The two have connected a series of robberies to a political activist with an axe to grind. If he's not stopped, a bomb will detonate in downtown Vancouver and time is running out.
"Once again, Toby takes the reins and puts himself in jeopardy," offers Smith on the set of "The Listener." "An IIB operative from Vancouver and I have to figure out how to save him. That's going to put viewers on the edge of their seats because he's been put in a very compromising position, as he likes to do.
"This crime is pretty interesting," continues Smith. "The political activist seems fairly unassuming and we haven't shot it yet, but when I read it, it read pretty violent with the takedown. When they capture Toby, they have him tied up to a chair, blindfolded and are beating the crap out of him. That's pretty intense."
It's a chilly February morning on location for "The Listener" Season 4 opener. Production will eventually move over to Vancouver for this episode, but for now, Toronto is standing in for the West Coast. Today, Toby, Michelle and other IIB agents are storming an office building where they believe a bomb is located. There's no explosion or gunplay, unfortunately, but the gravity of the situation is apparent.
Later, on an upper floor, some of the cast took a breather to discuss their characters, finding the show's groove and what viewers can expect in the fourth season.
Take it from Spider-Man: With great power comes great responsibility. It's a lesson Toby has picked up on, too. Over the course of the series, his priorities and perspective have shifted. Toby no longer views his psychic abilities as a curse and has fully embraced them. That's caused him to be a better cop and take a more proactive role in solving crimes.
"Toby is completely, 100 percent comfortable with his telepathy," says Olejnik. "He's almost so comfortable that I'm surprised he's not telling more people. I feel like he might slip up a little bit, forgetting that people don't know what he can do. The hiding has become so normal that I think he forgets he has something to hide.
"And he's very much a part of the IIB unit now," he adds. "He's still a special consultant by definition. He still doesn't have a gun. He takes a lot of the interrogations on his own. He speaks their terminology better and is not so naïve."
It's a no-brainer that Toby will be eavesdropping on people's thoughts. Already, in the Season 4 premiere, he's plucked crucial images and information from militants. The question is: how will those abilities continue to manifest and evolve throughout the season?
"Out of the gate, in the first episode, we've got a situation where he can't see anything," explains Olejnik. "To get a sense of where he is, Toby is reading the minds of the people around him. Then to hit on his girlfriend Tia (Melanie Scrofano), the fact that he can't read her relieves him of a lot of pressure. He gets to chill and not know. Honestly, his powers are so organically a part of him."
Matters Of The Heart
Besides the immediate danger in the premiere, the adventure takes a personal turn for Toby. While tracking down a lead, he bumps into former flame Lori Black (Jewel Staite, "Firefly"), who may have ties to one of the lawbreakers. That awkward encounter will provide some insight into Toby's early growing pains and force him to examine his current relationship with Tia.
"This episode gives the audience a glimpse of what Toby's life was like in his unknown years, in his 20s, out in Vancouver discovering who he was," reports Olejnik. "His ex-girlfriend reminds him of the implications of not being truthful about these abilities. It really gets his wheels turning on sharing the truth with Tia.
"It feels like he has an emotional life now outside of work, whereas most of his free time used to be spent with Oz (Ennis Esmer)," he adds. "Now, Toby is getting a little loving on the side. I think it's warmed him up a little bit. He smiles more, which is nice."
At the same time, the show is going to explore more of Michelle's personal life.
"We've had her husband, Adam (Kris Holden-Ried), back for a few episodes," says Smith. "They have this little storyline weaving throughout Season 4 about starting a family. Michelle is freaking out a little. 'I can't be a Mom in this career.' The wheels are turning because he's pretty relentless in her having a baby."
Over its three-year run, "The Listener" has recruited an impressive smorgasbord of Canadian guest stars including Rachel Skarsten ("Birds of Prey"), Kristin Lehman ("Motive"), Rossif Sutherland ("ER"), Shawn Roberts ("Resident Evil: Afterlife"), Chad Faust ("The 4400"), and Colm Feore ("The Borgias"). Season 4 expands on that stellar list. Michael Filipowich ("24"), Michael Cram ("Flashpoint"), Gabrielle Miller ("Corner Gas") and mixed martial arts fighter Elias Theodorou will be popping by. The first episode alone features Justin Chatwin ("War of the Worlds") as antagonist Rudy Best, Krystin Pellerin ("Republic of Doyle") as Constable Kathy Slocum, and the aforementioned Staite as Lori.
"Lori is Toby's first serious girlfriend and the only girl he's ever told about his power," reveals Staite. "He left her in the dust and had no closure with him whatsoever, so Lori is pretty angry when she sees Toby and is caught very off-guard. Then they're in this whole mess with her new boyfriend and all kind of peril ensues. There's a lot of unfinished business there, so her whole M.O. is to get some closure. But everything blows up, she gets caught in this terrible lie and Toby has to get the information out of her. He doesn't want to read her mind because Lori is an old friend and he feels really bad about what happened between them."
Staite is best known as the sweet mechanic Kaylee Frye on "Firefly" and the bitchy actress Raquel Westbrook on "The L.A. Complex," and Lori sounds like the perfect balance between the two characters.
"Who doesn't love to play a bitch?" laughs Staite. "It's so much fun and you can go really big with it. But Lori has an edgy side to her. She's a little bit icy with him at first and then she shows her vulnerability at the end."
Toby is a listener, not a fighter. He's stumbled into many sticky situations and has talked his way out of them. He shuns away from guns, which might not be the brightest move considering his line of work. So, it might be interesting to push him outside of his comfort zone, where Toby must pick up a weapon and fire a round.
"I think it has been proposed," confirms Olejnik. "Toby might eventually have to do that. I like the fact that he doesn't have a gun because in this day and age, everything on TV is solved with a weapon and that brute proposal of, 'If you don't do what I say, I'll shoot you,' like it's the ultimate solution.
"I love that it's his words and conniving that save the day," Olejnik continues. "I look at him and he's so fearless. It would be nice to see him afraid. We don't ever see him that afraid or ever too overly emotional, which makes me think he's hiding something from himself. It's like he doesn't really want to deal with anything and fear is a part of having to deal."
In the beginning, Toby was alone. He never confided in anyone about his ESP. He was too scared and only relied on himself. Michelle changed all that. Initially skeptical about Toby's telepathic tricks, she's quickly become a trusted partner and an even better friend.
"With Toby and Michelle, you get the best of both worlds," agrees Smith. "Toby can read people's minds. He can get in there and know who we need to get. And then Michelle is obviously very accomplished in her career. She's sort of the bad cop and Toby is the good cop. Craig and I have had a lot of fun playing around with that. We have a great chemistry with each other that translates well. We'll see a lot more of that this year. It's really Toby and Michelle out on the road constantly."
Toby and Michelle have faced some worthy adversaries, but most get locked away and forgotten about. Thief "Manny" Mason and criminal mastermind Magnus Elphrenson (Peter Outerbridge, "ReGenesis") are the exceptions. Both are intelligent, calculating, manipulative, and could be recurring thorns in IIB's side.
"I don't know too much, but there are always the rumours," teases Olejnik about their return. "I'd like to see both of them back. That would be amazing. Actually, I would like to see them both team up and become the nemeses of Michelle and Toby. I think the character played by Justin Chatwin this premiere is a good one, too. A little larger than life. They really have to hunt him down."
Pedal to the Metal
Clearly, "The Listener" hasn't run out of steam. The series hit its creative stride last year, producing strong episode after strong episode. The bar has been raised and Smith feels this could be their best season yet.
"We've established that everyone within the IIB knows exactly what Toby's powers are," Smith concludes. "This season, we're really focusing more on each case, as opposed to the second story of always having to explain to our higher-ups why he knows what he knows and how he gathers this information. It frees us up a little bit more to be able to delve into the crime scene aspect of it all. Also, we're going to see more action this year. It's fun to be the girl running around with a gun, kicking ass and saving the day. Every episode seems to involve Michelle taking down some big giant dude."
"The Listener" Season 4 premieres on Wednesday, May 29 at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.
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