“If you end up breaking the universe, this time it’s on your head.”
The First People existed long before dinosaurs. They conceived of time differently than we did, using a complex system of variable-length months to give order to their universe. They also discovered the vacuum cleaner. No, wait: The Vacuum, a device that has the power to create and destroy at the level of the Big Bang. No wonder they didn’t last long.
All of this information comes from our latest Text of Infinite Possibilities, penned by none other than Seamus Wiles, whose name is an anagram of Samuel Weiss. Remember Sam Weiss, the bowling-alley psychiatrist? Looks like his story is unfinished, which is wonderful. (Also wonderful: that I figured that anagram out on my own. I never figure out anagrams.)
Walternate knows about The Vacuum, which is buried in bits and pieces across the globe, except for the part that Peter brought back with him from Over There, and the guide that shows Peter with his eyes blazing out of his head. Luckily, our heroes already have those pieces. Olivia’s task was to clue out team into the locations of the pieces through a complex game of Clue that left many people amnesiacs and a small planeload dead.
“Number stations” were the first clue. They’ve always been broadcasting—were even broadcasting as Marconi invented the radio—but Walternate drew our heroes’ attention to them by causing so much death. (Well, that’s my theory. Walter’s theory is that the people died because they got close to figure out the code, which seems unlikely, as there’s just that one copy of Seamus Wiles’s book.) Astrid, channeling her over-there-self, broke the code through a combination of intelligence, stubbornness, and dumb luck. End Phase One, initiate Phase Two.
What an ominous phrase. This whole episode felt ominous, from Walter’s sudden cynicism to Peter blindly sleeping with the enemy—and even buying her U2 tickets, which registers an 11 on the cool boyfriend scale. Walter referred to Astrid as the Watson to his Holmes, and the process of deduction led our heroes down the path of scary doomsday. It feels like things are really coming to a head, and the previews for next week look like I’m not wrong.
Lots of information—this episode was mostly exposition—but I was still riveted throughout. In part, it was the joy of seeing Walter and Peter and even Astrid. Only seeing them in alternate weeks makes me appreciate them more. But the tone of playfulness really made me happy: not playfulness like one of those awesome bouncy houses at kids’ parties. Playfulness like puns, codes, tricks, and allusions.
For instance: The Seamus Wiles anagram. Joseph Feller as alternate Joseph Heller (writer of Catch-22, a popular Lost allusion, too). Astrid’s code as following a map of the world. The numbers, including 42, which is the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Puns. Bach, who embedded numerical games into many of his works. Oh, and the fabulous Kevin Weisman of Alias fame John Locking his way out the window by a con-woman. (I hope the shapeshifter didn’t shapeshift Marshall.)
Our Theme of the Week is that binaries sometimes resolve into just one thing. Walter is worried that Peter is turning into him, by working with the “virus,” as Nina said, to find the “vaccine.” Astrid is becoming more like her counterpart. Fauxlivia seems to be having doubts. Seamus Wiles and Sam Weiss are the same man. There was talk of magnets. If that is the theme, then what can we surmise about creation vs. destruction? Is it possible there’s a happy medium? Perhaps some sort of merge?
All in all, a strong episode. Lots of exposition nicely balanced by lots of fun. Lots of completely unbelievable things (like objects buried hundreds of years ago that are close enough to the surface of Jersey City to be dug up in a day) balanced by they neat way they fit into earlier mythology. And I do love a sense of impending dread.
I Have a Prescription:
• Pun of the Week Award: “I love U2.” It’s a play on “I love you, too” as well as “I love You 2.0.”
• Walter: “Ham radio enthusiasts? Maybe their brains were erased by the magnetic winds of the solar storm.”
Peter: “If it hadn’t happened four hours after sundown, you might be on to something.”
• Walter: “I knew my Jimi Hendrix wah-wah pedal would come in handy.”
• Walter: “I know what this woman is going through. To not recognize your life…”
• Markus: “Stamp collecting. Now there’s a hobby with dividends.”
• Peter: “If you don’t know anything, you can just say that.”
• Walter: “Now I have bookends.”
• Walter: “If I’d known you were coming, I’d have baked a cake.”
Astrid: “He means that. Literally.”
• Walter: “It’s the key to the universe! It’s a secret worth protecting!”
• Walter: “Of course, the chips are just because I like food that crunches.”
• Nina told Olivia that she is “usually more direct with Walter.” Her tone was curious: does she know that Olivia is really Fauxlivia? But Fauxlivia doesn’t know that she knows?
• Astrid looks better without lipstick.
Four out of four bookends.