This week, our assignment was to watch the two episodes “What Lies Below” and “The Bishop Revival” from Season Two of Fringe. (You can read the Television Without Pity Recaps here and here, while the AV Club has their recap of the episodes here and here. The post dedicated to the Season Two season premiere episode is here and the subsequent bookclub posts are here, 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!

One of the reasons I fell in love with Fringe is its attitude toward science. Specificially, its attitude toward “Science!”

On the one hand, you’ve got the gross-out stuff from biology. Parasites and humors and the reproductive habits of chimeras. Even as you know that chimeras are pretty much impossible at this point, something as simple as Walter giving a small speech about parasitic wasps is enough to get you to remember that no matter how creepy the writers are trying to be, Mother Nature is even better at creeping you the heck out.

On the other hand, you’ve got the MacGyver stuff that is juuuust plausible enough to be awesome. The scene I’m thinking about is Mr. Jones saying: “When Agent Dunham comes to see me, I’ll require the following items: A standard walkie-talkie with removable crystals, a metallic ballpoint pen, and an eyeglass repair kit. An analog wristwatch. Your watch would do.” Remember what happened when he got them? In a matter of seconds, he took them apart and reassembled certain pieces in order to make a jamming device that gave him and Olivia some seconds alone before the higher-ups were able to kick their way into the room. There’s this little thought in the back of your head that suspects that, possibly, someone who really knew what he was doing could, in fact, rearrange those parts to make a jammer.

On the gripping hand, there’s also the “in the wrong hands, Science! can be used to commit horrible crimes (and there ain’t no such thing as the right hands)” kinda thing going on… and sometimes the emphasis is on the horrible crimes and sometimes the emphasis is on how there aren’t any right hands. “There are some things that Man just wasn’t meant to meddle with”, and the like. Instead of feeling like a Luddite rejection of science, however, they always do a good job of setting up something like “what if we could break the foundational rules of everything?” and coming to the conclusion that, “well… maybe we shouldn’t.”

As such, at the same time that it’s a show about Science!, it’s a show about ethics. Sometimes ethics in the face of biological diversity (and/or inevitability) and sometimes ethics in the face of what is possible… or ethics dealing with someone else figuring out what is possible.

Which brings us to the two freak-of-the-week shows that we had this week.

What Lies Below was a nice little call out to the wonders of nature in an episode that explores how a virus can change the behavior of its host in an effort to spread itself far and wide (the way that some parasites change the behavior of their hosts (and a quick google tells me that there are some viruses that change the behavior of their insect hosts)). The Bishop Revival, on the other hand, shows us what science can do in the wrong hands and, quite frankly, how even having it in the right hands isn’t quite as good as not having it in anyone’s hands at all.

Let’s start with What Lies Below. We open with a guy dying a particularly vivid death spewing blood and goodness-knows-what on everybody standing around… Ew! Biology! Then we cut to Walter at the science museum giving children a very important speech containing very important truths about the cost of scientific discovery. Specifically, if you look for monsters under your bed, you could very well find them. What happens to all truth-tellers happens to Walter: He gets his science museum season pass revoked.

Which brings us to the main story. The dead guy from the opener had a virus. Of course this means a quarantine of the building and OF COURSE this comes down after Peter and Olivia are in the building and OF COURSE this means that one of them gets infected by the virus and OF COURSE it’s Peter and OF COURSE Walter goes nuts trying to find a cure… to the point where he mentions to Astrid that he can’t let Peter die again. (There’s some other stuff in there too including discussions of how the virus changes behavior of its infected victims, Peter faking taking the virus test because he knows he’s infected, and discussion of how this virus is 75,000 years old and, seriously, there’s no way they could have known *THAT*… but the most important trivia is that the virus was discovered 10 miles below the surface and they found it when they were digging for oil.)

The ticking clock we’ve been given comes in the form of a tough-as-nails FBI guy who tells us that this infection is classified as a Level Six which means that they have to kill everybody… and so Walter is stuck wondering what could have fought against this virus 75,000 years ago and comes to the conclusion that it was attacked by sulfur (SCIENCE!) from the ash from exploding volcanoes… a quick check in the fridge finds horseradish which finds a cure that they only have to deliver airborn (turn on the ventilation system! Oh no! It’s a fistfight between Olivia and Infected Peter!) which results in everybody turning out to be fine… which gives Astrid a moment alone with Walter where she asks him about what he said about “not letting Peter die again” and, to bring us full circle, he pretty much tells her to not look under that particular bed.

Not a bad show for a one-off virus of the week, how to best top it? With Nazis, of course.

In “The Bishop Revival”, we open at a wedding between a nice couple and his nice Jewish family is there and her nice Goyish family is there and there’s an impossibly Aryan guy there wearing wire-rimmed spectacles… who gets noticed as a Nazi right around the time that all of the Jewish people present start suffocating “in a room full of air”, as Walter puts it during his investigation. (The obligatory gross-out scene is cutting open a victim and the blood is a veiny blue rather than an arterial red… Walter even had to have Astrid confirm the color because he couldn’t believe his eyes.)

In this episode, we find out the following:

  • Walter’s Dad was a scientist too (a double-agent who sabotaged the Nazis).
  • Peter sold his dad’s books in a fit of pique.
  • Someone is running around using the world as their own personal science testing ground.

Walter figures out that the attack on the wedding was more of an experiment and quickly puts together that this will happen again… which it does, at a coffee shop… and we hammer out that it’s airborn and something as simple as a hot cup of tea can carry the airborn… whatever it is… throughout a cafe and kill everybody there.

We explore what it means to Walter that Peter sold Walter’s books (Peter apologizes and Walter says “Apology Not Accepted” in a way that makes you remember exactly how good an actor John Noble is) when we see that the books have been made into a modern art collage of Hitler.

We see the Nazi experimenting with sterno cans, we see our intrepid duo figure out the toxic compound and figure out where the Nazi lives JUUUUST in time for the Nazi to set the trap that would attack Walter (and, thankfully, Walter was able to get out) just in time for Walter to use the Nazi’s weapon against him. (And, of course, they hammer out that it was okay for Walter to kill the Nazi.)

In the denoument, we see Peter give Walter all of the non-trashed books back to Walter and Walter seemingly accepts Peter’s apology and finds a picture of Peter’s Grandfather… standing next to the Nazi from the show (who, we see, hadn’t aged a day in those 60ish years).

So we touched on all of the themes in these two “freak of the week” shows that, sadly, didn’t really move us anywhere around the story that made me say “I NEED TO START A GROUP WHERE WE ALL WATCH THIS SHOW TOGETHER!”

But, as one-shot shows go, these were pretty good for following the formula we’ve come to expect. (But I can’t wait to get back to the MAIN STORYLINE!)

So… what thinks did you thunk?


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to


  1. I forgot we were doing two episodes, so I only watched the virus episode. It was interesting. The one thing I wonder is did the virus make Peter fake his test? If not, why in the hell did he do that?

    Did any one else notice that Walter used a random amount of sulfur that was diluted and then in the next second told the people outside exactly how much to use for an optimum dose? Damn he’s good….

    The best part, of course, was Walter going nuts to save Peter and finally letting the cat out of the bag. I now wonder how soon before it spreads. I hope this does not drag on until the last episode of the season.

    • Yeah, they wanted to show that the virus could be as subtle as its host… but then, when Peter was turned back, he went full caveman.

      I hope this does not drag on until the last episode of the season.

      Oh, you won’t *BELIEVE* the last episode of the season.

  2. The virus episode was great. I wish all the filler episodes were this could. The notion of a subtle virus subtlely influencing behavior for its own ends is fascinating. I remember a friend of mind pondering an STD that cured acne, released certain pheromones, and ramped up one’s sex drive.

    I also liked the other ones. Between these two and Edina, I think they really hit their “filler episode” stride in the second season. I’ve always found the cool, calm supremacist far more interesting than the loud and brash one.

  3. Oh! I was going to talk about Charlie! I’m not sure how many of you were aware of this (it didn’t seem to come up when he made his departure), but his exit was not planned. Rather, they had to cut costs and they felt he was being underutilized for what he was being paid. With that in mind, they did a heck of a send-off for him, didn’t they?

    The agent who made her entrance at the time was actually supposed to be a more recurring character. It never really took, though. The goal was to replace an expensive actor with a no-name for what was a relatively small part.

    In-story, it’s kind of strange that there is this person that knows way too much and yet they don’t bring into the group, where one of the barriers to bringing more people in is having to tell them what the heck is going on.

    • Oh, was *THAT* the reason? I thought that that was the most amazing arc for the first few episodes (before we wandered off into X-of-the-week territory).

      It’s depressing to know that they only wrote it because a beancounter sent a memo downstairs.

      • That makes it more impressived in my book. Usually it’s just “Oh, Charlie moved to Detroit” and that’s that. Instead, he went out in such style!

        • The only good thing about that type of departure is it allows the character to come back if they want him to.

          Still, if you have to cut cost, make it a great story arc and episode. They did that.

      • The downside to having watched it at the time was that viewers were very well aware of his departure. So it wasn’t as much a surprise to us as it was to people who weren’t really paying attention at the time.

        • Oh, I suppose that’s true. I sat down and yelled “DANG!” at the end of Season 2, Episode 1.

  4. Finally saw the Bishop Revival. I liked this one and I also liked that they did not solve the “mystery” of how the guy had lived so long. I had flash backs to watching Highlander the series though…

    I am curious about Walter killing the guy and everyone just shrugging it off, but that was a minor blip and just sets the stage for what he did to get Alt-Peter and that is okay. Still, all these hintings about what Walter did and what Walter would do to keep his son is starting to get old with no additional movement in this area. Yes, yes, we know familly is important and that Peter is from the other dimension and that Walter kidnapped him. Can we please move on to where this house of cards comes crumbling down?

    The only thing I wonder is if all these things are setting the stage for a conflict between the characters (beyond Walter and Peter when Peter finds out). Will Olivia and Walter go at it if she finds out? What is Walter willing to do to keep that secret even if it means a conflict with Olivia?

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