FRINGE Recap: ‘A Better Human Being’
February 18, 2012 by Marisa Roffman
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.
- 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…
UPDATE: In case you want to have your mind further blown, check out this extended version of the “Answers Are Coming” teaser:
Enough from me! What did you guys think of “A Better Human Being”?
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Filed under Fringe Recap