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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Episode 5: Pigeons & Spooky Visions

FROM ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER KIMBERLY ROOTS: After a week off, this week’s episode opens with a guy named Joseph being harangued by his unpleasant mother in their Worcester, Massachusetts, apartment. He goes to work at Bicoastal Parcel, a shipping company, where a hand-held scanning device shorts out and begins to smoke while he’s holding it. The boss is so mad that he sends Joe out on a delivery. This news perks up Joe because it means he’ll get to visit Bethany, a receptionist at a large office building and the object of his unvoiced affection. As he tries to make small talk, it becomes clear that Bethany’s spoken for. As Joe glares, Bethany’s computer crashes. He takes off, but she follows him to the elevator in search of some IT help. When the elevator car lurches, Joe’s phone falls on the ground, and she sees that he’s got photos of her on it. Before she can freak out, the elevator jerks again, then begins to fall to the garage level. It lands with a big boom and lots of blood, yet Joe is unhurt. Realizing everyone else is dead, he staggers into the garage. Each unattended car starts up as he passes. Amid the blazing lights and sounding alarms, Joe begs for it all just to stop.
At Harvard, Phillip Broyles and Olivia fill the Bishops in on the incident: The elevator didn’t fall, he tells them; it was “driven into the ground.” At the building, the Bishops realize that everyone in the car died from electrocution, not from the crash, which Walter illustrates by making Olivia’s gold pendant “float” on an electromagnetic current in the air. (Probably not actually possible, but it looked cool.)
The accident reminds Walter of a government project he worked on back in the day. (Is every single case going to have a direct link to work he performed decades ago? That just seems a little too easy.) Walter recalls that he was tasked to get carrier pigeons to recognize a person’s unique electromagnetic signature. Problem was, people don’t give off strong enough signals unless they’re “boosted,” and the enhancement made for uncontrollable surges in test subjects. But guess what? Walter theorizes that someone (like the someones in episodes one through four) kept up the work and has created a person who is essentially a loose electromagnetic cannon.
Olivia’s research, aided by Broyles, turns up a Dr. Jacob Fisher, who’s wanted all over the world for atrocities related to “human alteration.” He lures unwitting test subjects with ads in the back of magazines, promising to help them be more confident and tap into their unknown potential. Later that night, while Olivia’s scanning some of Fisher’s gruesome work, the lights go out. She takes a flashlight into the hallway and appears to be alone until the elevator dings and John (her dead, though recently reappearing, ex-partner) steps out. He advances as she backs away, but soon he’s very near. They go back and forth—he says he loved her, she counters that he tried to kill her—before he confirms that she’s on the right track and that she has to find the human electrode before Fisher does. “I will prove it, Liv, that I love you always,” he tells her as he turns to leave. “But not just yet. You’re gonna have to wait.” She races the elevator downstairs, but when it opens, it’s empty… save for a sign indicating its weight limit.
Olivia gets an idea that’s too good to wait until morning, so she wakes up the Bishops at their hotel and informs them, using a formula that doesn’t really matter, that a discrepancy in the weight of the elevator means someone walked away from the accident. When they compare the arm-crushing incident at Bicoastal Parcel to the sign-in sheet at Bethany’s office, they realize that Joe is the link. At his apartment, Joe is in a bad way. He upsets his mother, and himself, so much that her pacemaker malfunctions. When he tries to call an ambulance, his energy field interferes with the cordless phone’s reception. He runs out, leaving mom on the ground, and nearly collides with Jacob Fisher and a goon.
Olivia arrives later to find Joe’s mom dead. A call to the lab nets a suggestion from Walter: One of Joe’s audiocassettes could have his electromagnetic signature imprinted on it. Olivia brings back his tape of REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” so Walter can extrapolate a signal that can be followed by — you guessed it — carrier pigeons. Olivia buys a soda from a machine in the lab’s hallway and finds herself face-to-face with John once more. He seems very real as he kisses her and vows that he didn’t betray her. “I wasn’t the one,” he asserts. So if there is a “one,” and it’s likely someone we know by now, who? (For the record, at the moment, my money’s on FBI co-worker Charlie.)
The birds are primed and tagged with GPS transponders, then off they go to find Joe. Charlie, Peter, and Olivia follow in their cars. The pigeons lead them to Fisher’s evil operating room, where the bad doc has fitted Joe with subcutaneous electrodes at his temples. Fisher’s henchman interrupts to say that Olivia and crew are there, but as he tries to load Joe into a car, Joe uses his powers to start the vehicle and mow down the bad guy. Charlie collars Fisher while Olivia chases Joe, who’s eventually felled by a crowbar to the head, courtesy of Peter.
Fisher’s taken to solitary confinement. Joe’s taken to be observed. All seems neatly wrapped when Walter notices Olivia looked peaked and asks, “Have you been seeing him? Your friend, John Scott?” When she admits she has, Walter theorizes that their mind-meld from episode one means part of John’s subconscious took up a little real estate in Olivia’s brain. “Your mind is expelling him, exorcising his thoughts,” Walter reassures her. But as she drives home, she sees John on a side street and gets out to follow him to a basement apartment. He’s gone, but she sees boxes of files that Broyles later tells her are all related to John’s own investigation of “the pattern.” Turns out John knew more about Fisher than Broyles’ taskforce did, and through the files, they were able to save seven other test subjects whose powers hadn’t gotten out of control. Even more interesting: A box of John’s personal effects contains a velvet box holding a diamond engagement ring with “Always” engraved on the inside of the band.
And Walter, in his lab notes, wonders whether Joe "understands how special he has become. Does he reject his newfound power as alien? Or does he heed the words of my poetic namesake and embrace it as part of his being:
I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul."
THE BOTTOM LINE: The bits with John are still spooky and worth watching, but the cases are becoming so formulaic that it’s difficult to stay engaged. More information on “the pattern,” however—especially the why behind it—might still be a nice entry point for a wider and meaningful science-and-religion discussion.