After a prolonged walk across the proverbial ‘Hiatus Sahara’I am nearly too giddy for words at the back to back return of J.J. Abrams digital offspring, Fringe and Lost. Thank God for January! Anyway, my name is Jeni and I have been given the opportunity to provide the weekly recap of Fringe for TV Over Mind. Although, I must confess I don’t spend nearly as much time in the minutia of this show as I do my diagnosable obsession ó read Lost ó I do enjoy Fringe not only for the sci-fi aspects, but even more so for the interaction between the characters. The dialogue in Fringe is so well written that viewers are allowed to suspend their disbelief and allow for the possibility that there really is a ‘pattern’to the bizarre and macabre. The season opener illustrates exactly that point.
Peter enters the lab to find Walter holding a green caterpillar and applying drops of fluid to its back, or front, maybe its side. It is a caterpillar after all. Peter gathers his nerve and asks Walter what he is doing. It seems that Walter has developed his own special blend of hallucinogen and is ‘ėdosing’the caterpillar with it. Peter takes this news in stride and tells his dad that ‘giving drugs to bugs’has become pretty much par for his course. I guess when you are surrounded by things that ordinary people can’t comprehend; a tripping little bug doesn’t even register on the weirdness scale anymore. I, however, can’t help but wonder what the butterfly’s wings are going to look like!
Astrid comes into the lab and tells Peter and Walter that Olivia is missing. Flash cut to Olivia regaining consciousness with electrodes on her head and strapped to a Stryker Frame ó a flipable stretcher that looks like something out of the Saw movies. Two red shirts pull her down a hall way that is designed to make us realize that this place is closer to a meat locker than a medical facility. A man in a Halloween mask approaches her with a syringe and, after exchanging innuendo with Olivia about his lack of sexual prowess, gets the red shirts to flip the stretcher.
Back at the Bureau, Broyles and Charlie head a meeting about their lost agent and give a little bit of background information about who they are for both newer members of the office as well as newer viewers of the show. This is actually a nice touch and not too terribly out of place in the flow of the show.
Returning to Olivia, who is now under the stretcher staring at Mask Guy’s shoes – black loafers with a conspicuous white splotch on them. Of course, Mask Guy, who is obviously not happy with Olivia’s earlier remarks, now has a bigger needle and jams it into her back with a noticeable lack of sterile technique. Can you say, ‘Meningitis?’Anyway, Mask Guy leaves the room, pulls off the mask and turns out to be none other than Mitchell Lobe. I guess spinal tapping is one of the classes you take at Quantico. Who knew!
Olivia is spun back over in the frame and becomes the ‘helpless female in distress’character for the red shirt closest to her, and then after he is close enough for physical contact smashes the guy in the head with a beaker and makes a break for it. On her way out, she encounters what looks like leeches with spines on them floating in formaldehyde and some samples in test tubes. She grabs some of the tubes, a gun, cell phone and someone’s car keys, shoots a red shirt and then hits the street.
Meanwhile, back that the ranch, Broyles gets a call from a Sanford Harris. Harris is in DC and is calling not because he has heard that one of their agents has been abducted, but because he has been assigned to head an Internal Affairs investigation review of the Fringe Division. Joy! Olivia, now on the move, calls Broyles and tells him where to meet her so that they can raid the building where she was being held. Having the foresight to know that things disappear rapidly on the Fringe, she stops at a vacant lot and buries the thermos containing the test tubes she took before driving off to meet the rest of her FBI buddies. Enter the cavalry with lights and sirens blazing; only they are not the cavalry at all and shoot Olivia in the back with some kind of drugged dart. Broyles set her up.
This time, Olivia wakes up in a real hospital, handcuffed to the bed, with Mr. Harris at her bedside. It seems that Olivia was instrumental in Mr. Harris’s prosecution for sexual assault. Now with his conviction overturned he has to power of Homeland Security behind him and appears grateful for the chance to lord that power over Olivia. He also provides viewers with another larger bit of character background on all the major players. In the end he knows he can’t hold Olivia, but he has definitely made his point.
Once back at the office, Charlie approaches Olivia. He wants her to know he had nothing to do with the whole drug dart thing. Charlie tells Olivia that when they went to the address she gave them it was empty. Everything, the cell phone, the SUV, all of it was clean. He also tells her that Rachel is there. Rachel turns out to be Olivia’s sister who has arrived at the Federal Building with her daughter in tow. They are staying with Olivia for the night at least. The nameless niece gives Olivia a present; a Magic 8 Ball from her room, in an interaction that seems entirely insignificant so therefore must be extremely significant.
Olivia, Peter and Walter go back to the vacant lot and dig up the test tube thermos. Walter sets up a portable lab on the tail gate complete with microscope and spinning, whirly urine ó I mean yellow liquid. Walter is able to identify the contents of the tubes, but naturally doesn’t share that information with us. That just wouldn’t be Fringe-like!
Next we enter the Boston College classroom of epidemiologist, Miles Kimberg, who is explaining that while humans might think they are on top of the food chain, viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa go about their daily lives in and on us. He becomes ill after drinking what appears to be water and falls to the floor. After some half hearted CPR from his teacher’s assistant, he spews forth a giant spine covered slug looking thing and dies.
Once the Fringe team arrives, they use an infrared camera to try and capture the supersonic slug. However, it is Walter and an old fashioned trash can that do the job in the end. Walter takes the slug back to the lab and identifies it as made of the same material as the specimen in the test tubes that Olivia found.
Broyles goes to bat for Olivia back at headquarters and confronts Harris about the whole elephant tranquilizers thing. Broyles knows that Harris has it out for Olivia but Harris makes it clear that he holds all the cards. This will make for an interesting power struggle.
Olivia interviews the teacher’s assistant, who has been assisting the teacher in more intimate ways for about three months. She tells Olivia that Kimberg has been offered a big job with a CDC task force to fight off epidemiological attacks. There is also another scientist that has been offered the same job, Dr. Russell Simon. Olivia and Broyles decide that Simon might be in danger as well and the FBI heads off to put him in protective custody, without bothering to tell Harris. Broyles will handle him, this time, maybe.
Olivia calls Rachel and tells her not to hold supper. We find out her niece actually does have a name, Ella. Enter Mitch Loeb. Guess who is heading the investigation into Olivia’s adduction? He should be able to handle that job really well. If he finds anything, he will let Olivia know ó yeah right.
Charlie and Olivia head to Cambridge, pick up Dr. Simon and bring him back to headquarters. Harris pulls Charlie and Olivia out of the room and questions Olivia about putting Dr. Simon in protective custody. Apparently it costs too much money to save someone’s life. But when Olivia grovels a bit, he reconsiders. While Olivia learns from Peter how the slugs enter the body via a liquid and grow in stomach acid, Loeb demonstrates the reaction and brings Dr. Simon a glass of infested water. Simon happily drinks the water, then not quite so happily spews froth his own slug and dies. At least the taxpayers saved money!
Walter has determined that the giant spiney slugs are actually huge individual specimens of the common cold virus. Killing infectious disease specialists with the common cold virus, while brilliant, is indeed as Peter puts it, showing off. After the slug/virus has been identified, Peter wonders what that has to do with Olivia and her spinal tap. Good question!
Back at Olivia’s apartment, Olivia cooks dinner. They drink some wine and Rachel learns that if a Fringe agent tells you about their day they have to kill you. During the conversation, we are left to read between the lines and figure out that Rachel has taken Ella and left her husband, Greg. Rachel and Ella might be around for a while. I hope they are more that just a plot device.
Back at the office, Mitch Loeb, re-enters the scene. He pumps Olivia a little to see if she is getting anywhere with her investigation then plays with Ella’s Magic 8 Ball. Tossing it back, Olivia drops the ball and TADA guess what is on Mitch Loeb’s black loafers? A white splotch! Well I’ll be darned. She tells Charlie her suspicions about Loeb and asks him to set up a wire tap on Loeb’s phone. Of course, Charlie is a good little FBI agent and can’t break the law. Peter on the other hand is not quite so bound.
While Olivia heads out to the Loeb residence, Walter tries decongestant on the cold virus, which in itself is hilarious. Olivia tries to break into the house and gets busted by Samantha Loeb, who invites her in for tea. That is exactly what I do when I catch people breaking into my house. Don’t you?
Olivia pulls the, ‘mind if I use your bathroom’trick and searches the house while Peter finds a way to tap into the Loeb home phone just in time to overhear a call between Samantha and Mitchell. Mitchell tells Samantha to kill Olivia. Peter calls Olivia and tells her to get out of the house. Olivia draws down on Samantha but she pulls the same, ‘helpless female in distress’ploy that Olivia used with the red shirts. The resulting chick fight ends with two gunshots; one into a table, the other in the middle of Samantha Loeb’s forehead.
Broyles sends a text message to Mitchell using Samantha’s phone telling him to meet her. Waiting for Loeb, Walter tells Olivia that Peter was worried about her when she was missing – really worried. Loeb arrives and is surrounded by FBI, shot in the arm then cold cocked by Olivia. Returning to the interrogation room, Olivia and Charlie question Loeb. He asks to see his wife and they refuse. Olivia asks why she was taken and what the spinal tap was about. When he won’t answer she asks Charlie to leave, then shows Loeb a picture of Samantha with a bullet hole in her head. She goads him into admitting he killed the scientists.
A visibly shaken Loeb tells Olivia that she doesn’t know what the rules are or whose side she is playing on. He tells her that they were trying to save her. Olivia is confused and thinks there might be something to Loeb’s rant. Peter and Walter are convinced Loeb is just insane. Walter’s contribution is, ‘in the category of it takes one to know one.’Just like in real life, crazy gets all the best lines!
What works: Walter’s childlike exuberance coupled with his undeniable genius allows the viewer to suspend disbelief in a huge weaponized slug-like cold virus being held securely with salad tongs, or an equation that allows a person to move between the molecules of solid matter. The relationship between Peter and Walter reaches a new level of understanding and respect with each subsequent episode. The Peter that entered St. Claire’s hospital is substantially different than the one who entered the lab in tonight’s episode.
Next Up: The No-Brainer ó Liquefying brains with a computer virus, ‘Oh, Fantastic!’See you there!