Dear God, this episode. It ranks among many Torchwood fans (including me) as their favorite episode of the series. I have to really control my squee levels while recapping this, but some may seep through. Consider yourself warned.
Tosh and Jack arrive at The Ritz Dance Hall (they’re my favorite investigative duo), which has been abandoned since 1989, but people have complained about hearing music from the 1940s coming from the derelict building. Inside, Jack hears a faint refrain of music and heads upstairs. They find the old ballroom and Jack twirls Tosh around the floor, painting a picture of the days of the war, while Tosh is just worried about her laptop. As they check the place out, the music gets louder and voices and laughter are heard. The two head back to the ballroom and find it full of people dressed in ’40s garb, dancing to a live jazz band. It’s a temporal shift and the pair have traveled back in time.
They head outside thinking they’ll walk out into the present day (with a creepy thin man telling Jack to call again as they leave,) but instead of daylight and the SUV, they find themselves outside, at night. Tosh thinks the SUV has been stolen, but Jack sees a poster for a “Kiss the Boys Goodbye” dance with the date 1941 and realizes they’ve traveled back in time. The SUV hasn’t been stolen, they have.
Owen, who’s crashing on the couch at the Hub, is awakened by an alert. It’s Tosh’s rift monitor program and Ianto’s been watching it while she’s been away. The rift’s been opening more and more and Ianto tries to call Tosh to let her know of the alert, but he can’t reach her cell. Owen asked why he wasn’t informed of all this and Ianto quips, “Well you’ve been off, haven’t you?” Ianto calls Gwen and asks her to check out the dance hall to try and find the pair.
Back inside the dance hall, Tosh worries they won’t get back, though Jack assures her that things float through the rift all the time. Tosh is freaking because she can’t look at readings of the rift here and to top it off, it’s not a good time to be Asian. Back at the Hub, Owen suggests opening the rift. Ianto vehemently disagrees, saying Jack would never allow it.
Jack and Tosh are getting drinks at the bar, when Tosh is approached by a young soldier who offers to pay for the drinks when Jack realizes he has no money good in 1941. He grabs Tosh and spins around the dance floor to her utter mortification. Jack watches and overhears a racial slur from a young woman.
Gwen arrives to the hall in present day and goes looking for the pair, hearing the same strains of music. Back in ’41, Jack attempts to cut in on Tosh’s dance, knowing she’s uncomfortable. A fight is about to break out when it’s interrupted by a handsome man who helps calm the situation. The handsome soldier introduces himself as Captain Jack Harkness to both Tosh and Jack’s astonishment. While they stand there, the creepy man snaps a picture of the trio. Jack tries to retreat, but gives his name as Captain James Harper. Harkness offers to buy Jack a drink, but he declines, finally retreating with Tosh who understandably is confused about the whole thing.
In the present, Owen and Jack are going through photos of the Ritz from the ’40s when they stumble across the picture taken of Jack, Tosh and the real Harkness.
Jack confesses to Tosh that he took the man’s name (and didn’t realize he was so hot) and tells her he knows too much. He wants Tosh to start working on getting them back. Tosh has half of the rift equation on her laptop, the other half is back at the Hub. If they can somehow send her half to the team, they can open the rift and pull them back.
Gwen is still searching the dance hall and figures if she can hear them, they can hear her and shouts Tosh’s name, which Tosh does hear. Jack and Tosh find an empty office for Tosh to work in. Her battery is running low and she tries to jot down the equation with a pen she’s not used to. The laptop dies, but Tosh has what she needs. The two are found by Bilis Manger, AKA creepy man, who’s the manager. When he points out Jack isn’t in full uniform, Jack says he’s on leave. Tosh questions Bilis’s instantmatic camera while he questions Tosh’a laptop. Jack and Tosh make a hasty exit. After they leave, Bilis retrieves a folder labeled “Torchwood.”
Gwen comes out of the hall complaining that most of the doors are locked when she’s met by Bilis, looking exactly as he did in 1941 and he offers to unlock the doors for her.
Tosh wonders what will happen to her once Pearl Harbor happens later in the year. In my favorite small moment in the entire series, Jack tells her with complete sincerity, “I’ll take care of you.” (Sidenote: I don’t think he means that Tosh cannot take care of herself, he’s just reassuring her he has her back.) Tosh comments that Jack fits into this period. She asks, “Have you been here before?” Jack admits he had; he fought in the war and was undercover and needed a name so he took the captain’s. Tosh figures out that Jack took the man’s identity because he dies in battle and he tells her Harkness dies tomorrow. The two join Harkness and a group and Tosh manages to steal away with their best navigator, Tim. Jack, Harkness and George (the guy Jack brawled with earlier) are trading war stories when a young woman, named Nancy, approaches Harkness and Jack realizes the two are together.
Gwen is in Bilis’s office for tea when she calls Ianto. There are no more pictures of Tosh and Jack and he mentions that Bilis was the manager back then. The current caretaker isn’t old enough to be the same guy, though Gwen observes he looks out of his time. They quickly realize he came through the rift. Owen and Ianto argue if she should stay, but Gwen slips out anyway.
Tosh has everything she needs and needs to leave a message for the team that will last. However, as she’s leaving, Aubrey, the woman who uttered the slur earlier, accuses her of being a spy. Jack and Harkness step in as Jack claims Tosh is a decoder for the Brits. Tosh goes to get Bilis’s camera while Jack stays and keeps Harkness company, but the pair are joined by Nancy. Tosh gets Bilis’s camera, but he catches her as she’s taking the pictures. He tells her she’s a rarity and to call again.
Owen wants to use the Rift Manipulator even without the entire equation, citing that Jack and Tosh are stuck during the Cardiff blitz. Ianto accuses Owen of doing this to get Diane back. Before Owen can do anything, he realizes a piece is missing and Owen concedes to play it Ianto’s way.
In 1941, the trio are drinking and listening to music when Nancy stands to leave. She’s upset that Harkness doesn’t seem to care about their relationship. He insists that he does and says he’ll keep in touch. Jack is astonished that he’d let her go like that. Harkness insists he’s going on a simple training mission, but Jack tells him that anything could happen. Taking Jack’s words to heart, he kisses Nancy goodbye. She whispers that she loves him and Harkness becomes upset with Jack. He needs to keep his wits and be a good leader. He’s torn about the things he’s experienced. Jack understands and tells him the story of how he and a friend were captured. They tortured his friend because he was weaker and Jack had to watch his friend die.
Tosh puts the photos in an envelope, while in the present Ianto confirms Bilis hasn’t left the area. Owen’s heading to the dance hall, figuring since Bilis came through the rift, he might have something useful. Gwen spots Bilis leaving and follows when she finds an electrical box with the photo of the equation inside. Ianto plugs in the numbers, but realizes a part is missing. In 1941, Tosh realizes she didn’t photograph the whole equation. As she looks to hide the equation, air raid sirens go off, but Tosh finds herself locked out of the hall while bombs go off. She makes it inside and tells Jack the problem.
Gwen’s keeping watch outside while Owen cases Bilis’s office. He finds a piece of the Rift Manipulator inside the grandfather clock, but doesn’t tell Gwen what he found. In 1941, everyone is gathered in the basement shelter. Tosh needs something permanent to write the equation and eventually writes it in her blood before she hides it in a coffee can. Gwen finds the can and the equation. The note also says to tell Tosh’s family she loves them. Three numbers are still missing and Bilis is shown scratching them out.
Harkness, who’s been exchanging longing glances with Jack all night, admits he’s scared. When the all clear sounds, he asks to speak to Jack privately. When he asks why Jack told him to kiss Nancy goodbye, Jack tells him to live every moment as if it’s his last and encourages Harkness to go to Nancy. When Harkness asks, Jack tells him he has no one. Harkness leaves to go to Nancy.
Owen puts the missing piece in the Manipulator despite Ianto’s objections. When it still won’t work, Owen searches Jack’s office until he finds the safe combination and blueprints. Ianto thinks Bilis has set them up and they need to obey Jack’s orders. Owen insists Jack’s no longer their leader.
In 1941, Harkness returns and admits he wants to spend his remaining time with Jack. He takes Jack’s hand, but before anything can happen, they’re interrupted. Jack suggets they go someplace else, but Harkness is spooked and leaves. Jack tells Tosh a bit later that Harkness will die during his training mission tomorrow. As the two talk, he tells Tosh he was a con man who stole Harkness’ identity. When Tosh asks how he joined Torchwood, he tells her he was saved from death and he feels he’s there for a reason. He promises to look after Tosh, but with tears in his eyes he knows there’s nothing he can do for Harkness.
As Owen is assembling the Manipulator, Ianto pulls a gun on him, telling him to let Diane go. When Owen inserts the piece, Ianto shoots him in the shoulder, but the device is activated anyway.
Harkness looks at Jack from across the dance floor before walking over to him and taking his hand. He leads Jack onto the dance floor and takes him in his arms as everyone looks on. The two dance closely for a few moments and are about to share a kiss when the rift bursts open. Tosh yells at Jack to hurry. Jack hesitates, still looking at Harkness while Tosh insists he’s needed with the team. Jack tells Harkness he has a duty and starts to leave, but he turns and gives Harkness a passionate and bittersweet kiss. As the rift takes Harkness and the rest of the dance hall, he gives Jack a salute before Jack heads into the light.
As Jack and Tosh escape, there is a shot of Bilis looking pleased with himself and then the pair are being embraced by Gwen. Back at the Hub, Tosh helps Owen treat his wound as Owen defends his actions. Tosh goes to Jack’s office and the two share a drink. She thinks Harkness would have been proud that Jack took his name since he regularly saves the world after all and the two raise a toast to Captain Jack