Peter's still in his coma, which means that Walter might as well be, until Astrid shakes him out of his funk by impressing upon him the need to try to do something to improve the situation. The situation is this: dry-lightning strikes, indoors and outside, all over the place. Walter figures out that the Doomsday Machine turning on and the havoc being wreaked is due to Walternate turning on his machine. Sam Weiss, who is the latest in a long line of Sam Weisses burdened with arcane knowledge having to do with the destruction of colliding universes, gets a little tangly with his revelation that there's a box (which is in a crypt) that can be opened with a key (that is in a museum), and inside the box is a sort of quantum "crowbar" that the team can use to pry open the Doomsday Machine, so Peter can get inside. Sam explains that the Doomsday Machine has essentially been tricked into thinking Peter's already inside. So after completing the video-game-esque quests to open the special box, what's inside are papers that reveal Olivia's connection to the Doomsday Machine as well. She can use her telekinesis to cross the universes (of course she can) to shut off Walternate's machine so Peter can enter over on our side. Trouble is, by this point Peter has woken up, is very confused, and leaves a note that says “I am going home,” just like he did for his mother when he tried to drown himself in an attempt to get back to Earth-2. This time he has a credit card, so he takes a cab to New York and spends $600 on a lucky half-dollar, and the team catches up with him on Liberty Island, where he's momentarily surprised to remember that there are two Walter Bishops.
Anyway, after some telekinesis practice (it's been a while since Olivia's had to defuse any bombs with her mind), Olivia shuts down the machine over there, opening up the foot and hand placements for Peter over here. He steps in -- and then is transported fifteen years into the future, where all hell is breaking loose. Did Skynet come online again?
Oh, and if you're driving and trying to avoid lightning strikes, Fringe wants you to know that the Volkswagen Jetta has all the features you need. (I know that's not the car featured, but I'm not rewarding the continually egregious product placement by repeating it.)
Daniel is a writer in Newfoundland with a wife and a daughter. He's not convinced that working in a bowling alley prepares you to throw a rock to knock over a vase that rolls just right to stop a security gate from sealing you inside a museum. Follow him on Twitter (@DanMacEachern) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter's still in his coma, wearing some sort of cap with electrodes and wires protruding from it. Looks about a hundredth as complicated as anything Walter would have him wear. Speaking of Walter, he's asleep in a chair by the window. He wakes up, and walks over to his son, quietly telling Peter that he's there. He touches Peter's brow and takes out his watch so he can take Peter's pulse.
Astrid strolls in, happy to see Walter up -- "I was just resting my eyes," mutters Walter, and then he tells her that Peter's pulse is strong. Astrid also has some positive news: the doctor plans to keep Peter sedated for at least another twelve hours, as she feels the fact his vitals are stable is very good, and she hopes he'll come out of this without any permanent damage. Walter's quite gloomily skeptical, and starts listing the problems that might result -- disrupted neural patterns, memory deficits, aphasia -- so Astrid tries to cheer him up by suggesting they go for a walk, which he only agrees to once she dangles the prospect of tapioca pudding in the cafeteria. Walter kisses his fingers, and then touches them to Peter's forehead before they leave, likely to go offer pessimistic prognoses for other patients in the hospital.
Meanwhile, a family is driving through Holyoke, Massachusetts, on the highway, moderate traffic on the road with them. The teenage son has somehow, possibly through the encouragement of his parents, discovered the Doors and is listening to "Riders on the Storm." I have no problem with listening to the Doors, but it can be a gateway drug to pretentious douchebaggery. I do like this song, though... anyway, he looks to his left and sees storm clouds on the horizon, and the distant sound of thunder, and then he watches as all the hair on his forearm starts to stand straight up. He tells his dad that something weird is happening, but before he gets a chance to tell them what's wrong, lightning hits the SUV in front of them, and it flips and slides on its roof. Nate's mom screams, but fortunately the product-placed vehicle they're driving has apparently excellent brake response. Another lightning bolt strikes directly in front of them, so the dad throws it into reverse and starts slaloming backwards around similarly stopped cars, thanks to the dashboard rear-camera display and magnificent handling in this stylish, affordable vehicle.
They stop, and the dad tells his son that it's all over, and orders his wife and his son to stay there while he goes to have a look. His wife is all, "Gary, no!" and he says they'll be safe in the car, and I would really like to know what he's basing that on.
Anyway, this Gary character gets out of the car (weirdly, not a single other person is getting out of any of the other cars behind them, even just to see what's going on), and jogs up the nearby overpass, where, next to another crashed car, he can see the highway stretching out, several more stopped vehicles, and bolts of electricity zapping cars and the ground all over the place.
After the opening credits, Sam and Olivia are in the hangar looking at the Doomsday Machine, with Sam saying that it wasn't supposed to happen this way. Really? Not supposed to happen this way? Freak electrical storms all over the place? Vortexes swallowing people up? He says it doesn't make sense for the machine to be on. Olivia shares Walter's quantum entanglement theory, but Sam says that doesn't make any sense either, because how was the other side able to turn it on when it was built for Peter?
Olivia tells him about what happened when Peter tried to get in, so supposed super-genius Sam Weiss pulls a pen out of his pocket and throws it at the machine, which zaps it, sending it shooting back like a ballpoint missile, embedding it in the back of a computer monitor. Jesus, good thing that didn't hit anyone... speaking of that, where the hell IS everyone? Sam and Olivia are the only people in the hangar! Shouldn't there be, I don't know, ANYONE there? It's a goddamn Doomsday Machine! Someone keep an eye on the thing!
Anyway, Sam says the machine's been tricked into thinking Peter's inside, which is why it's repelling anyone or anything trying to enter. "It's frustrated, in a manner of speaking. That's why you're seeing all this damage out in the world. It's not a doomsday device, but it's acting like one," he says. Olivia wants to know how they stop it, and Sam cryptically says, "In case of emergency, break glass," and Olivia tilts her head quizzically (with a touch of annoyance).
See, Sam's got a scroll with some lettering and diagrams, and he unrolls it, saying he thinks there's a way they can disarm the force field and let Peter in. But Olivia says she's read the First People book cover to cover and there's nothing in it about that.
"Not in your book. This is the manuscript the books are based on. These pages were never published," he says. Oh. So the book is like an instruction manual, but for no given reason some pretty crucial information was just left out of it? That makes even less sense then most of the rest of this! We're getting into nonsensical Alias Rambaldi territory here! Anyway, there's a picture of a box with funky grooves all over it, with a stick thing that is apparently the key that opens the box, and Olivia naturally asks what's inside the box. "According to this, it's a crowbar of sorts," says Sam. "It'll pry the force field open long enough for Peter to get in." Olivia asks if Peter will die, and Sam offers a less-than-confident, "No. I don't think so." He explains that the machine is indestructible, so if Peter gets in, he should be safe. Yeah, but doesn't that rule out the possibility that the machine itself might kill him? I mean, the picture shows Peter with flames shooting out of his eyes. I'm no, what's the word, doctor, but flaming eyeballs are generally not desirable. So anyway, Mario and Luigi go off in search of the key to open the box that's got the crowbar to open the doomsday device, and they've only got one life left each.
Meanwhile, the prospect of an old-school fruit cocktail means Walter has forgotten all about his comatose son. He can't believe it's been so long since he's seen a classic fruit cocktail, and Astrid wryly notes that she supposes loading fruit with sugar, artificial flavors and dyes has just fallen out of favor. Walter, as you can imagine, finds that a shame.
They're brought back to reality by the conversation between a nurse and doctor, discussing a freak lightning storm that's sending a lot of cases their way, and then later they watch as charred and gross victims are wheeled in and triaged. Walter grimly says it's getting worse, and Astrid, the cock-eyed optimist, says they don't know that this has anything to do with the machine. But when Broyles arrives, with a couple of agents, it seems pretty clear. Astrid flags him down to ask what happened. "A spontaneous dry lightning storm just outside Worcester. Twenty-five people injured in similar storms are being reported up and down the Eastern seaboard," he says, with Walter saying he's not surprised by the electro-static fluctuations in the atmosphere. Sure, it's easy to not be surprised about something after you know it's happening.
Broyles begs off when his cellphone rings with the governor's call, and Walter heads back to Peter's room. Astrid says they need to get back to the lab to deal with the fringe event. "Peter would not want you to sit by his bedside and do nothing," she says, but Walter's adamant, saying he's out of ideas, and he wants to spend his remaining time with his son.
With duty having failed, Astrid tries shame, and points out that it was hard for Olivia to leave Peter too, but she's out there trying to find a way to end this. Walter says he tried: "I went so far as to ask God for help. And how did he respond? Nothing." I'm sorry, but Walter saying, "I did too try! I asked God for help, for crying out loud!" is one of the funniest/most implausible things we'll see here tonight.
Fortunately, Astrid's not having it, and says, "