In Pennsylvania, a construction worker is drawn toward a strange object in a cornfield. It’s a pile of blue liquid, and as he bends down to inspect it, it reaches up and grabs him, pulling him underneath the earth, giving this episode one of the better BOO! moments of the series. He later wakes up in a tunnel and finds his leg all messed up, and a strange, Gollum-like creature coming at him, about to finish what it started.
Olivia is released from the hospital just in time to benefit from Peter’s newfound clout with the Fringe Division. He’s taken it upon himself to research similar cases to Olivia’s disappearance and comes across the Pennsylvania town where apparently six — now seven — people have vanished seemingly into thin air.
Before they leave, with Broyles’ approval, Walter hits Olivia with his theory that she visited another universe, about to go through another explanation of string theory before she cuts him off. She believes she went somewhere, and met with someone, but is still fuzzy on the details. In a nice moment between the two, made all the more poignant because Olivia is not aware of all that is behind it, Walter quivers his lip as he tells her he doesn’t know what he would have done had she not survived.
During their investigation, they come across a skeptical sheriff played by Charles Martin Smith (The Untouchables, American Graffiti). He’s confused as to why the FBI is so interested in his county’s disappearances, but softens somewhat after Peter is able to speak competently about one of the sheriff’s favorite subjects: fishing lures. While in his office, Olivia experiences heightened senses, hearing and seemingly feeling every movement of a nearby fly buzzing around.
The only lead they get in the early going is a man who visited many of the victims’ families soon after the disappearances. The man, Hughes, seems genial enough — though just before this we are clued off to him being intimately aware of the underground tunnel and the murderous goings-on that occur there — but Olivia’s new super senses convince her he is not being honest with them. She goes searching for the house, doesn’t really find anything, but is skittish enough that when Peter surprises her, she fires her gun, barely missing him. After they bring Hughes in for questioning, we learn that he used to be a doctor, and he explains that he visited the relatives to try to comfort them, since after losing his wife and son during childbirth, he could relate to their loss. He refuses to let them take a sample of his blood to test against evidence found at the latest scene.
Agent Jessup is called in to investigate the Hughes house more fully, and after investigating a Bible at his house with a news clipping and a consolation note from his pastor she concludes that Hughes may have killed the wife and son. So they dig up the bodies to see what they can find, and while the wife’s coffin contains the expected contents, the baby’s coffin is empty. And there is a hole in the ground directly underneath, as though something has dug its way out. They’d love to ask Hughes about all this, but he’s busy hanging himself back at the federal building.
Walter’s examination of Mrs. Hughes finds that she had a form of lupus that would have made it impossible for her to have children. Yet she did. The afterbirth is still inside her, in fact, and the reports indicate that the baby was not fully human. They conclude that Hughes altered his baby inside the womb so that he could survive, choosing incredibly resilient DNA from a scorpion and a mole. Cool.
Peter and Olivia head to the Hughes house to search for the boy creature, whom they believe is either in the house or under it, but they’re too late to help poor Sheriff Golightly, who gets sucked down into the ground before they arrive. They find him later in a tunnel attached to the house, torn to shreds. The scorpion-mole baby then chomps onto Olivia and drags her into the tunnel while Peter gives chase. They eventually fight him off, and then he’s done in after he digs too much and creates a sinkhole which sends Sheriff Golightly’s squad car right on top of him.
Oh, but you didn’t think we’d get through the episode without checking in with Evil Charlie, did you? Not while Kirk Acevedo has a few episodes on his contract, anyway. We saw him earlier heading into that vintage typewriter shop to inform his extra-dimensional bosses that the target trusts him completely and that he awaits their instructions. After dispatching the Hughes creature, Olivia is riding next to him in a car, talking about how she can’t remember what happened to her. He assures her they’ll figure it out together. Later, back at the typewriter, his bosses tell him he must help her remember.
Olivia, meanwhile, is completely unnerved by her heightened senses, enough so that she goes to see a man recommended by Nina Sharp. Not sure what he does, exactly, but she finds him at a dingy bowling alley in the form of character actor Kevin Corrigan. He tells her that she’s about to have some horrible headaches.
Odds and ends:
— Sheriff Golightly is too cool a name for a throwaway character. Same goes for Charles Martin Smith. Would’ve been nice to see more of him.
— Nina Sharp reveals to Olivia that she had cancer.
— Walter’s best line: “I plan to urinate in 23 minutes.”