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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Fringe: "Safe"
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Hey, gang–Noel is out being a movie critic somewhere (thinks he's all special with his screenings and his Best of lists and everything), so you're stuck with me as a guest reviewer tonight. Sorry about the late posting; between this and House, I am currently cursing my inability to halt the flow of time.

Nobody stops time in "Safe," but given Walter's proclivities, and the seemingly limitless ambitions of the people operating in and around the Pattern, I wouldn't be surprised if that came up eventually. This is a mythology episode to the bone; we get return appearances by Mr. Jones (aka, Creepy German Guy), the heartless Mr. Loeb, and more of Olivia and her gradual assimilation of John Scott's memories. That last bit turns out to be particularly important; by the end, everybody wants a crack at what's inside Olivia's head, and it's doubtful that the ones who finally nab her care much about keeping that "crack" metaphorical.


Getting ahead of myself, though. I'm not sure you'd call it a Freak-Meet (delightful phrase), but tonight's cold open was quite good, with Loeb and company breaking into the Pennsylvania Mutual Savings Bank with the help of that phasing machine Loeb perfected earlier in the season. Well, not quite perfected; it throws off surprising amounts of radiation, and once running, it only keeps a wall passable for a limited amount of time, which one of Loeb's crew learns to his misfortune. Loeb manages to get what they came for–a safe deposit box–but they leave a man behind; poor Raul Lugo, stuck mid-phase with a bullet in his head.

(Interesting that he survived long enough to need the bullet. Would he've died on his own without the headshot? Given what we know about Loeb, he doesn't seem like the mercy-killing kind.)

Olivia, Peter, and Walter get the call to investigate, and there's the usual banter: Walter is odd, Peter is sarcastic, and Olivia is practical. In the middle of chit-chat, Olivia IDs the corpse as someone she was in the Marines with; but when she takes the next step of tracking down the guy's widow, she finds that it wasn't her who knew Raul, but John Scott. Which has got to be a little disconcerting; John's been intruding on her consciousness for a while, but this is the first time he's gotten dug in deep enough for Olivia to mistake his memories for her own. Even Walter's perplexed.

The Mr. Wizard sessions this week are limited to Walter's demonstration on the science behind phasing; using an electric football game, a glass of rice, and a toy figure, he shows how by vibrating a seemingly solid substance (ie, the rice), that substance can be rearranged to allow an object to pass through. (I spent most of the hour trying to figure out how to work a Kitty Pryde joke in here, but I got nothing.) Interestingly, the investigations into how Loeb and his crew broke in to the bank are eventually thrown over for the more important question of what it was they took–the boxes were purchased 23 years ago, paid for in cash, with no way to trace their original owner. Given that Loeb was willing to spend as long as he did just to work out a way to steal those boxes, one can't help but be a little curious as to their contents.


The answer, or at least part of it, comes when Olivia and Peter talk a quick trip to a Cambridge bar. There to investigate Lugo–he was apparently a model citizen before he served in the Gulf War, and Olivia would like to know just what pushed him over the edge–the two end up hanging around, doing shots and trying to impress each other with card tricks. We learn Olivia has a head for numbers, and when she recites the numbers of the stolen safety deposit boxes (233, 377, 610), Peter recognizes them as a series that Walter says to himself before he goes to sleep. It's part of the Fibonacci Sequence, but what's really cool is that when they wake Walter up and ask him what it means, it makes Walter realize that the boxes were his.

Fringe is full of what you could call esoteric plotting; it throws out lots of hints, insinuations, and boxes of weird shit, and while it doesn't really explain everything immediately, it strings you long by promising that in time, all will be revealed. It's a tricky game to play, because the longer the tease, the greater the risk that the audience will lose faith. We're only half into the first season here, so trust is high, but it only goes far; one of the best ways to keep people invested is by grounding the story with a personal connection to the main characters. Having Walter be, in a way, the source of the current disturbance suddenly made everything that much more important. It changes the game.


By the end of "Safe," all three leads are tied in. Walter, through his invention of a transporting device designed to bring a doctor from the past to save his dying son; Peter, from his illness (and who wants to bet that suspiciously convenient illness, which lasted long enough to drive Walter to act but cleared up before he could actually test his invention, wasn't entirely natural?); and Olivia from those damn memories. Over at Massive Dynamic, Nina and her team are working to extract information from John's corpse and coming up empty handed–Olivia has what they need. Unfortunately for them (and her), she also has what Mr. Jones is looking for. The bank heists were his doing, and in the boxes, the pieces of Walter's transport machine; Jones makes his escape from prison (after killing his long suffering lawyer) by simply standing in the right corner at the right time, and Loeb already has the prize waiting for him. Olivia's been kidnapped because she knows something; maybe come January, we might be able to find out what.

Stray Observations:

—I loved the design on Walter's device. It looks like something you'd buy at L.L. Bean.


—Gotta love Walter and Peter out shopping for saws.

—Also, Walter's immediate assumption that Peter and Olivia want the hotel room to hook-up.


—Speaking of, she's pretty good at bar-flirting.

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