By Ken Tucker
Updated April 09, 2010 at 11:12 AM EDT


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First of all, remember the list that Olivia looked at toward the end of last night’s Fringe, the one containing her Jacksonville classmates? The last name on that list was “Ken T.” I hope to heaven that that’s not me, because I don’t want to find out it’s the Cortexiphan that’s been making my spelling so atrocious lately.

Now then: The hour began with a typically atypical occurrence. A sickly man consulted with a lawyer. He touched her, and a few minutes later, cancerous growths overtook her body and she died. (The woman was played by no less than Diane Kruger — Inglourious Basterds, National Treasure, and good friend of Josh Jackson’s.) Roll opening credits, and then Olivia was on the case. Sort of.

Olivia’s been having trouble sleeping; she’s torn about her new certainty that our Peter is the glimmering, alternative-universe Peter, and is tussling with the idea of telling him. She went to see Sam Weiss (Kevin Corrigan), the elliptical bowling alley sage, whose advice is… elliptical, although later in the episode, while playing a game of Clue, he tells her she’s a “soldier, a protector” — significant alt-universe language. Olivia struggled throughout the hour with her Peter quandry, much to the nervousness of Walter, a quality I’m kind of surprised Peter didn’t pick up on.

The sickly man, James Heath, eludes Olivia while infecting others. Eventually, in this episode entitled “Olivia. In The Lab. With The Revolver.,” Olivia realizes that all of his targeted people once went to the day-care center she attended as a child in Jacksonville, the site of Walter and William Bell’s drug trials. So what looked initially like a “Pattern” case became quite personal; Fringe is becoming, more than ever, as Peter put it this evening, about “this little family unit we’ve got going.” He meant Walter, Olivia, and himself, but Olivia reached out to the family’s wicked aunt, Massive Dynamic’s Nina Sharp, to see what she might know about what’s “killing Cortexiphan kids” and exactly who those kids are.

Olivia also wanted to run past Nina the news that she knows who Peter really is, and plans to tell him. Nina’s reaction was a superb bit of acting on the part of Blair Brown, who managed to convey surprise, shock, irritation, and dab of fear in one hard stare. This week’s episode stood up as a perfectly comprehensible hour even if you were new to the series, thanks to its medical mystery and fun side-moments such as Walter making brightly colored taffy. But is also wove in characters and names from previous episodes — Nick Lane, Nancy Lewis — and raised the tantalizing suggestion that the illness James Heath suffered from might be a malady that’s also afflicting parts of the alternate universe.

And how nice a touch was it that Clue-playing Olivia bopped Heath over the head with a candlestick?

What did you think of Fringe this week?

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