Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv)
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Well, you were right. So many of you Commenters correctly identified who “The Secretary” would prove to be: congrats to all. Waiting until the final moments of the episode to make that reveal didn’t even feel like a tease, because there was so much going on in “Northwest Passage,” a twisty, witty, multi-fake-out but not faked episode of Fringe.

Following the events of “The Man From The Other Side” two weeks ago, Fringe took us to Washington state, where Peter had gone to be moody and where shape-shifter leader Thomas Jerome Newton had gone to bedevil Peter. After a diner waitress with whom Peter had been flirting turned up murdered, the local sheriff (Martha Plimpton, who between this and her guest stint on The Good Wife is having a TV career resurgence these days) began investigating. Peter quickly convinced her that he wasn’t a suspect but, instead, a useful co-investigator into what would eventually become two homicides.

Well, sort of useful. One terrific thing about this week’s Fringe was the way we processed all the crime clues from Peter’s point of view, more or less. Like Peter, we assumed that, upon spotting Newton in a knot of people at a crime scene, Newton was the source of the violence. Peter convinced us as much as he did Sheriff Mathis that this was a shape-shifting plot.

The hour was not so much Twin Peaks-y (the misty Northwest setting; the slice of pie in the diner) as very X-File-y: the way Peter and Mathis made their flashlights cut through the dark woods in the time-honored manner of Mulder and Scully, and most obviously, the way Mathis’ lawman colleague (and lover) told her, “You want to believe.”

That was a line that cut a few ways. Mathis, a self-proclaimed believer in UFOs and conspiracy theories, was willing to go along with Peter’s shape-shifter scenario. But Peter also wanted to believe — that he could get “answers,” as he said, to the things that hound him in his escape from Walter and Olivia: How Newton fits in with Peter’s recent discovery that he’s the alt-Peter, for instance.

Speaking of Walter: Back in Boston, Walter was having a very tough time coping without a Peter of any kind. We knew he was close to a breakdown when, shopping in a supermarket, this former devotee of sugary cereals started reading the ingredients on a box of toaster pastries and went into a rage that the chemical preservatives amounted to “delicious strawberry-flavored death!” That’s not the junk-food-junkie Walter we know. Soon enough, he was sobbing and needed Olivia and Astrid to keep him safe in his lab and in pudding pops.

I thought it was terrific to make the murder culprit a violent perv and not Newton after all, while still maintaining Newton’s presence in the episode.

As for the final seconds: The Secretary = The Walternate. Wonderful: A worldly (alt-worldly) version of our Walter. Setting us up for next week’s part one of the season finale, where, from the coming attractions it also seems clear we’ll meet the alt-Olivia. (The Altivia?) Can not wait.

A couple other points:

• The music heard throughout the episode was composed by Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready.

• “You can’t get there from here” was the punchline to a Bazooka Joe bubblegum comic strip Peter finds on the ground; may I suggest next season the writers use as a prop the Firesign Theatre album How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All?

• Line of the night goes to Peter: “Technically, I’m from no place you ever heard of.”

What did you think of this week’s Fringe?

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Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv)
Joshua Jackson, Anna Torv, and John Noble star in J.J. Abrams’ sci-fi drama
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