Welcome back to Torchwood! We begin in Cardiff, 1812, where a prostitute named Mary (Daniela Denby-Ashe) leads a British soldier out into the forest with every intention of happily deflowering him. She asks whether it’s his first time, and if the other boys in his regiment are making fun of him, and he slaps her once, and then again. Because Mary is a cool, self-respecting prostitute, she tells him that she isn’t his hound and hits him right back, leaving scratches in his cheek. He looks at her with murder in his eyes, so she runs. She only stops when she hears a terrible metallic sound, and sees a huge, pulsing light through the trees. She runs towards it, with him right on her tail. He stops, pulls his gun, and then follows her towards the light, which disappears when he gets closer. He finds her with her back to him, and when she turns around, he asks, “Do whores have prayers?” She smiles like she has a secret, and he pulls the trigger.
In 2008, Owen is driving the SUV like a maniac as always, and the team pulls up at a construction dig site. They all duck into a big tent, while outside of the police tape, a woman who looks just like Mary watches with her arms crossed. Jack complains about these tents never mean parties, just dead things. This particular dead thing is a skeleton from 196 years ago, next to a big stone thing that looks like The Tingler for particularly gigantic heads. Owen says that the skeleton is a lady skeleton, shot in the chest. They gather their things and get ready to take it all back to the Hub. Gwen and Owen are all flirty and adorable; Tosh is unimpressed.
Back at the Hub, Gwen and Owen continue to be all flirty and adorable, but in that annoying way that happens when your friends start dating and you would rather carefully tap needles into your eyeballs than sit in the same room as them and their goofy antics. (Is that just me?) They’ve managed to kick the plug out of Tosh’s computer while playing soccer, and Tosh shouts at them, because she was running something important to her on that computer. Gwen is legitimately apologetic; Owen says, “Do you know what, Tosh? Sometimes I think that stick up your ass has a stick up its ass.” Such a charmer, Owen. Tosh is hurt. At the end of the day, she sits in a (very, very nice) bar nursing a glass of white wine, when lo and behold Modern Day Mary appears next to her and asks if she can sit with her, because a guy won’t leave her alone. Surprised, Tosh agrees. Mary is quite the fast-talker, very smooth and punk-sensual, and when she offers Tosh a drink, she actually calls Tosh by her name, even though Tosh didn’t give it. “Yeah, that was the other thing – I kind of know who you are.” Mary knows a lot about Tosh, her whole background, and she knows about Torchwood. She says that there are a bunch of people who do. She calls them “scavengers,” people who collect alien things. “There’s stuff on the internet, but you have to dig really deep. Don’t think we’re in any way organized. It’s really just a bunch of disparate IT guys who live with their mothers.” Tosh says that she shouldn’t talk to Mary. “So go,” Mary says. But Tosh doesn’t. They end up sitting at a table. Tosh, definitely not still on that first glass of wine, talks passionately about the things she’s found and done for Torchwood, that have scared her or touched her. “And there’s no one to talk to about this! I mean, the guys at work, they’re great, but they don’t see it the way I do.” Then she sobers a little. “I could be fired just for telling you that.” Mary, not worried, pulls a small box out of her bag and opens it to pull out a pendant. “I want to show you something.” She has Tosh put the pendant on, and suddenly Tosh is overcome by something. She looks afraid and overwhelmed, and then we realize why: she can hear what the people in the pub are thinking. Mary tells her to concentrate, and hone in on her voice, and Tosh does. “What am I thinking?” Mary asks. Tosh says it’s too difficult. Mary thinks, “I’m thinking that I want to kiss you.” Tosh reacts strongly, pulling the pendant off and sitting back, surprised. “I’m sorry!” Mary says. “That was – sometimes you can’t control–” Tosh stops her and says it’s fine, embarrassed. She asks where Mary got it, and she says it’s been in her family for a long time. She says that she wants Tosh to have it. “I’ve kept it too long. It changes how you see people.” Tosh says that she needs to show the others, and Mary laughs and says that she bets Tosh won’t. “I know the pendant. You won’t.”
The next morning, Tosh arrives at the Hub and pauses to take out the pendant and put it on. When she gets into the Hub proper, she is immediately hit with Owen’s thoughts as he comes out of the medical bay and tosses her a greeting. Gwen’s there, too, thinking about putting a Weevil in her old boss’s bathroom. Tosh announces that she has something to show them, but is completely distracted by what they’re thinking. Gwen pities her wardrobe choices; Owen doesn’t want to have to sit through another slideshow. (“What’s she talking about? She can be dead weird. I wonder what she’d be like in bed.”) She’s still trying to struggle through an explanation, but then Gwen starts thinking about having sex with Owen that morning. (“I can smell him on me after that shag in his car. That’s twice now, does that make it an arrangement? No, it has to be more than two times, surely. As long as we keep it to two times we’ll be fine.”) After a few more thoughts like that from the both of them, Tosh officially gives up trying to talk to them. She’s hurt and confused. Later, sitting alone in the conference room with the pendant still on, Tosh stares into space while Ianto comes up the stairs and starts to clean up the coffee nook. His thoughts shock Tosh out of her own. “I can’t imagine a time when this isn’t everything. Pain so constant, like my stomach’s full of rats. It feels like this is all I am now. There isn’t an inch of me that doesn’t hurt.” Then he turns to her and false-cheerfully offers her a cup of coffee. Tosh, very affected, tells him that she’s fine, and rips the pendant off when he turns away.
Tosh is angry when she gets home and finds Mary perched on a wall across the street from her apartment. Mary follows her inside, asking if she listened to their thoughts, and wasn’t it incredible. Tosh takes the pendant out of her purse and throws it down. “Why did you give it to me? The things I heard! What they really thought of me! God, these are people that are supposed to like me!” Mary says that they do like her, that the stuff she was listening was so deep inside of them that they didn’t even know they were thinking it. Tosh isn’t comforted. “You think you know someone, and then suddenly you see them for real and they’re bastard little kids!” Mary says that it isn’t everything, or everyone. She puts the pendant back around Tosh’s neck. “I wouldn’t say your thoughts were exactly pure,” Tosh says a little breathlessly. “At least they’re consistent,” Mary says. “No agenda, no resentment.” Tosh is on the edge of tears when she says that they pity her, “But you don’t pity me. That thing you’re thinking now, that’s – pretty graphic.” Mary tells her that it wasn’t her thought, it was Tosh’s. The next one, though, is definitely Mary. “I certainly seem to be enjoying myself,” Tosh says. Mary says that she would, and Tosh kisses her.
After “enjoying themselves,” Tosh doesn’t look terribly happy, sitting in bed still lost in thought while Mary stands in the doorway and complains about her lack of ashtrays. She asks if Tosh is freaking out a little, but she isn’t exactly sensitive. She picks up a card on Tosh’s bedside table – given to her by Owen for her birthday, a few months ago – and connects the dots. “It’s okay. Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been a rebound shag.” Tosh angrily says she wasn’t, because nothing has ever happened with Owen and nothing will ever happen, especially after hearing his thoughts. She throws the pendant, but Mary picks it up again. “It’s not all bad, the pendant. Some of the things it can do are extraordinary.” Tosh doesn’t think any good can come of it, but Mary says she needs to work it out for herself. She needs to go somewhere public, and it will find her. Tosh is tired of the riddles and asks if Mary is even her real name. “Okay, here’s another name: Philoctetes. I’m Philoctetes.” (No, not the little goat man from Disney’s Hercules, although that would be hilarious.) The next day, Tosh takes the pendant somewhere public and listens to the thoughts of the people passing by her. Some are odd, some are funny, but one is frightening: A man with a big fishing bag walks by her thinking, “I’m gonna kill them. I’m gonna kill them. Lay their bodies out afterwards and lie next to them, so I’ll have to do myself lying down. Should have practiced that. When Lawrence comes in and finds us he’ll know that this is what’s right and what he’s been doing is trespassing.” The fishing bag is obviously concealing a gun. Tosh follows the man. He rings the doorbell on a house and it’s answered by a little kid playing with a Gameboy, and he goes inside, where a woman tells him in an annoyed voice that she wants the kid home at six. She’s the man’s ex-wife, and the kid is his kid, and Lawrence is her new fiance. As she speaks, he lowers the bag from his shoulder and takes the gun out. When she notices it, she grabs the kid and pulls him back behind her, terrified. He starts to talk about a memory of theirs, as he slowly loads the shotgun and they stare at him. “It was this perfect little memory. We were happy because we were together. All of this nonsense with Lawrence, it’s fine. I forgive you. Because I’m looking at the bigger picture now.” He cocks the gun, and she screams at him not to do this to their child. “It’s okay, it’s just like falling asleep. And we will be together forever.” And then something swings up and hits him on the back of the head. When he falls, we can see Tosh standing behind him, holding a golf club. She tells the woman and the kid that they’ll be okay now.
After all of this, back at the Hub, Tosh walks in on Gwen making fun of Owen in the autopsy bay. Turns out, Owen made a few minor miscalculations. The skeleton from the construction site, which he previously identified as a woman, killed by a bullet hole, is in fact a man. (“A young man,” insists Owen. “A very girly man.”) Instead of a gunshot, he was killed by unidentified trauma. Tosh wanders away from Gwen and Owen’s adorable play-bickering to follow Jack into his office as he makes a phone call. (To the Prime Minister. I honestly don’t know if it’s Harriet Jones or – well. Let’s not spoil it.) She asks Jack whether he’s familiar with Philoctetes. “It came up in a pub quiz.” Moving past his derisive surprise that Tosh likes pub quizzes, Jack tells her that Philoctetes was an archer at Troy who was marooned on the island of Lemnos for ten years. Which, shockingly for a Doctor Who-related show, is kind of right! Except that he wasn’t marooned for an argument, like Jack says; he was marooned because he was injured. But whatever. That still leaves Tosh with the question: why did Mary call herself Philoctetes?
At a café, Tosh tells Mary about her derring-do, following the man who was going to kill his family, and Mary is very impressed. “You were right,” Tosh says, “about the pendant. I see it now, it can be used for good.” She didn’t tell anyone at work, and Mary says that that was wise. “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to kiss you now. You do something unbelievably brave and sexy, I have to kiss you. I don’t make the rules.” Despite being visibly embarrassed, Tosh happily kisses her across the table. When they’re done, Mary leans back and asks about the Giant Stone Tingler they found at the construction site, but Tosh doesn’t know anything about it. She’s working on an admin thing, and Jack’s working on the device. He hasn’t shared anything about it with her. Mary says that that’s strange, and Tosh insists that it isn’t. Mary says, “No, sure! I mean, if he’s keeping stuff from you, there’s bound to be a reason.” Tosh is obviously affected by the implication.
Back at the Hub, Tosh brings Owen coffee where he is still working on the skeleton. He’s trying to figure out what killed it. It’s gnawing at him: the hole in its chest is familiar, but he can’t place it. Tosh asks whether Jack has told him anything about the device, but Owen knows nothing. Tosh puts on the pendant and suffers through a few minutes of Owen and Gwen thinking about each other before she stalks off (“I think my desk is on fire”) and goes to look at the Tingler. Jack swings into the room to tell her that he just came from a conversation with a detective inspector who filled him in on Tosh’s heroics with the man with the gun. Jack is acting odd, a little playfully suspicious but in an intimidating way, and they circle the device as they talk. Tosh told the police that she heard the man muttering to himself and followed him, but Jack doesn’t seem to believe her. Tosh asks about how Jack is getting on with the device; he tells her that it’s ongoing. When she asks further, he just says a little firmer, “Like I said, it’s ongoing.” As Tosh is walking away, she tries to read Jack’s mind. But nothing comes up. Jack straightens, as if he can feel it, but plays it off when they both spin to look at each other. “What, is there something on my face? Is it food?” Oh, Jack. Tosh keeps going. Jack’s big fake smile slowly slides away.
Back home, Tosh tells Mary that she’s giving the pendant to Torchwood. “It makes me feel dirty and ashamed, and now I’ve been spying on my friends.” Mary is angry. “Some friends.” She tries to convince Tosh not to hand it over; they’ll want to talk to Mary about it. “If I go in that place won’t come out again.” When Tosh tries to reassure her and reaches for her phone to call Jack, Mary rounds on her and tells her in a big, alien voice to put the phone down. “Okay,” she says, “I’ll show you.” She closes her eyes, and her face starts to break through with light, until suddenly she’s this big glowy floating telepathic blue alien thing. (A race also used in the pilot of The Sarah Jane Adventures!) Tosh is understandably surprised. Mary says that this is why Tosh can’t tell Torchwood about her or the pendant. Mary changes back, and asks Tosh to say something. Weakly: “So. I’m shagging a woman and an alien.” Mary asks which is worse. “Well, I know which one my parents would say.” Mary explains that her world was savage and ruled by a totalitarian regime under which dissent meant death or transportation to a “feral outpost.” The pendant is how her people communicate. “Speaking orally, using a finite number of words? It’s so archaic. And kind of gross to look at.” She needs the device (a transporter) back in order to get back home, because two hundred years have passed and by now there will be a new government, so she’ll be safe. Tosh says that she should come to Torchwood, that they’ll help her fix the transporter to get her back home, but Mary says that they won’t. “You’ll examine me, assess whether or not I’m a danger, whether I’m useful, then lock me in a cell. You’re not interested in understand alien cultures. Yours is a culture of invasion. Do you really think I’m going to walk, hands raised in surrender, into that?”
At the Hub, Owen is still bothered by the fact that he can’t remember why the injury on the skeleton is familiar. He uses the Torchwood access into Cardiff General Hospital’s records to search through his old patients. At the same time, after using the pendant in public again and hearing only terrible things, Tosh lies in bed, hating how it’s all starting to make her feel, crying and talking to Mary who is perched smoking on a chair nearby. Owen discovers a similar case from his past: shattered ribs, heart removed. He finds more and more people with those injuries, going back in time, as Tosh keeps talking about how terrible it is, that she just wanted to hear one good thing, one little act of kindness, to make her think they are safe, but it was all terrible. “It’s like one of the Weevils. Look inside, it’s just this great, yawning scream.” Owen calls Jack and tells him that he has to see this, while Tosh miserably tells Mary that she doesn’t want to be a part of this world anymore. “I don’t know what to do. Tell me what to do.” Mary tells her to get her into Torchwood.
At the Hub, the cogwheel door rolls back to reveal Tosh and an eager-looking Mary, who walks out and starts quoting Coleridge as she looks around. The device isn’t where it should be, and Tosh tells Mary to wait while she gets it from Jack’s office, but Jack interrupts them. He’s up on the catwalk, holding the transporter, big smile, slow walk as he speaks. “Friend of mine,” he says, “let’s call him Vincent. Regular guy, girlfriend, likes his sport, likes a beer, starts acting a little strange, a little distracted. Suddenly, he disappears for a couple of months. He comes back, and we’ve gotta start calling him Vanessa. Since then I’ve always been a little nervous when a friend starts behaving out of character.” He introduces himself, and has a really bad cowboy accent as he says, “My guess is you’re not from around these parts.” He asks whether Tosh knows what the device is, and she says it’s a transporter, and explains Mary’s political exile. Jack says she got half of it right. The transporter is a two-person transporter. “Or whatever you people may be, you might be squids for all I know. A two-squid transporter. Room for one prisoner and one guard.” She killed the guard, but she was disturbed by Mary The Prostitute back in 1812, so she possessed her body and killed the solider chasing her by ripping out his heart. She’s been doing it ever since; she needs to eat to keep the form. Owen appears, along with Gwen and Ianto. Mary has her big villain rant about hanging around on Earth because she loved the body she’d inhabited and the power it gave her over people, but when they dug up the transporter, she could feel it. Tosh puts on the pendant and can hear when Owen decides to make a move to get Mary, so she shouts for him not to. Mary grabs Tosh and holds a knife to her throat, telling her to make Jack give her the transporter, and Tosh tells her that she can’t, even as she can hear Owen, Gwen and Ianto panicking in their heads. Mary says fine, she’ll trade Tosh for Gwen, and Owen thinks, No, not Gwen. Mary holds that over Tosh. “Did you hear that? He didn’t want you.” They internally react to the fact that Mary can read their thoughts. Mary says that she isn’t like them, whatever she’s done it doesn’t change how she feels about Tosh, while she’s holding Tosh with a knife at her throat. Not super convincing! Jack, concentrating on Tosh, thinks very clearly, Toshiko, don’t move. Don’t do anything until I say. Jack tells Mary that he’ll trade Tosh for the transporter, and Mary pushes Tosh away to let Jack place the transporter in her hands. He keeps holding onto it. She says that he smells different from the others, and asks him what he is. He tells her that he doesn’t know. Then the transporter beeps. She asks what’s happening. “Oh, that. I reprogrammed it for you. It’s set to enable.” Suddenly, Mary beams away in a huge shaft of light as they all watch. Tosh, shocked and upset, asks if she’s gone home, and Jack says that he reset the coordinates. To the center of the sun. “Shouldn’t be hot. I mean, we sent her there at night and everything.” Tosh says that he killed her, and Jack angrily says, “Yes,” and stalks away. Tosh is left sniffling and looking up at where the light disappeared, as everyone else watches her.
Later, Gwen and Owen are arguing quietly up in the catwalks about whether/when to ask Tosh something while she gives a statement to Ianto in the conference room. When she comes out, Gwen asks her, “When did you have this – I dunno, ability?” and Owen asks her what she heard. They’re worried about her knowing about their relationship. “Most of it was noise, emotions. References I didn’t understand.” And the rest? “The rest was none of my business.” No, Owen says, it wasn’t, and he stalks off. Tosh asks Gwen where this leaves them, and Gwen doesn’t know. “We can’t really take the moral highground with this.” She says that this should be her wakeup call to stop sleeping with Owen, but she won’t. “What does that say about me?” Tosh says that she isn’t in the position to make judgments, and Gwen says that that’s her point. “Neither am I.” She can’t be mad at Tosh because she’s also being dishonest. As Tosh starts to walk away, Gwen almost says something, but then stops. Tosh asks her what it was, and she says, “Don’t let this put you off. The last couple of days, you’ve had a look about you. Love suited you.” Tosh looks happy and unhappy at the same time.
Outside, on the Plass, Tosh and Jack sit together on a bench and talk about the pendant. “It’s funny,” Tosh says, “such a small thing could be the most powerful technology we’ve ever found. It could tear down governments, wipe out armies. What do we do with it?” Jack says it’s her call. Tosh hesitates for a moment, then says, “It’s a curse.” She drops it to her feet and crushes it under her boot. She asks why she couldn’t read Jack’s mind. “I don’t know. But I could feel you scrabbling around in there.” He looks uncomfortable as Tosh tells him that she got nothing, like he was dead. He changes the subject abruptly, lightening the mood by joking about what normal bosses do in these situations, but when he stands to go, Tosh says that Mary told her at least one honest thing: when you wear the pendant, it changes the way you see people. She asks how she can live with it. Jack tells her that she only saw a snapshot, but it doesn’t help very much. Eventually, Jack just reaches out and puts a comforting hand on her head, then wipes away tears from her cheek, and turns and walks away, leaving Tosh in front of the Millennium Center to deal with it however she can.
Next time on Torchwood: seriously the greatest episode ever. I love it so much. There’s poetry.