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Fringe: Olivia

“You can’t just keep running.”

The Season Two finale left us with Peter and Walter back Over Here, accompanied by a woman alternately called Boliva, Oliviate, or Fauxlivia. Our Olivia (now with auburn hair) is stuck Over There as a pawn in Walternate game/war/vendetta. This episode’s focus on Over There, and on Olivia’s experiences, was exactly as creepy, disorienting, and disturbing as it should have been.

This episode is basically an escape-and-chase thriller, but that’s not why it is so strong. What makes it good is the series of conversations that Olivia take part in: with the psychiatrist, with Lincoln Lee, with her mother, and with Alterna-Francis. What makes it great is the extended conversation with the cab driver Henry, played by Andre Royo of The Wire.

Olivia’s conversation with the psychiatrist was completely open. She told her everything she knew, but the psychiatrist (who surely knows more than she is telling) didn’t support her assertions. As we find out later, though, Olivia’s memories are being altered so that she gradually becomes Fauxlivia. Walternate says this is so she can help the OverThereians figure out how to stop the destruction of reality. I don’t believe him. I think it’s revenge. I think Walternate wants to take something of Walter’s and make it entirely his own. If he gets to save the world, that’s a bargain.

Andre Royo and Anna Torv were basically re-enacting Collateral, in which Jamie Foxx plays a Magical Negro© who drives Tom Cruise around LA. But I’m willing to forgive this rather clich├ęd use of a fabulous African-American actor precisely because he is so fabulous. We saw last season, especially with episodes like “Peter,” just how wonderful Fringe could be when it took its time and allowed conversations and interactions to develop both the plot and the characters’ relationships. Here, that means that Henry starts to believe and/or trust Olivia, who continues to tell the truth as she searches, fruitlessly, for a way to get back home.

I think, but am not sure, that the major turning point for both Olivia and Henry came when she accidentally said “Frank” instead of “Peter.” It’s a sign that the memory-changes the Fringe Division is making are working. Henry caught her slip, and I think it pushed him over the fence into the realm of belief—and that’s why he followed her. But what I’m more interested in, at least at this very moment, is how Olivia herself reacted to it.

Olivia’s encounter with her mother, besides making me cry, was her personal turning point. She had realized her memories and skills (like sharp-shooting) were being altered. Lincoln Lee told her she couldn’t keep running, and she’d exhausted all the ways she knew of getting home. When she began to remember her mother’s home, her childhood home, and specific events in it, did she become Fauxlivia? Or did she realize that she could access both sets of memories (Fauxlivia’s implanted ones, and her own “real” ones) and begin to play the game?

I hope it’s the latter. I want Olivia to still be Olivia, fighting the good fight from inside the belly of the beast. Her conversation with Alterna-Francis, after her epiphany in her mother’s house, was a little off. It took her longer to laugh at his jokes than it normally would. Just shock, or something more?

Things Are Getting Weirder and Weirder All The Time:

• Henry made the “fist of power” at Olivia, which was also used on the protester’s signs outside of the newly-ambered opera house. Is he part of the resistance against the Fringe Division and DoD? How active is the resistance?

• So many great details about Over There, all of which are catalogued on other sites. So I’ll just mention that Fringe has taught me that those big bicycle things are called “penny farthings”; the longest-running show on Broadway is called Dogs (sorry, T.S. Eliot); and JFK is still alive and politically active, which seems impossible, as he was born in 1917. Maybe it’s John F. Kennedy, Jr., who passed away in 1999 Over Here.

• No Massive Dynamics Over There, but Brandon works for the DoD.

• It looks like the credits will be red for Over There episodes and blue for Over Here episodes.

• Just a few minutes of Walter, Peter, and Fauxlivia. But we’ll get more of them this week. How long will this go on? It’s very interesting.

• It was implied that Henry’s daughter had died. Something Fringe-related?

• Beautiful imagery throughout, especially of reflections. I pondered calling Fauxlivia "Aivilo," but it sounds too much like an Italian pasta dish.

This was a great, understated episode (except for the exploding propane tank, of course). Fabulous mythology building, but even better character development.

Three and a half out of four penny-farthings.

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


  1. Lovely review as always, Josie. I really liked this episode as well. I thought it was so bold of the writers to introduce the new season arc with a character piece instead of the more standard X-Files-type mythology craziness.

    I also thought Anna Torv was spectacular and completely shamed Eliza Dushku in the way she played the whole memory/identity brain conflict.

    One thing, though. I don't think Jamie Foxx could ever be accused of playing a Magical Negro in Collateral. He's very much the hero in the movie, and in no way does he arbitrarily dedicate himself to aiding Tom Cruise's white character (the villain) in his journey, which is sort of what defines the Magical Negro, not just the race differences. A better example might have been Will Smith in The Legend of Bagger Vance or, if you want to keep the car motif, Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy.

    Anyway, interesting thoughts about Olivia faking her assimilation. That never even occurred to me.

  2. I spent the entire episode saying, Come on, Olivia! Fake it and go undercover! So that's what I'm hoping she is doing.

    Penny-farthings! I had no idea that's what they're called. They're the symbol of the show The Prisoner.

    Lovely to see Andre Royo looking so handsome. He always (understandably) looked so scruffy in The Wire.

  3. Fringe started out an average procedural in season 1, it got good and then very good at the end of season 1. The beginning of season 2 was good/very good with some missteps on the way, but ever since the Jacksonville/Peter two-parter the show has been spectacular.

    Season 3 promises to be even better. I like the new credits for alternate universe eps. I just hope Ourlivia i faking it, because it would be really tragic to lose her.

  4. Bubbles! Totally loved seeing Andre Royo as Henry the Cab Driver. I especially loved how he came around to believing Olivia, and even hung around at her mother's house to see how she made out.

    I'm also quite glad Lincoln Lee is back. I like having a second person for Olivia to bounce off besides Charlie. Plus, his slow recovery from his horrific burns is grotesquely fascinating.

  5. Just tore through the first 2 seasons, and I'm up to this point already. This was one of the greatest episodes the show has put out. I'm really hoping Olivia is infiltrating as well and not actually falling prey to Walternate's meddling.

    Gah, major Francie doppelganger vibes from this plot anyone?


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