Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fringe 3.03: "The Plateau"

“I am still a scientist, Brandon. I just have a much larger laboratory.”

In “The Plateau,” we got a chance to see how the alt-Fringe team handles an investigation. This was, admittedly, kind of fascinating. As a fan of dystopian future stories, I really do like the Other Side, although I wish our regular characters were there. I don’t really want to get to know these new characters all that well. I liked the ones we already had just fine. I know I get a bit petulant and whiny when I write about “Fringe,” especially because this concept has injected a jolt of extra creativity into the show, but I’m counting down the episodes until everyone’s back where they’re supposed to be. And I’m a bit nervous about what consequences they will face for things that happened while they were separated.

This episode’s opening scene was definitely creepy, as Fringe tends to be, although not so much gross. In the middle of a busy street scene, a creepy guy, whose name we later learn is Milo, is intently watching what’s going on. After observing, he places a pen vertically on a mailbox. The pen falls, a guy bends down to pick it up, and chaos ensues, all as Milo watches. The action all culminates in a bus hitting a woman as she tries to cross the street. Milo had been watching this woman particularly closely when the sequence started. The whole thing seems elaborate, but not especially odd, but we’ll soon see that for the Other Side, there were some elements that were most definitely odd.

Olivia arrives at the alt Fringe Division. It appears that the treatments have fully taken hold. She is acting like Alt-livia, not herself. Broyles and Walternate watch from afar. Broyles, astute as always, even in alternate universe form, has an uneasy feeling about the whole thing. He’s reluctant to have a non-authentic Other Sider on his Fringe team. Walternate placates Broyles by assuring him the tech works. Walternate also does something even more important. He tells Broyles the truth about his plans for Olivia. Surprisingly, Broyles seems to be going along with it. I thought he’d have a bit more heart.

Anyway, there’s plenty of work for the Fringe team to do. Apparently the crash we saw in the opening was the second bus crash in as many mornings. Astrid’s calculations say this is very unusual. It’s interesting to see how different this Fringe team is from our own. They have a lot more technology to work with when they conduct their investigations. It isn’t the tech which leads to the first break in the case, though. The team notices the ballpoint pen at the accident scene. This doesn’t seem odd to us, but it is to them. None of them have seen a ballpoint pen in years. It turns out that a man bending down to pick up the pen that fell from the mailbox (where Milo placed it) is what started the whole chain reaction that led to the crash. While investigating, Olivia thinks she sees Peter in the crowd watching. Understandably, it freaks her out.

Later at home, Olivia tells Frank about her vision. Of course, since she’s in Alt-livia mode, her reaction is more being surprised that she saw the Secretary’s son than any emotional reaction to seeing Peter. Frank is concerned and makes Olivia promise that if she sees another vision, she’ll tell Broyles. There’s been a smallpox break-out in Texas that he most likely will need to attend to, and it seems like he’s worried about leaving Olivia. Over at Fringe headquarters, Charlie and Lincoln discuss Olivia’s first day. Charlie is skeptical about Olivia. He knows they have the technology to implant memories in another person, and everything that went down at the opera house seems a little too convenient to him. Charlie’s a perceptive guy. Lincoln, however, is not. It turns out he and Olivia have a bit of a history, so he thinks he knows her really well, and he thinks Charlie’s nuts for not believing this is the real Alt-livia. What is it with the men in both Olivias’ lives not being able to really recognize her? It’s kind of sad.

After looking at security footage, it turns out that there were ballpoint pens at both bus accident scenes. Astrid doesn’t think that the ballpoint pens could be the cause of the accidents. The odds are entirely too remote. She gets a bit belligerent about her opinion, too. In the middle of Astrid’s tantrum, the team gets a report of another accident. They rush to the scene. It turns out this one isn’t quite over yet. Olivia sees Milo and starts running after him. She has him cornered on a bridge, but at just the right moment, he jumps off the bridge and on to a moving van. Milo ends up at his sister, Madeline’s, house. She’s very upset over what Milo’s been up to, and she shows him a small painted horse to try to get him to understand that he needs to behave. The horse was painted by their mother. Milo becomes like the creature from the Doctor Who episode “Midnight” and starts predicting Madeline’s senses. It freaks her out and makes her even more upset. Importantly, she mentions that when she “signed [Milo] up” for something.

At Fringe headquarters, the team is interviewing witnesses over the phone. Charlie starts testing Olivia to see if she’s really the correct Olivia. Olivia didn’t know a certain code she needed to use, which makes me think the memories they implanted aren’t perfectly up to date, but she did remember a time she and Charlie went to Coney Island. The testing is cut short when the team makes a break-through. All three victims are connected to Bryant Hospital, and the team takes off to check it out. It looks like some sort of mental institution, and among the shuffling patients, Olivia sees a vision of our Walter. When the Fringe team explains to the hospital administrator what’s been happening, he tells them that they’re looking for a patient. They’ve been giving their patients drugs to increase their intelligence, with the idea that the drugs would help them function independently. After looking at pictures of a few patients, Olivia is able to identify Milo. It turns out that the subjects are allowed to go home with a guardian for the final phase of the test, then they are regressed back to what they were before. Milo has been killing people who are connected to carrying out his upcoming regression.

Charlie and Olivia go to visit Madeline, who gives them a goodbye note Milo left her. The note says he can be contacted at a certain motel. By now, Olivia and Charlie have figured out that because of the drug he’s been given, Milo has the ability to predict future sequences of events with a frightening degree of accuracy. They argue of which action Milo would have predicted and prepared for, but they eventually decide to go to the motel and try to find them. Milo is waiting there for him, and he has seen a vision of cinderblocks falling on Olivia as she chases him. When Charlie and Olivia arrive, Milo starts running. The sequence looks exactly like his vision until the end, when Olivia successfully dodges the cinderblocks. After the near-miss, Olivia has trouble breathing. There is a “blinking auburn diamond” sign nearby, which, on the Other Side, signifies an atmosphere quality problem. Charlie is upset that Olivia broke protocol and went in a blinking auburn diamond area, but Milo has been captured, so all’s well that ends well.

It actually doesn’t really end well for Milo and Madeline, though. Because they couldn’t get to him soon enough, Milo’s change is permanent. Madeline is taken to see him at the holding facility where he is now kept. He spends all his time communicating with a machine. Madeline is told that he has risen above conventional “talking.” Madeline tries to talk to him anyway. Her voice and a touch of his hand only stop his communicating with the machine for a second. He doesn’t even notice when Madeline leaves the painted horse on the table in front of him.

Elsewhere, Walternate is talking to Brandon the lab tech about their Olivia experiment. Brandon has been using some of Peter’s clothes as an “associative link.” He thinks that the link will induce Olivia to want to jump to our universe. Walternate suggests Brandon use a sensory deprivation tank to enhance his results. Some things about Walter Bishop never change, no matter what universe he’s in or how intact his brain is!

Frank has left for Texas, and alone in her apartment, Olivia sees Peter again. He kind of does an explanatory wrap-up for us. Olivia didn’t die like Milo foresaw because she didn’t know the blinking auburn diamond protocol. The real Alt-livia would have stopped because of the diamond, but she didn’t. Milo couldn’t factor that in. Peter tries to convince Olivia that she’s not where she belongs and she can’t forget who she truly is and where she’s from. He ends his plea with a kiss. This is so not going to end well when Olivia finally gets back home and finds out Peter’s been all over her doppelganger.

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