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'Fringe' recap: Good grief

February 19, 2011 |  8:54 am

314_6B_005 “Fringe” has always been about the science. Sure, it might be crazy, out-there science, but it’s based on reality. Whether it’s genetic engineering or transferring memories, the science fiction of “Fringe” comes from real-world science fact that’s probably much more advanced than you think. That’s why they have the Science of Fringe to teach along with the stories.

“6B” ditches science for emotion. There’s no insane technology or miracle drug causing havoc in this week’s episode. This time the treat comes from two people whose grief is so strong that it rips apart the universe. Olivia’s big turning point on the case is when she realizes “it’s not about physics, it’s about people,” which feels like “Fringe” turning its back on the science that made it great.

Everything starts with a party in a Brooklyn apartment building. Young, attractive people chat about their young, attractive relationship problems, until the balcony momentarily vanishes, dropping a bunch of the partygoers onto the concrete below. The residents of the building believe the place is haunted, but really it’s just a hole torn between the two universes by an older couple’s grief. 

Alice and Derek had been married for more than 40 years in both universes. Over here they had crazy adventures and lied about working for National Geographic to sneak into interesting places. Over there, they lived a quieter life and had a couple kids. Then one night a fuse blew in the apartment, so they flipped a coin to see who would fix it. In our universe Derek won, and he ended up getting fried fixing the fuse. In their universe, Alice won, and she was the one who got killed. Their mutual desire to see their loved ones again is enough to pull open the fabric of reality and allow them to see the double of their lost love. (I think “Futurama” also had parallel universes, separated by differences in coin tosses.)

While the emotions between Alice and Derek was killing people, Olivia and Peter’s emotions are causing almost as much damage. Ever since Olivia returned from the other universe, her life has been upside-down. Not only was she forced to live the life of Fauxlivia, but she came back to find out Fauxlivia had been living her life, sleeping in her bed, with the man she loved. Olivia wanted nothing to do with Peter because she knows he still has feelings for her doppelganger. 

Meanwhile, Walter explores the weakening of reality caused by Alice and Derek. If they do rip a hole between the two universes, Walter needs to have a plan of how to seal it. The only thing he comes up with is stealing Walternate’s idea. With the help of the Massive Dynamic staff and that nervous kid Brandon, they recreate Walter’s Amber that he uses to seal the holes. Walter has seen the deviation that comes from using the Amber. He struggles with the thought of traveling down the path of the copy he’s classified as “evil” in his mind. That’s another emotional battle I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of, but instead we got Alice and Derek.

In the end, Olivia and Peter have to talk Alice into letting Derek go. They have the ticking clock that Walter wants to release the Amber before their grief develops into a vortex that could destroy all of Brooklyn. Both Peter and Olivia pour their hearts out to the woman, but she’s finally swayed when she hears Derek talk about their children. That’s the different between the parallel worlds that convinces her that what she’s doing is wrong. 

Peter and Olivia’s speeches may not have been the deciding factors to Alice, but they help convince Olivia that whatever is holding her back from being with Peter is wrong. That’s right, Olivia and Peter are officially together. They better enjoy it while it lasts because there’s the other ticking clock counting down until they find out that Fauxlivia is pregnant with Peter’s child. If grief can break a hole between the two universes, I can’t wait to see what level damage that revelation causes. 

Fun Facts –- In 1973, Walter proved that breakfast was, in fact, the most important meal of the day.  ... Broyles knows the president and has beaten him in golf. ... Walter likes to sing in nothing but his socks. ... Lots of fun little facts in “6B,” but I might have to scrub my brain to get the thought of that last one out of my mind forever. 

Astrid Action -– Poor Astrid takes the brunt of Walter being an impatient jerk. I don’t care if there is the possibility of the universe falling apart into an unending vortex, that’s no reason to be so curt with Astrid. It’s interesting how when Walter went down the path of Walternate and experimented with the Amber, he started to act more like Walternate. At least they made it up to Astrid with the quick reference to her other-world double in the episode’s epilog. When are we going to get our Astrid-centric episode?

Spot the Observer -– Easy to miss this week, the Observer slipped by as the couple in the opening walked down the street, talking about escape plans for the party. Guess the Observer decided that because there wasn’t going to be any major Fringe event this week, he’d get his appearance out of the way early and enjoy an extra-long Presidents Day weekend. I wonder what an Observer would do on his day off. Probably sit around and not look at anything. Sounds relaxing.

-- Andrew Hanson

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Photo: Walter (John Noble) and Nina (Blair Brown) discuss a case at Massive Dynamic headquarters. Credit: Fox Television

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