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Series / The Listener

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Toby Logan (Craig Olejnik) is a Toronto paramedic with a special power: He can hear people's thoughts. With his partner Osman "Oz" Bey (Ennis Esmer) and his on-again, off-again ex Dr. Olivia Fawcett (Mylène Dinh-Robic), Toby helps people he encounters in his work.

In Season 1, Toby helps Detective Charlie Marks (Lisa Marcos) investigate crimes for the police, but his main focus is discovering what happened to his mother and understanding his powers with the help of his mentor, Ray Mercer (Colm Feore). The show abandons this storyline and characters for Season 2 and focuses on the crimesolving, with Toby becoming an official police informant for Sergeant Michelle McCluskey (Lauren Lee Smith) and Corporal Dev Clark (Rainbow Sun Francks).

The Listener completed a five season run in Canada, its country of origin, and the first season has been released on DVD (but only for Region 2). It was renewed for a fourth season, which premiered on May 29, 2013. The fifth and final season premiered on May 26, 2014, and concluded on August 18, 2014. It aired on CTV in Canada and Ion in the U.S. (after a short run on NBC).

This series has examples of:

  • Amicable Exes: Olivia and her ex-husband. Also, Toby and his on-and-off girlfriend Liv.
  • Backwards-Firing Gun: In a season 3 episode, this turns out to be the payoff for the super-smart villain's Xanatos Gambit to wreak revenge on the guy who raped and murdered his daughter — he set up a scenario where he knew the guy would get the gun from him, but the gun was rigged to shoot the slide backwards right into his head.
  • Blessed with Suck: Toby's power made relationships difficult and he couldn't even control it when he was younger. And when he finally started to appreciate it, the extra electrical activity from reading people's minds started to give him dangerous headaches that could potentially kill him.
  • Bound and Gagged: Marks in "One Way or Another".
  • Butt-Monkey: Oz. He just can't seem to please Ryder.
  • Canada Does Not Exist: At least partially subverted with prominent views of the Toronto skyline. When the main character gives a homeless man a dollar, it's a coin. References to Canada were deliberately changed in the closed captions for the American market. Averted with a vengeance from the second season onward, with direct references to Canadian cities and politics, the RCMP, a massive Canadian flag, and shout-outs to Canadian bands and TV shows.
  • Cassandra Truth: Toby can't get people to listen without letting the cat out of the bag.
    • It becomes such a problem in the first season that when Toby meets Michelle in season 2, he openly tells her what he can do and reads her thoughts to prove it.
    • A few times, Toby or Michelle will be asked by a suspect or superior how they found this out. When they openly claim it's from reading minds, the answer is almost always a scoffing "fine, keep your secret."
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Toby, unsurprisingly, since he's already a paramedic.
    • Liv as well, particularly during "Lockdown", which ends with her death due to exposure to an engineered virus.
  • Corrupt Cop: Mike Henderson in the first episode.
  • Cover-Blowing Superpower: Subverted in that when he's kidnapped in "Desperate Hours", his fellow hostage (Oz) knows about his powers and no explaining is needed. Unfortunately, his power is more subtle than most and barely kept them alive.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Toby decides that his telepathy is a gift rather than a curse.
  • Demoted to Extra: Mercer.
  • Driven to Suicide: There's one in "Jericho" who turns out to be Hackgirl's father.
    • Most of the ex-biker gang in "Reckoning," thanks to the suggestion powers of the girl of the family they murdered.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Lampshaded in the first episode:
    Oz: I thought for sure it was gonna blow.
    Toby: It's not a movie, Oz. It doesn't happen that way.
    (Car blows up.)
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Occasionally.
  • Fair Cop: Det. Marks.
  • Foster Kid: Toby is one.
  • Friend on the Force: First Charlie Marks, now Sgt. McCluskey.
  • Healing Hands: Iris. Supposedly.
  • Heroic BSoD: Toby goes through this in "Fatal Vision", as he has to deal with the aftermath of shooting and killing a criminal who was about to kill him. It's additionally traumatic because he read the crime boss as he was shot, and so Toby has to relive being shot by himself and dying.
  • Heroic Fatigue : This turns out to be a plot point in that Toby will die if he continues to use his powers and in the second season finale, shuts off his telepathy
  • Hospital Hottie: Dr. Olivia Foster.
  • I Have This Friend: Oz in the episode "A Voice in the Dark" is trying to figure out what's going on with Toby, but doesn't want to bring Toby's name into it — so he tells his Ryder that he has a friend who's been acting strangely, getting distracted on the job, etc. Ryder at first thinks Oz is talking about himself, but later, when Oz mentions that it's as if his friend can tell what he's thinking, the supervisor jumps to the conclusion that Oz is talking about him.
  • Impersonating an Officer: A gang of robbers use fake cop uniforms to gain access to secure locations like high end jewelery stores and rob the place. Their disguises are very good and they even make sure that their getaway car looks like an authentic police vehicle. Later in the episode they steal an ambulance and commit a robbery disguised as paramedics.
  • Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!: A politician's sex tape gets leaked to the Internet and goes viral seemingly instantly.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: A woman from Hong Kong in episode six is named "Kim". This is uncommon among Chinese, as opposed to Koreans or Vietnamese (as a family name). It's possible that this is her "English name".note  Also, she's played by Li Ching Song, born in Malaysia (though that country is 24% Chinese).
  • Involuntary Charity Donation: At the end of "Zero Recall", a crime boss whose ill-gotten gains had been electronically pilfered is informed that, while the police did catch the thief who'd robbed him, so far as they can tell all the money was dispersed to children's charities all over the world. The team calls their computer expert "Robin Hood" for that one.
  • Jerkass: To some degree Marks.
  • Jumped at the Call: Unlike Ando, Oz starts off both relieved to know he's not crazy and anxious to help Toby out.
  • Jury and Witness Tampering: In one episode the key witness in a mobster's murder trial is shot and seriously wounded. The cops think that the mobster could not intimidate the witness into not testifying and hired an assassin instead. However, they later discover that there was witness tampering but it was done by the prosecutor. The mobster was innocent of the murder and the witness was coerced into perjuring himself. The assassin was hired not to silence the witness but to actually get him to tell the truth in court.
  • Logical Weakness: Toby's telepathy requires the subject to be actively thinking about what he wants to find out, often requiring him (or his partner) to deliberately prompt the target with a leading question or statement. He's also limited in that he can only read what the subject thinks is true, he can't read people with some kinds of organic brain problem such as those suffering from epilepsy, and he's encountered one genius-level criminal who can simply think too fast for him to understand what he's thinking.
  • Mind Rape: Marks initially thinks Toby's power is this, but relents.
  • Mixed Metaphor: In "Inner Circle":
    Oz: I don't want to poop on your parade, here...
  • My God, You Are Serious!: Michelle's reaction when Toby tells her he can read minds. It takes him reading her every thought and answering it verbally for her to realize this isn't some trick but he's for real. Her co-workers are likewise dubious until Toby pulls the same bit on them.
  • Mysterious Past: Toby can't remember his past as a young child and throughout the first season each episode some bits and pieces are remembered which leaves you hoping that there's a second season and that they'll just spit it out.
  • New Old Flame: The season 4 premiere introduces Lori Black (played by Jewel Staite), Toby's old girlfriend and the first person he revealed his psychic powers to. Inverted in that Toby is the one already in a relationship.
  • No Badge? No Problem!: Toby is a consultant for the IIB because of his mind reading powers. As a consultant, he's at the IIB's beck and call, but sometimes it seems like he is just another law enforcement officer: he often directs other police officers, executes warrants, leads interrogations, etc.
    • He does get a badge at the start of Season 3, at any rate.
  • Nonindicative First Episode: More first season when the series decides to suddenly leave the entire plot of season one on cliffhangers that will never be answered in favor of a criminal-of-the-week crime procedual.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Played with but ultimately played straight in "False ID"/ "Fatal Vision." Toby is shot in the arm in "False ID," but says he's fine; however, minutes later he passes out. "Fatal Vision" begins with him being rushed to the hospital, where he is quite out of it and ultimately operated on. When he wakes up, he wants to go back to work, but is woozy; Oz makes him lie down and warns Michelle and Dev that Toby should take it easy. However, Toby then goes RIGHT BACK TO WORK with apparently no ill effects other than holding his arm at a slightly awkward angle in some scenes.
  • Parental Abandonment: Both of Toby's parents are out of the picture. He never knew his dad and doesn't know what happened to his mom who apparently jumped into a river with him when he was little while running away from something...
  • Phone-Trace Race: In "Vanished," a kidnapper freaks out at her partner when he stays on the phone longer than 15 seconds, believing that this will allow the police to trace them. (They can't get a trace anyway.)
  • Psychic Powers: Obviously.
  • Put on a Bus: Charlie and Ray Mercer. There's no indication at the end of Season 1 that Charlie's life is in danger, but as of Season 2, she apparently took a turn for the worse and died as a result of her wounds. Mercer vanishes without explanation after Season 1.
  • Rape as Backstory: Charlie was raped by a teacher. This is used to explain why she is so upset about Toby being able to read her mind, because no-one who hasn't been raped is ever protective of their privacy, no sir.
  • Secret-Keeper: Mercer, and later Oz, Marks, and Olivia. In the second season, they are joined by Michelle McCluskey and Dev Clark.
  • Shout-Out: Toby is confidential informant number A1138. (Probably more of a shout out to Star Wars, which frequently references the number 1138.)
  • Straight Man and Wise Guy: Usually between Ryder and Oz.
  • Suicide by Cop: The kidnapper in "A Voice in the Dark".
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: McCluskey for Marks in the second season — both police detectives with similar personalities. She even learns his secret by the second episode she's in.
  • Take My Hand!: In the first episode.
  • Techno Babble: Lampshaded and averted in "Desperate Hours" when Toby and Olivia start to speak in medical terminology during a surgery, but the man who kidnapped Toby makes them explain everything in layman's terms so they can't get one over on him.
  • Teeny Weenie: Oz is implied have this by a Girl of the Week when he drops his Modesty Towel in front of her.
  • Telepathy: Toby's power.
  • Truncated Theme Tune: For the second season, the full theme tune and credits sequence is reduced to a few notes and a title, and the main cast credits are shown over the next scene.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Happens to Marks in "One Way or Another".
  • Unbelievable Source Plot: The protagonist reads minds, and frequently stumbles upon crimes, missing children, etc. His police contact spends much of the first season baffled as to how he is always in the right place at the right time, and he always has to convince her to follow up his leads. After season 1, he tells her and some of their other close allies so that at least they will listen when he tells them something and he can avoid the Cassandra Did It accusations. While this improves his situation in some ways, it still leaves his allies to lie and misdirect their superiors to protect their careers.
  • The 'Verse: Season Three establishes that The Listener is set in the same universe as Flashpoint, thanks to Spike Scarlatti being treated at Oz's hospital.
  • We Have to Get the Bullet Out!: Zig-Zagged in "Desperate Hours," in which Toby and Oz get kidnapped and forced to help a man who was shot. The kidnapper makes Toby perform surgery to remove the bullet, which he believes is the only way to save the man's life, despite the fact that Toby is a paramedic. Toby gets them to call Olivia, an actual surgeon, who advises that the safest way to handle the bullet wound is just to stitch it up and leave the bullet in. Then Toby finds the bullet lodged against an artery; removing it could either be necessary to save him or make things fatally worse. They end up removing the bullet to find little damage in the artery, meaning he's in the clear. He then goes into cardiac arrest and dies anyway.