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'Fringe': Blast from the past

January 12, 2010 |  7:34 am

121_Unearthed_106 New “Fringe” tonight. Sort of.

I didn’t even know “Fringe” was going to be on tonight until this weekend. I had Jan. 14 circled on my calendar. I was looking forward to new adventures of Olivia, Walter and Peter fighting invaders from the déjà vuniverse. Then a friend mentioned the other day that his DVR was set to record a new “Fringe” on Monday, and when I finally checked mine, I saw that it was on my to record list as well. Sweet.

Looking into it online, the consensus seemed to be that “Unearthed” was actually a lost episode of Season 1. (Not a “Lost” episode. Settle down. I’m jonesing for the final season, too.)

It didn’t take long to realize this was an old episode. For me it was the location names floating within establishing shots. Every episode of Season 2 was hand-dipped in HD goodness (that’s how they do that, right?). Those names should be reflecting buildings, glimmering based on surrounding light sources, and effecting weather patterns. Nope, we’re going back in time on this one.

The story springs from Season 1’s more Monster of the Week periods. No shape-shifting soldiers from another dimension, no mention of William Bell, no Massive Dynamics. There is the blatant reference to Peter’s past that we’ve grown to expect in Season 2, but it’s just a minor reference Peter makes about being sick all the time as a kid. A gentler prodding than we’ve been receiving lately.

Instead, “Unearthed” centers around a teenage girl who has the plug pulled on her and then wakes up while they’re prepping her organs for transport. Nice creepy event, but when the resurrected girl starts spouting off classified Navy submarine codes, it goes from creepy to Fringe Science status. Olivia, Walter and Peter show up to investigate and connect the teenage girl to a naval officer who disappeared about the same time.

Olivia arranges to interview the Navy guy’s girlfriend and… hey! It’s Charlie Francis! Not some evil doppelganger sucking down thermometers, but the actual Agent Charlie Francis. Good to see him again.

Anyway, the guy’s girlfriend doesn’t know much, so Olivia goes back to see what Walter and Peter have thought up and… oh, yeah. Astrid’s old hair cut. And the old lab. Before the show moved to Vancouver to film. It looks so much more cramped.

Nevertheless, Walter connects what happened to Lisa, the teenage girl, and experiments he did back when his hair looked so much more wig-like. He used electricity to stimulate parts of the brain to enhance psychic abilities. Though I don’t know how you measure that. Probably some special ruler. Walter’s theories prove highly probable after Lisa ends up at the auto junkyard where Rusk, the naval officer, was killed. It also kinda looks like the place Dexter killed those human traffickers if you ask me.

Ends up that Rusk was exposed to high levels of radiation during an accident in his submarine. Then he got shot by a guy hired by his girlfriend because he beat on her. Then his radioactive soul reactivated Lisa and stuck around so he could get revenge. Who wouldn’t have guessed that right off the bat?

I can see why they might have held off on airing this episode in Season 1. It weaved close to a science vs. religion debate, but swerved back at the last second. Plus the premise was a little thinly stretched over the hour. It would have been overshadowed by Season 1 powerhouses like “The Transformation” and “Inner Child.” But it’s always nice to get a surprise little bonus taste of “Fringe.” And to match it up on Monday night with “House.” That feels so very good. Are you listening Fox programmers? That’s the sound of a good match.

Astrid action: Astrid is back in the lab, popping popcorn for Walter’s little picture shows and preparing insane narcotics to be injected in teenage girls. Reminds us how far our favorite lab assistant has come from the first season, though she even had her powers back then. She managed to convince the mother of a girl that came back from the dead under the care of Walter that it might be a good idea to “get some air.” Now that’s amazing.

Spot the observer: I went through the episode a second time and skipped over the scene where Olivia confronts Lisa and her mother outside of church. I mean, it was bad enough timing for Olivia to go asking to test Lisa for psychic abilities, seemed a crazy moment for Baldy to be watching, but there he is. You can see him walk behind Olivia once she’s talking to the mother alone. Come on, Observer. I’m sure there are brains exploding and mutant mole kids to be chronicling. You don’t have to spy on people at church.

Don’t forget: Another “Fringe” this Thursday. Talk to you then.

-- Andrew Hanson

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Photo: Walter (John Noble) leads the team in a mind-bending investigation. Credit: Fox Television

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