FRINGE Recap: ‘A Better Human Being’

February 18, 2012 by  

FRINGE giveth, FRINGE taketh away.

Episodes like “A Better Human Being” are exactly why I can’t write these recaps as I watch the episode the first time around. Sure, you think the hour is going one way and then bam — the episode takes a turn so sharp you hurt your brain a little bit. (Maybe we should all invest in helmets…?)

If you haven’t watched the episode yet, what the heck are you waiting for? If you have, let’s discuss what went down…

First up, the case. Shawn, a young, institutionalized schizophrenic hears the details of an attack going on miles away, via several voices in his head. When our team goes to investigate, he says he doesn’t recognize the murder victim, but there are 8, maybe 9 voices he hears in his head. He tells the team the voices come and go, but the previous night, when the murder occurred, he only heard three. Shawn points them towards the subway station, where he says one of the killers had to get cleaned up before getting on the train.

Walter theorizes that the schizophrenia diagnosis is wrong, given that the voices never speak to the young man, and Shawn agrees to go off his meds in order to help with the case.

Later, Lincoln brings a DNA report from the blood gathered at the subway bathroom, thanks to Shawn’s tip. Walter recognizes the sample and realizes that the killer is related to Shawn — it’s Shawn’s half-brother. The team realizes it’s possible the reason Shawn is hearing all three killers’ voices in his head is because they’re all related. Shawn’s mother confirms to Olivia and Lincoln that her son was conceived via IVF, so it’s possible he could have biological half-siblings out there. She also shares that a reporter had contacted her about her conception — Daniel Greene, who also happens to have been the guy the three boys killed in the beginning of the hour.

Meanwhile, Astrid has been left alone with Shawn, and the duo bond. She tells him when he starts to hear the voices again, they’ll know the detox off his meds are working, and he admits he can hear them. Unfortunately, he can’t hear what they’re saying because there are too many of them.

Olivia and Peter track down Dr. Frank, the man who ran the clinic where Shawn was conceived. He says he knows a journalist was killed, and it’s not the first time it’s happened: Apparently the good doc wanted to make sure his research was properly preserved, so he previously hired a writer to document what he did. Unfortunately, that man was killed, too. The second death has led Dr. Frank to believe that it wasn’t merely a coincidence his first writer was murdered.

Dr. Frank admits his clinic wasn’t his real passion project — he was big into genetic manipulation. (Was anyone else shocked he wasn’t directly tied in with Massive Dynamic?) Not only was he attempting to make a better human being (episode title shout out!), but he used his own sperm to produce approximately 200 children (albeit in different sample groups). He wanted those children to use abilities that had long remained dormant, a la telepathy. Dr. Frank, Peter and Olivia figure out the “special” kids are killing people who put their identity as risk so no one ever finds out they’re different — if they were discovered, people would want to do testing, etc. Dr. Frank tells them there is additional information in a storage unit.

Peter and Olivia go to track down the info, but unfortunately for them, they aren’t alone. (Yes, I’ll have more on their other conversation during this scene in a few paragraphs.) Shawn once again hears the voices of his half-brothers and Astrid calls just in the nick of time to warn her teammates that the killers are out to get them. After two of the boys unsuccessfully try to run Peter and Olivia over, they arrest them. Unfortunately for Dr. Frank, two of the “special” kids come to visit him and they manage to kill him.

Later, Shawn is home and he’s upset over the sudden silence. Astrid comforts him about the quiet, saying he deserves to be normal and be able to hear his own thoughts. Hopefully the homicidal kids will be done now that dear old dad is dead.

But of course, that isn’t all that went on in the episode. There is still the looming matter of the new Olivia who suddenly acquired the old Olivia’s memories…

Last we saw Olivia and Peter, he was confused as to why someone who didn’t really know him was kissing him and partaking in their Friday ritual. We pick up almost immediately after that awkward end, as Olivia tries to brush off her kissing Peter as something that “just felt normal.” She dismisses his concerns about her well-being, but when she shows him to the door, she has a flash of our Olivia seeing Peter glimmer in “Jacksonville.” Things get more intense as Olivia is in the mental hospital to investigate the case and has flashbacks to her first meeting with Walter in St. Claire’s.

Later, Olivia heads to the Bishop house and this is our girl. She knows where Walter slept, she can recall that she and Peter got together after the events of “6B,” the whole William Bell ordeal, Peter and the machine, and there is a lightness to her that has been absent all season. It’s as if something has clicked in her mind and she’s finally at peace.

Unfortunately for her, Peter has been down this road before and he’s still hesitant to believe her. “That’s not possible,” he tells her. Um, Peter? You were erased from existence…how is this any less possible?

But still, there are tests to be done. Walter hooks her up to some sort of brain scan machine, and he asks Olivia questions about their first meeting. She recites what we saw in the pilot — John was injured and she went to St. Claire for Walter’s help, and Peter was needed because a family member had to sign Walter out. Peter almost seems angry/frustrated over her remembering this, insisting that those events happened in his timeline. Walter asks if she has any memory of going to St. Claire’s without Peter and Olivia says she does, but it’s hazy, “like an old dream.”

The brain scans are normal, and Walter theorizes perhaps it’s empathy that is causing Olivia to be like this. Walter not-so-subtly accuses Peter of doing this to her, because he wants his Olivia back so much. Peter insists it isn’t due to him; how could he give her memories she never experienced? Walter suggests she’s perhaps channeling his memories. Walter takes some hair from Olivia to do some further testing.

Walter has been a lot of things in his time on FRINGE, but rarely have I found this version as cold and terrifying as I did when he was finally left alone with Peter in this episode.

“I know what you’re doing,” he tells his quasi-son. “I know what it’s like to want something back that you love. I have succumbed to that temptation myself.”

Given how close Walter and Peter seemed to be getting in the last episode, it’s a bit tragic that in order for the Peter and Olivia relationship to be restored, this one had to be torpedoed a bit (at least temporarily). When Peter and Olivia share a moment while doing research and she admits she doesn’t remember a scar on his hand (he explains he got it a month ago so she shouldn’t know it), Walter even got cranky over that. Poor man.

Walter reads Olivia’s test results and realizes she’s been dosed with Cortexiphan. He demands Lincoln take him to see Nina immediately. Nina appears to be concerned, but she insists there’s no way security could have been breached on the vault where the Cortexiphan is stored — only her hand print can open it up. Walter and Lincoln still insist on proof. Smart boys.

While Olivia and Peter check out the aforementioned storage facilities, she expresses frustrations at his distance with her.

“I keep expecting to see that look in your eyes, but it isn’t there,” she says. “Or it is, and you’re pulling back.” She asks him to behave naturally, but he uses the case to semi-blow her off. She mentions the last time she opened up a container like the one they are at, it was rigged with a chemical. That gives Peter pause because he never knew what the specific chemical was, so the fact that she can tell him seems to make something click in his mind…he isn’t projecting his memories on her. Before he can properly celebrate, they do have killers to catch.

After they solve the case, Peter and Olivia stop to get gas and this is approximately the point where I realize there is literally no way this episode is going to end well. I mean, you don’t show gas station trips on television unless something super important is about to go down.

At first it’s adorable and awkward — Peter and Olivia are in the car talking and she notes that she remembers going to one of their homes after the cases were solved in the past, but given where they are now, what the heck do they do? She’s ramble-y and so completely frazzled that it’s endearing, and Peter tells her he’s thinking about it, too. But Peter is still a bit hesitant to jump fully into this with Olivia:

“I’m afraid,” he tells her. “I’m afraid, because I’ve made this mistake before. I betrayed the Olivia that I love. What I’m really afraid of is…when I look into your eyes, I know it’s you. I know it’s you.”

And then he kisses her. It was so romantic and perfect for their former relationship that I almost expected a sniper shot to come ruin the moment. Alas, Olivia really just needs to pee.

Back at Massive Dynamic, Nina takes Lincoln and Walter into the vault and shows them the 20 vials of Cortexiphan. However, Walter is suspicious and tries a sample, noting it’s actually potassium iodine with food coloring. How the heck is Nina going to wiggle out of this one?

But no, the hits keep coming. Peter goes to check on Olivia in the bathroom (how long was she gone?!) and discovers she’s missing.

Cut to Olivia, tied up in an empty room. A female voice calls out to Olivia, panicking that they hurt her, and when Olivia opens her eyes, she sees…a tied-up Nina. This Nina assures her, “We’re going to be okay.” Given that they’re both tied up, it’s not looking good.

Um, does this mean my crazy “we’ve already met alt-Nina” theory might be right?! Or do we think one of the Ninas is a shapeshifter? Either way, we’re going to have to wait until next week to find out.

Additional thoughts:

  • Walter was out of the lab and no one batted an eye. Is that a sign things are shifting back to normal, or is that the new norm after he ventured out in “Welcome to Westfield”?
  • I’m actually secretly a sucker for clip shows — I know, under normal circumstances it takes up valuable time that could be devoted to new material, but it’s true. It’s entirely possible I’m the only one who geeked out so thoroughly over seeing so many old scenes play out again.
  • It’s crazy that this felt like “our” Olivia, but Anna Torv managed to get a whole new layer added on top. She was so smiley!
  • Lincoln had the funny quote of the night: “There really aren’t any normal days in this job, are there?”
  • Oh, Walter: “That’s when I told him, ‘Tim, it’s not what the LSD can do, it’s what the human mind can do that is truly wonderful.’”
  • “I told you I’m not scared; I like the feeling.” – Olivia on all of the changes. Quite the contrast from her first almost kiss with Peter in “Jacksonville,” when her terror was so great that it triggered her ability to distinguish what was on our side that didn’t belong.
  • I’m guessing you guys might have already seen the fabulous new tease FRINGE promo guru Ari Margolis whipped up for next week’s episode, but now that you’ve actually seen “A Better Human Being,” it certainly can’t hurt to rewatch it…
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UPDATE: In case you want to have your mind further blown, check out this extended version of the “Answers Are Coming” teaser:

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Enough from me! What did you guys think of “A Better Human Being”?

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Filed under Fringe Recap

Comments

16 Responses to “FRINGE Recap: ‘A Better Human Being’”

  1. jophan on February 18th, 2012 7:27 am

    I’m all grins after this episode, and looking forward to how they reinterpret “Bound” and “Ability”.

    The young man in the hospital did a very good job, only to be overshadowed by the important stuff — the relationships among our core trio. I’ve been expecting this Olivia to recover memories of Peter’s timeline (I never believed he was right about its existing in parallel). Walter’s a little behind the curve but is changing in fits and starts with an occasional backslide. The family is being reconstituted, in time to work together on the crises to come.

  2. Donna on February 18th, 2012 8:52 am

    Loved the episode, but not sure why many people seem so confused/mindblown by the ending. It’s obvious that Olivia was simply kidnapped from the gas station, and since we know Jones is a-lurk, there’s really no mystery as to who’s behind it. However, it’s an open question as to who the Nina tied up with her is. It could be a ruse and there’s really just one Nina. So the ending was fairly straightforward. I wonder if fans are getting a little punchdrunk about everything being mindfuckery when it’s really just a cliffhanger.

    Also- not to sound like a crazy ‘stan, but what does Joshua Jackson have to do to get to be the first bulletpoint on a review? His performance was the best of a very good lot of performances (both regular cast and guest cast) tonight. That scene in the car. I totally felt all of the complex hope, fear, vulnerability, regret and pain that Peter was feeling about both his past mistakes and his current situation. For once, Peter got the best writing of the episode and of course Josh rose to the challenge. This is the best sort of “callback” to prior episodes we can see – emotional callback, we get to see Peter finally verbalize the emotions he was feeling in the scene when he was with Olivia in the hospital at the end of Entrada, and all the recriminations Olivia put him through later in Season 3 where he manfully said nothing.

  3. Marisa Roffman on February 18th, 2012 12:12 pm

    @Donna: I felt like the Ninas appeared different (unless I’m mistaken, the one with Olivia seemed to have longer hair by several inches), but it’s FRINGE…at this point, I wouldn’t rule out anything.

    And you’re right, Josh Jackson was fantastic. The cast has stepped up to what this very difficult material has required from them every single week.

  4. Catalina on February 18th, 2012 1:03 pm

    Marisa! Thanks for the recap, I just literally finished watching last night’s episode and I’m blown away. It was amazing, as were everyone’s performances in it. Down to the schizophrenic boy, everyone was brilliant.

    Now thank God next week’s episode is about getting answers because after that episode I have a TON of questions. Starting with “What the heck?”
    - What exactly is the cortexiphan doing to Olivia? If this is our Olivia, is it causing her to remember or if it’s alt-olivia is it causing her to empathize with our Olivia and have access to her memories?
    - Obviously, there’s no timeline effect since nothing is really changing except Olivia’s memories (Lincoln is still there, no one else is remembering anything.) So is Peter’s universe gone forever? Will anyone else start remembering anything soon?
    - What is the effect on the Alt universe — will we every see baby Henry again?

    I’m dying right now. I don’t think I can make it til next week….

  5. Input on February 18th, 2012 2:46 pm

    Anna Torv was mindblowingly awesome, what she does is incredible, all with the same face, same ponytail, different Olivia”s
    Someone called Anna Torv a magician, best word to describe that balancing act.
    Every detail of every Olivia it is there, and we know who is who becuase of wht she SHOWS us, not what she tells.

    With Shaun being a genetic experiment, we seem to getting close to come to Olivia’s original, child of Jones? Experimented on because of special genes (Wallflower), Nina used to keep an eye on her?
    Was it all and the same Nina, or and altversion? Or was Nina pretending to be in the same boat, but why?

    I do not like how the writers have made Olivia Dunham the ultimate victim and Peters girl since 3.10, and Peter the super hero, man, god whatever.
    I only hope that Fauxlivia stays as far away of Peter as possible, so that at least she is allowed to be a figher, independent, strong.

    And to those above, from FringeTWOP or Pacey Twop:

    Josh Jackson did nothing special, Anna Torv was better then that in season 1, and look what she got.
    Anna in season 1 whith the little material she got gave far more depth to Olivia then he does now after all this time, and he has been given plenty of central action in season 1 and especially season 2 and also second half season 3. and now in S4.
    Even more the first half of season 2, from 5 onwards, he replaced Charlie and was central, for everyone the worst part of Fringe, according to Jackson the best, he only started complaining when Anna had a bit of recognition

    And for that recognition Anna Torv had to do 10000 x more then Jackson.
    And please, Jackson has always gotten great writing, for Peter and Walter and Peter combined. He even gets the best part in the Olivia and Peter story.

    To return : next week Jones versus Olivia, will Jones be her father?
    Is Nina playing a part, has she a double, or is she used like altBroyles?
    massive Dynamics have something to do with the shapeshifters.
    Will we finally learn more about Olivia? Or will it just be a scene of recap by September.

    And Emmy and more for Anna Torv.

  6. Barb on February 18th, 2012 3:00 pm

    @Catalina: Interesting that you mention baby Henry. The glyphs from this episode spelled out “HENRY” – I didn’t know if that meant taxi driver Henry or baby Henry. But there were glimpses of baby Henry in the promos for next week, so it will be interesting to see if that comes up again…

  7. Marisa Roffman on February 18th, 2012 4:36 pm

    A return of EITHER Henry is fine by me!

  8. olive on February 19th, 2012 10:26 am

    did you see the promo for next week episode4.14?

    peter will save olivia again.

    i thought that olivia/anna torv was the lead actress?

  9. Zepp on February 19th, 2012 11:15 am

    The heart of Peter, has no “rest”, even. Woke up next to Olivia, to herald a wonderful day, and was connecting with the “machine”, and ready, he was the future and when he returned, smiling Olivia came to receive him, and … he ceased to exist! Then a lot of struggle and interference in her dreams, he finally takes his bodily form, and appears. Then, Olivia does not recognize it and never seen before. There was Peter, alone without “his” Olivia. Time passes, and, in one form or another, this “new” Olivia starts to dream about it, and loving gaze directed to Peter. Peter, incredulously, if it does, as I had not noticed this whole approach of Olivia, and follows in his work, but a little suspicious. This “new” Olivia, do not tell, looks and sounds languid, loving to the (still incredulous) Peter, looks almost identical to “their” Olivia. This Olivia, with looks of “our” Olivia, declares himself to Peter, who is fed up, and kisses, “this” Olivia, as if “their” Olivia, passionately. The time is with profound emotion. A look straight into the eyes of another. Peter radiates happiness and passion, as well as Olivia. So … she looks at Peter, who was smiling and happy and says: “I need to go pee!”

    Honestly, this passion of Peter and Olivia, and vice versa, is in a constant state of “nonsense”. It is an epic love affair, these two. The Oliva has crossed universes to bring your loved Peter, and this, has seen other timelines, all with the aim of finding, re-finding, to be with his beloved Olivia. And in a rare moment when the two are exchanging amorous affections, is something, something comes up, a sudden as a flash, eliminating all that romantic scene: “I have to go pee, Peter …” Sincerely Peter’s heart, has no rest.

  10. Ray Roberson on February 19th, 2012 2:58 pm

    Way before the Fox Community went underground … I mean, under reconstruction …, I postulated that some Fringe events were actually caused by emotional ties like those exhibited in “6B”.

    The following are specific opoints that may or may not be an explanation of how we have now arrived to this point.

    1. When Peter “opened a hole in the universe” and created a “bridge”, he did not “merge” the two connected universes of his timeline. He did, in fact, graft the universes of his timeline onto the existing timeline of two other connected universes.
    2. The “grafting” occurred at the “bridge”. The [life/soul/essence] of those from the original timeline were attracted and absorbed into the bodies of those who were in the “bridge” at the time. This would explain Olivia’s dreams and Walter’s visions of Peter prior to his reemergence into the new timeline.

    We have now seen the Olivia of the original timeline emerge as the dominate essence, similar to William Bell’s emergence in Olivia’s body. If true, is this life-threatening?

    I think that I am seeing a more subtle emergence with Walter.
    Who else in the “bridge room” were affected?

    And for something completely different…
    What ever happened to the child we assume is also an observer?

  11. Badbuyshate12 on February 19th, 2012 8:10 pm

    Since nobody else wants to step up to that annoying ass Input, I will. Input, I am sick of your constant Josh hate. You bash those who don’t treat Anna like she is the most important person in the world but its OK for you to spread lies and judgements about Josh. You have nothing positive to say about ANYONE on this show, unless they compliment Anna Torv You even bash Jasika on another website and she was in the background this entire time. I am so sick of you and I hope one day you are banned from every single messageboard cause you are sick, mean, awful, crazy and delusional. I’m sure Anna Torv would think you are completely nuts for worshipping the ground she walks on while disrespecting the other castmembers. BTW, if there is a reason why Josh doesn’t talk about Anna, oh maybe its because HE IS NEVER ASKED ABOUT HER? I recall him saying back in season 1, “what’s the reason for watching fringe?” and Josh said “Anna Torv”!

    Oh and about Josh complimenting John all the time, how is this any different than when people only seem to compliment john and anna? Josh can put in a wonderful performance but it tends to be overlooked, where’s the justice in that?

  12. Badbuyshate12 on February 19th, 2012 8:12 pm

    Also, Fringe is about EVERYONE, this is not the Anna Torv show. Oh and Olive, since when does being lead actress mean that she is the only one to save people?

    I swear, I don’t understand why Olivia fans are utterly annoying.

  13. anon on February 20th, 2012 11:29 am

    Badbuyshate12 is Patty a J.Jackson obsessed/crazy fan who has been banned from fringebloggers and fanforum this weekend.Why can’t discuss about Fringe without these 2 crazy fans? By the way it was a fantastic episode and i cannot wait for next week.

  14. Marisa Roffman on February 20th, 2012 12:53 pm

    Guys, can we please keep it respectful? I love seeing what you all have to say, but bashing each other is not okay.

    Thank you!

  15. Badguyshate12 on February 20th, 2012 8:44 pm

    Marisa Roffman, oh but bashing Joshua Jackson is OK?

  16. Marisa Roffman on February 20th, 2012 11:41 pm

    Absolutely not. Bashing of NO ONE is okay. And if anyone has any questions about our comment policy, it’s available here: http://www.givememyremote.com/remote/about-us/comment-policy/

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