Yep. It’s Peter and Olivia vs. Nazis.
In Brookline, Massachusetts, a team of caterers lift the world’s dullest wedding cake out of a truck parked outside a large, expensive home. The cake is solid white, three tiers, unmarred by anything resembling color or flair or, apart from a few desultory icing twirls, decoration. It’s the type of cake you’d serve at the wedding of two people who really can’t whip up much enthusiasm for this whole “wedded bliss” concept. Alternately, it’s the type of cake you’d use as a prop on a television show.
Granted, the lame-ass wedding cake will soon be the least of the problems at this wedding.
Flowers? Color? A whimsical cake topper? Anything?
A young man in a tux announces into a video camera that this is the Milton-Staller wedding. The camera captures snippets of the pre-wedding festivities: Guests arrive, the groom’s teary-eyed mother visits with the bride, the groom and his groomsmen get trashed behind closed doors.
Soothing pre-wedding jitters the old-fashioned way.
The groom and all the men are wearing yarmulkes. In fact, there’s a tray of white cloth yarmulkes by the entrance, which the male guests all don upon entering. A young man with fair hair and wire-rimmed glasses hovers by himself in the background of the living room, which is being used as a makeshift wedding chapel, and observes the proceedings with a faint smirk. He’s rather pointedly not wearing a yarmulke, and while he’s not exactly dressed in a Gestapo uniform, it looks like there’s every chance he took a wrong turn on his way to the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Oh, dear. There’s a Nazi at a Jewish wedding. This won’t end well.
An arthritic, elderly wedding guest with a strong eastern European accent spots the man. She tugs on her companion’s hand and asks if she knows who he is. The other woman guesses he’s a friend or relative of the bride.
In a library, the groom’s pre-wedding jitters manifest themselves as an asthma attack. His groomsmen put down their glasses of Scotch long enough find his inhaler. While the groom sucks down great lungfuls of medication, the best man ventures out to reassure the wedding guests they’ll be starting in just a minute.
The elderly woman stares at the man in the wire-rimmed glasses and grows increasingly agitated. Finally, she shouts, “It’s him!” and points at the guy, then collapses to the floor, coughing and choking. Panic ensues as some of the other guests start choking as well. The groom’s mother yells for someone to call 911.
In the midst of the chaos, the man with the wire-rimmed glasses smiles and wanders out of the room.
Olivia arrives on the scene and meets with one Detective Manning, who tells her there’s been fourteen deaths thus far. Walter arrives in high style by driving the station wagon straight across the lawn of the house and crashing into the recycling bins. In the passenger seat, Peter flinches and winces and clutches the dashboard for dear life. Peter finds himself boxed in on his side, so he has to slither over the seat and out the driver-side door after his father. Meh. For full awesomeness points, Peter should’ve hauled himself out the open window in classic Dukes of Hazard fashion.
Walter is not bogged down by traditional rules of the road.
The whole time, Walter chirps happily to Peter about his wedding to Peter’s mom. He’s even saved his wedding tuxedo, which he cheerfully offers to donate to Peter for Peter’s own wedding. Peter mutters something about how tuxedo fashions change over the years, but Walter insists, “Purple never goes out of style.” It becomes clear that Walter is assuming Olivia will be Peter’s future bride. As they approach her outside the Staller home, Walter greets her in a most ebullient way, commenting upon how lovely she looks and encouraging Peter to remark upon her attractiveness, too. I hope Walter’s attempts to set Peter up with Olivia become a recurring motif in future episodes. Just sit back and bask in the resulting awkwardness.
Out of Walter’s earshot, Olivia asks Peter, in regard to Walter’s driving, “Lose a bet?” Peter replies, “It was either that or flying lessons,” which… yeah. Good call, Peter. On the other hand, it’d open up a host of zany new plot possibilities if Walter were to get his pilot’s license, while simultaneously playing matchmaker for Peter and Olivia. By gum, we’ll make this show a madcap sitcom yet!
Inside the house, Walter and Peter poke and prod at a bunch of pasty blue corpses. They all died from asphyxiation, even though there was plenty of available oxygen. All of the victims were relatives of the groom, which suggests a hereditary link. They brainstorm a bit: Anaphylactic shock? An allergic reaction to something they ate or drank? The elderly woman who flipped out at the sight of the man in the glasses is among the dead. There’s a number tattooed on her arm, indicating she’s a Holocaust survivor.
The requisite postmortem dental checkup.
Olivia and Peter snoop around in the study where the groom and his groomsmen were hanging out prior to the attack. There’s a thumping noise behind a closed door. Peter opens it, and the groom tumbles out, gasping for air and turning blue. Peter finds his asthma inhaler and gives it to him while Olivia bellows for a medic, but he’s dead within seconds.
Yeah. The wedding was pretty much a bust.
In the Harvard basement laboratory, Walter and Astrid get cracking on the autopsies. When Walter cuts into the groom’s chest, the blood seeps out a brilliant indigo. He calls Astrid over to confirm that he’s not seeing things. The blue blood, Walter claims, means some kind of toxin bonded with the blood and robbed it of oxygen, causing the victims to suffocate from the inside out. Walter examines the groom’s inhaler. Never one to pass up a free dose of unnecessary and possibly dangerous medication, he sucks down a big squeeze . Astrid rebukes him for his carelessness — the inhaler could have delivered the toxin to the groom — but Walter insists it kept the groom alive longer than the others by reducing his exposure.
A rather literal interpretation of the phrase “blue-blooded.”
Olivia interviews the groom’s mother, Mrs. Staller, who is bearing up pretty well for someone who just lost her son and her husband and all of her in-laws in one fell swoop. She mentions to Olivia that her mother-in-law flipped out at the presence of the man with the glasses. She says, rather nicely, “I thought she was just having a moment.” Oh, well played, lady. Not everyone could squeeze in a subtle dig at their just-murdered Holocaust-surviving mother-in-law without seeming like a callous jackass. Nicely done. Peter, meanwhile, is behaving like an odd duck by running up to the wedding decorations and sniffing all the candles. Mrs. Staller tearfully points out that the bride picked the candles: They’re jasmine-scented, which represents happiness and love. Distraught, Mrs. Staller excuses herself and leaves the room.
Peter Bishop, expert sniffer.
Peter remarks to Olivia, “She just said the rest of the candles in this place are jasmine, right?” Olivia confirms this, but if she did, it happened off screen. It was sort of implied, but it wasn’t explicitly stated that all the candles were jasmine. Peter claims that the candle in his hand is scented like — wait for it — cinnamon. Peter and Olivia exchange shocked glances, and there’s a dramatic music sting. I swear, that was the most tension-fraught exchange about scented candles in the history of scripted television.
In the laboratory, Astrid reviews camera footage of the pre-wedding festivities provided by Mrs. Staller and manages to freeze-frame on an out-of-focus picture of the man with the wire-rimmed glasses, which she then uploads to the joint law enforcement database. Peter analyzes shavings from the candle and confirms that it contains the toxin that killed everyone. It’s a heat-activated hydrogen cyanide variant, which means that when the candle was lit, the toxin dispersed into the air. When Peter wonders why it only killed some of the guests, Walter starts muttering to himself about the Nazis. He claims he knew this toxin seemed familiar. He goes on about Joseph Mengele’s quest to design biological weapons capable of targeting specific victims and proclaims, “It looks like science has finally caught up with Nazi ambition.” Well, science took its damn sweet time, didn’t it?
This is the episode where everyone has to smell the deadly airborne toxin.
All this Nazi talk makes Olivia remember the Holocaust-survivor victim. She wonders if there’s a link. Hmm. Let’s see. We’ve got a Holocaust survivor who inexplicably freaks out at the sight of a stranger, who, scant seconds later, murders her and all her relatives using a biological weapon developed by the Nazis. There just might be a link. Walter, however, is not sold on this yet. He points out that a wedding offers a perfect laboratory to test a genetic-based weapon: There’s a built-in test group, and a built-in control group. And here I thought weddings were just a chance to eat tasty catered food and dance to Eighties tunes. Always the killjoy, Walter points out that a scientist always tries to recreate his results. Thus, this will happen again.
And indeed, we then see the man with the wire-rimmed glasses at a coffee shop, ordering a mug of tea from the cute countergirl. He speaks with a wholly unconvincing German accent. He’s inherently creepy, and he makes a very plausible Nazi, but the accent? No. He stresses that the water for his tea has to be very hot.
He takes his tea and sits beside a mother and her young daughter, who are discussing the daughter’s teacher. He mentions to the mother that her daughter seems very smart. The woman thanks him in the slightly nervous way of someone who likes hearing compliments about her children, but who would just as soon not be striking up conversations with vaguely creepy random men. The man dumps the contents of a small vial into his tea cup. The woman remarks that it smells like cinnamon.
If you see someone doing this at your neighborhood coffee shop? Run.
…You know, he probably didn’t have to make his deadly toxin smell delightfully of cinnamon. I’m no chemist, but even I know hydrogen cyanide smells of bitter almonds, and thus for his own perverse reasons he added cinnamon oil to the mixture. Which is sort of weird and unnecessary, but when you’re a creepy mass-murdering Nazi scientist who is somehow running around Boston circa 2010, “weird” and “unnecessary” are probably your key buzzwords.
Broyles meets Walter, Olivia and Peter at the coffee shop, which is now a scene of much devastation. Nine victims, all of them unrelated this time, suffocated to death. The little girl sits on a stretcher, alive and receiving oxygen, though her mother is dead on the floor. They try to find how the toxin was administered. There are no candles around, but Walter says it just needs any heat source for dispersal. Olivia finds the man’s tea mug, reeking of cinnamon, with an unused tea bag resting on the saucer. Broyles orders the mug dusted for prints. Walter, poking and prodding at the victims, asks Peter to check the eye colors of the dead. All of the victims had brown eyes, which must’ve been the common genetic trait targeted in this attack. Walter points out, with his customary tact, that brown-eyed Broyles would be dead, too, had he been in the coffee shop when the toxin was dispersed.
The new Columbian Light Roast didn’t go over well with the customers.
The man with the wire-rimmed glasses spots Walter as he leaves the coffee shop with Olivia and Peter (Walter offers to drive; Peter, who has a strong self-preservation instinct, wrestles the keys away from him). The man asks a cop about Walter: Is his name Bishoff? The cop helpfully identifies Walter as Dr. Bishop. The man remarks, smiling creepily all the while, “He looks just like his father.”
In the laboratory, Walter shows Peter and Olivia a molecular model of the toxin. His viewing screen, awesomely, is clap-activated; Walter claps it on with obvious delight and pride. The toxin, which Walter dismisses as “rudimentary,” can be programmed to target any group with common characteristics. It’s mostly composed of chromium trioxide, which Peter points out is a regulated substance. The creator of the toxin left his “signature” in the molecular model — a cluster of inessential atoms that form a curving structure. Walter thinks it looks like the letter S, or maybe a snake, but Peter points out that it’s a stylized seahorse — the same seahorse that crops up all the time on Fringe posters and publicity materials, along with the frog and the butterfly and the apple, etcetera.
Walter suddenly become grim and intones, “Seepferdchen” — “seahorse” in German. He claims to know who created the toxin: Dr. Robert Bishop, his father, who was known as “The Seahorse” while he was at the University of Berlin because he was a great swimmer. Yeah, okay, fine, nice story, glad they’re squeezing in all the Fringe arcana one way or another, but do you suppose J.J. Abrams and the Fringe creative staff had this whole backstory all worked out way back when the pre-launch promotional materials were first designed? “Okay, we somehow need to involve a seahorse, because that’s going to be Walter’s dad’s college nickname.”
This is the most gimmicky molecule ever.
Peter points out that Walter’s father emigrated from Germany to the States in 1933, before the second World War. Walter corrects him: It was actually 1943 — Walter fudged the date to deflect attention. Peter is a little horrified to learn his grandfather was a Nazi. Walter reassures him that it’s only technically true: Robert Bishop was actually a spy for the Allies. A spy who apparently provided the Nazis with the molecular formula for a toxin that can be altered to target specific genetic groups. That better have been some damn good spying he did for the Allies to balance that one out.
Walter starts rummaging through dusty boxes, noting that he remembered seeing the toxin formula written inside one of his father’s books. When Robert Bishop emigrated, he hid all his notes in his first editions of Goethe and Mann. Peter starts to look very, very, very guilty. He tells Walter to stop looking for his books: He sold them all for money ten years ago, while Walter was institutionalized. Walter gets furious and scary. In seconds, he shifts out of his default kindly, scatterbrained mad scientist persona and goes into full-tilt Steward of Gondor mode. He tears Peter a new one while Peter, knowing he doesn’t have the moral high ground, pretty much stands there and takes it.
Walter hunts through his collection of prewar German porn.
Someone prowls around the Bishop house at night. There’s a Rubik’s cube lying on an end table, and in this household, I’m frankly astonished and disappointed to see it’s unsolved. The prowler swipes Walter’s sweater, which is lying on the back of the couch, then roots around in the fridge and eats an apple in a sinister manner. Naturally enough, it’s the man with the wire-rimmed glasses. Damned Nazis. If they’re not crashing weddings and committing mass murder, they’re breaking into houses and stealing produce.
Peter’s Cabbage Patch doll is just out of frame.
Peter and Olivia arrive at Markham’s Used Books in pursuit of the books Peter sold. They talk with the nebbish owner, Markham himself, who seems to be an old friend of Peter’s. Markham wonders why a beautiful lady like Olivia is stuck with Peter. This is the episode where everyone explicitly points out Olivia’s beauty. Yes, yes, she’s lovely, we’ve all noticed. When Olivia mentions that she just works with Peter, Markham suggests she find a new job and offers her a copy of What Color is Your Parachute? I’m delighted at the mental image of Olivia making charts about her dream job and churning out flower diagrams, but she declines the offer. While Markham searches for the contact info of the guy who bought Walter’s books, Olivia makes Peter admit he didn’t sell the books for money: He sold them because he was mad at Walter, and he knew the books were his favorite possession. Peter can be a vicious little bitch sometimes. Markham returns and tells them the books were sold to a “weirdo” named Eric Franco, who lives in Kendall Square.
Is it just an unfortunate angle, or does he have no neck?
Scratchy music plays from a vintage phonograph in a cluttered underground laboratory. The man with the wire-rimmed glasses wears goggles and hovers over a Bunsen burner, filling a Sterno tin with something.
Olivia knocks on the door of Franco’s apartment, which is dark and quiet. Peter picks the lock (search warrants are for losers!), and they engage in a little breaking and entering. There’s a big Nazi flag on the wall, along with several paintings of Hitler and an enormous mural of a swastika made up entirely of miniature photos of puppies and kittens. Dude, that’s just wrong. A bearded young man enters, and Olivia pulls her gun on him and orders him on the ground. He complies, insisting he’s an artist, not a Nazi. This would be more convincing if he wasn’t wearing a swastika-emblazoned t-shirt. He’s doing a big art project on the banality of evil by portraying feared tyrants, like Hitler, as regular schmucks. He’s incorporated the pages of Walter’s father’s books into his montages. On the plus side, his artwork has never been displayed in public, so the toxin formula probably hasn’t been seen by others. Peter offers to buy the books back from him. The question of where this struggling artist found the money to buy valuable first editions of classic German novels to use as art supplies in the first place is left unexplored.
Fire your interior decorator.
Walter grimly looks at a gigantic collage of Hitler’s face made from pages of his prized books, which is now on display in the lab. Peter apologizes for selling his books, and Walter, who is still channeling Denethor, frostily tells him, “Apology not accepted.” I’m going to run this Lord of the Rings metaphor right into the ground by pointing out that Peter has gone from Boromir to Faramir in Walter’s estimation over the course of this episode.
Astrid pops up to mention that they pulled some DNA off the partial fingerprint left on the man’s tea mug, but they couldn’t get a match. Walter, bummed, points out that the DNA sample was flawed to begin with: It suggested that the man who left the fingerprint was over a hundred years old. Olivia wonders if the toxin could be programmed to target multiple genetic traits. Peter points out that this was the ultimate Nazi goal — the purification of the German people.
Peter is, rather discreetly, knocking back a beer in this scene. Huh. It always amazes me how casual everyone is about eating and drinking in the laboratory, scant inches away from deadly toxins and flesh-eating bacteria.
Long day, Peter?
The man with the wire-rimmed glasses visits a makeshift settlement, complete with a barking dog and trash can fires, and places a Sterno can on the ground. A bearded man, obviously a denizen of the shanty town, demands to know what he’s doing. The man calmly informs him he’s conducting a test on the dispersion rate. He sets the can on fire, and it shoots up an enormous white cloud of particles. When the particles clear, the bearded man is dead, though the dog is still alive and barking up a storm. The man with the glasses calmly walks away, pleased with his test results. So… his test just targeted this one poor lonely guy? And it proved that if he ignites a can full of toxin, it’ll kill one guy standing about five feet away from the can? Is that right? I’m not sold on this experiment, really.
Some people are satisfied with just setting off Roman Candles.
Back in the laboratory, Walter sprays some gas into a cage of rats. When Peter asks what he’s doing, Walter says he’s killing them. Some questions are better left unasked. Peter’s had no luck tracking down the chromium trioxide, but the EPA suggested he also search for sodium chromate, which can be used in the manufacturing process. He found three local buyers: two pharmaceutical companies and a company called Hoffman Biological, which is located at a residential address in Newton.
PETA takes a dim view of Walter’s recreational activities.
In the cluttered underground laboratory, the man with the glasses — hey, can we call him Hoffman now? That’s as close as we’re ever going to get to learning his name — glues his own photo onto some kind of ID badge.
The FBI, gas masks in place, swarm the house in Newton. From down in his laboratory, Hoffman listens to them clomping around upstairs. He quietly packs a bunch of Sterno cans into a box, then lights a burner beneath a beaker of pretty violet liquid. Not only is this toxin cinnamon-scented, it also comes in beautiful colors.
Prettiest toxin ever.
Upstairs, the FBI declares the house clear. Everyone takes off their gas masks, Peter and Olivia and Walter included. Olivia examines the back of a broom closet and sees that a feather duster is shaking slightly. See, if it was me, I’d assume this was because a huge pack of FBI agents just stormed the house and stomped around in their heavy boots, but Olivia (accurately) deduces there’s a secret passageway in the back of the closet. She pushes on a panel and reveals a staircase leading down into the secret laboratory. I know it’s unrealistic for Olivia to think of everything, but maybe it would have been smart to put the gas mask back on.
Olivia, Peter and Walter go down the dark stairs, and while they’re trying to be quiet and sneaky, the Foley artist added in enough thumps and clomps and squeaks to make it sound like a marching band is invading the secret hideaway. Hoffman is no longer in the lab. Olivia ignores all the cool laboratory-type stuff lying around and immediately starts rooting through Hoffman’s trash.
Walter finds a refrigerator containing cute glass apothecary jars with German labels filled with a beautiful pale blue liquid. Walter translates the labels and discovers that each jar targets a different specific genetic trait: eye color, skin color, etcetera.
Nazis shop at Anthropologie.
Peter finds Walter’s sweater, which Hoffman stole when he broke into their house (presumably for a sample of Walter’s DNA, though it’s never specified), just as Walter begins gasping and choking. Olivia knocks over the beaker on the hot burner and bellows for help getting Walter out of the basement.
Upstairs, Walter inhales some oxygen and recovers from the toxin. He mutters that he wants his sweater back. Olivia wonders why Hoffman targeted Walter; Walter thinks Hoffman might’ve known his father betrayed the Nazis. Olivia found a photo of Hoffman in the trash can in the laboratory, one in the series he used to make his false identification badge. She also found a copy of some kind of logo, which he presumably used on the ID. Peter glances at the logo and instantly recognizes it.
Walter reenacts his favorite scene from Blue Velvet.
The logo is for something called the World Tolerance Initiative. It features a bunch of brightly-colored people holding hands and standing in a circle, and it’s every bit as cheeseball and awful as it sounds. Hoffman stands in front of an enormous banner featuring the logo, waiting to get into the World Tolerance Initiative conference, holding his box of deadly Sterno cans, his fake ID badge clipped into place. A security guard asks to inspect his box, and he hands it over cheerily.
It’s like Keith Haring at his most twee.
The World Tolerance Initiative is being held at the Boston Center for Performing Arts. Olivia and Peter head over there while Broyles cautions them over the phone that, as there will be many important foreign dignitaries present, they’ll need to follow protocol, which might take time. Peter states the obvious by pointing out that they might not have much time before Hoffman kills everyone there.
Walter tromps back down into the cluttered underground lab — the place where he almost met a grisly fate scant minutes ago, the place that was permeated with an airborne toxin specifically formulated to kill one Dr. Walter Bishop — and retrieves his sweater. He picks up… something. I don’t really know what it is. Some kind of… spray nozzle? The dramatic music clues me in that Something Momentous just happened, but it’s hard to tell what’s going on.
At the World Tolerance Initiative, Hoffman, dressed as a caterer, arranges his Sterno cans under the chafing dishes while a speaker addresses the assembled group of foreign dignitaries, most of whom are wearing traditional native dress. It’s nothing but cheongsams and dashikis and headwraps as far as the eye can see, and does it make me a horrible person if I point out that this whole sequence is eerily reminiscent of the 1966 Adam West Batman movie where the Joker and the Penguin shoot the entire United World Organization Security Council with a dehydrating ray?
Using chafing dishes for evil.
In the underground lab, Walter whips up a beaker of pretty pale blue stuff. I think the art department got tired of all the vivid primary Kool-Aid colors they usually use for Walter’s formulas on this show and decided to switch to pastels for this episode, just to mix up the color palette a bit. Astrid offers to drive him home, but Walter insists they should head to the art center instead.
Walter’s iconoclastic experiments with Bombay Sapphire gin.
Peter and Olivia snoop around the World Tolerance Initiative conference in search of the toxin. There are plenty of candles around, but master sniffer Peter says they don’t smell like cinnamon. Peter, the toxin probably doesn’t have to smell like cinnamon. Broaden your horizons a little. Walter and Astrid rush into the arts center. Now that the conference is underway, the security guards have apparently gone home, taking their metal detector with them. Walter hurries up a flight of stairs, away from the meeting hall, claiming they need to take the high ground. Yes, yes, there’s a double meaning in that.
Peter finds the Sterno cans under the chafing dishes and prevents a caterer from igniting them. Even though the toxin hasn’t been dispersed, someone in the crowd starts coughing and choking loudly. Peter and Olivia push through the crowd and find Hoffman on the ground, sputtering and turning blue. Hoffman grabs Peter and chokes out “BISHOP!”, then dies.
Olivia looks up and sees Walter standing on a balcony overlooking the meeting hall, looking like a middle-aged avenging angel, using his spray nozzle thingy to disperse his pretty blue formula into the crowd.
Later, a severely displeased Broyles glowers at Walter, who insists he regrets nothing: He used Hoffman’s DNA to whip up a toxin that would kill only Hoffman to protect everyone else at the conference. Broyles, with a look of intense self-loathing, wishes Walter a good night and slumps off, wondering how his he ever lost so much control over his renegade staff members. Walter insists to Olivia that he had to kill Hoffman, because Hoffman corrupted his father’s work. Walter mentions that family is very important to him, and he’s so dark and intense and manic about it that Olivia starts looking a little creeped out.
Broyles hates himself a little bit more each day.
Back at home, Walter scribbles in his journal. Peter presents him with a box of Robert Bishop’s books and his notes, which he retrieved from the artist Franco. Walter very kindly doesn’t mention that all those precious first-edition Goethe and Mann books are now worthless, now that the pages have been ripped apart and covered with glue. He starts rummaging happily through the box and produces a photo of his father standing with a bunch of men in tuxedoes. In the photo, he’s labeled as “Bishoff”, which Walter explains was their original surname, pre-emigration.
Peter wonders how Hoffman got the formula, since he didn’t have access to Walter’s father’s notes. Walter tells him that some mysteries are destined to remain unsolved. This is almost verbatim the line he delivered to Astrid at the end of last episode.
Unnoticed by Walter and Peter, there’s another old black-and-white wartime photo in the box, which depicts the senior Bishop standing in a laboratory. In the background stands Hoffman. Guess that DNA test that showed Hoffman was over a hundred years old wasn’t so faulty after all.
Hey! Dr. Bishop! There’s a Nazi right behind you!
Inexplicably youthful centenarian Nazis and mounting Bishop family discord! Magnificent stuff.