'Fringe': Olivia gets tanked...again

Blairbrown_fringe_240_002 C'mon, admit it: You cackled in hysterics at seeing the fried dog man. It's OK to admit: that was straight up hysterical. My notes in trying to ascertain what Marshall Bowman would eventually morph into read as follows: "Hulk... Dr. Jekyll... werewolf... HEDGEHOG?" I went from thinking we'd see MARSHALL SMASH to having visions of Spiny Norman. Oh, Fringe, you always go the unexpected route.

This week's Pattern featured a virus that turned ordinary men into nose-bleeding, tooth-losing, man-killing beasts. It's unclear just how Bowman and Daniel Hicks were actually dosed, but we learned such events were merely a precursor to a much larger sale of the same virus. And just who is selling said virus? A man by the name of...Conrad. Not the most intimidating of names, quite frankly.

Turns out Bowman and Hicks once formed a triumvirate with the late (and not so great) John Scott, a fact we learned when Olivia flashed on Bowman's photo in the aftermath of the hedgehog-induced plane crash. And you know what a John Scott memory inside an Olivia Dunham brain means: once (well, twice) more unto the tank! That's right, Fringe's favorite deus ex aquina got wheeled out once again as Olivia sought to use her connection with John's memory to crack the case.

First step inside Tankland? A trip to the motel where she and John used to have their secret romantic rendezvous. Between watching her sister have eye sex with Peter last week and watching herself get it on with a comatose man this week, Olivia's having quite the awkward time of it. Just like last time in Tankland, John can "see" Olivia, something that violates everything Walter Bishop knows about these types of connections.

And what does John tell her? That he wasn't actually evil, but part of a super double dog dare secret black ops division working to take down Evil Conrad. Right about then I tuned out for a few minutes, as it's pretty clear that the majority of characters in Fringe can either be good or bad depending on what we learn about them in any given week. I'm sure John Scott will be mega-evil soon enough, but this week was all about Olivia finally releasing herself from being haunted by his ghost.

Speaking of ghosts, this week brought out the mysterious disc found inside Scott's body waaaaaay back in "The Ghost Network." Turns out these bad boys have encoded information on them, and somehow self-destruct into uselessness if the subject in which they are implanted die. How do we learn this? Thanks to Nina Sharp, making a welcome and all too brief return to the show. All three men in Scott's Illuminati-esque troupe had similar discs embedded in their hands. According to Sharp, the data on Scott's disc implicated him in a bioterrorist cell.

So, the question is this: Who are we to believe, Sharp or Scott? You could make a strong argument that Scott's messages to Olivia are nothing more than the byproduct of wish fulfillment. Even if he did give her correct information about Le Conrad of Doom, there's no reason Fringe couldn't have Scott's ultimate goal be to position Olivia for a much larger con down the road. On the other hand, Sharp is COO of a mega-conglomeration, one with technology far beyond that of any other firm on the planet. And as I've stated before, corporations = eeeeevil on television. Just how it goes.

After all, remember (because the show certainly doesn't seem to) that once upon a time, Sharp heavily hinted that she wanted to poke and prod inside Olivia's head to see what Scott knew. Unfortunately, at this point, Massive Dynamic has been pushed so far to the fringe (ahem) of the show that its reintroduction was almost jarring. I'm all for having a serialized show that's friendly to the everyday audience member, but throwing in Massive Dynamic every five episodes or so isn't going to please ANYONE.

In the other part of the show, which I like to call Astrid and the Bishop Boys, Walter did his usual schtick, Astrid complimented Olivia's instincts, and Peter showed a great deal of improvisational skills during the meetup in Chicago to acquire the virus. Makes sense; after all, as he tells Olivia, "Shady deals with shady guys in shady hotels is my M.O." Fringe, I'd love to learn more about why this is his M.O. Please, I beg of you. Let Olivia take her niece to Boston Common for the day (without all that Joker-esque make-up on her mug), and let Peter, Walter, and Astrid rent a Zipcar so they can go on adventures. That would be my second favorite show on television. The first would still be...well, you know. But it would be a tight contest.

Other thoughts from tonight's episode:

  1. Did anyone else see something eject itself from the plane as it crashed over Scarsdale? My wife thought for sure that Sonic the Hedgehog managed to leap out in search of golden rings to collect. But no, he was dead as can be along with the other passengers. Did I miss something important, or was I just seeing things?
  2. I'm giving the show one more week to get rid of Olivia's sister and Miss Moppet. Completely useless characters that take away screen time from people like Astrid. Yes, I'm a complete homer for Astrid. I want to go run out and get HER a cheesesteak, people.
  3. Gotta love how Charlie just rolls with everything. He's good people. Can't wait to learn he's even more evil than Conrad.
  4. No Agent Harassment this week! Huzzah!

That last fact alone upgrades this episode from last week's debacle. While the Pattern wasn't very strong (and pretty much bordered on the ludicrous), the Dunham/Scott stuff is strong, the return of the overarching mythology was solid, and we learned Walter's all important one half nipple rule. Not bad for an hour's worth of television.

What did you think of this episode? Did the fried dog inspire horror or hilarity? Have we heard the last from Scott, or will Olivia be donning a bikini once again? And does Massive Dynamic overcomplicate the show or tie everything together?

Ryan invites you all, humans and hedgehogs alike, to visit Boob Tube Dude.