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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Episode 4: Torpedo & How We Know

FROM ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER KIMBERLY ROOTS: A bald, eyebrow-less stranger in a Brooklyn diner surveys a construction site across the street with some strange binoculars, takes hieroglyphic-like notes in a book, and doesn’t seem surprised at all when the ground begins to shake. As a giant crane crashes into a nearby building, the man calmly puts down 20 dollars for the waitress, leaves, and makes a phone call. “It has arrived,” he informs someone on the other end.
At a warehouse in Chelsea, Massachusetts, Phillip Broyles brings Olivia, Walter, and Peter up to speed on the construction site incident: The ruckus was caused by an oblong metal object that apparently tunneled up from the ground below. The group walks into a room and sees that same object laying on the table, almost imperceptibly vibrating. Walter seems to recognize the hunk of metal. A similar object showed up in Quantico, Virginia, in 1987 and violently tunneled back into the earth two days later. The team leaves, and before long, we see a man in a ski cap bust his way into the warehouse, gunning down everyone in his path before he realizes that the object is also gone.
A ringing phone wakes Olivia, who’s back at her apartment. After some static and feedback, she hears John’s voice saying her name before the call ends abruptly. An FBI trace, though, shows no phone activity for the past three hours. Creepy.
In a lucid moment, Walter informs the team that the object is likely part of Project Thor, a Department of Defense effort to create a subterranean torpedo that could be launched from anywhere in the world. Olivia then sees a photo that jogs her memory: It’s the bald man from the diner, who also was present during a "pattern"-esque case at the hospital two weeks before. She takes this information to Broyles, who reveals that the bald man has borne witness to several pattern incidents over the years. They call him “The Observer.”
News of the warehouse attack reaches Walter’s Harvard lab, where he’s testing the object. Walter takes off with the torpedo and winds up at the diner, where The Observer meets him. They have a cryptic conversation in which The Observer thanks Walter for hiding “the beacon.” When Olivia and Peter find Walter, he won’t tell them where the beacon is but mentions that he talked to The Observer. Peter thinks his dad is making it all up, so he hightails it back to the lab, ready to cut ties with Olivia and Walter for good. But Ski Cap Man is already there, and he grabs Peter unawares.
Peter wakes up strapped to a table. He claims he doesn’t know where the torpedo is, but after a few painful-looking shocks, Ski Cap Man demands that Peter think about Walter. Without Peter saying a word, Ski Cap Man appears to read his mind. “Thank you,” he says. “You just told me where the cylinder is.” He drags Peter to the grave of Robert Bishop, who is most likely Peter’s grandfather. A short dig uncovers the torpedo, which Ski Cap Man grabs, then runs. But Olivia arrives, shoots him, and knocks the cylinder out of his hands … just in time for it to tunnel back into the ground in spectacular fashion. Nearby, The Observer makes another call. “Departure on schedule,” he says, just before Peter tackles him.
But as Peter demands answers, The Observer is somehow able to figure out what he’s going to say before he says it. Soon, Peter’s thoughts are coming out of The Observer’s mouth, and it is truly freaky. The fun ends when The Observer shoots Peter and runs off.
At the hospital, Broyles tells Olivia that the case has raised “another in a long line of questions.” Well, thanks, Fringe. You’d just better have an answer for all of those questions at the end of the road. Peter lets Olivia know that he’s in for the long haul: What happened to him really flipped his pancakes, and he wants answers. At the hotel, Peter tells Walter about his run in with The Observer, and Walter reveals that the man saved both Walter and Peter from drowning when Peter was a child. He also posits that the reason Peter knew where the torpedo was, despite not knowing where it was, was because ideas can be absorbed through osmosis.
Later that night, Olivia is eating cereal and whisky for dinner (awesome) when all of a sudden we notice a man standing in the shadows of her kitchen. “Hello Liv,” John says, stepping into the light and causing Olivia to drop her cornflakes to the ground in shock.
THE BOTTOM LINE: With the spooky phone call and John’s appearance at the end, this episode came closer to creating the eerie atmosphere that J.J. Abrams’ other shows are known for. On the science-and-religion front, Walter’s remark about ideas passing through osmosis is similar to the concept of the meme, first coined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene.