In this week’s episode, we again explore an alternate version of a scenario from early in Fringe‘s history. On deck this time: the genetic mutations of season one episode “The Transformation”.
The cold open follows that episode through Bowman’s bloody nose and self-sequestering in the bathroom. However, instead of emerging from the bathroom, killing everyone and crashing the plane, he collects himself and claims it was just a panic attack. He’s only able to maintain his composure for so long, though, and ends up transforming into a giant porcupine man while the TSA is going through his luggage at the airport.
ACT ONE – Unfit for Duty
In the wake of Olivia’s decision to stick with her new-old memories, the bureau sends Olivia to a shrink. She talks about the tapdancing and red tape she’s had to go through, then brings up how her sister Rachel moved back to Chicago with Ella so the girl could be closer to Rachel’s ex. This seems to concern the shrink a bit since, as Broyles reveals to Olivia, Rachel and her hubby are still married in this timeline and have two kids. It turns out that 40% of what Olivia told the shink about her life was incorrect, so the Powers that Be won’t yet release Olivia for duty.
Olivia complains to Peter that they won’t even let her consult on cases but suggest she think of it as a vacation. Peter suggests they get “a rug and a fireplace” and take a little romantic holiday in Vermont, but is called away on a case. Olivia seems fine with it, but looks awful lonely after he goes.
ACT TWO – Lincoln “Forever Alone” Lee
Lincoln is taking lead on cases in Olivia’s absence, so he starts to fill Peter in on the case. Peter begins to explain how he and Olivia worked this case before, but Walter bursts in with every birthday present he bought for Peter – one on every birthday to help cope with the grief. Peter gives him a great big giant hug because Walter still doesn’t know that Peter really is “his” Peter.
The team takes a peek at the TSA security footage of the porcupine man taking out the TSA agents before heading over to check out his spiney corpse and interrogate his grieving sister. It turns out that pricklepuss seems to have just keeled over and died after the attack. Peter gets Lincoln’s go-ahead to call Olivia for some information about Bowman’s partner in the case they worked, and the fellas head off for his house.
On the way, they engage in the awkward (but necessary) conversation about the Peter-Olivia situation. Lincoln admits that “under other circumstances” he might think that Peter was drugging her, but he can tell that this Olivia really does love Peter. ….although it obviously still pisses him off. The conversation ends with the exasperated sigh of a nice guy finishing last:
Peter: “…you’re a good guy.”
Lincoln “Yeah [sigh] …I’m a good guy”
Surprise! Olivia meets them at the partner’s place, even though she’s off-duty. Lincoln tries to send her away but, despite his resignation to the new dynamic, still just can’t say no to her. The trio breaks into the house, which is spare yet strewn with empty Chinese takeout boxes and medical waste bags. We catch glimpses of a giant porcupine man in every shadow but, I admit, I still started a bit when it finally attacked Lincoln!
ACT THREE – Beauty and the Porcupine Beast
Back at the lab, Walter stitches up Lincoln while Peter tears into the airport porcupine man, whose cause of death (aside from a Walter’s theory that his cells just degraded and his organs fell apart in the mutation process) is still uncertain. They did find track marks from his injections and a tattoo that Walter says is Sumerian – an ancient language far inferior to the Yiddish Bell’s dad introduced Walter to. Walter makes Lincoln stay behind in the lab for more stitches while Olivia and Peter go out to track down “an old friend” who can help them decipher the tattoo.
Peter and Olivia visit a bookseller named Ed and show him the tattoo, which prompts him to ask only “Are you one of them?”
Walter tries to get Lincoln to stay in the lab with the tempting ploy of peanut butter and bacon sandwiches and, when that surprisingly fails, informs him that he may be infected with the porcupine mutation virus. There’s an 80% chance that Walter will be able to cure him once he starts to mutate, but that other 20% makes Lincoln understandably nervous.
Back at the bookshop, Ed translates the cuniform as meaning renewal or rebirth and explains that he’s been seeing it pop up in obscure corners of the internet in groups obsessed with building better humans through “mutation by design”.
We cut to a woman entering her apartment, where a porcupine man waits in the shadows. She iis not shocked when she realizes what it is, though, saying only, “Oh baby, you’re hurting.” She then gives her Beast an injection and tells it they are going to be “like Adam and Eve”.
ACT FOUR – Lipids, Delicious Lipids
At the lab, Peter, Olivia, & Astrid gab about silly conspiracy and end of the world theories. Walter mutters that it’s perfect, which, again, is a bit awkward for poor Lincoln. Walter tries to cheer him up by playing up how rare it is to find a perfectly matched chess partner, but that’s not a lot of solace for poor, lonely Lincoln.
Astrid finds a site about guiding evolution through genetic mutations that happens to have a palindromic code on it, which reminds Walter of a trip he and Bell were on that led to a way of organizing data using palindromes. This means a visit to Nina and Massive Dynamic, which, again, is sad and awkward because Nina remembers her relationship with Olivia but Olivia doesn’t. Nina looks into their files but finds all records have been erased – and that they project had been led by David Robert Jones.
Lincoln picks the bacon off Walter’s sandwiches, even though he doesn’t usually like pork. He’s also handkering for some onion rings and cheesecake and gives a disturbingly hungry glance at Walter’s lovehandles. It makes Walter realize, though, that human lipids are what the creatures need or long for in the transformation period. The bags at the house were full of siphoned fats from liposuctions – medical waste that can only have been stolen.
Peter asks the question of how the creatures can get around unseen, stealing fat and traversing the city. A quick cut to the porcupine beasty and his lady show us the answer – they have wings and can fly!
ACT FIVE – Slightly Racist Chess Moves
Walter makes Lincoln drink a foul smoothie of wheat grass, penicillin, “some odd laxatives” and mint (an unsuccessfully attempt to kill the aftertaste) that he says will keep Lincoln from become a spike beast. He’s also learned that the meds that Bowman had in his luggage were to safely manage the transition, without which he transformed too quickly and died. Walter’s fancy computer model of the final steps of the transformation fill the team in on the flight capabilities, which clues them in on a liposuction facility in a high rise building that is probably the next target. Lincoln and a fully-armed team moves in on the office while Olivia remains at the lab with Walter.
Walter’s musing on the “sleeping Indian defense” Lincoln left on their chess game gives Olivia the epiphany that the porcupine creature might be nocturnal like real porcupines and that turning on the lights might scare it. She gets word to Peter just in time to daze the creature as it attacks Lincoln. Lincoln takes it down, but is then attacked by the creature’s lady love and Peter steps in to drop her with a well-placed round.
ACT SIX – The Creepiest Ark of All
The team regroups at the lab to debrief. It turns out that Bowman (our originally spikey friend) was the one who obtained the serum for the would-be Adam and Eve, so the person who created it (and why) is still unknown. If David Robert Jones was involved, why would he want to make a blind human-porcupine hybrid and who would sign on for this? Walter muses that maybe Jones is trying to “take control” of the evolutionary process that is, essentially, either a miracle or an accident.
Broyles shows up and Olivia preemptively apologizes for just about everything in the episode, but he didn’t come to chew her out for her unsanctioned involvement in the case. Broyles came to reinstate her and say that, even if she’s only “60% of the Olivia I knew, you’re still better than 90% of the agents I’ve worked with. And a Fringe Division with Olivia Dunham is better than a Fringe Division without her.”
We don’t end on this “up” note, though. Instead, we watch Bowman’s sister convince a man to undergo the tranformation so that they can become “children of a new world”. A final cut to a menagerie of genetic mutations locked up in cages pulls back to reveal a giant freighter, presumably full of the horrific creatures.
Next Week: A shapeshifting vigilante! And the suggestion that one of the team will fall in action!