This week, our assignment was to watch the single episode “Johari Window” from Season Two of Fringe. (You can read the Television Without Pity Recap here, while the AV Club has their recap of the episodes here. The post dedicated to the Season Two season premiere episode is here and the subsequent bookclub posts are here, here, here, here, and here.)
As always, here are the ground rules: nothing that we have seen so far is considered a spoiler, anything that we have not yet seen should be considered a spoiler. Crazy nutbar speculation is *NOT* a spoiler, but confirming or denying said confirmation would be.
Here’s my idea for spoilers: please rot13 them. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them. We good? We good! Everybody who has seen the episode, see you after the cut!
First off, I guess you might want to know what a “Johari Window” actually is. It’s a simple grid made up of two possible binary states:
Known/Unknown by Self and Known/Unknown by Others.
Stuff that is Known to the Self and Known by Others is considered stuff in “The Arena”. (This is where the best communication happens!)
Stuff that is Known to the Self and Unknown by Others is considered stuff in “The Facade”.
Stuff that is Unknown to the Self and Known by Others is considered stuff in “The Blindspot”.
Last, but not least, Stuff that is Unknown to both is considered stuff in “The Unknown”.
This is one of those things that strikes me as being huge in the 70’s. Read “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” and then do some work with your Johari Window and you’ll finally be headed down the Road Less Travelled.
Anyway, this is Fringe.
We’re now in “Edina” (which, seriously, made me confused for the first half of the show because I was certain that everyone was saying “a diner” and so I was thinking that they were going to a diner… perhaps ordering Elvis Fries… and when they were out in the middle of nowhere, I was saying “WHAT THE HELL?”) and, since we’re in Edina, we’d best get used to the hum.
But I get ahead of myself.
We start with a State Trooper talking on his cell phone to his wife about their crying baby. So we now know that he is going to die. In any case, he happens to see a kid walking down the highway and he pulls over and ascertains that the kid, Teddy, is running away. He gets the kid in the car and gives him a nice little Norman Rockwell State Trooper speech about how he’s sure that the kid has people who miss him and that he’s sure that the kid thinks they’re mad at him but “as soon as they see you…” and, of course, he looks in the rear view mirror and the kid has transformed into a grotesque monster.
We will have a lot of ham-handed lines involving people seeing other people tonight, it seems.
Well, we’re now at the State Trooper station where the troopers are talking exceptionally insensitively about how the kid looks, like, when the kid is sitting right there. I would say that the takeaway from the scene involves the line where one of the troopers mentions how he always thought that the people who told the stories (presumably about the grotesque people) were crazy. I would say that… except for the two lumpy people who kick their way inside and use shotguns on the troopers. Our nice trooper is still alive long enough for Teddy to apologize to him… and, then, yeah. One of the grotesque adults blows him away.
So we jump to Walter and see that he’s in the car and Peter is trying to talk him out of the car to go to the grocery store. Wouldn’t it have been more difficult to get him in the car in the first place? “The lion had a point”, Walter tells us. He sure as heck did, Walter. He sure as heck did. We could end the show there if Olivia didn’t call and tell Peter to get ready in a half hour because we’ve got three dead cops and a missing kid… when Peter, rightfully, asks why this is a Fringe case, Olivia says “wait until you hear about the kid”.
Which gets me because, really, all the kid was was kinda ugly. Did you see the movie Mask? Did you learn not to judge by appearances? Apparently, you’re the only one who has.
But let’s run with this.
As it turns out, the kid was entered into the database around 9ish, the grotesques came in and shot everybody within an hour of that happening, they stole the surveilance tapes, and left no fingerprints (not even on the shells). So we jump to Broyles giving everybody a rundown of what happened… and it turns out that there are 30 years’ worth of grotesque sightings in this area… and all take the same form. The person looked normal one minute and then the next, whammo, they turn all lumpy and worth judging. This all happened outside of Edina.
Now, a confession, for the entire first half of the show, I thought that they were saying “a diner” with an East Coast accent. So I’m hungry thinking that I, too, would like to go to a diner. Get some Elvis Fries, maybe. Listen to the jukebox. Remember when you could still smoke in those places. As it turns out, nope. They were just saying “Edina”.
In any case, we establish quite quickly that there is a hum. Well, *I* can’t hear it but the characters in the show can. Walter starts singing a song to it, actually. Word salad lyrics to the theme from Carmen. “Hard artichokes rarely keep, Norwegian elephants, Singapore sleep.” The local sheriff shows up and tells them that the hum comes from turbines from the military base a few miles down the road. He invites them into the diner (!) and lies to them about the rumors of sightings and about the picture of Teddy they show… while a guy in the diner quietly leaves. We jump to the guy in the diner going home and, yep, looks like it’s Teddy’s dad and dad starts talking about the feds here in town investigating and mom is pulling an “I told you so” and it looks like Teddy is used to grownups talking around him as if he wasn’t there.
Our team goes back to the hotel with Walter asleep in the back and Peter is worried about Walter reverting back to his St. Claires persona and Olivia asks if Peter thinks that this job might make them less normal. Peter laughs. Now, normally, I’d write something here about the non-dating version of “husband points” and how many of them Peter just spent by laughing at a serious question but a truck tries to run them off of the road and saves me from writing that paragraph. Olivia’s knocked out, Walter is still tuckered, and Peter is the only one conscious. He grabs Olivia’s gun and starts shooting. The grotesque guy from the truck shoots a shotgun at Peter but misses (must be using slugs) and Peter returns fire which, of course, wakes up Walter. “Are we there yet?” “GET DOWN!” bang bang bang and the guy gets back in the truck and drives away.
Cut to a few minutes later where the Sheriff is lying to them about how this area is usually pretty quiet while Walter finds a gorgeous butterfly that he then catches after using the word “lepidopterist” and hums the song from Carmen again… but they find the truck and they find it empty and they find blood by the door which leads to the bushes and, yep, it’s a guy but he’s not grotesque. Walter points out that the guy was grotesque when Peter shot him so he must have changed in the interim… and Peter is feeling guilty about shooting a guy. Olivia gives him some kinda helpful advice, I guess, and tells him about the first time she killed somebody. A “you never forget your first” joke would probably be beyond the pale and so I will refuse to make it.
Back to the lab with the body of the dead truck guy just in time to get a call from Broyles who says that his military contact did mention some testing at the army base back in the 70’s (“Project Elephant”) but the files, of course, have been redacted. He’ll keep digging. Walter tells Astrid about the butterfly he caught and she takes it out and is all “ewwwww!, I hate moths! It’s even got a deformed wing!” and Walter is confounded because, seriously, it was a *BUTTERFLY* and Peter can confirm! We open the bodybag and, of course, the guy is all grotesque again. Which makes me wonder how the moth survived because, surely, the butterfly thing was only cosmetic, right?
Anyway, our Fringe team still hasn’t figured out that the issue is probably local. So let’s go back to the Sheriff where he can lie to them again and tell them that he’ll ask around and get them the information they need about the guy that he totally knows very little about and certainly *NOT* where he lives. He’ll take them to the town hall where they can check the city records where, of course, the box with the pertinent records has been stolen.
Luckily, Walter and Astrid are doing a bit better. They’ve figured out that the guy has a genetic disorder that makes him deformed… but Walter still hasn’t apprehended what makes him *TRANSFORM* so he starts humming the song from Carmen again which drives Astrid a little bit buggy and she complains which makes Walter realize that, maybe, he worked on Project Elephant (TA-DAH!) and the song was a mnemonic he made back then… which makes him remember that there was something important at the law library. Of course it does. So we go there and he’s unscrewing a plate in one of the bookshelves and Astrid points out that he’s changed since he got back from a diner. Hey, food can improve the mood of anybody and especially Walter. He points out that throwing himself into his work really can get him going and he points out that he did this when Peter was sick when he was a child… and removes the plate and finds a box of Devil Dogs and another box with pictures of deformed people. He gets really serious and says “I understand now.”
Cut back to Olivia and Peter where they find nothing related to the guy from the census but Peter finds out that the only change to population has been due to deaths or births… nothing due to immigration, nothing due to emigration. The sheriff calls and, when told about the missing files, tells Olivia and Peter to meet him at the outskirts of town, right by the open graves that have just been dug (or close enough for jazz). Olivia and Peter see nothing odd about this and tell the sheriff that, yep, they’ll be right there. So we cut to the sheriff hanging up the phone and going outside and, yep, there’s a crowd with torches and pitchforks and they’re screaming for blood. The sheriff tries to calm everybody down but they aren’t having it. There are strangers a’digging through the dirty laundry and something had best be done about it.
So we cut back to Walter and Astrid and they’re driving to a diner and Walter is explaining that, back in the 70’s, the military was testing a phased cationic pulse that would act as camoflage. Make soldiers invisible, that kind of thing. The problem is that the phased cationic pulse resulted in genetic mutations… but, he has Astrid pull over near the sign, they did manage to scramble the optic nerve a little. Walter walks to the sign while looking at the moth and, once he passes it, asks Astrid to come over. As she walks, she sees the moth turn from a moth into a gorgeous butterfly.
So Walter calls Peter and explains that the Edina hum is really a pulse that changes perception. The people really are grotesque, they’re just camoflaged. Peter thanks Walter for the information and tells Walter to take Astrid and go back to the lab, these people are willing to kill to keep their secret, after all. Walter thanks Peter, hangs up, and tells Astrid that Peter told them to try to find the source of the pulse. Oh, that Walter!
Cut to the sheriff who is loading up his shotgun and Rose, Teddy’s mom, comes in and starts talking about how bloodshed won’t solve this problem, not this time, and the sheriff points out how it’s always worked in the past and she needs to get back to the machine… which brings us to Walter and Astrid talking about the machine and what it’s probably going to look like… and Astrid points out a giant antenna behind a house which turns out to be Rose’s… and, seeing Rose’s name on a plaque next to the house, Walter remembers that his old partner on Project Elephant had a daughter named Rose. Walter knocks on the door and Teddy answers. Walter asks if he’s the son of Rose and the grandson of his old partner and the kid nods and Walter points out that he’s friends with Teddy’s grandfather and asks if they can come in. Teddy lets them in.
So Walter starts looking at the photos on the wall and rattling off names. He asks Teddy if there are more recent pictures and Teddy looks askance and says that his parents don’t own a camera (which has Walter practically turn to the fourth wall and explain how cameras don’t have an optic nerve… but wouldn’t the optic nerves of people change the images in the picture the way they change, you know, the real people?) and this inspires Teddy to remember that he’s not allowed to let strangers in the house… so Walter asks if he can go to the bathroom before he gets kicked out and, while he scurries off, Astrid finds the Operation game and tells Teddy that she *LOVES* that game.
So cut back to Peter and Olivia who are about to get jumped at the setup point where they talk about how the dead guy was only 30… not old enough to be part of the tests in the 70’s and I immediately think “that can’t be right” and do some math in my head and get really depressed and this is interrupted by the sheriff showing up and jumping Peter and Olivia, but not very well, allowing them to run into the nearby barn.
Back at the house, we see Walter not using the bathroom, thank goodness, but sneaking into the basement where we can finally hear the hum… and cut to Astrid and Teddy playing Operation as Walter throws the switch… and we see Teddy go from cute kid to grotesque… which means that the folks shooting at Peter and Olivia in the barn have gone from normal-looking to grotesque themselves. Olivia shoots the deputy, the sheriff gets the drop on Olivia only to be interrupted by Rose carrying a shotgun. “Go home, Rose”, the sheriff says. “Boom”, says Rose’s shotgun. Huh. I didn’t see that coming.
So we now go back to Rose’s house for the denoument. Rose explains what happened since 1979. Her dad felt awful about deforming so many people but he finally perfected the camoflage machine and he told everybody that they can leave and be ugly or stay and be normal… and everyone voted to stay. Walter goes outside to see Broyles and runs up and starts explaining how this town’s secret needs to remain a secret and he’s really freaking out about this… and we see the softer side of Broyles when he says that he agrees with Walter and they’ll leave the town alone.
Cut to our team leaving the town and Peter telling Walter that he’s proud of how he stood up for the folks of Edina… and Walter says that he’s glad that Peter chooses to see it that way.
Well, this was yet another stand-alone episode. I think it may be a problem with syndication theory. People make seasons with the thought of what about when these shows start being shown on USA at 3AM and so they write shows (exactly like this one!) that don’t particularly penalize you for never watching before but not rewarding you AT ALL for having watched all of the shows up to this point. As such, this wasn’t a particularly *BAD* show but it wasn’t a particularly *GOOD* one. It was a show intended to be shown without context at 3AM on USA. Which is too bad because the meta-storyline for 2nd Season is AWESOME. But we’ll get back to that next week, I think.
So… what thinks did you thunk?