Ty is a twenty-something dude who abducts an underage girl from an airport and transports her to the wilderness of Australia, where he swears he'll never let her leave and will keep her there forever. Yikes. Ty is a kidnapper at best and a predator at worst, but either way, he steals a girl and puts her in mortal danger. So again, yikes.
On paper, the facts look really bad. But, is it possible that there could be another side to the story? Is it also possible that what Ty did was, at least in his eyes, defensible? Let's see if we can find out.
While Gemma is understandably not into talking to Ty when she first gets to his place, she eventually opens up enough to hear the story of his childhood. Spoiler alert: It wasn't nice. Well, that is, unless there's something nice about child neglect and abandonment. (There isn't.)
According to Ty's account, his dad was once a farmer in Australia who had a pretty good operation going with the Aborigines who worked for him. These Australian natives were not just his employees but Ty's friends, who "taught [him] about the land" (31.17). Ty's mom was never in the picture—she and his dad were "never really together" (31.10) and while she tried to be a mother for a while, she eventually gave custody to Ty's dad.
So, Ty grew up on a farm in Australia with his dad and learned to be a nature boy from the farmhands, and things were going pretty good. At least, until his dad started going to the city to play the stock market and started playing with booze and drugs instead. Eventually, he left the farm and never came back, leaving Ty to fend for himself until child protective services caught on to what was going on and took him away from the farm, sending him to a children's home in the city.
We wish we could say things got better for Ty once he was taken from the farm, but if anything, stuff just got worse. He wouldn't talk to the administrators at the home, so they gave him a name and tried to do the best they could to help him. Unfortunately, though, their efforts didn't really fit Ty's definition of help: "They decided how old I was, what I was going to wear," he tells Gemma. "Because I didn't speak to them, they tried to make me a different person.… Wish they'd never caught me" (31.53).
Ty doesn't thrive in populated, city-like environments because his identity is so tied to the land the Aborigines taught him to love. As a result, the adults who take over his case don't really seem to know how to deal with him and instead try to make him into a more known quantity. This, however, only fuels his anger about being taken away from home as well as creates a desire to return there. What the children's home workers did by taking him from the farm may have been legal, but we're pretty sure it did a lot of damage to his identity—damage that had lasting repercussions.
So, just to recap, we've heard version one of the Ty MacFarlane story—you know, the one where he's a child abductor and a predator. But, there's another potential angle on the story: Ty is a deeply damaged man who sees Gemma heading down the same path he took after his arrival in the city and feels led to rescue her from the monotony and conformity of her life. He takes her to Australia to purify her spirit and free her from the confines of conventional life.
Yeah, this version doesn't exactly absolve him of guilt. But, even though we can't condone his actions, we can at least see why his past might have led him to do what he does.
Here's what we mean: Ty first met Gemma in a park when she was 10 years old, after his mission to come to London to find his long-lost mother went belly-up. And, in the little girl he saw talking to the flowers in the park, he saw something of himself and began to stalk her. (Let's call it what it is.) "I've watched you a long time," he tells Gemma. "It was just, you were like me, when I was young … you never seemed to fit in" (37.56). See? He feels he recognizes a kindred spirit.
Ty also puts together the pieces of Gemma's life as he observes her life at home. "Each day your parents pushed you into being like them," he tells her, "pushed you into a meaningless life. You didn't want that, I know you didn't" (37.47). In Ty's eyes, the end of his plan justifies the means—he's showing mercy to Gemma by rescuing her from that life.
We totally get why Ty would see Gemma's normal, suburban life with her yuppie parents and feel repulsed by it. We can even understand his motivation for wanting to save her from something that was really painful for him. But, that's the problem here—Ty is seeing Gemma's life through the lens of his experience and his experience only. While he may be trying to save her, he doesn't recognize that he's doing exactly what the child protective workers did to him—taking Gemma from a lifestyle and location she knows and transplanting her somewhere completely different.
In the end, Gemma wrestles with the power of her testimony to turn the evidence for or against Ty during his trial. While she ultimately decides that what Ty did was not right and he should have to pay the penalty for it, there's an awful lot of gray area in terms of understanding him as a character and his motivations.
And, with that, of course, comes a lot of questions that we're not necessarily able to answer. Is Ty suffering from mental illness? Or, is he so warped by child abuse that he honestly believes he's doing the right thing? At the very least, being abandoned by both his parents and abruptly taken from the farm probably left him with some form of post-traumatic stress disorder, hence the violent nightmares Gemma witnesses.
And, hey—at least he doesn't hurt Gemma while he holds her hostage. In this regard, at least, he never turns into the raging monster Gemma (and us readers) totally expect him to become.