The Mystery of the Week starts off in Springfield, Massachusetts, where Greg, a high school aged geek, is on the phone with his buddy, Luke, and poking around online at the same time. He hangs up the phone and is surprised to get a strange video file pop up on his computer. He stares at the flickering images, leaning in towards the monitor. The images are blurred and slightly disturbing without actually being of anything, and Greg seems to slip into a trance, not responding to his parents when they say they're heading out for dinner. Tears rolls down his face and he starts to drool as a hand starts to come at him from the screen, Videodrome*-style. The hand darts forward and grabs onto Greg's head. That can't be good.
At the lab, Walter makes Darwin jokes while Peter goes through the mail, getting distracted by a handwritten letter. Olivia calls to tell them to go outside to meet the coroner, who is bringing them Greg's body; Peter crumples the letter and drops it in the trash on his way out; nosy Astrid scurries over and fishes the letter out. Walter removes Greg's skull and discovers that his brains have been liquefied (eeuuw). Olivia pops in to deliver Greg's hard drive to Astrid (who apparently was a computer science major/linguistics minor or some such convenient thing), letting the Bishops know that Greg's parents say he was a good kid: no drug use, no pre-existing medical conditions.
She finds Greg's friend Luke working at a body shop. He is shocked to hear about his buddy: they'd talked on the phone for a couple of hours last night, and then when Greg stopped answering the phone, Luke figured he'd fallen asleep. Not getting much of use there, Olivia heads out just as Peter calls to tell her that there's been another body found with runny brains: a car salesman. She meets the Bishops at the dealership and interviews another salesman - confirming that yes, this guy had been on his computer just before he died - while Walter uses a swab to punch through the dead guy's sinus cavity to collect gooey brain samples.
Astrid determines that both Greg's and the car salesman's computers' hard drives fried after downloading enormous files, but it's beyond her technical capabilities to figure it out any further than that. Peter says he knows a guy - but just then the lab's wall phone starts ringing, to everyone's consternation ("I didn't think it even worked," says Astrid.) Peter answers the phone and immediately says it's a wrong number. He takes the fried hard drives and goes out to meet his guy. Astrid turns to Olivia and says that she thinks she knows who just called, and hands her the letter she took out of the trash.
When Olivia stops in at FBI HQ, that ass Harris accosts her, wanting to know why she hasn't handed the liquefied brains case off to the CDC instead of wasting valuable FBI resources. She tells him that she has consulted with the CDC and they've ruled out contagion of any sort. Harris gives her twelve hours to crack this case or he's going to dismantle this "rogue" division and put her on a desk.
Peter's guy, Hakim, has a serious computer set up in the back room of his pawn shop. Peter tells him that he wants to know what the big file is and where it came from. It's too well-protected for Hakim to determine this but he can, somehow, determine that the same file is being downloaded right now. In Brighton. At Olivia's apartment!
Peter and Olivia, on the phone with each other, race through various streets of greater Boston towards Olivia's apartment. Her sister Rachel doesn't hear her cell ringing and in the other room, little Ella has downloaded the file and is watching the flickering images, entranced. As the hand starts to reach out to her through the screen, Olivia and Peter burst into the apartment. At first they're looking for an intruder, then Olivia notices Ella staring at the laptop. She pulls the computer away and it takes a few moments for the little girl to snap out of it. Unconcerned at first, Rachel flirts with Peter as Olivia consults with Charlie, who promises to have forensics look at the computer. Then Ella tells them about the weird, glowy, scary hand that came out of the computer at her. Rachel thinks she's lying but Olivia goes over and stares at the laptop.
On the other end of the web cam, a rough-looking fellow (Andy Bellefleur from True Blood!) stares back: "That's right, sweetheart, it's me you're looking for." This guy is Luke's dad, Paul Dempsey, and he looks like he's in a bad place right now emotionally. Luke stops by to bring his dad some food and wonders what he's been doing. Paul tells him that he's been working on a new program - there's a massive bank of computers behind him - he thinks it's going to impress a lot of people.
Olivia, Peter and Broyles confer at FBI HQ. Olivia, for some reason, thinks she was being spied on through the web cam; forensics is working on figuring out who it might have been. Peter's question is: Why? What's the connection between the victims, and why were they killed? Meanwhile, there's another body with blended brains: a daytrader who lives outside Chicago.
As he and Olivia return to the lab, Peter notices an older woman standing near the entrance. Her name is Jessica Warren, the mother of Walter's lab assistant who was killed in the lab fire twenty or so years ago. It was she who sent the letter and called the lab. Peter gets protective and says it's not a good time for her to see his father, plus doing so won't bring her daughter back. Inside, Olivia has quickly figured out who Mrs. Warren is and tells Peter that she thinks this may be an unresolved issue for Walter - he shouldn't underestimate his father. Maybe something good could come out of the two of them talking.
Walter has figured out the weird science that does the brain-blending. Astrid has figured out a connection among the victims: the daytrader is Luke's stepfather, who married Luke's mother after she divorced Paul; Paul used to work for Greg's dad until he was fired a few years ago. They're still looking into the car salesman but Paul's MO seems to be to get back at people who hurt him by going after their loved ones.
Unable to find Paul, the FBI picks up Luke instead. He's defensive and after a few minutes of questioning, lawyers up. Olivia tells Charlie to wait five minutes, then release him. When Luke calls for a cab on an office phone, Olivia listens in and gets the address. Peter scoffs that Luke cannot be that stupid to be going directly to see his dad; Olivia reminds him that Luke is only 19. "Good point," admits Peter. As they drive to the address, they argue about Walter and Mrs. Warren. When they get to their destination, Olivia goes inside, gun drawn. Luke is already inside, yelling at his dad about how many people have to die. Meanwhile, back at HQ, Harris sends a bunch of agents after them, honing in on the GPS in Olivia's car.
Luke and Paul hear the perimeter alarm that Olivia has tripped. Paul sends Luke away and then manages to get the drop on Olivia. He tells her that she's ruined everything and that his son now hates him because of her. He has one gun up under his own chin and another one pointed at her. He gets distracted by the flicerking images on his own computer screens and when Olivia begs him to look away, he tells her that he finally wants to see his creation. Out in the car, Peter hears the approaching sirens and decides to see if Olivia needs any back-up. He runs into Luke but their conversation is cut short by a gunshot. They run in to find Olivia standing there, Paul dead on the floor. She tells them Paul went into a trance and shot himself. Luke turns and runs but is scooped up by the arriving FBI agents.
Later, Harris complains to Broyles about Olivia's methods and insubordinate conduct. Broyles reminds him that she cracked this case in spite of his demands and tells Harris to leave her alone or answer to him. Harris gets huffy: "Are you sure you're up for this? Because I've got a lot of red tape." Ooh - scary.
Peter has had a change of heart and brings Mrs. Warren in to speak with Walter, telling his father that if he needs the conversation to end at any time to just let him know - he'll be right over there. Mrs. Warren tells Walter who she is, and who her daughter was. She says she wanted to see him because he was the last person to see her daughter alive - can he tell her anything about her? She had a wonderful smile, says Walter, and Mrs. Warren starts to cry. Walter gives her a hug and says he'll tell her everything he can remember. Peter just watches, relieved.
Later, Peter stops by Olivia's apartment - after a couple of drinks - and thanks her for bringing him and Walter together, apologizing since she was right about letting Walter talk to Mrs. Warren. They seem like they are about to have a moment until Rachel interrupts, saying that Ella wants Olivia to tuck her in. Peter smiles ruefully and leaves; Olivia watches him go.
* Is Videodrome the right reference? am I remembering that correctly?
Previously on Fringe / next time on Fringe
1 hour ago