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This week marks a return to the case-of-the-week format that was abandoned for a few episodes in favor of some more character-oriented storylines, but the great writers on Fringe were able to make a welcome return to form while still addressing the characters’ histories.
The episode begins with a lawyer, Miranda Green (Inglourious Basterds co-star and Joshua Jackson-dater Diane Krueger) consulting a client in a café about the illness from which he’s been suffering. He seems to recognize her, but she has some trouble remembering who he is. However, she does mention that she remembers a mutual friend named Lloyd Becker. Later, in her car, she begins to develop welts on the spot where the client touched her and is soon fatally overwhelmed by the spreading welts and dies. This is the first in a series of similar cases, with each victim dying covered in grotesque growths.
Olivia, meanwhile, is having trouble sleeping. A visit to Sam Weiss, the bowling alley guy, reveals she likely can’t sleep because she feels she has made the wrong decision about something – which she figures is her decision to keep Peter’s origins secret from him. She struggles with her feelings toward Peter, who tells her that he’s never been so settled and doesn’t want to put this relationship in jeopardy. The feeling is mutual, and her quest for answers quickly turns into a search for a reason to defy what she believes to be right and act upon the feelings she has towards him.
Meanwhile, the nature of the disease comes to light as Walter theorizes that it isn’t "transferred" so much as it exchanges life energy between two touching individuals, much like how chi supposedly works. Olivia recognizes the name Timothy Ober on the victims list, but doesn’t know why she does. She pours over pages of paperwork when Sam shows up and convinces her to play a game of Clue. He recognizes that she rarely wears primary colors and describes her as a soldier and a protector, echoing ultimate goal of the Jacksonville experiments: to prepare the children for the coming conflict.
Sam also reveals a bit of information about himself, like that he’s older than he looks. Apparently, he’s also taller than he looks, which normally could be a relatively insignificant thing to say, but this jogs Olivia’s memory and she realizes that Timothy Ober’s name was on the height chart back in the Jacksonville experimenting facility, along with the names of the other victims.
Also being tested on at the time was Nick Lane, the villain from the season one episode “Bad Dreams.” The infected man shows up at Lane’s house, introducing himself to Lane’s aunt as John. She tells him she hasn’t heard from Lane in a while. She also tells him that another person came by asking for him a while ago, and gives the man calling himself John the woman’s address – Olivia’s address. He shows up at her doorstep and attacks her, lunging helplessly to transfer his diseased energy onto her. She gains the upper hand in their struggle and manages to get the tragic explanation out of him as he breaks down in tears.
It turns out that his name is James Heath, and his sister was Julia Heath, also a Cortexiphan kid. She stood by his side in the hospital, holding his hand as he struggled with cancer. The disease spread to her, killing her, but making James look well enough to be deemed clear, though the disease proved inevitable. He apparently didn’t come to understand how the disease spread until it was far too late. The authorities take him away to Massive Dynamic, where he joins Nick Lane in their mysterious “storage” facility.
The episode leaves us on an exciting note, with Olivia telling Walter that she has decided that some truths are best kept secret. In a strange turn, Walter has gone the opposite direction and tells her that it’s time he right the wrongs of his past and reveal to Peter the truth… which will presumably be the focus of next week’s episode.
Overall, this was an exciting return to the familiar story structure that Fringe started out with, and yet it also moved along this season’s main story arch, with the writers doing an excellent job of that with plenty of references to the series’ mythos for fans to pick out. It’s always exciting when a serial drama like this throws us longtime viewers a few bones, isn’t it? Stay tuned…