I have often reread my progress reports and seen the illiteracy, the childish naivety, the mind of low intelligence peering from a dark room, through the keyhole, at the dazzling light outside. I see that even in my dullness I knew that I was inferior, and that other people had something I lacked - something denied me. In my mental blindness, I thought that it was somehow connected with the ability to read and write, and I was sure that if I could get those skills I would automatically have intelligence too.
Even a feeble-minded man wants to be like other men.
- Flowers For Algernon
The thing about Fringe is that every time I watch it again, I find things I missed before. Doesn't seem to matter how many times I've seen it, the ever expanding story adds new layers to all that's gone before, and re-watching inevitably uncovers some new connection that I never expected. The Plateau seemed fairly straightforward the first time I saw it, but having seen it several times since, I've found that I'm still making those connections – and I may never make them all.
In a nutshell, our story is that of Milo and Madeline (“sounds like a children's book.”) Milo was born severely mentally deficient, with a measured IQ of only 65, but his little sister adored him anyway. They liked the same cartoons, played the same games, and she looked after him when their parents were gone. But she worried for him, that he'd end up getting hurt, that he'd never be really happy. And so she tried to help him, with tragic consequences. The experimental neorotropic treatment she volunteered him for turned out to be far more effective than anyone had dreamed, and the once helplessly disabled boy became a super genius with a mind capable of impossible calculations, literally overnight. Much like Charlie Gordon, Milo enjoyed his new intelligence, dazzled at the bright new light shining into his once dim world. But unlike Charlie, Milo's stunning IQ wasn't going to revert on it's own; it was to be taken from him. And Milo resorted to murder in order to keep it.
The irony of the situation is that Milo was now intelligent enough to murder and almost certainly get away with it – if he'd simply killed his victims and dumped their bodies he most likely would never have been caught. It was the arrogance that accompanied his new brain, driving him to kill in the most impossible way, that caught the attention of Fringe division and led to his eventual capture.
But enough about Milo the evil genius, we're in this because of Olivia, and the alternate Fringe team that's begun to really grow on us by now.
After her traumatic but (apparently) successful brainwashing in her last episode, Olivia is now back at work, secure in her identity – at least on the surface of her mind. She slips with deceptive ease back into the rhythm of her alternate's life, falling into the easy banter that makes the OT Fringe team so much fun to watch. It is so good to see Charlie again.
But her “re”-intergration into her other's working life isn't as simple as it first appears. Broyles, who knows the score very well, is troubled by the deception, worried about his own Agent Dunham, and not at all comfortable with Secretary Bishop's assertion that if her new identity doesn't hold OurLivia will “no longer be necessary.” And Charlie's long friendship with his Olivia is definitely causing him to pick up on a new strangeness. He's suspicious, remembering her desperate assertions that someone was trying to make her believe she was someone else, knowing she has a doppelganger from another world. But she passes his memory test, and when Lincoln dismisses his concern as “nuts” he reluctantly lets it go, for now.
As for Olivia, she's hallucinating people she's never met. Except that one of them is telling her that she has, that she's not from here, that she can't forget who she is, can't forget this. And even though she can't possibly know the man in the pea coat, this is a kiss that makes her ache to remember it, even if it never really happened.
And that, to me, sounds like a potential road map for the beginning of season four.
"We all get really good at pretending that the loneliness isn't there and then something comes along to remind us. I know what it's like to have a hole in my life. It's been there as long as I can remember."
Here she is, popping pills to try to bury the feeling that something is not right here, something is in fact very very wrong. But the pills aren't helping, the feeling won't go away, and Pea Coat Guy, who she knows is Peter Bishop, except that that's impossible, the Bishop kid was kidnapped and probably murdered twenty-six years ago - he won't go away either. He comes to her when she's alone, and sometimes when she's not; smiling at her with warm affection, laughing at her stubbornness, kissing her...
She should want him to vanish forever, but she can't. Because somehow he feels truer than all the things she knows to be true.
Personally, given the quote above, I think the first few episodes of season four are likely to be quite similar in emotional tone, if not in content. Of course that's purely my own speculation. ;)
Another parallel I just picked up on this time around: Lincoln, like Peter, dismisses the oddness in the woman he loves. Even when Charlie confronts him directly with his suspicions, Lincoln considers only briefly before laughing it off as crazy talk, even making fun of Charlie for getting bamboozled by a doppelganger. All of the hints, Charlie's concerns, even his own personal experience with Olivia's ravings, and he still can't seriously entertain the notion that Olivia is not Olivia. Both of them, blinded by love.
And finally in the correlation department, Milo exhibits abilities uncannily like those of the Observers. He's able to do that creepy mind-reading thing, finishing Madeline's sentences for her at every turn. Milo believes he can do this because he can see the most probable outcome of any interaction with his sister, or indeed with anyone. And he can certainly see a million possible outcomes to any given situation, and deduce which one is most mathematically likely to occur. It's not exactly the same thing, but the similarities are close enough to be eerie.
Walternate: "Over time, she will reach a plateau and her new identity will become fixed." And so I believe it does by the end of this episode, except that it's not the new identity that becomes fixed. The Peter Who Wasn't There made sure of that.
"Even a feeble-minded man wants to be like other men" But Milo became something more, or arguably, less, than a man. He consciously chose to reject his humanity in favor of his intelligence, looking Madeline in the eye for the last time before telling her “that's irrelevant now,” in response to her pleading assertion that his family always loved him. And by the end of the episode, he's completely lost to her. Even a feeble-minded man is capable of love. Milo no longer is. I would argue that Charlie Gordon was by far the more fortunate of the two.
“I'm still a scientist Brandon, I just have a much larger laboratory.” - Secretary Bishop
“They're calling these events The Pattern, as if someone out there is experimenting, only the whole world is their lab.” - Agent Broyles
People Over There are well aware of Fringe Division, and they're afraid of them. The receptionist at the hospital immediately asks if they're being quarantined.
Olivia hallucinates Walter giving her the sweetest smile in the hospital, possibly because it reminds her of a mental institution. Subconsciously, she misses him too.
Olivia's hair quite noticeably changes colors throughout the episode. In her first scene at fringe division it's entirely red. In the next scene, investigating the first bus accident it's got the beginnings of blonde
streaks - just in time for her to see Peter across the street. And the blonde streaks are even more evident after she hallucinates her Walter at the hospital. It doesn't stay streaky the whole time though. Maybe it's just the lighting, or maybe it's a visual indicator of the two sets of memories warring inside her.
The clock in Frank and Olivia's apartment reads 8:15 when they're about to have dinner. There's a sign in the background at the third bus accident that reads “Oceanic Plaza.”
There are Tinker Toys in Milo and Madeline's house, a visual throwback to Earthling, where Walter built a molecular model of the ET/Vasiliev entanglement.
There's a leaf on the lampshade in their house as well. And a collage of red, yellow and blue butterflies and tulips on the wall. One of the Tulips is white.
Did Bolivia ever really love Frank? Ostensibly, she slept with Peter as part of her cover, but she readily, and I believe honestly admitted later that it became “something more.” I believe she did love Peter, at least a little, but if she loved Frank, would she have been able to cross that line in the first place? In The Plateau, Ourlivia was adamant that she didn't want Frank to stay, and he was more than a little stung. She also quickly changed the subject when he said that he loved her. Her own personality showing through? Or Bolivia's real feelings?
Would Bolivia recognize that Milo was reciting the digits of Pi?
The Walternate quote above recalls first season references to ZFT and The Pattern. Did those story lines get dropped, or were some of those early cases related to Walternate's war with our side?
If Peter Bishop didn't exist:
Milo, his tragic experiment, and his murder spree would have likely still taken place, but Ourlivia would almost certainly have never crossed over, and the two would have never been switched. Instead, Bolivia would most likely have been killed exactly the way Milo predicted she would. Walternate might still have been seeking to cross over, but it's unlikely he would have had Ourliv to use as a Guinea pig.