“Fringe”: In Which We Meet Mr. Jones

Posted by SH

Well, between presidential debates and elections, and the occasional rerun, it’s been awhile since we investigated the Pattern. What a treat then to return with a show that shakes up what has become the standard Fringe formula over its first few episodes. We don’t start with some far-flung incident involving random people, although it seems that way at first.

A team of SWAT-type dudes is searching for something at a port in Germany, but comes up empty. Cut to Broyles’ office where the SWAT-type leader, Agent Loeb, is reporting to his boss that they didn’t find anything, when all of a sudden he begins convulsing and is rushed to the hospital. The doctors cut him open and find a nasty parasite clutching his heart. At first I thought it looked like a Venus Flytrap wrapped around his ticker, but later it reveals itself to be more worm-like. Either way, it’s nothing your average cardiologist could fix.

Good thing Walter Bishop is around. And no, this isn’t a progression of some shadowy experiment he worked on in the ’70s; this is something he’s never seen before. And he’s very excited about figuring it out, if he could just get a piece of gum! The first break in the case is brought forth by Agent Loeb’s wife (played by notable character actress Trini Alvarado, which suggests right off that this isn’t a throwaway role), who gives Olivia a piece of paper with a bunch of numbers on it. The numbers turn out to match a batch of case files worked on by people all at the same FBI office — Olivia’s old office, where she and John used to roam. But the info involved would have required a higher security clearance than John had, seemingly eliminating the most likely culprit. This plays as a red herring for this particular episode, but is set up to be important in the long run.

Olivia has to hop a plane to Germany to talk with the man who might know something about how to remove the parasite, but the authorities there are loath to let him talk with anyone. She somehow finesses the warden — probably by speaking a little deutsche, and maybe because she looks like Anna Torv — into setting up a meeting. But the doctor himself — the Mr. Jones of the episode title — also has a stipulation. He wants to talk with an old associate of his and ask a question. This would be Mr. Smith. The same Mr. Smith who is gunned down in a raid by Broyles’ squad. Shot in the head. Oops. But Walter figures out a way to get the information from the deceased, and it again involves putting his son in an uncomfortable situation. They hook up their brains electronically, give them both shocks and apparently Peter will be able to see the man’s brain waves in response to whatever question is asked.

This is the first instance I can recall when I noticed Fringe getting a little lazy in its wacko science. We’ve seen the dead-man interrogation before, way back in the pilot, but the method was entirely different. There isn’t even much of a cursory explanation here; they just strap him in and get to it.

While Olivia waits on Peter and Walter to get it right, she meets an old associate/boyfriend named Lucas (Billy Burke) in Germany. Apparently he broke it off and now regrets it. She doesn’t seem too worried about it, but she does give in to a little make-out session before thanking him for his “kind words” and heading back to the hotel.

Olivia is told she has only 14 minutes for the interrogation of Mr. Jones, and that Peter, Walter and Astrid are still trying to perfect their communication with the dead man. Jared Harris gets some admirable sneering and ambiguity in as Jones, intimating that he doesn’t necessarily want to go free, and that he is not the one who created the parasite. His question for Mr. Smith: Where does the gentlemen live? The answer: Little Hill. OK, then.

He gives Olivia the formula to cure Agent Loeb and everybody lives to fight another day.

But Fringe never lets you off that easy. As Loeb and his wife are reunited at the hospital, he waits till everyone is out of sight, then asks, “Did it work?” She says yes, and tells him about Little Hill. Have no idea what any of this means, but it’s a testament to the show that I want to find out.

Amid all the crazy plots, the interplay between Peter and Walter has grown pretty strong, managing to move beyond the simple idea of Peter rolling his eyes every time his dad asks about cotton candy. He lashes out at Broyles, sick of the idea that people think he can control his father. Walter, meanwhile, gives hints that he wants to be better for his son, but perhaps he’s just not capable. A tender moment arises, ironically, while Walter is torturing Peter in service of communicating with the dead man. In his drugged state, Peter stares glassy-eyed up at his father, smiles and whimpers, “Daddy.” You can practically see the old man’s heart grow three sizes.

Less heartfelt but just as important: Walter’s continued mangling of Astrid’s name. This week, he called her Astro and Asteroid. And The Observer made another appearance, at the airport in Frankfurt as Olivia was getting off the plane.

Been meaning to pass this on for a while: This fan site is pretty extensive.