We begin with Jack, Gwen and Owen looking up at an old-fashioned plane in the sky. It lands, and a young woman jumps out, followed by a younger woman and an older man. They’re dressed fashionably, if it were sixty years ago. Jack introduces himself, and asks when they left. They took off about half an hour ago, on December 18, 1953.
Back at base, we find out that these three are named Diane, Emma, and John. Gwen is relieved that they’re not aliens, Jack thinks aliens would have been easier. Jack explains that they slipped through the rift, and Tosh shows them documentation of the past 50 years. Jack then informs them that they can’t go back, and according to history, their plane never returned. John and Emma want to know what happened to their families ““ Emma’s parents are dead, but John’s son might be alive. The three newcomers are taken to a hostel, where they unpack their things.Emma’s worried about her mother.
Next day, Jack hands out new passports and tries to help the three get used to life in the 21st century. John rejects the new identity, saying he doesn’t want his name taken from him. Ianto takes everyone to a big box store! England had just come off of rationing in 1953, and everyone’s awed by the things available. Emma loads up on candy, Diane’s impressed by TV and DVDs, and John finds girlie mags. Ianto drops John off to look at the stadium, but John instead goes looking for the shop he used to own. Back at the hostel, Emma’s making tea in the hostel’s kitchen, via tearing open the tea bags and dumping the loose tea in the pot. Two black girls, Alesha and Jade, walk in, and as my mind yells, “Oh no you’re from the fifties, please don’t be racist” at Emma and Diane, there’s a moment of awkward silence, but everyone introduces themselves, Emma and Diane realize the proper way to use teabags, Alesha compliments Diane on her shoes, and hopefully, everything’s cool? We shall see.
Owen takes Diane to check up on her plane, and according to Owen, Diane is quite the accomplished aviatrix. She flew planes during the war, and while she was supposed to give it up and get married after the war ended, she decided she’d rather fly planes. The plane’s called the Sky Gypsy (ah, there’s the racism!) and Owen and Diane get a little flirty, but I think that’s just Owen’s default at this point.
Jack and John are drinking in a pub somewhere – Jack’s drinking water, per usual. (Have we ever seen the man drink?) John asks about Jack’s history, and Jack tries to brush it off – he fell through time too, he says.
At the hostel, Emma befriends Jade and Alesha – they put up paper chains, possibly because Christmas is soon, possibly because that is what you do for fun in 1953. Jade and Alesha inform Emma that they both grew up in orphanages, and have no families. Emma tells them that her parents are dead too, and she has nothing. Alesha hands her a beer.
John instructs Jack to find his family. Owen and Diane go to dinner, and Diane explains to Owen that equality and chivalry aren’t mutually exclusive. Diane asks what gains women have made in the past 50 years, and Owen chooses to inform her of in-vitro fertilization. (Really Owen, out of everything, that’s what you went with? Ugh.) Emma continues bonding with Alesha and Jade, and in the midst of singing them her favorite song, John busts in and yells at her for not behaving. Eww. Meanwhile, Owen’s invited Diane back to his place to read up about herself online. He makes a big deal out of not officially asking her over to his place, she asks if he’s got booze.
At the hostel, Emma calls Gwen to mediate the fight with John. John’s essentially an asshole, ordering Emma around like he’s her father – which he isn’t, because Emma will never see her father again, so she stomps out crying.
Chez Owen, Diane asks who all the beauty products belong to – they’re Owen’s, of course. Diane also wonders if Amelia Earhart is out there somewhere, just like her. Emma goes to sleep on Gwen’s couch, and Diane fucks Owen. Owen is surprised the “˜50s were not as repressed as he thought they were, though he does have to explain what fuckbuddies are. Diane doesn’t think sex is casual at all, she thinks it’s very important, and then there’s a trite metaphor about orgasms and airplanes.
Next morning, Rhys walks through his own living room, into his own kitchen, stark-naked, completely ignorant of the teenaged girl from the 1950s on the couch. Obviously, Emma wakes up just in time to see Rhys’ junk, so Gwen has to come up with an excuse as to why Emma’s with them – distant cousin, plans went awry, whatever. At the hub, Gwen thinks Emma should stay with her, of course. Also, Tosh has found John’s son! He’s in an old folks’ home, has Alzheimer’s, and has no descendents. John sits down with him and tries to show him photos, and find out from the nurses about him, but his son’s too far gone to connect. Somewhere else, Owen takes Diane to an airfield. They try to go flying, but all the pilots are booked for the day, and Diane’s sad. John’s son remembers bits about his childhood, but is lost in time himself. At the hub, Jack doesn’t know what to do – there’s no enemy, no one to fight, just three people to take care of.
For reasons that defy logic, Gwen takes Emma to a nightclub, and then leaves her alone on the dancefloor so she can go cuddle with Rhys in a corner. Some dude leads Emma by the hand off to a dark corner, and Gwen has to go in and pull him away from her – times have changed, men expect more! So they go home and Gwen attempts to explain sexual relations in the 21st century to Emma. How old do we think Emma is? 18? 22? 16? Regardless, it’s awkward, and Gwen certainly comes off feeling judged.
At Owen’s apartment, Diane attempts to learn how to use a computer, because that’s what flying is these days. Owen comes in with a shiny red bag, containing a shiny red dress.
Emma apparently went on a job interview at a clothing store, and their next big thing is ’50s inspired clothes, so she’s got a job lined up in London, complete with a room in a shared house. Gwen wants her to stay near Cardiff.
John asks Ianto for a bus schedule, Own and Diane drive to a parking lot, all dressed up. (Each scene is literally 15 seconds or so, this is not easy to keep up with!)
In Gwen’s world, Rhys is angry, as Gwen’s mother called, and has never heard of Emma. Rhys wants to know if Emma’s got something to do with work, and Gwen says yes, she’s from work, and Gwen doesn’t know her. Rhys doesn’t like how easily Gwen lied. (We also find out that Emma’s 18.) Gwen explains that her life is split – there’s Torchwood, and then there’s real life.
At Owen and Diane’s rooftop parking lot, there is champagne and posh flirting and Frank Sinatra, so there is also dancing. Look how happy Owen looks! They go back to his place and have sex.
In less fun news, John has stolen Ianto’s car. Jack and Ianto trail him, and Jack just barely prevents John from killing himself, parked in the place where his store used to be. Thirty seconds of Owen and Diane having sex in a position I’ve only ever seen in Cosmo, and then we’re back with John, who promises Jack that he’s going to keep trying to kill himself. Jack tells him that dying won’t reunite him with his family – he knows, he died once. Jack says he’s out of his own time as well, and the best you can do is make it bearable. John asks to be allowed to die with dignity, to not condemn him to live.
Owen doesn’t know if he can do this anymore. It’s not a fuckbuddy relationship, he seems to be trying to come to terms with the fact that he’s fallen in love with her. Its great, he goes on about how he can’t stop thinking about her, can’t focus, is scared out of his mind, and Diane replies with “I love you, too.”
Jack holds John’s hand as he dies via carbon monoxide inhalation.
Gwen takes Emma to the bus depot, peppering her with last minute advice before sending her off to London.
Owen wakes up to an empty bed, and goes tearing off to the airfield to find Diane preparing to pilot the plane that took them there. Owen offers to come with her, warns her that there’s no way she’ll get back to where she came, she doesn’t care, she’ll wind up somewhere new. And she flies alone. The plane takes off as Owen is nearly in tears.
And then we get a montage of all the lovely moments Owen had with Diane, Jack had with John, and Gwen had with Emma, as the plane flies off into the wild blue yonder. Or, you know, the rift in time and space.