Wow. In this episode we get lady loving, mythological references, and telepathy. Oh my! The main character focus of this episode is Tosh, who I personally didn’t care for on the first watch, but eventually grew to absolutely love (she’s the character most like me and sometimes seeing your insecurities onscreen is uncomfortable). There’s also the idea that the mutant power many of us would like to have is more of a curse than a blessing.
The action starts in Cardiff, but Cardiff in 1812, as a young woman named Mary is leading a soldier into the woods for a tryst. The soldier seems to think that because Mary is a working girl, it gives him license to slap her around. Mary remarks that she’s not his hound before delivering a hit of her own and taking off into the woods. As she runs, she sees a glowing among the trees and heads towards it. She’s followed by the soldier, armed with a musket. He finds Mary standing in the clearing. As he aims his gun at her, he asks, “Do whores have prayers?” Mary simply smiles as the soldier fores the shot.
Back in modern-day Cardiff, the Torchwood team is on the scene of an archaeological dig with the Mary from nearly two hundred years ago looking on from the sidelines. Inside a tent there’s a skeleton and a rusted alien artifact. Owen has determined the skeleton is female and may have been shot. They bring the body back to the Hub where Tosh is enduring the excessive flirting going on between Gwen and Owen (a torture many of us have experienced) and the fact that Owen’s messed with her computer and interrupted one of her projects, infuriating Tosh. Tosh leaves for a local bar to drown her sorrows. Coincidentally, Mary is at the same bar, acting like she’s trying to escape from a creepy guy before she drops Tosh’s name without Tosh telling her. Turns out she knows a lot about Tosh. Mary introduces herself as a “scavenger,” a collector of alien artifacts who knows about Torchwood via various conspiracy websites. Tosh should leave, but is intrigued and decides to stay as Mary gets her increasingly drunk. Mary shows Tosh a pendant and when she puts it on, Tosh is overwhelmed by thoughts not her own. The pendant gives the wearer telepathic abilities. As Tosh freaks out, Mary tells her to focus on her thoughts which reveal that Mary would like a kiss. Mary tells Tosh to keep it, telling her she’s had it too long. Tosh claims she needs to show the others, but Mary claims she won’t.
The next day at work, Tosh finds Gwen and Owen in the Hub. Thanks to the pendant, she knows everything they think about her, from her fashion choices to what she’s like in bed. It’s not very flattering. The pendant also reveals the extent of Owen and Gwen’s relationship and the depth of Ianto’s despair.
Gwen: Sweetie, the jeans and the boots things has really had its day.
Owen: Wonder what she’d be like in bed; Catholic, but grateful.
Tosh finds Mary outside her apartment; Mary guesses rightly that she didn’t tell her teammates about the pendant. Following Tosh into her apartment, Mary tries to reassure her; the inner life of a person is complicated. People like you, but not all the time. Mary places the pendant around Tosh’s neck so she can hear that Mary’s not so innocent thoughts about Tosh. She doesn’t pity her like the others and they share thoughts back in forth about what they would do to each other in bed before Tosh kisses Mary and they spend the night shagging.
Afterwards, Tosh is having second thoughts and Mary is commenting on her belongings, rightly figuring out from a card and a photo that Tosh has a crush on Owen. Tosh regrets ever using the pendant, though Mary reassures her that it can be used for good; she just has to work it out for herself. Tosh wants to know who Mary really is and she gets the cryptic response of Philoctetes. Taking Mary’s advice, Tosh goes to a crowded, public place to harness the power of the pendant. While there, she hears the thoughts of a man saying, “I’m gonna kill them. I’m gonna kill them.” Following the man who ends up at the house of his son and his ex, she’s able to stop the man from committing murder/suicide.
Back at the Hub, Tosh walks in on Gwen and Jack mocking Owen for misidentifying the skeleton. The she is really a he and he was killed due to unidentified trauma that ripped out his heart. Tosh leaves Owen and Gwen to their flirting and follows Jack to his office to ask about Philoctetes, telling a disbelieving Jack it was a question at a pub quiz. Jack tells her Philoctetes was an archer during the Trojan War who was exiled to the island Lemnos as he is completing a call to the Prime Minister.
Tosh meets Mary at the pub to tell her about being the hero, which suitably impresses Mary. Tosh is more comfortable with the relationship, enough so to indulge in some PDA with Mary. Still, Mary presses Tosh on info about the artifact they found at the building site. When Tosh says she isn’t handling it, Mary implies Jack is keeping something from her. Tosh takes the bait, questioning Owen about the skeleton. Owen’s got nothing, but Tosh on the pendant in time to hear Owen and Gwen’s obsessive thoughts about each other and she makes a hasty retreat, still a little gone for Owen.
As Tosh examines the artifact laid out in the Hub, Jack appears and tells her about the conversation she had with a detective inspector who told him about how a woman prevented a violent crime from happening. Tosh downplays it, telling Jack that she didn’t want to appear to be showing off. Jack for his part seems suspicious of Tosh’s story and dodges Tosh’s questions about the artifact. As she leaves, Tosh hones in on Jack thoughts, clutching the pendant, but is met with only silence. Jack seems aware that Tosh is messing with his head when she turns to look at him. They stare at each other for a second before Jack plays it off, asking if he has food on his face. He praises her for stopping the murder, but from the look on his face, he knows something is amiss.
Back at Tosh’s apartment, she announces to Mary that she’s giving Torchwood the pendant. Tosh wants Mary to come in with her to explain how she got it, but she refuses for a very good reason. She drops the facade of human to reveal she’s an alien; a dissident actually. She’s from a brutal world where dissent is brutally punished by the government. The pendant is how her people communicate; oral communication is archaic and gross.
Tosh: So I’m shagging a woman and an alien.
Mary: Which is worse?
Tosh: I know which one my parents would say.
And the artifact? It’s a transporter and she needs it to get home; it should be safe for her after 200 years. When asked why no one has come for her, Mary says she’s been forgotten like Philoctetes on Lemnos. Tosh still wants to bring Mary to Torchwood so they can help her, but she adamantly refuses, fearing they’ll lock her away as a science experiment. Mary degrades human culture, saying it’s better that they haven’t achieved space travel yet; human culture is one of invasion.
Tosh leaves then, the thoughts she hears are those of depravity and despair and she, too, begins to despair. She’s seen no glimpse of any good in humanity, just as Mary said. She begs Mary to help her as she lays crying in her bed hours later. Mary’s solution: get her into Torchwood. Meanwhile, Owen’s still trying to puzzle out what killed the man they found at the building site. Computer research reveals similar killings going back a very long time; one every few years.
It’s like I’m drowning in ink… I can’t forget the things I’ve heard.
Tosh brings Mary to the Hub and Mary acts like she’s been brought to Wonka Land. The artifact is gone and Mary tells Tosh to hurry up and find it; it’s a long journey and she might need to eat beforehand. Jack chooses that moment to reappear with the artifact in his hands, telling a story about his friend Vincent, who was acting strangely before disappearing for a few months and coming back as Vanessa. He’s hyper vigilant now when his friends start acting strangely.
Tosh tries to explain that Mary is a political prisoner who has fled, but Jack’s figured out that it’s only half the truth. The artifact is a transporter, but it’s a two-person transporter (or as Jack quips, a two-squid transporter. He’s more right than he knows). It’s meant to transport a prisoner and a guard. Jack asks what happened to the guard and Mary admits she killed him, but she was also interrupted during the act. The prostitute we saw in the flashback stumbles upon the alien and she’s promptly possessed by said squid-like alien (alien possession is another theme we see repeated). She’s interrupted again by the soldier who tried to shoot her, but she promptly ripped out his heart. As she’s telling her story, the rest of the team files into the Hub; Owen realizes that all the puncture wounds of all the bodies over the last two hundred years are about the size of a human fist. Mary simply states that her body needs to be fed.
Mary’s reveled in her human body and what a beautiful body can give her. She’s felt safe on this world since her transport was safely buried until construction dug it up again and it was taken by Torchwood. That’s probably why she seduced Tosh, instead of, say, Owen. By playing on Tosh’s insecurities, Mary could use her to get into Torchwood. Tosh puts on the pendant, reading the thoughts of everyone in the room. Mary is doing the classic villain monologue while Owen is thinking he can overtake her. Tosh hears his thoughts and yells for him to stop, alerting Mary to his plan. She grabs Tosh and holds her at knife point.
Mary’s still toying with the team, saying she’ll trade Tosh for Gwen; Tosh is able to hear how Owen wouldn’t trade Gwen. Mary points out that they don’t appreciate her like she does. Owen denies it though his own thoughts betray him. In that moment, Tosh finally hears Jack’s thoughts as he tells her not to move. Jack offers Mary the transport in exchange for Tosh. As she takes the transporter from Jack, she comments that he smells different and asks what he is to which Jack answers, “I don’t know.” Suddenly, the device is turned on. Jack’s reprogrammed it and Mary disappears in a burst of light. Jack also happened to reset the coordinates for the center of the sun.
Later, Tosh apologizes to Gwen over the invasion of privacy and how she has to live with herself now. Gwen points out that given her situation with Owen, she can’t take the moral high ground and tells Tosh to not be hard on herself. She also commented that love suited Tosh.
Outside with Jack, Tosh is given the decision of what to do with the pendant. She crushes it under her heel saying, “It’s a curse.” Tosh wonders why she couldn’t read Jack’s mind; it was like he was dead. Jack plays it off as Tosh wonders how she can live with what she knows. Jack comments as he takes her hand that she got a snapshot; nothing more. He wipes tears from her face and walks away.