In last night's Fringe, a scorpion baby terrorizes a small town and reflects a father's desperate love. Also, Olivia learns the downside of superpowered hearing, and finds her guru working in a bowling alley. Spoilers ahead.
Last night's episode, "Night of Desirable Objects," had me really pining for ZFT. Now, those folks knew how to throw a freaky Fringe Science party. Compared to their antics, the exploits of a lone scientist who combines his son's DNA with that of a scorpion seem a bit ho-hum. But we did get some great X-Files-inspired moments, and the case provided a serviceable backdrop for the show's overarching mythology.
Leave it to Walter to bring in some visually weird science, replicating Olivia's car accident in an attempt to fling a frog into the alternate dimension. The frog doesn't have any close encounters with William Bell, but it looks pretty cool as it flies through the air.
But one can only indulge in so much amphibian abuse before a new Fringe case crops up. This time the team heads out to Lansdale, Pennsylvania, where the locals have been going missing. The local sheriff has had no luck solving the disappearances, perhaps because his records focus more on which victims liked wearing flannel than who in the town might be a monster-building mad scientist. Olivia's off her game, thanks to her emerging super-hearing powers, but Peter manages to charm the sheriff into handing over the records by complimenting his expensive fishing lure — the titular Night of Desirable Objects.
The records lead the team to Andre Hughes, a farmer with some sort of creepy crawly in the walls of his house and a dead wife and infant son. Suspecting that Hughes might have killed the pair (from Walter: "Finally, some good news!"), they exhume the casket, only to find that the wife's body is still inside but, once upon a time, the baby managed to tunnel its way out (just what I needed: nightmares about evil, superstrong infants). And Astrid and Walter quickly discover that mama had lupus, which would have rendered her unable to have children, and Walter decides that, logically, Hughes must have introduced scorpion DNA into his son's system so he could survive his mother's hostile womb (great, now it's evil, superstrong scorpion infants). Hughes has rather inconveniently hanged himself in the interim, but Peter and Olivia manage to locate the arachni-boy beneath Hughes' home.
The theme of fathers who go to the extremes for their sons is soaked through this episode, though it's heartbreaking how none of the characters are yet aware of its significance. Like Hughes, Walter is a man who did a terrible thing to have his son, but failed to connect with him. Even when Peter shows Walter his own Night of Desirable Objects fishing lure and tells him the story of the boy who bought it to go night-fishing with his father, Walter genuinely fails to understand that Peter is talking about himself. But now, of course, they both have the opportunity and the desire to reconnect, and that reconnection will make it all the more devastating when Peter learns his true origins. Even when Olivia comments on the lengths Hughes was willing to go to in order to have a son, it's not to anyone involved in this father-son tragedy, but to Evil Fake Charlie (who has been ordered to debrief her on the alternate universe experience she can't remember before killing her). All the information about this tragic irony is there, but the characters aren't in quite the right configurations to catch on.
The other key plot point is Olivia's supersoldier powers, which manifested this episode in a that shiny new superhearing. It might be cool to hear conversations from far away, like having a built-in spy microphone, but it quickly becomes clear that it's also really annoying when you hear everything, including flies buzzing, soap bubbles popping, and all your neighbors' petty arguments and television sets. The morally ambiguous Nina Sharp seems to have anticipated that Olivia's body is becoming "foreign" to her, and has recommended Olivia see Sam Weiss, a fellow who can put her back together. Weiss, it turns out is comedic actor Kevin Corrigan, and he works in a bowling alley. Because if The Big Lebowski taught us anything, it's that bowling alleys are dens of wisdom and nefarious dealings, it follows that Weiss knows more about Olivia's issues than she does, asking if she's been getting "the headaches."
We also get a quick but significant appearance by Agent Jessup, who inspects Hughes home to find an important clue tucked into a Bible, and a note, apparently from Hughes' pastor, written inside. This is the second time we've seen Jessup with this sort of a Bible, and she regards it as a significant object. Have the Bibles appeared in episodes from the previous season? Are these calling cards related to the Pattern, or perhaps to the other universe?