The Listener: “Foggy Notion”

Wait Until Dark

The Listener
“Foggy Notion”
Thursdays, NBC, 10 PM
Written by Jeremy Boxen
Directed by Clement Virgo

Television being primarily a visual medium, it’s interesting when a show attempts to tell a story in a non-visual manner. In this episode of The Listener, it becomes even more difficult than usual for Toby to follow a case: the subject is a blind girl, and her thoughts and memories are confusing to a sighted man. Toby’s already a more sensitive guy than most, but now he has to really tune in to sort out what’s going on, and that can lead to misunderstandings.

A drive-by shooting in Chinatown during Toby and Oz’s lunch hour brings them running, just in time for Toby to hear a dying man’s last thoughts. His blind sister is distraught, and her thoughts seem to indicate that there was something more to this than the gang hit everyone concludes that it is. Kim (Steph Song, jPod) thinks he was murdered by someone he was meeting. Toby eavesdrops on her story to the police, and before you can say dim sum he’s off and running, with only the vaguest notion of how to find suspects his “witness” has never seen. As usual, Detective Marks is completely useless. I have rarely seen so annoying a character in a police drama—she ignores and dismisses Toby so completely I am sure he sometimes questions his own existence. Why hasn’t Toby found another confidant on the police force, someone who would welcome help closing a case?

No, Detective Marks would much rather charge into Chinatown’s delicate politics with all the charm and grace of a bull in a porcelain museum, to interview a so-called godfather of crime. Toby gets close to Kim, a musician from Hong Kong who is ill at ease in American life. She does not understand why anyone would kill her brother, and is even more bewildered when the shooter comes after her. It turns out her beloved brother was involved in smuggling (who didn’t see that coming?) and died with the location of a locked trailer full of people hidden somewhere. Kim has no idea, nobody believes her, and bad boys with tattoos, bad hair, and big shiny guns are after her. Toby and Kim wind up trapped in her apartment by an assassin, re-enacting a few scenes out of Wait Until Dark. The refugees are rescued, the bad guys are arrested, and Detective Marks finally gets drunk and desperate enough to corner Toby and ask him if he can hear her thoughts. His answer is delightfully ambiguous, leaving her more confused than when she started out. I like that. Payback!

I also continue to like Oz. He misinterprets Toby’s interest in Kim (or does he? Is Toby being all that honest with himself?) and calls him on his assumedly racist Dragon-Lady obsession with an Asian woman. Oz, of all people, is in a position to understand that Toby’s interest is not romantic, so why waste all this wisdom on a moot point?

The second most annoying character in this show is Toby and Oz’s boss, Ryder (Arnold Pinnock). The hard-ass boss who yells at everything the hero does is old, old, old. Why can’t labor troubles be less personal and more believable to the real workplace—union troubles, interdepartmental rivalry, budget cuts? Colm Feore didn’t make his usual appearance as Toby’s mystery mentor. And the bad guy overacted so badly in this episode that he may as well have worn a T-shirt saying “Thug”.

The best part of this show continues to be Toby. Gentle, quiet, understated, and funny, he’s a refreshing take on a character who might reasonably be expected to carry a massive God complex. He uses his gift judiciously and effectively—or as effectively as he can given that Detective Marks is ignoring him. I liked his quick wit in using the ambulance to stop a fleeing suspect. Nor is physically he a wimp: the fight scene in Kim’s apartment is sufficiently macho to establish his credentials as hero. Even so, I could have done with considerably less conversation in this episode and more action. The temperature and pace of this episode were glacial.

Last week’s episode posted a 0.7 rating and 2 share among adults 18-49. This is very bad news; it means not even the family and friends of the production are watching this show. Nevertheless, I feel it holds promise, if it can hold on long enough.