That’s gotta hurt.
In a Manhattan architecture firm, Ted Pratchett and his colleague, Pauline, work late. Hey, it’s Jim True-Frost, best known as incompetent cop Pryzbylewski on The Wire! Between True-Frost and Lance Reddick as Broyles, there’s a Wire mini-reunion this episode. Ted’s made himself some coffee, and Pauline is deeply, weirdly envious of this. Ted claims he gets a secret coffee stash from a cousin in Hawaii, Pauline asks if he can hook her up with some, and man, I do love my morning coffee, but they’re acting like it’s heroin. This is our first indication that something is amiss.
Our second indication? The blueprints that Ted is working on are clearly labeled “NEW PENTAGON.”
Well, huh.The lights start flickering, and the room shakes. Pauline and Ted exchange muttered remarks about how the miniature earthquakes — the microquakes — are getting worse. Pauline goes home, leaving Ted alone in the office.
A bigger tremor shakes the room. Ted’s precious coffee spills on his blueprints. The light fixtures shoot sparks, and the ceiling collapses on poor Ted.
When the dust clears, Ted looks oddly… lumpy. One of the room’s support beams runs straight through his shoulder and out his back into the floor.
Oh, also? He now has two sets of arms and legs. Ted starts shouting in terror. As you would.
Peter gets a call in the middle of the night from Olivia, who cheerfully informs him that he’s won an all-expense paid trip to New York. Peter plays along, and they’re fun and playful and flirty with each other, which means this episode will end with one or both in tears. Peter wakes his father, who is delighted to hear he won Olivia’s totally made-up contest. In some ways, Walter is a very simple man.
With Broyles at the wheel, the whole damn Fringe team carpools from Boston to New York. Walter thinks an earthquake is highly unlikely in Manhattan. He theorizes that the building was struck by a small comet instead. Which seems considerably less likely than an earthquake, but what do I know? I live in Los Angeles. Plenty of earthquakes, not many comets.
They stand outside the damaged building. Paramedics exit with corpses on gurneys; Broyles morbidly tells his team there were no survivors. Olivia notes that the exterior of the building looks like it’s been rearranged. It… sort of does, I guess, but not really. I see what they were going for, and it’d be a tricky special effect to pull off successfully, but it really just looks like… a building that got hit by an earthquake.
Inside the building, Olivia looks at the corpses, and unlike the building, they most definitely do look rearranged. Two people are joined at the head, like conjoined twins; one woman’s hand merges with her forehead. Walter guesses it was caused by a quantum tectonic event: a sudden momentary disturbance at a subatomic level that caused the fabric of reality to be ripped apart. Expect something similar to happen in my apartment if Heroes gets renewed for another season. I’m just saying.
From somewhere in the building, Ted Pratchett calls for help. They rush to his aid, noting his new multi-limbed appearance. Like the Hindu goddess Kali, only he’s not blue. A paramedic notes that they might not be able to remove the beam impaling him without killing him in the process. Ted, panicky and distraught, asks to speak to his wife; Broyles leaves to see if he can track her down. Olivia asks Ted to describe what was going on prior to the earthquake. Ted says it was the same thing that’s been happening all over the city lately: Dogs kept howling, and there were a bunch of microquakes. This strikes Peter as particularly strange, since there haven’t been any reported microquakes in New York. Meanwhile, Walter looks at a painting on the wall, which appears to be two separate paintings, one grafted on top of the other. Walter seems to think this is highly relevant, but heck, it could be nothing more complicated than a thrifty artist reusing a canvas.
Broyles tells Olivia that Ted has no wife — he’s single. Olivia guesses he’s just confused from the trauma, but Walter has a different theory. He grills poor dying Ted about current events. Ted is able to correctly identify the year and the President, but when Walter asks him about September 11th, Ted replies that the Pentagon and the White House were attacked. Exhausted by the impromptu pop quiz, he dies. Olivia points out something moving on Ted’s chest, under his shirt, Aliens-style. It turns out Ted has an entirely separate head sticking out of his own chest. The other Ted head gasps for breath, then dies.
Is the special effect with Ted’s head coming out of his chest creepy or absurd or both? Discuss.
Walter says his original theory — the quantum tectonic nonsense — was wrong. He offers up an equally unlikely theory in its stead: They’re actually standing in two buildings simultaneously — the original building and an identical one from the alternate universe, which have somehow merged together. Thus all the weirdness about coffee in the beginning of the episode. I guess the “blight” that Newton mentioned a few episodes back as having killed the trees in the alternate universe also killed all the coffee plants, huh? The alternate universe is a dark and terrifying and undercaffeinated place.
Olivia stares glumly at the building as the rest of the corpses are hauled out. At a guess, Olivia spends at least thirty percent of this episode staring glumly at something. Walter and Peter join her. Olivia is convinced her nemesis Newton caused this by opening up the door from the other universe.
At the Harvard laboratory, Astrid glances at Ted’s mangled corpse in horror and queasily tells Walter she can’t go through with the autopsy. Walter reassures her that she can sift through boxes of evidence from the building instead, in search of anything that doesn’t belong. She finds a silver dollar with Nixon’s face on it, which Walter calls “disturbing.” Hmm. If she finds anything from Veidt Industries in that box, I’m calling shenanigans on the alternate universe.
While Walter tries to surgically separate both of Ted’s corpses, Astrid finds a toy shaped like a double-decker car. She wonders if it means that sort of car is driven in the other universe. Something about this triggers Walter’s memory. He says, “I know what Newton did. And I’m afraid I’ve just remembered what’s going to happen next.”
Olivia shows Broyles a surveillance photo of Newton disguised as part of a construction crew outside the building just before the buildings merged, which pretty much proves he was behind it. Walter calls Peter and Olivia and rather peremptorily orders them back to the laboratory.
On the MIT prank spectrum, this barely registers.
Walter shows them an old newspaper with the headline, “MIT Finally Goes Too Far.” The story is about how MIT students somehow stuck a car onto the statue of John Harvard on the Harvard campus. Walter confesses that it wasn’t really an MIT prank — it was the result of one of his and William Bell’s experiments with transporting matter to the other universe. The experiment, naturally enough, went terribly awry. Peter, with the air of someone who knows about such things, mutters, “First times are always sloppy.”
They transported a car over to the other universe, so the laws of physics dictated that a car from the other side would come back here in turn. Sometimes I think Walter gets his laws of physics off of the back of cereal boxes. Walter demonstrates how this would work, in a totally half-assed way, by sticking the toy car on a scale. Oh, thank you, Walter. That was useful.
All this establishes is that the alternate universe has dumb-looking cars.
Walter claims that, since a building was pulled over to our universe, a building from here will be sucked to the other side in thirty-five hours. Olivia asks how they can identify which building will be sucked over. Walter says certain special, unique, highly sensitive individuals can detect objects from the other universe — in fact, such objects appear to glimmer, just like David Bowie. And since no one is more special and unique than Olivia, she should be able to detect the targeted building right before it gets sucked into the other universe.
Olivia guesses, correctly, that her shimmer-detecting ability comes as a result of Walter’s experiments using the drug Cortexophan on her. She argues that she hasn’t been able to see objects glimmering since she was a child — what make Walter certain she’ll be able to do it now? Walter, greatly agitated, claims they need to go immediately to the daycare center in Jacksonville where he first conducted the experiments on her. Walter says he needs all his original equipment, though it seems equally likely he just wants an FBI-paid trip to Florida.
The universe — both ours and the alternate one — works in mysterious ways. If Walter’s interpretation of the laws of physics is correct, why wouldn’t the our-universe version of the alternate-universe building that got sucked over be the one that gets sucked back? Wouldn’t that make more sense? I mean, to the extent that anything on Fringe ever makes sense.
Olivia briefs Broyles on Walter’s theory and his plan. William Bell bought the daycare after he formed Massive Dynamic, then shut it down and closed it off, so everything Walter needs should still be there. Broyles is extremely skeptical about Olivia subjecting herself to more of Walter’s kooky experiments, but Olivia figures, hell, it’s not like Walter hasn’t shot her up with a bunch of psychotropic drugs and conducted weird tests on her before, right? Olivia tells Broyles to keep an eye out for the events Ted mentioned before the earthquake, like the howling dogs and the microquakes. Broyles says he’ll ask Nina Sharp for her assistance.
Painting butterflies on the wall doesn’t make this daycare look any less dismal.
Walter, Olivia and Peter arrive at the abandoned daycare, which is faded and sad. There’s a chain around the door, but Walter undoes the combination lock. The combination is the one William Bell always uses, though Walter has forgotten the significance: 5-20-10. May 20, 2010. Hmm. That’ll be about the time Fringe wraps up this current season.
Walter turns on the lights in a children’s playroom. Olivia, radiating doom and gloom, looks around. Walter tells her that sixteen items in the room are from the other universe. She looks at the toys, but nothing appears to shimmer. On a height chart against the wall, Olivia sees her name — Olive — written in crayon.
You know, they’ve pointed out before that Olivia used to go by Olive as a kid, but “Olive” and “Olivia” are two separate names. One is not a nickname for the other. Someone named “Michaela” probably doesn’t go by “Michael” for short.
Glum with a monkey.
In another room, Peter and Walter remove the drop cloths from a bunch of scientific equipment. Walter rifles through some old files. He finds a pair of glasses. He dons the glasses. He looks at his bespectacled reflection on a metal tray. He smiles.
Bored now. Seriously, this whole section in the daycare center drags.
Peter finds glumbunny Olivia outside sitting on a swing set. Olivia talks about how, with her freakishly good memory, it’s weird that she has no recollection of this place. It is weird, but hey, this point is not going to be mentioned again this episode, so it’s best not to dwell on the weirdness. Walter comes out and instructs her to change into something more comfortable, which is the opening scene to a porn film I never want to see.
Glum on a swing.
Walter hooks up a bunch of brightly colored wires to Olivia’s forehead and sets up an IV drip of Gatorade. Or maybe it’s Cortexophan. Whatever.
Really, it’s no worse than half the hairstyles on Shear Genius.
Walter can’t figure out which arm he needs to inject the Cortexophan into, which causes Peter some consternation, but honestly, could it possibly make any sort of difference? An arm’s an arm. The Cortexophan will reach her bloodstream at the same time regardless.
Chew some gum at the same time, and I’ll really be impressed.
Walter lectures that the drugs will make Olivia see an obstacle. Facing the obstacle will lead her into a heightened emotional state, which should help her see the objects shimmer.
They really had to go to Florida to get Olivia in a heightened emotional state? Really?
Walter made them all go to Jacksonville for his equipment. Just let that sink in for a moment.
Olivia, drugged up, sees herself wandering around an idyllic forest.
Olivia’s darkest nightmare: Being trapped in a Calvin Klein Eternity commercial.
As the forest grows increasingly dark and ominous, Olivia sees a young girl sitting at the base of a tree, shivering. The young girl is ostensibly terrified — though actually she seems pretty nonchalant about the situation — so Olivia promises to protect her. She asks the little girl for her name: Olive.
This kid is not terrified.
We’ve had a lot of episodes where Olivia bonds with small children — her niece, this girl, the kid Observer from Season One — and it’s fine, but, for all of Anna Torv’s considerable strengths as an actor, and for all of Olivia’s genuine compassion, she’s not all that naturally maternal.
Here’s what I’m trying to say: She’s kind of a cold fish around kids. Ergo, maybe they should stop shoehorning her into all these scenes with small children? Maybe?
When Olivia looks around, the girl disappears. She hears a voice whispering her name and turns to see the little girl standing behind her, staring at her with demonic Village of the Damned eyes.
None of this is especially terrifying.
Olivia comes out of her drugged state. Walter happily informs her that his experiment worked. Olivia growls at him, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Olivia, glum and prickly, looks around the schoolroom, picking up and examining various creepy-ass toys: a set of keys, a demonic looking doll, a cracked mug. Still flipping considerable attitude, she tells Walter she still can’t identify which objects are from the other universe. So that was useful.
Manhattan: Oh, hey, it’s Nina Sharp! How the hell are you, Nina? We haven’t seen you since that episode where Peter went road-tripping with that mind-controlling snotnose brat. Lady, you’ve been missed. Nina walks around outside and hears a lot of dogs howling, so she calls Broyles and tells him it’s starting. When Broyles said he’d ask Nina to keep an eye out for mysterious happenings, I thought he meant he’d ask her to leverage Massive Dynamic’s vast resources to observe any strange phenomena. But hey, this worked, too.
“Are you sure my name’s still in the opening credits? Because I’ve only been in, like, three episodes this season.”
Back at the daycare center, Olivia takes a quick nap in a child-sized bed. She’s awoken by Broyles filling her in that it’s starting. She walks down the hall to alert Peter and Walter, and finds Walter watching black-and-white footage on an ancient television of young Olivia, who is sitting by herself in a burned room. Walter tells Olivia that the footage was taken the first time she saw the other universe, which frightened her so much she STARTED A FIRE WITH HER MIND.
Young Olivia channels her inner Drew Barrymore.
Olivia sort of shrugs and takes this information in stride and doesn’t bother asking any follow-up questions. Instead, she accuses Walter of abusing her, and Walter insists he was a different man back then, and all this is fascinating, but can we go back to the part about Olivia STARTING FIRES WITH HER MIND? This is a plot development that needs to be worked into every single episode from here on out. In fact, that’s a whole spin-off series right there: Olivia Dunham, the Federal agent who can START FIRES WITH HER MIND.
Anyway, Walter has some kind of breakthrough about how Olivia is totally different now than she was as a child. Ergo, the Cortexophan no longer enables her to see objects from the other side, because, ahem, she no longer is able to feel fear.
You can’t see me, but I’m rolling my eyes right now.
Olivia, getting weirder and gloomier all the time, finds the room she burned to a crisp with her mind as a kid and sits in a corner. Peter finds her and asks if she’s all right, and Olivia tearily confesses that she’s not afraid of anything anymore.
Olivia is emo all over the place this episode.
Argh. That’s really lame. Just… lame. Okay. I need to let it go and move on.
They leave Jacksonville and head back to New York. Thankfully. Those daycare scenes managed to stop this episode cold. At Massive Dynamic, the Fringe gang joins Nina in trying to predict which building will disappear. Peter and Walter go to the laboratory to help Nina’s scientists, while Olivia apologizes to Broyles for not being able to use her special glimmer-seeing power to detect the endangered building. Broyles is cool about it, but you can tell he sort of secretly thinks Olivia is being a bit of a drama queen this episode.
This room gives me an instant migraine.
In Nina’s laboratory, Peter and Walter are joined by a Massive Dynamic lab rat, who might or might not be the same guy who kept dumping blue water on Peter’s shoes for no real reason a few episodes back. I liked that guy. Peter has a breakthrough: The car that Walter and William Bell transported at Harvard had the same mass as the one that ended up stuck on the Harvard statue. Ergo, the building they’re looking for will have the same mass as the one that got sucked over here. The Massive Dynamic guy compares it to Indy replacing the idol with a bag of sand in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Peter harrumphs, “Not the example I would have used.” No, probably not. Peter, with his repertoire of outdated pop culture references, would have made some quip about Paper Moon or Serpico, and then wondered why everyone was staring at him blankly.
Peter expresses his optimism about his chances with Olivia.
So the Massive Dynamic laboratory falls into massive chaos as everyone scrambles around trying to measure the mass of all the buildings in Manhattan. The thirty-five hours are up, which means, per Walter, that the targeted building might disappear at any time. They’ve still got 147 buildings left to measure, and they can’t possibly evacuate all of them. Olivia gets distraught when she realizes the people in the targeted building might be doomed.
Olivia goes off by herself and has a bit of a nervous breakdown. Peter finds her and reassures her that she’s awesome and brave and cool. He starts stroking her face, and before you know it, these two crazy kids are going in for a kiss. They’re close, their lips millimeters apart… and Olivia has to ruin everything by realizing that, yep, she’s scared.
So the prospect of locking lips with Peter accomplishes what her drug-induced nightmare vision couldn’t. Make of that what you will.
Olivia scampers out to the balcony and sees a building shimmering in the distance. She jumps in her vehicle and starts driving toward it. It’s the Brayson Place Hotel on Washington. From back at Massive Dynamic, Broyles orders the building evacuated.
Just as Olivia pulls up in front of the hotel, it begins to shake. Everyone flees in terror. Olivia grabs a hotel worker and confirms the whole building was evacuated. While they linger around uncertainly by the entrance, a tremendous force suddenly sucks them toward the hotel. Olivia clings to a lampole while the man clings to her legs, and they both shout in terror.
The alternate universe sucks.
All of a sudden, the sucking stops. The building is gone, and there’s a big, clean, empty hole in the earth.
Yeah. Probably no one’s gonna notice.
Olivia and Broyles watch a news report, which describes the vanishing of the hotel as an “unscheduled demolition.” Boy, the FBI really thinks New Yorkers are naÃ¯ve. Broyles asks Olivia what triggered the return of her ability to see objects from the other side. Unwilling to tell her boss about how she almost swapped spit with Peter, Olivia dodges the question.
At the Bishop house, Peter chats on the phone with Astrid, who is going to come over and babysit Walter while Peter goes out drinking with Olivia. Walter does a happy little dance at the prospect of these two kids hooking up, even though Peter insists it’s not really a date.
The world could be ending, but as long as Walter has his pudding, he’s cool.
In her apartment, Olivia fusses with her hair in front of the mirror, even going so far as taking her hair down out of her ponytail. Oh, it’s a date. It’s totally a date.
Olivia knocks on the door of the Bishop house. Peter answers, and they exchange shy, awkward greetings. Which gets exponentially more awkward when Olivia really looks at Peter for the first time… and realizes he’s shimmering.
Either he’s from the alternate universe, or he’s a dead Jedi.
Oblivious, Peter goes to get his coat. Olivia stares after him in horror. Walter approaches her and pleads, “Please don’t tell him.”
And now Fringe takes a long and weirdly-timed break until April. Just as things are getting interesting.