I initially feared that Touch might go the route of pure anthology at the cost of developing its main characters. There have been hints throughout the past three episodes that this isn’t the case at all, but “Kite Strings” finally confirmed there's something bigger going on.
Martin received a disheartening letter at the beginning of the episode, informing him that all efforts to continue identifying victims of 9/11 had been exhausted and the Powers That Be were terribly sorry, but they couldn’t identify his wife, Sarah. He admitted to Clea that the headstone in the cemetery we often see him at doesn’t mark any remains at all, that he erected it because he wanted a place where he could go.
In the aftermath of the unfortunate correspondence, Martin took Jake to the cemetery and ran into Bobby, a bike messenger who said that Sarah had tutored him, helping him ditch his bike messenger gig for something better. He'd always wanted to pay her back, and Martin was totally intrigued because he couldn’t recall Sarah ever mentioning a Bobby. He hoped to explore this avenue further, but Jake took off running, as Jake tends to do, chasing his kite and stopping precisely at 9:50...which gave Bobby just enough time to make a quick escape to avoid talking to Martin any further.
On the other side of the world, Abdul, the boy who needed an oven for his family in the pilot, practiced his Chris Rock impersonations and arranged to audition with the troops stationed near his town for a chance to perform at the embassy. He and his friend also started a metal band and chatted with a metal-obsessed hoarder in New York City via the internet.
Meanwhile, Randall, the lottery-winning firefighter from the pilot, wracked with guilt over his role in Sarah’s death, got locked in a basement when he and a minister fell through the dry-rotted steps of a church’s basement and they bonded over Randy’s guilt and the minister’s regret over lost high school love.
Through the trippy, number-crunching crazy fare that's become the standard at Touch, Jake led Martin on a quest for his kite through the city, all the way to (surprise surprise) Bobby’s apartment. Martin noticed a picture of a Bobby’s daughter, named Sarah, and their conversation descended into a shouting match over whether or not Martin was a good husband (touchy subject for him, that). Then Bobby revealed that Sarah wasn’t wearing her wedding ring on the day she died.
Jake climbed out on the fire escape because that’s what Jake does. His kite was tangled near the roof of the building, and while I understood Martin’s panic over Jake scrambling up the escape like a miniature Spider-Man, I also thought, “Dude, your son climbed a cell phone tower like, eight times in the pilot with no problems. I think he can handle a fire escape.”
It’s thoughts like that that make me realize what a terrible parent I’m going to be when I grow up.
Martin realized that Jake wanted Bobby to pull him down from the fire escape and Bobby scurried up there just in time because fabulous climbing skills are meaningless when the universe wants to make a point. Jake slipped, Bobby caught him, and Martin informed Bobby that he'd just paid Sarah back by saving her son.
Back home, Martin dug out Sarah’s planner and scoured it for any mention of Bobby, who, once Martin started paying attention, he found surprisingly easily. He also found a receipt for an engraving at a jeweler who, shockingly, still had the ring waiting for pick-up. Sarah wasn’t wearing the ring on 9/11 because she was having it engraved with the phrase “1 + 1 = 3” to celebrate the addition of Jake to their family.
Say it with me now: Awwww.
But it’s pretty cryptic too, right? Considering the role numbers play in Jake’s life?
Of course it is. And I’m so excited.
Back in Iraq, the soldiers Abdul was supposed to audition for were attacked and stranded in the dark. And in New York, all of the excitement surrounding Jake’s Spidey routine happened to take place in the same apartment building where our hair metal hoarder lived, and he accidentally sent the wrong information to Abdul and the band, telling them to turn their amp up to 950 volts, rather than 50 volts. Their mistake blew the transformer where the injured soldiers were stranded, enabled a rescue party to find them, and after someone finally let poor Randall and the minister out of the church basement, we learned that a female soldier in the attacked troop was the minister’s high school sweetheart.
I was delighted by all of this because it brought another level of connection to the characters we’ve seen so far—and for a mere four episodes, we’ve seen quite a few pass through. Last week, Rob Benedict played Walter, a man with a gift similar to Jake’s that he utilized to right wrongs within his own family. So riddle me this, awesome readers: Do you think the gift Jake and Walter and the "others" Arthur Teller has mentioned connects them to random people, or somehow heightens or highlights connections to people who are already tangentially connected to them? Furthermore, both Walt and Jake have experienced tragic losses in their lives, and Walt’s brother said that Walt was normal until their father died. Since Jake was an infant when his mother was killed, it would be hard to make that comparison, but consider Jake’s aversion to being physically touched...if you had a baby that freaked out every time you picked it up, you’d take it to a doctor, right? With that in mind, I’m currently assuming that Jake was a “normal” baby until Sarah was killed, and this whole universal number business is something that people end up with in the aftermath of some sort of tragedy.
Hit me with your best thoughts.