As you might expect, romance on Fringe can be a very odd thing. In this peculiar sci-fi world, when you can’t get a hunky guy out of your head because you dig his cheese so much, you really can’t get him out of your head, because he is literally in your head. This was the perplexing plight of FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) in season 1; after the death of her FBI agent boyfriend/fiancé John Scott (Mark Valley of The Human Target), Olivia realized that her dearly departed’s consciousness had somehow lodged inside her brain. (Or something like that. It was a cool idea, but kinda confusing, too.) She had to spend an epic session inside what’s become her private “Me time” place — Walter Bishop’s sensory deprivation (think) tank — to evict her not-necessarily-unwelcome psychic squatter. Basically, it was Fantastic Voyage meets Love Story meets The Exorcist, without the barfing and the crucifix and the priest and the Satan and actually pretty much all of The Exorcist except the exorcising part. Again: I think.
Of course, the defining romance of Fringe has become the relationship between Olivia and Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), the genius, sardonic son of the even more genius-ish and extravagantly quirky Walter (John Noble), whose envelope-pushing experiments from long ago have been the cause of so much strangeness in the Fringe world. Olivia and Peter started becoming close early last season as the trio began to gel as more than just a sci-fi crime-fighting unit, but as something of a family. After Olivia returned from a life-threatening jaunt “over there,” i.e. into Fringe’s parallel world, Peter realized he had stronger feelings for her than he had been allowing himself to feel. Over the course of the second season, Olivia realized: Ditto. To be honest, I was among the many Fringe fans who, at the beginning of the series and even into the second season, hoped the show would resist having Peter and Olivia pull a hooking-up Mulder and Scully, only because it seemed so cliché. And yet, two seasons later, I’ve been converted: I find their relationship to be winning and I’m rooting for it to succeed. Via email, I asked exec producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman if it was always their intention to bring Peter and Olivia together. “Yes, we were thinking so,” they say, “but we never wanted to force the issue. We wanted the relationship to evolve over time, organically. These are two characters who, for many reasons, needed to FIND each other. Forcing them together quickly would have rung false.” The take-it-slow approach has made the difference — as well as the performances by Torv and Jackson.
But this is Fringe, and so this season has thrown a patently freaky complication into the budding Olivia-Peter relationship in the form of another a woman — specifically, the “Over There” Olivia, dubbed “BOlivia” by fans. Olivia and BOlivia have swapped places this season, with BOlivia serving as an undercover agent helping to advance Walternate’s cause to save the deteriorating “Over There” world” via mysterious, possibly catastrophic means. As part of her subterfuge, BOlivia — who is happily married in her “Over There” life — has had no choice but to play out the evolving Peter-Olivia romance, which went to a new level of intimacy the last time we visited this storyline wayyy back in the days when the San Francisco Giants were still a bunch of scrappy ballplayers that had never won a World Series as a franchise in more than 50 years. (Or: Not since Oct. 14. Nearly a month ago!) Yep: Peter and BOlivia knocked boots. How will Peter realize that the woman he thinks is Olivia is actually her nicknamed-after-a-country doppelgänger? And as for BOlivia, will this Vertigo-meets-Casino Royale loony love affair spark a change of loyalty within her secret agent’s cloaked heart? And can I ever write a sentence without pop culture allusions that I will never really explain? All questions, TBD.
Tonight’s episode is entitled “695 kHz.” Here’s the Fox synopsis:
“Back ‘Over Here,’ the Fringe Division investigates a bizarre phenomenon when 15 people up and down the Eastern Seaboard all suffer retrograde amnesia from listening to their shortwave radios on the same frequency. Much to Walter’s dismay, Peter presses on with piecing together the mass destruction device. Just as alternate Olivia and Peter’s chemistry deepens, the anticipation of Olivia’s return escalates.”
I asked Pinkner and Wyman for a little more intel. They told me that the mind-wiping strangeness “may hold important clues” to the future of our heroes, and that BOlivia’s relationship with Peter does begin to cast this world in a new light: “As BOlivia gets to know our team better (and Peter), she starts to wonder whether they are quite the “monsters” that she was led to believe.” All of this is leading up to the show’s winter finale in early December, which I’m hearing is going to be a Must Watch Fringe event. What’s at stake here during the build-up? “BOlivia’s subterfuge is putting our team in jeopardy — and, possibly our entire world… while Over There Olivia, who now knows exactly WHO she really is, has to figure out a way to get home.”
OUR “WHAT’S WALTER READING?” CONTEST: THE RESULTS SHOW!
Yesterday, we posted a sneak peek image of tonight’s episode that had Walter and Nina Sharpe (Blaire Brown) sitting on a bench and reading a note that couldn’t be seen from our angle. I asked you to guess what was on the note and offered six options. We polled you (and we know how painful that can be) (a little David Letterman for you), you voted, and here’s how it broke down:
A. It’s a love letter between Olivia and Peter: 2.1%
B. A disconcerting note from William Bell’s will: 49.37%
C. It’s a drawing, from the Observer: 39.72%
D. It’s Walter’s favorite cake recipe: 4.34%
E. It’s a prescription for medical marijuana: 4.48%
As you can see, our guessing game wound up being a close race between the most plausible of choices — but the biggest vote-getter is actually INCORRECT! The correct answer is indeed C — but (surprise twist and SPOILER alert!) I have it on good authority that you just may see elements and shades of all the incorrect answers throughout the episode.
I also asked you guys to humor me with some Fringe comedy by writing a caption for the photo that finished the sentence: “The note says… [Fill in the blank.]” Reader “Mike” posted a killer response that hit me in the sweet spot — which is to say, he made a Lost reference. “The note says, ‘Not Olivia’s boat.’” How can I NOT declare that entry the winner! And so I shall…
But I must also applaud this more on-the-nose Fringe quip from “Jeff,” who, for the record, is neither me nor my “Over There” alternate: “It’s a note from Bell saying, ‘Walter, if you’re ever in need of any assistance, Nina will give you a hand. Oops, sorry, my apologies, that came out wrong.’”
I also like this Star Trek-inspired line from “Leithen”: “The note says, ‘Dear Walter, I am, and ever shall be, your friend. In that regard, I must protest your preference for Twizzlers over Red Vines. In any universe, that is wrong. — Belly’”
And finally, “Tracy Bluth” thought she could take the competition by flooding me with multiple entries — an ambitious ploy that strikes me more of a Tracy Flick move than a Tracy Bluth maneuver. (Maybe if it came with a bottle of booze…) Still: I was amused enough — and appreciated the effort enough — to post my favorite of the three entries: “The note says, ‘I wish you had believed me. –JL’” Ah, it feels good to be known…
We’ll finally get to reader mail/theories next week. Ken Tucker’s recap of tonight’s episode posts tomorrow morning. (UPDATE: Click over to read Ken Tucker’s Fringe recap, now posted.) And are you watching The Walking Dead? If so, make sure you join Dan Snierson and me for our recap of Sunday’s (awesome) episode (yep we’ve seen it) on Monday.