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'Fringe': Eastern medicine

December 4, 2009 |  6:58 am

209_snakehead-0013 You know what Thursday night's “Fringe” was about? Besides, of course, giant parasitic worms that gestate inside Chinese people coming to America for use as medicine to strengthen human immune systems. “Snakehead” was about independence. Venturing out on your own, maybe further than you really safely should.

Walter fought for his freedom all night. He wants more control over his life, whether it is taking a taxi to a crime scene or traveling to Chinatown to investigate or joining a gym (I love that Walter threw that one out there). Like Walter told Peter, he’s been out of the mental hospital for over a year, and he insists on not being treated like a child. He still acts like a child. Last episode he stayed up all night making milkshakes.

Peter reluctantly grants Walter the independence he craves, and Walter promptly runs off on Astrid and ends up lost, broke and relying on the aid of a woman at the bus stop. Got to hand it to John Noble. His performance made me feel just as uncomfortable as when I’ve experienced similar emotional outpourings on real-life public transportation.

Peter tries to look out for Walter as he ventures into areas he shouldn’t, but ironically, Peter doesn’t notice when he does the exact same thing. I know Walter might not be totally equipped to go wandering around Chinatown by himself, but Peter breaks into a Yakuza hideout with backup still on the way. Yakuza! One of these guys slit his own throat rather than be interrogated by the FBI. You can’t wait for Olivia and the crew to show up? You have to charge in and leave your mentally disturbed father in the car? Maybe Peter needs someone looking out for him.

209_snakehead-0309 Speaking of venturing into areas where you may not be equipped, Olivia attempted to have an emotional moment with the Chinese woman who worried about her husband and daughter. It didn’t come off quite right. Then she just happened to find the bird toy on the floor of the boat that happened to belong to the woman’s daughter and returned it, creating a happy emotional moment that came off slightly creepy. I want Olivia back out there kicking but and investigating. Leave the emotional stuff to the boys.

The giant parasitic worms were pretty cool, swimming around inside their hosts and then bursting out their mouths. The makeup work on the victims’ torn cheeks was a great gory detail. The "Fringe" science behind the parasites impressed as well. Combining the Eastern medicine practice of using parasites to cure illnesses with biotechnology. Impressive. “Fringe” has been good with its crazy science ideas all season. In this episode they managed to mix in some character moments that were just as impressive: Walter’s apology to Astrid and later to Peter. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I liked this episode better than “August.” Argue that with me.

Location, location, location – At one point in the episode, Olivia, Peter and Broyles meet to discuss the case under a massive freeway overpass. No one had a conference room they could use? How about meeting up at Starbucks? No, let’s talk by the chain link fence under tons of concrete. Man, they can’t be getting good cellphone reception there.

Astrid action – Wow, you could almost say half this episode was Astrid Action. She was all over the place. In the lab, out to Chinatown, um… back to the lab. (She did run straight back there when Walter went missing.) Regardless, you couldn’t call Astrid a side character tonight. She was in the game.

Right off the bat, Astrid helped Walter wrestle that two-foot worm in the lab, where she fired off the best line of the night: “You are not smoking this thing.” Then she followed Walter on his trip to Chinatown to epically fail keeping hidden and getting trailed back to the lab by two thugs. Can’t blame her, though. Walter did ditch her, but he apologized sweetly to her at the end. Quite the day for Agent Farnsworth.

Spot the Observer – Took me a second run through, but I spotted that Peeping Tom crossing the street in Chinatown as the Yakuzi stepped outside to follow Astrid back to the lab. It’s funny, spending so much time studying each scene to catch the Observer, I start to notice things I normally wouldn’t. Like all the extras in Chinatown walking by, trying so hard not to look at the camera. Makes the second viewing all that more enjoyable.

-Andrew Hanson

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Photos: John Noble as Walter Bishop and Jasika Nicole as Astrid Farnsworth. Credit: Fox Television

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