Walter and Astrid recover Tape No. 1 from the amber — or at least they think they have at first. It turns out he stored the tapes out of order, because of course he did. It's off to northern Pennsylvania for the gang, following a set of coordinates provided on the tape — for what purpose present-day Walter can't remember.
When they arrive, they're promptly captured by a bunch of forest people with some sort of black growth on their faces. Walter, Peter and Olivia are recognized by an "Edwin" at the forest people's camp, and he shows Walter their crazy holographic library. They're recording history for some sort of archive of post-invasion humanity, while recounting the legend of the original Fringe team.
Poor Astrid got left at home to try to decipher the ancient Betamax tapes a little better, and she figures out they're supposed to be looking for a mine. And they're going to have to hurry, because Windmark has been alerted that the fugitives were seen in rural Pennsylvania. But it also appears Fringe has someone planted in the loyalist army, who alerts the resistance that the Fringe team has been located.
Anyway, the team goes into an abandoned gold mine. There, they don't find anything but a corpse crusted over enough with the black growth that Walter figures out the mine must be the source of whatever it is. But he's still not sure what it is they're supposed to find; the community's records reveal that a man went into the mine, brought some rocks out and was waiting for someone — possibly Walter — when he was dragged off by a couple of Observers.
Peter and Olivia remember the missing-Etta days, with Peter trying to come up with a plan to find her, and Olivia remembering her inner conflict over her desire to be a mother versus her long-held sense that — because of who she was, because of the Cortexiphan — she was destined for more than that. It was because of that conflict that she felt Etta's disappearance was her punishment for not appreciating Etta fully. That's why she left — not because she was strong, but because she was scared of what they would find if they ever did locate Etta: her corpse.
Peter calls bullshit on Olivia's blaming herself (pointing out how much she clearly loved Etta), but they have a more immediate problem: the loyalists are coming! The loyalists are coming! The archivists want the Fringe gang to get out of there but they need the red rocks from the mine — even if they don't know why yet — to defeat the Observers. It's Edwin's son — whose hero-worship of the legendary Fringe team and subsequent feelings of shame for the cowardice of the tree-people who want them gone — who prompts Edwin to make a heroic decision of his own. Walter needs copper from a nearby camp to make a suit that can protect whoever goes into he mine to get what they discover is a form of quartz that will serve as the power device for the Observer Defeater. The treepeople's skin growth is the result of a kind of radiation, and the closer you get to the source, the worse it is.
So Edwin sends Olivia and Henry off on a wild-copper chase while he himself decides to head into the mine to bring up the eighteen kilograms of the stuff that videotape Walter says they need. The Fringe team learns of his sacrifice only in time to see Edwin's corpse visibly growing more of the black bark over itself.
And just like the A-Team, the Fringe gang escapes the army at the last moment, ditching the van for an old car and heading home, having successfully completed Level 3 of the Fringe Tape Recovery Videogame.
Daniel is a writer in Newfoundland with a wife and a daughter. He just realized that "We Need To Talk About Etta" would have been a perfect title for last week's recap. Follow him on Twitter (@DanMacEachern) or email him at danieljdaniel[at]gmail.com.
We start off with more laser excavation: Walter guiding Astrid as she works the device over the amber. And by "guiding" I mean "sniping at her technique." He tells her to go slowly and says she has "all the finesse of a butcher" and not the surgeon's touch that the job requires. He backs down completely when she invites him to do better if he thinks he can, though.
I figured we were going to discover they were going through all this trouble just for an old package of Red Vines, but it turns out there's a videotape on a table that Astrid manages to free -- not even warped from the heat -- as she points out: "Not bad for a butcher." I am going to go ahead and assume that they already freed the Red Vines.
Coming out of the tunnel that's been bored into the amber of Walter's lab, the two of them meet up with Peter, coming in to announce that he got some more fuel for the van. Walter tells Peter he's got tape No. 1 but hasn't watched it yet: "I've only just liberated it," he explains. Astrid gives him a sidelong glance for taking credit for her skilled laser work but doesn't say anything.
So they pop the tape in, and we're "treated" to scenes of Videotape Walter scarfing down licorice (Present-Day Walter almost unconsciously reaches into his lab coat for some licorice so he can do likewise). There is then the bubbling sounds of a bong -- great pains being taken by the show here not to actually show Walter talking a massive hit -- and everyone watches in a- and be-musement as Videotape Walter smokes up and Present-Day Walter offers a half-hearted "I had a prescription" excuse.
And then it's down to business, with Videotape Walter welcoming everyone to Tape 3 of his plan, and everyone's pissed -- but not overly surprised -- that Walter apparently stored the tapes out of order. No. 3 here will explain one of the most crucial elements they'll need, but they have to get to Pennsylvania. The tape holds up while Videotape Walter rattles off the coordinates, but then becomes unwatchable just as Walter's about to tell them what they need to do when they get there.
So they plot the co-ordinates on Etta's iPad thingy and she asks Walter if he recognizes the location, even though she's just showing him the satellite map. Yeah, it LOOKS LIKE NORTHERN PENNSYLVANIA ON A MAP, ETTA. At any rate, Walter has no idea what the significance of the location might be. Peter notes the area looks undeveloped and asks Etta if they can get all the way out there safely. They can... if they avoid checkpoints, she says, although it's a long way to go when they don't know what they're looking for -- or, as Olivia points out, when they don't know if whatever it is is even still there.