Fifteen people trying to crack a code broadcast on shortwave radio wind up with retrograde amnesia, which you hope at least lets them start fresh with a new hobby that's actually interesting. But the Fringe team wants to figure out the source of the transmissions, not judge.
The broadcast -- a series of numbers that gives shellshocked Lost fans flashbacks -- is traced to a silver box, installed by a man who gives Alias fans flashbacks. Looking for help, the Fringe team turns to Markham, who gives them a book about pre-dinosaur humans who were wiped out by a cataclysm, and a chart in the book corresponds perfectly with the numbers being broadcast -- which are separate from the amnesia-causing attack by the guy from Alias.
The Fringers close in on him, only Fauxlivia’s way ahead of them, mainly because he’s a shapeshifter from the other side, and she takes him out -- out of his building, many stories up, and he plunges to his death before Fringe can learn anything from him. She’s running scared herself because her non-Olivia-like behavior is starting to raise some red flags among the people who know Olivia. Except Peter, who seems to remain oblivious.
It’s Astrid who cracks the case by determining the numbers are latitude and longitude locations -- which seems kinda too simple for a puzzle that seems to have stumped so many people who have gone before, but anyway… the closest location broadcast turns up a piece of the Alterverse doomsday machine, and Walter finally comes around to Peter’s insistence that they study the device. Following all the shenanigans, Fauxlivia’s latest instructions are: “Initiate Phase Two.”
A lighthouse on a rocky coastline illuminates the letters that inform us we are in Stockton Harbour, Maine. Inside the lighthouse, the keeper descends the spiral staircase to the radio room to answer a request for clearance.
"Tide is coming in strong. Pulling a fog bank from the east. It's close to shore, so watch yourself and take it slow," says the lighthouse keeper, kinda sounding like he forgot to add, "And keep your eyes peeled for Smokey." They back and forth for a moment (the lighthouse keeper has "hung a lantern" out for them), and then the keeper becomes engrossed in his laptop, chatting with someone about tuning to 6955 kHz.
Over to New York's Chinatown, where a couple of roommates are preparing for the evening, one by primping and talking about Mia bringing her "one-hundred percent hot" friend June, and the other by staring at a white board covered with rows and columns of numbers. "It's about to come on!" says the numbers guy, going to his laptop where he appears to be in the same chat server as the lighthouse guy. "Shen, are you seriously not coming?" whines his roommate, and Shen says that when he cracks this thing, people are gonna write books about him. Perhaps, but they're going to be the kind of books not read by Mia and June, guy. In the chat room, he asks if Recluse_09 is there.
She is, over in Merrimack, New Hampshire, and she's got a husband with a little baby who are going to make tea for her while she does her whathaveyou on the computer. "It's starting," she says, and she starts up a reel-to-reel recorder, and we hear beeping and someone speaking in a foreign language and a music box playing.
It quickly becomes apparent that the woman speaking is reciting numbers, which is confirmed when we watch Becky type them in. Did anyone who ever watched Lost not immediately get suspicious? Especially when the numbers we see entered on screen -- 15, 8, 42 -- are three of the six Lost numbers? Even Becky looks a little taken aback. Clearly she's thinking, "Oh, not the Lost numbers bullshit! This is a completely different show!" And then her head jerks back and she appears to be having a seizure or a migraine or a "mizure," which is also afflicting Shen back in Chinatown as well as the lighthouse keeper, who pitches forward, smacking his head on the desk.
Moments later he straightens up, while a ship is trying to make contact over the radio. Murray (the lighthouse keeper) just looks around, confused. Over in Chinatown, Shen's roommate has come back because he forgot his ID, and he comes in to see Shen standing staring at the whiteboard. "Shen? Are you OK?" Shen stares at him.
And over in Merrimack, Becky staggers out into the kitchen where her husband is dutifully doing the dishes. "Becky?" he says, concerned, when he sees how freaked out she looks. So she grabs a knife and brandishes it at him, telling him to stay back. "Who are you?" she yells. "It's me, Laird," says, well, "Laird," I suppose. We can hear baby Aaron crying. "Who am I?" says Becky, frightened.
After the opening credits, we join Peter and Fauxlivia, morning post-coitus, Peter delivering breakfast in bed, which Fauxlivia declares "better than room service," like anytime Fauxlivia wants room service to actually deliver the meal right into bed with her, I'm sure she's free to ask them. "It's just for being you and totally not your doppelganger from the other universe," says Peter, and he crawls into bed with her.
And then Peter gives her U2 tickets. Well, he doesn't give them to her so much as he acts like a cryptic weirdo so Olivia opens up the newspaper and they fall in her lap while she coos over them, and Peter figures they were "way overdue for a normal date," and maybe Peter can invent that time machine so he can take Olivia back at least 13 years to a time when U2 were at least interesting. And then she thanks him, and then Peter's cellphone rings, so he answers it to talk to Walternate while Fauxlivia looks conflicted. I'd tell her that the short answer is that she should at least wait until after the concert before she kills Peter.
Anyway, Walter's furious that Peter's been continuing to work on the doomsday project, and Peter is completely dismissive and outright LAUGHS at his dad, who finally says, "Well, fine. If you end up breaking the universe, this time it's on your head," which is something my dad always used to say to me too, and Walter angrily hangs up and starts mainlining Red Vines.
And then it's Fauxlivia's turn to have her cellphone ring. It's Broyles. "Guess that means we're doing the crossword in the car," says Peter, who I'm sure can look up answers on his cellphone just as easily in the car as he can in bed.
So they're over to New Hampshire, where Broyles fills them in: fifteen people up and down the eastern seaboard, all ham radio operators, all suffered from retrograde amnesia at the same time. Fauxlivia is ALREADY looking shifty. "Maybe their brains were erased by the magnetic winds from the solar storm," suggests Walter, but Peter shoots that down, since it happened four hours after sundown.
Anyway, they're at the Boomer household, where it took all about three minutes for her to forget everything about her life. "The DOD is concerned this could be a test run for a potential terror attack," says Broyles. After Peter looks up to see Laird kinda creepily holding baby Aaron, the Fringers knock on the door to go inside, where Laird tells Peter and Olivia that Becky was a moderator in a chat room were they listen to "numbers stations" and this show is cramming so much exposition in it's ridiculous but Laird and Peter don't have much time right now to outline exactly what the mysterious "numbers stations" are, and Laird doesn't even really know all that much about numbers stations anyway.
Walter discovers the reel-to-reel recorder, which touches off his memories of getting stoned and listening to Beatles records backwards for hidden messages, and by this point Broyles is starting to look more annoyed than shocked at Walter's constant references to recreational drug use. Peter comes in to say that the husband told them Becky recorded last night's broadcast on the reel-to-reel. "Listening to what they recorded last night could cause us to forget why we wanted to listen in the first place, Einstein," says Walter, and the mild sarcasm causes Peter to furrow his brow slightly, and even Broyles looks at him sideways. Undeterred, Peter says Laird told him that Becky spent her nights listening to numbers on random ham-radio stations. Well, maybe they should be giving seminars on keeping the excitement in a marriage, then. "She's trying to crack some code," explains Peter, and Broyles is all, "Numbers stations?" and Peter is surprised that he's heard of them. I'm kind of disappointed that Peter hasn't, and doesn't have some friend somewhere who knows everything about them. (Well, just wait.)
So it's back over to Massive Dynamic where Nina gives them a full-on lecture about how numbers stations are artificially generated voices reading streams of random numbers in all kinds of languages, and no one knows what they are or where they come from, and they were discovered 70 years ago. She helpfully plays a recording of one they picked up four years ago. "Some people think they may be covert communication between spies or drug traffickers. Problem is, no one has been able to find proof to support any theory at all. So at the moment, they remain unexplained," she says.
Fauxlivia points out that the number broadcasts have never caused amnesia before, and then Walter snidely says that given Peter's "recent fondness for dangerous activity," maybe he'd like to play the tape aloud to everyone. Peter just smirks and rolls his eyes, and then Walter announce he wants to examine the woman who "lost her mind," and he knows a way to analyze the tape without losing their memories. He says this pointedly at Peter, and someone could point out to Walter that it's not like Peter actually st