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.
By now, and pretty much from here to the end of the season, we're firmly entrenched in the larger mythos of the series. With the arguable exception of Northwest Passage, we're done with Mystery of the Week episodes, and hanging on for dear life as we ride the jaw-dropping, heartbreaking, and completely exhilarating roller coaster of story that has at last filled us in on why these two worlds are on a collision course. We'll spend the rest of the season examining the increasingly catastrophic fallout of Walter's meddling. Fanfrikkingtastic. If you're not hanging anxiously on every episode by his point, this is probably not be the show for you.
We have two plots here, and while James Heath and his tragic murders are certainly important, and will come into play again later, in this episode the Fringe investigation really takes a back seat to the other storyline – the immediate consequences of Walter's confession to Olivia. As we know now, the cracks appearing between the universes are Walter's fault.And Olivia is roiling inside, the secret she agreed to keep eating away at her, twisting her guts every time she looks at Peter. She can't be alone with him, afraid that he'll see the secret in her eyes, afraid of what he'll do if she tells him, afraid of what she'll be if she doesn't. Unable to sleep, she visits Sam, hoping for some kind of Jedi sagacity. And although Sam can see immediately that she's not sleeping because something is eating her, he proves ultimately disappointing, telling her that she's beyond the scope of his expertise. But before he lets her go he tells her “You're a good person, you know. One of the few I know. If you agreed to keep this secret I'm sure you had a good reason.” Trust yourself, he's telling her, your heart is true. Maybe he's not entirely out of wisdom after all.
Investigating the string of gruesome deaths is an almost welcome distraction from the guilt and doubt gnawing away at her insides.
Walter is also in a state of high anxiety. His relationship with Olivia has taken a lot of hits recently, and he's afraid the damage may be so great she won't be able to forgive him. He's awkward around her, nervous, afraid of her judgement, and knowing that it's justified. His secret is out, and he's terrified of Peter finding out as well. He comforts himself with plans to take his son away, to keep him to himself, away from Olivia, who is plainly struggling with her promise. But since they're on a case, he settles for making the taffy Peter loved as a boy. Anything, anything to make his son happy. To make Peter love him. And when Olivia tells him that she can't do it, she has to tell Peter, Walter panics. She's as gentle with him as she can be, despite all the things he's done – to her, to Peter, to the universe – she still cares for him, and tries to reassure him that the truth won't cost him his son. But Walter is adamant.
“I'm begging you,” he says, desperately “Not yet please. Give me time to prepare. Please.” Reluctantly, Olivia agrees. How differently things might have turned out if she hadn't.
Despite her best efforts to conceal her turmoil, Peter knows Olivia well, and he's well aware that something's bothering her. And given that she's actively avoiding being alone with him, he thinks he knows what it is. He's loved her for a while now, the slow realization of it finally clenching painfully when he thought she was dead. But he knows who she is. He knows she walls away her vulnerability, and he'd rather have her honest friendship than risk driving her deeper into herself by pushing for something more. It has to be her dance to lead - maybe someday she will. On their way to investigate another death, he carefully broaches the subject.
“That trip down to Jacksonville was crazy. We were both exhausted, we were both emotional, and you know if something had happened between the two of us, I mean if we had actually kissed, then we'd have to deal with that, but we didn't...You know this past year this is the longest I've ever stayed in one place, so this thing we have, you, me, Walter, this...this...odd little family unit we've got going - I don't want to do anything to jeopardize that.”
Poor Olivia, he's got it wrong, but she's not ready for the real explanation. What if Walter's right after all? Miserably, she keeps her silence, letting him have his assumption.
Oh thank God, murders to solve.
There have been five of these deaths, all from the same rapid onset cancer. For some reason she can't explain, Olivia recognizes one off the victims. Grateful for the distraction, she heads home to mull it over, the scotch dulling the ceaseless gnawing at the back of her mind. A midnight knock at the door announces Sam, who absurdly wants to play Clue. Or maybe he wants to give her a clue. Whatever his motivations for showing up at midnight, his “taller than I seem” remark clicks the tumblers into place and Olivia is off to the Bishop's, where Walter is baking the skin from Miranda's arm in the oven. When Peter tells him the killer is targeting Cortexiphan subjects, he flinches. More deaths on his head, and Olivia may be a target as well. All of his sins, coming home to roost.
Failing to get a list of Cortexiphan kids from Walter, Olivia pays a visit to Nina Sharp. She comes on strong, full of righteous anger at the secrets Nina always seems to keep, but the names are just a pretext. Olivia is angry about other things, and Nina is someone she can take it out on. It doesn't take her long to get around to the real reason for her visit. “I know about Peter,” she grates, “I know the whole story.” Nina is suddenly concerned, wanting to know if she's told Peter. When Olivia says no, not yet, things suddenly click for Nina too. She's a veteran at many things; love, weirdness, and Bishops not least among them. “I'm fairly certain that you're not prepared to lose him,” she says knowingly, “You didn't come here to ask me about a list you already know I don't have, and you didn't come here to announce that you're going to tell Peter who he really is. You came here to have me talk you out of it.”
The circle of skin cut from Miranda's arm looks queasily like a painted hamburger patty as Walter places it on a scanner. Ever the Scully, Peter watches doubtfully as the scanner looks for a fingerprint. When it finds one, he circles around to give his father an affectionate hug, oblivious to the pained look that passes between Walter and Olivia. The fingerprint finds no match however, and Walter moves away, deeply disturbed.
At home, Olivia has finally put the pieces together – the killer is James Heath, cancer victim. He and his sister Julie were both in the Jacksonville Cortexiphan trials, and Julie was the first to die. Olivia is on her way out the door to pay a visit to the hospital where Heath was being treated, when she finds him standing in the hallway outside her apartment. She doesn't manage to get the door closed before he's on her, and she's fighting for her life, kicking frantically to keep him from touching her. Grabbing her phone she instinctively calls Peter, yelling desperately for him to help her. She's able to take her attacker down on her own however, clocking him with the appropriate candlestick just before the cavalry arrives. Heath sees his sister's photograph on the floor and begins to weep pathetically. He tells Olivia about a man who came to see him in the hospital, telling him that he'd been experimented on as a child, and that because of the experiments, the man could teach him how to fight his cancer. It worked, sort of. Whatever the man taught him gave him the ability to stave off his disease by transferring it to others. At first he killed accidentally, first his sister, and then Timothy Ober before he realized what was happening. “I think,” he chokes “if that man had never come to see me, I would have died the way I was supposed to. And my sister would still be alive. They'd all still be alive.”
Afterward, Peter teases Olivia about being number one on her speed dial. She denies it with a flippant joke, and then starts to say something else. But she can't. She knows that now, and the knowledge that she will keep Walter's secret is weighty on her. Still misreading her pain, Peter smiles to hide his own.
Later that night, Olivia stops by the Bishop house, relieved when she finds Walter there alone, it's him she wants to talk to. She tells him that she's decided he may be right, that some truths are better left unsaid. But Walter surprises her. “Thank you Olivia,” he says heavily, “but the truth is, I've done enough damage.” Nancy Lewis and her sister, Susan Pratt. Nick Lane. Julie and James Heath. Timothy Ober, Lloyd Becker, Miranda Greene, Alan DeRosa. Others. Olivia. Peter. “It's time to start to put things right, whatever the consequences. And that starts with telling Peter the truth. I have to tell him who he really is.”
Unnameable emotions warring in her face, Olivia can only stare at him.
“Time is just a matter of semantics.” - Sam Weiss
Walter is convinced at first that Peter will never forgive him if he finds out the truth, possibly because he and Elizabeth worked so hard, and so systematically to brain wash him as a boy, when he knew the truth.
Miranda Greene was preparing a lawsuit against INtREPUS Pharmaceuticals, the same company run by David Esterbrooke in the Season one episode “The Cure.”
Sam points out Olivia's “uniform” and refers to her as a soldier. This is eerily reminiscent of Nick Lane's distraught outburst in Bad Dreams: “I did what they told us. I waited Olive. For the soldier to come who was both natural and unnatural. Stay fit, stay focused, stay ready. I wore the blacks and grays! I blended in, but the call never came.It never came.”
Nick's aunt is working a jigsaw puzzle detail of Michelangelo's “The Creation of Adam,” visually referencing Olivia's efforts to make sense of her new knowledge of Peter as well as the more mundane puzzle of solving the murders. The painting also touches on the overarching theme of faith vs.science, and Carla Warren's belief that some things belong to God alone.
This episode hints again at a possible sexual history between Nina and Walter and/or Bell: “I recognize the look in your eyes. I know that working closely with someone can bring about...feelings.”
Olivia can say whatever she wants, Peter is totally number one on her speed dial.
Sam demonstrates some more of his uncanny ability to read minds/auras/emotions – whatever it is he reads. How does he do that? He's older than he looks, and taller than he appears - what exactly is he?
Nina seems genuinely concerned when asking if Peter knew his own origin. But why? Is she worried about something in particular resulting from his knowledge, or just concerned for her old friend, and the boy she once knew?
Who is the man who keeps trying to activate the Cortexiphan subjects? If he's still trying after the death of Sanford Harris, who is he working for?
If Peter Bishop didn't exist:
Walter may never have punched a hole between universes in the first place. It seems apparent that something would have caused the clash eventually, but would it have been Walter? Walternate? Some other, unknown force? This may be a question we see answered in season four.
Someone else would have had to collect the pus sample.
There would have been less coffee, and probably no taffee.
There would have been no agonizing tension between Olivia and Walter.
Olivia would have been alone in the car, alone in her investigation. She would have had to call someone else for help, or maybe no one at all. Despite the weirdness between him and Olivia, he's actually pretty happy right now. If Olivia wants to be his sister, I think he's ready to accept that with only a little regret. He loves her, and he loves her enough to accept whatever she's willing to give him. And for Peter, his relationship with Walter is only deepening. He has a family, for the first time in many, many years, and he loves them all. But I think what he doesn't realize is that he's the one who draws them together – without Peter, there is no family.
And that brings me once again to the conclusion that without Peter, Walter would never have been released from St. Claire's, and again this case, any of the cases, might never have been solved. And a lot more people might be dead.