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'Fringe': the detective game

April 9, 2010 |  6:43 am

216_olr_0487 Last week we got possibly the best “Fringe” episode ever. This week we got possibly the longest “Fringe episode ever. Seriously, what did it come in at? 2 hours? 2:45? Every time I went to fast forward through the commercials (sorry, sponsors), I would see the little bar at the bottom of the screen and think, “How can I only be 41 minutes in?”

Even the title was long. “Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver.” Why wasn’t it “Olivia. In the Dining Room. With the Candlestick”? That’s what actually happened. Plus, outside the Parker Brothers game, how often do you see someone administer a beat-down with a candlestick? Revolver? Every hourlong show has had someone get shot with a revolver. (I have no research to back that up, but I feel pretty confident in that statement. Can anyone prove me wrong?)

It’s hard to avoid watching this week’s episode of “Fringe” through the prism of last week’s. “Peter” fired us into this spring mini-season with a big chunk of mythology. “Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver” brings us back to the “monster of the week” pattern, but a monster with a lot of ties to the show’s mythology.

Our monster this week is a ch’i-ampire. That’s a vampire of ch’i, the mystic Chinese life force. Though I imagine if you tried to say it out loud, ch’i-ampire probably sounds more like the very best vampire.

It starts off simply enough with a sickly, pale man meeting an attractive professional woman for coffee, and like the millions of ill-fated Craiglist meet-ups, it ends with the transmission of a horrible disease. During her drive back to work, the attractive professional woman morphs into the Thing from the Fantastic Four due to accelerated exterior cancer transferred by physical contact, which has to be the super devil for hypochondriacs. 

The Fringe Division is called in. Like 14 hours later. At least. It started during an afternoon coffee, and Olivia didn’t get the call until 6 a.m. Olivia is up that early because she can’t sleep. She’s haunted by the deep, dark secret that Peter is actually from the alternate dimension. In fact, Olivia is wracked the entire episode by the question of whether to tell Peter. Wracked might not be the right word. Maybe more perturbed or aware.

Olivia uses her sleepless hours to visit Sam Weiss at his bowling alley. You remember Sam, right? He’s the guy who helped Olivia after she came back from the déjà vuniverse. I can’t quite remember anything he did to help her, but he helped her.

I’m starting to wonder about Sam Weiss. I kind of hope there’s more to him than we see. I hope that his comment about being older than he looks is a "Lost"-like clue to him being not quite normal. 

Olivia drags out both investigating the death and telling Peter, which is too bad. The ch’i-ampire has a strong connection to her past. Turns out the sickly man was also in Walter's and William Bell’s Cortexiphan trials as a kid. Now riddled with cancer, he has the ability to swap life force with other Cortexiphan test subjects and temporarily heal himself. But Olivia never seems super-driven to catch him. In fact, the ch’i-ampire ends up tracking her down. He even goes through Nick Lane, the Cortexiphan soldier from “Bad Dreams” back in season one. 

Olivia reluctantly arrests the guy, and after telling Walter, Nina Sharp and Sam that she’s going to confess the truth to Peter, she wimps out. She decides instead to protect her “little family unit.” So after all that work and the nearly three hours of episode, not much has changed. Peter has to find out sooner or later. Guess for now, that means later.

Really? – “Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver” had quite a few Really? moments for me. The team shrugs off the idea of the pharmaceutical company the attractive professional woman was suing poisoned her for the theory that a guy gave her the Touch of Death. Really? Walter coming up with a theory involving ch’i and tantric sex all off an handprint? Really? And during a late-night game of Clue, Sam randomly jokes that he’s taller than he looks and that makes Olivia remember the height notches in a Jacksonville preschool? Really?  Really, “Fringe”?

Astrid Action – Astrid’s back to her normal position, helping in the lab and appearing with helpful exposition. She should get involved in the conversation about Peter. She knows there’s something up. She heard Walter say he couldn’t let Peter die again. She might as well throw in her two cents. 

Spot the Observer – Did you catch September? He was crossing the street in front of the attractive professional woman as she tumored out in her car. He must have wanted to get his appearance out of the way as early as possible. There wasn’t much to observe after that. Hope he had the chance to catch a movie like his friends last week.

-- Andrew Hanson

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Photo: The team (left to right, John Noble, Anna Torv, Lance Reddick and Joshua Jackson) investigates a killing. Credit: Fox Television

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