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'Fringe' recap: puzzle zoo

306_6955khz_050a Did anybody watch the opening of this week’s “Fringe” and think it felt awfully familiar? A bunch of random people scattered around the United States hunkering down together and tuning in to try to crack puzzles hidden in a broadcast? Syncing up online beforehand. Spouses shunned to the other room. And even the momentary appearance of a pale man with hardly any hair. Well, a baby. Close enough. 

That’s another great thing about “Fringe.” I don’t have to come up with metaphors for what it’s like to watch this show because “Fringe” does it for me. 

“Fringe” has always loved puzzles. You’re talking about a show centered around unexplainable events, investigated by people with mysterious pasts with a reoccurring character playing a constant game of hide-and-seek that goes into commercial break with symbols that spell out messages (Have you ever tried to crack the glyphs? I’m waiting for the one that spells “HIMOM”). But even on the “Fringe” scale of puzzles, this episode was a Rubik’s Cube with Sudoku on each side hidden inside Will Shortz’s body buried on the “Lost” island. 

First of all, we’re back on our universe. “Fringe” has almost become like watching two completely different shows on alternate Thursdays. All the same actors playing slightly different roles. Maybe that’s why it feels so long between episodes. Maybe they should up “Fringe” to twice a week. 

Our good old “Fringe” division (plus Bolivia) investigates a radio signal of a series of numbers read in German that wipe out the listeners’ memories, but it’s one of those investigations where every answer creates more questions. How do those numbers cause amnesia? They didn’t. There was another signal broadcast with the numbers. So now you have to figure out the numbers signal. Where does it come from? Why is it broadcast? What does it mean? And you have to figure out the second signal. Why did someone want to wipe out people’s memories? What do they know about the signal? Who are “they”?

Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, a strange man with different-colored eyes wants to stop people from solving the mysteries of the “First People,” and everything flips upside down with the revelation that he was a shape shifter trying to draw attention to the numbers so our Fringe Division would solve their meaning and start digging up pieces of doomsday device. You have to hand it to Walternate. He knows how to think far ahead. Talk about your long con.

I was so into all these different puzzles that the Bolivia connection completely snuck up on me. Did it catch anyone else by surprise? And I was so glad to get our first taste of the First People, these humans that evolved before the dinosaurs but vanished long ago. I hope they become a bigger part of the “Fringe” universe. Plus there was all the regular fun “Fringe” details: the lighthouse beam on the floating location name; “it’s impossible to do micorelectronics with gloves on”; the sandwich that best provides mental clarity; and the pooling of mercury at the dead shape shifter’s head; to name just a few.

I’m still unsure about the love connection between Peter and Bolivia. It all seems a little too uncomfortable. Makes sense for Bolivia, since she’s only doing it as part of her mission to destroy our universe, but it’s hard for me to believe that Peter isn’t picking up any signals. Though anyone who doubted Anna Torv’s acting chops in the first couple of seasons should be eating their words. The difference between the two Olivias is painstakingly clear. Especially as our Olivia in their universe is getting more confident and assured while their Olivia in our universe is becoming more shaky and doubtful. 

“Fringe” is building toward something huge this season. I can’t wait to see what. 

The Name Situation – I know there’s still a bit of an argument about what to call the alternate versions in the other universe. I stick with Walternate and Bolivia because that’s what the creators of the show choose to use. And I go with BadAstrid because I like how it is (sorry, I can’t get behind Carpool McGiggles). But I realized this week how strange it sounds to hear the characters on the show say “Walternate.” Though it’s still a lot better than constantly saying “the other Walter.”

Astrid Action – Astrid really got her moment in the sun this episode. She cracked a code all of Massive Dynamic couldn’t figure out, and she did it in an afternoon. Way to go Astrid. She even managed to make Walter into her assistant for a scene. Nice. But did anyone else notice the weird vibe between Astrid and Nina Sharp? Do they have a history? Is there something I was forgetting or was “Fringe” hinting at another mystery?

Spot the Observer – Just like last week, our hairless peeping Tom waited until there was a big crowd of law enforcement before he popped up. You can see him behind the yellow tape as Peter, Bolivia and Broyles examined the dead shape shifter. But was anyone else left wondering if the Observers have some relation to the First People? Another puzzle on top of a puzzle to figure out.

-- Andrew Hanson


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Photo: Walter (John Noble) unearths clues. Credit: Fox Television




Comments () | Archives (17)

BAH. This show is getting so exciting the only bad part is that I have to wait an ENTIRE week for another episode! Horrible!

This has been mentioned on other message board already, but I just wanted to be the first to mention it here - I'm weird like that.
'Seamus Wiles' - the author of the book 'The First People' - is an anagram of 'Sam Weiss'. Add to that the fact that last season he mentioned something along the lines of 'i'm older than I appear, barely remember my childhood' etc. I'm guessing (hoping) he's one of 'The First People', because obviously that means more screen time for him.

I'm totally with you Lian. Time for Fox to step up and give us "Fringe: Orangiverse" on Tuesdays to go along with Fringe: Bluniverse" on Thursdays.

I did catch that odd vibe between Astrid and Nina. That was interesting. The only other scene that I can recall that was in the season 1 finale where they were introduced. There was a great deal constraint between them then too, but perhaps it was just Astrid's surprise at seeing Nina turn up in the lab then.

For the alternate Astrid, perhaps you should consider "Alstrid".

Glad to see Nina was at least onto some changes in "Olivia". It's time someone started questioning her.

It seemed to me that Bolivia is starting to question her mission, that it's bothering her that "Over here" could be destroyed because of her mission. She's still loyal to her side, but I get the feeling that she is having difficulties seeing people as nothing but "monsters in our skin."

And while I've always been a fan of Anna Torv's work on "Fringe", she is just hitting it out of the park this year!

Are you writing for the producers, or for the fans? It's a nickname - you don't have to go by what the producers use, and isn't the point of blogging about this to build engagement? So why reject the engagement of the fans in favor of something lame? Especially since we dub couples by non-producer-vetted mash-up nicknames all the freaking time.

Nina seemed suspicious of both Bolivia, and Astrid. Did the other Astrid come over to "aid" in the meaning of the boxes?

The only aspect of this episode that seemed to not hang together was the "device" issue. Walter starts off by almost going off the rails over Peter working on it, acts all pissy and passive aggressive for most of the episode, and then...seems to forget all that, when the opportunity to build the new toy comes literally to light. You would suppose Peter was sharper than to believe this thingee is millions of years old, as opposed to maybe being just like the part they already dug up...maybe BOlivia is putting stuff in his Starbucks.
Nina also came in for a sort of do-over in this episode - note the heavily featured new hair style, a much more chummy attitude towards Walter (well he owns the company now, and presumably signs her paycheck, so sure, but still). There were also two weird false note chats involving her (three if you count sharing a joint with Walter and reminiscing over lost youth). The first was with Bolivia, when Nina pretty much says WTF Girl to Bolivia, the second is then the chat up with Astrid (who is weird in both dimensions) that does seem to indicate a past connection. And of course that inexplicable park bench piece just before the end - our Walter was channeling way more Walternate than usual when Nina was toking, he was totally unfuddled, and almost snapped at Nina when she helped herself to his joint (is MA, by the way, a medical marijuana state, or did we forget California is not the universe).
The "last copy" of the book about ancients is also reminiscent of the "book" everyone was looking for in the first few seasons (the underground manuscript that was Walternate's best seller in Altverse) - perhaps for the same reason as that one, its a plant or bleed over from the other universe.
My hope is that we do not spend the rest of the season on a "where's Waldo" search for the bits and pieces of the thingee, and instead in the big dark warehouse scene to come, Peter will have a homer moment, shortly before Bolivia makes a lunge for the big button, with Walter making some kind of self-sacrificial gesture to save the day.

"a radio signal of a series of numbers read in German that wipe out the listeners’ memories"
it was actually dutch :p

Kudos to the writers for Astrid's cryptology work.
But why could you hear two shots from the apt bldg as Bolivia terminated his service and fell out of the window? Isn't it 10+ stories high, and soundproof? Also, she shot him in the head and lower back to make sure the stegosaurus brain was destroyed. Peter didn't question Bolivia over this?
Also, love the mainstreaming of the use of psychotropic drug use by Walter, and Nina.
And yes, I spotted the Observer.

In the scene when Peter and Bolivia are talking about first numbers broadcast in the car, I can't believe Peter didn't pick up on anything. When Bolivia is going over Olivia's file for the first time, she learns that Olivia has a photographic memory. Peter obviously knew that. Bolivia was so rattled when Peter asked her for the numbers. It was awesome.

Aghh, I love this show! But SO frustrated at the various episodes that have gone by where people are noting the differences in Fauxlivia (Bolivia is a country right? I don't get that name...), and yet not listening to their instincts enough to follow through. Especially Peter. He all but spelled out his doubts on her changes to her face in 'dreaming if electric sheep' episode. I had this hope he was really kind of conning her in some way to see if she'd crack, but no, the smaller brain has taken over. Ok maybe his heart, but c'mon...
and then Nina too. SO disappointed in her, she totally noticed, but meh, let it go.

Missed the Observer, again I got caught up in the drama and just plum forgot to keep my eyes open in the background.

I believe Fauxlivia is having feelings get in the way and reassessing some things....my hope is that she'll work with our universe rather than against it. It would be nice in general if the whole team in the alternate universe would get clued in on that, and not see us over here as threats anymore. Maybe we can work together! I know..kumbaya...

My vote is in for twice a week Fringe! This is seriously the best show on tv for me, it's a little ridiculous how breathless I get as the theme song begins with the graphics floating around. I must need a life.

Isn't it weird that the people in the two universes are becoming more like each other. Astrid with the crazy fast de-crypting of the numbers was more than shades of alterna-Astrid, the computer wiz. Faux-livia is becoming more unsure, moody, and, apparently, growing a photographic memory like our Olivia. Our Olivia was forced to be both Olivias by Walternate, so that one is clear. And didn't Walter seem more sure of himself, more analytical and less crazy-brilliant, and all around more focused like long-con Walternate. I have no idea what is up with Peter.

I know this is way late, but I just want to toss around a theory I have. About the Observers and their connection to the First People.

Recall in "August" (season 2) that Brandon said that the Observers have been around for a long time (he proceeded to show the classic Boston Massacre painting, with an Observer in the background).

No origin of the Observers has ever been explained, and they seem so different from normal people. They show up whenever something "important" happens, usually fringe events. Heck, I've even seen them in the other universe (if you've seen "Peter" (season 2. One of the best "Fringe" episodes IMO), you've seen them in the other universe too).

So perhaps the Observers were the First People and invented this vaccuum (aka Walternate's device) as the ultimate weapon of war (like a more advanced version of the Manhatten Project at the end of World War 2).

However, the scale of destruction was unlike anything the First People/Observers had ever seen. So those First People/Observers that survived started to observe the intelligent life that came after them to make sure nothing like the vaccuum ever happened again.

And that, my fellow "Fringe" fans, is my theory about the Observers, their origins, and the First People.

I thought it was faux-livia, not "bolivia"

I have watched Fringe from the very first episode, enjoying the ever evolving characters, however if anyone recalls what Peter was doing when he was first located and introduced then they might question as I do the writers naivete to making him oblivious to Bolivia.

Peter is way to smart not to notice the inconsistencies in her behavior, remember folks he is in love with her, plus most people sense when they are being lied to.

However in our society most people stick their heads in the sand when confronted with the truth, so I guess it's not too surprising!

Ignorance is bliss and treating your audience like they're a bunch of idiots allows for more episodes, I too vote for more episodes!

It's Fauxlivia.

I believe the Pale guy is of the First People, I hold to the theory that humans have been evolving on this Planet for millions of years and that the Mayans have it right when they say we are the fifth evolution of man and final one. The fourth being the civilizations of Lemur and Atlantis and the others before them having left the planet or still live here on the fourth or fifth dimension, so we living in the third dimension are unable to see them, or perhaps they are living in Hollow Earth. I find it interesting that no serious effort either on TV or in Movies to 'explore' Hollow Earth has been made. I mean if it is just fantasy then what are they afraid of and if it is true as many scientist are beginning to realize then the citizens of the surface have a right to know.
The Urantia Book and Forbidden Archeology both will support this concept that man is much older than orthodox history would have us believe, Google the Piri Reis map or Juan Moricz.
However the ability to change the past is dubious to me (First People) and the other thing is Peter should have known and for a while I thought he did know that Olivia had switched, so that was another gaffe in my opinion.


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