"Os" was written by Josh Singer and Graham Roland, directed by Brad Anderson, and was first aired on March 11th, 2011. The glyph for this episode was EARTH.
To me. "Os" is the perfect combination of MOTW and mythology. As the next chronological episode in the Blue-verse after "6B", it's the first exposure to Olivia and Peter in their new relationship. At the same time, it's moving inexorably closer to the end of the world and Walter is losing his tenuous grasp on his self-confidence and abilities to find a solution without his partner, William Bell. There's Doubting Walter, Happy Olivia, and once again, Peter being a mensch, as he grapples with his decision to keep secrets from Olivia. Couple this with a compelling case unrelated to the other universe, but illustrating one of the main themes of Fringe ("How far would you go to save your son / a loved one?"), and "Os" proves to be an episode that satisfies both the mystery and the mythology lovers.
Prologue – Strange Brew
The episode opens with “Strange Brew” (Cream, 1967) playing in the background, accompanied by the sound of a bong bubbling, the distinctive click of a Zippo, and Walter’s smoky exhalation. Walter and Kevin, a security guard at Massive Dynamic (played by Jorge Garcia, a familiar face to JJ Abrams followers for his role as Lost’s Hurley), are sharing a bong that looks suspiciously like a lab beaker and watching the security monitors.
Guess smoking dope on the job is ok as long as you’re doing it with the CEO, huh? It's a reminder that Walter really was a member of the Woodstock generation as he recounts waking up to find Yoko in his bed.
KEVIN: “What did he say?”While Kevin packs the bong again, Walter bemoans the fact that it was Belly’s intellect that created Massive Dynamic, and he’s only been able to create a new cupcake frosting flavor (mmmm, baconberry), which introduces Walter’s theme for the episode – his inadequacies without his old lab partner, William Bell. Kevin reassures Walter that he’s “the best boss I’ve ever had”, which obviously touches Walter and simultaneously touches off a round of stoner giggles. Kevin fires up another hit and Walter rhapsodizes over the “rhythm” and “cadence” of his employees scurrying through the Massive Dynamic hallways, then notices that no one has entered one room - William Bell’s office.
WALTER: “It was the '70s. What could he say?”
Walter burst into Nina’s office with a cart stacked with boxes of Bell’s old files. Nina is surrounded by Bell’s copies of “The First People” and is less than overjoyed at the interruption. Walter is excited to find their old research, but he quickly admits his fear of failing without Belly. Looking back at the episode, his words take on a more ominous significance than during the first viewing.
“ …looking at these [files], feeling depressed, missing my old friend, wondering if I could succeed without him, thinking how good we were together. But then I remembered how good we were together. And then I realized that maybe these contained a solution. Maybe if I went through these files, every detail, every thought pattern, then maybe I could remember how to think the way I used to, the way we used to. Back when there were no limitations. Back when anything was possible.”Walter also updates Nina on Peter and Olivia - “They’re a couple now” - much to her delight. Nina has been waiting for this moment ever since Sam told her that Peter’s choice will dictate which universe survives. No doubt she'll sleep a little better tonight.
At the Massachusetts Metal Depository, two men clad in black garb and ski masks are scaling the building - or are they? They reach a perpendicular surface and don rubber boots, then walk clumsily away from the building, when they are spotted by a security guard who’s just driven up in, you guessed it, a Ford SUV. At this point, we realize that they were scaling DOWN the building, rather than up. One thief escapes, but the other is shot by the security guard, who stares in disbelief, as first the thief’s blood, then his body, floats upward.
Act I – Secret Labs, Street Fairs, and Floating Men
In an unfamiliar area of the Harvard campus, the Engineering Building, Peter is dictating what sounds like research findings, surrounded by electronic equipment, filing cabinets, and the schematics for the WaveSink machine. Could this be Peter’s man-lab (aka 'Peter's Happy Place')? He sits in front of the shape-shifter discs wired to a mesh frame and continues to describe his findings.
“ …however, the daisy chain wiring pattern seems to have activated them, somehow revealing tons of previously undetected data. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea how the hell to read it.”
Peter’s Sprint phone rings (gotta love the product placement; it pays the bills,right?) and when he identifies the caller as Olivia, a gamut of emotions cross his face – frustration, guilt, resignation. It's as if he takes a deep breath mentally, then answers the phone.
Here's the "beautiful future" that Peter talked about in "6B". Olivia still appears uptight with her wrapped up coat and slicked back hair, but she has a seldom- seen SMILE on her face. She and Peter chat about sleeping in and street fairs; Peter the con-man resurfaces as he easily ‘relocates’ himself at the gym, but promises to "shower up" and meet Olivia in 15 minutes at the Bishop house. Unfortunately, Olivia’s next communication (via a slick text/voice interface in her dashboard) is with Broyles, summoning them to a crime scene.
It’s a nice little interlude of what could be two normal people in a normal relationship, except one of them is trying to translate data discs carved out of shape shifters from another universe, and their jaunt to the street fair is interrupted by a summons to see a dead floating man.
When they arrive at the crime scene, Walter is overjoyed to have a new body and quotes Ovid –
“They glanced up and saw Icarus float through the sky, and taking him for a god, they stood still in wonder.”He and Peter examine the body as Olivia and Broyles interview the security guard. They learn that the thieves took a substantial amount of osmium, and Peter finds the weighted boots, while Walter struggles to hang on to his new cadaver. They also learn that, while the thief’s calf muscles are atrophied, the upper body is normal. As they discuss osmium and its uses, Peter lets the body float away and Olivia tries to stifle a grin, while Walter muses about osmium’s density (“twice as dense as lead”), balloons, and bowling balls.
In the parking garage at Frost Aerodynamics, Dr. Krick and a coworker are chatting about denser compounds and airplanes as they walk out of the elevator. Krick spots someone waiting for him - the surviving thief – who updates him about their heist, the death of his partner, and the fact that he doesn’t feel good. Krick, who seems more concerned about whether Bill succeeded with the theft than how he’s feeling, tells him to meet him at the lab. Bill gets back in his car, struggling with the weighted boots as he lifts his legs into the car.
Act II – Full Disclosure, Part 1 – It’s a Great Game
At the lab, Walter is taking blood samples from the still-floating corpse, Peter is going through Bell’s files looking for "anything related to gravity," and Astrid is in front of a monitor. Walter recalls seeing a folder about "floaters" that might’ve been related to Belly’s search for the perfect bowel movement, which elicits a sarcastic remark from Astrid and one of the show’s classic Walterisms – “Everybody poops, dear.”
They continue to review Belly’s files, including some of his less successful ideas (“personal floatation devices”) until the corpse’s blood test results reveal no gaseous substances but a low white blood cell count, implying a weakened immune system. Olivia comes in with information about the key card found on the corpse’s body, tracking it to a warehouse in Allston.
Peter perks up considerably at the idea of a road trip, while Walter and Astrid exchange knowing smiles. When Peter questions Walter’s ‘hmmm’ as they’re leaving, Walter talks about courting his mother and how long walks have been replaced by drives to warehouses. Olivia is grinning as she turns to walk out the door (she’s doing that a lot lately), and while it's not visible, it's almost certain that Peter is rolling his eyes as he follows Olivia out of the lab.
In Allston, Krick is using a key card to enter the warehouse. Bill confronts him, and he’s not feeling any better, as he has blood running from his eyes, a la True Blood. When he questions Krick, who’s cooking up a fresh batch of osmium flavored serum, Krick replies that “You can’t defy gravity without consequences,” and reminds Bill that he’s a pioneer. Unfortunately, Bill’s pioneering days have come to an end, as he is dead when Krick turns to inject him with the serum.
In Walter’s lab, the floating man finally loses his buoyancy and crashes to the floor. Walter calls for Astrid to pick up the corpse and Astrid gamely tries to comply, but the corpse is too heavy even for the two of them, much to Walter’s surprise. Walter instructs Astrid to take another blood sample and test for osmium, even though he knows that osmium couldn’t be making the corpse float. There's a look of frustration on Walter’s face as he struggles to connect the facts.
Peter and Olivia are driving to Allston, playing a new travel game, “Full Disclosure.” Yeah, it’s a little cheesy, but hearing Olivia critiquing Peter’s massage techniques is a little slice of normal couple life as they banter back and forth. It also sounds like Peter initiated the discussion, when he says “It’s supposed to be about how we feel about each other.”
Olivia responds by saying “No, it’s about everything,” and “It’s about trust. So it’s a great game if two people are playing.” She eyes Peter and asks if he's holdiing out on her, but he chuckles and maintains his poker face. It’s an interesting interchange considering their history – Peter’s honesty about Fauxlivia and his current subterfuge regarding his lab, his work with the shape shifter disks, and the methods he used to obtain them.
At the Allston warehouse, Krick channels Dexter and saws off Bill’s foot, then takes a scraping of the bone in the obligatory gross-out scene. He’s interrupted (thankfully) by seeing Peter and Olivia on the security monitor. They discover the second thief, sans foot, and investigate a sound leading them to a walk in freezer, where they find another corpse and random body parts.
Act III – Miracles, Mentos, and Upsetting the Balance of the Universe
As the bodies are being carried out, Walter identifies the cause of death as toxic amounts of osmium in their bloodstream. When Olivia and Peter query Walter about how the world’s heaviest element could make men float, instead of responding with his usual myriad of possibilities, Walter replies “Do I look like I have answers?” which earns a puzzled look from Peter. Once again, Walter’s fear of being unable to solve the larger challenges undermines his confidence in himself.
Broyles joins them, revealing that eight wheelchairs were found behind the warehouse and some of the bodies had been identified as Muscular Dystrophy victims, giving Walter yet another opportunity to castigate himself for missing a clue.
In a gym, a group of wheelchair-bound men are playing murderball. At a break, Krick chats with one of the players, Michael. As he returns to his seat on the bleachers, he speaks to another young man in a wheelchair, who’s looking longingly at the game before him. Krick promises him a miracle, and the young man is hooked.
In the lab, Walter has extracted osmium from the corpses’ blood, which he had sent over from the morgue. He asks Astrid to dispose of it, a dozen bloody gallon jugs covering a nearby table, and earns a withering look from the usually agreeable junior agent, who walks off muttering “I went to Quantico for this?”
At a nearby table, Olivia and Peter are poring over files, trying to find links between the victims and getting nowhere. Peter suggests breaking for a pizza, and when Olivia doubts that “Regina’s” delivers this late, Peter agrees and says they should go get it, offering to take the files in the car. Olivia acquiesces, and Walter asks for liquorice. Astrid volunteers to get it out of the vending machines, and Peter and Olivia walk out of the lab, leaving Walter and Astrid smiling as they depart.
Peter comments that “the smiling’s kind of freaking me out, right?” and reaches for Olivia’s hand. She replies “Don’t look now,” as they meet an also-smiling Nina Sharp. Olivia wonders aloud why Nina would be at Harvard, which is a reasonable question considering that it’s so late that a pizza delivery service in a college town has ceased deliveries for the night. Nina responds that she’s bringing Peter a file that he requested.
Nina scolds Peter for letting go of a beautiful woman’s hand on her account and congratulates the pair. When Peter asks if Walter told her, Nina confirms and says “He’s very pleased. As am I,” as if the fate of the world depends on Peter and Olivia’s love life… based on past and future episodes, that’s not too far off the mark.
Olivia’s curious about the file, and Nina reveals that it’s about shape shifters, which piques her curiosity even more. Peter’s able to diffuse her questions by telling her it’s just background research, and he’s saved from further explanation as Olivia answers a call from Broyles.
As they walk down the hallway, Nina takes Peter’s arm and congratulates him on his “decision to move forward”’ in his relationship with Olivia. She continues by saying that they deserve to be happy. She hands Peter the file and walks toward the lab with a satisfied look on her face. Peter’s smiling a bit, too (LOTS of smiling in this episode, it IS a little freaky), and glances at the file, then at Olivia, still on the phone, before he tucks the folder under his arm. Oh, what a tangled web we weave…
Walter vents his frustration at the paradox of osmium making men float and Astrid brings more bad news – no liquorice, only Mentos. We all know what’s coming, as Walter turns with the mints in hand and an open 3-liter bottle of ‘cola’ sitting on a cart in front of him.
Walter provides one of the links that ties the MOTW with the overall mythology as he rants about the creator of the floating bodies.
“Our entire universe exists in a delicate state of equilibrium, hmm? And we know what happens if that balance is upset. It could cause a chain reaction.
He's messing with the fundamental constants of our world! It could lead to
To illustrate his point, he drops the Mentos into the cola, creating the now-familiar gusher, just as Nina walks in. Seeing the mess, Walter sheepishly offers to get a mop, earning yet another disgusted look from Astrid as she stalks off to fetch the mop. She REALLY deserves a raise.
Walter is silent, but appears distressed. Nina asks him what’s wrong, and he is almost in tears, feeling like a failure and missing Belly. He tells Nina that he knows Belly is dead, but perhaps they can bring him back, based on one of his projects – the theory that a person’s soul survives after death and could be brought back by planting a Sooouuulll Magnet in a host, through an injection or possibly a cup of tea (a strange brew indeed).
Overcome by the challenges of the Machine and the thought of losing Peter, Walter is fragile and distraught. Nina tries to dismiss the idea of retrieving Belly’s soul, and comforts Walter with words heard again later, when Walter tries to encourage Olivia in “The Last Sam Weiss”.
“Walter, it was never your intellect that made you exceptional. You'reNina Sharp has always been somewhat of a mystery to me, especially in her relationships with the Bishops and with William Bell. She adds to the mystery as she reassures Walter that he will not fail, “because you can’t,” and cups his face in her gloved hands.
brilliant, of course. But it was your imagination, your boundless creativity.
Yes, you're not quite whole, Walter. But the best parts of you remain. So focus
Act IV - Up is down. Left is right. And hot is cold.
Krick has his latest victim, er, volunteer in his basement, and injects him with the osmium serum. Vince walks, then floats, his excitement palpable. Krick hands him a pair of weighted boots, then sadly tells him that he doesn’t have enough ‘stuff’ to make another batch – and now, he has another willing accomplice.
Nina has inspired Walter to use his creativity, and he’s discovered that "Up is down. Left is right. And hot is cold.” That liquid nitrogen will melt osmium, and that it’s mixed with a mystery element.
At Krick’s house, he's helping his son, Michael, into bed. Michael is the young man Krick spoke to at the murderball game, one of the wheelchair-bound players. Michael questions his dad about going back out so late, and his father talks about a new project that’s keeping him busy, but that he’s “close to something big. A breakthrough that will change everything.” Michael voices his confidence in his dad, sayng “you’ve never failed before and… You won’t fail this time.”
As Michael speaks, it’s interesting to note the objects on the shelf behind his bed – two red orbs.
Peter and Olivia have returned to the lab, and Walter explains how lutetium was mixed with the osmium, apparently causing the buoyancy, even though “Two shouldn’t even be able to form a molecule, let alone one that would make a human being float.” They determine that the most likely source of this second rare element could be meteorites found in the Museum of Science.
At the Museum of Science, Vince is nervously checking his equipment before floating through the skylight, disarming the alarm system, and opening the door for Krick. Krick is checking the meteorites for their lutetium content while Vince holds on to the glass case to keep from floating away, when they’re spotted by Peter, Olivia, Broyles, and the museum’s security guard. Krick grabs the meteorites and heads out the door, leaving Vince to fend for himself.
Vince loosens his weighted belt and begins to float upward. When he realizes that he’s probably going to crash into the skylight, he grabs an astronaut figure suspended over the multi-storied room to stop his ascent, but it’s only a temporary delay and he shouts for help. Peter clambers over the railing and dives for Vince, bringing them both crashing down into a glass display case.
Meanwhile, Olivia has tracked Krick and yells at him to stop; as he continues towards the exit, Olivia fires, shattering the glass door in front of him, which convinces him to surrender.
Act V - Full Disclosure, Part II - Sooouuulll Magnets
Krick, clad in an orange jumpsuit, is sitting in a cell as Michael wheels himself down the hallway, accompanied by Peter and Walter. It’s a familiar theme in Fringe, fathers who betray their son’s trust; this time, Michael is crushed by the thought that his dad sees him as something “to be fixed”. When Krick tells him that he did it so Michael would be happy, Michael replies “I was happy. I went to bed at night knowing I had a father who loved me.”
Michael wheels away, and Peter follows, but not before glancing back at Krick, a disgusted look on his face. This leaves the two fathers, Walter and Krick. Once again, Walter references Daedalus and his son, Icarus. Krick remarks that he should consider himself lucky that his son lived, when Daedalus' son did not. In a poignant reply, Walter reminds him that there are other parents not so fortunate. Walter questions Krick about his serum and Krick divulges his research, combining the two densest elements on earth to create a new molecule, and concludes by saying, “It should never have worked. It was an accident. A miracle.”
Walter visits Nina in her office, again with a tragic look on his face. He obviously didn’t stop to see his friend Kevin on the way up. He explains to Nina that, while Krick is in custody for the crime, he, Walter, is responsible.
This man wasn't changing the fundamental laws of nature. I think they were changing on their own. I think he took advantage of it. Don't you see, Nina? Our universe is starting to break down because of what I did 25 years ago. What we've seen happening on the other side is starting to happen here!”Nina remarks that he seems to be taking this well, as Walter slips Belly’s file on Sooouuulll Magnets out from his coat and tells her that he knows how to fix it.
In the hallway of the Harvard Engineering building, Peter greets a smiling Olivia with a kiss, who thinks she’s meeting Peter here so they can "make out in front of college kids instead of your dad.”
As they walk down the hallway, Peter reveals that he hasn’t been entirely honest with Olivia. She’s still smiling at this point, surprisingly enough. He goes on to talk about the conflict between the two universes, and that he’s “right in the middle of it.” When Olivia tries to reassure him by telling him that everyone is supportive of him and trying to figure it out, he lays it on the line.
“It’s not your face in that drawing, it’s mine.”He goes on to tell her that he’s been working on something, and he can’t trust anyone else, not the FBI, not Walter. Olivia realizes the gravity of what he’s telling her, and her smile starts to fade.
Street fairs, road trips, and pizza pickups are all fun – but this is the moment that defines Peter and Olivia’s relationship for me, as he turns to her and comes clean.
“…As much as I know Walter cares... he's too protective. I - I can't trust his judgment. But I do trust yours. But I don't want there to be any more secrets between the two of us... so - full disclosure.”
In Nina’s office, Walter is trying to convince her that Belly’s concept of Sooouuulll Magnets is viable.
“A person's consciousness... their soul is energy. And energy cannot be created or destroyed. No matter where Belly's consciousness is, the harmonic vibrations emanating from this bell will draw it forth from whatever vessel he chose before –“.
Walter focuses on the bell that Nina inherited from William and strikes it. He gazes into Nina’s face and asks hopefully, “Belly?” With more than a little frustration, Nina replies “No, Walter, it’s still me.” Walter, undeterred, is still convinced that the Sooouuulll Magnets will work, the ship’s bell is the key, and "wherever Belly is…he will find us.”
In the final scene, Peter ushers Olivia into his lab. As she’s looking around, he explains that it contains everything they know about the Machine. She focuses on the shape shifter discs, still wired into the mesh frame. As she questions Peter about them, her expression changes with the realization that he was responsible for the dead shape shifters. He doesn’t deny it, and it seems to be overwhelming Olivia, as she turns away without a word. She walks over to the filing cabinets and gazes at her reflection with a funny look on her face as Peter continues to talk about the discs, telling her that they’re encrypted… then the faint sound of a distorted bell is heard. When Peter says that he can’t break the code, an unfamiliar voice replies, “That’s because the decoder key is in my office.” The episode ends as a strangely calm Olivia turns to greet Peter – “Hello, Peter. It’s nice to see you again.”
Belly’s Sooouuulll Magnets worked after all.
Unanswered Questions From "Os"
- What exactly IS the relationship between Walter and Nina? William and Nina? We know they’ve all known each other a long time, but where do Nina’s allegiances really lie?
- What is the significance of "The First People" books? Why were they published in so many languages? Were they written by Sam Weiss or one of his ancestors? What has anyone gleaned from them? Knowing that Walter, Peter, Ella and Astrid "may" be the First People, are these books clues that they sent back in time?
- Was the disturbance between the universes really the cause for the osmium/lutetium combination creating buoyancy, as Walter surmised?
- If Bell had not inhabited Olivia’s body at that particular moment, how would Olivia have reacted to Peter’s revelations about his secret research and his responsibility in the shape shifters’ demise?
If Peter Bishop Didn’t Exist...
- There wouldn’t have been nearly as much smiling.
- No Peter, no dead shape shifters, no secret lab.
- The case itself would not be impacted by Peter’s absence, but it would lack the same resonance without the relationship to the overall theme of what fathers will do for their sons.