“You understand better than most the pain a lie can inflict.”
– Walter, to Peter

If Fringe had been designed to end with “Entrada,” then Olivia’s return would have been written as a happy ending, with everything returning back to the way it was. But the story continues from there with “Marionette,” which shows just how much (or how little) impact Olivia’s time on the Other Side has had Over Here.

At first, Olivia is positively giddy to be back on the job, her spirits high. After all, in her mind, nothing could be worse than being trapped in an alternate universe; it’s all uphill from here. But there is one thing that’s worse than being gone from home, and that’s nobody noticing that you’re gone.

It’s understandable that Astrid, Walter, and Broyles didn’t suspect anything. Olivia never spent a large amount of time with Astrid or Broyles, and Walter is too scattered to really understand what’s going on around him. But Peter not realizing that Fauxlivia wasn’t Our Olivia is too much to bear. And what’s more, he pursued a romantic relationship with her.

To Peter’s credit, he decides on his own to come clean to Olivia about his relationship with Fauxlivia. He knows what it’s like to be lied to by someone close to him (i.e. Walter lying about Peter’s true origins), and he wouldn’t put Olivia through the same ordeal. So he tells the truth – the naked, honest truth: he started seeing Fauxlivia, and he noticed the differences in her, but attributed them to romantic happiness. (Side note: the way Anna Torv’s face slowly goes from a smile to a frown as Peter tells her character all of this is a sublime moment of acting.)

That’s the part that stings the most. Olivia would be different in a romantic relationship. Just watch her first scene in the pilot episode for proof. She would be happier, freer, more playful. True, Fauxlivia gives off a kind of sex kitten vibe that Our Olivia wouldn’t, not in a million years, but she succeeded at faking romantic happiness. The way Olivia sees it, if the appearance of being in love can be faked, then there’s no point in believing in love.

Even more disconcertingly, if her entire existence can be faked, then she really isn’t important to anyone else. This all comes to a head in a scene in her apartment, when she realizes that Fauxlivia has been wearing all of her clothes. Clothes can be washed; they can be cleansed of anything that Fauxlivia would have left behind, but her presence still lingers in the apartment. When Olivia goes to put her clothes in the wash, she notices that Peter’s MIT sweater was left behind in the machine. Olivia is normally good at keeping her feelings in check, but even she has a breaking point, and this is it. The fact that Fauxlivia and Peter used to spend the night together is all too real now, and the sweater serves as a reminder that when she was gone, life went on as normal without her. (Side note: Olivia’s breakdown in this scene is another sublime moment of acting for Anna Torv.)

Olivia needs time to sort this all out, to become comfortable in her own skin again. So she tells Peter that she doesn’t want to be with him. Everything Fauxlivia touched has been sullied, and while washing can clean dirty laundry, it won’t get rid of the mark that she left behind.

For more information on the Fringe rewatch project, please click here. For my review of “Marionette,” please click here.