FRINGE Recap: ‘The Recordist’

October 13, 2012 by  

I’m so very curious to hear what you guys thought of Friday’s episode of FRINGE, “The Recordist,” because I can’t remember a time when a non-myth heavy/season finale hour of the show split my friends so much in terms of how they felt about it.

As for me, I fall somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed the first two episodes more, I appreciated they moved the plot forward slightly in the episode (and it once again emphasized that they’re not telling this story the way most network shows are told), but there were a couple of fantastic scenes that really stood out to me.

So instead of doing a regular recap, I really wanted to shine the light on two particular scenes…and what they might mean for the series going forward.

Peter and Olivia discuss the fallout from their trip to Donovan’s.

When Etta offered her parents apples (now conveniently in tablet-sized bites!), Peter brought up an amazing apple pie he and Olivia had while searching for their MIA daughter. Olivia claimed she didn’t remember the name of the restaurant, and later, Peter brought it up when they were alone…

Peter: Did I upset you? Earlier, when I was talking about the restaurant, it seemed like you were upset. I know you don’t forget names.
Olivia: Donovan’s. That was the name of the restaurant. It’s not that I can’t remember, it’s that I can’t forget. Do you remember when we couldn’t find her that day, you drew a plan on a napkin?
Peter: Yeah, of course I do.
Olivia: You were talking about going up to Maine, to this refugee camp that you’d heard about, and I was looking at you and nodding, and in my head, I was thinking, “I can’t go.” Behind you, you couldn’t see it, but there was a wall of “missing person” flyers. Every day, the odds of finding our little girl the way we wanted to find her were getting worse and we didn’t talk about it. I couldn’t put it into words then, but I felt responsible.
Peter: Responsible how?
Olivia: I wanted so much to be a mother, but I just didn’t think that I was programmed that way. That I was destined for something else. Ever since I was a kid, since the Cortexiphan trial, I was at odds. So how could I have this incredible little girl? So when we lost her, it felt like that was my punishment; my punishment for being too conflicted to appreciate her when we had her. And that day at the restaurant, I knew that I had to go back to New York, because I didn’t want to find what I knew we were going to find. I just believed so strongly that she was dead and I didn’t want to see it. And you thought I went back because of my strength, and she said she admired me today.
Peter: Olivia, I saw how you were with our little girl. I know how much you love her. And I’m not telling you to forget it, but the past is the past.  Don’t let it get in the way of this. I don’t know why it’s happening, but our family got a second chance. So I’m going to take it.

First off, major props to Anna Torv (Olivia) and Joshua Jackson (Peter) who absolutely killed that scene. The show actually managed to accomplish a lot in a relatively short time (before the duo was interrupted by Etta, who told them that the Observers were tracking them): we got a glimpse into how Peter and Olivia handled Etta’s disappearance, why Olivia left, another piece in the timeline of the less than two months between Etta’s disappearance, and Peter stating unequivocally that he intends for his family to remain together.

While we never got to see Olivia as a mother, it makes sense she’d have so much self-doubt. Very little about her life was ideal or simplistic, so it’s understandable she’d be doubting her capabilities. Heck, she probably spent a good portion of time waiting for the other shoe to drop on her “happily ever after” and clearly, it did. She lost her kid. And while they may be reunited now, there’s no way the Peter-Olivia-Etta dynamic will ever be normal. But at the same time, we’ve seen Olivia’s compassion…I don’t doubt Peter was right about how she was as a mother, either. (I wouldn’t object to a non-Observer-y flashback, though.)

Exposition is to be expected when you pretty much skip 24 years of storytelling and much of the world went on without you, but I almost wished there was a little more to the scene. Right now, I’m having problems reconciling the wedding ring issue. And yes, it may be minor, but Peter and Olivia clearly were wearing rings in their flashbacks. Unless we’re supposed to discount what happened in their dreams completely (given the inconsistencies of their memories), what we know so far — and what we were told in this episode — doesn’t seem to jive up with the massive step of taking off your wedding ring.

And are we supposed to assume they’re having conversations with Etta off screen? While I absolutely appreciated them diving back into Peter and Olivia’s fractured family dynamic after not addressing it last week, you’d think the duo would carve out, say, an hour and say, “Etta, let’s chat. First 30 minutes, you tell us about your life away from us and the last 30, we’ll ask questions.” She clearly knew enough about them to search for them — yet the Observers didn’t know she was Peter and Olivia’s kid? — but we don’t know how.  We don’t know why. Hopefully we’ll find out more soon.

A father sacrifices himself with the hope that his child will have the chance to lead a better life.

Tape #3 (because of course they were out of order) led Team Fringe to Pennsylvania, where they eventually realized (thanks to Astrid cleaning up the tape) that they were supposed to get crystals. Unfortunately, the crystals were in a deadly mine. In theory, a protective suit could have worked to save anyone who went in, but they were missing an ingredient, so one of the local people — Edwin, who had been recording history since the Invasion started — decided he would make the sacrifice and had to break the news to his son.

Edwin: River, look at me son. What you saw back there in that tent, there’s a lot more to the word “coward” and the word “hero” than you think. It’s complicated. You’re not a coward if you’re frightened. That’s not what it means. You’re a coward if you know what needs to be done and you don’t do it. I was telling that man out there that I have a lot to lose: our work, the life we have here, you. I told him I love you so much, I wouldn’t know how to say goodbye. When your mother got sick, I promised her I’d protect you no matter what. But I’m conflicted. There’s a time for recording history and there’s a time for making it. We don’t get a lot of opportunities up here to make it. I’ve decided to help them. To do my part.
River: I don’t want to lose you.
Edwin: I don’t want to lose you, either. But protecting you, and making sure there’s a world out there you can thrive in…I love you so much.
River: It’s OK, Dad. I understand.
Edwin: No, you don’t. But you will one day. When you have children of your own.

And then Edwin sacrificed himself to get our Fringe team the crystals they need for part of their plan to (hopefully) save the world.

Look, that was sad in and of itself, but the entire time I was watching that scene, my heart was trying to convince my brain that this wasn’t some pretty heavy foreshadowing about what’s to come with the show and our core characters. At this point, I feel like I could make pretty strong arguments about why Walter, Peter, and/or Olivia would die before the series ends. (For the record, I’m not saying I WANT that to happen.) Scenes like that? Yeah, they’re not helping my peace of mind — or my delusion that all the characters I care about will make it out of this in one piece. I feel like you could very easily swap any of our characters into that scene, especially since we’ve seen how far these guys are willing to go in order to try and do the right thing for the people they care about.

Headlines I was able to spot of post-invasion newspapers:

“Fringe Division Sanctioned to Police ___” (And what was that last word?!)

“Oxygen Levels Reach New Lows”

“Thousands of Libraries Burned to the Ground”

“Original Fringe Team Presumed Dead”

“Special Division of FBI Called Upon to Fight Invaders”

Other thoughts, theories, etc.:

  • Olivia reciting the wrong number back from what Tape!Walter said — real-life goof (either of the actors or a script change), or a sign of something more?
  • Who is Donald?
  • We saw Broyles in the promo for the next episode, but where is Nina Sharp?!
  • The end scene where Olivia reached back to lovingly rub her daughter’s leg (and then Etta grabbed her hand), while Peter hot-wired a car and Walter put on funky glasses and praised their new vehicle — I love that so much. The Bishop gang is so perfectly dysfunctional.

Exchange of the night:

Peter: “Walter, you stored the tapes out of order.”
Astrid: “Shocker.”

-

So, what did you think? Was “The Recordist” what you were hoping for?

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Comments

16 Responses to “FRINGE Recap: ‘The Recordist’”

  1. Sandy on October 13th, 2012 12:03 pm

    I enjoyed the character moments in this ep but overall this was one of Fringes weakest episodes. I hate saying that but that’s how I felt while watching it.

    The high light was the Olivia and Peter moment. But do you think its feels right that Olivia says she felt detached from Etta? The Olivia we have known has always been loving and warm with children so I’m not sure how I felt about hearing Olivia saying she felt detached from her own daughter. I know Olivia has always been a tortured soul shaped by her own terrible childhood but she has also always been very loving and nurturing. So I’m not sure how I feel about this reveal about her being a mother.

    I also don’t know how I feel about them dribbling out info on what happen the day Etta was taken. I want to know now!

  2. Z on October 13th, 2012 12:41 pm

    I’m not a mom, so I’m not sure if I have the right insight to comment on that, but I didn’t read it as Olivia feeling “detached” from her little girl. I’ve always related in my own way with Olivia’s inner struggles, so in my mind what she was saying was she had doubts if she makes a good mother because she thinks that might not be (what’s supposed to) be her greatest mission in life, as many women seem to feel in real life.

    The episode was not action-filled, but I do love the character moments as well. Actually, that’s an understatement. I think I’ll enjoy it if the entirety of Season 5 is all about character moments. But that’s just me being nostalgic about the end of the series.

  3. cristina on October 13th, 2012 1:28 pm

    I’m not a mother either and I also relate to Olivia’s inner struggles. Said that, I don’t think she was detached, in fact I’m sure she wasn’t. I’ve thought about being a mom in the future and I also feel like I won’t be good enough but that DOES NOT mean I won’t love my child. I think that she meant to say that she didn’t deserve Etta, that “her little girl” was to good for her.

    About how they are filling the blank space about 2015, I was wishing it was going to be more visual than talking. I WAS HOPING FOR A FULL EPISODE THAT WOULD TELL US THE FULL STORY, but it is to idealistic giving the short time we have left.
    In general, the episode was slow, but it had key moments. (specially the development of O/P/E relationship and the meaning of coward and hero. For a second I could see Olivia or Peter talking to Etta) so i’m happy with it! I give it a 8.2 out of 10.

    Another thing, I saw the wall of “missing person” flyers and there was a flyers that said: last seen in 2033 (upper middle site, withe paper). I might be wrong so please help me check it out. About the mistake of the number 49 over 41, I think it would be important since they mentioned about Olivia’s memory twice in the episode (the coordinates and Donovan’s deli)

    Finally, the last scene with Etta and Olivia, I could see that Olivia was giving her self the chance to have a relationship with her daughter. We all know that Anna can speak with her eyes and what I saw was HOPE, hope that one day they might have a good relationship. That was my favorite part of the episode!

    Sorry about my English, I’m Peruvian so this is not my native language!

  4. Sandy on October 13th, 2012 1:57 pm

    You are correct cristina. That missing persons poster did say 2033! What?!!
    It’s all making me believe something else is going on. I mean Olivia is remembering things differently than the team!

  5. Z on October 13th, 2012 3:33 pm

    I’ll find it greatly surprising if there’s a timeline/reality twist there somewhere, just because there doesn’t seem to be enough time for that. Plus, mostly because I have no objections with the current storyline, I’ve already adapted to it and ready to see it through in a straightforward way – find the plan, do what has to be done, defeat the observers, then live happily ever after.

    But I did say I’ll take anything J. Wyman throws at us and there’s still about 10 hours of storytelling left, so… Also, I dismissed the exact age question (Etta’s) and the dream colors (shirt, blanket) as nothing but minor details, but the mismatched coordinates (Walter 41, Olivia 49?) plus the dates mentioned above are pretty glaring. So I really don’t know.

  6. Melissa on October 13th, 2012 3:44 pm

    Hi Marisa,

    about the the wedding ring issue, you notice in episode 1 that Peter is using his ring on the neck? in the scene that Etta leaves Markam building… and when Olivia is talking with Etta for the first time Peter is holding the ring!

  7. Z on October 13th, 2012 3:55 pm

    One last thing, I’m pretty sure I saw in Tumblr, before the premiere aired, a screen cap from a very short preview in which Olivia was wearing the ring when she “woke up.” The picture clearly shows that while she’s holding Peter’s face. But it’s not there in the final cut.

  8. eridapo on October 13th, 2012 5:01 pm

    I don’t know if it is me, but I feel that this is not my show anymore. I miss Broyles, Lincoln, and Nina. I miss the other Universe and the alt story lines.

    I just can’t buy the observers as these evil bad guys. The show, itself, feels like as though it were taking place in some other universe in the future, a universe that is neither our own or the alternate we are familiar with…

  9. Donna on October 13th, 2012 10:08 pm

    I don’t think the mismatched coordinates mean anything other than Walter having taken one too many bong hits while making the video. Olivia probably remembers them correctly because she was working with Walter on the plan in 2015.

    I’m wondering if maybe fans are reading too many clues into everything this season.

  10. Scott on October 14th, 2012 6:58 am

    “First off, major props to Anna Torv (Olivia) and Joshua Jackson (Peter) who absolutely killed that scene.”

    Agreed.

  11. Ray Roberson on October 14th, 2012 8:04 am

    It’s been a while since my last visit. I hope I don’t repeat what others have said before.

    I, too, thoroughly enjoyed the two identified scenes. A “strong” series cannot always be at a high fever every episode – well, maybe except for “24″. Going to fast can make characters superficial and burn you out for the ending. Sometimes you have to let the stew simmer in order to tenderize the meat and infuse flavors. :)

    I tend to look at the overall picture and the “crumbs” left along the trail, so here are a few items to consider and to look for in future episodes.

    “Bell’s Hand” > The fully recovered Walter of 2036 said that the hand was necessary, presumably to open a vault of information. There obviously is another “secret” location known to Walter since he vaporized the Massive Dynamics building. Where is the vault? What does it hold? Is that where Bell teleported in last season’s finale?

    “The Mole” > We now see that there Loyalists are not all so loyal. I didn’t take the time to see if this was the same person from the previous episode, but I don;t think he is because he had the telephone number directly to the Rebel’s hideaway.

    “Simon Foster’s head” > We last saw him in amber, where he replaced Peter. Hanging there in the lab, we now know that the Observers removed him – or maybe just the head. Are they scanning his mind? Did they also remove Bell’s head and are they scanning him, as well?

    That should be enough to get the braincells burning….. right?

  12. p3pariisa on October 14th, 2012 11:07 am

    eridapo, oh quit whining. They are not the only characters on this show and the altverse is played out and annoying. It’s about time the writers stop spending so much time on the altverse characters overshadowing the characters who were there from the very beginning. it’s time OUR CHARACTERS get some some kind of attention.

  13. Marisa Roffman on October 14th, 2012 1:26 pm

    I don’t know if I think Olivia was detached from Etta, but given what she said, she doubted whether she deserved it. She may not have realized HOW MUCH she deserved that kind of happiness until it was taken away from her. And I definitely don’t think anyone needs to be a mom to comment on it ;)

    As for the 2033, I paused my TV when I was writing the recap and couldn’t read anything on the posters. When I saw your comments, I did some snooping and I’ll be darned…it does say 2033: http://juli86.tumblr.com/post/33489464497/behindthesewalls-so-i-paused-on-the-shot-of-the …that hurts my brain, guys.

    @Donna, my question would be if Olivia was with Walter when the tapes were being made, wouldn’t she have brought it up by now? Unless her memory was compromised, there’s no reason SHE shouldn’t remember that. And yes, it’s possible ALL of these things are nothing. But this is also FRINGE and most of the thing, the little things that are wrong are actually for a reason. If it was only something like the dream sequences, I could buy that as us reading too much into it. But the two things from “The Recordist” were either fairly big real-life errors (putting the wrong year on the missing posters/the wrong coordinates repeated), or something is up. Maybe I’m needlessly optimistic, but I really hope they weren’t making those real-life mistakes.

  14. Lou Sytsma (@OldDarth) on October 15th, 2012 12:43 pm

    I’m in the middle camp too. This episode definitely had more Bark than Bite – at least at this point in time. (If it turns out to be a foreshadowing episode of things happening in the finale it will rise somewhat for me.)

    Fringe and plant based episodes just don’t seem to make for compelling TV drama.

    Marisa you pinpointed that the scenes I loved.

    However the story of the week – and this really felt like a case of the week episode – was less compelling. It played out like one of those Star Trek:TNG Away missions.

  15. Carla on October 15th, 2012 1:13 pm

    Wow, I didn’t know people were so divided about this episode. I liked it. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but then again, it doesn’t have to be. Fringe is a consistently good show and that’s all I ask. Just because we only have 13 episodes, every single one of them doesn’t have to be epic.
    I have to say it was very well tied together building up from the first scene of Olivia reciting the numbers and Etta getting a taste of how awesome her mother is with her photographic memory, then the ‘adventures’ she talks about when they are walking in the woods, then the comics with Olivia being a BAM (bad ass mom – how cool was that?), to all unravel in that scene with Peter which was extremely real and heartbreaking at the same time. How could Olivia not feel like that? Of course she did. And there is also the element of ‘surprise’, since we all had come to terms with the fact that Olivia had left because she understood that saving the world was more important when the reality was that she was just being some sort of coward. I do wish we’d have more flash back of Olivia as a mom or even as them as a family so we can actually feel the loss with them.
    The case of the week sorta part of the story was very simple but accurate and pertinent to the story. And like you said, might be a foreshadow of something or it might be just leading us on so they can surprise us later (a girl can dream). Fringe does that very well, leading us one path making us believe we are going one way just to have us fall in some kind of rabbit hole to an outcome that we didn’t quite expect.
    I’m really, really hoping that’s what happens this season and not just because I don’t want to lose any of my beloved characters. It wouldn’t surprise me though if Etta was the one who died or somehow got sacrificed in the process just so that the show could come full circle. But I digress.
    This episode was very satisfactory to me, not as good as the previous ones though, but just for the Peter and Olivia scene and comic books, the little family moments, it got me. The fact that it disproved everyone’s idea that all they’d do for the rest of the season was search for hidden tapes also made me very happy.

  16. Carla on October 15th, 2012 1:37 pm

    Went to investigate on the coordinates. This morning Joel gave us a hint. Read Jeff Jensen EW’s review. Apparently it wasn’t a RL mistake. What it means, IDK.
    http://tvrecaps.ew.com/recap/fringe-season-5-episode-3/

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