Episode 15: Empathy & Neurology

FROM ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER KIMBERLY ROOTS: Two construction workers are leaving a building about to be demolished and talking about lunch plans when one suddenly stops and looks back at the structure. Telling his pal he has a “weird feeling,” he insists that they sweep the place one more time. Inside, he accidentally puts his foot through a hollow floor and finds a huge series of tunnels that weren’t on the building’s blueprints. As the team searches the tunnels by flashlight, they find a bald, naked young boy crouching in the corner and panting like a feral cat. I’m guessing that wasn’t on the blueprints, either.
At the Boston FBI headquarters, Charlie receives a fax featuring a disturbing photo of dismembered doll parts. “You are invited to the showing of a brand new work. Time: Today. Place: Boston,” it reads. He calls Olivia, who’s hanging out with her sister and niece at home. “The Artist is back,” he informs her. She starts to tell Rachel and Ella that she has to go into work, but then the phone rings again and it’s Phillip Broyles, who tells her to collect the Bishops and meet him at Children’s Hospital—The Artist can wait.
At the hospital, Broyles informs the group about the tunnels and the boy. The tunnels had been sealed for 70 years, Broyles says, and no one has any idea how the boy got down there. Dr. Winick, the boy’s pediatrician, says the super-pale kid hasn’t eaten or spoken since he arrived, but they’re fairly sure he can hear because he responds to sound.
The boy seems to like Olivia, though he doesn’t smile or react like a normal kid would. She pulls out a pad to write down some info when Charlie calls again, and the kid grabs her pen and writes “Sam Gilmore” upside down.
Olivia meets Charlie at a crime scene, where The Artist has killed a girl, dressed her in a gown, bleached off her tattoos, dyed her hair, and arranged her like a mannequin. Her name is Samantha Gilmore, Charlie says, which startles Olivia. At the FBI, Broyles tells Olivia that none of Samantha’s family or friends know who the boy is, so what’s the connection?
Back at the hospital, Olivia introduces the boy to M&Ms but is interrupted when a social services rep who identifies himself as Eliot Michaels enters the room. He tells Olivia that he’s planning to have the boy moved the next day. Then Michaels steps into the hallway and makes a call. “I’m at the hospital. I think we may have found another one,” he says ominously. Back in the room, the boy writes “547 Marlborough” upside down on Olivia’s pad.
Turns out that The Artist is holding his latest victim in a van very near that address, but Olivia and Charlie don’t find him when they poke around the neighborhood. Later, they find the woman dead and trussed up outside a church, and Charlie says her dog was tied up outside 547 Marlborough. Upset that The Artist slipped through their hands, Olivia visits the Bishops at their hotel. Walter posits that years in isolation have made the boy hypersensitive to people’s emotions the same way that he’s hypersensitive to light and sound. The good news? Walter thinks he knows how to hear the kid’s thoughts.
The next morning, Olivia enters the boy’s room to see that he’s arranged the yellow M&Ms in a tree formation. Strange. She signs his discharge papers and brings him to the lab, where Walter plans to use his neural stimulator on the boy. They put the wired-up helmet on his head—but then Michaels (who, it turns out, is from the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology) enters the lab, Broyles in tow, demanding that they hand the boy over to him. When Astrid says Charlie called and there’s been another invite from The Artist, Olivia gets Michaels to agree to one more day before she has to turn the boy over to him.
The boy helps Olivia one more time by writing “York/Glenway” on her pad. She and Charlie set up a checkpoint at that intersection, and when The Artist happens by, Olivia’s tipped off by the yellow pine tree air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror—it’s what the boy made out of M&Ms at the hospital. The killer knows the gig is up, so he guns it out of the checkpoint and then takes off on foot after crashing his van. As Charlie finds the latest victim alive in the back, Olivia gets into a fight with The Artist in a graveyard and eventually winds up stabbing him with his own knife.
But she just doesn’t feel right about leaving the boy with Michaels, so she enlists Broyles’ and Winick’s help to place him with a foster family. As Broyles tells a disbelieving Michaels that the boy just went missing, we see a much healthier-looking boy happily riding in the backseat of a car on his way to his new home. But all of a sudden his face falls as he sees The Observer, bald and menacing, watching him from the sidewalk. The Observer continues to watch as the car speeds by.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Nothing here about Walter’s seeming link to the manuscript uncovered in the previous episode, nor is it discussed how the boy understands language if he’s been sequestered for his entire life. “Perhaps,” writes Walter in his lab notes, “his empathetic ability enabled him to be exposed to language at a distance: learning via clairaudience.” It might’ve been nice for the show to allude to Heidegger’s idea of language as central to an understanding of being.

Category: Fringe

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