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Fringe: Entrada

“It's like nothing ever happened.”

After a great deal of action in two separate universes, we’re left with sadness: Olivia has to try to fit into a world that has changed; Fauxlivia has to fit into a world that doesn’t know she has changed—or even been gone.

There’s been some speculation that, someday, we would get purple credits: a mixture of the blue and red that demarcate the differences between Over Here and Over There. We haven’t reached that point (Will we? Who knows?), but we did get the alternating credits that signaled two stories…well, sort of. Really, this is one story told in two places. Despite Lincoln Lee’s likability, Charlie Francis’s welcome return, and Walternate’s Shakespearean vengeance, for me our heroes are still the original Scooby gang: Olivia, Peter, Walter, Astrid, Broyles. I’m on their side in the battle, if that’s what it comes down to. And Fauxlivia still freaks me out.

She’s fascinating, sure. But she’s cold-hearted. On the one hand, I understand that she’s just doing her job. On the other hand: hasn’t she realized yet that the Over Here folks are not intentionally waging war against her people? Wouldn’t that affect her willingness to treat “us” like sock puppets in her vengeance mission? Fauxlivia’s “vagenda” (which I assume is using a vagina to further one’s own agenda) was based on the assumption that she was fighting a war, and that her side was right. We didn’t see her character change much at all—even her handcuffed lie to Peter felt like a vagenda, not honesty.

Perhaps Fauxlivia will start to have second thoughts as she attempts to reintegrate Over There. Our Olivia, though, was already broken before she made her final crossing. At first, I wasn’t sure how Olivia could be so ruined so quickly—but it makes sense: she was so very close last week, and was ripped from her home. She was sobbing and begging from the trauma of loss.

But as Thomas Wolfe says: “You can’t go home again.” Home isn’t the same once you’ve left it. For Olivia, it won’t just be a matter of perception, either. Her work-family is substantially different, especially Peter. And, while Olivia’s relationship with her FauxMom hasn’t been a major plot point, it’s gotta hurt to lose her mother twice. (Once is a tragedy; twice just seems like carelessness.)

She did get off lucky, I guess. Lab guy Brandon’s ability to see Olivia as nothing more than replaceable mass made me shudder. I have a hard time with anchovies in a tin, so treating people like dehumanized mass really isn’t my thing. Over There, they’ve got a pretty sophisticated rhetoric surrounding their enemies: on the one hand, they’re evil masterminds capable of mass destruction. On the other hand, their lives are as meaningless as rocks. It’s doublethink at its finest, and it is what has allowed Walternate to gain such power.

The power of that rhetoric, that basic Over There concept of hatred and self-defense, is what made Broyles’s decision so striking. Again, this puzzled me at first. Olivia helped him: why wouldn’t he return the favor? Because he believes so firmly in the war that he imagines he is fighting. Altering his way of thinking is akin to me changing my belief that gender is an important component of identity—a radical re-conceptualization of the universe. While I’ve consistently been impressed with Fringe’s world-building, the true force of it didn’t hit me until this episode: these people have a fundamentally different way of looking at the world than we do, a way that includes a lot less doubt and a lot more fear. Almost all of it created by Walternate.

Will we see him again? Will the Over Here shapeshifters have more tasks to do, and more coffee to enjoy? Will Walternate continue his scheming? How will Olivia react to Peter’s relationship with her double? Is she even okay? Does Peter need a hug? I don’t know, and every time I theorize about this show, I get it completely wrong. But I still love it.

There May Be Something I Haven’t Thought Of Yet:

• Vagenda. Is this a word that everyone knew about but me? I plan to use it as often as possible in the future.

• Peter wasn’t overly smiley in that photobooth picture, was he?

• The laptop switcheroo was Peter doing to Fauxlivia exactly what she’d done to him.

• Walter tried to cover for Peter. So charming!

• Olivia’s reaction to the prospect of adrenalin was hilarious.

• When a shapeshifter takes on a person’s form, doesn’t that person die? I thought I saw the restroom victim in the background when Peter was talking to Fauxlivia.

• Poor Other Broyles. Oh, god: and his poor family.

• Peter: “I guess answers are where you draw the line.”

• Walter: “In the 70s, I innocently wandered into the wrong house, and it was three days before I realized my mistake. And unlike Olivia, the woman with whom I was sharing my bed didn’t look like my wife at all.”

• Brandon: “We just have to replace her mass.”

• Walter: “She used my stomach to get to my heart.” Like evil laparoscopic vagenda surgery.

• Peter: “That would be so much easier to believe if you weren’t in handcuffs right now.”

I’m surprised this wasn’t the mid-season ender, because on a scale of one to ten, this was a tequila hangover episode, aka:

Four out of four vagendas.

(Thanks for your patience with this incredible late review. I could manufacture a really good excuse involving anchovies, vagendas, and pastries bigger than Walter’s head, but really it was just one of those weeks.)

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


  1. Josie, if I were you I'd patent "evil laparoscopic vagenda surgery" before it catches on.

    Fringe has never been better. This season so far has been flawless and this epiosode was a perfect culmination. The plot threads converged nicely and the acting is superb. How I love it!

    The constant fear the other side lives in could be applied to the American reaction to 9/11 (heightened a bit, of course). Not to make light of it, but most Americans think muslins are evil and are the menace. This is particularly applicable if you consider the WTC still exists Over There. And it's well presented because it's still very much in the gray area.

    Olivia's newly acquired masksmanship skills will sure be handy on the next missions. And I think it'll be decisive at some point.

  2. Gustavo (or should we call you Gus now?),

    I'd thought of that when writing my review--luckily, I'm surrounded by fairly liberal people, so it's easy for me to forget that many people in the US and elsewhere do dehumanize the enemy. I like to think most people anywhere wouldn't describe their enemies in terms of "mass," but I suppose anything is possible.

    Your comment did make me wonder if the credits are an allegory for the "blue states" (Democrat or liberal) and the "red states" (Republican, Tea Party, or conservative).

    I will patent the ELVS (pronounced "Elvis") as soon as possible. In the meantime, I hope to work it naturally into all of my future reviews.

  3. While I was not surprised that Fauxlivia used vagenda strategies (she just joins a long list of JJ female villains that unfailingly resort to it - Anna Espanosa, fauxFrancie, Lauren, the Derevkhos, etc), I was bitterly dissapointed. Like you, I found her a flat, two-dimensional, almost cartoonish villain, with no sense of reflection, no growth, no element of anything that would make us even come close to understanding the kind of woman that would inspire such friendship in alt!Charlie and alt!Lincoln, etc. S3 would have been so much stronger if instead of an evil!Olivia caricature, the show-runners had presented us with a not-so-different-after-all, if slightly more ruthless person with, you know, a bit of sense, that would have realized that this supposed war to destroy her world only seemed to be happening in the mind of Walternate. And while it might have made the shippers angsty, it would have been interesting to see fauxLivia actually being the kind of person that Peter would fall for, on her own merit, not some two-bit vagenda creep.

    Like I said, I'm not surprised. This show comes from the same guy that makes evil!female!agent synonymous with whore. I just hoped that things might have changed for the better.

  4. Another outstanding episode.

    The moment that will stay with me is the realisation that poor Other-Broyles had several limbs removed (post-mortem, I hope) because his mass was significantly greater than Bolvia's. Of course it also had the additional 'bonus' of sending our Scoobies a very clear message.

    Grim indeed.

  5. Gus, I realize you were making a serious point and that this is just a typo, but your comment that most Americans think "muslins" (which is a garment made from a specific type of fabric) are evil just cracked me up. Thanks for the shot of unintentional humor in my morning.

    And, Josie, your fascination with and repeated use of the term "vagenda" gave me a good laugh, too. I'm not sure this is a word that was in common usage prior to this episode, because I've seen amused "I love this new word!" reactions in other reviews and comments.

    I stopped watching Fringe a long time ago, but continue to follow reviews and commentary on it. It sounds like it has become the kind of show I would love, and I sort of wish I had stuck with it. Maybe I'll revisit it someday.

  6. Jess, it was not a typo, it was a misspell. Didn't check it. And my point was kind of serious, but I wasn't trying to raise a flag, just to comment on it. And you should revisit Fringe, it's become one of the best series on tv ths year. If you watch the ep "Peter" you'll see how good this show can be.

    Josie, I'm not so exposed to the parties, so I'd never have thought about the colors in the opening sequence. If so, they were much more critical than I'd thought, since the "Over There" world is represented in red. But I don't know if they'd go as far as that, because that would be to make general assumptions about a whole group, and it's kind of the opposite they want to show with the series.

    moonspinner, I couldn't disagree more with you. There were several moments where you could see Fauxlivia doubting her cause, mostly because she got involved with Peter. And I'm sure she ended up having feelings for him. She was planning on taking the photos with her. But she was also a soldier, and a loyal one. And imagine all the brainwashing that she suffered, living Over There since she was born.

  7. Interesting review, Josie. We have very different ways of looking at Fringe, even though we both seem to be enjoying the show immensely. (Jess, just based on your Sarah Connor Chronicles reviews, I think you'd absolutely love it.)

    I definitely think Fauxlivia was telling the truth about starting to love Peter when she was in handcuffs. As Gustavo pointed out, that's what the photos in her backpack were meant to indicate, I think. Plus, they've subtlety building toward it all season long with the scene in the restaurant washroom, etc. I think we're heading toward a very weird love triangle.

    I don't think the color of the credits are meant to represent anything political. For one, they were blue from the beginning of the series, weren't they? Though, in fairness, as I'm not American, the level of animosity each party has for the other is completely alien to me, so maybe the idea of portraying one side as "out to destroy the world" doesn't feel as silly to Fringe's target audience as it does to me.

    As an aside, I don't think the idea of spies using their sexuality to get what they want is anything new. J.J. Abrams may just be following an old trope of the genre. What I find intriguing is that when James Bond does it (in recent movies like Casino Royale even), everybody calls him a stud, but when female spies like Fauxlivia do it, they're somehow whores. Why can't she be just someone who relates to her sexuality in a similar way as James Bond? Actually, why is the word "whore" even used so liberally anymore? To me, it's a word that stinks of double standard and sexual repression.

    In other words, maybe the problem lies with the way viewers (and Western society) interpret these characters, not with the way they're written.

    Note: I just realised this may come off like I'm singling you out, Moonspinner. I'm not. Everybody and their grandmother use the word "whore", and my objection to the double standard it brings up is pretty much universal. You just touched on an interesting subject, and I ran with it.

  8. I guess I'm going to have to change my "maybe" I'll revisit the show someday, to "Yes, I will revisit it." I just don't know when. :)

    I agree with Dimitri about the word "whore." To me, whore is a coarse word for prostitute and I hate the way people use it to describe someone who is deemed "slutty" or "bitchy." They don't mean the same thing at all. If you want to call Trixie from 'Deadwood' a whore, fine. That's what she was. But to call any woman who's sexually aggressive a whore is overly harsh, if you ask me.

    Of course, someone seducing men to achieve advantage in political or war games may rightly be considered a whore. She is effectively "selling" her body (assuming spies get paid). The target just doesn't know it. Actually, given the degree of emotional manipulation involved, whore may be too kind a word for ladies like Fauxlivia and Irina Derevko. Despite the emotional price they themselves seem to pay.

  9. Ditto, on the "whore" discution, Dimitri and Jess. And I'd say more: Fauxlivia is not a whore at all because she was not doing it for the money, but for patriotism... or universism, or whatever it is.

    Josie, I forgot to say something: you can call Gus or Gustavo, whatever suits you better. I just changed browsers and the auto-complete got different. But when I'm in an English speaking environment (like, at work every day) people call me Gus.

  10. "S3 would have been so much stronger if instead of an evil!Olivia caricature, the show-runners had presented us with a not-so-different-after-all, if slightly more ruthless person with, you know, a bit of sense, that would have realized that this supposed war to destroy her world only seemed to be happening in the mind of Walternate."

    Not while she was in-country. What we learned of BOlivia's nature was really through the portrayal on the other side, until Olivia's real personality broke through. I also think we will see more, in snippets, as the season progresses. They're not done with the other side, though we won't see whole episodes set there any longer.

    If you put Olivia in hostile territory with tasks to accomplish that required ruthlessness, I don't think she'd blink. She would try to avoid "collateral damage" but would accept it if unavoidable. We won't see her show any sympathy for the soldier she shot in OT1; it was self-defense, but she was the invader. Using sex if she needed? I'm not sure any longer; in S1 I'd have said yes.

  11. What I find intriguing is that when James Bond does it (in recent movies like Casino Royale even), everybody calls him a stud, but when female spies like Fauxlivia do it, they're somehow whores.

    In other words, maybe the problem lies with the way viewers (and Western society) interpret these characters, not with the way they're written.

    Where is the room for interpretation when words like ‘vagenda’ are introduced in the narrative? Or when the story codes the ‘Good Girl Spies Only Go So Far’ while ‘Bad Girl Spies Go All The Way’?

    The closest female James Bond equivalent we have in JJ’s spy-verse is Sydney Bristow but regardless of how sexily she dresses up, she’s never had to sleep with a man as part of her cover. The closest we got to a Sydney who went all the way was in S3 with that Simon character – and even then, it was just heavy necking – and this was with a man she had already been in a relationship with. Heck, Sydney was actually outraged that a Mack had licked her face. :P The same goes for Nadia Santos and Olivia Dunham. Does Olivia even get to make out with Fauxlivia’s live-in boyfriend?
    Contrast this against: Lauren Reed, Irina Drevekho, Faux-Francie, FauxLivia. All have sex as a major part of their mission directive.

    There were several moments where you could see Fauxlivia doubting her cause, mostly because she got involved with Peter. And I'm sure she ended up having feelings for him. She was planning on taking the photos with her.

    Honestly, I lost interest in FRINGE this season when the first episodes kept making Fauxlivia so unsympathetic. Since this happened, I will give the show another try.

  12. Hi Moonspinner,

    Interesting points. I think we're approaching this from completely different angles because I don't see Fauxlivia as a villain.

    As such, I was considering Fauxlivia the equivalent to James Bond. He sleeps with, well, everybody and their mothers to get information, etc. She sleeps with Peter to spread misinformation, etc. To me, there's no difference. They're both heroes using all their assets to save the free world, just not the same world.

    It's worth noting as well that they're spies. They have license to kill to get the job done, so I don't know why seduction is seen as such a crime. I'd rather get seduced (and some one-sided whoopie) than get killed.

    As for Walter being upset over it, well, he did just experience a major betrayal. Wouldn't you be mad? If I recall, Bond girls often get mad at James for his promiscuity, as does Q. Rightfully so. But somehow we forgive James Bond. I'm suggesting we might afford the same courtesy to Fauxlivia.

  13. Why was it that the fourth crossover worked and Olivia was not yanked back like in previous three attempts?

    Granted, she had Alterna-Cortexiphan, but she also had lot less time, much poorer sensory deprivation tank and an ad-hoc saline.

  14. Poor alternate Broyles. That was awful. He was a very good man, just like our Broyles. I sort of see him as a combination of Broyles and the character he played on The Wire.

    Hey, to join in the "vagenda" discussion (great word), I thought Peter suspected Fauxlivia and was sleeping with her in order to get closer and find out for sure. I'd hardly jump all over Fauxlivia for doing the same thing. Although I also got the vibe that she was being serious about having feelings for Peter and that she wouldn't have slept with him if she hadn't.

  15. I do find the removal of Fauxlivia's boyfriend from the narrative to be intentional so that our Olivia woldn't have to sleep with "the enemy".

    Back to the plot: what about the Vacuum device. Is Walternate trying to find the pieces that are missing OverThere from our version of the machine, or is he trying to comple a machine that existed only on our side? My thoery is still that the machine was used long ago to cross over from Here to There and that's why it's in pieces.

  16. (Obviously *now* is when I'm finally catching up with this series.)

    Fantastic episode! I find that I'm completely invested in both universes now --- despite not liking Fauxlivia very much --- and I was absolutely devastated by Col. Broyles's death. And what they did to him, to make the mass exchange right, was horrific.

    Our final moments in Over There, with Astrid worrying about the Colonel, just wrecked me. He was a good leader, a good father, and a good man. All the Alt-Fringe folks care about each other, and are just trying to protect their world. Even Fauxlivia. I hate that it cost the Colonel his life to do right by Olivia. And I hope that she IS able to make his sacrifice worth it.


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