Television Tourniquet: We Get Freaky with 'Fringe' -- Episode 13!


Fringe Episode 13
"The Transformation"
Written by: J.R. Orci and Zack Whedon
Directed by: Brad Anderson
Original Airdate: 3 February 2009 

In This Episode…

We open on a plane.  Damn you, J.J., and your obsession with terrible things that happen on planes!  Anyway, a scientist on board, Marshall Bowman, gets a bloody nose.  A quick throat swab confirms that he has… whatever horrible thing it is that he thinks he has.  He tries to get whatever sedatives he can from the flight attendants, but they just think he's a loon.  He locks himself in the bathroom to protect the rest of the passengers, but it doesn't work.  He transforms into something that can best be described as Swamp Thing crossed with a Murloc from World of Warcraft – on steroids.  It was pretty awesome for a small-screen creature.  So he goes berserk and the plane goes down.

Bowman is completely indistinguishable as human.  While flipping through copies of passenger passports, Olivia recognizes Bowman from a memory she shared with John.  Convenient.  Bowman is a "banker"; one of his clients is Hicks, the other man that Olivia recognized from her shared memory.  She lets Charlie in on her new… let's call it talent.  Charlie does a good job pretending he doesn't think she's crazy.

While Hicks is in custody, his nose starts to bleed like a faucet.  Walter recognizes this as the first sign of transformation, and sedates him to slow the process.  Hicks and Bowman share something – a small glass data chip implanted in their hands.  Olivia suspects that John Scott has the same disc, and requests an exhumation from Broyles.  He has no choice but to finally reveal that John Scott is still "alive" (and not crispy) within MassiveDynamic.  His disc was damaged, but they fear that if John dies, the disc self-destructs.  They were able to glean that John was somehow part of a bio-terrorism cell.

Olivia insists that she must go back into John's memories.  Back in her undies, back in the tank.  She enters John's memories, and despite Walter promising it is not possible, John makes contact with Olivia.  She loses contact with Walter, but makes solid contact with John.  John reveals that he was part of a top secret, black-ops, deny-all-involvement operation with the NSA (which included Bowman and Hicks) to bring down Conrad, an elusive and very dangerous bio-chemist who sells biological weapons on the black market.

Olivia gets out of the sensory deprivation tank in one piece, and a plan forms.  The FBI have a French informant in custody who tells them that Conrad has a sale going down in Chicago in mere hours.  Hicks is also still in custody, in a medically-induced coma.  Walter has an antidote he thinks will work to prevent Hicks from transforming.  Olivia goes undercover as the buyer of Conrad's bio-goo, with Peter as her back-up.  Hicks feeds her answers and "code" via an undetectable transmitter implanted behind her ear.  She and Peter pull off the buy with Conrad's men – until Conrad comes in and instructs his goons to kill Olivia and Peter.  The FBI agents raid the meeting in the nick of time.

Dig It Or Bury It?

This was an incredibly dense episode – I can't believe I summed it up in just over a page.   Normally I am not as big a fan of the "mythology" episodes, but I feel like there was a lot of closure in this one – we know John, though technically considered a traitor to the FBI, was a good guy.  Olivia knows John truly did love her, and wasn't using her.  Olivia went back in to the shared memories to effectively say good-bye to John, and Walter basically told us that this would be the last time Olivia would be able to share memories with John.  The segment where Olivia and Peter go undercover to make the purchase accounted for a good two and a half acts of the show, and I really got caught up in the tension of the scene.  My eyes were actually glued to the screen, episode notes be damned.


Walter had a delightful diatribe about nipples, but after he explained the theory, it actually made sense.  It's something along the lines of animals have twice as many nipples as a normal birth would be, and rarely have more babies than nipples. 


More like déjà vu.  When Olivia gets into the sensory deprivation tank for the third time this season, I felt like it was identical to the previous times.  Down to the dialogue spoken, the instructions from Walter, the removal of Olivia from the tank – even her undies. 


This episode seemed to hit the extremes of each end of the spectrum.  On the one hand, you have this absolutely unrealistic creature transformation that goes way beyond a werewolf transformation.  But on the other hand, the episode is rooted in the very real bio-terrorism black market.  Olivia's undercover operation was absolutely believable.  But if I ever came across that creature in a dark alley, I would laugh my ass off – even as it ripped my throat out.


Even though there was some closure with John Scott's storyline, I don't think we've seen the last of him.  But next week we move on to another recurring character: Mr. Jones.  Apparently he escapes from prison and is planning to kill hundreds with some sort of biological warfare.  Wait a second… that sounds awfully familiar.  My first, instinctual description of this warfare was "snowfall that dissolves your eyes and melts your face."  Good times.