Yep. It’s another one of those episodes.
A young man locks up his bicycle outside the Vitas Petroleum building in Boston and heads for the entrance. I’m jumping ahead a bit here, actually; later in this opening sequence, we’ll discover he’s a young man, and we’ll even learn his name (Mike) and his occupation (courier), but at the moment, in this first scene, we can only see his legs as he parks his bike and walks up to the building. One of his cuffs is rolled up, while the other cuff is not. I have no idea why the camera is focusing so determinedly on this. Maybe it’s something bikers do? Roll up their cuffs to prevent their pants from getting caught in the gears? Maybe this adds a touch of authenticity to the scene? In any case, Mike’s pants have zero relevance to anything else that happens in this episode.Mike hurries to catch the elevator as the doors close. There’s another guy in the elevator, a middle-aged man with a bald head and a pronounced Dutch accent. They exchange pleasantries, then Mike notes that the guy isn’t looking so hot. He’s sweating, and his nose is bleeding. The Dutch man grunts in reply and dabs at his nose with a handkerchief.
They get off on the same floor. The Dutch man stumbles down the corridor. Mike approaches the receptionist, whom he appears to know, and tells her the man looks like he’s not doing well. The receptionist tries to stop the Dutch man (I just did a quick search to see if “Dutchman,” one word, would be an appropriate and inoffensive way to refer to someone of Dutch nationality, like “Frenchman” or “Spaniard,” and discovered that “Dutchman” is also a derogatory slang term for an Afrikaner. Language is a minefield!). The man doesn’t seem to hear her. He staggers around, gasping for breath, then passes out. Mike yells for the receptionist to call 911, then immediately begins performing CPR. Oh, Mike, you poor doomed Good Samaritan.
The Dutch man is obviously dead. His corpse looks waxy and covered with prominent veins, and then, without warning, his mouth opens and he vomits forth a generous geyser of blood over Mike. Everyone recoils in horror.
There are sleigh bells in the Fringe theme music. I never noticed that before. Huh.
Astrid strides through the exhibits at the Boston Children’s Science Center, looking around, visibly flustered. A museum aide asks if she needs help. Astrid says she’s lost someone. The aide asks what school the missing child is from. Astrid clarifies that it’s an adult: Dr. Walter Bishop. The aide smiles knowingly and says, “Ah, a special needs individual.” Okay, this banter is kind of cute, and given his various mental afflictions (the insanity, the missing chunks of his brain) Walter could certainly be classified as such, but seriously, how many special needs individuals are doctors? Ergo, how likely is the aide to jump to that conclusion?
…Am I being too nitpicky? I apologize. I liked this episode a lot, really; I just thought they went a little too far out of the way to shoehorn in that joke.
Astrid finally finds Walter. He’s lecturing an assembled group of small children on the voyage of Magellan’s ship Victoria, in which only eighteen of the original 237 crew members survived. Walter cheerfully tells the rapt children that the other men died painful and horrible deaths. When you open new doors, says Walter, there’s a price to pay. Hey, I think there’s a hidden meaning in that! Walter goes on to talk about how monsters might be waiting to kill them under their beds, until their teacher snippily asks him if he even works at the museum. Walter blithely tells her he’s just a member with a season pass. Cut to a mortified Astrid pulling Walter toward the exit while he grouses that the museum had no right to revoke his membership. Astrid is interrupted by a call from Olivia, alerting them to the situation at Vitas Petroleum.
I love how happy Walter is about traumatizing small children.
Olivia and Peter arrive at Vitas. Olivia introduces herself to Detective Castle, the investigator on the scene. Castle has identified the dead man as Radjan Vandekamp. Observing Vandekamp’s mottled and bloody corpse, Castle says he’s never seen anything like it. “Lucky you,” grumbles Peter.
Olivia interviews the receptionist, who says no one in the office had ever seen Vandekamp before. Another worker introduces himself as Vincent Ames, the Vice President of Geotechnical Engineering. He asks Olivia if they’ll be able to leave soon; Olivia tells him to sit tight, which is FBI-speak for “cancel your plans for the week, and while you’re at it, maybe you should have your loved ones track down your life insurance policy.” The receptionist tells Olivia that Mike rode up in the elevator with Vandekamp. Olivia looks around for Mike to ask him a few questions, but he’s disappeared.
Mike stands at a sink in the men’s room and washes his face. He looks ghastly and distraught. His nose starts bleeding. That’ll teach you to be a nice guy and try to save some random dude’s life, Mike.
Broyles meets up with Astrid and Walter on the front steps of the Vitas Petroleum building. He briefs them on Vandekamp’s death and his post-mortem ruptured veins, which sparks Walter’s interest. Mike crosses through the lobby, nose bleeding, looking downright awful, and beelines for the door. Walter spots him through the glass and slams the door closed, blocking his exit. Mike looks enraged. He spews a fine mist of blood in their general direction, then collapses and dies.
Well! That was certainly dramatic.
Walter says the building must be quarantined. Astrid points out that Olivia and Peter are still inside — in fact, Peter’s now in the lobby, looking at Mike’s corpse in horror. While his son stares at him through the glass, Walter orders Astrid to quarantine the building.
Walter calls Peter inside the building — he needs as much information on Vandekamp as possible to figure out what infected him. For instance, who did he come to see at Vitas? The sound of an arriving CDC truck drowns him out. Walter tells Peter the CDC has arrived and orders him to be careful. After he hangs up, Astrid assures Walter it’ll be okay.
Olivia and Peter breaks the news of the quarantine to the workers. Peter announces, “The Centers for Disease Control are here,” which is grammatically strange. He’s right that the name is pluralized — the full name is The Centers for Disease Control and Protection — but, as it’s a single organization, it’d be more appropriate in American English to use the singular, as in, “The Centers for Disease Control is here.” Wow, I’m just nitpicking all over the place today, aren’t I? Olivia and Peter also break the news of Mike’s death. Everyone glances around nervously at the sound of the internal airflow shutting down. Olivia assures the workers this is just a precautionary measure in case the virus is airborne. Olivia separates them into two groups. Those who were closest to Vandekamp when he collapsed are sequestered in a boardroom away from the rest.
The field director of the bioterrorism division of the CDC, a brusque stuffed shirt named Arnold McFadden, introduces himself to Broyles and says he’s shutting down a two-block radius around Vitas. A helicopter flies overhead. In other words, this is a Big Deal.
Broyles’s opinion of this guy is about the same as the viewers’.
Walter wanders into one of the CDC trucks and casually accosts a nonplussed dude in a red hazmat suit with a tray of blood samples. Walter asks him for half a dozen of the samples, then demands, “Take me to your centrifuge!” That would make a splendid epitaph for Walter, come to think of it.
Walter pwns the CDC.
Astrid approaches Broyles and tell him Walter has been arrested for bothering the CDC. Broyles assures the police that Walter works for him. Walter insists he needs to take blood samples back to the laboratory and start studying the virus immediately. McFadden balks at this, claiming Walter’s skills aren’t needed, as McFadden himself has a great deal of pathogen experience. This goes over about as well as you’d expect. Walter gets icy and imperious and calls him a small-minded bureaucrat. Broyles cringes a bit and says, dryly and awesomely, “That’s not helping.” He smoothes the situation over and assures McFadden that Walter is a valuable asset. McFadden reluctantly agrees to let Walter take samples back to his lab, though he insists on sending a CDC agent named Hubert to watch over him. Flustered and in a rush to start his research, Walter urges Hubert to take off his “pajamas” — his bulky hazmat suit — and follow him.
Olivia searches through a Vitas computer. She tells Peter she can’t find any mention of Vandekamp in the company database. Peter notes that all the workers are calling their families, just in case — maybe Olivia should call her sister? Olivia doesn’t bother answering. She notes Ames’s schedule: He had two appointments scheduled for this morning, but he canceled them both.
Detective Castle interrupts them to say they have a problem. The receptionist sits on the floor in the hallway with a bloody nose, weeping in fear. Peter ushers her into the kitchen and tells her to lie down on the floor. He fixes up a nice little bed for her out of everyone’s coats while Olivia fetches her water. Olivia and Peter have a hushed conversation in the hallway: Mike died shortly after Vandekamp infected him, so the receptionist has maybe half an hour, they guess. The other workers begin to panic as the news about the receptionist spreads. Peter calms them while Olivia asks to talk to Ames in private.
Couldn’t they find a nice, comfortable sofa for her somewhere instead?
In the hallway, Olivia tells Ames she knows Vandekamp was there to see him. This is a bit of a lie, really; all Olivia knows is that Ames canceled a couple of appointments that morning. Maybe he had an important conference call, or maybe he wanted to get caught up on a backlog of work, or maybe he just wanted to take a nap at his desk. Still, Olivia’s instincts, as ever, prove to be bang on: Ames confirms that Vandekamp was supposed to meet with him about selling information about a competitor’s recent oil reserve find. He doesn’t know any details, only that it was supposed to be something valuable.
Shorter, but tougher.
Broyles calls Olivia and fills her in on what he’s found out about Vandekamp: He was an oil consultant who recently flew from Dubai to Boston. Broyles confirms that Vandekamp’s fellow passengers on the plane to Logan International have shown no symptoms of infection. Well, good. Fringe has already scared enough viewers off of air travel.
At the Harvard basement laboratory, Walter tries to isolate the virus strain. He starts talking about the individual personalities of viruses: For example, per Walter, the rabies virus can’t survive in water, so it inflicts the infected with hydrophobia. (That’s kind of a cool theory. Hydrophobia is indeed a key symptom of rabies, though a more accepted medical explanation is that rabid individuals have difficulty swallowing due to the infection and thus quickly learn to fear water.) The CDC agent, Hubert, puts the blood sample in a centrifuge, but he can’t isolate the strain — the blood sample is too fragile. Walter notes that, on the positive side, the virus probably isn’t airborne. If it was, more people would be infected by now. He stresses the need for a better sample.
He looks like he has no idea what he’s doing.
Peter and Olivia sit in the hallway. Olivia says she didn’t try to call her sister because she doesn’t want to needlessly worry her. Peter gets very intense and a little overbearing, insisting that Olivia needs someone to talk to whenever she gets scared. Who says Olivia ever gets scared? Olivia probably eats rusted nails and razor blades for breakfast. The lady is tougher than you are, Peter. They look up and see the receptionist standing in the hall staring at them. She stumbles off, zombie-like, so Peter and Olivia split up in pursuit of her.
Peter’s a little creepy when he gets this intense .
The receptionist pops up out of nowhere and rushes at Peter. He slips in Vandekamp’s blood, falls on his face, and wallows around in his infected bodily fluids for a while. Nice, Peter. Why don’t you just lick the corpse while you’re at it?
Oh, Peter. What are we going to do with you?
The receptionist crashes through the window and lands on the windshield of a CDC truck parked outside. Her corpse spews blood.
Broyles calls Olivia and demands to know what’s going on. Behind him, a team from the CDC sprays down the poor receptionist’s corpse with white foam.
Is dousing her in shaving cream really going to stop the virus?
Peter scrubs himself down in the kitchen sink, soaping up frantically and trying to get all the blood off. Joshua Jackson fans should be aware that Peter whips off his sweater at this point and spends the remainder of the episode running about in a tank top while sweating up a storm.
Olivia has a small, quiet, contained freakout in the hallway. Meanwhile, Peter crouches beside Vandekamp’s corpse and starts rifling through his pockets. Olivia begs him to get away from him, but Peter tells her he’s probably already infected, so this would be a good opportunity to find out what they can from Vandekamp — maybe they can discover what he was trying to sell to Vitas. He finds a set of rental car keys. Peter proclaims, “Never take anything into a negotiation that can land you in jail.” This seems like advice Peter has followed a time or two before.
He’s looking for gum.
In the building’s parking garage, a couple of dudes in hazmat suits remove a briefcase from the trunk of Vandekamp’s rental car.
Outside the building, Walter approaches Broyles, who tells him the CDC is opening Vandekamp’s briefcase now. Walter has a new hypothesis about the virus: It realizes it’s contained inside the building and wants to spread itself further. That’s why the receptionist jumped out the window, and that’s why Mike waited to spew blood until the outside door was open. Broyles dismisses Walter’s theory as “far-fetched.” Oh, Broyles. Have you been paying attention for the past year and a half?
This is not what you want to see outside your workplace.
Agents from the CDC carefully open the briefcase while keeping it safely contained in a glass box. The briefcase contains a core sample from an oil dig. Walter, Astrid and Broyles watch as the CDC guys examine the sample under a microscope. Sure enough, it contains the virus.
The question of how he got this past airport security is left unexplored.
The core sample, it seems, was stolen from Solum Oil Corporation. It came from ten miles down in the Earth’s crust. From this, Walter instantly makes the deductive leap that the virus is a 75,000-year-old menace that wiped out the Ice Age animals. Er… okay. He thinks he’ll be able to produce a toxicity screen from the sample.
Back inside Vitas, Peter glumly watches Forbidden Planet on television. Walter and Astrid, in hazmat suits, arrive with some similarly-suited CDC agents. Olivia separates the workers into two groups, alphabetically by last name, to hurry the testing process along. Olivia is all about optimal crowd control this episode, isn’t she? Walter and Peter exchange tentative, heartbreaking waves.
Meanwhile, on the ground, McFadden has a hushed and ominous chat with a flunky about getting permission from the State Department for a Level Six eradication. It’s not specified yet what a Level Six eradication entails, but it doesn’t take much to figure it means bad things for the people inside the building.
Peter helps distribute meals to the quarantined workers. He dribbles blood from his nose all over the bags of food. Hey, Peter? At this point, you know or at least highly suspect that you’re infected with a deadly and mysterious contagion. Maybe you shouldn’t be the one in charge of handling the food supply, huh? Why don’t you sneeze in the coffee pot while you’re at it?
Can I get one of the bags of food that Peter didn’t bleed all over?
Vincent Ames is the first to be tested. He runs a cotton swab around his cheek, which Walter then sticks in a vial of fluid. If he has the virus, the solution will turn black. The solution turns amber, which means Ames is clear. Olivia grimly informs him the FBI will be in touch with him later.
Olivia gets tested. She’s not infected.
Even in times of great stress, Olivia practices good dental hygiene.
Peter’s up next. He swabs his cheek… but then reverses the swab in his palm, so Walter unknowingly runs the test on the other end. Walter’s hands tremble as he holds up the vial. Naturally enough, considering Peter’s tricky little maneuver, it shows he’s not infected.
Peter and Olivia lead the first group of uninfected people down the stairs and out of the building. The CDC agents guarding the door notice that Peter’s nose is bleeding and refuse to let him exit. Peter flings himself at the door, insisting he’s healthy and begging Olivia, now safely outside the building, to let him out. While Olivia looks horrified, Peter bangs and claws at the door, frothing up a storm.
Peter starts to go nuts. Nobody really notices the difference.
Olivia calls Astrid and warns her that Peter’s test was wrong. Astrid looks sadly at Walter, clearly wondering how to break the news to him.
McFadden and Broyles argue about their options. In total, eleven of the workers were infected, plus Peter. The State Department has authorized a Level Six eradication: The Army will swarm the building and kill the infected people. Olivia objects to this, but McFadden shows her a simulation of the infection rate of the virus. If one infected person gets free, the virus will infect the world’s population in two weeks. They have no symptom blocker and no known cure.
Inside the building, Walter removes the helmet of his hazmat suit. He assures a startled Astrid that the virus is transmitted through bodily fluids, not through the air. Astrid in turn assures him Peter will be fine.
All non-infected personnel, Astrid and Walter included, are ordered to leave the building. Astrid calls Olivia and tells her Walter refuses to leave. Olivia fills Astrid in on the plan to kill everyone inside. Astrid, who is awesome, swallows hard and assures her Walter will figure something out in time.
Astrid and Walter drag Vandekamp’s corpse into the kitchen and place him on the table. Nobody is going to eat their lunch in this kitchen again, ever. Walter babbles about how he doesn’t know how to kill the virus. While Astrid looks at him strangely, Walter says, “I can’t let Peter die again.” Astrid reminds him of their morning expedition to the children’s museum: Eighteen of Magellan’s crew on the Victoria survived, even though the rest died horribly of scurvy. And similarly, 75,000 years ago, something must have eradicated the virus in order for life on Earth to keep going. “Ash!” Walter exclaims. (“Astrid,” Astrid corrects him gently. Heh.) Walter babbles about the eruption of Mount Toba, which took place around that time and which might be the biggest volcanic eruption of the past twenty-five million years. Sulfuric ash rained down, which might have killed the virus. This seems like a wildly random guess, but hey, Walter has a good track record with this sort of thing, so I’ll go with it.
He orders Astrid to go through the fridge to see what they have to work with. Diet soda, yogurt, horseradish… Walter gets excited about the horseradish. It contains glycoside, which is high in sulfur. It also goes well with prime rib. Walter holds up a sample of the virus. His hands tremble so much Astrid has to take the sample gently from him and combine it with horseradish in a petri dish.
The munchies strike at an inopportune time.
Walter calls Olivia and tells her how to make a sulfur-based formula that will kill the virus.
In the lobby, the infected people, Peter first and foremost among them, are going berserk, throwing chairs against the glass doors and trying to break out of the building. Olivia passes along Walter’s notes to McFadden, who points out that it’ll take hours to synthesize the cure. By that point, it’ll be too late. Broyles suggests pumping fentanyl gas into the building to knock the infected people unconscious while they work on a cure. (Kind of a grim choice: Russia’s use of fentanyl gas to end the 2002 hostage crisis at a Moscow theater ended up killing over a hundred hostages.) The ventilation system must be turned back on in order for the gas to spread through the building, so Olivia volunteers to go inside and get the job done. McFadden tells her he’ll give her fifteen minutes before he sends in the Army.
(In light of all the insistence earlier on that it only took about half an hour from the time Mike was infected to his death, this whole “flood the building with gas, then we’ll prepare the cure for the virus at our leisure, even though it’ll take several hours” business confused me at first. Even accepting Walter’s theory that the virus has some degree of sentience, knocking out the infected people won’t knock out the virus — shouldn’t the virus kill them all while they’re unconscious anyway? Then it dawned on me that the arbitrary time frame is a misdirect. The virus doesn’t necessarily kill people shortly after infection; it’s capable of waiting patiently for a chance to spread.)
Olivia enters the building through a sneaky back entrance. Virus-crazed Peter spots her on a security camera and attacks her in the parking garage. They end up beating the crap out of each other for a while, which is both sexy and disturbing. After kicking and choking and punching each other, Peter manages to get Olivia’s gun away from her. He orders her to stay down — aw, even frothing-at-the-mouth virus-possessed Peter can’t bring himself to shoot her — and scampers off.
I would’ve bet on Olivia in this fight. I would’ve been wrong.
Broyles tries to reach Olivia and receives no response. He calls Astrid, who confirms that the ventilation system is still down. Broyles asks McFadden for another ten minutes, but McFadden decides to be a butthead about it and sends in the Army to kill everyone.
Peter, armed with Olivia’s gun, takes the elevator back up into the building.
Olivia finally manages to turn the ventilation system back on. The CDC floods the building with gas. As soon as the gas starts flowing, Astrid hastens to put Walter’s helmet back on before replacing her own. Astrid is a good person.
A cluster of armed soldiers, guns drawn, wait for Peter’s elevator to arrive. When the doors open, they find Peter lying on the floor, unconscious from the gas.
Walter administers the cure to Peter, who opens his eyes to find Olivia staring down at him. As Walter checks his pupils, Peter thanks them both and apologizes to Olivia, who assures him he wasn’t himself. Peter says, “Lucky for me that you were.”
Peter, you owe Olivia dinner at a really great restaurant after this.
In a bit of daze, Walter wanders around outside, through the maze of CDC trucks and police cars. Astrid hurries after him. She asks him what he meant about not letting Peter die again. Walter tells her, rather coldly, that some things should be left alone. He walks off, leaving Astrid alone to puzzle it out.
Sometimes it sucks to be Astrid.
A very good episode, even though, like last week, it did nothing to advance any of the long-running plot threads. For a stand-alone, however, it was pretty strong. The whole “deadly prehistoric contagion threatens to wipe out life on Earth” plotline might not be the freshest idea ever, but they executed it well. Full points, Fringe writers. Thanks for a good hour of television.