TV Recap: 'Fringe' Episode 502 - 'In Absentia'


Fringe Episode 502
“In Absentia”
Written By: J.H. Wyman & David Fury
Directed By: Jeannot Szwarc
Original Airdate: 5 October 2012

In This Episode...

Walter is still not having any luck with the thought unifier. Olivia wants to go back to Walter’s Harvard lab, thinking that he recorded what September told him. Etta informs them that the Observers commandeered Harvard a few years ago. Walter remembers that there are tunnels beneath the university, so the team seeks out the tunnels - with success. It leads them directly to Walter’s lab, the majority of which he has ambered. A video camera was set up to record, and Walter believes he may have taped a message, so priority one is cutting open the amber. To do that, Walter will need a laser. To make that, he will need power. The main power grid is located in the science building - who knows what the situation is like over there?

A security guard named Gale finds them, and our crew handcuffs him. Etta takes him into an office to interrogate him. She uses something called an angel device on him that rearranges every molecule in his body, shaving dozens of years off his life. Liv pops in, curious, and is a little shocked to see her daughter coldly torturing the man. Not only are the humans at war with the Observers, but it would seem the loyalists and resistance are at war as well. Etta leaves the room and Liv steps into the “good cop” role. Gale knows he is as good as dead, but he promises to tell Etta everything if Olivia promises to find his son and tell him what happened to his dad. She does, and Gale tells Etta how to get into the science building. It requires his personal ID and a retina scan. Rather than scooping out his eye, Walter recreates Gale’s retina on a pig’s eye. With loyalist tattoos painted on their cheeks, Peter and Etta march nervously into the fray.

They run into a minor roadblock when central security questions why Gale would be trying to access an area not on his usual route. The question goes out to Gale on the walkie-talkie still on his person. At Olivia’s urging, he claims #19 told him to go change a fuse. Central security buys it, and Peter and Etta enter. (We will forget for now that, with all this super-insane tech at their fingertips, the central security guys use walkie-talkies and don’t even have surveillance cameras.) Once inside, Peter has no problem getting power diverted back to Walter’s lab. Walter has plenty to run the laser he has built to cut through the amber and retrieve the video tape.

When the crew finally retrieves the tape and gets it to play, it is indeed Walter on the tape. It is a vague message in which Walter claims that the way to stop the Observers is explained over a series of videos that he has presumably hidden around the city. Meanwhile, Etta has taken Gale out to the middle of nowhere to shoot him. He admits he lied about having kids (one who he claimed was killed by the resistance) but told Olivia what she wanted because there was something inexplicable in her eyes. Etta decides not to kill Gale, because she saw that same thing.

Dig It or Bury It?

This was a sedate, “set-up” episode. No action, and most of the episode was a plan to execute a plan that would execute the plan that would hopefully lead them to the plan that will shut down the Observers. But the show is so good, the writing so true, the acting so intense that it just doesn’t matter. An episode that would have been boring in less capable hands was absolutely engaging for Fringe. I am a little worried that the ultimate answer to defeating the Observers is for the planet to regain its humanity. After all, Olivia’s disappointment in her daughter’s cold, unflinching exterior convinces Etta to let Gale go, something she has never done before. So then you have to worry that this is going to turn into some sort of nauseating “pay it forward” ploys. Luckily Fringe has never stooped that low or that infantile, so hopefully they can exit television without doing so.

Walter Babble

When they get to the Harvard lab, Walter sees some of his Red Vines encapsulated in the amber. “When did I switch to grape?”


On the hunt for the first of Walter’s mythical tapes, our crew is captured by a forest-dwelling resistance contingent who may recognize our team. I kind of think they might be from the other universe.