Fringe Summer Rewatch: #303 "The Plateau" ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Fringe Summer Rewatch: #303 "The Plateau"

      Email Post       9/01/2011 03:16:00 AM      

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.

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.

Random observations:

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.

Easter Eggs:

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.

Unanswered questions:

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.


showtime said...

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Xindilini said...

Throughout all the episodes Olivia/Bolivia interacts with the people over there, she is reserved, at the same time she confides in them. Frank or even Marilyn know what Liv does day to day, but they are kept in the dark. Since it's seems totally normal them, it feels like Bolivia does have problems trusting people completely, even love ones closest to her with her secrets.

trent said...

I found Milo very interesting. I wonder if his guessing process is similar to that of the Observers...

fringeobsessed said...

It is interesting to note that Michael Eklund, who played Milo Stanfield in this episode, won a Leo Award(Motion Picutre Arts & Sciences Foundation of British Columbia)this past June for 'Best Guest Performance in A Drama Series' for his portrayal of Milo.

trent said...

I remember that. Michael Eklund is a well known and respected actor in Canada and he did a great job in The Plateau. I would say he made the episode, so that award was very well deserved.

cortexifan said...

part 1

-Hoboken: Brings back memories for Fauxlivia and Frank according to Lincoln in 3.13 Immortality.
-Ok, I have to ask: do people not look before they cross the street?
-Again the office looks just like on our side.
-Olivia: “You’re the tight wit who owes me $70. Lincoln owes her $50 (3.13 Immortality).
-Walternate: “You don’t know what we have to gain.” Broyles: “Which is what exactly?” Broyles: “What if her new identity doesn’t hold?” Walternate: “Then she will no longer be necessary.” Walternate: “She’s on the other side, focused on the task at hand.” Just a few lines that stand out. Walternate kept Broyles in the dark too. And he was also ready to sacrifice Olivia in a heartbeat (3.8 Entrada).
-So Olivia is only mostly Fauxlivia. Once she saw Peter and Walter she kind of doubted herself. In the beginning of the episode she knew what to do with the oxygen but when she was chasing Milo she broke protocol.
-The girl getting hit by the bus likes daisies, which is a glyph. There were also butterflies hanging in Milo’s apartment when Olivia was talking with Madeline and on the lamp shade behind Olivia was a leaf.
-Making connections is definitely an Olivia trade. She was always able to do that. (1.04 The Arrival)
-I love Charlie’s: Fringe event or not? Reminds me of Shakespeare’s: To be or not to be.
-First time Frank is cooking for Olivia (he thinks it’s Fauxlivia). Second time is in 3.13 Immortality for Fauxlivia. There are avocados on the counter, which are apparently hard to get and expensive. There were also some on Broyles’ counter in 3.07 The Abducted when he talked to his wife.
-Small Pox cases in Texas.
-Olivia: “I want my life back, Frank.” Who was talking there, our Olivia or Fauxlivia?
-It’s interesting that she doesn’t respond back with the same when Frank tells her he loves her.
-Vulcan Mind Melt. Another StarTrek reference.
-Lincoln knows Fauxlivia better because he kissed her once. Sometimes Lincoln is really full of himself. I’m just saying :)
-Love Astrid’s scenes. Wonder how long it took to say all the way she did, rattling off the numbers and later the prediction theory. I’ve heard Anna say many times that everyone comes prepared and they all know their lines.
-Ha, no one knows what a pen is anymore :)
-Olivia: “It’s not over.” You’re darn right; Season 4 hasn’t even started yet :)
-“Van Horn Tavern” sign to the right of Milo as he’s standing on the bridge. Also when Olivia and Charlie start chase him towards the end, the sign on the hotel says “Patricia” which is Van Horn’s wife. (3.04 DSDOES)
-When Milo sits on top of the van I had to think of Walter landing on top of the bus as they enter Olivia’s mind in 3.19 LSD.
There are tinker toys on the table in Milo’s house. Walter used to visualize the formula in 2.06 Earthling.
-It’s really cool how Milo finishes his sister’s sentences. He creeps me out. Michael Eklund did a great job.
-When Charlie and Olivia interview witnesses over the phone, it reminded me of the calls coming in about the bugs in 3.13 Immortality.

cortexifan said...

part 2

-When Charlie tested Olivia with the roller coaster story, was he actually telling the truth or was he bluffing and did she get it right? When Olivia went in the tank in 3.05 Amber 31422 she said it’s like riding the roller coaster at Coney Island. We know that our Olivia doesn’t like roller coasters (2.08 August). There was also a roller coaster in the landscape of her mind in 3.19 LSD.
-Walter looks so gentle and caring. I just want to hug him :)
-I can’t wait to watch this episode on the DVD. I want to see Milo’s thought processes in slow motion and zoomed in.
-When Olivia was asked if it was difficult losing her sister, she said: “It was.” I think that sounded wrong to her. As she says that you can see two sets of Olivia’s eyes in the mirror. You can see the same in 3.08 Entrada as Fauxlivia is looking in the mirror after she typed her message and also in 3.09 Marionette as Olivia is standing in front of the mirror just before she empties her closet. Traces of the dual personality I guess.
-Madeline about Milo: “He’d never feel like he belonged.” When Olivia was captured at the end of 3.07 The Abducted she said: “I don’t belong here.”
-After Astrid finished her “predictability theory” she said: “It’s an infinite spiral.” This is a weird connection but I thought of Broyles’s LSD trip talking about Red Vines being swirls, Bernini’s spiral altar… it never ends. :)
-When Milo was at the hotel finishing his thoughts, the clock turned to 4:00, which is also the time Fauxlivia was extracted in 3.08 Entrada.
-Olivia’s memories took over when she chased Milo and she forgot to take the oxygen. Charlie had to help her. I wonder if the adrenaline from the run made her memory come back. Brandonate said the treatments started working because of the adrenaline when she escaped. Could it work the other way as well?
-I dislike Brandonate as much as I dislike Walternate. To use a line from 2.03 Fracture: “He has no regard for human life.”
-The Tank. Do I need to say more? We saw it from the Pilot on through 3.08 Entrada when Olivia crossed back home in it. Will we see it again?
-Walternate: “I’m still a scientist... I just have a much larger laboratory.” If that is not a scary comment, then I don’t know what.
-Olivia: “You’re not real.” She said the same when she saw John Scott in 1.05 Power Hungry.
-Peter: “Real is just a matter of perception.” This fits with Fringeology and is now a slogan on my car.
-Peter: “You can’t forget this.” Olivia held on to that kiss and Peter until she returned. Will she remember this now as well as she thinks about the hole in her life?

If Peter never existed in this episode…
-Olivia would have had no doubts that she’s Fauxlivia.
-She wouldn’t have imagined Peter and maybe Walter as well.
-She would have had nothing to hold on to and most likely never have come back.

cortexifan said...

Awesome. And I agree with you, everytime I watch I find more things. And I still miss things others pick up. I missed the oceanic and I like the connections you made.
Fringe Rocks!

Xindilini said...


LOL There are more avocados.

Vulcan mind melt - Is that a slip? XD

I would stay too if this was life and Frank made me dinner in his bare feet.

cortexifan said...

I meant of course "Vulcan mind meld. oops. Is that what you're referring to? :)

Xindilini said...

I thought you might know that mind melds were often poked fun at in all the Star Trek series and it just totally fit the moment.

Anonymous said...

"and Pea Coat Guy"

haha, awesome!


Anonymous said...

"Because somehow he feels truer than all the things she knows to be true.

Very nice!


Anonymous said...

She - Faux - wasn't hallucinating people she had never met because she'd actually met Peter before, in the season 2 finale. So she knew he was alive. Right?

- george

Xindilini said...

The treatment they gave Olivia to make her think she is Bolivia were harvested previous to Bolivia meeting Peter.
I think there is a date on label in "Olivia" can confirm this.
That's why she's not up to date on the latest Fringe security protocols.

Jennifer said...

No, I think George is right, she mentions seeing Peter Bishop to Frank, and he responds as though he knows what shes talking about, the Secretary's son who returned.

Observette MARCH said...

@cortexifan What a cool slogan to put on your car.Very cool. Man, I love this show!

Observette MARCH said...

@george @Jennifer I agree. Fuxlivias memories had the meeting with grown up Peter Bishop from season 2 included. If the labels date is before the meeting with Peter Bishop occurred then it's just a continuity error. I also can't see why they would have harvested Fauxs memories before they decided to *make the switch*. I'm sure Walternate proposes this (the memory extraction) to Fauxlivia in his office at the end of Season 2, when he asks her if she can do him a *favour*. It's probably after Walternates proposal that they extract Fauxlivias memories and then bring her down to the Opera house where they *make the switch*. It's feasible as they have very advanced tech and more then a few hours pass between her conversation with Walternate in his office to the Opera house exchange. I think Olivia didn't know the protocol because it was changed about 2 weeks prior to the extraction of Fauxlivias memories.

cortexifan said...

@Observerette MARCH,
thanks, you should see the rest of my car:
when you get to that page scroll down. If it's not on page 2 anymore go to page 3. This is a great tumblr by the way.

g33k said...

The Oceanic Plaza sign is the actual name of the building they filmed the scene in front of. Dunno if that's an intentional easter egg or not. I used to work in it. In fact they also filmed the S2 E1 scene where Olivia flies out of the windshield right in front of it too. Before I started watching Fringe I left work late and they had left the crashed car parked on the side of the road for the next day's filming and I walked right by it. My coworkers were gushing about the cool show being filmed downstairs and that was the day I decided I would eventually start watching it.
They have also filmed small driving transition scenes there both universes - Os and bloodline both. I've even written out some places downtown that they film at, maybe write up a little Fringe walking tour out of it (the convention center, the Vancouver public library, the hotel, the park they used for the "martin luther/ eldridge memorial park", where Henry parks his cab under the bridge...) I've written up some stuff already, I'll do a test walk of it before I publish.

fringeobsessed said...

I'd like to see your walking tour!

Nice job, birdandbear, and some very nice catches, cortexifan.
But no one brought up the similarities between Milo and Peter. Both never felt like they fit in. Both were genius smart, and dangerous. Our Liv tells Madeline her brother is dangerous, just as Nina Sharp told fictional Dectective Dunham(more than once) in Brown Betty that Peter Bishop was dangerous.

The line that bothers me most in this whole episode?

"Yeah, unless it's run by an evil genius who's creating accidents to kill people."

My foreshadowing alarm is screaming! Between this line and both Liv and Nina warning us of dangerous men, I think the PB that shows up in S4 will have things in common with Milo Stanfield-be wicked smart and arrogant. And doesn't that also describe Walternate and our Walter with his brain fragments re-attatched in "Grey Matters"? Get ready to shiver, people!

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