The Wife:

I guess I’d better make this a good Fringe post, considering I won’t be writing about it again until April. I was completely unprepared for that announcement at the end of the show, as I thought Fox was all about giving Fringe the post-Idol ratings boost. But nope! It’s not going to get that boost for the whole Idol journey. It’s just going to pick up that boost in April. Over 6 weeks from now.

Maybe that scheduling explains why the four episodes they’ve aired since the holiday break have been so scattershot compared to the dense string of story-heavy episodes we saw leading up to the holiday break. They’re just tiding us over until the really good shit returns. But even so, “Ability,” I think, will end up being a key episode in this series as it finally explains why Olivia would be drawn into this kind of work and what makes her so special. As it happens, she was dosed as a child with a drug called Cortexafam, which unhinges the mind’s self-limiting possibilities, making her able to perform feats of extreme psychic ability. Jones knew this about her, and that’s why he chose her to be his interlocutor and, as he calls it, his warrior.

The “freak-meet” in the cold open seemingly had little to do with the rest of this episode, although it was definitely a really cool one: a man with no reflection (vampire?) buys a paper and pays with a $2 bill, after which the paper seller’s orifices start to seal shut. Like, his eyes and mouth sew themselves shut. This appears only once more in the episode when Francis and Dunham investigate Jones’ lab (with his hyperbaric anti-time travel chamber) and an FBI agent they’re with touches an errant $2. Olivia tries to stop the man’s imminent demise by giving him an emergency tracheotomy, but, lo! his skin seals over the trach tube, which was totally freaky and totally awesome.

At this point, Jones has placed himself in Olivia’s custody and after she watches her agent die, Jones tells her that he plans to kill about 700 people in this manner. He will tell her how to stop it, but first “there’s the matter of the key.” She must take the key he had on him when he entered the Boston Federal Building and go pick up a box of children’s games which amount to a series of 10 tests. Once she passes the first test, he will tell her how to stop his next attack.

Meanwhile, Olivia has had Peter use some of his special contacts to track down a manuscript with the initials ZFT, thinking perhaps that ZFT was never an organization but, perhaps, the bible of sorts for Jones and his comrades. He manages to track down a single copy of the unpublished manuscript and starts reading it. The text expresses fears the apocalypse will be brought about by technology and is a call to arms, of sorts, for “unwilling recruits” who will be brought into this battle as “warriors.” Walter becomes oddly fascinated with the text itself, enmeshed in the quality of the ideas contained within.

When Olivia goes over the instructions for her series of tests, she recognizes that the language is similar on the instruction cards and in the ZFT manuscript and realize that she’s about to go through Jones’ recruitment procedure. Her first test asks her to turn off a light board with only her mind, a task Olivia doesn’t believe she can do. But with time running out before the next attack, she asks Peter to try to rewire the board so that she can fake it before Jones and move on to stop the attack.

By this time, Jones is suffering from some major time-travel sickness thanks to the machine Walter created (no nosebleeds, though, just a lot of coughing and other respiratory issues) and has been brought into Walter’s care in the lab. He tells Olivia that he knows she can do the test because she was treated with Cortexafam as a child, and anyone treated with that should be able to do the test. Olivia, of course, has no idea what he’s talking about, even though he claims that he was the one who kidnapped her and tested her to be sure with the spinal tap she was given in “Bound.”

She finds out that Cortexafam is manufactured at Massive Dynamic and heads up to ask Nina Sharp some questions about it. Nina tells her that it was part of a clinical trial done by William Bell in 1981 intended to expand one’s mental abilities. The trials were conducted on children until 1983 in Wooster, OH. Having gown up in Jacksonville, Florida during that time, Olivia is sure that she hasn’t been treated with the drug and that Jones has no idea what he’s talking about. Still, she returns to the lab to attempt the test, which Peter has been able to successfully rewire.

I should have known I would be tested on this . . .

I should have known I would be tested on this . . .

Once she passes, Jones gives her the address where the next attack will take place: 923 Church St., 47th floor. When she arrives there with Peter, she finds a bomb attached to the window . . . that can only be stopped by disabling the same light board she supposedly just disabled with her mind. She calls Jones and he gives her a pep talk, discussing his faith in Olivia despite the fact that he knew she faked the first test. At her wits end, Olivia decides to try to disable the light board and, after an intense minute, manages to successfully do so with on her mind and 2 seconds left on the clock.

She is in complete disbelief about how she achieved this, until Nina Sharp calls and tells her that Bell conducted a second set of clinical trials in Jacksonville at a military base, the same one at which Olivia’s father was stationed. She goes to talk to Jones, presumably about why she has been chosen for this task, and arrives in his room at Boston General to find that he has hulked out in some way and has left a larger than man-sized hole in the wall of his very much not on the ground floor room. This, just as Astrid compliments Walter on the invention of a teleportation device, which is cool except for the fact that it kills you. According to Walter, “it does something unthinkable, but it doesn’t kill you.” I suppose we’ll have to wait to see exactly how unthinkable whatever happened to Jones was . . .

Finally, after some long contemplation about the ZFT manuscript, Walter notices that the typewriter upon which it was written has a wonky y key that places the Ys above where they should be. He pulls out his old typewriter, and discovers that the manuscript is his own work.

From this, I glean that Walter and Jones are and always have been on the side of “good” (whatever that means) in this battle, and any ZFT followers are actually intended to fight against the bioterror attacks that make up The Pattern. Although I don’t quite know the full text of the manuscript and its implications, it seems as through ZFT followers are generally fearful about the destruction of mankind at the hands of technology, and their chief means of fighting that seems to be, for lack of a better term, building a better man. I could be entirely wrong about this, but it starts to explain why Walter knows so much about all the weird shit they’re seeing. But who knows – maybe Loeb’s warning from “Bound” is right, and Olivia has no idea what side she’s on.

The Husband:

Yeah, Idol semifinals and the first few weeks of the Top 12 are always two-hour episodes, so it’s definitely hard to have that Tuesday at 9 p.m. spot on Fox, even if it does mean a boost later on. (House has been the biggest receiver of the Idol bump.) But hey, there are only so many episodes of Fringe, and I don’t really care when I get them so long as I get them.

As far this episode is concerned, I have so many more questions than answers that I may even rewatch this on Hulu, but I am very elated that Olivia has finally become part of the big picture and not just hanging out on the outside of everything, only occasionally using her telepathic-esque connection to John Scott to come up with answers. I’m glad that this is one of the few shows where I can say that the main female character is actually the muscle of the group, but revealing that she was part of the Cortexafam trial is just great.

And for once, I actually loved the fact that Walter was so directly involved in the central mystery because of his past work, because this time it wasn’t just an excuse to cover a few plot holes but in fact a true item of forward momentum to the show’s mytharc. The moment Walter hits the “Y” key may be the best scene this show has ever had, and it involved zero special effects and zero craziness.