Hey Fringe Fans,
First of all, to clear up any lingering confusion, this episode was a bonus un-aired episode from Season 1 of Fringe. If I hadn’t known this going into the episode, I’m sure I would have been confused, given that Charlie Francis – Olivia’s murdered FBI partner – is alive and well.
I am not entirely sure why it was aired now, but I’m not complaining: it means I get two doses of my favourite show in one week!
By now it’s pretty much a given that Fringe will start off with something weird, gross, or some combination thereof: this week did not disappoint. A young woman named Lisa Donovan (played by Alice Kremelberg) is taken off of life support by her mother (played by Amy Carlson), only to wake up on the operating table just as her organs are about to be harvested for donation.
As if that weren’t weird enough, Lisa reels off an alphanumeric sequence, the first half of which is the identification number of a missing sailor in the Navy (Petty Officer Andrew Rusk – played by Chazz Menendez), and the second half is the launch codes for ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) on board a nuclear submarine on which Rusk served. Naturally, this last detail brings the matter squarely into the realm of “National Security”.
Waking up on the Operating Table
As is the case whenever something odd crops up, Fringe Division is brought in to investigate what may have happened, and how Lisa, a junior in high school who collapsed after a cerebral aneurism, could have possibly come into possession of such sensitive information given that she has had no contact with Rusk at all. Walter surmises that she formed some sort of psychic connection to Rusk; however, that proves wrong when Lisa leads Olivia and Peter to Rusk’s body – he has been dead for several days. When Walter finds out that Rusk died right near the time of Lisa’s “resurrection”, he proposes that Lisa is, in fact, possessed – much to the chagrin of the Donovans’ priest (Sean Dugan) – and that he may be able to “exorcise” her. Mrs. Donovan, desperate, agrees and Lisa is moved to Walter’s lab. After administering antipsychotics to Lisa – intended to relax and sedate her so that her mind can release Rusk’s memories – Walter is surprised when Rusk himself emerges.
Apparently Rusk’s entire consciousness, not just some memories, transferred into Lisa. “He” is able to give them enough information about his attacker to lead Olivia and Charlie to a former Navy SEAL named Jake Selleg (played by Scott William Winters) who confesses to murdering Rusk and says he did it for Rusk’s wife Teresa (played by Annie Parisse) because Rusk was an abusive husband. Unfortunately, by the time Olivia and Charlie discover this, Rusk has escaped the lab – the Bishops had mistakenly thought that Lisa was back in control after the procedure – and gone after his wife to get revenge on her for having him killed. Peter gets to the Rusk’s house first and tries to talk Rusk down by appealing to Lisa, who is suppressed in her own mind, but just as Rusk is about to shoot Peter, Charlie arrives and hits “Lisa” with a tranquilizer. This apparently causes Lisa’s mind to release its hold on Rusk’s consciousness, and Lisa is left alone in her own head once again.
Confrontation (Rusk in control)
Thoughts and Impressions
My first thoughts of this episode were that it had a decidedly more religious tone than I am used to from Fringe. Religion has been touched upon a couple times before, but never has it been a touchstone issue for an episode. At one point during the episode Walter actually gets into a shouting match with the Priest. This can almost be taken as a juxtaposition of science versus religion: Walter providing a more rational take on Lisa’s mysterious resurrection (that being that Rusk’s death provided a surge of psychic energy which jump started Lisa’s body).
“Please allow me a moment to entertain my fantasies: they often lead to a truth” – Walter (to the Priest)
We also find out that Olivia’s mother was deeply religious when Peter comments that Olivia seems to be “a believer”, whereas he himself is employing “healthy skepticism” until he sees proof one way or the other. Olivia herself isn’t a religious woman, but she tells Peter that her mother was. This is another one of “those” conversations between Olivia and Peter: when Olivia seems to be more willing to open up about her history to Peter, whereas she often seems to keep herself quite closed off. Olivia says that for all her mother’s faith, it didn’t stop Olivia’s step-father from terrorizing her mother. This fits into what else we know of Olivia’s family life when she was little: her step-father was an alcoholic who abused her mother.
This was another case where we saw some interesting dynamics between Walter, Olivia, and Peter. As is usually the case with a trio of characters, oftentimes the alliances, so to speak, between the characters shift as their opinions on various matters change. Initially, Peter was highly suspicious of Walter and Olivia was normally far more supportive of Walter’s (crazy) ideas. Case in point: her trips into The Tank (where she shared consciousness with John Scott). However, sometimes Peter and Walter are more in agreement with one another, and other times Peter and Olivia side against Walter.
This was an episode which saw Peter return to a slightly more skeptical viewpoint: so far in Season 2 he seems much more open-minded than he did at earlier points in Season 1. Walter often criticized Peter for his “narrow-mindedness”, as he did again in this episode. Olivia seemed more willing to accept Walter’s “possession” hypothesis than did Peter – and this often seems to be the case with Olivia and Walter. I think that this is part of what made her such an attractive agent for Agent Broyles to bring into Fringe Division.
Peter seems to be much more willing to be open with people (at least superficially – we still don’t know many details about his life before Fringe Division) than Olivia does. For example, he was able to quickly put Lisa at ease, and create something of a bond with her. This led to a rather amusing (at least to me) moment when she asks Peter if Olivia is his girlfriend. This wasn’t the first time that someone has assumed a more intimate relationship between Peter and Olivia, but it was unusual in that they actually held a conversation about it, rather than simply mentioning it passing.
“No, no. She’s like a friend who’s a girl. And who carries a gun” – Peter
When Peter arrives first at the Rusk’s home to try talking Rusk down and bring Lisa back into control of her own mind, he mentions to “Lisa” that he knows what it is like to be different: he reveals that he was sick a lot as a child and therefore had a hard time making friends in school.
The important thing to remember is that “our” Peter isn’t actually from this universe: Walter stole him from a different world after “his” Peter (the one originally from this universe) died when he was 7 years old after a long illness. This makes me curious as to whether “our” Peter was sick in his own universe as well and was somehow cured which seem unlikely to me. A more plausible explanation, at least to me given what we know at the moment, is that the crossing over between universes did more than (perhaps) induce night terrors – it may have actually made Peter sick. One of the reasons that this seems more likely to me is that when Olivia met Bell in the other world he was visibly ailing, and both him and Walter have repeatedly stressed the disastrous consequences that crossing over can have.
I also found The Observer rather easy to spot in this episode, although I think that’s because I have become so accustomed to looking for him.
While I did enjoy this episode as a stand-alone, mostly for the character moments, I actually was a bit disappointed with the explanations for the occurrences. One of the aspects which has drawn me so strongly to Fringe is that I love trying to puzzle out the science behind the weird events, and that usually the science is much more sound.
Of course by sound, I don’t necessarily mean that the science and reasoning could actually be applied right now, but that if you accept some of the premises given in explanations by Walter (and sometimes Peter), the conclusions are often sound. And while the science is often rather “out there” (it is fringe science, after all), I like that the explanations are actually rooted in some sort of scientific basis.
What disappointed me about this episode was that there did not seem to be a scientific explanation that Walter could give to explain what was happening to Lisa – psychic energy and experimental drugs notwithstanding. And to me, the conclusions reached seemed weaker than usual. I accept that, as Walter said, we hardly know everything there is to know about what it means to be conscious, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the explanations.
Watching “Walter’s Scariest Home Videos” of psychic experiments
One more thing: Walter’s reasoning behind Lisa’s resurrection was that Rusk’s death caused a surge of his psychic energy which jump-started Lisa’s body. However, when someone is brain dead because of a cerebral aneurism, there is extensive brain damage which occurs. No matter how much “jump starting” was provided, I cannot believe that it would heal physical brain damage. Especially given that Lisa was on life support at the beginning of the episode, which indicates that there must have been substantial damage.
As much as I enjoyed the episode, and love the fact that we will have two new Fringe’s this week, I will be glad to return to the season 2 storyline.
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Thanks for reading!