M: I have to start by saying, I’m torn about this episode. There was a lot to like, an awful lot to like, in it. There was a good episodic plot. There was important overarching information. There were major discoveries. There were some classic Walter moments. There was a huge amount of building up toward the conclusion of the two universes plot. There was even Marshall from Alias! The strange thing is, it didn’t all come together for me. I’m not sure what it was, or wasn’t, or why, but it just didn’t blow me away the way Fringe does when it’s really good, and it was really good just last week.
I don’t know, I think there wasn’t enough Walter-Peter interaction, and the dynamic with Fauxlivia is just off a bit. Plus, I don’t like that all the cases in the “our universe” episodes focus entirely around the overarching plot. Over the first two seasons there were some great stand alone cases, and the last two cases on the alternate side have been so good. Maybe it was that they brought in Kevin Weisman (who was just spectacular on Alias), barely used him and then killed him. Or maybe I’m just being picky.
That said, I did enjoy the episode, and there are a lot of fun things to chew on from it, so lets get to it. It starts with a peek into the lives of three folks who are trying to crack some sort of radio transmission. When the broadcast starts, we hear the numbers from LOST. Seriously, at the start the numbers we hear are 15, 8 and 42, which make up half of “The Numbers”. Either it was a cute nod to Lost (my guess) or a complete coincidence. Quickly into their listening, they all start freaking out. My thoughts immediately started racing. Are they shapeshifters, being activated by some code in the transmission? Are people “jumping” from the other side into their bodies? Are their heads going to blow up on screen, and if so can I turn away in time, because I just don’t need to see that. Turns out I was off on all counts. They were getting their memories erased. That leads to a few fairly obvious questions: how, why and by whom?
Before we can answer those questions, we get confirmation of two things we knew to be the case two episodes ago. First, that Fauxlivia did in fact jump Peter in her effort to keep him from figuring out she’s not the real Olivia, and second, that it’s working. This is going to lead to all kinds of ickiness that the show will eventually need to delve into, as there will be lasting consequences in whichever universe survives the coming weeks (or both, but both surviving is unlikely). However, even though getting Peter to think with, uh, little peter, has him thrown off at first, we do see chinks in Fauxlivia’s armor start appearing. Nina is very distrusting of her. Based on the conversation they have at Massive Dynamic about Olivia usually being more hand on with Walter, I’m pretty sure Nina knows it’s not “our” Olivia. And even Peter sees (whether he wants to admit it or not) a problem, when he shows her the name of his quirky rare book dealer friend, whose store has gotten an upgrade over the last two seasons, for what it’s worth, and she doesn’t recognize it. Fauxlivia may be progressing rapidly toward her goal, but she’s starting to lose her cover. That’s not the only thing she’s starting to lose, but we’ll come back to that.
The other thing the “morning after” scene introduces is this week’s fight between Peter and Walter. Walter wants Peter to stop tinkering with the doomsday machine, and Peter won’t, and in fact is researching it in Walter’s lab. I felt the way they handled the rest of the crew dealing with Walter about this was good, showing each person trying to calm Walter down in their own way, while also emphasizing the lack of connect between Fauxlivia and Walter. However, I thought that the interaction between Walter and Peter was all wrong. They decided to go with angry Walter, when they should have gone with funny walter. When Walter unhooked the sound board Peter was using to study the machine piece, he gave a lame excuse and got mad a Peter for calling him on it. They could have gone an entirely different way with that and could have created a running bit through the episode where Walter repurposes all the things Peter was using for things like making custard. I also feel like they’re playing the “Walter does drugs” card a little to often, though one use of it tonight was pretty funny.
Speaking of that, Walter definitely had his moments in this episode. The line to Broyles when he saw the reel-to-reel tape player about being “ripped out of his gourd” listening to the Beattles backwards was hilarious, as was Walter asking Astrid for the “First People” book (I’ll come back to that) and letting her know he felt a bowel movement coming on. The best, however, was when Nina unexpectedly showed up at the Harvard lab. Walter greeted her, giddily letting her know that if he knew she was coming he’d have baked a cake for her, to which Astrid let Nina know “He means that. Literally.” Loved that.
Anyway, back to the plot. As the team starts investigating they find that the memory-wiped folks were all trying to crack the “Number Broadcasts” They also find that the broadcasts are being enhanced with a hidden pulse that was what was responsible for the memory wipe. The pulse is coming from the addition of mysterious floating boxes, being hooked to the broadcast antenna by Marshall, who in Fringe turns out to be an evil-ish shapeshifter called Gemini. Of course, it wasn’t until they got close to catching him that Fauxlivia went to meet him and gave away that he was working for the other side, but that was fairly obvious from the start.
Meanwhile, Walter and Astrid are having no luck with the numbers from the numbers station until Peter and Fauxlivia go to Markham, the quirky book guy, and get a book called “First People” by some 19th century guy named Seamus Wiles. Now, contrary to what you might think if you watched the Winter Olympics, this was not a book about the Native Tribes in Canada. Instead it was a book theorizing about people that lived, and disappeared without a trace, before dinosaurs. They actually asked the question of how Wiles could know about them if they had disappeared without a trace millennia earlier, so kudos to the show for asking the question smart viewers ask. The answer may lie with someone who has a slightly similar sounding name and claimed to be “much older than he looks”, bowling alley guy Sam Weiss, who could potentially be the last remaining “First Person”. However, I have some serious doubts about that, and the First People in general.
Still, thing definitely picked up when the book came into play, drawing us back to a similar plotline in the first season, when the ZFT manifesto was discovered (also through the quirky Markham). They brought in some cooky touches from the book like the “discovery” of a great vacuum that was like the big bang, and could potentially condense or expand all matter, and that the months devised by the First People having widely varying number of days, which the numbers of formed the numbers in the recent number broadcasts. Right around the time Fauxlivia was covering her tracks and tossing Gemini out the window of his apartment building, spilling mercury all over the ground, Astrid was able to crack the code by looking at a globe, and realizing that the numbers were latitude and longitude coordinates. That led to them discovering a piece of Walternate’s doomsday machine, which he described as “ancient tech” for the record, and the realization that the other coordinates are the locations of the other pieces. That in turn led to another great Walter moment, where he finally gave in to allowing Peter to figure out what the machine is for, saying “it will be either creation or destruction. Let’s hope for the former”.
Now, for me, Astrid’s relative ease in breaking the code, combined with Markham’s comment that he had looked into the numbers broadcasts for five years, have me thinking there’s something else going on. My conjecture is that there were no “First People” and that Walternate’s operatives used the numbers in the book to create a map to where they deposited the pieces of the doomday machine. If the numbers had always been the numbers in the First People book then Markham would have cracked the code at some point in the five years he was trying to. I think Walternate’s folks used the book as hook to keep Peter curious, to reel in Walter, and to get them to put the machine together. I think it was all done knowing that Peter could get a copy of the book, knowing that they would crack the numbers, and be too curious not to put together the machine.
If I’m right, it still doesn’t explain where the machine came from, or how Walternate got its pieces onto our side, but it is clear that whoever is behind it is cold and calculated. Speaking of which, we began to see signs of humanity in Fauxlivia. In on scene with Gemini she told him to halt the broadcasts so no other innocent people would be hurt. Of course, she promptly killed him, destroyed the data unit in his spine and then tossed him out a window, so it was a baby step. Another baby step was her veiled conversation with Peter in which she half asks, half says that people have to do what they have to to protect their world, showing she’s trying to justify her actions. However, Peter disagreed, saying that he needs to find a way that doesn’t include total annihilation, showing again the comparison between them, even at her weakest and most emotional moments.
In the end we get glimpses of each Olivia. We see Fauxlivia at the enchanted typewriter, letting the other side know that they found the pieces, and are going to put it together. She is rewarded by getting to “initiate phase 2”. Our Olivia, on the other hand, is being told by fun geeky lab guy to skip out on the psychotropic dunk take, per Walternate’s orders. The Harvey version of Peter living inside Olivia’s mind makes sure that she knows that means they’ve gotten what they needed from someone/somewhere else, that they’re done with her, and that she needs to “go home”.
From the looks of the preview, may next week she will.