Boatloads of unwitting Chinese drug mules are coming ashore in Boston, but instead of drugs they're carrying an exotic medicine, and instead of carrying it in balloons they're carrying it in giant, scary, appropriately Fringey hookworms. One boat has already run aground, killing most of the illicit passengers, but a second is due shortly and the Fringe team is in a race against time. Olivia and Peter follow a trail from a captured Triad member to an immune-disorder patient. Meanwhile Walter, who's been feeling more independent anyway, gets enough of a boost from a hookworm bite to venture out on his own. But he ends up first tipping off the herbalist who's trafficking the medicinal worm glands (who then sends goons to repossess a worm specimen from the lab and clobber Astrid), and then getting confused and stranded in Chinatown so that Peter has to come get him. As for the second boatload of mules, the FBI finds it empty while Peter and Walter backtrack to the herbalist shop just in time to see the hapless human deliveries arrive. Rather than waiting for backup, Peter busts in during the harvest, getting himself nabbed and then nearly fed a worm of his own. But of course he's saved at the last moment, ironically enough, by the Feds. And Walter learned something from his foray into self-actualization: someone ought to LoJack him or something. Which he does himself, implanting a locator chip in his own neck and giving Peter the transponder. It's the kind of gesture of humility and trust that only Walter Bishop could pull off.
Even though it's nighttime and there's no traffic, someone should really move those floaty letters reading "BOSTON MASSACHUSETTS" out of the middle of the street before a car runs into them and riddles the numerous pedestrians with floaty shrapnel. The floaty letters also do not specify that this is Boston's Chinatown. For that, we have to look at all the street vendors with steam rising from their kiosks and the fact that all of the people on the sidewalk look as homogenously Asian as an episode of Most Extreme Elimination.. One of these, a man who is looking quite desperate on top of being the only person in sight who's soaking wet, is drawing further attention to himself with his uneven gait and a Chinese phrase he keeps muttering to himself. He waylays a passing woman and repeats the phrase. Finally the subtitles, which apparently slept in a little late, let us know that he's looking for Ping-On Street. He begs the woman to take him there, but she nervously (and wisely) declines to do more than point him in the right direction.
He seems to find the right place, and buzzes a security intercom. The subtitles slack off again as he speaks into it, but whoever is inside doesn't need them, because he gets buzzed in. A moment later, he's in the parlor of a man played by Tzi Ma, the Chinese Consulate Cop who made a full-time career out of Jack Bauer in seasons four through six of 24. "Did any of the others make it?" the sick man asks from the depths of the blanket Tzi Ma has wrapped him in. "You are the first," Tzi Ma informs him. The man worries that everyone else is dead, but Tzi Ma kindly advises him to have hope and invites him to spend the night here. A moment later, he's helping him down into what looks like a cavernous basement kitchen, only this one seems to be equipped with a lot of cots. Tzi Ma points out all the amenities, but all his visitor can do is complain about pain in his stomach. Tzi Ma invites him to lie down and rest. The man's panic increases as he wonders what's happening to him, but he just lies there screaming while blood starts coming out of his nose. Blood, and a pointy little tentacle that comes out and waves around before withdrawing again. His mind is not eased by the sight of Tzi Ma donning a large rubber gauntlet and unrolling a "surgical kit" that looks about as clean as my barbecue utensils in September. He cuts open the man's shirt, revealing a chest that's undulating in waves, like he ate some of my barbecue in April. But just when we're expecting something to come Aliening out through his rib cage, suddenly his mouth is obscured by a mass of Lovecraftian tentacles emerging into the open from his throat. Tzi Ma seizes it and holds on. Fringey!
How much of that girder bridge's weight is supported by the floaty letters under the deck reading "DORCHESTER BAY INLET"? I can't seem to find the answer on Wikipedia, so let's move on. Somewhere in the maze of access roads near the waterfront the next morning, Peter climbs out of Walter's station wagon, which doesn't even remotely look as though it was driven into a telephone pole a few weeks ago. Maybe the FBI paid for the bodywork. "Where's Walter?" Olivia asks him as she leans against a Boston PD car with its flashers going. "He's practicing some self-actualization," Peter says. Which sounds a little dirty, especially since Walter's the one doing it, until I am relieved to see that a yellow cab has just pulled in behind the wagon and Walter is getting out. Peter explains that Walter is also doing his own cooking, cleaning, and making his own wardrobe choices. Olivia smiles at this as they watch Walter paying the cabbie from a distance. Peter raises the subject of why they're there, and Olivia asks, "Did you eat?" Peter did. "That's unfortunate," Olivia cracks. Walter walks up at this point, and it's a good thing Peter was careful to give credit where it was due for his outfit; in addition to his usual brick-toned plaid shirt and tweed jacket, Walter is also wearing white sweater and an ascot that fits around his neck like a toilet seat. I guess I should be glad that the sweater is on under the jacket instead of over it. He's pretty annoyed with Peter for following him. Peter points out they had the same destination, but Walter thinks Peter just doesn't trust him. Olivia and Peter can't think of much to do about that but follow Walter to the next scene.
Which is the shoreline near where a Chinese merchant ship ran aground and caught fire, according to Broyles. The boat's carcass is still smoking in the water not far out, but there are Asian corpses scattered all over the bank. "Strong current, freezing water," Broyles explains. "They died attempting to swim to shore." Twenty-seven of them so far, and some of them have those masses of tentacles sticking out of their mouths, although none of these are moving, at least. I guess those were the ones who didn't make it to Tzi Ma's place. Walter thinks the creatures look like a kind of livestock parasite, but he's never seen them this size or in humans before. Crouching down over one of them, he grabs it just beneath whatever passes for its throat and takes his sweet time pulling it free of its victim's mouth, just so we can have plenty of time to wonder just how far down that thing goes. It finally tapers to a slimy point about two feet down, and Walter hands it off to Peter for transport to the lab (despite Peter's amusingly forceful yet ultimately futile head-shake). Walter thinks it might still be alive. Speaking of which, someone calls over that they've found someone still breathing. Peter throws down his coffee cup and runs over to help pull her out of the water, like the scene isn't swarming with cops and paramedics. Walter takes one look at her and rushes the EMTs, telling them they have to get the organism out of her before it's too late. She's loaded up and carried off.
Back at Tzi Ma's place, he has apparently been harvesting those horrid, squalling creatures all night, going by the corpses on all the cots and the small swam of beasties spitting and hissing in a barrel of bloody water. He hears his doorbell ring and goes up to greet another new arrival. Same drill as before, right down to the point where he tells the new guy, "You're the first."
At an unnamed hospital, a guy from the Chinese Consulate is leading Peter and Olivia down the hallway. Apparently the woman they pulled from the water has been awake for a while, her name is Mei Lin, and she's from outside Hong Kong. "She happen to mention how she got a gigantic worm stuck in her stomach?" Peter asks. Consulate guy mildly says no worm, just dehydration. "She wasn't infected," Olivia realizes. Lucky her.
Inside Mei Lin's hospital room, she's giving her story from her bed while the Consulate guy translates. Eventually Peter gets bored with that and starts talking to her directly, in her own language. "I didn't know you spoke Cantonese," Olivia says with surprise. "Well get to know me a bit," Peter says. I didn't know Olivia knew the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin. To get this back on track and also justify his existence, the Consulate guy takes over and translates for Mei Lin that all the other passengers took medicine for seasickness, which doesn't affect her, so she alone didn't take it. If she explains why she knows this might be relevant to the investigation she doesn't know they're conducting, the Consulate guy doesn't pass it along. And besides, she's moved on to the next topic, which is to show Olivia and Peter a photograph she's got of herself, her daughter, and her husband, a photo which survived an overnight dunk in seawater quite admirably. Apparently hubby and child were on a second boat two days behind hers. What kind of Mickey Mouse illegal immigrant trafficking operation is this, that splits up families like that? I hope Mei Lin remembers to fill out