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'Fringe' recap: Punch Buggie Blue

February 5, 2011 |  7:31 am

312_askagain_007 I finally get to write something I’ve been wanting to write for a very long time: looks like “Fringe” has been doing pretty well in the ratings the past couple weeks. Now I don’t claim to be an expert in Nielsen ratings. Half the time, I can’t even spell It, but I do know that since “Fringe” moved to Friday nights, it has been winning the night in viewers 18-49. That’s the coveted age group that, I guess, is most affected by commercials. Which very well might be true. I spent most of the night craving a chicken wrap from Carl’s Jr.

This week, “Fringe” veers from its larger story of the battle between two universes to deal with the more immediate threat of a gas that causes a person’s bones to disintegrate. I don’t care if you have a giant doomsday device that could destroy reality, when people start turning into piles of organs, you stop and check it out. 

Before “Fringe” dives into the deboning gas, it gives us a little treat: Nina Sharp traveling down to the storage space of Massive Dynamic. There’s a few fun Easter eggs. She flips through William Bell’s diplomas, which are right next to a copy of Dr. Spock’s “Baby and Child Care.” She opens a safe that contains old photos and the napkin that has the original sketch for the Massive Dynamic logo. She’s really after a book about the First People, but that all has to wait while Fringe Division stops people from turning into meat bags. 

Everything starts when a former Marine sends a birthday present to the scientist who once ran secret military weapons experiments. The experiments that tested this deboning gas. The former Marine and several others were inoculated against the gas, but it caused a genetic defect that caused their unborn children to lose their bones as well. As far as reasons to go on a crazy science revenge trip, this one seems pretty solid.

Being the incredibly competent investigators they are, Fringe Division quickly uncovers the culprit through video footage from the post office where he sent the package and the military quality of the weapon. (I’m so glad that everyone on “Fringe” is so good at what they do. It makes the story move so much faster.) They track down the former Marine to his home, but he gets hit by a car and suffers extreme brain damage before they can question him. Darn. 

Luckily, Walter knows of a way to interrogate the comatose suspect. There’s another test subject from the Cortexiphan studies who might be able to help named Simon Phillips. Walter kicked Simon out of the study early on because he showed signs of being able to read minds, and Walter was afraid that Simon would find out he stole Peter from the other universe. Makes me wonder why Walter didn’t go get Simon before. I’m sure there were dozens of cases they’ve investigated so far that could really have benefited from a mind reader. I guess Walter might have wanted to keep his secret safe, but after it was out, why not?

Simon the mind reader helps Olivia figure out the next target is the general who oversaw the experiments. She brings Simon along to save the day even though being surrounded by all the people in Boston is like getting needles stuck into his mind-reading brain. He may look like a heroin addict going through withdrawal, but Simon helps point out the former Marine’s accomplices, and Olivia shoots them both, each with just one bullet. Like I said, it’s so nice that she’s good. No need to waste time with a shoot out. 

While she’s spending most of the episode kicking butt, Olivia also displays major vulnerability as she continues to struggle with the relationship Peter had with Fauxlivia. He brings coffee the way Fauxlivia liked it. He joked around with her. He had a relationship with her. Olivia tells Nina she saw Fauxlivia’s life and friends and wonders if maybe Fauxlivia is the better Olivia. I love how “Fringe” delves into the consequences of that swap. The crazy science is fun, but the human response is what makes it so fascinating.  

I’m curious to hear your reactions to the final revelation of the episode. Nina confronts Sam Weiss that it really seems like he wrote all the different First People books and Sam tells her that Peter can create or destroy universes based on which Olivia he chooses. I know there will be a lot of opinions. I know I’m upset. That’s the one thing Sam is going to tell Nina? I’m sure Peter and the Olivias and destroying universes is important, but I want to know more about the First People! And Sam himself. Get that mind reader back in here. 

The Tingler At the beginning of the episode right when the doll sprayed the deboning gas, I got a text message on my phone, which was set to vibrate. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Freaked me out. It made me think that some show should do that. Set up automatic texts to be sent out to people who subscribe to it during the episode. Similar to what William Castle tried to do for the movie “The Tingler.” It would be one way to get people to watch live and sit through the commercials. I’d much rather have that than 3-D. 

Astrid action Was Astrid in this episode much at all? I remember her scolding Walter for using his tests on the deboning gas as an excuse to eat fried chicken, but that’s about it. Makes sense. They didn’t spend a lot of time in the lab this week. Though they really need to start taking Astrid out to crime scenes more often so Walter has someone to drive him home. After hearing how Walter’s mind works through Simon this week, I don’t know if I trust him behind the wheel. 

Spot the Observer Did you spot the Observer this week? “Fringe” caught me with a distraction. The Observer strolls into the party right before Olivia stops the deboning vest bomber. It’s during the overhead shot, when I was too busy noticing that the layout of the room was the same as the layout on the farm where they tested the vest. Now that I know the Observer was there, I can’t help thinking 1) it’s guts of the Observer to get that close to possibly being deboned, and 2) I wonder if Simon was able to read the Observer’s mind. What could he have learned? What would the Observer’s mind be like? These are two characters we need to bring together. 

How could I not mention Walter and William Bell worked for Richard Nixon!?! Nixon’s wife wouldn’t stop hitting on Walter!?! This is why we need flashback episodes of “Fringe,” or a whole spinoff series. I still want to hear more about Walter’s father during World War II. Hopefully these good Friday night ratings will give “Fringe” extra life to explore. 

--Andrew

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PHOTO: Olivia (Anna Trov). Fox Television

 

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