Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fringe recap: S1E18 "Midnight"

Leather jacket-wearing, English-accented Bob gets ready to go out as the television news plays, talking about a horrific murdr where someone's been killed and mutilated, apparently by a hunting knife.  Bob grabs his keys, phone and a pocket knife and heads out.  He calls his girl, who's out of town on a business trip, and says that he'll cook for her tomorrow night when she gets back.  He'll call her later, though, as he's just meeting some "suits from Hong Kong" for dinner.  When Bob hangs up the phone, he heads into a red-lit club, music blaring and pulsing.  Liar!  Inside, all kinds of hot chicks eye him.  He selects one, makes her laugh, then backs off when her date walks up.  Bob picks another one.  This one doesn't have a date.  Back at his place, things are getting steamy ... until she grabs his head and snaps his neck.  AWESOME - didn't see that coming.  Meanwhile, worried that he hasn't called her back, Bob's girlfriend tries his cell which rings and rings as the murderer goes into the bathroom to wipe blood off her face.  Her eyes are a freakishly bright blue.  The camera pulls back and ol' Bob's body looks as though it might be missing a few bits and pieces.

At Olivia's apartment, there's another boring domestic scene where some boring friends are over for dinner and Rachel gets served with divorce papers.  Luckily for her (and us), Olivia gets a call about Bob's case.

We get a better look at the body as Walter pokes at it: the back of his neck has been flayed open and his spine severed.  Walter declares that the wound was made with teeth, not a knife: either canine, ursine (bear) or human.  And it looks as though some blood has been drunk.  Peter starts to roll his eyes about vampires until his father interrupts, saying sadly, there are no vampires but he's sure this will turn out to be something else just as exciting!

Olivia tells Broyles that they have confirmed that the toothmarks are definitely human and Broyles is like, you know, it used to be that human was the only option ... I miss those days.  The police are searching for Bob's car and Walter is back at the lab, autopsying Bob's body and the mutilated victim from the t.v. news.

It turns out that both victims' spinal columns have been completely drained of spinal fluid.  And there are traces of an extinct strain of syphilis in the wounds, transmitted via the killer's saliva.  Olivia checks with the CDC and learns that a local research company ordered a sample of that syphilis four weeks ago.  What's weird is that the research company's address is in a residential area of Brighton.  So the CDC pulled their file and discovered that the company has requested quite a number of different contagion samples recently, including RUD390, which was an integral component to that fast-growing skin thing that ZFT released on the world several episodes ago.  The Fringe team decides to go check out that Brighton address.

First they find a bunch of dogs in cages - one with those bright blue eyes - and in the back they find Dr. Boone, wheelchair-bound, in the process of doing something nasty to another poor dog.  They arrest him and haul him off to FBI HQ.  There, Olivia shows Boone the photographs of the victims and asks, "What is out there? What is doing that to these people?"  They also tell him that they want to know everything he knows about ZFT.  He is surprised that they even know about that organization.  Boone tells them that "someone" was dosed, and then says that he knows a lot about what they want to know but first he wants them to help him: ZFT has his wife and he's being coerced into performing experiments.  He'll tell them everything he knows but first they have to get his wife back.

Broyles and Charlie think Boone is full of shit but Olivia believes him.  She notes that since she's been working in Fringe Division, 81 people have died, not including the 100+ folks on the plane in the first episode; in all her prior cases, only nine people died - this Fringe business is dangerous and people are dying.  She says that Boone is their first real lead to ZFT and she doesn't want to blow it.  A lackey interrupts to say that the address Boone gave them is a Chinatown restaurant ... which is using 5x the utilities a Chinatown restaurant should.  There could be a lab in the basement!  Olivia pulls her team together.

Meanwhile, Peter and Walter get to poke around in Boone's lab.  Walter has a hypothesis as to what Boone was doing.

The heavily armed FBI squad descends upon the Chinatown restaurant.  There's a lab in the basement!  But no wife.  Olivia gets on the phone with Boone who directs her to a refrigerator in the back: it contains a sample of XP43 which is the contagion with which the killer has been infected.  He needs that XP43 sample to make an antidote - because it's his wife who got dosed and is out there killing.  That was ZFT's punishment for Boone's trying to leave them.

That night, Mrs. Boone ("Valerie") picks up another guy at the same club.  Her eyes are not electric blue yet.  They start making out in his car and Valerie cries.  "What's wrong?" asks the guy.  She tells him that she's sorry, then her fangs pop out and she latches onto his neck.

The cops find the guy's body in his car in Roxbury.  Olivia goes back to talk to Boone.  She shows him a videotape that Peter found in Boone's lab: the video was taken three weeks ago and Boone was walking.  He tells her that what Valerie is feeding on is spinal fluid - he'd given her as much of his as he could without stroking out, but the contagion burns through her own spinal fluid and she just needs to consume more and more.  The extinct syphilis she's got is the carrier for the other "attributes" that changed her.  Boone again promises to tell them all about ZFT if they'll let him make a vaccine for Valerie.

They take Boone to Walter's lab - where Peter protests that one mad scientist is his limit.  Walter and Boone decide to make a super-penicillin to combat the super-syphilis.  Charlie has meanwhile found Bob's missing car but it's been stripped, including the GPS and there's no way to know where Valerie left it.  Peter, not surprisingly, knows a guy who tends to get involved in every stripped car in the Boston area.  He takes Olivia to see the guy and the guy tells them where he found Bob's car.

Walter and Boone bond as they work at the lab, Boone having heard all about Walter.  Boone also eyes the video camera sitting there on the table.

Olivia and Peter go out to Weymouth and find where Bob's car was found.  But why did Valerie come out here?  Peter figures it out when he finds yet another body with a flayed neck.  They bring that body, plus the Roxbury one, back to Walter's lab.  Astrid notes that one of the new bodies reeks of alcohol and then has the idea to check the bodies' hands for those fluorescent club stamps.  Bingo!  All of them have a stamp from the same underground club.  Boone begs Olivia to take Valerie alive: I just need more time - I know I can save her.

Olivia and Peter head off to the club.  Peter brings along a handheld heat-imaging gizmo, checking the female clubgoers' heat signatures since the syphilis makes Valerie run extra-hot.  One girl looks him up and down and tells him that she's sure she's hot enough for him.  He smiles and says he's looking for someone with syphilis.  Heh.  They're having trouble spotting Valerie in the crush of people but Olivia finally spots her as she heads for the exit with her freakishly blue eyes.  Charlie and some other FBI agents tranq her as she walks out of the club.

Walter and Boone are having trouble with their vaccine and Boone says they need to use more of his spinal fluid (for some weird science-y reason).  Astrid's like, no way, it could kill him!   But Walter says to prep the table.  Boone thanks him.  But some time later, after Walter has withdrawn the spinal fluid, Boone has a stroke.  It's going to be hard for him to tell them about ZFT now, isn't it?

Olivia and Peter drive back to the lab with Valerie in the backseat.  They assume that she'll be "out for hours" but as they banter, Valerie wakes up.  She goes after Olivia, trying to gnaw at her neck, and things get tense for a moment until Peter tranqs her again, several times for good measure.  They get her to the lab and shoot her up with the vaccine.  Boone whispers, "Thank you."  Valerie starts to shriek and convulse but the vaccine works.  Boone, however, is dead.  Olivia's expression is eloquent: devastated and frustrated and bereft of hope.

As the bodies are carted out, Walter hands Olivia a videotape that Boone made before he died.  On the tape, he tells her that he's got some names of ZFT people, including some he suspects she's already heard.   Cut to Olivia finding Broyles at a swanky restaurant.  She tells him that according to Boone, the man who is funding ZFT is William Bell.  Cue ominous music!

Previously on Fringe / next time on Fringe

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fringe recap: S1E17 "Bad Dreams"

A young mother, singing a song about an elephant, pushes her daughter in a stroller down a ramp at Grand Central Station, on their way back from the circus.  The little girl gazes happily at the bunch of balloons tied to the stroller,.  They descend to the tracks, the station largely deserted, just missing the train.  As they wait for the next train, the little girl looses a red balloon which bumps up against the ceiling.  Just as the next train arrives, a blonde woman rushes up and pushes the mother in front of it.  The blonde woman is Olivia.  She was dreaming and wakes up, gasping and frightened.

The next morning Olivia does her sit-ups, peruses her wardrobe of grey and black clothing, does the crossword puzzle while half-listening to the television news.  When the news reports that a young mother committed suicide by throwing herself in front of a moving train in NYC, Olivia puts down her pen.  The photo of the young mother is the same woman Olivia pushed in her dream.

Olivia asks Broyles if she can go to NYC to investigate, saying that she thinks extraordinary circumstances may be involved, making it a murder and not a suicide, but declining to tell him about her dream complicity.  He grudgingly gives her 24 hours, saying he needs her here, working as part of the Fringe team.  At Walter's lab, Peter scoffs when she says she thinks she murdered that woman, telling her that it was just a nightmare.  Walter checks her out with a Geiger counter, thinking that she might have teleported to NYC in her sleep and actually pushed the woman, but there's no residual radioactivity from any teleportation.  Another possibility is astral projection, but then it would have been difficult for Olivia to gain enough corporality to interact physically with the woman.  Peter rolls his eyes - and it's off to NYC for him and Olivia.

They meet up with a cop at Grand Central Station and ask her about the incident.  The cops think it was a suicide because there was no one else caught on the security camera when the woman jumped.  As they go down to the tracks, Olivia whispers to Peter that there will be a red balloon floating on the ceiling.  He doesn't have a smart-aleck comment when yes, there is a red balloon up there.  At the police station, they meet with the grieving husband who insists that his wife never would have killed herself - they were happy.  They review the security footage and see that no one pushed the woman, but Olivia asks for a copy of the tape anyway.

Back at the lab, Olivia insists that somehow she killed that woman.  She's beginning to get agitated.  Peter thinks it's crazy but Walter's like, okay, let's assume that you did it.  Why and how?  Did she somehow compel that woman to jump, using only her mind?  Peter thinks that's preposterous.  Walter shrugs, saying, "Okay.  Unless it happens again."

Even though she hasn't been sleeping well lately, Olivia buys a bunch of caffeine pills.  She goes to a nice restaurant and sits alone with a cup of coffee, intently watching a couple at a nearby table.  They're having a lovely dinner together until the wife starts shrieking, accusing her husband of having an affair.  The husband is confused, saying he doesn't know what she's talking about.  They both rise out of their chairs and the wife picks up a steak knife.  Olivia rushes over to them and grabs the wife's hand.  Then, together, the two women stab the husband multiple times in the belly.  He collapses and they step back, dropping the knife, hands bloody.

Olivia wakes up, nearly sobbing.  She calls Charlie immediately and says, "There's been a murder."

She and Peter walk through the halls of St. Vincent's Hospital (NYC).  Olivia's like, I killed him.  Peter, ever rational, reminds her that she was 300 miles away, plus numerous witnesses watched the wife - alone - stab her husband.  Olivia is adamnt about her involvement.  They ask the doctor how the husband is doing: he was basically gutted, his intestines shredded, but is still alive, albeit unconscious.

They question the wife, who for some reason has been given permission to sit by her husband's bedside.  The wife doesn't understand what is going on: she knows that her husband is devoted to her, but suddenly she got afraid and angry and just knew he was going to leave her.  Olivia starts to freak out, asking the wife if she felt like someone else was in her head, compelling her to attack her husband.  Peter drags Olivia away.

They go to the restaurant where it happened and Olivia finds a piece of broken coffee cup on the floor near the table she was sitting at in her dream.  She asks the restaurant owner who was sitting there, roughing him up a little when he backtalks to her; he tells her that it was just some blond guy with a scar on his face who comes in every now and again.  Olivia: "I know who that is."

Well, sort of: she tells Peter that she's seen a guy who matches that description.  They go back to Cambridge [Note: I don't think the producers of this show realize how far apart Boston and NYC are - the characters flit back and forth like they're going from Back Bay to Watertown] and look again at the security footage from Grand Central Station.  They do indeed see a thin blond guy with a scar on his face walk past the woman who eventually jumps.  He's been at both crime scenes.  Walter thinks that perhaps this guy is the one who's been attacking people with his mind, but somehow Olivia is dreaming of him.

They go to FBI HQ and run the guy's face through the FBI database: he's a former St. Jude's mental patient, Nick Lane.  Broyles comes in and is all WTF: you're using resources on something that isn't one of our cases and I've got a lawsuit from some NYC restaurant owner saying you pushed him around and explain yourself, Dunham!  Olivia brings him up to speed about their suspect Nick, and admits to her dreams.  Broyles is all, why didn't you come to me with this?  Olivia says she didn't want to sound crazy and then asks for a short leave of absence to sort things out, these weird Fringe-y things that seem to be happening to her.  Instead, Broyles opens a new case - this case - and puts her in charge of it, telling her to take care of herself.  Aw, he likes her!

Olivia and Peter go to St. Jude's, Peter remarking that until this year, he'd never spent any time in a mental hospital.  Olivia: "Learn to like new things."  They meet with Nick's former doctor who tells them that Nick had been there for years, self-committed and paid for under a high level military insurance policy.  Then, four months ago, some lawyer showed up, said that Nick had inherited a huge sum of money, and Nick checked himself out, leaving with the lawyer.  The doctor says that Nick's emotions seemed infectious: if he was happy, everyone was in a good mood; but if he was upset, you got sucked into a black hole of despair if you were around him.  She calls him hyperemotional with heavy self-contempt and a tendency towards suicide.  He was delusional too, saying he'd been recruited at a very young age to fight in a future war against the denizens of a parallel universe.  Olivia gives Peter an intense look upon hearing that.

Here's another coincidence: Nick was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1979.  Just like Olivia.  She and Peter go to Walter's hotel room and she asks him about that cortexyphan, the drug that Walter and William Bell developed.  Walter says that Bell experimented on children with it - which statement causes Peter to freak out - children who seemed predisposed to particular mental acuity, and that cortexyphan seemed to emphasize whatever psychic gifts they had, particularly any ability to alter perception or reality.  Olivia connects the dots: if Nick was treated with cortexyphan, he could change reality using his feelings, but possibly inadvertently, if his emotions were literally contagious.  He might have been thinking about committing suicide when he walked along the train platform; he might have been feeling lost and abandoned at the restaurant.

But how is Olivia connected?  Walter tells her that when Bell experimented on the children (another wig-out from Peter), he'd pair them up so they wouldn't be scared.  Sometimes an intense bond, amplified by the cortexyphan, would form between the two kids.  Peter's like, whatever, Olivia was never treated with cortexyphan.  Then he looks at Olivia and she's like, well, I might have been.  "Great!" says Walter, "then I think I might be able to find Nick."

Olivia goes to a strip club.  Except on this third outing we're pretty sure it's Nick, which is confirmed when we cut to Olivia hooked up to one of Walter's machines as he's got her in a hypnogogic REM state.  At the strip club, Olivia stares at the stripper who comes down off her pole and starts kissing her, as Nick's state of arousal excites the stripper.  They leave the club (despite the bouncer's shouted warnings) and go to a motel.  Peter, Walter and Astrid all get a little embarrassed when Olivia starts making sex noises.  Then, post-coitally, Nick feels guilty and ashamed, full of self-loathing, and the stripper becomes infected by his feelings.  She smashes a glass and slices her own throat, dream-Olivia's hand guiding hers.  Nick goes back to his apartment and Olivia snaps out of her trance, knowing where his apartment is.

The next morning, Nick takes a bunch of pills with his morning coffee.  He does his pushups and peruses his closet full of grey and black clothing.  Then he pauses.  Outside, an FBI squad has pulled up.  They bust into the apartment only to find it empty, one wall full of clippings, all paranoid, about government testing and experiments on children, plus some photographs of two-headed goats.  Peter now thinks that the lawyer showing up at the hospital with an inheritance was too good to be true: Nick was activated.

Nick walks down the street and as he passes other people, they turn and follow him like the Pied Piper.  The Fringe team gets a call from the cops saying they've located Nick.  Walter muses that Nick is a reverse empath and a kind of walking epidemic - if they get too close, they'll be infected as well.  Except probably not Olivia.  They find Nick and his entourage, all arrayed up on a skyscraper ledge downtwon.  The cops say they sent one guy up there and now he's on the ledge with the rest of them.  Olivia heads up there, over Peter's protests.

On the roof, she calls Nick's name.  He turns around, smiling: "You heard me, Olive! You heard me and you came!  You were always the strong one."  She says she's sorry but she doesn't remember anything.  He's a little crazy, saying that he does remember (although maybe he's not supposed to) and he stayed fit and ready for the call.  He tells her that some guy came and woke him up, and now he can't be put back to sleep.  "I want to stop hurting people!"  He hands her a gun and tells her to shoot him, put him out of his misery.  She doesn't want to and so Nick flinches, crying out, and a woman on the ledge throws herself off.  The jumper lands on a car next to Peter and Walter.  Walter: "I sure hope Agent Dunham meant to do that."

Back on the roof, Nick says that if "Olive" doesn't shoot him, the rest of the folks up there will jump.  And if he jumps, they'll all go too.  Olivia apologizes again and shoots him, once in each knee.  Nick collapses on the roof, all the others crumpling with him but none falling off.  He looks up at her: "Olive, you'll wish you'd killed me."

Later, as they walk through white industrial-looking corridors, Broyles tells Olivia that Nick's parents died a while back and his identity appears to have been falsified at some point.  They stop walking and look into a room where Nick has been put into a medically-induced coma, "indefinitely," according to Broyles.  Olivia's face is grim - she still doesn't remember anything from Jacksonville.  Broyles asks if she's okay and she replies, flatly, yes.

That night, Charlie stops by her apartment, handing her Nick's file and reminding her that he's breaking about a thousand regulations by doing so.  The file is classified, plus full of all sorts of newspaper clippings.  Olivia makes a frowny face and starts to read.

Meanwhile, alone in the lab, Walter has unearthed an old videotape.  It shows a little blonde girl, cowering in the corner of what looks like a hospital room.  Several voices, all off camera, say things like: "How many casualties?" and "We still haven't found [Whatsisname]" and "Something must have set her off."  Then it's Walter's voice on the tape: "Obviously she was upset about something."  A pause, and then Walter again, this time directed to the little girl:  "It's all right, nobody's angry with you, Olive. Everything's okay."

Previously on Fringe / next time on Fringe

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Reading lists

It’s not all Fringe and Bruce Campbell around here, you know. I’ve also been reading a fair amount, such as: (1) re-reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series - which starts out sooooo strong, then gets flabby and self-indulgent in the last two books (seriously: SPOILER the author writing himself in as a character? And then a self-aware deus ex machina to boot? C’mon) … plus I always cry ANOTHER SPOILER when Oy dies; (2) Short Girls by Bich Minh Nguyen – a novel (possibly slightly autobiographical?) about two Vietnamese sisters growing up in the American Midwest; and (3) Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 by David Petersen – the second in the gorgeous Mouse Guard graphic novel series.

And I’m currently reading: (1) The Dirty Life - which is not as titillating as it sounds, being an organic farming memoir by Kristin Kimball; The Foremost Good Fortune: a Memoir by Susan Conley – written by a former neighbor/grade school, etc., classmate of mine about moving her family to China, plus a cancer diagnosis; and (3) re-reading Knife of Dreams, Book 11 in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, because I bought Book 12 and can’t for the life of me remember WTF is going on in that massive series so I thought I should remind myself before delving into the new volume. For what it’s worth, I’m not a huge fan of memoirs – I think it’s the introspective bits that turn me off; I much prefer biographies – but I like TDL for the farming bits and TFGF because it’s fun to read something written by someone I [used to] know. And dang, if Susan Conley doesn’t look exactly as young and gorgeous as she did when I knew her way back when.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sam Axe kicks ass

So far I've only watched the first half of USA's Burn Notice special prequel, "Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe."  It's pretty light and fluffy, even for Burn Notice.  But it's all about Bruce Campbell's character, Sam, and how he fell out of favor with the CIA.  I love Bruce Campbell and he looks great here, having lost about twenty pounds and shaved the grizzled BN scruff to de-age himself.  The best part?  The scene where he fires up that chainsaw - how great was that?  No demon/zombies this time, but awesome nonetheless.  Burn Notice starts back up in June, FWIW.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fringe recap: S1E16 "Unleashed"

Boring domestic scene: Olivia reads Ella a bedtime story.  Peter calls, oddly enough to chat with Rachel whose giggling and laughing makes her big sister look slightly put out.

Cut to distressed lab animals as animal rights activists break in and start opening cages.  Did these kids never watch 28 Days Later?  As they break into a back room, a silent alarm goes off, notifying some middle-aged guy who rushes over to the lab.  One of the activists enters that back room, undeterred by the ominous red lights.  When Middle-Aged Guy gets there, he heads to the back.  The activist is standing in the doorway of the back room.  MAG asks, "You didn't open that door in there?"  Activist: "You bet I did."  MAG goes to check things out and is grabbed by something large and unseen.  Blood spurts and then he's gone.  All the little activists run but the last one out the door is snatched up and dragged back inside, screaming.  The three remaining activists jump in their car and take off, but something attacks the car, causing it to flip.  Afterwards, the two still-conscious (or still-alive, tough to say) activists wonder what it was that attacked them as they try to free themselves from the wrecked car.  Then whatever it was moves in towards them and the girl activist screams and screams.

The next morning, Peter and Walter argue about Walter's carelessness in leaving dangerous stuff lying around the lab.  Astrid interrupts the shouting match to send them off to Olivia's case.  They rendezvous at the activists' wrecked car.  Broyles brings them up to speed, saying that the three bodies were apparently killed by a large animal not indigenous to New England; Charlie pipes up, saying that wherever this thing is indigenous, he doesn't ever want to go there.  Walter notes that the critter had massive claws.  As they poke around the crime scene, they find fast food debris: four drink cups but only three bodies.  Peter notes that the fast food is from a late night joint near MIT - maybe they should check out the undergrads.

Olivia goes to MIT to interview one of the dead activist's roommates who, when he can manage to speak articulately in the presence of the most beautiful woman he's ever seen, tells her about the animal rights activism bit.  She returns to Walter's lab where the gang is examining the bodies: the wounds indicate that hte critter has the claws of a lion, the fangs of a giant snake ... they have no idea WTF this thing is.  Astrid starts calling local labs who do animal testing to see if any break-ins have been reported.  Walter has meanwhile pulled some sort of spine or stinger out of one of the bodies and gets a troubled look on his face.

Out in the woods, two animal control officers investiage a "monster" sighting, bitching that "monster" is usually "housewife for 'racoon'."  Heh.  Then they hear the slobbering snarls in the underbrush and they too get troubled looks on their faces.

Walter paws through his old files, reading one and sighing, "Good heavens."  When Olivia heads out to look into that monster sighting, Walter tells her to be careful.  Charlie gets out to the animal control van first and finds one of the officers inside, shredded like cole slaw.  He calls it in and then hears something in the brush.  He draws his gun and bravely heads towards the noise, looking scared.  He finds the other officer - dead - and as he stares, a scaly prehensile tail unfurls from the tree behind him.  Olivia shows up in time to hear Charlie shooting.  She finds him, wounded but alive, and asks, "What was it?"  Charlie: "Big."

The EMTs pull a spine/stinger out of Charlie's should and Walter eagerly collects it.  He asks Charlie several pointed questions about the critter which arouses Peter's suspicions: "What do you know about this thing, Walter?"  Walter 'fesses up that this is probably a transgenic animal, created by man and comprised of several different species - using the best of the best of their characteristics.  Peter's like, dude, a giant transgenic fanged rhino is just wrong on so many levels.  Astrid calls to tell Olivia that Swift Research got broken into last night.

Swift Research does animal testing for pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies.  Olivia tells Dr. Swift about the animal activists who were killed nearby, possibly by a genetically-altered critter.  Dr. Swift is like, we just do testing AND we didn't have a break-in, no matter what you heard.  Then he tells her that she'll need a warrant if she wants to look around more.

At the Fringe lab, Peter tries to get his very distracted dad to focus.  Walter says that he thinks he may be to blame: he tried to create a similar creature twenty or so years ago.  He failed - all his creatures died - but someone must have finished his work.  Peter starts to get mad at his father again until Astrid is all, um, the bodies are moving!  They unzip the body bags to find the bodies swarming with critter larvae.  Olivia:  "You mean baby monsters?"  Yup.  Walter asks for a petrie dish and then, when the bodies burst open and larvae pour out, amends that request to "a bucket."  Astrid thinks she's going to be sick.  Walter: "Two buckets!"  Heh again.  Walter surmises that the spine/stinger is what plants the eggs in the bodies.  Olivia: "Oh, God, Charlie!"

Speaking of Charlie, he and his wife are about to get busy when their doorbell goes nuts.  It's Olivia and she makes him come back to the lab with her at once for an ultrasound.  "You trying to tell me that I'm pregnant?" asks Charlie.  "We're hoping not," replies Olivia.  Bad news: he's totally knocked up with critter larvae.  Walter, trying to look on the bright side, notes that at least the creature doesn't mate in the traditional way.  They don't know what to do next: there's no way to extract the larvae now that they've spread through Charlie's system.

Walter freaks out a little, then has an idea.  Astrid draws some blood from Charlie while Peter mixes up some kind of poison.  They try it on the larvae but no go: the poison kills the larvae but also poisons the blood.  And Charlie's system is shutting down as the larvae start to feed on him.  Walter has another idea: transfuse Charlie with the parent critter's blood, possibly convincing the larvae that Charlie is one of them so they'll stop eating him.  All they have to do is find the big critter.  Olivia thinks it may be traveling in the sewers.  They're making progress but not fast enough: Charlie starts to scream as the larvae squirm under his skin.

Then Olivia gets a call from that MIT roommate, saying that one of the animal rights activists is Jonathan Swift - the son of Dr. Swift.  Olivia goes back to Swift Research and browbeats Dr. Swift into coming clean.  The critter is made up of gila monster, parasite wasp and bat.  Astrid suggests that now they know what it's made out of, maybe they could entice it with bait.  Walter goes one better: bats are extremely maternal so they can wave its larvae around and lure it out ... and then kill it with a .50 caliber incendiary round.

They pack their gear, Walter reminding Peter to be gentle with the larvae.  Right, says Peter, 'cuz we don't want to hurt the monster babies.  Olivia and the Bishops head to the sewers but not before Walter slips a vial of the poison into his pocket.

Ah, the sewers - just like The X-Files and BtVS.  They set themselves up in a defensible spot, opening the box of larvae.  Walter excuses himself to go take a leak but sneakily locks Peter and Olivia into the room.  Peter pounds on the gate and shouts at his dad.  Olivia pleads that Walter isn't prepared so he pulls out the poison and chugs it.  He says that when the critter snacks on him, it'll get poisoned and then they can take its blood to save Charlie.  And there's an antidote to the poison at his lab, but they'll need to give it to him within the hour.  Walter toddles off and Peter flails away at the locked gate, swearing that if Walter survives this, he'll kill his father himself.

Walter wanders through the sewers, singing to himself.  The critter finds him.  It is big!  And does kind of look like a cross between a bat and a gila monster.  Peter and Olivia catch up just as the critter moves in on Walter.  Peter shouts so the critter lunges at him instead; Walter shoots the critter dead.  He also is hoping that someone noticed what time it was when he mentioned that bit about the antidote.

Back at the lab, Walter takes the antidote and is just fine, and they transfuse Charlie which for some reason kills off all the larvae.  "Now you'll just crap 'em out!" says Walter happily.  But when Olivia goes home that night, she decides to leave the light on while she sleeps.

Previously on Fringe / next time on Fringe

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fringe recap: S1E15 "Inner Child"

This one starts off exciting: someone's building a bomb.  Oh, wait, it's not a bomb - it's construction explosives to implode an old building.  A couple of construction guys chat as they leave said old building, then one of them pauses, saying he's got a weird feeling.  He goes back into the building to do another sweep, thinking they missed something.  In one room he stomps on the floor and breaks through - there is a warren of tunnels underneath.  The construction works climb down with flashlights to look around.  There are cages (?), it stinks, and just beyond the reach of the flashlight beams something moves.  Then they find him: a pale, bald, naked boy, crouching in a corner.

At FBI HQ, Charlie gets a phone call from a buddy, asking if he's seen the fax: it's a photograph of creepy burned and melted doll parts with the text: YOU ARE INVITED TO THE SHOWING OF A BRAND NEW WORK.  Time: TODAY.  Place: BOSTON.  Charlie wears his concerned face.

Yet another boring domestic scene with Olivia, Rachel and Ella (we get it: Olivia likes and is good with kids) is fortunately interrupted when Charlie calls to tell Olivia about the fax: "The Artist is back."  Olivia is about to head off to meet him - this is an old case of theirs, now reopened - when Broyles calls, telling her to collect the Bishops and go to MGH.  It's the basement boy, of course.  The chief of pediatrics says that the boy is having difficulty breathing and she's going to put him on oxygen.  Walter protests, saying that the boy is used to a low oxygen environment and will drown if she gives him more.

Over at a Somerville (MA) laundromat [I used to live in Somerville!], a fellow in a wheelchair tries to talk to a punk chick about her tattoos.  She blows him off but then, outside, she asks if he needs help putting his clean laundry in his van.  He thanks her and, when she turns to lean into the van, rises out of his wheelchair and stabs her in the neck with a hypodermic syringe.  Sneaky!  He's apparently the Artist as the next short scene has him dressed like Dexter, spattered with blood and wielding a circular saw.

The low oxygen feed is working and Walter suggests increasing the flow by 10% each hour, getting the boy used to it.  He is remarkably healthy for having lived in a basement for so long (however long that is).  He doesn't talk but he watches everyone closely and when Olivia writes down some notes, he grabs the pen from her and writes a name, the letters upside down: Sam Gilmore.  Broyles says he'll contact Missing Persons to see if there's a lost boy with that name.

Charlie calls to say they've found a body - the Artist's first piece, the punk chick from the laundromat.  She's done up with dark hair and an evening gown, her piercings removed and tattoos bleached; she's posed like a mannequin.  Her name is Samantha Gilmore ... which gives Olivia a twitch.  Back at HQ, they review the Artist's file: he killed four women last time before stopping.  Broyles is curious as to how the basement boy knew the victim's name.

The Fringe gang discusses Basement Boy.  Although he looks to be about ten years old, the tunnels had been sealed for decades and Walter thinks that the closed environment may have altered his physionomy.  Meanwhile, the Artist picks out another victim: a girl walking her dog.  Olivia visits Basement Boy and has brought some M&Ms since she's heard he doesn't much care for hospital food.  He doesn't eat any himself but feeds her one.  She asks him to write his own name down this time but they are interrupted by a Social Services guy (played by Eric Paladino so you just KNOW he isn't actually a Social Services guy) who says that he's arranged for Basement Boy to be moved to a "facility" where he can "get the treatment he needs."  Basement Boy watches Olivia's interaction with Eric P. through the window.  When she gets distressed, the alarms attached to the boy's monitors go off and he starts wheezing and panting.  Olivia rushes to him and he calms down immediately.  Eric P. takes off and makes a phone call: "I'm at the hospital.  I think we've found another one."  See, I knew he was too much of a badass to be Social Services. 

When Eric P. has gone, Basement Boy writes an address, again in upside down letters:  547 Marlborough.  Charlie and Olivia walk up and down Marlborough but don't notice the Artist and his latest victim, parked on the street in his van.  Later that night, Charlie calls Olivia to tell her that they found the second body, propped up in front of St. Catherine's, dressed like a Goth chick and surrounded by candles.  He also tells her that not long ago they found the victim's dog tied up near 547 Marlborough.  Olivia is aghast, saying that they were right there and didn't know it.  But what she's really bewildered by is how Basement Boy knew.

Olivia goes to Walter's lab and asks him if (1) he has any idea how Basement Boy is doing this, plus (2) how can she communicate with him.  Walter thinks that the boy's environmental deprivation ramped up his other senses and receptors.  He also thinks he has an idea on how to read/hear the boy's thoughts since the boy can't communicate the regular way.  Olivia goes to MGH nd tells Basement Boy tht she wants to take him away from the hospital for a while.  He takes her hand happily.  Not happy: Eric P. when he later finds out that Basement Boy has been discharged.

At the lab, Walter drags out that thought-transmitting head gear from an earlier episode.  Both Peter and Olivia object, saying that Walter is not allowed to drill into this child's head.  Walter supposes the head gear can be modified.  After some goofing around by Walter to put the boy at ease, they put the head gear onto his little bald head.  Suddenly he grabs Olivia's hand: he's not afraid of the testing; he senses Eric P. about to charge into the lab, a silent Broyles in tow.  Eric P. asks Olivia if she thought she could get away with stealing a child from protective custody.  She points out that she didn't steal him and also he's helping the FBI with an active investigation.  It is then brought to everybody's attention that Eric P. is actually CIA, Division of Special Sciences or something.  He's here to collect the boy. Broyles tells Olivia that this outranks them both, but asks Eric P. if he can wait one more day: it seems Charlie has found the Artist's third victim and maybe Basement Boy can help save the fourth woman.  Eric P. agrees but is all grumpy about it.

After Forensics finds cow blood and plastic shreds under one of the victim's fingernails, Peter deduces that meat packing plants have industrial rolls of plastic.  Olivia heads off to search meat packing plants and fortuitously finds one where the manager sold some plastic to some random guy off the street just yesterday.  The Bishops resume their attempts to read Basement Boy's thoughts.  The head gear starts to pick up something that sounds like a voice but then Basement Boy starts to shiver and turn blue.  They yank the head gear off.  Walter finds this confusing: if anything, brain activity should generate heat.  They soon figure out that the boy is an empath and is emotionally bonded to Olivia - he got cold when she was in the meat packing plant.  Olivia returns to the lab and asks Basement Boy directly if he will help her.  He's reluctant to do so and the team realizes that he heard Olivia acquiesce to Eric P.'s demands - he doesn't want to help her because he'll have to go with the CIA when the case is over.  Olivia apologizes to him sincerely and asks again for his help.  Basement Boy writes down another address.

The FBI runs traffic stops near the address the boy wrote down.  Soon enough, they find the Artist.  He tries to make a break for it and ends up crashing the van.  Charlie checks the van and resuces the fourth victim - still alive - while Olivia chases down the Artist, without backup, mind you.  The Artist attacks her but is no match for our kickass girl; she ends up stabbing him with his own knife and, it looks like, killing him.  No loss there.  As they drive back to HQ, Olivia calls Broyles and asks for his help.

She brings the head of pediatrics to Walter's lab to pick up Basement Boy: the doctor has found a safe and anonymous home for him, with a family, where he will not be subjected to the CIA's testing.  Olivia gives him a kiss on the forehead and he smiles, just a little, and goes peacefully with the doctor.  Some time later, Eric P. is infuriated when Broyles tells him that the boy just disappeared out from under the protective detail - no one knows where he went.  Eric P. doesn't buy it but doesn't press the issue.

There's a quick domestic scene with Olivia, Rachel and Ella laughing.  Basement Boy, in the backseat of the doctor's car, picks up on Olivia's feelings and smiles to himself.  Then there's that weirdo bald dude just standing there on the sidewalk.  The boy turns and stares at the man, and Bald Dude stares back.  I guess Eric P. was right: there is another one.

Previously on Fringe / next time on Fringe

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mini book review: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

As I've probably mentioned, I'm a Stephen King fan.  I own many of his books and tend to reread them often.  I think he has a gift for creating characters and their environs, particularly small towns; I think his dialogue usually rings true; and while he may tend to write too much, man can tell a story.  My favorites are The Stand, 'Salem's Lot, The Shining and his short story collections.  I love his short story collections, which affection I will conditionally extend to his novellas. 

Full Dark, No Stars is the latest entry into his shorter works, consisting of four longish stories too short to be novels.  "1922" is set in Omaha, Nebraska, and follows how Wilfred James's life falls apart when his saucy wife Arlette decides to sell the family farm.  I found this lead-off tale dull and overlong, and the prose seemed stilted, as though doing a period piece was not King's bailiwick that day.  "Big Driver" is, to put it bluntly, a rape-revenge tale.  King has had instances of sexual assault in his works before - this one's just ugly.  "Fair Extension" was my favorite of the bunch: King's twisted sense of humor comes out in this deal-with-the-devil tale.  The last story, "A Good Marriage," is about the end of one of those, when a wife finds her husband's secret stash in the garage and discovers that sometimes you really don't know the person with whom you're sharing your life.

Funnily enough, for a book where two stories have spouses killing spouses and three stories have a fair amount of human violence against women ("Fair Extension" being exempted from each of these), King dedicates Full Dark, No Stars to his wife: "For Tabby.  Still."  This is not King's best showing, and will not be listed among my favorites; I wonder if maybe it's because in these stories he has largely veered away from the boogeyman and made the monsters people.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fringe recap: S1E14 "Ability"

Flashback to Wissenschaft Prison, Germany, as Jones's lawyer comes to visit, bringing Jones his sunscreen, etc., etc., and ending up dead on Jones's cot as the prisoner teleports out of the cell and into Boston.

Two weeks later, Olivia tells the Bishop boys about Jones's escape from prison.  She's heading off to interrogate Mitchell Loeb again and wants Walter to remind her what it was he (he who? Walter? or Loeb?) was working on.  Walter says her that it was a teleportation system.  Color Olivia intrigued.  Meanwhile, over at Jones's top secret hideout, he emerges from the decompression chamber he's been in for the past two weeks.  He asks a flunky if everything is ready.  It is.  Jones has a case of the shakes, however.

A man wearing latex gloves gives a newsstand vendor a $2 for a paper, not waiting for his change.  Shortly thereafter the vendor's eyes, nose and mouth start sealing up, the skin growing over them.  Other customers scream in horror as the man suffocates right in front of them.

Prisoner Loeb is brought to his meeting with Olivia.  She wants to know where Jones is.  "You're not someone I really want to work with," gripes Loeb, no doubt referring to the fact that Olivia shot his wife dead not too long ago.  Olivia threatens him with a transfer to a Very Scary Prison but Loeb remains resolute: what was written will come to pass and nothing Olivia does will stop it.  She is interrupted by a phone call from Broyles, telling her to collect the Bishops and go to MGH.

At the hospital, Walter examines the vendor's body.  Olivia makes the assumption that Jones is behind this attack but has no proof.  She speaks with Peter outside, saying that the initials "ZFT" that keep popping up in the investigation may refer to a manuscript about "destruction through the advancement of technology."  The one known copy was thought to have been destroyed but she's hoping that Peter might be able to use one of his "weird connections" to find it.  Peter's like, you're weird ... but let me try.

They take the vendor's body to Walter's lab, which makes Astrid concerned that it might be contagious.  Walter says no, not to worry, and pokes a hole in the flesh covering the vendor's mouth, siphoning out the gas trapped within.  Astrid chokes at the smell.

Peter and Olivia stop by an indie bookstore, asking about the manuscript.  The bookseller will look into it.

Charlie's teams has found a warehouse in Allston, leased to Jones's (now-deceased) lawyer, that recently had its power turned back on.  Before Broyles can send a team to investigate, however, Jones himself shows up in the FBI HQ lobby.  They put a gun on him and he raises his hands, saying calmly that he will only speak to Olivia.  They take a key off him and send it to Forensics.  Harris is not inclined to acquiesce to Jones's demand and instead sends Olivia to investigate the warehouse without speaking to Jones.  If she can come up with hard proof that he was connected to the dead news vendor, maybe he'll let her talk to him.  Meanwhile, Peter's bookseller has procured a copy of the manuscript.  Peter reads some of it to her over the phone and it's all dark and dismal and about technology bringing about the apocalypse.  Keep reading, says Olivia.

When the FBI team gets to the warehouse, they find the decompression chamber, a sketch Jones did of Olivia ... and a folded $2 bill.  Of course, the poor kid who found the money gets his face grown over and starts to smother.  Olivia does an emergency tracheotomy but that hole grows over too.  The agent dies.

While Olivia is thus occupied, Harris tries to interrogate Jones.  Jones doesn't want to talk to anyone other than Olivia - he's not that well and is hoping to avoid "any more unnecessary deaths."  He also gives Harris a list of things he'll need when Olivia meets with him: walkie-talkies, analog wristwatch, etc.  Olivia goes to the interrogation room upon her return, handing Jones the stuff he asked for.  He quickly tinkers with it and manages to put together a device that disrupts all the audio equipment in the room, allowing him to speak privately with her.  He admits that something far worse is coming than what is currently going on but first he wants Olivia to pass a test.  He tells her to take that key and go some place to fetch something he's left for her there.  She has sixteen hours before an explosive detonates that will kill hundreds of people just like the agent and the vendor.  She takes off.

Walter reads an excerpt from the manuscript in voice-over as Olivia retrieves the box left for her: there are other worlds besides our own, and there are those who have already found the passages between them, and only one world will survive - it's us or them.  Back at the lab, the box is full of puzzles/tests.  Olivia is to take the first one - turning off a series of lights using only her mind - and get back to Jones.  She's skeptical, of course, but gives it a go as the Bishops and Astrid watch.  Her phone rings: it's Charlie, saying they've got a hit on the van carrying the explosive.  She hangs up the phone and grabs her coat, refusing to play Jones's "mind game." 

Olivia tells Jones that he's got some insane delusion where he thinks he's recruiting her as a warrior in some imaginary war - she doesn't want to play.  Jones says that she's already part of it, having been treated with some chemical compound via spinal tap.  He's insistent that she take his tests but collapses in pain.  They take him to Walter's lab for patching up.  Olivia says that she has to go to Massive Dynamic to find out about that chemical compound (she can't use the phone?).  In the meantime, could Peter maybe rig that lightbox so she can fool Jones?

At the Massive Dynamic offices, Nina Sharp confirms that cortexyphan was created by Walter's old lab partner, William Bell, in 1981.  It was meant to be administered to children to limit the eventual limitation of the human brain, Bell having believed that each human is born with limitless potential but that the potential shrinks with age.  The drug was apparently only run in trials in Ohio.  Olivia points out that she never lived in Ohio - she grew up on a Jacksonville, Florida, military base with her family.

Back at the lab, Walter has revived Jones (who is in rough shape).  Olivia tells him that she can pass the test - because Peter has successfully reprogrammed the light box.  She demonstrates and Jones apparently buys it, telling them where the bio bomb is going to be: on Church Street in Boston.  [I used to work on Church Street in Boston, btw.]

Excellent: when they find the bomb, the bomb squad can't defuse it because they don't understand the wiring, which is identical to the light display on Olivia's test box.  She calls Jones at the lab, confessing that she faked it before.  He says he knows, but he believes that she is capable of actually doing it, turning those lights off with her mind.  He has faith in her: there is only one way out of this and it's her.

Olivia stands in front of the bomb, one minute left.  Peter tells her that she's nuts and he can't stay to do this with her.  He heads for the elevator with the rest of the team but turns back at the last moment, coming to stand quietly behind her.  Olivia stares at the lights, calming herself.  And slowing, one at a time, the lights out out, all of them, with two seconds to spare.  Peter is incredulous: how did you do that?  Olivia is trembling: I don't know.

Afterwards, she has convinced herself that it was still a mind game, programmed to turn itself off.  Peter's like, okay, I didn't die tonight so I'll believe anything you want to tell me.  He asks if she wants to go get a drink, or five, but she's going to MGH where they've just transferred Jones.  She has a few more questions for him.

Walter and Astrid are cleaning up the lab and she tells him that she thinks his having invented a teleportation machine is pretty damn cool, despite the fact that it kills you if you use it.  Walter says she's mistaken: it does something unthinkable, but it doesn't kill you. 

When Olivia gets to the hospital, everyone is in a tizzy because there's a huge hole busted through the wall in Jones's room ... but no Jones.  There is a message for Olivia, however, written on the wall: YOU PASSED.  A little later, she gets a phone call from Nina Sharp who has uncovered a second, smaller clinical trial for cortexyphan, down at a military base in Jacksonville, Florida.  Dun dun dun dun!

Walter continues to read the manuscript later: what we think of as reality is a larger multiverse.  He frowns, looking at the Y in "reality," which skips a little, riding higher than the other letters.  He digs an old typewriter out of a closet, inserts a piece of paper and types "ability."  The Y in that word is the same as the Y in the manuscript.  Walter wrote the manuscript.

Previously on Fringe / next time on Fringe