The world premiere of Kiefer Sutherland’s new Fox drama Touch may have occurred on Thursday, but as those who live and die by new TV shows surely know, the show’s actual premiere occurred back in January, in what the network was calling its “preview” episode. While this may be the first Touch episode we’re recapping, in actuality it’s the second episode. To that end, here’s a bit of background about what the show entails.
Sutherland plays Martin Bohm, a widower and father to 11-year-old Jake (David Mazouz). Jake has never talked in his entire life. He’s not mute; he just communicates in other ways. It seems Jake is of the genius variety: he can see patterns in numbers, knows how various people’s lives intersect and sees the big picture of the world. In the preview episode, we were also introduced to two recurring characters: Clea Hopkins (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a Child Services worker trying to help Jake, and Arthur Teller (Danny Glover), the founder of the Teller Institute, a facility that looks at alternate reasons, other than mutism, for why people don’t speak. As the preview episode also indicated, multiple storylines featuring random characters will weave together, all thanks to Jake’s unique insight. Jake is able to connect these people’s lives in ways that defy explanation. And as the “world premiere” episode showed, multiple intersecting storylines are going to be a recurring plot device. Think of it as Crash goes to the tiny screen.
Just as the preview episode did, the world premiere opens with a voice-over courtesy of Jake explaining how patterns are hiding in plain sight. “It’s my job to keep track of those numbers . . . and to make the connections for those who need to find each other,” he says. “The ones whose lives need to touch.”
As the voice-over fades, Martin, Jake and Clea are at Martin’s home. The last episode ended with Jake running away from the facility Clea oversees, going to a cell tower and dialing a number. “I know what he wants,” Martin, who had never understood Jake before, tells Clea. Martin doesn’t want Clea to take Jake back to her facility. Eventually, he gives in and tells Jake to go with Clea. However, before he leaves, Jake writes the phone number of the person he called onto Martin’s hand. After looking up the number, Martin finds out it’s for a store called Arnie’s Pawn Shop.
We’re now at JFK airport, Martin’s place of employment as a baggage handler. A flight attendant is rushing through the airport to get to a dog she is supposed to hand-deliver to a man in Moscow. While running, she bumps into an Indian man who came to New York to spread his father’s ashes on the infield of “New York Stadium” (guess the Yankees aren’t big Kiefer fans). As she bumps into the man, the flight attendant knocks over the elephant urn holding the man’s father’s ashes. When she does finally get to the dog, which is in a cage a flight tarmac, it breaks free and runs away.
At the Child Services facility, Jake and Clea are working together. Jake starts writing the numbers 5296. When Clea gets up for a minute, Jake disappears. She runs to find him. When she reaches a door with a coded padlock, she decides to enter 5296. The door opens. Cue the opening credits.
Back at the airport, the flight attendant finds the Indian man still in the terminal and apologizes to him for knocking over his father’s ashes. The woman offers to accompany him to New York Stadium. Later, on a bus headed to the stadium, the Indian man explains that his father didn’t even like him, but a child owes his father respect, so that’s why he’s carrying out this task. The flight attendant realizes the Indian man never made arrangements to get into New York Stadium, so that may pose a problem.
Martin, meanwhile, decides to go to Arnie’s Pawn Shop. When he arrives, a man in the dark, who we later learn is Arnie, the owner, says “I’m ready.” Martin is confused. He says he came because he was supposed to help him somehow. All of a sudden, a robber comes in wielding a gun. Regaining some of his Jack Bauer-esque capabilities, Martin attacks the robber, who subsequently shoots Arnie. The robber clocks Martin in the face. A baseball rolls out from God knows where. The robber takes the baseball and leaves, and Arnie is taken to the hospital.
We now see the robber meeting with Russian mobsters. He owes them $10K. He takes the baseball out and explains that it’s a famous home-run ball hit by Patrick McGrath – one that he actually sold and now has gotten back, like magic. The mobsters don’t want it, and they say he has three hours to get them their money (or they’ll break his legs, we can only assume).
Martin, still trying to comprehend the pawnshop events, visits Arthur Teller to ask him questions about what all these bizarre happenings can mean. “Sense, are you looking for sense?” Teller asks. Teller tells Martin that Jake sees pain as numbers, and Martin’s job is to follow where it leads. Just then, Clea calls Martin and says she’s lost Jake. But Martin looks out the window of the Teller Institute and sees Jake . . . about to get on a bus. He runs out and hops on the bus.
We’re suddenly now in Russia, where a teenage boy named Pavel is about to put on a magic show. He is nervous, because people don’t like his show. After he performs, only one girl claps. Later, he sees the girl when he’s at a store trying to return his magic tricks out of frustration. The girl tells him that people don’t like his show only because they are scared of him. “Why?” he asks. She says it’s because his father is a mobster in America, “like Tony Soprano.” (Yup, the teenager’s dad is the mobster who is owed money by the robber. It’s all coming together.)
Back in America, Martin and Jake get off the bus. They’re now back at Arnie’s Pawn Shop. However, Martin realizes the number he called was actually Arnie’s apartment, above the store. They go upstairs, enter the apartment when no one answers and find Arnie’s chemotherapy pills. A man appears and gives Martin a wad of cash – $10K, to be exact. The man realizes Martin doesn’t really know Arnie and shouldn’t be in the apartment. He attacks Martin, but using a baseball bat – one with the number 5296 on it. Martin fends off the attacker, grabs Jake and runs outside, escaping into a cab. Father and son head to the hospital to visit Arnie.
Arriving at New York Stadium, the flight attendant and Indian man aren’t allowed inside. All of a sudden, the dog the flight attendant was supposed to deliver to Russia appears. She must chase the dog, so she hugs the Indian man goodbye. Inside the stadium, the robber – who we learn is also a peanut vendor at the stadium – has had a change of heart and decides to return the valuable ball to the player, McGrath, who was in a legal battle with the robber-vendor over the ball. As he walks out of the stadium, the robber-vendor leaves the door open, and the Indian man, waiting outside, smiles, realizing he can now go in and spread his father’s ashes. The robber goes to meet with the mobsters to tell them he doesn’t have their money. But just as the mobster – a.k.a. the Russian teenager’s father – is about to hurt the man, his son calls and confronts him about being a mobster. Like the robber, the mobster also has a change of heart and lets the robber free. “People change,” the mobster tells his son.
At the hospital, Martin and Jake can’t find Arnie; it seems he has escaped. Out the window they see him, still in his hospital gown, walking on a bridge. They approach Arnie as he’s about to jump off the bridge. Martin suddenly puts all the pieces together. Arnie, who has terminal cancer, paid the robber to kill him, but Martin botched it. Arnie wants to die so his daughter, with whom he does not speak, will get insurance money. But just as he’s about to jump, Martin grabs him and pulls him back over the edge. Just then, the flight attendant and the dog show up (yup). It turns out the flight attendant is Arnie’s estranged daughter, Becca. And just like this, all is resolved as Becca and Arnie reconcile.
Cue a closing montage with Jake’s voice-over and images of everything falling into place: Arnie and his daughter are at the hospital holding hands, the Indian man is spreading his father’s ashes in New York Stadium, the mobster comes back to Russia to be with his son, and Martin and Jake are together at home. “It’s you teaching me,” Martin says to Jake of the whole bizarre sequence of events. “And I’m OK with that.”