Retro Recap: Torchwood, Episode 1.09, “Random Shoes”

I’m going to open this with a warning that, if you’re in the midst of recovering from losing someone important to you, you may want to skip this recap and this episode. Just sayin’.

We begin with a voiceover by someone new – his name is Eugene Jones. And he’s lying in the middle of the road. He gets up, looks around confusedly, and heads a few feet down the road, calling out to Jack, Gwen, and Tosh by name. Who is this dude? Oh, he’s also the corpse at the car crash that Torchwood has shown up to investigate. Gwen says they should have taken him more seriously, he was always trying to show them stuff. Eugene, meanwhile, has discovered that he’s both dead and insubstantial. Sorry, Eugene.

Eugene’s mobile rings, and it’s Eugene’s mother. Well, that’s sad. Eugene wrestles with the fact that he’s dead and possibly a ghost. Gwen looks through Eugene’s phone, and there’s just pictures of people’s shoes.

Oh, good, plot exposition from Eugene! We go back to his youth, when he messed up at a math competition at school. His father’s disappointed, everyone blames him, Eugene feels horrible. Eugene’s teacher comes in, and in an attempt to cheer the boy up, shows him an eyeball that fell from the sky (as teachers do). The teacher gives Eugene the eyeball, and that night, Eugene convinces himself it came from an alien. This is also the night that Eugene’s father walks out on the family. Eugene becomes obsessed with the eye, and with the eye’s owner coming back to claim it. When Eugene grew up, he was always interested in UFOs, aliens, etc. So when he first met Torchwood, he was thrilled, but they dismissed him – never even listened long enough for him to show them his eye.

In the current timeline, Gwen goes to inform Mrs. Jones that Eugene’s died. Owen and Ianto go into Eugene’s room and find his collection of alien artifacts. Gwen notices that something’s missing, so they take some of Eugene’s stuff with them. Mrs. Jones is heartbroken.

Back at the base, Eugene looks at Torchwood’s headquarters for the first time and is overcome with awe. Owen’s so dismissive, Gwen winds up doing the autopsy. Eugene faints dead away at the sight of himself, and Gwen turns to the spot where he fainted.

Eugene goes back to his house, watches his mother sobbing through the window. Back at the base, Gwen wonders if Eugene committed suicide. She says she feels like there’s something going on. The next day, she goes to return some rented DVDs Eugene had and takes his cellphone with her. She goes to a lunch café that was apparently where Eugene had lunch everyday, but no one there remembers him. Gwen clicks through the last photos on Eugene’s phone, and ghost Eugene (Head Eugene? Wait, wrong recap) suggests that Gwen call Gary. Gwen goes through Eugene’s contacts and calls Gary. Gwen goes to the DVD place, and the clerk remembers Eugene, but also wonders if he killed himself, while also flirting with Gwen.  The clerk also calls Eugene a failure. Eugene questions this, explains that he was waiting for the alien to come back.

Gwen (and Eugene) go to Eugene’s work, and we find out that Eugene can’t remember how and why he died. We talk to Eugene’s friend Gary, and also a coworker named Linda. Gwen and Linda agree to meet later for a chat. Gwen goes to Eugene’s cube and finds another flier for “black holes and the uncertainty principle.” At the chat with Linda, we find out that Eugene promised Linda that they’d go to Australia together (it is now clear that Eugene was in love with Linda.) We also find out that Eugene was planning to sell the eye to fund the trip to Australia. He brings it into work, explaining that he’s going to sell it on eBay – everyone’s skeptical. All of a sudden, someone’s bid 15,005.50 pounds for the eye. We have no idea who bought the eye.

Eugene’s mum calls, and Gwen leaves Linda to go see her. Mrs. Jones is watching a video of Eugene as a boy, when he failed the math competition. Eugene’s younger brother, who seems to be a total prick, informs Gwen and his mother that Mr. Jones does not in fact have an important job in America (as Mrs. Jones just explained to Gwen) but instead is working at a gas station a few miles down the road. This leads to Eugene remembering why he decided to sell the eye – he went to visit his father, and decides that his entire life is a lie, based on lies, so why not sell the eye? Gwen goes to go talk to the father, but Eugene yells at her not to, so she stops. Eugene apologizes for yelling, and Gwen says “It’s okay” as if they’re having a conversation. EXCEPT EUGENE IS DEAD AND NOT REALLY THERE.

Back at headquarters, Jack gives Gwen a talking-to, telling her to give up, but Gwen perseveres, 1) because she’s Gwen and 2) she’s got Eugene cheering her on. Gwen goes to the black holes and uncertainty principle display that Eugene had fliers for and finds Gary there – he takes off running. He then comes back and says he’s not proud of what he’d done. Gary confesses that he created a few fake accounts on Ebay to drive the price of the eye up, but someone else starts bidding huge amounts. Eugene had gotten an email that the buyer wanted to meet up, but he met with Gary beforehand – Gary’s shoes are one of the pairs of random shoes in the photos on Eugene’s phone. He claims he doesn’t know who the other shoes belong to.

That night, we go home with Gwen, and Eugene’s pacing around her bedroom as she goes through his personal effects. Eugene then realizes that he doesn’t want Gwen to find out what’s happened, because then their time together will be over. He loves Gwen. Gwen then takes this moment to get up and look out the window (is she in her own flat or in a hotel?) so that she’s face-to-face with Eugene. He blows air at the side of her face, and it’s almost as if she can feel it.

Next morning, Gwen and Eugene stop at a place called the Happy Cook – Gwen found a piece of paper among Eugene’s things that had the place’s logo on it. Eugene remembers what happened – he got there, and saw Gary and the video store clerk (whose name, I have learned, is Josh) waiting for him. Gary and Josh explain to Eugene that they bought the eye. They were, at the beginning, just trying to cheer Eugene up, but they didn’t bid the 15,000. They did, however bid 15,005.50, so the eye is theirs. Except they obviously don’t have the money – they offer Eugene 34 pounds, but its clear they’re going to try to resell it. As the waitress brings Eugene his banana milkshake, Eugene takes pictures of everyone’s shoes – the camera phone photos that have been confusing Gwen. Josh explains that the person who bid 15,000 is a collector of alien artifacts, Nazi memorabilia, and beanie babies. Josh then makes a grab for the eye, tries to run out of the diner, but Eugene tackles him, grabs the eye, and swallows it. The waitress tells all of this to Gwen. Gary and Josh show up at the Happy Cook, and with Gwen apparently out of view, Josh instructs the waitress not to tell anyone anything. Gary realizes its too late, and then punches Josh, because he misses Eugene. Gwen sits down with the boys and finds out the real story – Josh and Gary chased after Eugene, who ran into traffic to get away from them. Gwen says alright, and then calls Eugene’s father. She introduces herself as a friend of Eugene. Eugene then remembers how he felt before he died – happy to be alive, happy to be running across a field. The way he sees it, swallowing the eye gave him a chance to see his life how it really was. At Eugene’s funeral, Eugene’s father shows up, vaguely apologizes, and sings Danny boy.

Eugene’s body is cremated, and Gwen gets the eye back. Gwen starts to talk to Eugene as if she knows he’s there, saying that the eye is in the bag now, not in him. Gwen heads over to Mrs. Jones’ house. Just then, though, Torchwood shows up – Gwen brushes them aside, asks for 5 minutes. She watches Eugene’s father show up and shake hands with Eugene’s little brother. As she begins to cross the street, a car barrels by, and Eugene pushes her out of the way, landing on her, and somehow becomes visible – everyone can see him. Gwen kisses him, and then there’s lots of bright light and Eugene fades up and away as Gwen begs him to not go.

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CherriSpryte

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4 thoughts on “Retro Recap: Torchwood, Episode 1.09, “Random Shoes””

  1. I wasn’t entirely sure with this one if the writers were trying to go with a “Gwen has a special sense for these sorts of things” or if “This is a special circumstance because of their previous contact.” I suppose it was another case of the first season writers still trying to get their legs under the show and figure out what they wanted to do with it.

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