By Stacey Harrison
It’s one thing to investigate the weird, unexplainable things that go on in the world, but what if they’re happening to you? That’s the dilemma facing Olivia in this whopper of an episode that sheds a lot of light on her past and how it is tied in with Walter’s — and I’m pretty sure it sets a record for most uses of the word “Cortexiphan.”
Unlike most episodes, Olivia pops up in the opening segment, which is usually reserved for the far-flung (OK, mostly Boston-area) events that propel the Fringe team into action. But there she is, pushing an innocent mommy in front of a subway while her toddler watches. Huh? Olivia then wakes up, in her own bed back in Boston, thinking it was just a nightmare. A very vivid nightmare, in which she remembers every detail and even every smell. Then she catches that news item about the mom in New York who committed suicide by jumping in front of a subway car, the very same mom from her dream. She persuades Broyles to let her investigate, but not telling him exactly why she’s so curious.
The surveillance tape reveals nothing, but that’s not enough to soothe Olivia’s nerves. She really feels like she killed that woman. Things get worse after another dream, in which a couple’s nice dinner at a restaurant turns suddenly violent as the wife flies into a jealous rage and stabs the husband repeatedly. Olivia is there, holding her hand, helping her plunge it into his belly. When she visits the woman at the hospital, where her husband is dying, the woman is distraught and unable to fathom what happened. All of a sudden, a jealous rage came over her, telling her that the husband was going to leave her, and she lost control. Olivia, not sure what to believe and hopped up on caffeine pills, even goes so far as to assure the woman it wasn’t her before Peter calms her down. She breaks down enough that she lets him hold her for a bit while she recuperates. It’s by far the most intimate these two have gotten, and it’s a good sign that it felt right. Of course, by the next scene, that all seems forgotten, but Fringe is a show that knows what’s important, and it has much bigger designs this go-round than a budding office romance.
Through a rough-and-tumble interview with the proprietor of the restaurant where the stabbing took place, Olivia comes away with her first lead. A man who witnessed this stabbing is also visible in the subway surveillance tape. Broyles is incredulous at this point (I’d say apoplectic, but Lance Reddick doesn’t do apoplectic), until Olivia comes clean about her experiences. She volunteers to be taken off the case, only to have Broyles put her in charge. Man, he’s a long way from the standard “I’ll have your badge!” police captain stereotype.
Through a description, they’re able to find a suspect. Nick Lane was a mental patient who, according to his doctor, could light up a room when he was happy, or bring it way down when he was depressed. He wasn’t violent, however. In fact, she termed him suicidal. This makes Walter believe that perhaps Nick is something of a reverse empath, who can spread his emotions like an infection. And when you’re angry or suicidal, that isn’t a good thing. But still, why is Olivia in his head? Further research points to Nick being about the same age as Olivia, from the same hometown and, most importantly, from the same experimental group they belonged to as children. And they both were treated with the mind-altering drug Cortexiphan. Walter insists that it was his old lab partner, William Bell, who administered the drug, and that he objected to such a thing. But he does remember that “whenever we experimented on children,” they often paired them up to keep them calm. Turns out Nick and Olivia were partners.
While Olivia is furious at the news, she also understands that this is a helpful development in that Walter can use their connection to find Nick. When Olivia is under hypnosis, she sees Nick — but we see her — going into a strip club and making a connection with a dancer. Never has there been a cheaper ploy at titillation than watching Olivia make out with a stripper, but it’s so blatantly gratuitous that it comes off as funny. And, OK, kinda hot. (Note: Check out the Hulu screen grab below for further gratuity.) They go back to Nick’s place, where they have relations (and Olivia moans in pleasure, making Walter, Peter and Astrid blush). But it’s not long before Nick starts to feel guilty and wish he were dead. This causes the dancer to break a glass and slit her throat with it.
When we finally catch up with Nick, he’s walking the streets and several people he passes immediately begin to follow him, like they’ve been caught in a tractor beam. Meanwhile, Olivia and the Feds are at Nick’s place, finding his stash of newspaper clippings and wall graffiti (“what has been written shall come to pass”) that reveal a very disturbed man. Some of his writings mirror that wacked-out manifesto about soldiers being recruited for a war between parallel dimensions (you know, the one Walter wrote).
Nick drags his dreary gang to the top of a skyscraper, and he’s poised to jump, taking all of them with him. Even an officer they sent to talk him down is now taking his place, ready for the plunge. Olivia braves her way up there, as Walter has said her connection to Nick should give her some immunity. Nick immediately recognizes “Olive,” and says he’s so grateful she finally heard him. He was calling to her apparently. And he said he’d been waiting so long to be “activated” for the war, but nothing ever happened. Until recently. That’s what got his deadly emotional virus spreading, and now he can’t take it anymore. He wants her to shoot him so he won’t hurt anyone else. She does shoot him, but only in the leg. The next time we see Nick (but surely not the last), he is in a drug-induced coma of indefinite length.
For the coda, Walter pulls out some old videotapes of the Cortexifan trials, where we see a little girl cowering in the corner, afraid of what she’s just done. We hear the unmistakable voice of Leonard Nimoy as William Bell, and that of a noticeably younger-sounding Walter. He moves toward the little girl, trying to reassure her. He calls her “Olive.”
Photo: © Fox Broadcasting Co. Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/FOX