The Wife:

This was definitely one unsettling cold open. The narrative is split between an obviously disturbed man at confession who hears voices that could belong to either God or Satan, and an ordinary bus ride that becomes not so ordinary when a man takes a gas mask out of his briefcase and releases a mysterious toxin upon the unsuspecting passengers. As panic ensues, he takes a blue backpack from a woman in a trenchcoat. The toxin ultimately encases the passengers in a resin-like substance, trapping them like “mosquitoes in amber.” This image of the passengers is chillingly reinforced when the man in the confessional runs out of the church and drops a crumpled paper on the ground, which the priest opens to reveal a charcoal drawing of people, frozen in fear on a bus.

Can I take them home and play with them now?

Can I take them home and play with them now?

Dunham is called away from Agent Scott’s funeral to investigate the case and employs the Bishop boys to analyze the resin-like substance encasing the bus passengers. Among the dead, Dunham discovers DEA Agent Mendoza, the woman from whom the backpack was taken, who we learn was investigating a Nicaraguan drug cartel that claimed to know something about The Pattern. The Bishop Boys learn that the substance was released as a gas, which turns into a resin when it mixes with the nitrogen in the atmosphere, and that the only company that could manufacture something of that nature would be – of course – Massive Dynamic.

Dunham interrogates Nina Sharp, who posits that any implications made about her company in this incident are silly because “everything in science and technology has a link back to Massive Dynamic.” She also reveals that the resin was used once before in an attack in Prague. Agent Francis then brings our psychic, Roy, into the mix. Francis and Dunham search Roy’s apartment to find numerous drawings and models of incidents like the one on the bus that have taken place all over the world, including the plane from Hamburg from the pilot.

Roy admits that he must purge his psychic energy physically, by drawing or making models, to keep himself from going insane by hearing about the terrible things people are plotting. Dr. Bishop postulates that Roy is psychically linked with those who directly control the events within The Pattern and wants to do fancy brain experiments, asking: “Am I required to keep him alive?”

Turns out, Roy was one of Bishop’s test subjects for an experiment that tested a uridium-based compound, which has multiplied over the years and left Roy with metallic blood that tries to pop out of his veins in an MRI scan and has also given him the neat-o ability to act as something like a radio transmitter for the “ghost network” Bishop and Massive Dynamic’s Bell had created for secret government information to pass through. This revelation greatly upsets Peter, who seems to believe that his father’s work has caused more harm than good. Dr. Bishop wants to rewire Roy’s brain to tune it fully into the ghost network in order to catch the culprit from the bus incident. He sends Peter and Dunham to his old house in Cambridge to fetch a homemade brain re-wiring machine from the secret dumbwaiter inside the wall. That scene really, really made me want to move to Boston because, if anything, I need a dumbwaiter in my house. That just sounds so fantastic.

Things I want aside, we learn from this visit to Peter’s childhood home that, in addition to being tailed for his outstanding gambling debts and roughing up PIs, Peter is also really good at picking locks. He does, it seems, have a human mother but won’t tell Dunham anything about her because “that’s a story for another day.” At this point, I’m betting Peter’s human mother in Nina Sharp. Imagine it: Bell, the head of Massive Dynamic, institutionalizes his partner and long-time friend before taking their mutual ideas into action and then steals his wife and converts her into similar evil(ish)-doing. Poor Peter gets thrown into foster care, because Mrs. Bishop fakes her death in order to leave all ties to the family and becomes Nina Sharp. Hence Peter’s long spiral into crime and poker playing, much to the chagrin of his father. (Seriously, did you see the look on Walter’s face when Peter talked about reading poker tells?)

The Bishop Boys and Farnsworth wire up Roy with the homemade brain-a-majigger, prompting Dr. Bishop to ask: “Take any drugs? In fact, if the answer is no, I may encourage some drug use.”

During the procedure, Roy is tuned in to the ghost network fully, where it appears that the bad guys are about to make an exchange at the train station of an item stolen from Mendoza’s person, which Dunham realizes Mendoza’a ex-partner (and terrorist traitor) had extracted from her body when he went to ID it. Dunham, at the time, thought that Mendoza and her partner were like Agent Scott and herself, as she saw the man gently run his hand down Mendoza’s arm. The information about the exchange is communicated over the ghost network in Latin and translated thanks to the handiness of Astrid Farnsworth, who majored in linguistics before she joined the FBI. Once again, a linguist saves the day. I should note, though, that if you’re going to communicate in a dead language for extra security over a ghost network, maybe you should pick something other than Latin. Sure, its dead, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who study it in school. I would have picked Aramaic. Or, maybe a dead Native American language. There are literally thousands of those with no speakers left, which means absolutely no chance of being inadvertently deciphered by a hotshot Jr. FBI Agent and former linguist.

Dunham and Francis have a showdown with the terrorist operative, who decides to avoid arrest by jumping in front of a bus. (Good idea.) The stolen chips are recovered and turned over to Broyles, and Roy is freed from his connection to the ghost network and given massive amounts of homemade drugs by Dr. Bishop. Ominously, Broyles turns the stolen resin-like discs over to Massive Dynamic’s Nina Sharp who takes them down to the lab to complete the reanimation of  (or clone of). . .  Agent John Scott!

I especially liked that framing device of John Scott’s burial and reanimation. Absolutely lovely. And for the record, this week’s commercial cards were: leaf, apple, leaf, apple, frog. I still don’t know what that means.

The Husband:

One ore haiku:

SHOWRUNNERS

Kurtzman and Orci
Wrote The Legend of Zorro.
They can’t be trusted.

I like Fringe. I really do. I think it’s very competently made, and I think Dr. Bishop is one of the best original characters on television in a few seasons.

But it ends there as far as originality goes. So far, almost every episode has had its ideas cribbed from other shows and movies with nary a change, and I have to blame long-time J.J. Abrams friends Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. As my haiku says, it’s hard to trust the people who wrote the godawful The Legend of Zorro. Sure, their other work like Transformers is kind of fun, but I’m not going to be studying their scripts anytime soon.

This week, the Zak Orth character was entirely a combination of Isaac from Heroes – the ability to paint the future – and the 1995 film Hideaway, a supernatural thriller based on the Dean Koontz novel – his psychic connection to a killer. I’m not claiming plagiarism or anything, but all I could think about during the episode was how much cooler it was that Hideaway involved Satanism and the afterlife, had Jeremy Sisto sacrificing himself with a very sweet-looking knife, and that Jeff Goldblum’s vision of hell is alternately terrifying and hilarious.

I don’t think that’s what Kurtzman and Orci had in mind when they put together this episode. I doubt they said, “Hey, let’s remind them of that 1995 movie that kind of bombed in its release,” when they put “The Ghost Network” up on the big white board in the writers’ room.

I know there are only so many ideas in the world, but does it have to be so transparent?

Remember the old writer adage: creativity is the art of concealing your sources. If you’re going to rip something off, do some research to see if it already exists, and if it does, do a better job of hiding it. Just because it’s TV doesn’t mean you can do shit like that.

Let’s say you want to make the claim that Journeyman was too much like the book The Time Traveler’s Wife. Point. But it made its own tone, its own voice. Taking ideas and putting an X-Files spin on them just simply isn’t enough

I leave you with this, the best line from Hideaway.

“Even as a child, Jeremy was psychotic. But he was my son!”  — Alfred Molina

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