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'Fringe' recap: LSD and the red door: Feed your head

Fringe returned to “our side” this week, leaving a doubtless exhausted Fauxlivia on the other side to nurse her new baby in peace. Over here, we had more pressing things to do, such as extracting William Bell’s consciousness from Olivia’s body, and consuming LSD as a gateway drug – into Olivia’s brain.

You remember that Bell is inhabiting Olivia: Anna Torv was employing her canny array of vocal and physical tics to portray Leonard Nimoy; I was particularly taken with her cocked eyebrow a couple of times this week, a very Nimoyish twitch. But two consciousnesses in one brain would eventually result in what we non-scientists call splatter, so the race was on to download Bell’s into a computer, thus freeing Olivia to resume control of her own mind.

Walter reminded us of the way Agent Scott and Olivia had shared their dream state, and LSD was the lubricant that enabled Walter, Peter, and Bell to enter Olivia’s brain. Two thousand milligrams shared, the male trio started stumbling around Olivia’s frightened psyche, encountering a murderous Nina Sharp (so Olivia really doesn’t trust her, eh?) and then finding themselves transformed into animated versions of themselves. Thus was the return of Leonard Nimoy, retired from acting only in the sense of not having a corporeal presence on-screen, effected.

The cartoons of Bell, Peter, and Walter enabled Fringe to have some fun – the Walking Dead parody of zombies chasing them was clever – but they also enabled Bell to impart some (final?) wisdom to Walter, who was fretting over “needing” Belly to solve the mysteries of the doomsday machine and the impending collision of worlds. Bell delivered a Spock-like speech that operated as a blessing upon Walter, telling him that while they once “needed each other,” Walter now possesses “the virtue of humility…the decisions you make will be the right ones; the direction you choose to take will be just.”

Comic relief was provided by Broyles, who, back in Walter’s lab with Astrid, accidentally consumed some LSD and spent the episode slack-jawed and giddy, tripping on the spirals in a licorice stick. Even here, however, there was a moment of grave seriousness. “I saw death,” Broyles told Astrid, “and it was me.” That is, Broyles must have seen a vision of his alt-universe, dead self.

The core goal of this week’s episode, titled “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide,” was to do something literal that most TV writers usually talk about figuratively: To get inside a character’s head and show us what makes her tick. In this case, writers Jeff Pinkner, J.H. Wyman, and Akiva Goldsman wanted to establish some fundamental things about Olivia. That she’s ruled, much of the time, by fear; that there’s a level on which she’s never bid farewell to the scared little girl she was who’d been experimented upon in Jacksonville; that she is, however, extremely strong (intelligent and psychically powerful) when she can muster the strength to face her fears; and that love is the answer to those fears.

By the end of the episode, all seemed toasty warm – indeed, Olivia, having tested Peter and found him worthy of devotion, was nibbling on some buttered toast. Then came the final Fringe twist that almost never fails to pay off as something that transcends a mere Twilight Zone-ish twist; it sends the series into its next phase. Asked about the hostile man with the cross-like glyph on his shirt that we had seen as a cartoon and whom Olivia had drawn in her cozy kitchen, she calmly, chillingly replied, “I haven’t seen him before but I think he’s the man who’s gonna kill me.”

The line was potent enough, but the way Olivia delivered it – so calmly, with such assurance and lack of fear – that’s big, friends; that’s big.

Fringe benefits:

• Bell’s Star Trek salute, “Aye, aye, captain!”

“That dog wouldn’t hunt.”

• Why was the color red chosen for the door Olivia’s childhood home, I mean aside from the stated fact that it made the otherwise-identical-looking house distinctive for the kid? Red as a signal for the Other Side must have some significance, right?

“I downloaded ZOOM for you.”

• Ken Kesey could have been a story editor for Fringe; the king of the Merry Pranksters (“to hell with facts – we need stories!”) once wrote of “a cartoon world, where the figures are flat and outlined in black, jerking through some kind of goofy story that might be real funny if it weren’t for the cartoon figures being real guys… ” Exactly…

Where do we go from here, Cortexifans? What did you think of “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide”?

Twitter: @kentucker

Originally posted April 15 2011 — 10:18 PM EDT

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