Episode Title: "Concentrate and Ask Again"
Writers: Graham Roland & Matthew Pitts
Director: Dennis Smith
Previously on "Fringe":
After traveling to an alternate universe to save Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) was kidnapped and replaced by her double, (nicknamed Fauxlivia even by characters in the show). Once Olivia escaped back to our world, she discovered that Peter had begun a romantic relationship with Fauxlivia and rejected Peter’s attempts to reconcile with her.
More recently, Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) discovered that Peter had secretly been murdering shapeshifters from the alternate universe as a measure of revenge for what was done to both himself and Olivia. Realizing that Peter was no longer acting like himself, Walter theorized that Peter’s exposure to the Doomsday Device had "weaponized him," leaving both Bishops at a loss for how to proceed.
At Massive Dynamic, Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) enters William Bell’s private lab and notices that he kept a photograph of himself with her that suggests they were once romantically linked. She also finds a copy of the book "The First People" in German, which recounts the story of the race who created the Doomsday Device. When Olivia comes over to consult Nina about her findings, the subject of Peter comes up and she urges Olivia to not make the same mistake that she and Bell made by not honestly pursing a relationship. Elsewhere, Dr. Warren Blake (Paul Jarrett) gets a creepy doll for his birthday, which releases a gas that dissolves all of the bones in his body and kills him.
The Fringe team is called in to investigate and they quickly track the package back to a former Marine named Aaron Downey (Todd Scott). While searching Downey’s home, they realize that they must have just missed him. While sifting through Downey’s things, Peter brings Olivia coffee… just the way Fauxlivia liked it. She calls him on the mixup and asks if he still thinks about her. He says that he does, but only in terms of how she betrayed him. He insists that he noticed all the differences she had from the real Olivia, but he thought that he had brought out another side of her. Peter soon notices that Downey was actually hiding on the roof and pursues him.
Unfortunately, Downey runs into traffic and is nearly killed by a car. In his apartment, the team realizes that he has accomplices and at least three other canisters of the bioweapon out there. When questioned, Downey’s ex-wife explains that he was involved with some weapons tests for a military contractor which poisoned their unborn child despite his inoculation. Dr. Blake was one of the men in charge of those tests, among others. Although Downey is still comatose, Walter comes up with a way to question him. He ropes Peter and Olivia into tracking down Simon Phillips (Omid Abtahi), an off-the-books Cortexiphan subject who can read minds.
Simon is initially hostile to Walter, but he warms up to Olivia when he finds that he can’t read her mind. At her urging, he is able to discern the name "Project Jellyfish" from Downey’s mind, which leads them to a fundraiser for Congressman Jim Thorn, who oversaw Project Jellyfish as a military advisor. Olivia and Simon go undercover and dress up for the event before they find the first suspect, but he isn’t wearing the vest to release the toxin. They narrowly locate the second suspect before he activates the vest. Then Olivia kills him with a well placed shot through the throat.
Elsewhere, Nina figures out that "The First People" was actually written by her associate, Sam Weiss (Kevin Corrigan), who clearly knows a lot more than he’s telling. He explains that the device can destroy or create universes and that Peter is uniquely suited to power the device. He has a theory that based on Peter’s mindset, he will save the universe of the Olivia that he loves. Back with Simon, Olivia urges him to live his life instead of hiding away. He says that he can’t and gives her a note before saying that he read Peter’s mind since he couldn’t read hers.
And later, when Olivia reads the note, it says "He still has feelings for her."
Of the three episodes since "Fringe" came back from the midseason break, this is easily the strongest. It even managed to tell a stand alone story while advancing the season and even the series long arc. And I always appreciate that in a TV show.
First off, Omid Abtahi was terrific as Simon and he would make a fine addition to the cast if the producers decide to bring him back. He’s actually more flighty than Walter (if possible) and he had a quiet heroic side despite the fact that being around other people’s thoughts literally made him sick. For a recurring character, he’s actually got the perfect balance of being powerful enough to get the job done, but not so powerful that having him around makes things too easy.
Simon and Olivia also had great chemistry together, which was almost like giving Olivia someone to play off of who was a cross between Walter and Peter. There was another really interesting moment in which Simon repeated the gibberish that was constantly going through Walter’s mind. Because we’ve gotten so used to him, it’s easy to forget that Walter is still pretty crazy himself.
Before this episode, I never realized how much effort the show puts into making Anna Torv look ordinary. When Olivia finally came out in a dress and more apparent make up, she was surprisingly gorgeous. In retrospect, it was probably a good idea to keep her character from becoming a sex symbol. I never really saw Olivia as a beautiful woman until then. Don’t get me wrong, I never thought that she was ugly. But I was only looking at her as the main character, nothing else.
The dissolving bones death has to go down as one of the most creepy and horrible ways of dying that we’ve seen on "Fringe" to date. And that’s saying something. But I think the thing that everyone’s going to be taking from this episode is that it explained more clearly what the Doomsday Device can do and it revealed that Peter does still love Fauxlivia. If he only loved the real Olivia, then things would have been too easy. Bringing back the love triangle between two people (sort of) is actually the perfect way to go for now.
But as a fan, the main questions swirling in my head are about Sam. Who is this guy and how old is he? He looks like he’s in his ’30s or ’40s, but if he wrote "The First People" then there’s no way he could actually be that young.
This episode hit the perfect note of giving us just enough for a satisfying hour of entertainment while leaving us with a few more questions than we had at the beginning of the show. That’s exactly what I’m looking for from "Fringe," and it delivers every week like clockwork.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.