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Author's Note: Having grown tired of what's currently available on TV I've decided to rewatch some of my all time favorite shows. I'm limiting myself to one episode per week in order to experience the storytelling as it was originally intended, which hopefully will preserve the thrill of having to wait a week to see what happens next. This article covers the Fringe episode “Safe", which originally aired on December 2nd, 2008.
Wow, what an episode! While I’ve enjoyed the first nine episodes of Fringe I have to admit that it’s lacked connective tissue. The science has been interesting and I love the characters, but it’s missing that cause and effect relationship that makes a serial show special. While some of the more recent events have reflected upon things that have already happened to Olivia and the Bishops, there hasn’t been that “Ah!” moment, something that not only makes us look back on the previous episodes, but also provides context to the happenings within them.
All that changes with “Safe”, which is easily the best chapter of Fringe to date. Right off the bat we can tell we’re in for something special, as we join corrupt FBI agent Mitchel Loeb, who we last saw at the end of “The Equation”, leading some kind of criminal caper. He’s joined by four other men, and the team is hard at work utilizing the same technology he used two episodes ago, only this time on a much grander scale. The device allows them to walk through the wall of a bank vault, and once inside they search for a very specific safety deposit box. The physics of the device only allow them a few minutes to get in and out, and after some difficulty one of the men gets stuck within the wall while trying to exit. Loeb’s hostility is on full display here as he coldly executes his trapped teammate, speaking volumes about how ruthless this man truly is. Whatever he’s involved in, the stakes are high enough that there can be no witnesses.
Oliva, Peter, and Walter arrive on the scene, where they’re informed by Broyles that this is just the latest in a series of similar break-ins. The man in the wall is still there and Olivia identifies him as Raul Logo, who she served with in the Marines. While Peter and Walter head to the Fringe version of Home Depot to get a saw they can use to extract Logo from the wall, Olivia heads to the man’s house to question his wife. She swears that she’s been there before but the woman she’s visiting contradicts that, despite the fact that Olivia can remember specific details of a dinner party held there. But it’s revealed that the memories she’s reminiscing aren’t her own, as it was actually John Scott that was in attendance. This scene is juxtaposed with Nina Sharp learning that Massive Dynamic’s attempts to recover Scott’s memories has hit a snag, which of course is because the information they’re looking for now resides in Olivia Dunham. Looking forward to the payoff of this revelation.
From here we revisit Germany, where we’re once again united with the imprisoned bioterrorist David Robert Jones who is enjoying a visit from his attorney. They’re supposed to be working on Jones’ appeal but he seems interested in anything but that topic, focusing more on dictating instructions to his lawyer. It’s immediately clear that Jones is the mastermind of the events seen in the opening sequence, as he instructs his lawyer to let the team know that there is still one more vault that needs to be relieved of its contents. Jones is brilliantly played by Jared Harris, who simultaneously lends a playful and ominous vibe to the character. This is a dangerous man that should not be taken at face value, a lesson his lawyer will learn the hard way before the credits roll.
Peter is able to deduce that the numbers on the stolen safety deposit boxes are part of the Fibonacci sequence, which leads him to question his father who has been reciting the numbers at night in order to fall asleep. This triggers Walter’s memory and he announces that the boxes were actually his, but he can’t remember either their contents or what city the final box is located in. What makes Walter Bishop such a wonderfully frustrating character is that he’s always so close to the breakthrough the team needs, but he can never quite get a firm grip on the answer.
Broyles points Olivia towards the VA hospital in Washington D.C., where an orderly tips her off that Raul enjoyed playing chess with three other patients. After a little digging they discover that the other three men recently bought plane tickets to Providence, and with no hesitation the team heads to Rhode Island to hopefully stop another heist. Walter’s memory finally becomes useful as he remembers his favorite bank in the city, but unfortunately the team is too late to prevent the theft, although they manage to take one of the thieves prisoner. While interrogating the man Peter notes that he is displaying all the symptoms of radiation poisoning, and is able to use that to manipulate the man to reveal where Loeb is taking the stolen equipment. The location is an abandoned airfield called Little Hill, the location mentioned in “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones”. All the pieces are coming together!
Back in Frankfurt Jones murders his lawyer and steals his clothes before calmly applying sunscreen and eye drops before standing in one of the room’s corners. He had previously instructed the laywer to have Olivia abducted and the scene is crosscut with her being run off the road and tasered, and once she’s loaded into the back of an SUV she’s taken to Little Hill airport where Loeb and his goons are hard at work setting up the stolen equipment. It turns out that Walter had built a device capable of transporting a person across time and space, and everything we’ve seen in this episode has been about breaking Jones out of prison. After a few moments he’s teleported to Little Hill, where he’s pleased to see that Olivia has been taken prisoner.
Again, what an amazing episode. Fringe has done a great job of maintaining tonal consistency from the beginning, but the connections between episodes have been weak up to this point. In “Safe” the show really finds traction, revealing just how great it can be when it’s firing on all cylinders. And with a legitimate cliffhanger ending I can’t wait for next week’s episode as this one ends on a tense note. We don't know know why Jones wants Olivia or what he's capable of, but there's no question that he's dangerous.
Observer Sighting: On the bank security feed.