“Ella’s a sweetheart.”
– Olivia

I’ve seen all 65 episodes of Fringe, and I still believe that the most ridiculous thing ever featured on this show isn’t the syphilis-infected spinal fluid vampire from “Midnight” or the cartoon world inside Olivia’s head from “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide.” No, the most ridiculous thing ever featured on Fringe is from this episode, in the scene where Olivia and Ella play Operation together. In the background, we hear a non-diegetic version of Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” You read that right. “Single Ladies.” On Fringe. In a scene that has absolutely nothing to do with the lyrical content of the song (aside from the fact that Rachel and Olivia are single).

I’m not complaining, mind you. True, “Single Ladies” feels out of place on a relatively dark show like this. But the frivolity of the song choice is telling. It seems to signify that the only time when the normally buttoned-up Olivia can set herself loose is when she’s with Rachel and Ella, that family time is her fun, carefree time.

All of that is, as John Scott would say, “preamble to the kicker,” which is that this episode (like many episodes of Fringe) is about family. It’s about Olivia’s sister and niece. It’s about Walter and Peter’s father-son relationship. And it’s about the developing familial (or are they romantic?) bonds between Olivia and Peter.

As mentioned earlier, Ella and Rachel are really the only people around whom Olivia can allow herself to be free. They’re her main source of happiness. As such, it would be devastating for her if harm befell one of them. That’s almost what happens in this episode. Ella sees the deadly computer program that liquefied the brains of several other victims, but Peter and Olivia arrive just in time to stop it. This plot development is important because it shows Olivia that the dangers in the world can touch the people she cares about, even those who are unaware of such dangers. It forces her to face the fragility of her family life, and to preserve that life by attempting to keep it as separate as possible from her professional one. After all, the last time she mixed the personal and the professional, it didn’t turn out so well, as John Scott would tell you if he were alive.

Perhaps that’s why Olivia is reluctant to pursue any sort of romantic relationship with Peter. The mutual respect and attraction is obvious, but she doesn’t want to risk getting hurt again. Moreover, she still hasn’t received closure with John Scott. When she tells Peter that closure would be good for Walter, she’s also referring to the closure she desires with John, but hasn’t yet received.

The closure that Walter could receive is with the mother of Carla Warren, the young woman who died in the accident at Walter’s lab. Peter, who has come to care about his father immensely, doesn’t want Walter to meet with the mother because he believes that it would send Walter into a downward spiral. But Peter would do well to take some lessons from this episode’s case. The computer programmer who developed the program that almost melted Ella’s brain uses it to kill loved ones of those who have wronged him. He commits these crimes because he never received the closure he wanted, and his son didn’t intervene until it was too late and some victims had already died.

Luckily, before the end of the episode, based on Olivia’s advice, Peter changes his mind, and Walter receives the closure he always wanted. Peter shows up at Olivia’s doorstep to tell her she was right and to apologize for failing to heed her advice at first. This scene plays out against the backdrop of another song, albeit one that’s considerably more typical of Fringe’s repertoire than “Single Ladies”: Midlake’s “Bandits.” It’s a pretty folk rock song, so you just know that there’s awkward romantic tension going on. And as Olivia closes the door behind Peter after she leaves, she has an “Oh crap” look on her face, as if she can’t help but fall for Peter even though she knows it’s wrong.

Oh please, Olivia. You haven’t seen even half of the extent of the “oh crap” that you’re about to face. I mean, you haven’t even gotten transported to the alternate universe yet. Romantic tension? That’s small potatoes.

For more information on the Fringe rewatch project, please click here.

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