Join us for our Fringe Summer re-watch, where we review every episode of Fringe during the summer hiatus. Comments are welcome as we dig into the connections made over three seasons.
The "No-Brainer" episode doesn't appear to be essential to our beloved series, but it's a well-written and interesting episode.
The Fringe team investigates a series of crimes that turn out to not be Pattern-related(but could have been just the same), and Peter is hit with a situation that tests his ability to do what he thinks is best for Walter.
A nefarious computer programmer named Brian Dempsey designed a computer program that not only kills the viewee, but also turns their brains into awful-looking, liquified goo. First it's a teen-ager in Springfield, MA, then a car salesman in the same area, then a father in Chicago. When the third body is discovered, it's Olivia who conencts the dots, as victim #3 was Brian Dempsey's former boss. Unfortunately, Olivia Dunham has to dance around Sanford Harris again, who is back in Boston and threatening to shut the Fringe Division down if they can't come up with a suspect in the next 12 hours.
There's an interesting subplot that starts out with Peter intercepting a hand-written letter to Walter that turns out to be from Carla Warren's mother. (Prior to this episode, all we know from the 101 episode is that an assistant died in the Harvard lab 17 years prior to Walter's incarceration in St. Claire's.)Peter crumbles the letter and throws it into the lab's trash can as Astrid watches. As soon as Peter leaves, Astrid retrieves it from the trash. After the rotary phone rings on the lab wall scenes later, and Peter tells them it was a student looking for financial aid, Astrid waits until Peter again leaves and gives the note to Olivia, telling her she thinks she knows who was on the phone.
As Peter and Olivia return from examining the second body, Peter notices an older woman standing in the snow near the door to the Kresge Building. He tells Liv he'll meet her inside. Peter approaches the woman and asks if she's Jessica Warren. She acknowledges. A short conversation ensues and Peter makes it clear to the woman that her request to speak with Walter will not be honored.
Somewhere in this busy episode, Brian Dempsey sends his killer program to either Ella's or Olivia's laptop(it's not clear which). The "What's That Noise?" box shows up in the middle of Ella's software. First she yells for her mother, but after she gets told "One minute, Ella," and her mother never materializes, the young girl gets impatient and clicks on the start button. The program goes full throttle and the very creepy hand comes out, but when we return to Ella she looks uneffected. No liquid brains to be found anywhere. Meanwhile Peter has used another of his "weird connections" to discover the real time program is being downloaded to Olivia's internet address. He calls her right away and they both race to get there ASAP. Olivia gets home first and barges into her apartement with her gun drawn. Rachel drops pasta on the floor, shocked and swearing, as Olivia asks if there's anyone else there. Olivia finds Ella staring at the laptop screen, as she tells her niece
everything will be OK. Peter gets there and Olivia asks him to check out the back exit. The level at which Ella seems mesmerized by the screen is reminiscent of the victims of the green-green-green-red hypnosis in 108, "The Equation." Ella wasn't even aware that Olivia had returned home.
Olivia has called Charlie. She explains what she saw and how Ella seemed hypnotized by the images. Charlie goes to call Computer Forensics. Peter is busy entertaining Ella in the living room, as Rachel openly flirts with him. Olivia comes in and tells her sister to get her niece checked out as soon as possible. Ella tells them she saw a hand coming out of the computer. Olivia walks closer to the laptop and sees the green light in the "on" position for the camera. Brian Dempsey is watching her. He
says "That's right, Sweetheart, I'm the one you want."
Despite the busy schedule of trying to solve the case and find Brian Dempsey, Olivia finds a minute to confront Peter in the lab about his impromptu visitor. You can see Peter bristle form the get-go, but he encourages Olivia to give her opinion:"You really think it's a good idea...to put him through that?" Peter asks her.
"Well, I was thinking that it's all unresolved. For him. For her, and I was thinking that it must be hard for her too, to come back to the place where she lost her daughter."
"What's your point?" Peter asks impatiently.
"That you underestimate him, your father-and you shouldn't."
With that Peter practically huffs as he leaves Liv's office. Even Astrid can feel the tension as she comes in at that moment to talk with Olivia. It's really the first bonafide fight I believe Peter and Olivia have, and it's crisp, and genuine-feeling.
Of course Brian Dempsey can't be found at his house, and is unemployed, so Olivia brings Luke Dempsey back in for more questioning. Harris interrupts Olivia before she begins the interrogation, telling her what to do. The best line in that scene is Peter's as Harris finally leaves Olivia to do her job. "Every time that guy opens his mouth, I like him more and more."
Luke won't give up his father's hangout and asks for a lawyer, as Olivia predicted. She tells Charlie to wait 5 minutes and then let him go. Peter makes a face. "Did I miss something?" he asks. Olivia replies, "Just trust me," and Peter responds with a look that says our favorite conman really wants to.
As Olivia predicts, Luke makes a phone call in the Federal Building for a taxi. She tells another agent she needs to hear the call, and, as she listens in she hears an unfamilair Springfield address repeated by the taxi dispatcher. Just then Peter appears. Olivia tells him Luke just called for a cab. "One guess where it's taking him."
Peter says, "Oh come on. He cannot possibly be that stupid."
Olivia's reply, "He's nineteen." Peter thinks about that for a second and shrugs.
Thank goodness Luke Dempsey did hail that cab. It gives our favorite dysfunctional couple an hour and a half to continue their argument on whether Walter could handle Jessica Warren's visiti or not. And Peter jumps right in where they left off in her office. (You can read the second part of their argument in the "No-Brainer" transcript via the link below.) http://www.fringepedia.net/wiki/The_No-Brainer/Transcript
Peter tells Olivia off pretty well and she leaves it at that, then turns all FBI, telling him to stay in the car, reminiscent of her doing the same in "The Same Old Story," and "Power Hungry."
Peter encourages her to call for back-up, but Olivia doesn't want Harris to have a chance to sabotage things for her. Reluctantly, Peter stays in the car, until minutes later when he hears sirens approaching-probably figuring it's Harris.
Olivia gets all the way into Dempsey's computer lab and he sticks a gun to her head.
He tells her she messed up everything, and points a second gun at himself. Olivia tries desperately to get Brian to look away from his killer program, but he's insistant wanting to finally see what he created. Peter is confronted by Luke with a metal pipe as he enters, and as he tries to negotiate with the youth there's a gunshot. Peter's off like a shot himself to check up on Olivia.
He sees her bent over in the lab and yells "Dunham!You OK?" And Olivia is, but Brian's been fatally wounded and Olivia tries to explain to Luke that he went into a trance and shot himself. Luke tries to run out of the warehouse but is apprehended by Harris and company.
Peter watches as the Feds cart Luke Dempsey away and our favorite smart guy says something pretty stupid. "I don't get it. He knew he was killing those people. Why would the kid protect a murderer like that?"
Olivia answers as though the answer is obvious, "Because it's his father." Wow. If you've watched through Season 3 this is so reminiscent of the conversation between Peter and Walter in 322, when Walter says "I just wanted to say...at the trial, you spoke on my behalf..."
Peter does set it up that Jessica Warren gets to speak with Walter Bishop, and Peter is quite gentle with Walter about it, saying, Now, look..if you need me, I'll be right here," which is almost word for word what he said to Olivia in "The Dreamscape." (It does make you think that Peter Bishop may not be far from his little family after all, doesn't it?) Depsite Peter's earlier protestations, Walter handles himself beautifully, and comforts Mrs. Warren when she cries.
He starts to lead her somewhere in the lab and says "I'll tell you everything I remember about our time together," as Peter watches on, impressed.
The episode ends with Olivia and her sister Rachel talking in Olivia's living room.
Sweet little Ella comes in and Olivia tricks her into a big goodnight smooch.
Rachel escorts Ella to bed when Olivia's doorbell chimes. There at the door stands a slightly buzzed-looking Peter Bishop. Interestingly, Olivia never invites him in, but seems quite curious why he is there.
Peter explains he's had a few and that he walked to her apartment in Brighton. (FYI, that could have been quite a hike if their hotel was in the Cambridge area.) He tells her he may have been afraid to have his father back in his life. Also, Peter says he thought about what it would be like to have Walter speak with "that woman." Peter seems not to be able to finish any of his thoughts, except this one: "I wanted to say that I'm sorry. You were right. Thank you." Wow!
Did anyone see that one coming?
Interesting Things About "The No-Brainer"
This is the second episode of Season 1 that has a big father-and-son theme.
Here a father is doing(and has done) something wrong that is killing people, and the son doesn't know about it. When the son finally finds out, he's shocked and horrified.(Sound alot like "The Man From The Other Side"?) More surprisingly, the son protects "a murderer like that," as I mentioned earlier.
I was expecting some kind of tie-in to Massive Dynamic, and Nina Sharp telling us they knew all about Brian Dempsey's program, weren't you? Doesn't it seem likely that if a rogue computer programmer with an agenda could create something like that, that a multi-billion dollar company trying to control the universe(or universes, perhaps) could do the same? Maybe they already have and we just don't know about that yet.
We meet the first of several of what Olivia later calls Peter's "weird connections" in this episode. A young man named Akim, who is apparently an expert at locating the origin of computer programs-even with damaged hard drives. Peter does coin tricks in this episode also, and produces a coin that makes Akim exclaim, "You could have sold that for a fortune." If you've watched through Season 3 that should remind you of Peter's liberty dollar in "There's More Than One Of Everything," "Peter," and "The Last Sam Weiss." And Peter's reply to Akim is quite interestingly worded: "I kept it to remind me never to wager with anything that I couldn't bear to live without." Wow! If you've watched through 322, "The Day We Died," that makes you think that applies also to Peter's sacrificing himself so that he wouldn't lose Olivia.
Unanswered Questions That Arise in "The No-Brainer"
Why does Jessica Warren, the deceased lab assistant Carla Warren's mother, pick this time to contact Walter Bishop? What were the details surrounding her death in the lab?
How did Brian Dempsey get ahold of Olivia Dunham's email address?
Why did Ella's brains not liquify after viewing the "What's That Noise" program, like the other victims' did? Is Ella a "First Person?"(You'll get that if you've watched through Season 3.)
Peter picks up on Rachel's flagrant flirting with him. Is he affected by it?
If Peter Bishop Never Existed ...
He would not have taken the damaged hard drives to Akim. Therefore, they would not have discovered that the killer program was being downloaded to the laptop at Olivia's web address, and no one would have burst into Olivia's apartment quickly after Ella viewed the program. Would that have made a difference?
Who would have opened the envelope in the lab from Jessica Warren addressed to Walter Bishop? Would Walter himself have opened it? How would he have handled the situation?