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.
If you look around enough on the internet you'll find different people's comments regarding the Season 1 episodes. Surprisingly, some say they aren't too fond of them, and I find that hard to believe when you consider episodes like "The Transformation," which is one of my favorite Season 1 episodes. It has it all really-drama, scifi, fantasy, action, and romance.
"The Transformation" was written by Julia Cho and Zack Whedon, which is interesting, because it has a bit of a Pinkner/Wyman feel to it, in my opinion.
The Title and Possible Meanings
Let's look at the title. "Transformation" implies something changes from a former thing to a new thing. A definition I found on the internet is "a change in form, appearance, nature, or character."(That is a very interesting definition. Hold on to that one for Season 3.)
In this episode, poor Marshall Bowman transformed into something nasty, out-of-control, and deep-fried. His colleague, Daniel Hicks, started to transform but the process was aborted by the antidote. He survived thanks to the quick thinking of Dr. Walter Bishop, and the Peter/Olivia undercover team. Olivia Dunham transforms, in this episode, from a woman in love to a woman who loved, lost that love, and found some form of closure in her heart.
Something to ask yourself is, did Olivia Dunham's opinion of John Scott transform? From a traitor to his country and lover, to a confessor of secrets, and a man who truly loved his woman(even though it appeared he ran her off the road?)? We'll get back to that in a bit.
Olivia and Charlie Intereactions
If you loved Olivia's previous Season 1 conversations with her partner Charlie Francis,(and by the way, the more I rewatch these episodes, the more I miss our Charlie)you'll love what she tells him here. She barely looks at the manifest of the deceased passengers from Marshall Bowman's flight before she gets images of Marshall and Hicks talking with John Scott in her head. Olivia tells Charlie "I think this is our guy." Charlie asks her how she could know that and she replies after a beat, "Call it my gut." Charlie gives her that look, and walks off. This happens again not too much later when Charlie hands Olivia everything they have on Marshall Bowman, including pictures of his US clients. Liv focuses on a picture of Daniel Hicks and the visions start again. This time of Hicks telling John he needs to line up the money soon. She tells Charlie that Hicks was the guy Marshall Bowman was flying in to meet, and that they need to bring him in for questioning. Charlie again gives her that look. He calls her on it, and she explains that she and John shared consciousness and that some of his memories are still in her head. Charlie tells her he'll bring Hicks in for questioning. "That's it?" Olivia asks him, waiting for him to comment further. Ever the gentleman, Charlie Francis bows out gracefully, "Despite the thousand questions I have in my head right now. I'm going to bite my tongue."
More Glass Disks
Another fun thing in 'The Transformation" is Walter finding one of those glass disks in "fried dog man's" palm, which makes you think instantly of the one in Gloria Mendoza's palm in episode 103, "The Ghost Network." Olivia tells Peter about this(honestly, I'd have thought she'd told him before this) and Peter asks her if she thinks Bowman was some kind of agent. Which segues into one my favorite scenes, the one in which Charlie and Olivia interrogate Daniel Hicks.
Daniel Hicks is pretty cool and calm in the interrogation room of the Federal Building. He tells them he's in the inport/export business, of 18th and 19th century furniture. Charlie smoothly asks Hicks how he knew Marshall Bowman. Hicks says Bowman was his banker, and asks if he is in some kind of trouble. Then we see Peter and Walter observing the interrogation behind the 2-way mirror. Walter pipes up excitedly and says to Peter, "This is wonderful. Don't you agree? It's just like a good detective movie," which, if you've seen through Season 2 should make you think of the wonderful episode, "Brown Betty." Charlie asks Hicks if he's heard of Flight 718. Hicks tells Charlie the one where the plane crashed. Olivia pushes a picture of "fried dog man" in front of Hicks and tells him it's Marshall Bowman. Hicks gets a weird look on his face, studying the picture, and says, "I..I don't understand." Then Liv launches into it, telling him they think he knows exactly what happened to Bowman. She says they think he and Bowman intended to distribute a deadly virus, "and this is the unintended result."
Hicks still denies any involvement, but then his nose starts bleeding. Fortunately for Hicks, and for us, Walter's very lucid and even as Charlie yells toward the mirror for Peter and Walter to get a box of tissues, Walter tells Peter tissues won't help that he needs sedatives, "Now!"
Everything gets crazy as Hicks stands up, yelling "I need help." He proceeds to fall backwards and convuse on the floor. Walter and Peter rush in and Olivia asks Walter what's wrong with Hicks. He tells her he thinks it's the same thing as what happened to Bowman on the plane.
As Peter rushes through the first aid kit, he pops the top off a syringe and hands it to Walter who says, "I might be able to suspend the process." In a very un-Olivia fashion she grabs Walter's arm and shouts "No, not yet. Not until he talks."Peter gives her a glare and Hicks yells "Please!" After some more uncomfortable back and forth, Hicks gives up the name "Conrad," right before Walter injects his neck. Hicks falls back into another seizure that makes Peter say, "Oh, I don't think that's working," right before Hicks passes out.
Even More Glass Disks
Back in the lab, Olivia picks up one of Daniel Hicks's hands as Walter tells her he's not sure his antidote will work before Hicks tranforms. Olivia tells Walter to cut open Hicks hand so she can see if there's a disk inside of it. Peter gives her another glare, and Walter being Walter says, "I like cutting." The next thing you know, Olivia places Bowman and Hicks' disks on Broyles' desk and reminds him they've seen one of those before. She asks if the NSA ever figured out what they were for. Broyles tells her they were used for data storage. Then Olivia demands that John Scott's body be exhumed, as she believes there's one in his palm as well. Broyles starts to tell her his body can't be exhumed. Liv goes nuts and yells that she doesn't care about the red tape involved. Finally Broyles gets her to stop reacting and tells her that she can't dig up John Scott's body and that Mendoza's disk never went to the NSA. Hmm.
Broyles and Nina Fess up
We join Broyles and Olivia in a hallway of Massive Dynamic in the following scene. His explanation for their being there is interesting:
"One of the advantages of being the Defense Department's biggest contractor is that Massive Dynamic has money to develop technologies generations beoynd that of the US governament. So when we were unable to retrieve the information off the disks, I requested Nina's help."
If you've watched through Season 3 you should be thinking of Peter's conversation with Olivia regarding trying to get information from the shape-shifters' disks at the end of "Os." Everything really does seem to come back to Massive Dynamic, doesn't it?
Nina Sharp steps up to them and greets them. Then she says something quite curious to Olivia.
"For what it's worth, it was not my decision to keep this from you." As Nina says this she gestures with her hand toward what appears to be a highly-secure area of Massive Dynamic. Nina puts her palm on a keypad on the wall. The familiar glyph "leaf" that represents the letters "A," "B," 'G," and "H" in the Glyph Code depending on where the little yellow light is, pops up and the door opens. Poor Olivia finds herself staring at her dead lover as Nina and Broyles look on. Nina tells them they found a similar glass disk in John's palm with data that seems to implicate him in some kind of bio-terrorist cell. Broyles adds there were references to Conrad, but not enough to know his real name. Olivia gets frustrated as Broyles tells her a French informant told them there was a major weapons sale going to happen in Chicago, and the seller's name is Conrad. Olivia calls the lab and asks Peter if Walter's there, and you get the sinking feeling you know why. She tells Peter they've learned that Conrad will be selling the virus.
She also tells him if she's right and John was working with "these guys" he has it in his memory, "which means that it's in mine." Of course Peter puts two and two together and reminds her how dangerous this is. Liv ignores his comments, and tells him to have Walter prep the tank.
Olivia's Third Time In The Tank
Again, Walter Bishop is incredibly lucid as he navigates Olivia through John Scott's drug-superimposed memories. And this time Peter is there from the start to share in the fun. He gets to hear Olivia tell them she sees she and John at the hotel they used to go to. He gets to hear her shout and see her heartrate shoot upwards as John sees her and tries to move toward her. Olivia asks John straight on about Conrad and the weapon sale and it seems as though John's not going to cooperate. Poor Peter gets to see the monitors go bonkers when Olivia shoots John in her vision. He tells Walter they need to get her out right away, but Walter says it's too dangerous, that she's too far under.
Although frazzled, Walter manitains control and demands Olivia move to another place. In one of my favorite Season 1 moments, John confesses to Olivia he had the chance to kill Conrad, but didn't shoot him because he didn't know what he looked like. Olivia asks John who he was working for. Interestingly, he answers "Bowman and Hicks." He tells Olivia that he, Bowman, and Hicks were all undercover agents for the NSA Secret Task Force. Olivia tells him she doesn't believe him, but Scott sticks to his story:
"If we were to take out Conrad there could be no record of our involvement. That's why I couldn't tell you. Even though I wanted to."
Olivia asks him to prove he's telling the truth by telling her where the sale will take place.
John says he doesn't know but that Hicks would know. "He has it right in his hand." Then John disappears although Olivia keeps calling for him. Walter takes a look at the montors and tells Peter they need to get her out of the tank. In the blink of an eye, Peter yanks the doors open and drags her out. Astrid injects dextromethorphine via airgun into her leg, after which Olivia starts to calm down. In an awesome P/O moment(see pic above) Olivia realizes she's back and in Peter's arms. "Oh Peter," she sighs as Peter Bishop acts on pure instinct. He kisses her head and gathers her to him. "You're OK. You're going to be fine," Peter reassures her.
Olivia's Post-tank Discussion With Peter
Olivia gives Peter the impression they should wake Hicks form his medically-induced coma.
Peter reminds her he could still transform like Bowman did. Olivia reminds him the virus could be being sold anytime and Hicks is the only one who knows the details.
Peter has a very good reply to this. "And you're willing to take John's word that you can trust Hicks?" Peter snorts at his own words and adds,"It finally happened. I'm now referring to a dead guy, who exists only in your mind." Wow! That wouldn't mean much after Season 1, but if you've watched through episode 322 you may be thinking this is foreshadowing of Peter's new role in Olivia's head(And I'd be willing to guess you may be correct. We shall see!)
It would have been really fun to hear Olivia's response to Peter comment, but just then Walter interrupts their conversation to yell, "Boy! I need another bag of Midazolam right away!"
Peter reluctantly goes off to take care of it, and Astrid sticks her nose in.
Astrid Gets Empowered
Astrid, of course, heard the P/O discussion, and says to Liv:
"My mother always says I stick my nose into places it does not belong. I know we haven't known each other that long. But you are one of the best judges of character I've ever met. So I guess the question is, what's your instinct? When you were with John, when you were looking into John's eyes, was he for real?"
Remember, hardly anything in Fringe means nothing. Astrid's words here, after 322, scream foreshadowing, to me, of the likelihood of Peter Bishop, even though he doesn't exist, communicating with our Olivia in the future.
Olivia tells the three of them to prep Hicks, that they'r going to give him the antidote.
Walter looks up from his endless eating to say, "An experiment. How exhilarating!"
A few moments later, as Daniel Hicks tries to come down from his adrenaline rush, Astrid takes control in an awesome Astrid moment we need more of. "We know about the work you were doing with John Scott. Now we need your help."
Shady Deals, Shady Guys, Shady M.O.'s- P/O Style
How can you not love this? Olivia goes undercover as the buyer for the transforming virus.
Apparently Peter offered to come along, and Olivia reminds him as they sit waiting in the hotel lobby, that he didn't have to. He answers her as he sits looking stunning in a suit, "Shady deals with shady guys in shady hotels is my M.O." Ying and yang, if you ask me.
Olivia is communicating with a drugged Hicks via a radio transmitter implanted in her ear.
The seller, Galvin, arrives with his 2 bodyguards. After sizing up each other, they go up to a hotel room. There's alot of fun pomp and circumstance before they get down to business. Galvin has alot of questions for "Susan" and her chaparone, and Hicks only knows the answers to most of them. Galvin asks where Peter met Anderson. Peter clicks into conman mode and gives Galvin a beautifully intricate answer that makes the FBI guy next to Charlie Francis say, "Where the hell did he come up with that?"
Things are going well until Galvin asks "Susan" why Ernesto didn't call him himself to say he wasn't coming. Unfortunately, Walter's anitdote isn't working, and Hicks again starts to transform. Astrid has to knock him out, and the help stops coming. Galvin's phone rings, and he tells Peter and Olivia Conrad's on his way up to see them. Olivia, frustrated, tries to stall for time. Peter senses this and ad libs beautifully. Things heat up as he jumps up, he and Olivia arguing about Ernesto's dirty little secret of being gravely ill. Finally, Liv gives the signal, saying "It's true, he found out the day before Christmas." Conrad comes in and tells them all he just spoke with Ernesto that morning, and that he was fine. He gives the body guards the order to kill Peter and Olivia just as the FBI cavalry rushes in. Before Olivia leaves the room, she bends down to Conrad's ear and says, "John Scott says 'Hi.'"
Olivia's Debriefing With Broyles
Broyles tells Olivia that Conrad was a French citizen named Conrad Moreau. If you've watched through 322 that last name should ring a bell(no pun intended). He's wanted in regards to at least half a dozen biological attacks, "and you caught him," Broyles reminds Olivia. He notices her demeanour and says he thought she'd at least crack a smile. Olivia reminds him quickly she didn't do it alone. After a classic Broyles sigh, he reminds her that as far as the Department is concerned John Scott is still a traitor. That even if he was telling the truth, there's no way to confirm his story. Olivia tells Broyles it's OK because she knows the truth.
Olivia Dunham, Completing The Transformation
Olivia goes back that night to the lab. Walter is the only one there, as Peter and Astrid took Hicks to the hospital to recover. We learn that Galvin's antidote worked, despite the fact that Walter's did not. Olivia starts to ask Walter if he'd do her a favor. Again, a very lucid Walter Bishop interrupts her, telling her that even if she went back into the tank she might not be able to find John, as her brainwaves showed earlier she is successfully purging him and his memories.
Olivia persists, telling him, "The we need to do this now."
Olivia goes back into the tank and quickly ends up on a beautiful dock overlooking a partially -frozen lake. In an instant, John Scott is standing next to her. She tells him they got Conrad.
She tells him she should have trusted him. He tells her it wasn't her fault, that he wanted to tell her, but he guesses he just ran out of time. John pulls an engagement ring out of a box and slides it on her finger in a truly bittersweet moment:
"I know we can't ever be together. Not really. Maybe I won't know the difference. I love you."
They give each other a final kiss, and then John disappears.
Back in the quiet saline tank, Olivia says "I love you" out loud, Walter as her only witness.
Some Interesting Things About "The Transformation"
The image of the plane flying at the beginning of the episode is almost identical to the one at the beginning of the pilot episode.
After seeing an exhibit shortly after this episode aired at Boston's Museum of Science titled "Myths and Legends," the monster Bowman transformed into looks vey much like a chupacabra, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chupacabra, a legendary bloodsucking goat-attacking animal in the Americas.
"The one-half nipple rule" See, you really do learn things on Fringe! Walter tells us the number of young in a litter of mammals is usually equal to half of the number of nipples on the animal.
Olivia gets frustrated when Hicks is unable to give her anymore information. That is very reminsicent of when Olivia couldn't get the answer to the question to "Where does "The Gentleman live? in 107, "In Which We Meet Mr. Jones."
Astrid seems more confident and outspoken in this episode. We need more of that.
Unanswered Questions That Arise In "The Transformation"
-That's the first time in the series(so far) that Walter's antidote did not work. Why did Walter Bishop's transformation-stopping antidote fail?
-What was Marshall Bowman writing on his flight, that included the words "technology" and "dangerous"? To whom was he writing?
-Who put the glass disks in Bowman, Hicks, John Scott's, and Gloria Mendoza's hands?
-Nina Sharp told Olivia it was not her intention to keep "this" from her ie, John's suspended body. Who's idea was it to keep the information from Olivia?
-The Observers in Seasons 1, 2, and 3 refer to Peter Bishop as "Boy." Why does Walter call Peter "Boy" in this episode?
-Conrad's full name is Conrad Etienne Moreau. The "End Of Dayers" guy in 322 is also named "Moreau." Are the two men related?
If Peter Bishop Never Existed...
Would Olivia have tried to buy the virus weapon as "Susan" by herself? During their undercover op things got stressful and Peter had to ad lib to buy time. If there was no Peter, that operation may not have succeeded, meaning Conrad would still be out there making and selling nasty chemical weapons. Also, if Olivia had gone alone, she could have been killed.
Later in Season 1, in "Bad Dreams," we learn Peter has a calming effect on Olivia per Walter. If Peter never existed, Olivia might have had a very difficult time calming down from tank trip #3.