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In a diner somewhere in rainy old Washington state, a pretty waitress brings Peter coffee and a slice of pecan pie. Given how Twin Peaks-y this entire episode is, I’m frankly disappointed it’s not cherry. Missed opportunity, Fringe.
The waitress, whose name is Krista, flirts outrageously with Peter, who flirts right back. She has a habit of burning CDs for people, with the playlists selected based upon their auras. Okay, so Krista is a little flaky. Pretty, but flaky. Peter charms her into agreeing to make him his very own CD. Either he’s lonely, or horny, or both.
He’s staying at the Drake’s Bay Motel; Krista agrees to drop off his CD after her shift. She gives him her hand-scribbled check for the meal, in which the “I” is dotted with a little heart. Flaky, yes?
Krista closes the diner and burns a CD for Peter. She scribbles across it, “Peter from Boston.” Since there’s no “I” in that statement, she’s turned both the “O”s into hearts. Oh, Krista. What are we going to do with you?
She walks through the dark parking lot toward her car. A dark figure approaches. A semi truck passes in front of them, and by the time it moves on, both Krista and the dark figure have disappeared.
Krista wakes up, lying face-down and strapped to what seems to be some kind of operating table. She hears the noise of a drill and starts to whimper. An unseen figure reaches inside a fresh new hole in her skull with a pair of tongs and removes a chunk from her brain.
Barfy in an entirely different way.
Ah, Fringe. Still bringing the good times on Thursday nights.
Peter naps on the sofa in the lobby of his motel until six in the morning. The disgruntled guy behind the counter informs him that his room has, like, a bed and everything. Peter, desperate for a good mix tape, asks if Krista dropped off anything for him. The guy shakes his head.
Peter returns to his motel room and lies on the bed. The phone rings, but when he picks it up, he only hears distorted voices and static on the other end. Let me guess: AT&T?
“Yeah, this episode is all-me, all the time. Pretty cool, huh?”
Peter hits the road. He asks his GPS for directions to Portland. Even though he doesn’t specify Oregon or Maine, his GPS seems to know where he wants to go. Peter would probably fit in well in Portland, Oregon. Lots of great microbreweries. He’d probably have no trouble finding a pretty girl to make him a mix tape there, too. When he passes Krista’s diner, he sees a lot of cop cars and yellow police tape. Being a trained FBI consultant, Peter suspects trouble, so he stops and approaches. He’s confronted by Sheriff Mathis, who knows that Peter was spotted flirting shamelessly with Krista at the diner the previous night. Hey, it’s Martha Plimpton! Fantastic. I’m delighted at the thought that brainy, sardonic Stef from The Goonies grew up to become a small-town sheriff.
The fabulous Martha Plimpton.
Sheriff Martha grills Peter on his intentions and asks to see some identification. While he’s talking to her, Peter spots Evil Newton from the parallel universe lurking in the crowd of onlookers, looking customarily sinister.
Newton is on entirely the wrong side of that police tape.
Evil Newton meets his stare, then moves off into the crowd and disappears. Peter starts heading after him, but Sheriff Martha stops him. She tells him Krista has gone missing and asks him, politely but firmly, to accompany her to the sheriff station.
Meanwhile, poor Laura Palmer — Krista, I mean — is found dead by the side of the river.
This town just lost its key source of mix CDs.
In the back of Sheriff Martha’s vehicle, Peter overhears chatter on the police radio indicating there was a piece of her skull missing. Peter asks Martha to ask the coroner on the scene if Krista was missing a piece of her temporal lobe. Martha throws Peter a highly suspicious look, but shuffles over to the coroner to ask about it anyway. She comes back: “How the hell did you know that?”
At the sheriff’s station, Peter convinces Sheriff Martha and her perennial sidekick, Deputy Ferguson, that he’s not just some vaguely disreputable drifter who blew into town to charm all their diner waitresses — he’s a civilian consultant with the FBI, and he’s got the crappy little laminated badge to prove it.
Peter’s ID looks like a “Magic: The Gathering” card.
He informs them his area of expertise is the inexplicable. Both Martha and Ferguson regard this tidbit with due skepticism. Peter believes whoever killed Krista (i.e. Newton) was trying to find him — the temporal lobe controls memory, so by stealing that part of her brain, Newton would have access to every single fact she knew about Peter (i.e. that he likes pecan pie and flirty waitresses). After all, Newton does have an august history of cutting out bits of other people’s brains for his own diabolical purposes. Ferguson, quickly establishing himself as the voice of cold reason, wonders why Newton wouldn’t simply ask Krista for Peter’s location — why would he need to hack away at her brain?
In this episode, this guy is the brainy one.
You know, in the context of our usual motley band of Fringe regulars — Walter, Olivia, Broyles, Astrid, Nina — Peter usually comes across as the ironic, reasonable one. Get him away from his coworkers and stick him with a bunch of normal people, though, and he appears to be totally nuts. Yes, of course, Ferguson is right — why on Earth would Newton need to kill Krista to get to Peter?
Martha goes to call the FBI to confirm Peter’s identity. As soon as she steps away, Peter calls Broyles in Boston for permission to help Sheriff Martha to solve Krista’s murder. Broyles asks Peter if he’s in trouble. “Just the opposite,” Peter replies. Really? Aren’t you currently their main/only suspect, Peter? Sure, he’s got a pretty tight alibi — the motel clerk saw him sleeping in the lobby all night — but that’s still not exactly the opposite of trouble.
“Oh, you know, the usual. Ate some pie, flirted with a waitress, got mixed up with a brain-stealing murderer.”
“So… you drove 2,500 miles for a mix CD and some pecan pie?”
Peter asks Broyles not to tell Walter about the call. Broyles agrees. He’s all concerned and paternal toward Peter, offering to send someone to pick him up, should Peter ever want to return to the FBI fold. I’ve pointed this out before, but Broyles has been awfully nice this season, especially compared to what a dickhead he was in the pilot episode. Over the weekend, I rewatched the first season of Lost, and I was struck by what spiteful, grouchy little bastards both Sawyer and Jin used to be in those early days. Both mellowed over the seasons as viewers saw new sides to them and as they adapted to their new surroundings by easing up on the constant bile. Character development, we call it. With Broyles, though, there’s been nothing like that — it’s more like the writers scrapped their original plans for him and pressed the reset button: He once was mean, but now he’s a gigantic marshmallow.
Eh. Doesn’t matter. It’s a little sloppy from a structural standpoint, but I like Broyles better this way.
In the autopsy room at the sheriff station, Peter and Martha fuss over Krista’s corpse. While Martha takes notes, Peter points out the temporal lobe and explains how a perfect recall of data can be extracted from the brain.
Sheriff Martha has the handwriting of a 14-year-old.
The exposed brain area has an unnatural pinkish color, which means Krista experienced an adrenaline spike before she died. Yup, having some guy hack pieces out of your brain while you’re still awake and aware will do that to a girl.
While leaning in to take a closer look at Krista’s gray matter, Martha drops her pen in a shallow pan of blood. She’s appropriately horrified. Peter retrieves it for her and hands it back. It has a slogan emblazoned on it: “Find the crack.” Peter thinks this is a horrible slogan for a sheriff’s department. On the contrary, I think it’s brilliant. It works on so many different levels!
As far as slogans go, it beats the hell out of “Protect and Serve.”
Martha explains that it was a gift from Ferguson, who was the only one who had faith in her when she took over as sheriff. Peter notes that it looks like an expensive pen. For the record: No, it doesn’t.
Peter is riveted by this conversation.
Ferguson presents Peter with a copy of his statement, which Peter signs off on. Peter tells Martha he’s going to check into a local hotel call the Northwest Passage under the name “Gene Cowan.” Okay, I’m slow. I had to lurk on a bunch of message boards to get the significance: “Gene” is the name of the damn cow in the lab. Very clever, Peter.
After Peter leaves, Ferguson and Martha talk about whether they can trust Peter and his wild crazy talk about brain-stealing criminals. I was wrong: This episode isn’t Twin Peaks, it’s The X-Files. I mean, Fringe is always The X-Files, but in this episode the comparison is more overt than usual. Ferguson is Scully, Martha is Mulder, and I guess that makes Peter… Krycek?
Also: Fringe is always pretty good about fleshing out the peripheral characters, but even so, the emphasis on Sheriff Mathis and Ferguson seems significant. Either they’ll be making appearances on future episodes, or FOX just test-drove a prospective new spin-off. I think it’s the latter. Well, good. I’d watch it.
Peter drops by a gun dealership and makes a shady deal. Safe in his hotel room, he takes a newly-purchased shotgun out of his duffel bag and does… I don’t know. Something with the bullets. Looks like he’s sharpening them. I don’t know much about guns. The phone rings while he’s fiddling around with the bullets, and once again, there’s nothing on the other end but static and electrically-distorted voices. Peter hangs up. The phone rings again, but this time it’s only Martha. Peter bites off her head and spits it out at her. Metaphorically, of course. He asks her who she told about him, because only she and Ferguson knew where he was staying. Martha calms him down and gets to the purpose of her call: Ferguson has disappeared.
Peter’s shotgun and his bullets will never again appear in this episode, by the way. To quote Chekhov: “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”
Peter and Martha kibitz at the station. Ferguson vanished half an hour before Peter received that phone call. Martha wants to call in the FBI; Peter insists she hold off, because otherwise Newton and his accomplices will disappear. “What is it that makes you special?” Martha asks. Peter modestly neglects to point out his wholesome good looks and his insouciant charm and his genius IQ, and says he doesn’t know.
Anyway, Martha pulled phone records from both the Northwest Passage and the Drake’s Bay Motel. According to the records, the calls Peter claims he received never happened. Peter argues that people have been falsifying phone records since the 1970s. I have no idea what he’s yammering on about right now. Why the 1970s? Is this some kind of Watergate allusion? Peter thinks Newton nabbed Ferguson and stole part of his brain to find Peter at the hotel (just so he could… crank-call him? Think, Peter, think); Martha hopes he’s wrong, because that means Ferguson is already dead. Martha goes to call in the FBI, and Peter once again stops her.
Meanwhile, back in Boston, Walter dotters around a grocery store, clearly out of his element. He picks up a box of strawberry toaster pastries, swipes a pair of reading glasses from a display, and reads the ingredients. Upon discovering they contain potassium bromate, he bellows, “This supermarket is trying to kill us!”
Walter discovers the sordid world of packaged foods.
A clerk tries to calm him down, but Walter is unswayed. He holds up the pastries and declares them to be “delicious strawberry-flavored death!” He stops ranting when he sees a woman hustle her small daughter out of the path of the crazy man. Walter slumps down to the floor and starts bawling. And there you have it, a scene that encapsulates all of Walter in under two minutes: Funny, irritating, and heartbreaking.
Walter takes his toaster pastries very, very seriously.
(By the way, Walter is right on the money here: Potassium bromate is a known carcinogen, and yet it’s still legally added to bread products in the United States. Eat up, everybody!)
Olivia and Astrid escort Walter back to the Bishop house, with Walter fuming up a storm about how he was hauled off to the police station. His house is in chaos, with stacks of debris everywhere. Astrid looks stunned. There’s a single moldy orange in the refrigerator. Welcome to my kitchen, Astrid.
Is the jar more likely to contain pickles, or a urine sample?
Astrid and Olivia are appalled that Walter didn’t ask them for help taking care of himself in Peter’s absence, but Walter insists he needs to be independent. He’s horribly worried that, if Peter never returns, he’ll be sent back to the mental hospital. Olivia assures him she won’t let that happen.
Okay. That was just a brief interlude to break your heart a little at the sight of how Peter’s absence has gutted Walter. We now return to Peter’s madcap adventures in the Pacific Northwest.
Peter and Martha head out to the river where Krista’s body was found. It’s an idyllic spot in the woods, with mist and towering pine trees all around. It sure looks a hell of a lot like the Pacific Northwest. Here’s the thing with so many television shows shooting in Vancouver these days: For the most part, it works pretty well, as Vancouver is a sizeable, attractive city with a downtown area that can pass, with some strategic camera work, for pretty much any city north of the Mason-Dixon line. In most Fringe episodes, Vancouver makes a pretty good Boston stand-in. But the Pacific Northwest really doesn’t look like any place in the world other than the Pacific Northwest (all those pine trees!), and Fringe runs into trouble when they try to pass off the landscape as, say, upstate New York, like they did a handful of episodes back in “Johari Window.” So when Peter went on the run and had all of the world to choose from for his destination, of course he’d end up in the Pacific Northwest, because now Fringe has carte blanche to focus on the incredible scenery.
The above paragraph may be translated thusly: The Pacific Northwest sure is pretty.
On the bridge over the river, Peter finds a Bazooka Joe comic. I thought for sure this would be an actual, like, clue or something — Krista’s murderer chews bubble gum! — but no, it’s never mentioned again.
There might be a hidden meaning in that rather esoteric punchline.
Peter hears static and noise, like the sounds he heard in his mysterious phone calls. There’s a light through the trees on the other side of the bridge. He charges off into the woods like an idiot and runs smack into Newton and another man. Newton fires a dart at him; Peter pulls a handgun and opens fire.
Peter should never be allowed to run around armed.
Since, to the best of my knowledge, Peter doesn’t usually go around armed, I’m assuming he bought this handgun at the same time he bought the shotgun, right? Newton and the other man disappear into the forest.
Martha hears the gunshots and chases after him. She finds Peter looking around wildly, waving his gun like a lunatic. Peter sees a bloodstain on her jacket sleeve and turns his gun on her. She, in turn, points her gun at him.
This is exactly why local law enforcement doesn’t always welcome the FBI.
Thinking she’s a shapeshifter, Peter quizzes her about the pen she dropped in the morgue. Martha answers his questions correctly, thus proving her humanity. She fell while running and scraped up her arm, hence the bloody jacket.
Peter patches up her wrist and tells her about the shapeshifters. Martha confesses that she’s sort of a conspiracy-theory/UFO nut at heart, but even so, she’s wondering if he’s bonkers. Wait until you meet his dad, Martha. It’s probably hereditary. She’s desperately hoping that, somehow, Ferguson — who is more than just her partner — is still alive.
Just as she’s telling this to Peter, she gets a phone call about a body found in a landfill. She and Peter head over there. The body is surrounded by a cluster of deputies. Martha squares her shoulders and firms her jaw and strides over to take a look… and discovers it’s not Ferguson. It’s a young white female with part of her skull missing. Peter examines the corpse and declares he’s never seen her before.
Life gets easier once you accept that not everything is always about you.
Hugs and kisses,
The young woman turns out to be someone named Gwynn. A friend of hers talks with Peter and Martha at the sheriff’s station. She’s obviously distraught over Gwynn’s death, a situation that is not helped by Peter shifting into full-on butthead mode and grilling her relentlessly to find some connection between Gwynn and himself. Martha intervenes and tells Peter, politely but firmly, to knock it the hell off. Martha is pretty terrific in this role. With her cheery competence, she’s the Marge Gunderson of the Pacific Northwest.
Back at the Bishop home, Walter puts on a record and noshes on a pudding pop while Astrid does the dishes.
Walter calls it a pudding pop. I call it a Fudgesicle.
For the first time, Walter wonders whether Astrid, a trained FBI agent, ever gets frustrated with having to babysit a helpless old man. Have you been sneaking peeks at my recaps, Walter? Astrid starts washing the double-decker toy car from the alternate universe, which gives Walter a sudden idea: As objects from the other side — including Peter — emit a certain glimmer, Walter can build a device to detect them and thus track down his son. He orders Astrid to start gathering together all the objects from the parallel universe.
Astrid thinks the cars in the parallel universe are kind of silly-looking.
Peter and Martha drive around at night. Peter continues to fret about how Gwynn must be connected to him in some way. They spot Gwynn’s abandoned truck by the side of the road, the window rolled down and the glove compartment open. Peter thinks she got pulled over by a cop — or possibly by a shapeshifter impersonating Ferguson. Martha decides, again, that she needs to call in the FBI to handle this. She asks aloud if she made a mistake trusting Peter and not calling them in earlier. Yes, Martha. Yes, you did. I’m a big supporter of Peter’s, but he’s spent this entire episode charging around half-cocked and mucking up your investigation, so… yes. Give Peter a cookie, tell him to sit in the backseat and behave himself, and call in the real FBI.
But no. Peter talks her out of calling the FBI. Again. When Martha mentions that she’s scared, Peter has an epiphany: The killer’s victims were scared, too, and thus this gives him a possible way to find them.
Back in the autopsy room, Peter says Krista and Gywnn would have been flooded with adrenaline at the time of their respective murders. An examination of their tissues might show when the adrenaline was produced by looking at the spikes of fear.
Peter’s not-terribly-helpful demonstration of adrenaline spikes.
This could help Peter pinpoint where they were killed. First, though, he needs a control sample. He hands Martha a tissue sample and tells her to put it in the centrifuge. As soon as she turns her back, Peter takes out his gun and fires a round into the ceiling.
Randomly firing a gun in a sheriff’s station is an awesome way to get yourself shot.
This, naturally enough, produces a strong adrenal reaction in Martha. Thus, Peter has his control sample. As an added bonus, he also has a pissed-off local sheriff who is regretting her decision to let him help a little more with each passing moment.
Olivia meets with Broyles to discuss Walter. Broyles wants to know if Walter will still be a functioning member of their little team, if Peter never comes back. I’d guess no, but I’m a pessimist. From Broyles’s line of questioning, Olivia guesses he knows something about Peter’s whereabouts.
“Are you sure I’m still the star of this show? Because I’m only in three tiny, unnecessary scenes.”
Using the results from the adrenaline test and plotting the locations where Gwynn and Krista were abducted and where the bodies were dumped on a map, Peter pinpoints the most likely location of their murders. It’s an abandoned dairy farm outside town.
Peter and Martha approach a young man, Craig, who owns a trailer parked down from the farm. Peter cautions Martha to make sure he’s not a shapeshifter. Martha confirms that Craig remembers he used to be in choir with her sister, thus proving he’s human.
Pretty much your textbook backwoods serial killer.
Craig shows them a map of the dairy farm. Martha calls in some backup to help her search it. Not that I want to tell Martha how to do her job, but since she and Peter were heading out to the dairy farm specifically with the intention to search it, shouldn’t she have arranged the backup already? After she leaves, Peter snoops around Craig’s trailer. He sees the mix CD Krista made for him, with the “Peter from Boston” label and the nauseating little hearts, and spins around in time to see Craig charging at him with an axe.
They have a swell little scuffle, then Peter gets handy with the fisticuffs and pummels Craig into submission. Peter demands to know where Newton is. Craig stares at him blankly.
Craig was no match for Peter’s Fists of Justice.
Martha returns in time to hear Craig’s teary confession: He just wanted to be close to the girls. Martha and Peter examine Craig’s makeshift operating room, which contains a number of body parts in jars. Everyone needs a hobby, I guess.
Body parts in apothecary jars: Standard serial-killer décor.
They also find Ferguson, battered but still breathing. While Martha fusses over him, Peter calls for an ambulance.
Judging by Craig’s organ collection, it’s obvious he’s been a practicing serial killer for some time. Funny how Sheriff Martha was unaware of this until now. It’s a small rural community, and Craig obviously is in the habit of dumping the bodies in open locations.
So Peter feels all terrible about how he was on completely the wrong track with trying to make the murders all about him, but Martha reassures him that he saved Bill’s life. Don’t be too grateful to him, Martha. If he’d agreed to call in the FBI at the start, maybe they could have saved Gwynn’s life, too. Martha spills a little bit of her backstory: Her family was murdered when she was away at college, and she still sometimes thinks she can solve their killings. Yeah, this is definitely reeking of “potential spinoff” here. She gives her special “Find the crack” pen to Peter and assures him he’ll find his place someday.
All Peter got out of this trip was a mix CD and a crappy pen.
Back at the laboratory — hey, is this the first lab scene in this episode? It is, isn’t it? — Walter rigs up a spectrograph to take a look at the parallel universe while Astrid shoots him a jaunty thumbs-up. Walter plans on isolating the glimmer and finding Peter. Astrid informs Walter that he’s entered the wrong numbers into his program — deliberately, she suspects, so that it won’t work. Walter ‘fesses up: He’s scared of locating Peter, because maybe Peter won’t forgive him.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if Walter is working or playing.
Olivia comes in and announces that she’s found Peter — he’s in the Pacific Northwest. So Broyles promised Peter he wouldn’t let Walter know his location, but then confessed everything to Olivia, who promptly told Walter. I believe this is known as obeying the letter of the law, but not the spirit. Olivia is heading up to Washington state to bring Peter back, if Walter would care to come along…? Walter would.
Back in his hotel room, Peter lies on the bed, eyes closed, and listens to the mix CD from Krista (Band of Horses’ “I Could Sleep,” for interested parties). It stretches credulity a bit that in this age of MP3 players Peter would be lugging around a CD player, but let’s roll with it. He opens his eyes to see Newton gazing down at him. When Peter goes for his gun, Newton pulls his own gun. While holding Peter at gunpoint, Newton calls for “Mr. Secretary” to join them.
Just what Peter wanted to see upon waking.
And in walks Walternate, Peter’s real father, the version of Walter from the alternate universe. “Hello, son,” he says to Peter.
Oh, very cool ending. I approve of this development.