Season 1, Episode 6: “The Cure”
Original Airdate: October 21, 2008
Written by Felicia D. Henderson & Brad Caleb Kane
Directed by Bill Eagles
Patterns of Interference: In Milford, Massachusetts, Emily Kramer is unceremoniously thrown out of the back of a van. Disoriented and sickly, she wanders the streets until she comes upon a diner. Emily attempts to eat but displays visible signs of distress. She appears to be suffering from amnesia and becomes agitated when a cop inquires about her health. When the cop attempts to take her into custody to get her psychological help, the other patrons in the diner begin to bleed from their eyes and screaming in pain. Soon the cop and Emily exhibit the same symptoms, until everyone is dead – and Emily’s head explodes.
The Fringe team – including a notably irritable Olivia – arrives the next morning, and Broyles explains that the patrons all exhibit symptoms of radiation exposure. Emily went missing two weeks prior, and did not display any prior psychological issues. She was also the source of the radiation, and when Walter examines her, he finds evidence that she was recovering from an autoimmune disease, an impossibility. Walter ascertains from the remains of the cop that his brain essentially melted. Walter decides to have two of the bodies taken back to his lab.
Olivia meets with a Doctor Patel regarding Emily. She discusses Emily’s health history with Patel and finds very little answers. Back at the lab, Walt is examining Emily’s remains, and notes the odd aroma of hyacinths coming from the body. Olivia returns, and Walter discusses evidence he found that Emily was being held against her will as well as being given intravenous drug treatments. Olivia receives word of another missing woman, Claire Williams, with the same disease as Emily, and she heads off to investigate.
Olivia and Francis arrive at the Williams’ house, and Francis makes reference to understanding Olivia’s mood, “today of all days”. Olivia brushes it off, but Francis wishes her a happy birthday regardless. Claire’s husband Ken answers the door and lets them in. He discusses Claire’s medical history, and that six weeks prior she began going into remission.
Elsewhere, Claire is held captive in a lab, and is administered drugs against her will by a woman, Elizabeth Sarnoff, in a hazmat suit. Outside, a well-dressed man is observing Claire and reviewing pictures of the aftermath of the incident at the diner. Elizabeth approaches him and reveals that Claire is an even better candidate than Emily…
At the lab, Walter uses a papaya to demonstrate what happened to the people in the diner. Radioactive isotopes activated capsules inside Emily that caused their deaths. Olivia decides to speak with Emily’s parents to try to get a lead on who may have kidnapped them. Peter decides to join her, and when they arrive they find the house is filled with guests for Emily’s wake. Olivia proceeds to crash the wake and head into Emily’s room to find clues, much to Peter’s chagrin. Emily’s mother finds them and angrily asks what they’re doing, and when Olivia mentions they’re trying to find clues to help Claire, Emily’s mother reveals that they know her.
Emily’s mother reveals that Claire and Emily met through therapy for their disease, sharing a picture of the Williams and Emily (also proving that Ken lied earlier when he said he didn’t know who Emily was). Olivia and Peter confront Ken with the picture. He reveals how Emily and Claire, along with a group of others, began pooling their resources to find a cure using radical therapies. Three months ago, they found the cure in time-released radioactive capsules. He also reveals that Doctor Patel had been helping Emily and Claire in their treatments.
Olivia confronts Doctor Patel, who reveals that he had been passing information regarding the treatment to the drug company INtREPUS. He grabs a gun and provides Olivia with a name – David Esterbrook – before committing suicide.
Later, Francis finds information on David Esterbrook – the well-dressed man from earlier who was observing Claire. Francis shares that Esterbrook is a lobbyist for controversial research and development. Olivia seeks out Esterbrook at a humanitarian event and approaches him under an assumed name, claiming to be a follower of his work. After a conversation, Olivia drops her cover and pretense, and Esterbrook cryptically threatens her before leaving.
Broyles later scolds Olivia for her reckless confrontation with Esterbrook, claiming that he must now deal with the political blowback that threatens the Fringe division. He admonishes her to control her passions before leaving. Elsewhere, Claire continues to be held in the facility, where a rat is let loose into her room. Esterbrook arrives and confirms that Claire will be ready for delivery in the morning. The rat begins to bleed from its eyes and ultimately meets the same fat as Emily, proving that their experiments on Claire have been successful.
After a tense conversation with Peter, Olivia reveals what’s been bothering her all day. Her stepfather was an alcoholic who was abusive towards her mother. One after when she was nine, she took a gun after her stepfather had beat her mother and shot him, but stopped short of killing him. He survived and later vanished. Although no one has seen him after all these years, he sends Olivia a card on her birthday every year to taunt her that he is still alive.
Olivia reveals her frustration with getting Esterbrook, and Peter advises that she approach Nina Sharp – since Massive Dynamic has subsidiaries that compete with INtREPUS – to obtain dirt on Esterbrook, but Olivia refuses. Peter later approaches Nina on his own, who already knows Peter’s identity. They sit and speak, where Nina tells Peter she knew him when he was little and spent time together, revealing that she and Walter were quite close when they were much younger. Nina offers Peter the location of where Claire is most likely being held if Peter promises one day to return the favor – no questions asked.
At the lab, Walter makes a realization that the hyacinth smell – from the chemical methyl eugenol – is how Claire and Emily were weaponized and begins creating a “cure” to counteract it. Peter finds Olivia and gives her the location, lying about how he obtained the information. Olivia calls in a strike team and obtains the antidote from Walter.
The team raids the facility and make their way to where Claire was being held. Elizabeth, hearing the approaching agents, activates a button before being confronted and asked for Claire’s location. Olivia approaches the room where Claire is held and provides her with the antidote through the door. Claire’s capsules activate (thanks to Elizabeth moments earlier) and the room floods with radiation. Olivia is able to successfully walk Claire through injecting herself with the antidote, which counteracts the capsules and drops the radiation levels.
Olivia confronts Esterbrook and arrests him. The news reveals that INtREPUS’ stock has tumbled while Massive Dynamic’s stock has risen, much to Nina’s pleasure. Olivia realizes that Peter obtained his information from Nina, and confronts him about it. Though initially concerned about what it cost him, after reassurance she winds up thanking him.
Later at her home, Olivia finds a letter slipped beneath her door, and opens it to find it is a birthday card from her stepfather…
Scientific Method: Weaponizing the human body.
Agent of F.R.I.N.G.E: Olivia is a lot more aggressive in terms of what she would do to get answers. She crashes a wake and searches the room of Emily Cramer. Olivia shares the story of her step-father and it being her birthday does help with the connection between the two. It’s enough to spur Peter to make a deal with the devil in the form of Nina Sharp.
Walt’s Faults: Walt’s appreciation of the hum of the electrical lines and then the “short fuse” comment from Olivia. Walt’s ability to detach himself from any given situation, for example his asking for the onion soup in the restaurant after examining the dead bodies. To most people, this might come across as simply cold, callous, or eccentric, but considering what Walt has been through, there is much more to it than that.
Walt’s third favorite flower is hyacinth.
The ending, Walt seemed a little more simplistic as Peter has to remind him that his toothbrush is red and Walt’s is white. He even delivers the lines a little too simplistically.
Daddy Issues: Walt appears to think that spending time on an autopsy with Peter is something that will bring them together.
Observatory: He passes Olivia and Esterbrook at the party.
Dynamic Appearances: Chris Eigeman, change of pace for the former teacher of the gifted students in Malcolm in the Middle.
Lunatic Fringe: Strontium 90, radioactive fallout from a nuclear explosion, does have its uses in medicine. My first “exposure” to it was in The Bionic Woman episode “Doomsday is Tomorrow” as a bomb made up of Strontium 90 was to be used to counter the radioactive fallout from the “Doomsday Device” that was in danger of detonating and destroying the world.
Endgame: This is a very blunt and direct episode. From Olivia’s aggressiveness to Esterbrook’s open threats when confronted by her. Walt takes a backseat in this one as it’s centered more around Olivia expanding her character and making her seem more than a lovelorn agent. I particularly like the ending with the confrontation between Olivia and Broyles. The addition of Olivia’s path and an ongoing character arc / element regarding her stepfather has some fascinating potential. A great episode for Olivia and one that finally veers away a little from the recent “Massive Dynamic is shady” endings.
Massive Dynamics rating: 9