|Season 4, Episode 12|
|Air date||February 10, 2012|
|Written by||J.R. Orci & Graham Roland|
|Directed by||David Straiton|
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A Better Human Being
|Cast | Transcript|
Peter, Olivia and Walter come face to face with a mysterious and terrifying Fringe event as they get trapped in a town that there's no escaping from.
Peter Bishop has been trying to understand and use the Machine to return to his original timeline, with Walter (John Noble) having become more open and willing to explore the nature and mechanics of the device. Olivia is curious about the state of her relationship with Peter in his original timeline and tries to learn more from Peter.
Several drivers find their cars malfunctioning along a stretch of highway in Vermont, followed shortly by a crash of an airliner nearby. The Fringe team is called to investigate, Walter coming along for the first time in years. Walter identifies that the cars and plane were influenced by a strong electromagnetic field. Olivia, Peter, and Walter travel to a nearby small town, Westfield, to gathering evidence. While stopping at a diner for a bite to eat, the proprietor, acting delusional, turns on the group, and they are forced to kill him. They find other bodies that, like the dead cook, exhibit double irises or a second set of teeth. They also free a barely-surviving man, Cliff, in the back room that the cook had attacked earlier. As Walter tends to Cliff's wounds, Olivia and Peter realize the town is practically deserted and communication with the outside impossible. They find themselves unable to leave the town when they try to drive Cliff to a hospital; leaving on the main road brings them right back into the town.
As Cliff recovers, he explains that three days ago the population starts suffering from an delusional outbreak, acting as if they had lived a second life, killing friends and loved ones as if they didn't know them. They regroup with survivors at the local high school, where Walter takes blood samples to try to identify the cause. After one of the survivor kills herself after coming down with symptoms, Walter realizes that those affected have twice the normal count of human DNA and have a higher rate of mitosis creating duplicate body organs. Walter concludes that those infected have somehow been merged with their doppelgangers from the parallel universe, giving them the strange biology and a second set of memories; the few unaffected, like Cliff, likely had a doppelganger that no longer resided in the parallel universe's version of Westfield. Combined with the inability to leave town, Walter surmises that someone has merged the two versions of the town into a single location, an experiment that he and William Bell had performed on a much smaller scale years ago when studying the parallel universe. Olivia, who had earlier felt the same delusional effects that Cliff described, is relieved to hear from Walter that her biology is normal.
Suddenly, the town is struck by seismic effects, and from the school's roof, Fringe and the survivors witness trees and buildings shimmer out of existence. Walter reveals this as the affect-effect of the universes being merged, the collapse and destruction of both merged masses. He and Peter quickly rationalize that the center of the merged town would act like the eye of a storm, and locate this point, a bicycle shop. Fringe and the survivors race ahead of the collapsing field and make it to the store in time. After the collapse, all of Westfield but the few buildings around the bicycle shop have vanished, leaving barren wasteland around for miles. The remainder of Fringe division is able to reach the survivors and help them; Olivia learns that they found several strange devices equipped with amphilicite planted around the perimeter of Westfield, and believes them to have been set by David Robert Jones for nefarious reasons.
After returning home, Peter goes to visit Olivia, finding that she has ordered out for them; Olivia then kisses Peter, and he realizes that this is something the Olivia from the primary timeline would have done, and not the one from the new timeline.
Olivia: What’s in it?
Peter: It’s mostly cinnamon schnapps and butter, but right now it’s mostly butter.
Walter: It needs more butter.
Peter: When she first found me, I was in Baghdad trying to run a scam on these two Iranian businessman.
Olivia: I didn't picture you as the scamming type.
Peter: That's what made me so good at it.
- The Observer watches Atlantic Flight 591 crash with the stranded motorists near Westfield, Vermont.
- When Peter visits Olivia at the end of the episode, the music playing in the background is "California Stars" from the album Mermaid Avenue (1998) by Billy Bragg and Wilco.
- When Walter is giving Cliff a blood transfusion, unmoving air bubbles can be seen in the IV tube, indicating that no blood is actually flowing. Actual air bubbles in an IV could also kill a person.
- When Walter is drawing his explanatory diagram on the chalkboard in the classroom, the shape and size of the circles he's drawn change between shots.
- Walter claims that his blood type is 0 negative, even though in the 3rd season episode "Reciprocity" he said he was A positive. This may be accounted for by the new timeline, although that's unlikely (impossible, actually, since the timeline only changed from the events at Reiden Lake to the present. Walter's son dying at 10 years old would have no impact on previously established genetic factors like blood type).
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