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Untouched by Human Hands Recap

At Serendip near the nuclear design lab, a guard named Matson is startled when the patrol robot C197 comes up to him. It moves on and a few seconds later, a radiation alarm goes off from the lab. The guard runs the control room and they confirm that the containment is secure.

At the warehouse, Mickey comes in dressed for a night out. She’s there in response to Austin’s call, and he says that he’s just proved that there are a finite number of palindromic primes. Mickey points out that she was out on a date, and Austin deduces that she met David when she was out jogging in the park. He grabs a hair from her dress and warns her that David has classic male hair-loss syndrome and will be bald in ten years. A phone call comes in from Howard Milhouse, and Austin traces it to a phone booth outside of Serendip. He reluctantly answers it and Howard tells him that he has to get down right away because there’s been an accident.

When Austin and Mickey get there, Austin explains that he hasn’t been able to reach Brian Kingsley or Harold Putnam. He admits that the company has been storing nuclear experiments after the board okayed the experiment, and Austin dons a protective suit and has Howard put one on as well.

Inside, Howard explains that they were developing a new energy source. The lab is heavily irradiated and Kingsley’s corpse is on the floor, the top half of his body concealed by his desk. Austin notices that he has a knee injury and Howard confirms that Kingsley got it six months ago. C197 comes in on its automatic patrol, checks the room, and leaves. Howard says that Kingsley used to come down to the lab to work in private, and Austin notes that the room will be irradiated for the next 10,000 years.

Outside, Austin tells Howard to pump concrete into the lab for safety purposes. Putnam arrives and Howard briefs him on the situation. Kingsley’s wife Rebecca is nearby, and Putnam admits that Kingsley wasn’t very likeable. Howard asks Putnam to fill in as his acting CEO, and Putnam agrees. Austin asks to see the design for the cooling system, while Howard tries to reassure Rebecca. Mickey offers to take her home but Rebecca runs off, insisting that she’ll be fine. Austin leaves Howard and Putnam to deal with the resistance while he goes to work.

Back at the warehouse, Austin reviews the plans and confirms that there was a thermal explosion due to a power surge in the main line caused by a programmer’s error. He points out that anyone with programming knowledge could have set it up, and points out that too many catastrophic systems failed to suggest an accident. David calls Mickey and Austin traces the phone, runs a background check on David, and has all of the phone numbers changed. Once David hangs up, Austin says that he’s insecure and called to make sure that he left a good impression. He then notes that Rebecca spent most of her time looking at Putnam, but isn’t sure what it means... yet.

The next day, Austin tells Howard and Putnam that he found the programming error. Putnam has already confirmed that a junior programmer that was fired three weeks ago put it in, and is willing to sign an affidavit to that effect. Putnam was one of the people who signed off on the program. Val Kennedy from the insurance company arrives, and Howard introduces her to Putnam and Austin. She informs them that they can’t pay off until the investigation is complete. Six days ago Kingsley took out a $2.5 million life insurance policy and suggests that it might be suicide. Putnam insists that Kingsley didn’t have any financial or marital problems, and Val notes that Liz Layton, Kingsley’s attractive live-in-housekeeper, is the beneficiary.

Austin and Mickey drive to Kingsley’s house posing as funeral directors. An elderly housekeeper answers the door and she explains that she just started that day. Rebecca fired the previous housekeeper. Austin claims that they’re there to make funeral arrangements and Rebecca forgot, and they barge into the bedroom to look for personal effects.Liz comes in and doesn’t seem particularly upset. They ask for a description of his personality for their “eulogy-writing service,” and Liz and describes him as kind and gentle. She explains that Rebecca was out on a date at the same time that her husband was dying, Her taxi pulls up and says that she’s going to Greece to buy an island with her insurance money.

Back at the warehouse, Austin tells Mickey that Rebecca was having an affair… with Putnam. He knows Putnam was no computer programmer, and discovers that the shoes are new. All of the shoes at the Kingsley house were new, but the ones Austin saw at the lab were old and broken in. He heads back to Serendip to take one more look at the dead man’s legs before the concrete is poured in.

At the lab, Mickey and Austin don suits and go in. Austin rigs a spectrophotometer to analyze the air. There’s indications of cheap wine, even though Kingsley was a health nut. Austin hooks up an x-ray scanner and discovers the leg was uninjured. The bone structure shows the dead man was a right-hander, even though Kingsley was left-handed. Everything shows that the dead man isn’t Kingsley.

Outside, Howard is holding a press conference. The insurance company is paying up thanks to government intervention, and has cancelled Serendip’s policy. Howard collects the check and Val presents a check to Liz, who is also present. Rebecca takes the check and says that Austin told her that Kingsley isn’t dead. Austin speaks up, saying the dead man isn’t Kingsley but he has no idea if Kingsley is still alive.

Everyone gathers inside and Austin says that the dead man is a derelict street residence. Liz accuses Rebecca of having an affair with Putnam, and Val says that they won’t pay off the life insurance until they prove that the dead man is Kingsley. Austin asks for ten minutes to get them the proof he needs.

Down in the facility, Austin takes control of C197 and prepares to send it in. The body is positioned so that it can capture the face on camera, but it can’t get close enough to pull it out. The robot goes in and the transmission goes out for a few seconds when it snags a cable on the door. C197 goes through the airlock following proper protocol, and moves toward the body. The camera shows the dead man’s face: Kingsley. Val gives the check to Liz and Howard complains that Austin was wrong. He tells Mickey that he’ll meet him outside in a few minutes. Once he’s alone, Austin has Matson rewind the tape.

On the way back to the warehouse, Mickey assures Austin that his idea to use C197 was ingenious. She talks about tea and Austin has an idea. He tells Mickey to drive back and insists that Kingsley isn’t in the lab. They go back and Austin dons a suit and returns to the lab. Another person in a suit is behind him. Austin looks through the viewing port and sees Kingsley’s tea on the desk. The intruder knocks him out with a Geiger counter and removes Austin’s helmet, and sets the airlock inner door to open on a timed sequence. The person leaves while the inner door starts opening. Austin wakes up and tries the outer door. The inner door opens and he tries to stop it... and C197 arrives and opens the outer door, automatically closing the inner door. Austin shuts it down before it can open the inner door and gets an idea.

After undergoing decontamination, Austin joins Howard and Mickey. He explains that C197 showed up due to cheap design: it followed Austin’s earlier programming to enter the lab. Austin remembers hearing the killer’s new shoes squeak under the protective gear, and figures Kingsley was the killer. Howard points out that they saw him dead in the lab, and Austin replays the video. He points out a brief shot of Kingsley’s full teacup. It was not full when he went back to the lab to check in person. They were watching a pre-recorded video, and Kingsley switched it in when the camera briefly went off-line. He made the video before the explosion in case someone sent C197 in, and Austin figures that he’s hiding somewhere in the building. Howard starts to call the police and Austin says that they have to find Kingsley first.

Austin and Mickey start checking lockers, and Mickey figures out that Kingsley abducted a street person to substitute for him. As he looks around, Austin says that Kingsley had help. He thinks that he knows who. They find the closet where Kingsley has been hiding, but there’s no sign of Kingsley. Austin says that Kingsley got out the same way that he got the derelict in.

Austin leads Howard and Matson out and explains that Kingsley smuggled the body in by getting Matson to sign for it. He waves down a departing truck for Intellidyne and opens the back. It contains computer parts, and the company made a delivery the day of the explosion. They unload the boxes and open them, but there’s no sign of Kingsley. The driver confirms that there was an earlier pickup and it delivered to the Oakpark warehouse. Austin and Mickey drive to Oakpark and the security guards and then the police follow.

The driver of the second truck, Harry, discovers his engine is overheating and pulls over.

A semi pulls over and the driver gets out to help as Austin and the others drive by, failing to see the truck because it’s behind the new semi. Mickey calls in and confirms that Harry’s truck broke down, and Austin wheels the car around. The police cars follow him as the second truck pulls away. They spot the truck and pull over, and have Harry open the back of the truck. They find Kingsley inside a crate... dead. There are strangulation marks on his neck, and Austin says that the killer had to close the loop.

Later, Austin goes back to Serendip with Howard and Mickey. He explains that Kingsley had the perfect accomplice... and the accomplice killed him. Matson brings in the killer: C197. Austin explains that Kingsley smuggled the derelict in via a crate, and then programmed C197 to strangle anyone the robot found in an Intellidyne crate. However, Kingsley had the robot seal the crate so he could escape, but forgot to remove the original program. C197 repeated its earlier instructions and killed Kingsley. Austin demonstrates by getting in a crate. C197 approaches him and reaches for his neck, and Matson gives the voice override. Austin explains that Kingsley was caught by surprised and C197 killed him before he could give the override

Later at the warehouse, Austin explains that Kingsley didn’t want to waste a good pair of shoes on his substitute corpse. Mickey waits for David to call, and Austin recites all of the lousy parts of David’s background. He brings up a computer extrapolation of what David will look like in thirty years. As Mickey storms out, Austin admits that perhaps he shouldn’t have included the train wreck and the 90’ fall.

Written by Gadfly on Oct 25, 2015

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