Fringe’s A Better Human Being Episode Explained

By Saralyn Smith | Updated

Fringe A Better Human Being

We pick up immediately after the previous episode’s kiss, which is the cause of not an insignificant amount of confusion and embarrassment for Olivia.

She can’t really explain why she did it other than it “just felt normal,” although she chalks it up to residual effects from Westfield.

Peter offers to stay “just in case” (in case she slips and decides to kiss him again?), but she declines. Olivia pulls the old “I have a headache” card, although we catch a glimpse of a vision or memory she has of the original timeline after Peter leaves.

Cut to Deerfield Mental Hospital, where a young male patient stands in a window and describes step-by-step as three young men break into a house in New York and murder a man.

Tension builds as the scene cuts back and forth between the patient and the home invasion, culminating in the patient declaring “It’s over. He’s dead” as a sedative eases him into oblivion.

Fringe’s A Better Human Being Act One – Voices

Lincoln has returned from his two-episode exile, and he and Olivia go to the mental hospital to visit the patient, Sean. Walter is already there, waxing philosophical about LSD and the human mind to a patient who believes he is currently circling Venus.

It’s a bit odd that Walter should seem so unaffected being inside a mental institution when, just a few episodes ago, he wouldn’t leave the lab, but it’s a testament to Peter’s positive influence.

The team interrogates Sean, who has been institutionalized for schizophrenia since he was 14. Walter is surprisingly competent and tactful, learning that Sean’s voices are always inside his head and never speak directly to him (only to each other).

From this, Walter concludes that Sean has been misdiagnosed as a schizophrenic and is actually hearing the thoughts of other people through some kind of psychological symbiosis or mental telepathy. He convinces Sean to go off his meds so they can use his special insight in the case.

Throughout all of this, Olivia continues to see and hear the events of what we know as the original timeline – conversations, Peter walking through the halls of the institution, finding Walter with his crazy beard.

It drives her to visit Peter at his house, where she announces that she remembers everything. She knows where Walter used to sleep. She remembers what happened at apartment 6B and at Peter’s house afterward.

Act Two – Oh, Brother

Walter has Olivia hooked up to some machines in the lab, testing to make sure her brain is functioning properly. While Walter and Peter are obviously concerned, Olivia is calm, reassuring them that she isn’t afraid.

When asked to recount her first meeting with Walter, Olivia initially describes what happened in Peter’s timeline. It’s only after prompting that she remembers going to see Walter by herself, and even then, the memory is more like a hazy dream.

Walter is again quick to explain this away by bringing up how empathetic Olivia was as a child, tuning herself to the emotions and desires of the adults around her. In this case, he thinks she’s empathizing with Peter’s strong desire to be with his Olivia and taking up his memories as her own. Peter is horrified by this possibility, while Olivia continues to sit around creepily serene.

Lincoln comes in and reminds them that they have a case, for which they now even have DNA evidence of one of the murderers.

When Walter examines the DNA, he notices a strand that is identical to Sean’s DNA. It’s so rare that it could only mean Sean and this attacker are half-brothers, which automatically means mental telepathy is happening! Since Sean is supposedly an only child, Olivia and Lincoln take off to talk to his mom.

Walter takes advantage of the time alone with Peter to express his disapproval of what’s happening. He doesn’t know if Peter means to do this to Olivia but impresses upon Peter that it is wrong regardless. No matter how much you long for and want to reclaim something that is lost, it is just wrong!

At Sean’s mother’s house, we learn that he was conceived via IVF and, therefore, could conceivably have biological siblings. It’s a strange coincidence that Olivia and Lincoln have brought this up, as she was recently contacted about the IVF by a reporter – the man killed in the cold open. We immediately switch to an older man in a retirement home who is visibly shaken by a news report of the reporter’s death.

Poor, kind Astrid has gotten “crazy person detail” again and is eating lunch with Sean. There’s a bit of cute and/or awkward chitchat about how hungry the kid is thanks to Walter’s detox plan. He tells Astrid that she’s pretty, then reveals that he can already hear the voices again. Unfortunately, he now hears so many different voices that he can’t understand what they’re saying.

Act Three – Good God!

Back at the lab, Walter makes some tea and runs tests on a few samples of Olivia’s hair while Olivia tries to track down Sean’s IVF doctor. She asks for Peter’s help going through some files, but then abruptly grabs his hand to look at a scar she doesn’t remember him having.

Peter tells her it wouldn’t be a part of these new “memories” because he got it since returning but, instead of disengaging from Olivia’s grasp, turns it into a full-fledged, hand-holding situation.

It’s one of the most loaded and longing-filled grasps in television history – until Walter comes in and kills the mood.

He’s had a breakthrough on the case, having to do with how bees operate as one, even across great distances, doing whatever it takes to ensure the survival of the hive. He proposes that Sean and his brothers have formed a collective identity and are working in concert to protect their group. Peter and Olivia then leave to visit the IVF doctor (Dr. Frank) at his retirement home, but not before Walter stares Peter down with protective and disapproving intensity.

At this point, the case descends into territory The X-Files covered more interestingly over a decade ago and ceases to be terribly interesting.

It turns out that Dr. Frank was experimenting with the embryos he was creating for his clients, using recombinant DNA and his own “genetic material” to try to create “a better human being” that would regain traits like telepathy and heightened protective instincts that were lost to humans long ago.

His “children” (who all seem to be male, although no one addresses this) previously killed another writer Dr. Frank had hired to write about his work. Peter and Olivia decide to go to his storage unit to get the records of some 200 patients of his that might have these homicidal superhuman children.

Thankfully, the episode’s tie-in to the season’s larger storyline starts to pick up at this point. Back at the lab, Walter literally says “Good God” at a test result that comes through just as Lincoln pops in. Walter knows what’s happening to Olivia and nothing else matters! He needs to go see Nina NOW!

Act Four – Confrontations

Lincoln and Walter confront Nina at Massive Dynamic with the news that Olivia’s hair showed she was being dosed with cortexiphan.

Nina continues with her concerned friend and pseudo-mother act, but Lincoln and Walter are none too impressed. They make her take them to the vault holding the leftover cortexiphan from Walter and Bell’s trials, despite her protests that it is extremely secure and that she should probably make a few calls first.

On the way to Dr. Frank’s storage unit, Olivia explains to Peter that this new situation is also difficult for her. She now has all of the memories and feelings of their relationship and what they mean to each other, but there’s no reciprocation.

It’s a painful reversal of Peter’s situation upon first appearing in this timeline. Peter doesn’t have much to say about any of this until Olivia mentions that the explosion that killed John Scott was done with Semtex. That was a detail Peter never knew, which means he can’t be projecting his memories into Olivia.

As they open the unit, Olivia gets a call from Astrid and Sean, who have figured out that the mutant men are waiting there to kill her. The guys try to run Olivia and Peter over with a car and beat them, but our fearless heroes are just too badass for them to succeed.

Dr. Frank, however, is not so lucky. He is suffocated in his wheelchair by a couple of his children who sneak into his retirement home.

Act Five – Here, Then Gone

The episode-specific storyline begins at the mental hospital, where Sean feels scared and alone because he can’t hear all his voices anymore. Astrid is characteristically kind and comforting.

At a gas station, Olivia expresses confusion over what to do now that the case is over since they would normally go back to one of their houses…together. Peter finally tells her that he’s afraid of once again betraying the Olivia he loves, but when he looks in her eyes, he knows that she is his Olivia.

Then they make out! Olivia is obviously super happy about this turn of events, but her need to pee drives her out of the car and into the gas station bathroom. Nothing good ever happens in gas station bathrooms, though.

Lincoln probably wouldn’t be happy about Peter and Olivia’s little reunion, but he’s too busy going to the vault with Nina and Walter. Nina places her hand on a biometric scanner to unlock the vault, proving that it is as secure as she says. There are 20 vials, but Walter tastes one and knows it’s not cortexiphan. Nina looks horrified, but since she’s already shown her hand (literally and metaphorically), it doesn’t go over well.

After a little bit, Peter looks for Olivia at the gas station, but the attendant says he didn’t see her come in. A quick cut shows it’s because she’s been kidnapped and zip-tied to a chair someplace! She can hear Nina’s voice, which initially seems like a trick. But then we see that Nina’s tied to a chair in the dark little room, too! Nina looks pretty worse for wear – how long has she been down there?