Episode Title: "A Better Human Being"
Story by: Glen Whitman & Robert Chiappetta
Teleplay by: Alison Schapker & Monica Owusu-Breen
Director: Joe Chappelle
Previously on "Fringe":
For months, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) has been trying to get back to his own timeline and reunite with the people who loved him, including Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv); who in the current version of reality barely knows him. Thus, Peter is surprised when Olivia greets him with a kiss after he stops by her apartment. Olivia explains that it felt like the thing to do and that she feels fine after the events of Westfield. But Peter gets her to admit that they've only known each other for three months and he urges her to let his father, Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) examine her. Olivia initially refuses and asks Peter to leave, but once he is gone she is flooded by memories of a life that never happened to her.
Later that night, a patient at Deerfield Mental Hospital named Sean Keenan (Harrison Thomas) begins having vivid visions of a home invasion by three teens who brutally suffocate Daniel Greene (Mark Gash). One of Sean's nurses, Bernadette (Allison Hossack) witnesses the episode and when the TV news reports the crime, she realizes that Sean described the details of it in real time. The Fringe team is soon called in to talk to Sean, while Olivia continues to have memories of working side-by-side with Peter that didn't happen in this timeline.
While speaking with Sean, Walter learns that he hears eight or nine distinct voices in his head that never directly relate to him. Before he was sedated, Sean heard one of the voices treat his cuts from the attack at a train station restroom. And at Walter's suggestion, Sean agrees to go off of his meds to help find the killers. Later that night, Olivia visits Peter at his home and relates several of their shared memories in the old timeline before declaring that she remembers everything… except what happened to Peter after he entered the Doomsday Device.
The next day, Walter looks at Olivia and states that he believes that Peter is unconsciously overwriting Olivia's memories with his own. Olivia's memories of the current timeline are also fading away, almost as if they were dreams. Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) arrives and tells them that DNA samples were taken from the restroom that Sean described, but nothing came up in the database. Regardless, Walter soon determines that Sean and the killer are half-brothers. Olivia and Lincoln leave to speak to Sean's mother, Mrs. Keenan (Sandra Ferens); who reveals that Sean was conceived through in vitro fertilization performed by Dr. Owen Frank (John Aylward).
More importantly, Mrs. Keenan tells them that the murder victim, Daniel Greene had contacted her about Dr. Frank's work before his demise. Meanwhile at an assisted living facility, Dr. Franklin is disturbed by a news report about Daniel's death. Back at the institute, Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole) bonds with Sean, who admits that he can hear the voices again. But there are so many that Sean can't understand what they are saying. Peter and Olivia have an awkward moment together when Walter bursts in on them and says that Sean and his half-brothers have formed a telepathic collective not unlike the way bees communicate. They also track down Dr. Frank to his current facility.
When Peter and Olivia meet Dr. Frank, he tells them that Daniel Greene was not the first victim of these killers. Apparently, they killed the last person Dr. Frank hired to chronicle his attempts to genetically modify the DNA of the children produced by his IVF treatments… and he was the only donor, making the killers his sons. Back at the institute, Sean tells Astrid that one of the killers is in pain at a truck stop restroom. After Olivia and Peter go to a storage facility to claim Frank's medical records, Walter makes a breakthrough on Olivia's samples and tells Lincoln to take him to the Bridge and to summon Nina Sharp (Blair Brown) as well.
At the bridge, Walter reveals that someone has been recently dosing Olivia with cortexiphan, which can only have been done by someone within Massive Dynamic. Nina is evasive about the subject, but Walter and Lincoln insist that she show them that the old samples are safe. At the storage facility, Peter realizes that Olivia has memories of things that he never knew, getting him off the hook as the cause of her problem. But they are soon attacked by three of the half-brothers, including one in a truck that tries to ram them. However, they quickly subdue their attackers.
Meanwhile, Dr. Frank is confronted by two of his "sons," who murder him before police can place him in protective custody. Later, Sean tells Astrid that he can't hear his brothers anymore and that they must have shut him out of the collective. But Astrid reassures Sean that he can now share his own thoughts with the world, which seems to comfort him. At a gas station, Peter and Olivia have a frank discussion about their current relationship. Peter is afraid of betraying his Olivia again, but when he looks into her eyes he recognizes that she IS his Olivia and they kiss. After a few moments, Olivia excuses herself to use the restroom.
At Massive Dynamic, Nina shows Walter and Lincoln that the samples are safe, but Walter quickly realizes that the samples have been switched out for fakes. Back at the gas station, Peter goes looking for Olivia and discovers that she is missing. Somewhere else, Olivia awakens to find herself strapped to chair facing the real Nina Sharp, who is very worried about her surrogate daughter.
I have to hand it to the writers of "Fringe." Even when the twist about Nina seemed predictable, the reveal still happened in a surprising way. There's still the question as to whether the Nina Sharp who has been dosing Olivia is a shape-shifter or if she is the Nina Sharp from the alternate world, whom we have never officially met in either timeline. In fact, that Nina was very conspicuous by her absence, considering that all of the other major characters had counterparts on the other Earth.
"A Better Human Being" brought up an interesting question that I hadn't previously considered: Would Peter be betraying his Olivia if he began a romance with the Olivia of this timeline? And does the Olivia of this timeline count as a distinctive person who would be lost forever if her memories are overwritten by the experiences of the Olivia from the original timeline? From our perspective, the audience has followed the Fringe team as if they were the same people that we've been following from the start of the series, who just happen to have slightly different experiences and perspectives.
I still believe that Peter is already home and that the original timeline no longer exists as a separate place for him to return to. In other words, it's this life or nothing. But from Walter's point of view, Peter is causing the Olivia that Walter cared for to slowly slip away… and thus we got one of the rare occasions where Walter seemed genuinely angry at Peter. After all, attempting to reclaim a son that wasn't his is the reason that Walter crossed over to the alternate universe and caused the majority of the problems that continue to this day. And despite Peter's good intentions, Walter feels that his son is heading towards the same destructive destination.
The case of the week was actually pretty lackluster by "Fringe" standards. The idea behind the collective is good, but the execution was not. After Peter and Olivia capture three of the kids while the other two murder Dr. Frank, that story just stops rather than reaching a satisfying conclusion. The only upside to it was that Astrid got a chance to interact with someone out of the group and offer a little emotional bonding… in all of two or three scenes she had with Sean.
But the bulk of this episode belonged to Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson, as Peter and Olivia finally found each other again. Their uncertainty around each other was well played and there was a great callback to last season when Peter recognized who Olivia was through her eyes… something that eluded him when he had his affair with Fauxlivia. And it was that previous entanglement that made Peter worry about inadvertently cheating on his Olivia again.
The promo for next week's episode looks especially promising, as it appears we're about to learn more about the Observers and what David Robert Jones wants with Olivia. And if answers are really around the corner, then I can't wait to see more.
Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.