By Stacey Harrison
So there’s this guy Bob, a smooth-talking British cad who whispers sweet nothings to his faraway girlfriend over the phone as he prepares to walk into a club and prey upon that night’s conquest. Given that this is Fringe, you might expect Bob to be a serial killer, or perhaps possess wings, but there’s an even better surprise awaiting. Once Bob finds a suitable lady friend — one with impossibly blue eyes (that should be a hint that something’s wrong) — the tables turn. As does Bob’s head, doing a complete 180 as the gal twists his neck as though she were unscrewing a lid.
As she gets the call to action, Olivia shares a humorous encounter with her sister as they entertain a couple from “Two Singles Together,” which puts people in a relationship where they still maintain almost total independence — separate vacations, separate birthday parties for their children, etc. So what’s the point? Olivia asks. That seems to stump them. But the fun stops when Rachel gets a call saying her husband is filing for divorce. Honestly, I forgot she was married. I kinda had it in my head the last few episodes that the dad was no longer in the picture.
When Olivia and the Bishops find Bob, the back of his neck has been torn apart, exposing his spine. Walter insists the markings indicate that a human being did this, impossible as it seems. Further testing shows that the attacker carried a strain of syphilis that has been extinct for 10 years. The only way to get it is if you’re a legit scientist wanting to conduct experiments. Even then, you have to go through a government agency. So the team finds a likely suspect who not only had requested the disease, but also has ties to Z.F.T. When they storm the “office” of his multi-national corporation, it turns out to be just a guy in a split-level. There are all sorts of animals spread around the place with their spines exposed like Bob’s was.
Once in the interrogation room, the scientist, Nicholas Boone, says he will tell them whatever they want to know if they will retrieve his wife for him. He says she is being held hostage by Z.F.T. as punishment for his leaving the group. He sends them to a Chinese restaurant where she is supposedly being held, but a raid turns up nothing. When Broyles confronts Boone about it, he says that he knows she isn’t there, and that he must talk to Olivia immediately. He says what he really needs there is a chemical in order to make an antidote for the condition that is forcing the killer to feed. He also reveals that the killer is his wife.
That’s not all he’s hiding. A three-week-old videotape found at his home shows he and his wife frolicking around enjoying the day. Problem is, today Boone is in a wheelchair. He says that he was using his own spinal fluid to satiate his wife’s urges, and that the only reason she is killing is because she needs to feed or she will die. That is the true punishment handed out by Z.F.T., once Boone decided to leave after he realized the horrific scope of the experiments he’d been doing for them. It’s stuff we’ve seen before, including the nasty tissue-growth formula that covers all your orifices and suffocates you. Yeah, how could you see that being used for ill?
We see the wife, Natalie, claim another victim, this time baring freakishly long teeth when she goes in for the kill. I wondered a lot while watching this episode what she did when she wasn’t stalking people. Does she just sit around all day, waiting until she needs more spinal fluid, at which time she gets all dressed up to go to the same club and pick out another unlucky Lothario? According to her husband, she’s so messed up that she wouldn’t even recognize him, but other than seeming a bit distracted, she doesn’t appear to be too crazy.
Peter uses his always-convenient underground connections to find the final resting place of Bob’s car, thanks to a buddy he knows at a chop shop. The clearing by the river also functions as Natalie’s dumping ground, where they find the other victim.
Things get really good when Boone and Walter work together in the Fringe lab to create an antidote. As mad scientists united, they swap stories of crazy experiments and discuss whether their theoretical souls can be redeemed. It’s nice to see Walter trade quips with someone more on equal footing with him, and it only whets the appetite until we finally see William Bell. Their first attempt at an antidote fails (poor little mouse), but Boone thinks he knows what’s missing. The formula must include his own spinal fluid, so it will be compatible with his wife’s intake. Or something. He assures Walter they can take just enough so it won’t harm him.
Meanwhile, Peter and Olivia head to the nightclub where they’ve tracked Natalie (thanks to some cunning detective work by Astrid), armed with a sensor to detect anyone whose body temperature runs a little warm, say 105 degrees. They trail her, but she eludes them outside, only to be tranked out of her mind by Charlie and a gaggle of G-men. But it’s not quite enough to keep her out for the whole car ride to the lab, as Olivia finds out in a close encounter. Natalie bares her fangs, only to have Peter re-trank her just in time.
When they get to the lab, they see that Boone has had a stroke brought on by the spinal fluid loss. He told Walter the incorrect dosage, knowing that it was what was needed to save his wife. And it does work, as her beautiful but feral blue eyes return to their normal color. Seeing he has succeeded, Boone passes away. But he has kept his part of the bargain, and made a videotape telling Olivia all he knows about Z.F.T. The juiciest morsel is that the brains and money behind it are none other than William Bell.
There were some delightfully playful moments mixed in with all the tension, the best being Olivia’s taking a phone call from her distraught sister while in a van with federal agents on their way to a raid. While her sister is in crisis, revealing that the husband is seeking full custody of Ella, Olivia must maintain her professionalism, and ends the call saying she has to go to a … “meeting.”
Then there’s Peter’s experience in the club, walking around with an awkward-looking heat sensor. A party girl comes up to him and asks what it is, he says, “It tells me if you’re hot.” She laughs and asks if she is. He says yeah, but “I’m looking for somebody with syphilis.”
©2009 Fox Broadcasting Co. Credit: Barbara Nitke/FOX