Someone is turning people into piles of ash, but it's Broyles who's burned up about it. It seems he had pursued a similar series of cases years ago, but was never able to catch the killer, even with a big clue that was handed to him in the form of a complex chemical formula. Perhaps it had something do with the fact that the killer is basically a shadow. But this time around, Broyles has the Fringe team to back him up. They trace the deaths to a Russian coma nurse, who turns out to have been shuttling his comatose ex-cosmonaut brother from hospital to hospital for some reason, in between that shadow inside the cosmonaut sucking the base-level radiation out of people in a way that turns them into those piles of dust. [Holy shades of Negative Man! - Zach] Broyles defies CIA orders to drop the case (and reveals that the original one cost him his family) while Walter gets busy decoding the clue. Unfortunately the answer is that the shadow can't be destroyed without killing the cosmonaut, which the brother finds out seconds before getting dusted himself. The team finds the cosmonaut, but when they realize his shadow is out doing its thing, Broyles rapidly gives up on the team's attempts to contain the shadow and shoots the comatose man where he lies. And then later he gets a visit from a grumpy CIA guy, who issues thinly veiled threats and even more thinly veiled insinuations that they sent the cosmonaut -- or rather the shadow still in his surviving body -- back where it came from. Enjoy space, comrade.
We're in an immaculate, well-appointed penthouse that has everything: state-of-the-art kitchen, fire in the fireplace, modern but comfortable furniture, and big floaty letters in the living room that read "BOSTON MASSACHUSETTS." A guy in a blue dress shirt is at home alone, but when his wife calls from her car he lies and says he's about to get on a plane in fifteen minutes. He apologizes for the trip he's claiming to have to take, and for the crimp his sick mom is putting into their lives, but she's being pretty cool about it, and says she'll be home in about five minutes. Suddenly his TV comes on by itself and goes all staticky, and he says he's about to board. They wish each other happy anniversary and exchange I love yous before hanging up. Then he shuts off the tube and looks around the apartment suspiciously, unaware that a sinister shadow is passing behind him. Just then the front hallway light goes out. He lets the suspense build up before tuning it back on, but there's no one there, so he gets on with his life. What's left of it, anyway. He's just arranged a bouquet of roses with a card on the front table near the entrance. He walks back to the living room, pausing in confusion when the hallway light goes out again. He comes around the corner and flips the hallway light back on, revealing a man-shaped shadow standing there before him. And there are two strange things about this shadow. One is that it doesn't appear to be attached to an actual dude; it's just standing there. The other is that areas of it are undulating and pulsating in a very sinister way, so I think we can rule out the possibility that it belongs to Peter Pan. The guy freaks, of course, backing away as the apparition strides purposefully towards him. But he just ends up stumbling backward into a chair, experiencing an unexpected sit-down that takes him out of the frame. Although not entirely out of the episode.
Later, the man's wife comes home, sees the flowers, and reads the card: "Natalie -- I know how you like surprises...Happy Anniversary." She smiles and heads on into the living room, where she sees her husband still sitting in that armchair, blank and motionless. After a few seconds, she notices he's acting weird. Or rather, not acting at all. She takes a closer look. He looks just like himself, only totally inert. Starting to worry, she says his name and puts a hand on his arm. Or rather, through it, because she comes away with a handful of gray dust. She looks at it and backs away, screaming, "No! No! No!" as the place where she touched him continues to collapse into powder, the effect spreading throughout his body, clothes and all, until his head topples and bursts open on the floor like an ash-balloon. Happy anniversary! How you like surprises now, fancy lady?
Next morning, Broyles sits alone at a nearly empty white-tablecloth restaurant, looking thoughtful. He happens to look up and notice that a little boy a couple of tables away is sitting in a similar position. Also alone. Is it kids eat free day or something? Broyles sighs and shifts, and the boy mirrors that, too. Broyles is just starting to get into this little game, peeking at the boy around his menu and even smiling, when he gets a call on his cell. By the time the boy looks around his menu again, Broyles is gone, out of the place entirely. Fringey!
Walter is examining the remains at the penthouse, while crime scene guys do their thing and Olivia asks Walter what his thoughts are. Part of the dust-man is still intact; pretty much his hands, wrists, legs and feet, while the rest is nothing but powder. Walter kicks off his analysis in a typically unhelpful manner, reminiscing about Christmas logs that held their shape after burning, when Peter used to poke the husks with his finger. "And you'd draw genitalia on the reindeer decorations..." "Happy memories, Walter," Peter says, trying to get things back on track. "Do you have any thoughts as to what happened to Dusty here?" The lack of scorch marks on the cushions allow Walter to rule out fire or spontaneous combustion, so the first order of business is to get him back to the lab. "Peter, I'll need a Dust Devil...several." I assume he means Dirt Devil, which is the correct brand name, but either they didn't want to pay the product placement fee or I'm completely misreading the situation and Walter is literally asking for a group of sand tornados to be shipped in from New Mexico. Broyles appears next to Olivia, looking even more morose than usual. "What do we know?" he intones. Olivia gives him the bullet: the victim, Randy Danzig; was found by his wife, who thought he was flying to Hong Kong, "but he stayed home to surprise her for their anniversary." Mission accomplished, I'd say. Broyles asks if he was a doctor, or worked in a hospital. Olivia says he was an investment banker. "Has he visited a hospital in the last twenty-four hours?" Broyles presses. Olivia offers to find out, and wonders why. "It's not the first time I've seen this phenomenon," Broyles says. Yes, I was starting to suspect as much.
So he takes her and Peter to a self-storage facility, which seems like a strange place to keep old FBI case files. Letting them into the locker, he backstories that he saw five similar cases in D.C. four years ago, and all of the victims had either worked at or recently visited a specific hospital. After three of them, an Eastern European man with detailed inside knowledge of the deaths contacted Broyles, offering to turn himself in if they could decipher his formula. Olivia opens the manila folder Broyles just handed her, and reveals a complex diagram shaped roughly like Saturn. Peter recognizes it as a molecular model. "Some kind of complex organic compound." Going out on a limb with all those C's in there, isn't he? "He implied that solving it was the key to stopping the murders," Broyles adds. He says CDC and NIH couldn't figure it out, and then after two more deaths, it stopped. Peter heads out to deliver the document to Walter, because the CDC and NIH never had one of those. As Olivia answers her cell phone, Broyles closes up the file box, but not before ganking the microcassette recorder bagged up inside it. Why does the file include the whole recorder and not just the tape? Broyles's archiving system is becoming more mystifying by the minute. Olivia gets off the phone, and tells Broyles that the man Peter calls Dusty did in fact visit his mother in Latchmere General Hospital the day before. Another interesting thing we learn from this scene: this episode was directed by Jon Cassar, former executive producer of 24 and the director of scores of episodes. Let's see if he can tell a story with only one scene on the screen at a time.
Well, he clearly doesn't have much patience for big floaty letters, because the only ones we'll see all hour are the ones outside "LATCHMERE GENERAL HOSPITAL BOSTON." It's nighttime now, so the team has taken its time getting there. Oh, wait, they're still not there. In one of the quiet, dark hallways, a night nurse works on a computer as the shadow from before lurks around, passing behind her and causing her to look up, not that she sees anything. But then the shadow flickers back into existence, just before the ads. And it's obvious how this shadow is able wander around undetected, because unlike most hospitals I've been in, this place is lit like a Goth nightclub in an arctic winter. There could be hordes of shadows roaming the hallways and nobody would ever notice.
The next day, Broyles is bulldozing past a hospital administrator's speech on their way to her office. Olivia says they're looking for an employee of Eastern European descent who also worked in a DC hospital four years ago. I don't know why she's bothering telling her this; Broyles already has a warrant for their servers, and a team of agents ready to move in and take over the office, so it's not like the administrator's cooperation is relevant anyway.
Peter watches Walter dribble a bi