The Wife:

I’m not sure if Fringe was trying to reference The Matrix, The Butterfly Effect or I Know Who Killed Me this week with its storyline about Olivia’s visions of alternate paths on the timeline of one’s choices (see episode title!) and twins who didn’t know they were twins who were made into weapons by ZFT when they were trained to become firestarters in childhood. (They kind of ended up referencing all three.)The only problem with this is that, like Olivia and apparently all other children experimented on by ZFT, these people are unaware until recently (their “activation”) that they possess these powers, which leads one of the twins, Susan, to burn up from the inside and spontaneously combust. As Olivia tracks down Susan and tries to discover why she may have blown up (as Peter so tactfully likes to put it), she keeps having visions of things being slightly different than they actually are. Where one charred body lies, she sees two. Where Broyle’s desk once was, it is not. In fact, she has glimpses of entire conversations with people before/differently than they actually occurred. This déjà vu, Walter supposes, is an ability given to Olivia by ZFT as a child, an ability to look into an alternate reality. I don’t feel like this side effect of the Cortexafam really adds much to Olivia or to her struggle, but it seemed to be marginally helpful to her here, once the confusion stopped, of course. By peering into the alternate reality, she was able to discern that Susan had a sister who might meet the same fate without some intervention.

Yup. That's a real live dead alien.

Yup. That's a real live dead alien.

In their search for Susan’s twin, Peter and Olivia pay a visit to conspiracy theorist Clint Howard, who proceeds to tell them about an American graduate student in Budapest that spontaneously combusted and blames it all on William Bell and Massive Dynamic, the latter of which he purports is merely a cover organization for all of Bell’s wholly unethical activities. He suggests Bell is activating his ZFT soldiers for an upcoming war, which is why, we’re supposed to infer, the events of The Pattern are occurring. And whom will this war be fought against? Why, only the Romulans! Because this show is produced by J.J. Abrams! And Star Trek is coming out this Friday! So, naturally, crazy Trekker conspiracy theorist believes the Trekverse is real and that he is, in fact, Spock. But he cannot be, you see, for Leonard Nimoy is William Bell! My exclamations of these facts are meant to mock the completely unwarranted, unnecessary and wholly unsubtle tie-ins to Abrams’ next project. Look, ya’ll, I will be seeing Star Trek this weekend because I grew up on that shit and I’ve been squeeing at the trailer every time I see it. I’m even okay with turning the Lost titlecard into the Enterprise beaming itself into a commercial (because that’s kind of a neat transition), but this was a moment that, while amusing because it’s Clint Howard, totally drew me out of the show. There were other ways to show us that Clint Howard wasn’t entirely right in the head without beating us over the head with Trek. Bad Robot, we’re watching Fringe. We’re excited for Nimoy. Chances are, we’ll be seeing Trek this weekend and giving you all of our hard earned geek dollars. You didn’t need to be so obtuse about this.

Anyway, while I was busy rolling my eyes but smirking at the Trek monologue, Harris is back and rubbing Olivia the wrong way by asking her to do things like take psych evaluations. She refuses, particularly because, in an alternate reality, Olivia is able to track down Susan’s missing twin who is still alive, but unfortunately, an Isaac Winters gets to her first in reality reality. At her apartment, there are signs of a struggle, and Peter notices that the glass has been melted on one of her windows, indicating her firestarting abilities. He pops out a nice little disc of glass and reveals his plan to use the new machine he’s been making out of Walter’s old machines to read the sound imprinted on the glass like a record. (Abrams is fond of comparing things to records, no?) This is a gift to his father, so he can copy all of his jacked up old albums, which truly pleases Walter. After adjusting the white noise and a bunch of other sound-related tinkering, they’re able to play the glass record and hear Susan’s twin Nancy being abducted. They also hear a phone being dialed, so Olivia asks Peter to clarify the sound so she can use her tone-dialing app to connect her to whomever the kidnapper called . . . and it’s Harris. That scene was really cool, and filled with the kind of super-fringey fringe science we were promised. This is probably my favorite use of weird science on the show, right alongside using homing pigeons as a GPS.

Olivia and Francis track Nancy to the warehouse where Harris has taken her and while they search for the girl, Olivia finds a board with pictures of various former ZFT experiment participants, including the twins and herself. Harris manages to surprise her and locks her in the conflagration room with Nancy, who, agitated, starts heating up. Olivia tries to calm her down and tries to get Nancy to direct her energy elsewhere, so that she doesn’t blow up. Nancy fares better than her twin sister and is able to light Harris on fire, killing him while saving her own life. Remember that light box Olivia had to know how to turn off with her mind? That was attached to Nancy, and I wonder why Olivia didn’t have to turn it off in order to remove Nancy from the machines she was hooked to in the conflagration room. It seems odd just to have it appear there and not be used.

Afterward, Olivia interrogates Walter about his involvement in ZFT and why there are so damned many kids from Jacksonville who are either dead or super fucked-up. Walter, who earlier finally showed Astrid and Peter his wonky y-ed typewriter and has spent the episode searching for a missing chapter of the ZFT manifesto which would prove the organization had some honorable intentions, insists to her that they were trying to prepare the kids in their experiments for something terrible coming. When pressed, Walter can’t remember what and breaks down, from a combination of Olivia’s bullying and his own terrible guilt. Later, in his lab, he finds the missing chapter, which proves that ZFT’s intentions were to better prepare humanity to survive the coming war (against persons from another dimension, we have been told), by producing stronger, better-equipped children who, when the time comes, will be the humanity’s hope. But Walter is given no chance to present these findings to his colleagues, as The Observer has come for him, simply stating, “Walter, it’s time to go.” Without questioning him, Walter goes to get his coat.

Nina Sharp drops by Broyles’ house to deliver a packet of photographs of The Observer, stating that something ominous happened the last time he appeared with such frequency. When she returns to her office, she is shot when she steps off the elevator. Which kind of sucks, because I think every Fringe viewer loved Nina Sharp and (maybe, secretly) hoped she would be revealed as Peter’s mother. I’m assuming Bell had Nina killed because, with the war coming, he no longer needs Massive Dynamic as a front, and, clearly, she’d caught on to some badness and needed to be put asunder. As for The Observer, I believe he’s taken Walter to meet with his former partner, at long last bringing ZFT back together.

So what do we make of this? On the whole, this episode was middling at best, plugging the mytharc forward by following a largely uninteresting Freak-of-the-Week story and giving Olivia a serviceable (though I presume not entirely always this helpful) power to see the other side of a timeline. It certainly wasn’t as strong as “Bad Dreams,” but was less engaging than “Midnight.” The revelation that ZFT was experimenting on children to make soldiers for good wasn’t all that telling for me, as that’s the vibe I’ve been getting from the kiddie experiments all along. The Observer taking Walter and Nina’s death were both good, surprising and eerie moments, and are probably the most memorable bits of this episode. I did, however, think John Noble was brilliant as Walter this week, digging right into the sadness of a man who knows he has done questionable things but is looking for something, anything that can exonerate him. More than anything, he needs to believe that his involvement in ZFT was for a good, if mad scientist-y, reason. And when he finds that missing chapter, he is assured of his own belief, after having it doubt casts upon it only hours earlier by Olivia, doubts so haunting it reduced him to tears.

I told you I'd be Drew Barrymore for Halloween! I told you!

I told you I'd be Drew Barrymore for Halloween! I told you!


On another note, how happy do you think Stephen King is to hear his name and invention of the word “pyrokenetic” used on the show? I fully expect him to write about it in EW, because he loves, loves, loves pop culture and being a part of the zeitgeist.


The Husband:

While all the Trek stuff was, indeed, eye-rolling, I was satisfied enough in my head to know that Clint Howard, brother of Ron, also happened to be in one of the first episodes of the original Star Trek series, “The Corbomite Maneuver,” one of my favorites from season 1 of TOS, excluding, of course, the Athens-looking planet episode with the stationary gigantic ghost finger in the sky, as well as the Khan-focused season finale.

In it, the crew is toyed with by a silly, fake-looking alien on their monitor (or whatever it is you nerds call it), commander of a vessel intent on destroying the Enterprise, but by episode’s end, the Enterprise crew finds that they’ve been had – the alien was just a puppet, and the enemy ship is piloted only by a smart, tiny child who was testing the merits of the crew. Silly Clint Howard. The image of the puppet would be used frequently in the end credits of the show, and would be a super-inside joke during the credits of the Futurama episode “Where No Fan Has Gone Before.”

The Wife:

And so the quest for Orion continues. Knowing that Orion can get the Intersect out of Chuck’s head, he worries that the General isn’t doing everything in her power to find the mystery man, and starts doing a little digging on his own. As it turns out, Orion is just as desperate to find Chuck and has been following Chuck’s every move and outsmarting Fulcrum while doing it. He contacts Chuck through a Buy More computer system and tells him that he’s going to send him a computer so they can talk on a secure connection . . . a computer that the Buy Morians mistake for the new computer model that they’ve been trying to get their hands on before their sweater-wearing rivals at the Beverly Hills store.

When Orion’s computer arrives at the Buy More, Jeff, Lester and Morgan get a hold of it and accidentally send a Predator attack drone to the store . . . until Morgan realizes that, if they’re going to send even a virtual attack drone somewhere, it should be the Beverly Hills store. Luckily, Chuck figures out what the guys are up to and calls off the attack drone before any damage occurs. Big Mike then locks up the computer and puts Emmit on night watch, so Sarah, Casey and Chuck have only one hope of getting the computer back and finding out why Orion would send an attack drone after Chuck: robbing the Buy More. Ah, but Jeff and Lester also want to rob the store to get the computer back. And so do some Fulcrum head honchos, who have finally realized that a suspicious number of their operatives turn up dead at the same retail store.

In the ensuing tripe-robbery melee, Chuck gets caught stealing the computer by the guy who played Imhotep in The Mummy and gets captured. Casey scares Jeff and Lester, who in turn frighten Emmit, who pepper sprays them, leaving Casey to punch out Emmit and shoot Chuck’s captor in one really bad-ass action sequence. By the way, seeing Casey in a ski mask really made me wish that Adam Baldwin would do a guest spot on Delocated.

With the computer in the right hands, Sarah hands it off to the NSA and the General rules that Chuck remain under strict house arrest in case he has been compromised. (This ruling is the first time The General has appeared as more than just a video feed, and, man, is Bonita Federicy a tiny, tiny woman.) While The General, Casey and Sarah discuss what to die, Orion calls Chuck while he’s sequestered in his room and tells our hero that he’s not with Fulcrum. He sends Chuck and image of the plans for the Intersect to prove that he is who he says he is. He warns Chuck not to trust his handlers, as the General reveals that she wants to keep Chuck from meeting Orion because she doesn’t want the Intersect to ever leave his brain.

Orion gives Chuck an escape plan to evade his handlers and computer-meet with him, where he asks to meet with Chuck as soon as possible. Meanwhile, that guy who played The Mummy crawls out of his body bag, and Sarah and Casey realize that Chuck has given them the slip, arriving just in time to keep their asset from being shot. Seeing that Chuck was close to capture, Orion sets the Predator drone on himself. Chuck tries to stop the attack drone, but Orion won’t let Chuck reprogram the drone’s trajectory. And so Chuck’s only hope of ever getting the Intersect out of his head goes up in flames . . . that is, save for the goodies about the Fulcrum Intersect that Orion slipped under Chuck’s pillow.

I really liked where this episode was going (and highly enjoyed the subplot where the Burbank Buy More totally destroys the BevHills Buy More when they think they’ve been robbed by them), so imagine how disappointing it was to see that the Orion arc stalled the next week to make way for a plot in which Sarah gets fired (briefly) and a new agent, Alex Forrest (Battlestar Galactica‘s Tricia Helfer), is brought on to handle Chuck. This isn’t to say that “Chuck vs. the Broken Heart” wasn’t good in its own right . . . I simply would have preferred that it not stall an arc with such good momentum. So without Sarah, Chuck’s heart is broken, but so is Ellie’s, as Alex and Casey require the use of Captain Awesome’s hospital key card to plant a bug in a very special terrorist patient during surgery.

“You two are a match made in a very frightening part of heaven.” – Chuck, in re: Casey and Alex

And how do they get that keycard? Alex, who is exactly like a female version of Casey in every way right down to saying the same things at the same time, wants to tranq Awesome and steal it while he’s passed out. Chuck would rather that they simply lift it off of Awesome during his bachelor party, which, unfortunately, isn’t all that easy, because instead of keeping his key card in his wallet, he keeps it on a chain under his shirt. Alex takes this mission into her own hands by dressing as a sexy cop stripper and carting Awesome off for a private lap dance in the Buy More’s media room. When she tries to take his key card off, he expresses that he needs to keep it because he’ll lose his job without it and that he doesn’t want to do anything that could upset his Ellie. Alex reverts to Plan A and tranqs Awesome . . . and then allows everyone at the party to take pictures of him that make him look like he had passed out and done far worse things then he actually did, the discovery of which greatly disappoints Ellie.

Theyre even making Cylons in stripper form now . . .

They're even making Cylons in stripper form now . . .

On top of that, the terrorist guys discover the bug planted in their ailing comrade and go searching for the responsible surgeon so that the bug can be removed. When Chuck sees the baddies approaching his house, he spares Awesome by pretending to be him and ends up being forced to perform surgery in a bank vault . . . OR DIE! When Alex and Casey lose Chuck, Sarah joins back in (after using the government computer while her access code still works to find Chuck’s missing father so he can walk Ellie down the aisle) and helps crack a the locked vault while Chuck fends off his captor by filling the room with nitrous so that they’re both just super-stoned. And even then, he manages to find out the piece of information the CIA had wanted all along about where a certain terrorist was hiding, just by asking his stoned companion.


“Sarah . . . is it really you, or am I super-stoned?” – Chuck


Sarah is reinstated in her position as Chuck’s handler, and he confesses to her that he feels terrible for Captain Awesome’s involvement in the events of this mission and how they’ve affected his relationship with Ellie. All Chuck wants to do, he says, is tell his sister everything. Knowing that he can’t, Sarah offers him an alternative. She hands him his father’s address, asserting that it’s about damned time the US Government did something for Chuck Bartowski to repay him for holding so many secrets in his head.

And so the two head off to visit Chuck’s father’s lonely airstream trailer, where he sees Dr. Sam Beckett for the first time in ten years and asks his father to come to Ellie’s wedding. First of all, I somehow managed to not know that Scott Fucking Bakula was going to be on the show, and I have no idea how I avoided that news. I am a huge Quantum Leap fan and take great delight in “dooting” the theme song. I don’t think I was conscious of the fact that it was an NBC show, though, so hearing Bakula make an awkward QL joke during the NBC chimes promos between shows was not only very odd, but it makes me wonder how many Chuck fans even know about QL and how awesome it was. Further QL awkwardness occurred when Papa Bartowski laid eyes on Ellie for the first time in ten years, and she burst into tears over pancakes and walked away. “Oh boy,” Papa Bartowski says, recalling Sam’s catchphrase from the end of each QL episode where he jumps into a new body. I felt like Bakula was not comfortable saying it; that’s how awkwardly it filled that space. Wouldn’t it have been more relevant to make a joke about Enterprise? You know, keeping a Robert Duncan McNeill episode in the Trek family?

Preparing for the final leap home.

Preparing for the final leap home.

Two poorly-realized QL jokes aside, this episode brought Chuck back to the momentum it was building in “Chuck vs. the Predator,” and I think “Chuck vs. the Dream Job” is actually one of my favorite Chuck episodes ever. It had a great balance of action and humor and deftly handled the mytharc elements with Chuck’s emotional narrative – and it helps that, cult status aside, the casting directors made a good choice in having Scott Bakula play Zachary Levi’s father. They’ve both got that lean, skinny face, which is striking enough for me to believe that they’d be related.

After only having their father back in their lives for a short time, Ellie and Chuck realize that he’s a little bit off his rocker, rambling about plasma technology and touch screens and how his former business partner and computer mega-mogul Ted Roark. Chuck flashes on an ad for Roark’s upcoming NextExpo amongst his dad’s crazy papers. Roark will be releasing a new operating system, free for download to anyone with an internet connection at the expo – an operating system that may release a virus onto all the world’s computers, effectively destroying modern living. In order to stop this, Chuck has to get a job at Roark Industries – and he gets to do it as himself, with his name, his resume and his Stanford degree. And when Chuck makes it through that job interview and lands the position on his own merits, that’s one of my favorite moments in this episode, when he realizes that, maybe, even with the Intersect in his head, he can have a normal life and get the kind of tech job he’s always wanted to have but never had the ambition to get after his expulsion from Stanford.

Jeff and Lester find out about the expo and desperately want to go. They see Chuck accepting the RI job and rat him out to Morgan, who, in turn, blurts this out at the Bartowski family dinner, greatly disappointing Chuck’s father when he learns that his son has gone to work for the man that ruined him. (By the way, I love a world where Chevy Chase and Scott Bakula are mortal enemies.) At NextExpo, Chuck flashes on a Fulcrum computer terrorist and realizes that when Roark presses the button to release his operating system, shit is going to go down. Sarah and Casey try to stop the release by hacking the security system, but Roark has made his security system very snarky and unhackable (“Wrong again; should I call security?”). The only thing Chuck can do is throw himself onstage and try to reason with Roark, which fails, leading Chuck to steal the trigger from Roark’s hand and try to run away with it until he gets clotheslined by the very man who hired him. (Chuck’s attempted theft makes Scott Bakula very happy, as he watched the podcast on his Dell Netbook.)

Ellie accuses her father of putting Chuck up to executing a vendetta against Roark. When Awesome tries to apologize for Ellie, Papa Bartowski tells him that she’s only mad at him about the bachelor party because she doesn’t want the man she’s going to marry to turn into her father and desert her. He also goes to make amends with Chuck, telling his son that if he wants to work for Roark, he should, and not let his past ruin his son’s future. After this pep talk, Chuck takes out some plans he received from Orion about the Intersect and overlays them on a map of the RI campus. They’re a perfect match. What if, Chuck supposes, RI has an Intersect? And what if the Rios virus is really a Trojan Horse? What it if won’t destroy the world’s computers, but rather farm them for information to populate the new Intersect?

Sarah and Casey aren’t keen on Chuck’s plan, so he decides to go it alone, gearing up at the Castle and successfully tranquing Casey when he tries to impede Chuck’s progress. (Adam Baldwin’s tranq face is golden, by the way.) When Chuck breaks in, he sees his dad trying to bargain with Roark’s people to get Chuck’s job back. Tranq guns a-blazing, Chuck takes the opportunity to rescue his dad by incapacitating the entire security team that tries to remove him from the building. To Chuck’s surprise, his dad handles the next batch of security personnel that come at them and both Bartowski boys admit that they’re not who they say they are. Per my inclination, Papa B reveals himself to be Orion, the inventor of the Intersect, which he knows is now stored in his son’s head. He’s been living off the grid and playing crazy all these years so that Fulcrum wouldn’t find him and ask him to create a new Intersect. More importantly, he left to protect his children from the potential horrors his work could have brought upon them.

Dude, thats not Ziggy and Im not Al. Let it go.

Dude, that's not Ziggy and I'm not Al. Let it go.

Together, Chuck and his dad break into the room where Fulcrum’s unpopulated Intersect is being kept. Papa Bartowski tries to remove the Intersect from Chuck’s brain by essentially overwriting it, but Roark catches them in the process and shuts them down. (It doesn’t help that Intersect 2.0 doesn’t entirely work just yet.) Roark wants to have Chuck killed, but Papa Bartowski won’t stand for it and agrees to build whatever Roark wants in exchange for his son going free. So Sarah and Casey come for Chuck, and have to hold him back as his father once again is taken from him. He is, however, able to convince the General to approve his team for the Stephen Bartowski recovery mission, which I think sets us up for an excellent string of episodes leading up to the season finale.

The Husband:

Yeah, the last three episodes have been the best that Chuck has ever been. They are A-grade action/spy/comedy/adventure, some of the most exciting and pleasing hours of television of the year. “Chuck vs. the Predator,” especially, was I believe the show’s best mix of comedy, action and extremely dangerous circumstances ever, the most emotional the show has been while never losing sight of its surface-level fun.

But yes, “Chuck vs. the Dream Job” had the most powerful character work of the show’s entire run, and it really makes me wonder why the hell the show even bothers doing a mission-of-the-week format so often when it’s clear that their mytharcs are so aggressively planned out and treated with such intelligence and respect. I don’t know if it’s just a way for writers to lay back every once in a while or is just studio interference, but these episodes just make me depressed that the only episodes of Chuck my sister seems to watch whenever she’s over Monday night for some Gossip Girl/HIMYM sweetness are the stand-alone ones that really serve no actual purpose.

But honestly, did you think that, at the beginning of the first season, you’d care so much about such a simple thing as one character being held back from crossing through a set of sliding doors and all that action entailed? Judging from the show’s viewer dropoff between seasons, I would hazard a “no.” Pity. I’d hate for Chuck (and the incomparable Life) to be the two biggest casualties between this TV season and the next, thanks mostly to the Jay Leno debacle of 2009.