Episode 11: Behold, the Common Cold

FROM ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER KIMBERLY ROOTS: When we last left Olivia, she’d been hauled away by Robert Jones and his band of thugs—including turncoat FBI agent Mitchell Loeb. She’s still MIA at the beginning of this episode. Astrid brings news of the disappearance to Peter and Walter at the lab, while Phillip Broyles and Charlie have their entire division, as well as any other law enforcement teams they can commandeer, try to find her. Sanford Harris, the pal of Broyles’ that Olivia put away for sexual assault years before, calls his friend out of the blue to tell him he’ll be conducting a review of Broyles’ division. That can’t be good …
Cut to a nondescript, sterile facility where Olivia’s strapped to a gurney, flipped over, and given an involuntary spinal tap by men wearing rubber masks. While facing the floor, she notices one of the men is wearing tasseled loafers. When he leaves the room, we see that man is actually Loeb, which also can’t be good. When a junior staffer is the only one left watching Olivia, she meekly asks for water and to be unstrapped so she can drink it. He takes pity on her and gets the glass smashed into his face in return. She jumps off the table, fights him a bit, and runs off, grabbing some keys, a random cell phone, and a metal cylinder from the laboratory on her way out. Away from the building, she calls Broyles and asks for a team to meet her to storm the lab. While she’s waiting, she stops at a vacant lot and buries the cylinder for safekeeping. Good thinking, too—when the FBI agents find her, they shoot her with a tranquilizer dart, which knocks her out.
She wakes handcuffed to a bed in Boston Hospital, where Harris informs her that his sexual assault charges were overturned and he’s now a consultant who’s been tasked with looking into her division—“Which gives me the prerogative to question your sanity, your loyalty, your willingness to serve,” he tells her. “It seems to me the people you surround yourself with have failed those tests at every turn.” Though Harris seems like a big jerk, he does a nice thing for the audience by reviewing the basic setup of the show: what happened to John Scott, who the Bishops are, how they all came to work together, etc. He uncuffs her and leaves, and she scurries to the FBI, where Charlie tells her that the building she was held in is completely empty. No clues, no fingerprints, no nothing—same holds true for the phone and car she stole. She barely has time to absorb this not-so-great news when he adds that a woman named Rachel is waiting for her in the lobby. Olivia looks uneasy. “She’s my sister,” she says. But she pastes on a smile and meets Rachel and her daughter, Ella, who gives her aunt a Magic 8 ball. Everything’s all smiles and hugs and cheery fun times, and they make a plan to meet at Olivia’s apartment— where they’re staying—later. Olivia takes the Bishops to the site where she buried the cylinder, and Walter tests the test tubes inside right there on the spot. Yes, he tells Olivia, he knows what her captors were up to.
Meanwhile, a Boston College professor lectures his students on viruses. He takes a sip of water, looks a little green, and then starts choking. He collapses, his teaching assistant tries CPR, and there’s general bedlam as he dies. An all-out panic erupts when a giant slug pokes its head out of his mouth, slithers out of his body, and starts careening around the room. There’s much screaming and oozing.
The Bishops trap the giant slug at BC and take it to Harvard for examination as Olivia meets with the TA. They stroll on what is supposed to be the BC campus but what real Bostonians will recognize as Boston University. The TA confesses that she was having an affair with Prof. Kinberg and that he had just accepted an immunology post with the Centers For Disease Control. Prof. Simon, from another school, was hired too, Olivia learns. She posits that the people behind Kinberg’s death were responsible for taking her and that they’re probably gunning for Simon. Broyles gives her the unofficial OK to take Simon into protective custody. As she and Charlie leave to get Simon, Loeb tells her he’s taking charge of the investigation about her disappearance. Grrrrreat.
Simon’s in custody and being questioned when Peter calls: Walter deduced that one of the test tubes contained slug eggs, which need both stomach acid and water to be activated. Loeb picks that moment to deliver a glass of water to Simon, who takes a sip and begins having a slug attack moments later. He dies violently as Charlie re-enters the room; another giant slug pops out of his mouth, and a freaked-out Charlie shoots it. At Harvard, Walter finally identifies the slithering beasts: a virus called nasal pharyngitis. Peter seems grudgingly impressed. “They super-sized the common cold,” he says, noting the irony of using the virus to murder epidemiologists. But why did they want Olivia?
Olivia has a quick dinner with her family, during which we learn that Rachel and her husband, Greg, are having problems and that she’s staying with Olivia until she figures things out. The next day at work, Loeb tosses Ella’s Magic 8 ball, and it falls on the ground … where Olivia reaches down to get it and notices his tasseled loafers. Gotcha! For help, she goes to Charlie, who then turns to Peter for a little illegal wiretapping that Harris won’t notice. Peter happily helps, and they listen in on Loeb’s phone while Olivia goes to his house. She’s about to break in when his wife, Samantha, catches her. Suspicious, Samantha invites her in for tea, and when Olivia asks to use the bathroom, Samantha calls Loeb and tells him the jig is up. He has only one suggestion, which Peter and Charlie overhear: “You need to kill her. Right now.”
Olivia sneaks around Loeb’s study and finds pictures of the giant slug while Samantha retrieves a gun and goes on the hunt. But Olivia gets the jump on her. A girlfight ensues, ending when both women take a shot at each other; Samantha misses, Olivia hits her target right between the eyes.
In the meantime, Loeb has left the FBI with all of his things, and there’s no way to track him. The team texts him from Samantha’s phone and tells him to meet “her” at a phone booth. Unaware that she’s dead, he does, and is captured. But he refuses to say who he’s working for … until Olivia shows him pictures of Samantha’s corpse and says she’s responsible for the woman’s death. “Did you kill them?” she asks, and he’s so angry that he admits to killing the professors. “Did you not understand the rules, who we’re up against? Who the two sides are? Tell me you at least know that!” he rages. “We didn’t kidnap you, idiot! We saved you.”
THE BOTTOM LINE: As Walter reminds us in his lab notes (regarding what he calls the “mammoth virus grown in the belly”): “How difficult it proves to separate myth from fact, and fact from myth!”


Episode 10: Vice & a Transport Device

FROM ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER KIMBERLY ROOTS: We begin this week in Philadelphia, where Mitchell Loeb and his crew break into a bank. They set up a larger-scale version of his apple experiment from a couple episodes back and then walk through a solid wall to gain access to the vault. The effects look pretty cool. They cut a safe-deposit box out of the wall and haul it through the wall, but there’s a mishap and one member of the team is left in the vault. As the window of time draws to a close, the man gets unstuck and starts to exit … just as the wall solidifies around his torso. Uncaring, Loeb shoots the trapped man in the forehead and orders the crew to take off.
A chatty Peter and Olivia arrive at the crime scene with Walter in tow. Before they get down to business, we learn that Olivia has a sister and went to boarding school. Enough with the pleasantries, kids: There’s work to be done. Phillip Broyles alerts them to three similar heists in the recent past, and Olivia recognizes the man in the wall as Raul Lugo, someone from her Marine unit. Far away in Germany, Robert Jones—who gave Olivia the code “Little Hill” a few episodes back—is meeting with his lawyer in prison. The lawyer tells Jones the Philly job was successful. That pleases Jones, who orders his lawyer to wire 100,000 dollars to Loeb and to bring him some seemingly random items, including sunblock, when he returns the next day.
Olivia arrives at Lugo’s home in Edison, New Jersey, a place she knows well from when she hung out with Lugo and his wife during her Marine years. Except—oops! — when Lugo’s estranged wife doesn’t recognize Olivia but confirms some memories she has, Olivia realizes John’s memories and her own have become so enmeshed, she can’t tell them apart anymore. Meanwhile, at Massive Dynamic, a scientist informs Nina Sharp that they’ve hit a wall retrieving John’s memories. Sharp’s not happy. Later, the scientist figures out that some of John’s memories may be in Olivia’s mind. Sharp gets a look on her face like she’s plotting something really evil.
At Harvard, Walter examines Lugo’s hand and theorizes that the bank crew used high-powered vibration to make the wall’s molecular structure permeable. The unfortunate side effect? Radiation poisoning. Peter and Olivia go to a bar to talk to Lugo’s friend; when that lead turns up dry, they drink and talk about Olivia’s uncanny ability to remember any number she sees. She rattles off the numbers of the missing safe-deposit boxes and Peter realizes they’re part of the Fibonacci sequence: Each is the sum of the previous two. When they tell Walter, he realizes that the boxes are his, taken out under pseudonyms, but he can’t remember why.
After the FBI crew misses another of Loeb’s jobs—this one in Providence, Rhode Island—they do manage to catch one of the team members. He’s a former Marine, one of Lugo’s pals from the VA Hospital, and Peter correctly diagnoses him with radiation sickness. The man claims not to know Loeb or what he’s doing, saying he was only hired as a freelance goon, but does remember something about meeting up at a field in Westford, Massachusetts. Olivia goes to a map and finds Little Hill Field there, and connects the dots. In Germany, Jones again meets with his lawyer and asks him to procure one more thing: Olivia. Eew.
At the lab, Walter remembers that Peter was deathly ill as a child. In an effort to find the one man who could help him, even though he’d been dead for years, Walter invented a machine that “in theory, could retrieve anyone from anywhere,” he recalls. But when Peter recovered on his own, the machine wasn’t necessary. The pieces, he posits, may be in the boxes Loeb’s men stole.
Indeed, at Little Hill Field, Loeb’s men have the device all set up. In Germany, Jones meets with his lawyer one more time, snaps his neck, and dons the dead man’s suit. He steps into the corner, rubs some sunblock on his face, pops a pill, and waits … as a light starts to shine around him. Back in America, Olivia’s on her way to the field when a car runs her off the road. Men jump out and tranquilize her, then carry her away. All of a sudden, Jones appears in Little Hill Field. Loeb meets him and gives him the news he wants to hear. “Well then,” Jones says, all smarmy and creepy. “Let’s not keep her waiting.”
Broyles calls Sharp to tell her Olivia’s missing. When he implies that Sharp’s got her stashed somewhere, she falls all over herself denying it. Might the lady protest too much?
THE BOTTOM LINE: By manipulating molecules to gain a specific result, Robert Jones, Mitchell Loeb, and their ilk are playing God—yet there’s very little question of whether they’re the good guys or the bad guys. Walter’s recollection about why the transporting device was first built (to save Peter’s life) puts him in the same category. Whether the machine is built to save a little boy’s life or to amass personal wealth and stature seems to be moot when such deity-like powers are up for grabs.
[Editor’s note: This will be the last Fringe recap for 2008. New episodes begin in January.]


Episode 9: Beliefs That Kill & a Chill

FROM ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER KIMBERLY ROOTS: A disheveled man rushes into a corporate meeting, apologizes for being late, and launches into his presentation. It goes well, but after everyone else in the conference room leaves, he’s puzzled by a butterfly darting about the room. It lands on his finger for a moment, then makes a few quick passes that leave slashes on his neck and arms. The wings are like blades, he realizes, moments before a swarm of the sharp-edged insects flood out of the ventilation system. They swipe at him relentlessly until, faced with no other option, the man busts through a plate glass window and falls many floors to his death. The building he was in? Massive Dynamics headquarters, of course.
In Boston, Olivia’s getting ready for a friend’s surprise party when Phillip Broyles calls and orders her to round up the Bishops and meet him in New York. He ignores her desire to have a normal life for a few days: “Runway 14. The plane will be waiting.” At the crime scene, Walter looks at the dead man—whose name is Mark Young—and notices that the cuts didn’t come from the impact of his fall. But Olivia is distracted: She sees John in the crowd of onlookers, but he disappears when she blinks. Massive Dynamics diva Nina Sharp informs Olivia that Young was a rising star in the company but that sometimes the pressures of working at the cutting edge of science aren’t for everyone. And with that sales pitch, she once more presses Olivia about coming to work there. Olivia refuses again, instead heading to Young’s apartment. From clues around the place, she and Charlie infer that Young wasn’t suicidal. As she takes note of Young’s day planner, which has MONARCH handwritten on one of the days, the butterfly specimens hanging on the wall start flapping their wings—but Olivia’s apparently the only one to notice. She keeps this observation to herself. At Walter’s Harvard lab, he and Astrid note high levels of a synthetic compound in Young’s blood, while Peter takes a call from a worried-sounding woman who wants to see him.
Olivia does a cursory Web search of “monarch” at home before bed, then shuts down her laptop. But it reboots on its own moments later and calls up her email inbox. At the top of the queue is a new email from John. “1312 Labrador Ln.,” it reads. “Basement level.” Creepy. Throwing caution to the wind, Olivia goes to the address with only a flashlight and her gun. Inside, she finds crates of toads, which she has transported to Walter’s lab the next day. Charlie raises a suspicious eye but is sympathetic when she says she thinks she’s losing her mind due to the emotional fallout from John’s betrayal and death. She’s interrupted when Astrid calls: The toads secrete the same compound that was found in Young’s body. At the lab, Walter says the compound is psychosomatic in nature and can make people believe that horrible things are happening to them—like a swarm of razor-edge butterflies, perhaps?—and that belief can kill them. Olivia realizes that John’s memories are still banging around in her head from the mind-meld, and she wants them out. Back in the tank we go!
Meanwhile, Peter has a tension-fraught meeting with a woman named Tess, who apparently was his girlfriend or something before he fled town. She tells him to take off again because “they” will find him. When he grabs her wrists, she winces, and he confirms that she’s with someone named Michael and that he’s hurting her. Later, Peter confronts Michael, beats the stuffing out of him, and warns him not to touch Tess again. Throughout the interaction, an unseen person watches Peter from afar.
As Olivia gets into the tank, Astrid brings Walter the book he requested: a Bible. He reads from Ezekiel 36:26 which, depending on the version you’ve got, says: “A new heart also I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will take the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” Interesting. As Olivia floats and Walter’s voice is pumped into the tank, she recalls her first date with John, and when memory Olivia gets up to use the restroom, real Olivia sits down in her spot and start pouring out her heart to memory John, who Walter repeatedly says can’t hear her. But when real Olivia says, “Mark Young killed himself yesterday,” memory John’s eyes snap to her and lock on. Soon they’re in another of John’s recollections: Olivia watches him and three other men talk about an upcoming deal. One of the men is Mark Young, who leaves with a Latino-looking guy. John remains with the other man, who mentions something about an “Ashley” situation before John suddenly stabs him in the gut. Real Olivia is horrified and begs to be let out.
She and Astrid make a composite of the Latino guy, and Broyles tells her that Young was murdered for selling Massive Dynamics technology on the black market. Olivia and Charlie later capture the Latino guy, George Morales, in New York, after he gets hit by a car during their chase. After showing off insider knowledge of “the pattern,” he says he’ll trade all he knows for legal immunity and protection. Olivia promises it, then leaves to taunt Nina. But in her absence, a peaked-looking John enters a frightened George’s hospital room and slits his throat. The shocked nurse that enters the room just then, though, only sees George’s throat opening of its own accord. The psychosomatic toad drugs strike again!
With their smoking gun dead, Olivia pleads with Walter to put her back in the tank. Proving he’s not quite as mad as he seems, Walter says it’s too dangerous and he’ll find another way to access John’s memories. But, um, maybe he should hurry up: That night, Olivia’s computer blinks on of its own accord and there’s another new missive from her dead (or is he?) ex-boyfriend. “I saw you,” it reads, proving that this show is at its best in the small, goosebump-inducing moments like these. “In the restaurant.”
THE BOTTOM LINE: Though Walter tells Olivia that he wants the Bible in order to pray for help should things go wrong during their experiment, the Old Testament verse he reads is Ezekiel’s prophecy of the new man, whose—pardon the lay interpretation—heart and spirit have been made new by God. Could this be a veiled reference to John, who may also be in the process of being made new (or re-made in cyberspace) by this show’s all-powerful entity, Massive Dynamics? Now we’re getting somewhere.


Episode 8: Math & Discovery’s Path

FROM ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER KIMBERLY ROOTS: On a rainy night in Middletown, Connecticut, a boy named Ben composes music in the backseat of the family car as his dad notices a woman stranded on the side of the road. Dad pulls over and calls for a tow before lifting the hood of the grateful woman’s car and taking a look. Some pulsing green and red lights capture his attention, and the next thing he knows, time has passed and the tow-truck driver is tapping him on the shoulder. The woman and her car are gone—oh, and so is Ben.
In Boston, Phillip Broyles alerts Olivia, Walter, and Peter that Ben’s abduction isn’t the first of its kind. Three other people, all experts in math or science, report seeing the same woman and some funny lights before they went missing. All later turned up insane. The lights spark something in Walter’s mind: He later remembers that an ad agency hired him to figure out a way to use flashing lights to increase consumer susceptibility to their messages. The flashing pattern, he recalls, induced a trance-like state— which he re-creates, with a disbelieving Peter as his guinea pig yet again.
At Ben’s house, Olivia learns that Ben’s mom died when she and her son were hit by a car. Ben emerged from a six-day coma with the ability to play piano like a virtuoso, even though he’d never had a lesson. Weeks after, he started writing music but seemed “obsessed” with finding the end to a piece he’d started. In a cell somewhere, the roadside woman tells Ben his mom wants to see him, but he has to cooperate.
Charlie finds a name, Joanne Ostler, to go with the description of Ben’s captor: Problem is, she allegedly died in 1998, eight months before the abductions began. As Olivia chews on that, Walter remembers that one of his fellow inmates at St. Claire’s—the nuthouse from which Olivia and Peter liberated him in the pilot episode—had been abducted under circumstances similar to Ben’s, gone crazy, and killed his wife. The crime scene photos show a mathematical formula scrawled across the wall near his wife’s body. Walter translates an expression from the formula into music as Peter explains to Olivia that music is based on numbers. When Peter plays, the expression sounds just like the piece that Ben was writing.
Olivia wants to talk to Walter’s former inmate, Dashiell Kim, but the St. Claire’s staff will only allow him to be interviewed by a familiar face: Walter. So he sucks it up and returns to his former prison, but when there’s a melee in the meeting room, orderlies stick him with a sedative and hold him there overnight. In that time, Walter’s sanity comes very close to leaving him altogether once more—he even sees himself across the recreation yard—but he manages to get Kim to dredge up that the place he was held was a “dungeon in a red castle.” Thinking he’s failed, Walter is despondent when Peter frees him the next morning.
Meanwhile, in the cell, Ben can’t figure out an ending to the piece. This displeases Ostler, who tells him that he’s hurting his mother by refusing to help. Sure enough, his mom starts to bleed all over the piano from what looks like injuries from a car accident. Ben is understandably freaked out. “If you lose her again,” Ostler coos, “you’ll only have yourself to blame.”
Peter, Charlie, and Olivia figure out that Ostler is likely in or near Clarksburg, Massachusetts. While Olivia and Charlie are going door to door in that town with pictures of Ben, Peter calls to tell her about the red dungeon. She looks across the street, to where a large building stands, and notices that it’s red and has turrets. She and Charlie bust in to find Ben hooked up to some kind of brain-stimulating apparatus—hence the visions of his dead mom—and Ostler fleeing the scene. Olivia chases her into the hall, where Ostler manipulates the ceiling lights to blink red and green. Before Olivia realizes what’s going on, Charlie calls her name and she turns around. Minutes have passed, and Ostler is gone.
Back at their hotel, Walter tells Peter he wants his own space, and Peter genially says they can probably find him on-campus housing at Harvard. In another touching father-son moment, a not-crazy Ben and his pop are reunited at the FBI. Elsewhere, Ostler pulls up to a nondescript warehouse and runs in with the formula Ben has apparently solved. Guess who’s there? Mitchell Loeb, the secretly bad FBI agent from last episode! He plugs the formula into a computer, attaches wires to a metal box, then places a red delicious apple in another metal box on the other side of the room. He activates the machine, and the apple seems to transport from one box to the next (though it’s hard to say if that’s exactly what happens). He’s elated, and so is Ostler—until he pulls out a gun, kills her, and takes a giant bite of the fruit.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Memory continues to play a giant role in the drama; without Walter’s spotty recollections, Ben probably wouldn’t have been rescued. But this episode was rather light on the science—even the “fringe” science for which it’s named. An examination of memories, and how our interpretations of our own experiences shape our beliefs, might prove a suitable topic for the future.

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