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Fringe: 6995 KHz

“If you end up breaking the universe, this time it’s on your head.”

The Originals The First People existed long before dinosaurs. They conceived of time differently than we did, using a complex system of variable-length months to give order to their universe. They also discovered the vacuum cleaner. No, wait: The Vacuum, a device that has the power to create and destroy at the level of the Big Bang. No wonder they didn’t last long.

All of this information comes from our latest Text of Infinite Possibilities, penned by none other than Seamus Wiles, whose name is an anagram of Samuel Weiss. Remember Sam Weiss, the bowling-alley psychiatrist? Looks like his story is unfinished, which is wonderful. (Also wonderful: that I figured that anagram out on my own. I never figure out anagrams.)

Walternate knows about The Vacuum, which is buried in bits and pieces across the globe, except for the part that Peter brought back with him from Over There, and the guide that shows Peter with his eyes blazing out of his head. Luckily, our heroes already have those pieces. Olivia’s task was to clue out team into the locations of the pieces through a complex game of Clue that left many people amnesiacs and a small planeload dead.

“Number stations” were the first clue. They’ve always been broadcasting—were even broadcasting as Marconi invented the radio—but Walternate drew our heroes’ attention to them by causing so much death. (Well, that’s my theory. Walter’s theory is that the people died because they got close to figure out the code, which seems unlikely, as there’s just that one copy of Seamus Wiles’s book.) Astrid, channeling her over-there-self, broke the code through a combination of intelligence, stubbornness, and dumb luck. End Phase One, initiate Phase Two.

What an ominous phrase. This whole episode felt ominous, from Walter’s sudden cynicism to Peter blindly sleeping with the enemy—and even buying her U2 tickets, which registers an 11 on the cool boyfriend scale. Walter referred to Astrid as the Watson to his Holmes, and the process of deduction led our heroes down the path of scary doomsday. It feels like things are really coming to a head, and the previews for next week look like I’m not wrong.

Lots of information—this episode was mostly exposition—but I was still riveted throughout. In part, it was the joy of seeing Walter and Peter and even Astrid. Only seeing them in alternate weeks makes me appreciate them more. But the tone of playfulness really made me happy: not playfulness like one of those awesome bouncy houses at kids’ parties. Playfulness like puns, codes, tricks, and allusions.

For instance: The Seamus Wiles anagram. Joseph Feller as alternate Joseph Heller (writer of Catch-22, a popular Lost allusion, too). Astrid’s code as following a map of the world. The numbers, including 42, which is the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Puns. Bach, who embedded numerical games into many of his works. Oh, and the fabulous Kevin Weisman of Alias fame John Locking his way out the window by a con-woman. (I hope the shapeshifter didn’t shapeshift Marshall.)

Our Theme of the Week is that binaries sometimes resolve into just one thing. Walter is worried that Peter is turning into him, by working with the “virus,” as Nina said, to find the “vaccine.” Astrid is becoming more like her counterpart. Fauxlivia seems to be having doubts. Seamus Wiles and Sam Weiss are the same man. There was talk of magnets. If that is the theme, then what can we surmise about creation vs. destruction? Is it possible there’s a happy medium? Perhaps some sort of merge?

All in all, a strong episode. Lots of exposition nicely balanced by lots of fun. Lots of completely unbelievable things (like objects buried hundreds of years ago that are close enough to the surface of Jersey City to be dug up in a day) balanced by they neat way they fit into earlier mythology. And I do love a sense of impending doom.

I Have a Prescription:

• Pun of the Week Award: “I love U2.” It’s a play on “I love you, too” as well as “I love You 2.0.”

• Walter: “Ham radio enthusiasts? Maybe their brains were erased by the magnetic winds of the solar storm.”
Peter: “If it hadn’t happened four hours after sundown, you might be on to something.”

• Walter: “I knew my Jimi Hendrix wah-wah pedal would come in handy.”

• Walter: “I know what this woman is going through. To not recognize your life…”

• Markus: “Stamp collecting. Now there’s a hobby with dividends.”

• Peter: “If you don’t know anything, you can just say that.”

• Walter: “Now I have bookends.”

• Walter: “If I’d known you were coming, I’d have baked a cake.”
Nina: “Mm.”
Astrid: “He means that. Literally.”

• Walter: “It’s the key to the universe! It’s a secret worth protecting!”

• Walter: “Of course, the chips are just because I like food that crunches.”

• Nina told Olivia that she is “usually more direct with Walter.” Her tone was curious: does she know that Olivia is really Fauxlivia? But Fauxlivia doesn’t know that she knows?

• Astrid looks better without lipstick.

Four out of four bookends.

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

8 comments:

  1. Peter's hope, at the end, that destruction wasn't the only choice, was something I've been expecting. Glad to see it.

    The second tier of characters are coming into their own. Nina brings Walter around. Astrid gets something to do that plays to her strengths. (Next, researching the symbols on the boxes?) Broyles has been more involved, too, looking over Peter's shoulder at the plans. (I've never been sure if he's Army or Marines, but if he's an academy grad, he's probably an engineer of some sort.)

    Waiting for the boulder to fall on Peter's happiness.

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  2. I liked the episode, but something bothers me a lot.

    Why, oh, why would the First People be aware of the latitude/longitude system we have today? I could accept the latitude, since its reference point is the Equator line, and it's sort of the middle of the world really, though it's unlikely they'd divide the distance to the poles in the exact number of degrees we do. But it's totally idiotic to think the longitude would be the same. The reference point for longitude is the Greenwich line, and it's completely arbitrary. It could have been any other vertical line in the world. Do you realize how unlikely it'd be for them to divide the map horizontally BOTH in the same number of degrees AND from the same starting point as another culture with which they never had neither contact nor knowledge of?

    Good call on the anagram, Josie. I really hope it turns out to be true.

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  3. Gustavo: yes. I suppose I could argue that Astrid "translated" their system of longitude and latitude to our own, but that seems rather like translating mice into English. Live mice, not the word.

    Even though I'm wrong every single time I theorize about Fringe, my current theory is that, while the First People did bury stuff, it's Sam Weiss/Seamus Wiles who invented the fake calendar/map to clue our heroes into where the stuff is. He made up a new longitude/latitude system that did correspond to the present, with just enough obfuscation to make it seem like it could be the work of an ancient race. After all, his book is the only authority we have for the First People.

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  4. Again, I hope you're right. It would be incredibly cool. I'd also feel proud to be one of your readers.

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  5. Hum, I was also bothered by the location system, but your comment is an excellent explanation, Josie. Hope that's really it. (I hate it when TV shows assume metric and mathematic conventions are universal)

    Nice catch on the anagram indeed. I thought of Sam Weiss, but only because of the similar sound (and I've been expecting some revelation about him since his "older than he looks" comment).

    I'm still holding my judgment on the "First People". Since learning about the ancient machine I was kinda hoping for time-travel (it seemed more in keep to the rest of the show's mythology) and I'm afraid they'll pull a Rambaldi off of this (although I didn't mind it as a macguffin in the beginning of the series, I never thought it clicked with the rest of Alias)

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  6. I enjoyed all the Lost and Alias references. And I'm still hoping Peter realizes that something is off about Olivia. Come on. She smiles too much. She doesn't remember things. When someone knows that an evil double exists, they should notice these things immediately.

    The "First People"? Before dinosaurs? Really?

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  7. The first people probably are the ancestors of the alt-Fringe universe. They used the Vacuum to cross over, that's why they vanished. Also First People appeared on the intro to the season 2 finale which was the first time we crossed over from here to Over There.

    Nice one with Sam Weiss, i too hope it will be true. Professor Profesorsson should come back. :)

    Latitudes not only could have been calculated differently but also the continents were in different places before dinosaurs. But the Sam Weiss explanation is good enough to ignore this.

    When Atrid identified the first coordinate as Buenos Aires and then mentioned China my 1st thought: I think they found the Blessing. ;)

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  8. I'm not sure how I feel about this First People business. I rather liked the notion that this apocalyptic war between parallel worlds was caused by one man's personal apocalypse. Now we've got ancient peoples creating some kind of Doomsday Machine and making prophecies about Peter, and it is starting to feel less personal and more "out there."

    Although I did notice that the author of the First People book had the initials S.W. and immediately suspected a connection to Sam Weiss, who says he is older than he looks. I didn't notice it was an anagram though. Hmmm ... I guess I'm a little intrigued.

    My favorite part of this episode was Astrid "channeling her over-there-self" as you put it, Josie.

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