“Fringe” Recap: The Road Not Taken

By Stacey Harrison

Nothing like a little spontaneous combustion to start things off. Or at least that’s what it appears happened when a young woman bursts into flames in the middle of the street. There’s just one body, though Olivia sees two sets of charred remains. This is only the beginning of the weirdness for her. She later walks into Broyles office and has an entire conversation with him, convinced that he has rearranged his office, only to snap back into reality and see she has only walked into the room, which is unchanged, with Broyles nowhere in sight. 

Walter tells her it could be a case of deja vu, which stems from the choices we make in our everyday lives, and the ones we don’t. Instead of a straight line, our lives are actually lived in a branched pattern, with each choice we make striking off in a different direction. When we experience deja vu, we are essentially imagining the outcome of those other choices. Never heard it explained that way, but it makes for good TV, so whatever.

This all comes at an inopportune time for Olivia, as she and Charlie have been made head of a task force set to investigate the link between Z.F.T. and William Bell. Walter, meanwhile, is adamant that his old colleague Bell cannot be the monster who is funding these awful experiments. If only he could find the missing “ethics” chapter of the Z.F.T. manifesto, which he believes would put Bell in the clear. Nina Sharp pays Broyles a visit and tells him she would prefer the FBI not go digging into Massive Dynamic’s info. You know, national security and all.

Olivia is also dealing with more static from Harris, who orders her to undergo a psyche evaluation, a suggestion she essentially tells him to stuff somewhere far away from sunshine.

Dental records help identify the victim, and a search of her apartment turns up a check for $30,000 made out by a psychiatrist, Isaac Winters. A search of his office — which Olivia and Charlie break into after there is no answer — leads to a couple voice mails from the victim, saying she needs his help. Through more crazy Olivia visions, she learns that the victim had a twin, but by the time they reach her apartment, she has been kidnapped by Winters. They do, however, find an entire room charred beyond belief. This shifts Walter’s hypothesis from spontaneous combustion to pyrokinesis, or the ability to start fires with your mind. You know, like Firestarter. While it could be a pretty cool ability to have, if you can’t control it properly, you end up literally going up in flames.

Peter thinks he’ll be able to tell what happened by using a new project he’d been working on. While he was building it to preserve Walter’s old vinyl record collection, he believes it also could be used to record the sound in a room that has been imprinted on a pane of glass in the window. It reveals a struggle, and the sounds of a phone being dialed. Olivia holds up her phone, which copies the sounds of the tone to call whatever number the kidnapper did. In one of the better OH-NO! moments of the season, the answer on the other end is from Harris.

Olivia and Charlie tail Harris to an abandoned warehouse where the girl is being kept. They strap her down and try to see if she can control her powers. Olivia survives a quick shootout (in which someone besides Winters is also killed — can anyone tell me who?) and comes to the victim’s aid. But the door slams on her, and Harris is on the other side of the glass, lamenting that he doesn’t have a mustache he could be twirling at this oh-so-evil development. Olivia has the last laugh, however, by helping the girl to focus her firepower outside her body. The girl decides to focus on Harris, who lights up like Fourth of July.

I gotta say, the entire time this was happening, I thought it was one of Olivia’s coulda-been visions, and that any moment she was going to wake up and be waiting to enter an empty room. But no, this is apparently what really happened, though I’m not sure how they plan to explain Harris’ sudden disappearance.

There are bigger fish to fry, though, as Olivia confronts Walter and tells him that both of the twins are from Jacksonville and were also part of the drug testing that she and Nick Lane were part of when they were kids. Walter breaks down and insists he cannot remember everything. He does, however, rejoice when he finds that missing Z.F.T. ethics chapter among his old vinyl records. As he’s reading it, however, a mysterious visitor pops by and tells him it’s time to go. Well, when the Observer talks, you better listen. So off Walter goes, to who knows where.

Nina Sharp, meanwhile, has a surprise waiting for her when she gets home. Two masked gunman are there, and one shoots her point blank. The previews show her in a hospital bed, so it doesn’t look like she’s done for quite yet. Besides, death isn’t necessarily the end on Fringe.

It all sets up quite a season finale, in which we’ll finally get to see Leonard Nimoy as William Bell. Nimoy has hinted that Bell might not be the bad guy he’s been made out to be, and that he probably will recur next season.

Highlight: Clint Howard adds to his quirky resume by playing a conspiracy website nut holed away at his apartment. When Olivia and Peter ask him about his theories regarding William Bell and the weird stuff that’s been going on, he pretty much hits it right on the head. And then he starts going off about Star Trek stuff, which might play funnier in the future, but last night it just seemed like tacky synergy. They might as well have inserted a little “Go see J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, opening this Friday!” somewhere on the screen.

Photo: © 2009 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Craig Blankenhorn/FOX