub they go into is dark and empty, but looking around upstairs, Gwen discovers another rotting, mutilated body. She staggers away, gagging, and Jack and Owen appear to see what’s wrong. Owen goes pale and mumbly, and there is the noise of a door slamming shut from downstairs. Jack pulls Gwen out of the room and outside to chase whoever it was, but there’s still no one. They go into the next house and find yet another body. Gwen is terrified. “What did this, Jack? Because whatever it is it can’t be human. How far is this going to spread?” She asks if Jack ever gets scared. He doesn’t answer.
Somewhere nearby, Tosh and Ianto are approaching an old house. Using the tracking device, Ianto tells Tosh that the SUV is about a half-mile beyond the house, and Tosh takes the device from him, to his amusement. Tosh doesn’t really seem comfortable when she isn’t in charge of the tech. Something is hiding and watching them as Tosh kicks over something rusty and Ianto tries the door, which rattles in the frame but doesn’t open. All of the windows of the house are boarded up; it looks abandoned. In the distance, there’s a loud noise, like a shriek. Ianto says it’s probably just a fox, but they both look tense. They split up to go around to the back of the house. Tosh tries the door back there, but it doesn’t work either. There are rabbits and birds hanging from the branches of a barren tree, so someone must have been hunting. When someone appears around the side of the house, Tosh raises her gun in surprise, then lowers it when it’s just Ianto, with his arms raised. They split up again, Tosh still examining the house, while we follow Ianto in a long, pretty shot walking off in the direction of the SUV. He calls to Tosh that they should keep going towards it, and when he turns around, Tosh is nowhere to be seen. He’s alone, and instantly certain that something is wrong, so he pulls his gun and shouts her name. Ianto isn’t actually a trained field agent for Torchwood, so his grip on the gun is shaky and uncertain as he holds it out in front of himself and rounds the house again. Something crosses behind him, and he spins, panicking, trying to follow it, but then something behind him pushes him down to the ground.
Back at the village, Jack and Gwen have one more door to try. When Gwen tries it, it’s locked. She peers in through the dark gap allowed by the chain lock, but doesn’t see anything, so with a nod from Jack, she pulls it hard enough to break the old chain. The momentum makes her stumble for a second, and when she regains her balance, she looks up into the doorway, and is immediately shot in the stomach.
Jack is on her in a second, calling her name, before he turns around and points his Webley at Gwen’s shooter. It’s just a kid, holding a shotgun, terrified. “I thought you were them! I thought you’d come back for me!” Outside, Owen finds Gwen writing in pain and he and Jack hurry to pick her up and take her inside to lay her on a kitchen table. Gwen is in total agony and won’t stop moving; when Owen lifts her shirt, we can see that a spray of buckshot clipped her in the lower right abdomen. Owen numbs it with a syringe (“Want to hear a quip about a small prick?” Gwen, slightly hysterical: “No, but thanks for offering.”) and starts tweezing the pellets out. “There’s gonna be a certain amount of residue, so just lie back and think of Torchwood.” Owen’s bedside manner is surprisingly good for such an intentionally abrasive guy. When the painkiller starts to take effect, Gwen calms. She asks him if he misses being a doctor. In very cute side profile, and with a very sweetly doctory tone, Owen says, “Excuse me, I still am a doctor. I just don’t deal with patients anymore, that’s all.” He adds, in a conspiratorial whisper, “It’s ideal. That was the bit I always hated.” When he pulls one pellet out of her wound, he shows it to her, and they have a little Moment, before it breaks and Gwen looks away.
Jack comes downstairs from checking out the upper floor and makes the kid who shot Gwen tell him what happened. He says that everyone’s dead. “It’s not human. Look, my mum won’t know what’s happened, they’re only expecting me back for the weekend. What are you gonna do? You can’t fight them, they’re too strong. The only thing you can do is barricade the door.” Jack says they’ll set up base at the pub, and Owen asks about Tosh and Ianto. Jack says they can’t go after them until they know what they’re dealing with. Owen is unconvinced. “What if it’s too late?” Jack says they aren’t children, they know what to do. He goes to pick up Gwen, but Owen stops him, annoyed. “No, it’s all right. I’ve got it.” Jack gives them A Look. A “I know exactly what is going on between the two of you, and I do not approve” look. Once again, Dad’s mad. Owen helps Gwen off of the table, and when she tries to walk on her own, she stumbles back into him. The kid (Kieran,Calum Callaghan) interrupts their third Intimate Look Moment with an ill-timed, “I’m sorry about your friends.”
Speaking of our friends! Somewhere in the dark, Tosh wakes up on the ground. Nearby, Ianto sits on a box, clutching a crowbar. He greets her newly-conscious self with, “You know, I never liked camping.” Well, Ianto, now you have a really good reason to dislike it. Tosh pulls herself to her feet and checks for her gun, but it’s gone. They missed her flashlight, so she turns it on and shines it around. “Charming place they’ve got.” It looks a bit like a dungeon. Chains, metal, underground. Ianto asks her what their chances of rescue are, and Tosh says, typically awesome, “We won’t need rescuing. I haven’t met a cell yet I couldn’t get out of.” Neither of them know what their attackers looked like. Ianto is more than a little freaked out. Tosh tells him to try and get the dead light to turn on, and he talks as he works, oddly calm. “You’re used to this, aren’t you? That facial expression you all share. When things get a bit out of control, like you enjoy it. Like you get a high from the danger.” He gets a little more accusatory as he speaks. Annoyed, Tosh asks if he wants her to apologize for that, but that isn’t what Ianto’s looking for. Angrily, he says, “Don’t you ever wonder how long you can survive before you go mad or get killed or lose a loved one?” Tosh shouts at him, “It’s worth the risk, to protect people!” But he shouts back, “And who protects us?” They stare at each other for a second, and then the tension breaks. They both breathe little laughs. Tosh says that she’s hungry, and Ianto says that she shouldn’t have turned down that roadside cheeseburger at the beginning of the episode, and that is when Tosh finds a shoe on the floor. Looking closer, sweeping the flashlight, Tosh and Ianto see a huge collection of shoes, men’s and women’s, all different sizes and types, along with abandoned clothes. The shoes and clothes of the victims. Tosh sees a fridge and opens it, then immediately regrets it. Horrified, she closes it, and tries to keep Ianto from opening it again, but he fights past her and looks. It’s meat, wrapped in plastic. And a human foot. “That’s why there was nothing left on the body. They need to eat. We’re food.”
Back at the pub, Jack and Owen are still fighting about whether Tosh and Ianto will be okay. Gwen writes what they know so far on the darts scoreboard. There have been at least 17 victims, and they don’t know of any aliens that strip their victims of flesh. Outside, they hear something move, and then something else. They grab their guns, but Jack says not to jump to any conclusions. “We don’t know who they are or what their intentions are.” Then the lights cut out with an electric pop. That, Owen says, is a pretty good sign. Something starts trying to open the barricaded door, and Kieran wakes up, already panicked. The room goes absolutely silent for a second. Then the cellar door handle starts to turn back and forth. It’s only locked by a chain and flimsy padlock. “Okay,” Jack says, “so we forgot to check the cellar.” As the lock breaks, Jack slams his body against it to keep it closed, and whatever is at the barricaded front door manages to push in enough to tumble the chairs and tables stacked in front. Jack lets the cellar door fall open and shoots whatever is down there, and at the same time, someone starts shooting from the front door, and Gwen and Owen have to take cover, allowing their attackers to pull Kieran out into the dark and run. Gwen tries to go after him, but Jack stops her. He heard the thing in the basement fall; they can find out what it is. Gwen tells him to do that while she and Owen find Kieran and the others. Jack argues that she’s wounded, but finally lets them go. “Be careful.”
Back in their horrible dungeon, Tosh and Ianto are trying to find weaknesses in the reinforced steel door. Despite knowing that it’s impossible, Ianto starts aiming methodical kicks at it, because there’s really nothing else to be done – but then they hear the door opening, and they flank it on either side. When someone crosses the threshold with a shotgun, Ianto grabs her from behind and Tosh grabs a meat hook as Ianto gets thrown off and scrambles to his feet. The woman says, “Get off of me, you idiot! I’m not going to hurt you!” Tosh points out that the woman has a gun, but she puts up her hands and looks afraid enough that they believe her at least a little. She asks if anyone else knows they’re there, if they managed to call for help; Tosh says that they don’t need any help, but there are three more of them in the village. The woman looks petrified as she says, “I can’t help you. I’m sorry. I’ve been sent to collect you. I’ve got to take you to them.” When Tosh tells her that they can help, whatever is happening, she just laughs. “No one is safe. Every ten years, it takes us again. The Harvest.” When Ianto tries to get past her, she pulls the gun up again and points it at them. “You have to come with me.” Tosh hesitates, then knows she’s beaten, and throws down the meat hook.
In the pub cellar, Jack finds a bunch of very gross mason jars, and then the thing he shot, huddled against a wall. It’s just a man. He’s injured, obviously, and when Jack asks him if he attacked them, the man says, “Help me! I’ll tell you everything!” Jack slams him down on a table and ties a tourniquet around his bleeding leg. “This’ll help you for a short amount of time. Now start talking.” The man giggles with Jack’s hand around his throat. “You don’t know!” So Jack takes the tourniquet off. “You need to know something. A long time ago, I was pretty good at torture. See, I had quite a reputation as the go-to guy. My job demanded it at the time, y’see, so I know where to apply the tiniest amount of pressure to a wound like yours–” And he does. The man cries for him to stop. “It’s in your power to make me stop. Just tell me what I need to know, because in ten seconds, I’m gonna find a sharp object.” The man stops him. “All right! I’ll tell you everything.”
Out in the dark, Owen and Gwen stumble onto a road, down which is rushing a little police car with its lights and sirens on. The officer gets out and asks who they are, and as always, saying “Torchwood” does nothing. There is a light through the trees in the distance, and Gwen asks what it is. The officer says that it’s a village hall, and that there’s a meeting tonight, which is why he’s here. Gwen and Owen stumble past him and towards the light without a word. “Where do you think you’re going?”
Meanwhile, Tosh and Ianto have been taken to a house at gunpoint by that woman. It smells terrible there, and as Tosh and Ianto pull back a dirty, torn plastic curtain, they are greeted with the really horrible sight of a kitchen with several bodies wrapped in plastic and hanging upside down from meat hooks on the ceiling, as well as jars filled with organs, knives, and wow, so much blood. Disgusted and afraid, Tosh says, “Tell us what these creatures are. Do they look like us?” From behind her, there’s a voice, and a deadeyed, blankfaced man (Evan, Owen Teale) steps into the kitchen. “How else are we gonna look?” He and the woman (Helen, Maxine Evans) begin to laugh, and they kiss messily. Helen was with him! The enemy was human all along! Ianto tries to run past them, but Evan hits him in the stomach and he drops, giving Evan the chance to handcuff him. Helen keeps the gun on Tosh. She tells Evan that there are three more of them. He asks how they are, and she says, “They’re in a good state. I think they’re the best we’ve ever had.” Oh, jeeze, crazy country cannibals. See, this is why I don’t camp. (Also the possibility of monsters/The Blair Witch.) Evan says, “Oh, I forgot to tell you. I got the boy, finally.” And he pulls Kieran out from behind a counter. Tosh asks who he is, and Evan looks at her. “He’s meat. I’m afraid we’re all just meat.” Flaily muppet arms of horror. These guys are honestly nuts, especially Evan, in that awful, childish, intimidating way. When he walks past them, Ianto tells Tosh to get ready to run. Evan grabs a bat, and when Tosh asks, “What are you going to do, put us on meathooks?” Evan says no, because meat needs to be tenderized first, and touches her way inappropriately. When she meets Ianto’s eyes, he nods at her, and when Evan turns to him, he gives a big old smile, and headbutts Evan right in the face, giving Tosh time to run the hell away. He shouts, “Go, get the others!” as Evan and Helen catch him and he gets punched, then kicked while he down, and Evan goes after Tosh with a machete. Helen smashes Ianto in the face with the butt of her shotgun.
In the woods, Tosh hides with her hands tied behind her back while Evan stalks around in the dark making noises like he’s calling for a cat and laughing. Creepy. When he walks away from her, she gets to her feet and tries to run, but he catches her and throws her down. She manages to kick him in the balls and run, and he chases her. She can’t move very well with her hands tied, but she tries. She runs as far as she can before she falls and he catches up with her. “No more games,” he says, then rolls her over and starts to choke her. It’s about half a minute before suddenly a gun appears against his temple, and Owen says, “Get off her, or I’ll shoot!” He doesn’t, just smiles and keeps strangling her, so Owen kicks him in the head and he rolls off of her. Gwen cradles Tosh and tells her that they saw the Evan’s flashlight. The cop stands over them, watching, as Tosh wails, “They murdered all the villagers! They’re cannibalizing the bodies!” Gwen tells the cop that he can arrest Evan now, and Evan laughs and says, “Are you gonna arrest me, Huw?” Huw (Rhys ap Trefor) smiles. “That’d be a laugh, wouldn’t it? My own uncle.” And he pulls his gun and points it at Owen, who is pointing his gun at Evan. God damn it. Gwen points her gun at Huw, so we have a three-way standoff. She tells Huw, “Put the gun down, don’t you hurt him. Put the fucking gun down.” Evan tells Huw to pull the trigger, split Owen’s skull, and he’s just about ready to when Owen shakes his head very slightly at Gwen, and she hesitates for a moment before giving up and letting Huw take her gun. So now they’re all terrified and screwed!
There’s a jarring smashcut as Evan and Huw throw Gwen, Owen and Tosh through the front door of the Butcher House, and line them up in front of a bunch of vaguely menacing, unkept people sitting around a table. Gwen asks who they are, and Helen says that this is the village. “The villagers are dead!” Not so, Gwen! These are the villagers! All of the villagers are cannibals! “This is our harvest,” Evan says. Owen calls them sick fuckers, which doesn’t go over well, and they’re all pushed into the kitchen. Tosh asks, “Where’s Ianto? What have you done with him?” And everyone is horrified when Evan reaches behind the counter to pull Ianto up and rip a sack off of his head to show how bruised and swollen (“tenderized”) he is. “Wake up, lad,” he says, slapping Ianto’s face. “Time to be bled! Like veal.” He grabs a bloody cleaver. Ianto is whimpering, desperately afraid. “It takes a long time, but it definitely makes the meat taste better.” He puts the cleaver against Ianto’s throat, but then the whole house is shaking. Evan drops Ianto and goes to the door, where a noise like a motor is coming louder. “What now?” he asks. And then, through the door, a big goddamn tractor rolls into the house. Jack jumps out and, yelling, shoots everyone he sees who isn’t a teammate in the leg or shoulder. He bends down and is about to shoot Evan right through the head when Gwen tells him to stop. “Let me question him! I have to understand, I have to know why other wise, this? This is too much!” He hesitates for a moment, but then lets Evan go.
Later, Gwen sits across a table from blank-faced Evan, who tells her in a dull voice that every generation, once a decade, the townspeople would attack people passing through and butcher them. He doesn’t seem to care very much about being there. She asks him why he does it. “Come on. Make me understand.” He asks why she cares. “I have seen things you would never believe, and this is the only thing I can’t understand.” Evan just smiles, first at Gwen, then at Jack. He tells her, “Then keep on wondering.” She yells at him, but Jack stands and says it’s time to go. Evan offers to tell her something, but only if he can whisper it. His eyes are big and wet and absolutely crazy. She lets him, and he leans across to her to say this: “Because it made me happy.” Gwen is completely incapable of computing this, and just stares in front of her as Jack pulls Evan away, outside, where he’s packed into a police car with the others.
At home, Gwen and Rhys watch TV, and Gwen in voiceover talks about having a good life before all of this, and the future she thought she would have. “And then I met you lot. All these things – all these things, they’re changing me. Changing how I see the world.” We, the viewers, have been feeling that, too. It was sort of fun in the beginning. Now everything has gotten more and more serious and sad and frightening, over the last few episodes. Now Gwen is standing in a big apartment with huge windows overlooking the bay at night. Out of voiceover, she says aloud, “And I can’t share them with anyone.” Owen, shirtless, appears behind her reflection the window. “You can now.” They kiss.
Next time on Torchwood: if anyone offers you the ability to read the minds of the people you love, please remember that it is a terrible idea.