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Fringe: Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver.

“And I know about Peter.”

Last week, Fringe wowed me with an incredible episode in which Joshua Jackson didn’t even appear, and the traditional structure was thrown out the magical viewing window. I was expecting this week’s entry to be a standalone, to remind us of what the show’s usual shape is. While we did get standalone structure (gross-out, mystery, soulful talk, solution), we also got more information about the Cortexiphan trials that Olivia and her cohort underwent in the Jacksonville of their youth, as well as some of the most complex character development we’ve ever seen on this show.

Our Theme of the Week is transference and exchange. As Walter explained, transference differs from exchange: in an exchange, you get something for something—a peanut butter cookie for an apple. In transference, you just get something, like fast-acting cancerous growths all over your body. Transference also refers to the psychological action of shifting one’s feelings towards one object (a parent, for instance) onto another (a spouse, say). It’s related to the concept of projection, in which one feels sad and projects that feeling onto another—a sort of displacement of emotional reality, in both cases.

The Bad Guy of Many Names exchanged his cancer for the health of his Cortexifriends, although it’s unclear to me if he needed to choose them because they would be more susceptible (Walter’s theory), or if he was just trying to make a pattern out of his despair. Perhaps he just projected his own guilt onto them. He got his cancer-transferring superpowers from both the childhood trials and the secretive visit when he was in the hospital: he got more than he bargained for, perhaps like Adam touched by God in the puzzle replica of the Sistine Chapel.

Walter projected his own guilty feelings onto Olivia, and he transferred his anxiety about Peter’s origins into a fixation on replicating the salt-water taffy of Peter’s childhood. He was attempting, throughout, to displace his own emotional agony onto other objects. His arc in this episode was his gradual realization that, while Olivia might be playing the role of the Truth Police, it was ultimately his responsibility to come clean with his son. The question of transference and exchange also relates back to how Walter got Peter: he just transferred him from one reality to another. The exchange? Cracks in the fabric of space-time. Oops.

Olivia tried to deal with her own transference/exchange/projection problems by having a quickie heart-to-heart with Sam Weiss. Sam reminds me of a laconic Lorne (from Angel). I continue to like him, and his chemistry with Olivia. Plus, he said he was older than he looks—has he been touched by Jacob? He also said he was taller than he appears, but I think that might have been a joke.

Olivia’s second heart-to-heart (or maybe it was a tete-a-tete), was with Nina Sharp. Just as Walter projected his own guilt onto Olivia, so Olivia projected her own desire to keep silent onto Nina, the masterful queen of secrets. There was so much complex psychology and character development in this episode. It was darn juicy.

While the Cortexiphan stuff was interesting—and I’m curious to see what Nina Sharp and Broyles do to round up the remaining kiddos—the one mystery that I wanted solved was whether or not Peter and Olivia hooked up. The answer? No. Sigh. Double-sigh. I’m still hopeful.

I don’t fully understand the title of this episode. I get that it’s reference to the three questions you have to answer in Clue (Who? Where? How?), but wouldn’t it be more accurate to say: "Olivia. In Her Apartment. With a Lamp and a Vase."? Does it refer to how we sometimes guess the wrong endings to episodes? Is it a clue that this season won’t end the way we expect it to?

The Good:

• Walter: “By the time you got down to the bottom, your testicles would be in your mouth.”

• Olivia didn’t even ask what Astrid and Walter were doing in the lab with the taffy. Sometimes, it’s better not to know.

• Walter talking about Tantric sex. That made me a little uncomfortable, like hearing my grandmother describe fellatio.

• Peter: “This odd little family unit that we’ve got going…I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize it.”

• Sam Weiss: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in a primary color.”
Olivia: “Gosh, you’d be a blast at dinner parties.”

• Peter: “Thank you, Walter. I was able to figure that out all by myself.”

• Peter: “I’m number one on Olivia Dunham’s speed dial?”
Olivia: “Well, no. But I didn’t think that Rachel or Mr. Ire from the Indian take-out would be of much use.”

The Bad:

• Walter: “When you open your mind to the impossible, sometimes you find the truth.”

It’s Not the Strangest Thing We’ve Seen (Although It’s Close):

• I don’t think real lawyers would let the FBI take all of their files on a pending lawsuit. Why not? Because they’re lawyers, and they like paperwork.

• Peter: “I’m thinking that cancer isn’t contagious.”
[a few minutes later] Peter: “That’s what I said!”

• The Touch of Death. This chi-altering technique also plays a role in The Men Who Stare at Goats, which I watched just before watching this episode. Weird synchronicity.

Three and a half out of four baking cancerous palm-print pizzas with a side of taffy. (It would be higher if last week’s ep hadn’t re-set the grade scale.)

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. This was a nice one.

    Just a little question if I may. Why the rush? I mean, there was no need to make the tumors work that quickly. It seems to me that the story and all its good points would not have been hurt if the woman would have died in a reasonable amount of time that takes a tumor to grow from a seed. Say.. two days or a week. Something like that would make the episode much more believable. Maybe even like a disease, an incubation time and then full breakout.

  2. I saw The Men Who Stare At Goats a week or so ago, and it was sort of quietly hilarious. Loved the Star Wars references, nearly all of which were made by Ewan McGregor. And George Clooney was terrific.

  3. Good episode, lots of interesting stuff, but the emphasis on finding things that will make the audience gag still bothers me. It's funny how it doesn't bother me as much with Supernatural. Although there are definitely stand-alone episodes of Supernatural I won't rewatch, mostly because of disturbing gross-out content and lack of arc.

    I'm liking bowling-guy, too. Although -- wasn't it Nina that recommended him? I don't trust Nina at all.

  4. I'm glad your comment made me re-look at this review, Billie. We should review Men Who Stare at Goats. It was a hilarious movie.

  5. I might be. Or maybe the review will just manifest itself if we think about it really hard.

  6. LOL. Let's try the second option. I've always wanted to see if I could make a review write itself.

  7. I will focus my mental powers soon. I want to have dinner first.


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