Touch Review: "The Road Not Taken" (Episode 1.13)
At the end of Touch’s first season, Martin and his son Jake were at the start of a new beginning. Running away from the institution that wanted to put Jake away and traversing from New York City to the West Coast, it seemed like Touch was possibly ready to make a new start, learning from the many flaws the show had in the first season. With this out-of-nowhere episode, airing over a month before the second season begins, it seems like Touch is up to its old tricks again, with no attempt to fix its own past.
It seems like the episode was planning to possibly fill in the blanks between the first and second season (an odd choice, but not for a Kiefer Sutherland show, since 24 did this many times), but in the episode we are never even given a sense of when this takes place in relation to the finale, “Gyre, Part 2.” At the end of that episode, these two found themselves in California, running into Maria Bello’s Lucy Robbins, who was trying to find her daughter. In “The Road Not Taken,” Jake and Martin are on the road and stop in Martin’s old stomping grounds of Willamette Valley, Ore., due to a flat tire. There’s no real sense of time or explanation as to what they are doing in the area at all.
While getting his tire fixed, Jake takes Martin’s car keys and throws them into a dump truck. As he’s messing around in the auto repair shop, Jake brings to the attention of Martin that one of the cars in the shop has had its brake lines cut. Turns out, this car is owned by Martin’s old mentor and boss at the nearby paper. Martin tries to tell his mentor about it, but he runs into one of his past loves. Together they try to crack this “case” that leads to plenty of corruption and a brick being thrown through a car window saying “stop asking questions.” In the end, it turns out it was Martin’s old boss all along and that he has become corrupt. But to be honest, none of this really matters in the larger scheme of things.
Speaking of not mattering, Touch decided to bring back the interconnecting stories starring some of TV’s most irritating part-time characters! First off is Oliver, a radio host on an AM radio station that everyone seems to be listening to. Also, Oliver hosts a show apparently about nothing but good deeds or helping others. One of his “hot stories” is that someone lost their keys on a bus to an eighth grade recycling field trip. Exciting!
Then there’s the weird archer kid who has decided to survive in nature on his own for a week to prove to his parents that they don’t need to worry about him. But they’re not really worried about him; they are more worried about the bills they can’t pay, so his little adventure is completely useless. About an hour in, he encounters a guy who has hurt his leg and can’t walk, which the kid reacts slack-jawed to, even when the guy allows this underage kid to drive his car. The kid is like a younger version of Napoleon Dynamite, if Dynamite liked LARPing.
Finally, we get a story that seems worth paying attention to, that of a family who has been hurt by the tragic loss of their child. The husband has received a promotion, but it means that the two of them will have to move to Paris. The wife is not ready to leave the home she had with her child and is planning on separating with her husband. This all is a fine storyline, until the two worst characters in Touch history return once again the two Japanese girls. Any semblance of a good story is shattered every time they appear, so their arrival on the scene ruins everything. The wife passes out, saved by the two girls. Later she finds out that she is pregnant, somehow solving all of their problems, but any interest was destroyed by that point.
The connecting stories aspect of Touch isn’t the worst part about the series so far. It’s the fact that Touch is so obnoxiously unaware of how serious and humorless a show it is. There’s no level of believability to the show. It’s almost as if Touch doesn’t even understand how the real world works, instead creating an alternative reality where all people look at even the most terrible situations in an optimistic way. Even Martin is just so damn earnest and unshakable. When Jake throws Martin’s keys into the trash, five seconds later it’s no big deal. There’s so little about the show that rings true, and that’s a shame. Flimsy connections with unlikable characters in an unbelievable world doesn’t add up to a compelling show. Maybe when Touch returns for its season premiere, it’ll have made at least some changes—just don’t hold your breath.