By Stacey Harrison
How long have you been wondering whether anything Fringe-worthy happened outside the greater Boston area? Sure, there have been the occasional sidetrips to New York, maybe Chicago, but for the most part, Fringe has kept the eerie action strictly in the Northeast. That finally changed when the division’s latest case took it to Seattle, which is convenient since they didn’t have to worry about a nice, sunny day spoiling the mood. Of course, the show did switch production this season from New York to Vancouver, so we might be seeing a few more shows set in the Pacific Northwest.
Before all that, though, we get another Fringe rarity, a prologue that starts with one of the main characters. Olivia heads back to the bowling alley, which apparently she can visit only when it’s dark out, to thank Sam for helping her recover her memories, and her ability to walk without a cane. He can tell right away something is wrong, and Olivia opens up about Charlie’s death. Sam then tells her he has another project for her, and that he hopes she has nothing against the color red. Hmm …
I’m always transfixed by the scenes with Sam, because I’m just not used to seeing Kevin Corrigan play such a nice-guy character. He’s either an unrepentant scumbag (Season 2 of Damages; Superbad) or one of dullest knives in the drawer (Big Fan). So to see him as a Mr. Miyagi-type guru is jarring, but so far effective.
Out in Seattle, a tightly wound business guy walks into a meeting with his boss, along the way seeing twisted demonic faces on everyone he passes. Kinda like the Scarecrow in Batman Begins. When he gets into the meeting room he sees the boss man with a big goat’s head and wastes no time in bashing the guy’s head in with his briefcase. As a couple of coworkers finally are able to hold him down, his eyes whir around in their sockets like some horror-movie freak. It’s enough to get the attention of Olivia and the Bishop boys, forcing Peter and Walter to wait a little longer before they unpack their belongings into their new home.
Olivia is able to interrogate the guy a little bit, and he tells her it felt like he was dreaming, and that the office was infiltrated by these demons. It doesn’t get any farther than that before he starts convulsing, then basically turns into an albino and dies. Walter examines the body and finds signs that point toward the death being caused by acute exhaustion, something only documented as having occurred in rats. But that’s about all the help Walter is willing to be, since Seattle creeps him out, what with its wet smell. It reminds him of the institution, so Peter arranges to have him fly home. The unlucky agent assigned to him is Agent Kashner, played by the dude who was Keith on Scrubs. Before it’s all said and done, he gets several helpings of Walter’s, uh, quirkiness.
Peter and Olivia talk to the dead man’s wife and find out he was a sleepwalker for a while, and that he had dreamed of demons, but he had recently been cured. This is especially interesting to Peter, who reveals that he had horrible nightmares as a child, and they didn’t stop until Walter helped him condition himself to not remember them. Then, they get the call that another incident has happened, this time a woman runs someone over in her car, and she reported seeing monsters before she also turned into an albino and died. Both bodies also have something else in common: an incision in the back of their scalp used to implant a computer chip in their brains that can be used to transmit signals and induce a dreamlike state.
Peter and Olivia go visit a sleep specialist in Seattle that Nina Sharp and Massive Dynamic say have been working on such chips. Dr. Nayak is surprisingly helpful — not the typical obstructionist witness you see in cop shows — saying that both of the killers/victims were patients of his participating in a clinical trial. They are but two of more than 80 who have the chip implanted. Making matters worse, the good doctor’s office has been ransacked and all his client data stolen, so the search is on to recover the names of the patients.
Broyles lets Olivia know that whoever took the client data had a password, but Dr. Nayak refuses to believe it was one of his people. That is, until he visits the scene of the next attack, where a waitress hacked up a cook after she thought she saw him frying up human body parts instead of filet mignon. Nayak starts to suspect his assistant, Zach, who made a cameo appearance earlier — and any perceptive viewer would suspect Zach as well, thanks to what Roger Ebert dubs the Law of Economy of Characters. Zach shuffles off the hook, though, and off this mortal coil, after someone offs him and leaves him in an armoire. While Peter and Olivia make this discovery, Dr. Nayak gets a threatening letter at his office telling him to stop talking to the Feds, lest he end up like poor Zach.
Thankfully, Walter has been doing his own research, having drugged Agent Kashner and testing the theory that the chip is used for mind control. On the contrary, it’s used to siphon off the dreams of whoever it’s attached to and sending them to whoever else is plugged in. The sensation is immensely pleasurable — Walter believes he’s high on LSD or mescaline during the procedure — and it has apparently developed into an addiction to the user. It puts the chip-wearer into a dreamlike state, which causes the paranoia and homicidal behavior, and doesn’t allow the brain to enter the all-important REM state that actually recharges the brain, leading to the exhaustion-related deaths. Olivia, thanks to her evil alcoholic stepdad (remember him?), relates this behavior to a Jekyll-and-Hyde dynamic, and concludes that the handwriting shows that the same person who wrote the list of patient names also wrote the note threatening Dr. Nayak. And that would be Dr. Nayak himself.
They get to Nayak’s house as he’s plugging in to yet another victim, this time a pilot who proceeds to try to crash his plane into a yacht. They disconnect him just in time, allowing the pilot to snap out of it and avoid a collision, but the process kills the doctor. Peter’s theory is that it was a form of suicide. Back in Boston, Peter has a bad dream of when he was a kid, with Walter standing over him. He wakes up to the same situation, and tells Walter about it. “You don’t remember the rest?” he asks. When Peter says he doesn’t, Walter shakes his head in relief, since he knows it’s not a dream so much as a memory.
Odds and ends:
- Walter is very pleased that, in his new home, his bed is exactly 13 steps from the kitchen, because 13 is a prime number.
- Olivia is collecting business cards from everyone she saw wearing red throughout the episode, all part of Sam’s project for her. He instructs her to circle a random letter in the first and last name of each card, then write those letters down on a piece of paper. From there, it’s Jumble time, where she is supposed to assemble whatever phrase she needs to hear. During the coda, she assembles, “You’re gonna be fine,” the same words Charlie said to her to calm her down on her first day on the job.
- Walter encourages Agent Kashner to help them remove the scalp on a body, saying that the smell is at first bad but after awhile, “it’s really quite something.”
- Walter’s line of the week: “Either a green unicorn just raced across the lab, or I accidentally took some LSD.”