I will make you love Terriers if it's the last thing I do
Friday, November 19, 2010 | Author: Mad Typist
Honestly people, what do I need to do to get you watching FX's excellent show Terriers? I've blogged about this show before, but I wanted to again remind you to tune in. The last few episodes of the show have been simply wonderful - Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James have an awesome chemistry and have proven adept at both comedy and drama. MRJ in particular simply killed his scene last week when he tearfully resolved the dramatic situation between Britt and Katie. Devastating and heartfelt.

Need more convincing? Check out Televisionary's excellent Open Letter to FX to Keep Terriers.

I'm also posting to pass along a recommendation: if you haven't caught up on the show and you can't hunt the episodes down online, you can read the Couch Baron's excellent recaps of the show. I've been a fan of his recapping work for some time, so I know he'll do a great job with this show.

For those of you who are already fans and want to know how you can help, compose an email to user@fxnetworks.com, make sure the Subject line says ‘Save Terriers’ in it, and let the network know how you feel about the show.
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Fringe Recap: Ep 3.7 "The Abducted"
Thursday, November 18, 2010 | Author: Mad Typist

This week's episode was a real thriller - not only was the prime case supremely creepy and well done, but the episode ends on quite a cliffhanger, as Olivia's attempt to get back home to Earth-1 proves less than successful.

The main plot involves a serial kidnapper dubbed the Candyman. On Earth-1, the Candyman is a large black man played by Tony Todd in the movies (films that incidentally emotionally scarred me for life as a child). Here on Earth-2, the Candyman is a scary bald white guy who likes stealing children from their bedrooms at night so he can harvest the sweet youthful nectar stored up in their pituitary glands.

The show opens as the Candyman collects his latest victim, Max, age 9. It's like my worst childhood nightmare given form in this scene, as Max's mother assures him there's no monster in the closet, exits the room, and then the door suddenly swings shut to reveal the Candyman standing there in the darkness, clad in a creepy silver mask. Max only has time to gasp as he's whisked away into the night. My inner 9 year old weeps in terror.

We cut to the next morning. I suspected that cab driver Henry Higgins (Andre Royo) would be back to take part in Olivia's escape from Earth-2, so I'm pleased to see him return this episode. Welcome back, Henry! Olivia pops into his cab, all like, "Hey, remember that time I kidnapped you, made you lose a day's worth of fares and then threatened to murder your family? Good times! So, wanna grab breakfast?" Henry is apparently a very forgiving sort, because he agrees to hear her out. Over waffles and coffee, she explains that she needs his help to pilot a ship out to Liberty Island, where she plans to break into the DoD lab there. Henry doesn't like the idea, but offers to borrow his cousin's boat to help her out. Maybe he's just trying to spare another poor Earth-2 soul from being a victim of Olivia's never ending crime spree, since her original plan involved just stealing some random boat.

Apparently on Earth-2, business is booming for the Beeper King, as we see Olivia receive a page on her beeper instead of her fancy ear phone notifying her to head to Max's house. If you were wondering how they knew that the kidnapping was Fringe Division worthy, well the answer is they didn't. However, thanks to the Peter Bishop Act of 1991, all kidnapped child cases are treated as a Fringe Division case. In this instance, that pays off, as the team quickly determines that they recognize the pattern left behind. It seems Fringe Division has encountered the Candyman before.

We head back to Fringe HQ for more exposition about the case. The good news: all the previous victims were released after 48 hours. The bad news: they all came back with massive internal injuries and strange physical aliments such as cancer. Now the clock is ticking on poor Max. Olivia notes that each victim had the same injury at the base of their skull along the spine.

Broyles and Walternate discuss the case. Walternate looks really upset (for good reason) about the idea of a serial kidnapper on the loose that they are unable to stop. It turns out that Colonel Broyles and Walternate have a lot in common. Both men know what it's like to have a child abducted from their home. It seems that the Candyman abducted Christopher Broyles several years ago - a trauma that neither Christopher nor his father seem to have recovered from. Walternate offers Broyles a chance to beg off on leading the investigation, given his past history with the Candyman, but Broyles declines. He frets about being stuck with Olivia, versus Alt-livia who he actually trusts.

Eventually, Broyles will come to appreciate that Earth-1's Olivia, though not as fun as Alt-livia, is still a pretty awesome agent. But at first he refuses to soften up to her, especially once she pushes to interview Christopher about his abduction, since he's one of the two victims who recalls two captors (one young, one old) being present. Broyles doesn't respond well to this request.

Eventually, Olivia mostly puzzles out that the Candyman is stealing youth by draining the children's pituitary glands. Broyles finally relents to let her interview Christopher (thanks to some gentle prodding and a well timed beer from Mrs. Broyles). We learn a few interesting tidbits here: one, that Christopher is an Olivia fanboy, two, that he has cataracts, and three, he remembers a religious phrase uttered by the kidnapper. This phrase ultimately leads the team to a small church in Queens, where the man in charge, Reverend Marcus, helpfully turns over a list of congregants to them. The team breaks up to start canvassing the names on the list.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: a red headed female FBI agent enters the home of a squirrely looking white guy. She spots a clue that tips her off to his true identity, he gets all sweaty staring her down before retreating back into the hidden part of his lair. After a cat and mouse game through the dimly lit room, they fire upon each other at the same time. Her bullet hits home, while his misses and shatters a window in the background. A beam of light streams into the room. I swear, this scene was like an abbreviated version of the ending of the Silence of the Lambs. In any case, the Candyman (a.k.a. Wyatt Toomey) is dead, Max is recovered and Olivia is the conquering hero of the day. Hooray.

Lincoln invites Olivia to grab a celebratory beer after work but she's ready to go home. And by "home" she means "back to Earth-1". She heads off to meet Henry at the docks. Unfortunately, just as she's about to get in the boat, she comes to the sick realization that Toomey, an unskilled laborer, couldnt have been working alone. His mentor Reverend Marcus, a former doctor, was in cahoots with him - and oops, Broyles accidently mentioned to Marcus that his son could ID him. Now we're in a recreation of Red Dragon (a.k.a. Manhunter), where there's a blind person stalked, a child and wife of the lead investigator in danger, etc etc. I swear I'm not making this up, people. Olivia bails on her escape plan for the moment and calls Broyles, who rushes home just in time to save Christopher and shoot Reverend Marcus.

Olivia checks in with Colonel Broyles later at the hospital, where he expresses gratitude for what she did for him. Olivia then stops by to visit with Max (now I swear the show is just messing with me, since it looks like he has a stuffed version of Precious the poodle with him). Max tells Olivia that he remembers her shouting "FBI" when she came into the room to save him. Unfortunately the FBI doesn't exist on Earth-2 any more. Doubly unfortunate is that Broyles overhears all this. He calls Olivia out on the fact that she is conscious of the fact that she is not Alt-livia. However, given her actions in saving Christopher, he simply walks away and doesn't turn her in. Aw, it's nice to see that Broyles is cool no matter which Earth we're on.

The escape is back on, so Henry drops Olivia off at Liberty Island. It wouldn't be an episode of Fringe if Anna Torv weren't wet, so she dives off the boat and swims ashore. She breaks into the lab, preps the tank, injects herself and plunges in. She crosses over and for one glorious second thinks she's done it, before realizing to her horror that she's about to shift back. She manages to get a message to the rather surprised cleaning woman standing there, before she's pulled forcefully back across to Earth-2 and out of the tank by Walternate. Now we've come full circle to the first episode, with Olivia trapped once more, screaming and pleading with Walternate to let her go home. Dun dun!

While poor Olivia suffers yet again, horrible Alt-livia is warm and comfy back on Earth-1. She gets to snuggle in with Peter snuggle to watch Casablanca in bed. If Peter was suspicious before about Alt-livia (she incorrectly guesses that Casablanca stars Ronald Reagan and has a happy romantic ending), then he's 100% sure something is terribly wrong now, as he gets a call from the cleaning woman, who passes along Olivia's message that she's trapped over on Earth-2. His expression is one of horror as the full implication of that statement sinks in. Peter, you are literally Sleeping With the Enemy. Looks like Peter will be the next guest star on the "I banged my girlfriend's doppleganger by mistake" episode of Springer. Double dun dun!

Fringe continues it's strong season this week, as we take another huge step forward in the main storyline in both universes. Over in Earth-1, Peter now knows about the traitor in their midst - the question is, how will he deal with this news and will he take Alt-livia down before she puts a bullet in him? Meanwhile, things look dire for Olivia on Earth-2 - will she figure out how to tap her universe traversing powers on her own, or will she need her friends from Earth-1 to come across and save her? If Peter crosses back over to save Olivia, is he just playing into Walternate's hands? After all - you can't fire up your special universe-destroying vacuum without your giant human battery, right?

If you're like me, you're thrilled to find out what happens next. Tragically, here on Earth-1 we celebrate Thanksgiving next Thursday, so that means we have to wait two weeks to find out what happens next. Oh FOX - why won't you send me advanced screeners?!?!

Summary: On Earth-2, the lambs stopped screaming a long time ago. Do you see?
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NFL Week 10 breakdown
Monday, November 15, 2010 | Author: Mad Typist
Okay, so I kind of dropped the ball on weeks 8 and 9, but here's my week 10 thoughts:

My totally random thoughts on hair. In the biblical tale of Samson and Delilah, the mighty Samson is stripped of his great strength after he allows Delilah to cut his hair. Now consider the once mighty Jared Allen: last year he tallied 14.5 sacks while sporting a magnificent mullet. In the offseason, he got married and as a concession to his bride, agreed to cut his mullet for their wedding. This season up to week 8 he had only 2 sacks. Coincidence?

Meanwhile, Tom Brady has steadfastly refused to cut his hair, despite the fact that everyone has ruthlessly mocked it. Even Justin Bieber has gotten in on the act. Again, the love of a woman comes into play, as Brady claims that his wife (the incredibly hot Giselle B√ľndchen) won't allow him to cut his flowing locks. Well, this season the Patriots are again on fire, despite having no-name receivers and no running game to speak of. Brady went berserk last night on both the sidelines AND the field, totaling up 350 yards and 3 TDs (while adding a fourth TD by rushing). Again, I ask you... coincidence, or a testament to the power of the hair?

Change is good. This week new Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett took the drastic measures of actually expecting players to hustle in practice and show up on time to meetings. *Gasp!* Well, the team actually seemed to respond, behaving like professional football players for an entire 60 minute game, shellacking the surprised NY Giants in the process. While Garrett deserves credit for motivating his team, I suspect that this was partially a matter of good timing/luck - the Giants always have one or two games like this where Eli plays poorly and the defense looks sloppy, and the Cowboys have one or two games that remind us that they are stacked with individual talent. In this case, both of those yearly occurences happened in the same game.

With the Cowboys having success replacing an ineffective head coach, you have to wonder what it's going to take to get Zygi Wilf to follow suit and fire head coach Brad Childress. There are countless reports that the players hate Childress, and they are now 3 games out of first place in the division, sitting at 3-6. Childress put all his proverbial eggs in the Brett Favre basket at the beginning of the year, sending 3 players down to Mississippi to literally beg him to come out of retirement (increasing his salary by a cool $3 mil as enticement). This decision is obviously not paying off - Favre has only thrown 10 TDs and has 16 INTs this season, and hasn't exactly been a model of a team player. While people got excited last week when Favre brought the team back for a thrilling win, they forgot to mention the most important fact about last week's game: their opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, really really really suck. That they needed a wild comeback against a lowly team like that sort of sums up their whole season.

It's fairly well known around the league that the Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is highly respected and will likely be a head coach very very soon somewhere in the league. It seems crazy that Wilf wouldn't insert him in at the head coach position. This is a change that makes sense. Another change that would make sense is benching Favre and letting Tarvaris Jackson show whether or not he's the answer at QB moving forward. This is a lost year for the Vikings anyway - better to start Jackson and find out if he's the guy or not than to wait till next season and then find out the hard way.

There are no dominant teams this year. But boy are there some exciting teams. This week the NY Jets won their second OT game in two weeks in thrilling fashion. The Cleveland Browns have been surprisingly fun to watch, especially with the poised Colt McCoy at the helm and Peyton Hillis running like a total beast this year. And you'll be hard pressed to find a more exciting play than the hail mary play by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders are starting to look like a team to watch - if they can beat the Steelers next week they'll have to enter the discussion for top 10 ranking as well. Lastly, the San Diego Chargers are exciting in both good ways (a dynamic offense with Philip Rivers playing absolutely out of his mind even with scrubs filling in at WR) and in bad ways (with a special teams unit completely willing to spice up the game by failing to block, well.... anyone).

Brother, can you spare a QB? So, the details of Donovan McNabb's new contract came out today, and boy howdy is that some crazy money. $40 million guaranteed over 5 years for a QB who just turned 34? Sounds insane, especially given the drama of last week where McNabb was benched for Rex Grossman. However, consider the state of available QBs around the league right now, and suddenly the deal doesn't look quite as insane. There aren't that many QBs worth starting in the league. Consider the plight of the Miami Dolphins who went from having two Chads that could start (Pennington and Henne) to having no Chads and only Tyler Thigpen left to play. When they went to sign new QBs to serve as backups the only options were Patrick Ramsey (who they signed), Chris Simms, Tom Brandstater and JaMarcus Russell - not exactly a murderers' row of gunslingers there. Meanwhile, Tennessee also has a MASH unit where their QB unit should be - both Kerry Collins and Vince Young are struggling with injuries, which means they're not really able to take advantage of newly acquired Randy Moss.

Studs of the week. A lot of people forget, but Troy Smith was going to be the starter for the Baltimore Ravens in 2008. In the final week of the pre-season, he got very sick and was out of commission. In the interim Joe Flacco came in to start and the rest is history. However, I'm glad to see Smith getting a second chance in San Francisco, where this week's performance (17/28, 354 yds, 1 TD) should help solidify his bid to keep the starting job. Roddy White and Andre Johnson have several things in common: both are low drama hard working players, and both had stellar weeks (White, 12 rec, 138 yds, 2 TDs; Johnson 9 rec, 146 yds, 1 TD). This week Tom Brady finally broke the 300 yard passing mark in a game this season, but his studliness was more about the fire and motivation he showed, both in his own performance and the way he inspired his team than mere stats (30/43, 350 yds, 3TDs, 1 rushing TD). Finally, Michael Vick... there are no words to describe the way he personally dismantled the Redskins DEF this week.

Duds of the week. Knock the ball DOWN, not sideways, Glover Quin. It's bad enough that you're kind of a douche, Jeff Reed, but your kicking is pretty poor this season too. Nick Folk also has a case of the yips this week, missing 3 FGs and making his team have to win the hard way in OT.

Teams I like this week. Obviously, you have to like the way the Denver Broncos AND the Philadelphia Eagles dropped the hammer on their divisional rivals this week. You also have to like the Buffalo Bills (but just a little bit) for finally winning their first game of the season and avoiding the dreaded 0-16 record. I also like the New England Patriots, who remind us that no matter who they have on the roster, they can find a way to win against any team. The Patriots are a team that is intimidated by no one. Finally, I love the Atlanta Falcons, who have quietly gone about earning the best record in the NFC. This is important, as they are just ridiculous at home. Matt Ryan is 18-1 lifetime at home. That is just insane.

Teams I don't like this week. I don't like the Minnesota Vikings and I think you know why. I also don't like the Detroit Lions this week - after starting the year with fire in their bellies, they've looked too soft and too much like the Lions of old in these past few weeks. Jim Schwartz has made some very questionable calls as a head coach as well. Finally, a big old hate goes out to the Washington Redskins, for utterly failing to show up on defense. Yes, the offense struggled a bit early, but the defense looked scared and frozen in place trying to stop Michael Vick.
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Fringe Recap: Ep 3.6 "6955 kHz"
Thursday, November 11, 2010 | Author: Mad Typist

It's good to see Fringe return to form after last week's disappointing episode. Whereas last week suffered from its stand-alone "Monster of the Week" format, this week is chock full of continuity goodness as it ties together strands laid out over several previous episodes and gives the overall season arc a big kick forward.

We open back on Earth-1, where a group of ham radio enthusiasts - including a crusty lighthouse operator in Maine, a young Chinese man in New York City, and a blond folksy-looking mother in New Hampshire - eagerly IM about some kind of broadcast they've been waiting to come on. It's clear they're expecting the sequence of numbers that start rattling over the broadcast. It is equally clear that they weren't expecting the brain searing signal that accompanies it. There's much moaning and clutching of the head, before they snap out of it and find themselves suffering from what appears to be total memory loss.

Fun fact #1: the frequency they were tuned into - 6955 kHz - is one of the most popular frequencies for pirate radio broadcasts.

Anyway, we jump to the next morning, where Peter is busying serving Alt-livia breakfast in bed. It's unclear how much time has jumped since we first saw Alt-livia seduce Peter for the first time, but from their banter about the morning paper and their easy interactions, it's pretty clear they've done this sleepover business several times before. I wonder what kind of jelly a no-good murdering boyfriend-stealing doppleganger takes with her toast. Hmm. Peter continues his campaign for boyfriend of the year by presenting Alt-livia with tickets to see U2 in concert. As you'll recall from an earlier episode this season, Alt-livia may like Patsy Cline, but she has no idea who this Bono character is. Nevertheless, she feigns excitement.

The morning snuggle fest continues and I think I'm going to claw my eyes out at the indignity of it all, but luckily it's finally interrupted by two phone calls. The first involves Walter freaking out that Peter is working on Walternate's Peter-powered universe destroyer behind his back. Peter deflects Walter's concerns, but his morning is still ruined by the second call, as Broyles summons them to investigate the ham radio memory loss victims.

The team heads up to New Hampshire to investigate the blond woman. They get up to speed on the fact that the woman was part of a group that was working on decoding a signal from a "number station". They discover two important clues. The first is a recording she made of the signal. The second is a list of people in her group, one of whom is Edward Markham, who you may recall is the proprietor of the used book store where the first copy of the ZFT manifesto was introduced way back in season 1. Hooray, continuity!

Fun fact #2: Number stations are in fact a very real thing.

We jump to Nina Sharp's office at Massive Dynamic, where she provides more exposition about the number stations. Walter makes a lot of passive aggressive jabs at Peter about exploring technology without concern for consequences. In other news, the kettle would like you to know that the pot is black.

After Walter storms out and Peter chases after him, Alt-livia clumsily attempts to manipulate Nina into convincing Walter to relax about Peter working on the device. I can't say for sure that Nina Sharp knows something isn't right here, though she pretty much explicitly states, "Gee, this is highly out of character for you, Olivia, given that you and Walter are so close and all." Alt-livia makes crazy guilty faces at her in response.

Boy, this episode shifts locations like crazy. Before we can blink, we're with Broyles and Alt-livia as they head off to investigate the radio station that broadcasted the signal. Inside there's a surprise waiting for them: two dead bodies and one creepy ass floating silver box. They carefully disarm the box and discover a set of fingerprints on the outside. They ship the box off to Walter for more investigation.

Yet another jump, as we head back to the Harvard Lab, where Walter is using a wah-wah pedal to process the audio signal. He discovers that under the signal broadcasting the number, there's a pulse that is the cause of the amnesia. Peter wanders over and looks pleased, before realizing that Walter has taken advantage of the situation to dismantle Peter's work on Walternate's device. After some more fighting, Peter and Walter have a heart-to-heart of sorts. And by "heart-to-heart" I mean Peter talks while Walter just listens while he rolls a joint.

We finally meet the guilty party, one Joseph Feller (who you may recognize as Marshall from Alias). Joseph has creepy eyes (one blue, one black) and enjoys murder and electronics in his spare time. He's busy preparing another silver box for broadcast. We see him soldering a microchip onto a circuit board before he fires up the box.

Fun fact #3: the text on the chip is written in Polish and translates to "domain effect". Time domain effects have to do with copying a signal and then overlaying it with the original, but slightly out of phase.

If you have a fear of flying, you probably won't like what happens next, as a pilot accidentally hears the second broadcast and crashes the small plane he's piloting. Oops.

Back at the lab Walter is frustrated. Astrid gets more lines of dialogue than she has in the last 5 episodes combined, as she attempts to help him work through his mental block.

Meanwhile, Peter and Alt-livia visit Edward Markham at his bookstore. After finding out that his former ham radio friends were memory-wiped, he panics a little. He gives them a 19th century book about "The First People," an ancient race of people who allegedly pre-date the dinosaurs. He claims they are related to the source of the number station. Markham frets about being targeted for memory erasure himself.

As they drive home, Peter flips through the book and of course just as he's ready to declare it drivel, he spots an interesting diagram. Peter asks Alt-livia to recite the number sequence from the broadcast and Alt-livia breaks out in a cold sweat, since she isn't equipped with the photographic memory power of her counterpart. However, she manages to recall enough of them for Peter to match the pattern to one printed in the diagram.

Back at Harvard, Nina and Walter chillax on the quad, as they smoke pot and reminisce about their rebellious scientific days. Awesome. Nina tries to convince Walter to let Peter continue his research. Walter quite correctly infers that Walternate's plan involves getting Peter to fix the device himself. Nina urges him to have hope that even if that's what Walternate wants, it doesn't mean it will work out the way Walternate planned.

The team gets together back in the lab for some more mythology from the book of the First People. The book explains that the First People had some kind of technology that could create a super vacuum that held the power of both creation and destruction. So... a Dyson, then? As he tinkers with the silver box, Peter finds the soldered chip, realizes that it's military grade and therefore probably has a paper trail attached to it. He runs off to investigate. Alt-livia looks shifty and takes off abruptly as well.

Astrid stays behind and works on breaking the code with Walter. She identifies the key to breaking the code, and it involves some kind of matrix math. This is like my own personal mind-crushing signal, as I start having horrible flashbacks to the computer science class that almost destroyed me in college. No... more... matrices... ever!

It turns out that Alt-livia knows Joseph Feller, because while Olivia is stuck investigating random crimes in Earth-2, Alt-livia is of course wrapped up in every single nefarious plot going on over in Earth-1. Joseph foolishly trusts her, because he hasn't gotten the memo yet that Alt-livia's main hobbies involve sneaking around and betraying minions who work for her. Just as the Fringe team shows up with the cops, Alt-livia shoots him and throws him out the window. The pool of mercury around the body indicates that Feller was a shapeshifter, but Peter's attempts to salvage Feller's butt-brain module are for naught - it's trashed from the fall.

At the lab, left alone and forgotten by everyone as usual, Astrid toils away. Miraculously she has something to contribute this episode as she deciphers the code - the numbers stand for coordinates around the globe. The closest one is in New Jersey, so the team heads off to visit the land of Snookis and Situations.

As they wait for a crew to excavate whatever is buried at the site, Alt-livia prods Peter to admit that he would sacrifice Earth-2 in order to save his own universe. However, Peter refuses to play her reindeer games, insisting that there has to be a better solution than sacrificing billions of innocent lives, one that would save both universes. Alt-livia, looking like a gigantic selfish jerk for clearly preferring the "Screw 'em, save your own" solution, isn't happy about that answer.

Meanwhile, Astrid finishes breaking the code and realizes that the last location was Milton, MA, where the first part of Walternate's device was found. She calls Alt-livia to report that it seems that Walternate's Peter-powered universe destroyer and the First People's vacuum machine are one and the same. Alt-livia thanks her but doesn't exactly translate her exact message to the Bishops. Hmm... the fact that Astrid is finally dressing sharply, has oodles of dialogue and actually contributes to the plot scares me. Usually when a former background player gets suddenly featured on a show like this, it means they're being set up for something horrible to happen. It's like when poor Amber Benson finally got a spot in the show credits for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then they killed her off that very episode. I bet dollars to donuts that Alt-livia will attempt to eliminate Astrid at some point in the near future.

Prior to that, though Alt-livia needs to check in with Earth-2. She returns to the Selectric 251 typewriter and reports back to Walternate that the next piece of the machine has been uncovered. Walternate instructs her to initiate phase 2. Man, even when he's not in the scene, Walternate gives me the willies - I credit John Noble's performance for that.

The episode surprisingly jumps back to Earth-2 for the final scene, where Olivia is in the shower. Boy, this show just keeps coming up with ways to get Anna Torv wet, doesn't it? Show producer: "Say, Anna, this next episode Olivia is going to investigate a series of mysterious murders at the local YMCA swimming pool. What size bikini do you wear?"

Olivia gets a call from Brandon, who informs her in the creepiest fashion possible that she won't need to report in for her dunk tank session anymore. She looks worried, and Petergeist pops up to stroke that fear some more, as he tells her that there's only one reason they'd cancel her sessions indefinitely: they've extracted whatever dirty scientific secrets they can from her and now she's become expendable. Petergeist urges her to escape and go back home to Earth-1 as fast as she can.

This episode was great on a lot of levels. The main mystery was sufficiently creepy, and would have worked even as a stand alone episode. There's now a strong sense of momentum, and by showing both universes you get the impression that we're finally driving towards the point where Olivia is going to return to Earth-1, where the plots will finally converge. The mythology behind the Peter-powered universe device just got a lot more interesting as well - who are the First People? Are they related to the Observers? Are they aliens, or visitors from a future timeline? Do all the other sites marked by the signal contain pieces of the device as well? There are a lot of clues doled out here, and I suspect that this will be an episode fans will want to revisit again.

Summary: when your ham radio signal starts to make your brain hurt, maybe you should take off the damn headphones and walk away.
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Fringe Recap: Ep 3.5 "Amber 31422"
Thursday, November 04, 2010 | Author: Mad Typist

Welcome back to Fringe after that one week break. I'd say that I hope you enjoyed the World Series, but judging by the ratings, apparently most of you were watching something else. In that respect, Fringe has a lot in common with baseball. Anyway... for those of us who still loyally watch the show, we're back this week in Earth-2 with our Olivia.

The "previously on" reminds us that people trapped in the resin that Fringe Division uses to seal up cross-dimensional breaches (substance Amber 31422) have been declared legally dead by the courts in Earth-2. We quickly find out that isn't true, however, as the show opens at a quarantine zone in Brooklyn, where two men free one of the people trapped in amber and successfully revive him. Not so successful, however, is their escape plan, as one of the men (the one who isn't an identical twin to the trapped man) ends up getting trapped behind as the zone reseals with amber almost immediately. The twins (who you might recognize as real life twin brothers Aaron and Shawn Ashmore of X-men and Smallville fame) run off into the night.

Agent Lincoln Lee is back again and finally healed up from his burn. He, Charlie and Olivia are dispatched to investigate the breach at the quarantine zone. There's some exposition about various events that required quarantine (including video footage of an impressive black hole in the middle of the Central Park lake). The Fringe team quickly realizes that they're dealing with more than just someone trying to steal money or jewelry out of the amber and head off with the face imprint left behind in a chunk of amber.

Meanwhile, Walternate meets Broyles in a bar and discusses the situation. Walternate admits that he is well aware that the people in the amber are alive. Broyles is shocked but, ever the good soldier, accepts Walternate's assertion that freeing the people from quarantine would cause the amber to destabilize. Walternate gives this hilarious "I intend to restore balance to our world" speech that couldn't have been more Emperor Palapatine-ish if he had pulled the hood of his robe up and screamed "Unlimited powerrrrrrr!"

For a such a world-shattering secret, they seem awfully comfortable just chatting about it in public spaces. Later Broyles just strolls up to the team when they return to HQ and tells them about the amber victims still being alive, even though they're in the middle of a crowded room. I mean, I realize that people working in the building probably have clearances, but still... if your trusted agents weren't even supposed to know, then the random lab techs strolling around probably don't need to know that stuff either.

As the tale of two brothers proceeds, we learn that one of the twins, Joshua Rose, was a bank robber who used some kind of Fringe-esque technology that caused rifts to open each time he used it. The technology described is a rather clever call back to season 1, episode 10 ("Safe"), which featured a similar device used to rob banks as well. In any case, eventually Joshua got caught up in the quarantine zone at his final crime scene.

At least that's how it seemed, but in a surprising twist we learn that it was really Matthew, the good twin, who ended up trapped after showing up at the crime scene to try and stop his felonious brother. Joshua assumed his twin's identity while he worked on getting him out. The resolution of the story proceeds as expected - Fringe team gets closer to discovering the truth and eventually Joshua sacrifices himself by intentionally provoking another quarantine zone so that Matthew can remain free on the outside. It's a fairly pedestrian plot by itself, and the show has certainly given more interesting Monster of the Week stories in the past. It felt like a lot of effort just to be able to cast some rather obvious good twin/bad twin parallels between the brothers and Alt-livia/Olivia. I felt like this story should have had more emotional impact, especially with the reveal that the victims inside the amber are aware and experiencing their last thought on a never-ending loop. But this plot just fell flat for some reason.

What redeems the episode really is the B plot, where Walternate is busy putting phase 3 of his evil plan into place, as he sweet talks Olivia into participating in a series of tests that will help unlock her cross-universe traveling abilities. Olivia agrees, but the minute she's alone, we see that Peter is still haunting Olivia like some kind of wacky sarcastic ghost. Petergeist articulates the doubts Olivia is feeling about her own sense of identity and pushes her to accept that she's not really Earth-2's Alt-livia. She shuts him up by taking a heavy dose of medication.

Olivia is finally ready for the tests to begin. We see that the Tank is back, but a lot nicer looking than the old metal version. Not to keep calling back to Star Wars, but it looks a lot like the tank they put Luke in after he got frostbite on Hoth. In any case, instead of a practical outfit, such as a bathing suit or wetsuit, Olivia is dumped into the water wearing a sheer white dress for some reason. After 4 hours they haven't accomplished anything other than turning Olivia into a giant prune. Eventually Walternate gets impatient orders what sounds like a LOT of psychotropic drugs pushed. It does the trick, as Olivia jumps over to Earth-1, landing in a gift shop somewhere in NYC. She inadvertently gets a cute little boy in trouble after she jumps back, just in time for his mother to find him standing next to the snow globe Olivia shattered.

After Olivia visits Matthew to let him know that she knows his secret, and then assures him that the case is closed, Petergeist pops back up to whisper in her ear again that the reason she let Matthew go is that she sympathized with him. Petergeist rattles off a bunch of facts about Earth-1 that Alt-livia couldn't possibly know, prompting Olivia to rush back to the lab to demand to be put back into the Tank. This is a nice shoutout to Season 1 Olivia, who did the same thing when she was searching for answers about John Scott. This time, she's going in to try and save herself.

Brandon the lab nerd is there and notes that some kind of artificial chemical in her brain activates as she attempts to jump. This is very likely Cortexiphan. Olivia jumps back to the gift shop and confirms what Petergeist has been whispering in her ear - that the Twin Towers collapsed in Earth-1, that her niece Ella is still alive and is celebrating her 7th birthday. When she slips back to Earth-2, Olivia falsely reports to Walternate that she didn't successfully jump over. Because Olivia is just a terrible liar, though, we can also see that Walternate doesn't really buy that at all.

So, now the stage is set for the next few Earth-2 episodes: will Olivia find a way to activate her latent abilities on her own before Walternate gets impatient and decides to crack her head open to get at the sweet, sweet Cortexiphan juice inside? Will the sexy specter of Petergeist push Olivia closer to the truth or drive her deeper into what looks like a growing drug addiction?

While I enjoyed the story this week, I can't help but wish that the Earth-2 stories were more focused on the season long arc of Olivia returning home, and less about random one-off Fringe stories of the week. I would have enjoyed this more if they had spent the entire episode just on the B plot. We don't get enough time with Walternate, who could be a much more compelling character if we were allowed to see more of what makes him tick. John Noble is such a tremendous actor - he's able to imbue Walternate with this incredible sense of lurking malevolence - that I really wish he got more screen time to show off his stuff.

Similarly, I feel like we're spending a lot of our time spinning our wheels with characters that you know aren't going to be around much longer - can you really care much about what Charlie or Lincoln are thinking or feeling when you know that eventually the show will have to abandon Earth-2 and merge Olivia back into the Earth-1 plot?

One final observation: if Earth-2 technology is capable of opening rifts, then is it possible that several (if not all) of the events suffered around Earth-2 might not be random, but rather linked to someone using Fringe technology? It bears noting that Walternate states that the first time they used the amber, it was at Harvard Yard. And we all know that a certain mad scientist had a lab there in both realities. It's not much of a stretch to think that Walternate might have caused that particular rift himself while trying to open his own portal to Earth-1.

Summary: If you and your twin brother find yourself trapped in a Cain and Abel type scenario, it pays to know which twin you're supposed to be.
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NFL Week 8 breakdown is coming
Tuesday, November 02, 2010 | Author: Mad Typist

For those of you who read this blog and actually enjoy my football musings, don't panic... I plan to recap this week's action. However, this week, the Walking Dead recap was the priority, so the Week 8 breakdown will be a day late. Lo0k for it later today.

Also, post here in the comments so I know you're actually reading these NFL breakdowns. I want to know if it's worth my time to do them.
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