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Black Blotter is the ninth episode of the fifth season of FRINGE. Walter takes an LSD trip and recalls vital missing pieces of the plan to defeat the Observers. Peter and Olivia trace the mysterious signal from the radio they recovered in the pocket universe to a rural island. Walter's personality dilemma becomes obvious to him and he faces an impasse with his megalomania issues.
In Walter's Lab, deep within the Harvard campus
restricted zone, the science team is settled in for the night - for the most part. A soft, recurring, electronic tone fills the otherwise silent space. Tucked in on her cot, the melodic message wakes Astrid and piques her attention. Uncertain if Walter is working late, or if something odd is happening in the main lab, Astrid unholsters her sidearm and quietly investigates. Walter isn't in his bed or at his desk, but she quickly finds the
source of the electronic muse - the handheld radio the team recovered from the pocket universe where the bald-headed boy was supposed to be sequestered. Walter is up and about and startles Astrid, but the tone coming from the radio hasn't registered with him yet - he is more focused on her luxurious hair... it's beautiful. On his cot in one of the inner offices, Peter isn't sleeping well and is in some discomfort. His headache has him tossing and turning, which has Olivia awake too. She sits by his side to try and comfort him when Astrid summons them with news about the fresh radio signal. With everyone up and out of bed, the question is 'what is the repeatng pattern' on the radio? Morse Code? A message from the long lost Donald? Astrid doesn't recognize the signal code, and how would Donald know that they were alive after two decades? Anybody with a shortwave radio could be sending the message, it doesn't have to be Donald, even though he is probably the one that left the radio for Walter to find. Walter hasn't contributed a single idea on the topic - mostly because he is currently wasted on LSD. He is most definitely tripping
- as he feels the opera music course through him and as he watches a green pixie flitter around Peter's head. A figment of his imagination, Walter's former friend and colleague, Carla Warren, sits nearby and studies him.
The fact that she has been dead for five decades only supports the assumption that Walter has ingested a world-class hallucinogen.
attempts to get Walter to forget his Carla Warren
delusion and focus on the issue the team faces - the radio is active
and they need to know if Walter
recognizes anything about the signal. Astrid
's encryption software can't detect any pattern in the message. When Walter starts to focus on the topic, his imaginary green pixie friend returns and lands on his hand, then flitters away.
Yes - Walter thinks that he must somehow know what is in the message... why would Donald send him a coded message if he was unable to understand it? Walter is apologetic for his lack of help. He isn't familiar with the coding and he wouldn't have done drugs if he had known they were about to receive the message. The only reason Walter took the drugs is because he is desperate to remember the plan to defeat the Observers before he regresses to his vicious alter-superego. Walter shares the agreement he made with Nina a week earlier... she will arrange to have the pieces of Walter's brain removed that are influencing his personality changes once the anti-Observer scheme is complete. Peter won't support that and knows the whole team will help Walter through his crisis. Walter needs to complete the grand plan soon - time is running out for him... a few nights earlier he nearly snuck out of the laboratory in the middle of the night, and he had no idea where he was headed or what he was going to do. Carla Warren reappears to Walter and reminds him that his alter ego knew where he was headed in the middle of the night.
Walter's frustration mounts. What if next
time he doesn't catch himself and sneaks out into the night? Walter needs to finish the plan now - quickly, so he can get Nina to exorcise the Devil growing in him. Peter ushers Walter away so he can get think privately about the coded message they are receiving. Olivia
pitches a novel approach to Astrid: Maybe they do not need to decipher the code - what if they just find a way to track it to its source? That sounds like something Anil might be able to help with. Peter will give Anil a call to see if he can help track the signal.
Sitting somberly on his bed, Walter is still tripping on LSD when his green pixie pal appears and brings him a matchstick from his desk. Appreciative of the gesture, Walter thanks her then lights a candle as his mind resonates with classic drug music from the 1960's. The rainbow light from the candle catches his attention and he carries the candle into the lab to look around. There, he imagines in his mind's eye, the time he transited universes for the first time at Reiden Lake. In a freeze frame hallucination, Nina is grabbing his leg as he crosses over to save Peter's young life from the fatal genetic disease that is killing him. His green pixie muse flitters to where the event horizon would have been and her red pixie counterpart appears from the other side of the brane between the universes. Face to face at the event horizon, each pixie turns and flitters away in this universe. Walter ambles to the videotape player, turns it on and watches the conversation that is ...
...taking place directly behind him. It is early the next morning, the team is up and clothed, and Anil
has arrived with the tech that will help them isolate the source of the radio transmission coming from the radio they recovered in the pocket universe
. Anil describes the tracking
solution technique utilized by the handheld signal tracker, which incorporates elevation factors from a satellite. Peter notices Walter sitting in front of the blank monitor and calls for him to join the briefing... they are about to find the origin of the mysterious signal. Walter turns and assures them he has been following the conversation. Carla Warren appears again. Just over Walter’s left shoulder, she reminds him that there is something still hidden in the lab.
Anil is curious about Walter’s disoriented state and his conversation with empty space. Walter has been watching Anil on the tapedeck, but just now realizes that they are in the same room together. When did you get here? Everyone in the lab watches as Peter and Anil set the geo-location parameters and scan the region for the source of the signal. Olivia hears the faint trace of the repeating code so Anil stops slewing the tracker – the map shows the source is in central Connecticut.
In the dark, foggy forest of Connecticut, an RV sits deep in the woods covered with years of over-growth. A dozen yards away, the bleach white bones of a human hand holds a pistol a few inches above the ground.
In the thick pine forest just outside of Willington
, Connecticut, Olivia and Peter follow a dirt trailhead to its closest point to the source of the transmission signal. Olivia parks while Peter hops
out with the tracking device that Anil provided. The signal is strong and the source is probably not more than a few hundred yards deeper into the woods. The two set-out on foot and Peter wants to spend a minute or two making amends. He feels he doesn't deserve her and is embarassed that he went off on his solo quest with the Observer tech... even after he promised her that stuff like that was over. She seems willing to forgive and forget - while he is kind of sensing that he is incredibly lucky that she will still have him. Sweet smiles, followed by a heartfelt kiss, make things right for now. What isn't right is the battle zone Olivia spies in the treeline as she glances over Peter's shoulder. As they approach, Peter kneels over a rotted corpse and removes an advanced tech implant from the base of what used to be an Observer's skull. Olivia continues around the perimeter of the area and finds the skeletal remains of what appears to be another Observer, along with a Loyalist, based on their decayed clothing. The placement of their weapons makes it look like they were in a gun battle. And not a recent one - decomp suggests more than a decade has passed. Peter checks the vegetation-covered RV that is parked nearby. The corpse in the driver's seat appears to have suffered
the same fate as those littered around the campsite. Is Donald the man in the RV? If the signal coming from the area was sent by him, then he must have killed the three others around the RV... but died from his wounds before he could drive from the site. Olivia wonders - then why are they getting a signal now? Peter rechecks the tracking device and finds the source not far away while Olivia continues to inspect the RV. Peter finds an antenna that runs up a tall pine tree, but it is not transmitting - it is a simple relay station from another source. Olivia searches the pockets of the RV driver and finds a wallet. Peter can see on the tracking device that the source of the transmission is well to the South, on the coast. Olivia can see, after inspecting the wallet, that Donald wasn't necessarily lost in this gun battle - the ID in the wallet tells them they lost an old friend... Sam Weiss
In Walter's Lab, Astrid takes the call about what Olivia and Peter found in the forest seventy miles southwest of the laboratory. Olivia needs to find out if Walter remembers engaging Sam Weiss in his scheme to defeat the Observers
. Astrid directs the question to Walter - who has no clue who Sam Weiss might be. Neither does Astrid. Olivia tells her that Sam was
someone she and Peter were familiar with in a different timeline - was - meaning they just found his body at the radio relay station they tracked. Why was Sam involved with Donald and the message? Olivia isn't sure, but
it looks like he was helping to keep the transmission to the mysterious radio alive. Astrid is curious - maybe Donald and Sam Weiss are one in the same. Olivia is fairly certain they are not. She knows Sam and, from what little they have seen of Donald, the two have different hair and aren't built the same. The plan now is for Peter to reprogram the tracker and try to isolate the actual source of the signal, not the relayed signal.
After the call, Astrid leaves Walter to his own means in the lab and Carla Warren reappears to Walter's drug-afflicted senses. She picks up the dialogue where they left-off: Something is hidden in his lab and he can start looking for it now that the two of them are alone. It's not in this part of the lab though... he is cold. Walter is tired of the infantile 'cold-warm-hot' game and demands specifics. His hallucination feeds him a teaser, not a spoiler... he is looking for his secrets.
Astrid is nearby, but ignores Walter's conversation with 'thin air' - she has tolerated his rants and eccentricities for nearly three decades now. Walter can't figure out where Carla wants him to search his lab. She invokes Walter's alter-ego as someone that might know, god-like as he himself supposed he was. Walter is not that man anymore and welcomes a vision of Nina Sharp to contradict the position that Carla Warren has struck. Nina supports Walter's assertion - he is not that megalomaniac anymore. Carla is steadfast - and encourages Walter to take her high road... grab your hat, coat and staggering intellect and dash-off to New York and the Observers. They are certain to appreciate, even revere, your accomplishments. Walter won't succumb to his temptress - he and Peter have a bond and Walter won't jeopardize the safety of everyone he cares about!
Astrid can appreciate that... even though she is only hearing the one side of Walter's bitter diatribe. Walter? Walter storms into his office with Nina in hot pursuit. Waiting for him, sitting at his desk, is Carla - warmer! The game continues - Walter is so close he is burning-up, much like she did so long ago. Walter realizes where he is standing... his secret cubby-hole under the linoleum. Walter pops the tile loose and removes the journal that has been secured there for decades. His vision of Nina encourages him to put it back - don't give in to the temptress that brought you here. Carla is happy to play the Devil's Advocate. That journal, Walter, is your life's work - the very same journal she tried to incinerate the night she burned to death. Walter's green pixie pal flitters over the cover of the hand-written journal. Walter can't resist - perhaps just a peek. Nina frowns as Walter enjoys his child-like indulgence.
In the busy streets of Manhattan, Walter sits curbside in the back seat of the taxi he hired. In his lap, he reviews the journal Carla inspired him to retrieve from its hiding place in the lab. The hand-drawn inventions in the journal have Walter giddy with remembrance. The cabbie wants to move on and isn't sure he can break the large bill Walter dropped on him. The cabbie hops out and Walter continues his narrative with the past... suddenly remembering the term "Black Umbrella" when Carla appears seated next to him. Hmmm? Why would that phrase just pop into his head? If Carla knows - she's not saying. A knock at the window has Walter opening the rear car door to find a dapper waiter with a small tray of goodies. Does Walter need a little more LSD? More 'Black Blotter'? Excellent choice, sir. Recharged, Walter returns to his journal and reviews the device he used to transit universes at Reiden Lake. Carla is curious, does Walter remember anything else - like when he was going to create his own universe from scratch? Walter still isn't playing her game - he is not that man anymore. Suddenly aware of his surroundings, Walter wants to know where he is. Carla has delivered him to the Observer precinct in Manhattan, sort of. Why? He wouldn't go against the rest of the team and put them at risk. Carla puts it in simple terms for Walter, he has been bad-Walter alot longer than he has been good-Walter... the cranial surgery he endured doesn't hide the fact that he is still the mad-megalomaniac-scientist he has always been. And her presence in his hallucinations? She represents all of the things from his past that he has been trying to keep buried. Walter starts to panic - he needs to find his way back to the lab! That may be a problem as a large, burly Observer marches directly to his cab door. The door flies open and...
...his trusted aide-de-camp, Astrid Farnsworth, is ready to usher him down to the docks. Walter's not-so-recreational drug indulgence has him in the Big Apple, when in reality, he is in a small coastal fishing village in rural Connecticut. The team has assembled for the final leg of the mission to locate the mysterious radio signal that they associate with the disappearance of the bald-headed boy from the pocket universe. Astrid leads Walter through the dry-docks to Olivia and Peter as they negotiate the rental of a small skiff to take them just across the inlet to an island. Donald may or may not be there. Walter looks at where Peter is pointing and continues his fantasy du'jour - they are headed for a beautiful emerald castle
. As the team trundles down to the floating dock, Walter goes
on high alert before anyone else - a patrol boat with five Loyalist enforcers pulls-up and are intent on inspecting the newcomers. Peter, charming as ever, intercepts the lead fascist and does his best to assuage the inspector. We are just grabbing a boat to run over to Thimble Island to see an uncle. The PR job doesn't sell and the Loyalist is going to have to scan the group and check their papers. Not a problem. Peter has their papers in his coat pocket - - blam! blam! Along with his pistol. Peter drops the first guy, Olivia draws and drops the second, while Peter quickly dispatches the third and the fourth. Astrid shuffles Walter to cover while the final Loyalist opens automatic weapons fire on the group. Peter returns fire while Olivia flanks the man. Walter and Astrid reach the skiff and Peter keeps a steady stream of fire going to cover them. Olivia gains a superior position on the flank and pops-up for a final few shots to end the conflict. Eager to clear the area, Peter and Olivia scramble to the skiff, jump in and motor-off to Thimble Island. Let's go!
Uninjured after their encounter with the Loyalist patrol, the science team makes their way across the shallow coastal waters to Thimble Island. They ground the skiff on the rocky shore near a trailhead that lines-up with the radio signal tracker that Peter has been carrying. The signal is
strong so they must be close to the source of the transmission. With everyone on dry ground, Olivia leads the way up the path while Astrid keeps Walter on a short leash for the short hike. Walter has nothing to say - his recent resampling of his drug du'jour has him imagining his old pal Carla Warren - standing right there on the beach with everyone else. At the end of the path, a secluded and well-appointed island home full of radio communication gear awaits the foursome. Operational and active, the transmitter inside the home is busy broadcasting the repetitive code that has lured the team to the unpopulated refuge. Before anyone can cross the yard to the front door, Richard exits his home and racks a shotgun to greet his visitors. What do you want?! Olivia makes it a simple as she can - they came to locate Donald, is that you? There is no Donald here. Peter attempts an alternate information-sharing technique that might appease this radio signal-owner set on confrontation. Pointing to Walter - do you recognize this man? Nope - now get off my property and go back to where you came from. Before anyone can leave, or anyone gets shot, the bald-headed boy from the pocket universe videotape joins his guardian on the front porch. In the two decades since the last time Walter saw the child, he doesn't appear to have aged a week. Richard's better-half, Carolyn, joins
the lot on the porch and insists Richard lower his weapon - they knew that someone was going to come for the boy eventually. Not so fast. If they are here to legitimately retrieve the boy, then they should also know the password that is incorporated in the coded message. Encryption expert Astrid Farnsworth
gave the code her best shot, but could not crack it. Shotgun at the ready, Richard is set on this issue - no password - no kid. The only one on the science team that should know is Walter - and his mind is considerably less than what it was when he and Donald would have formulated a coded password. Walter doesn't have access to those memories anymore, but his acid tripping alter-ego just might. Walter's eyes roll back a little as he starts to blink rapidly and study the sky... his animated-self is snatched away to a jaunty fantasy land where clues, omens and tidbits whisk him through scenarios that lead him to a Knight in black armor guarding the password. Walter's intolerant, megalomanic ego is in the armor and quickly defeated - unlocking the key to the password - - - 'Black
Umbrella' - - - Walter blurts as he returns to the reality of Thimble Island... Black Umbrella is the password! Richard lowers his weapon and Carolyn invites the crew into her home. Fringe Division exchanges glances - where did Walter pull that one from? Walter seems delightfully surprised too - and his little green pixie muse reappears to him
. She offers a nice golf-clap in return for his effort.
Now welcomed guests on Thimble Island, the science team sits and gathers the 4-1-1 details on what they missed during two decades in Amber. Richard and
know Donald. They were very sympathetic to those engaged in defeating the invading forces during the Observer Purge of the Native population. They helped with food, shelter, medical and other needs of those courageous enough to stand and fight the superior force, and were highly trusted. Donald heard of them and showed-up one day, about eight months after the invasion, with an extraordinary request to watch over the boy. Donald had to go away, and wasn't certain he'd be back. His scientist friend from Boston, and he, had a plan to defeat the Observers, and the boy, Michael, was an important element in that plan. Walter recognizes the scientist - it's me! They never saw Donald after that, which was part of the arrangement - a security measure to protect them and Michael. Word filtered back to them later that Donald was dead. The radio was Donald's idea to lead Walter to Michael... every five days, at the same time each day, they turned it on and waited. They have been repeating that process for more than twenty years - broadcasting a coded message. Richard admits that he has been tempted to discontinue the radio transmissions, selfishly hoping to keep Michael there with them. Today is the toughest day of all, having to say good-bye to the kid who never ages... regardless of his importance to the rest of humanity. Outside on the porch, Michael shares a somber farewell with Carolyn and Richard as the science team waits on the lawn to leave Thimble Island. Michael touches Carolyn's cheek to wipe a tear away. The science team feels the gravity of their loss, two of the finest guardians Donald could have entrusted, sending their charge on his way to fight, and hopefully defeat, the conquering invaders. As the crew heads back to the skiff on the beach, Walter turns and offers a tentative wave of paternal understanding. Michael turns and makes eye contact one last
time before reaching the treeline.
In Walter's lab, Olivia and Peter hang-out with Michael before tucking him in for the night. Olivia knows the best way to handle any separation anxiety Michael might be feeling... kid-tested, kid-approved hot cocoa. And not just any kid - her daughter Henrietta has unequivocally gone on record as stating Olivia's hot cocoa is the best in the world. Michael studies Olivia's face and she just has to ask the question - do you remember me? An understated nod says - yes - he does know her. Peter wants to know how he could - their memories of Michael are from a different time line that never happened for Michael in this one. Olivia reminds Peter that Observers experience time differently, so maybe Michael does too. That concept gets Peter scratching his chin.
Out on the main floor of his laboratory, Walter
sits in emotional anguish and watches the walls as his acid trip presents to him, an entire cavalcade of traumatic and life changing events from fifty years earlier. His tormentor all day has been Carla Warren and she is still in his ear - you can't hide from who you are. Grief is flooding Walter's mind - his argument with Warren that led to her death in the lab, their dispute over his maniacal disregard for ethical and proprietary limits, the tragic events at Reiden Lake, the distance he put between himself and his wife over the loss of Peter... all flooding in around him. And Carla above it all - for the sake of one life, you will destroy the world. Knowledge cannot be pursued without morality. Finding some resolve in a moment of lucidity, Walter knows what he must do... destroy his secret journal. All of his bizarre ideas that feed his alternate super-ego are in the journal - if he burns them to a crisp, he won't be tempted to try and implement any of them. Walter drops the journal in a large bowl, douses it with lighter fluid then ignites it. Carla appears in the flames with her own brand of dark prophecy - burning the journal doesn't matter - it's too late now that you remember the malevolence you are capable of. Behind Walter, the 1985 version of Nina Sharp pops-in to offer the benevolent counterpoint to Warren's position. You have the child Observer - press on with the mission and keep fighting. Carla won't have it... Walter is certainly too tired for that kind of effort. The flames in the bowl are starting to subside and this acid trip isn't over yet. Walter never actually placed his secret journal in the bowl and torched it. Before vanishing, Carla reminds Walter that he has been his megalomaniac-self longer than he has been this new 'kinder and gentler' version of a mad scientist. Walter's struggle for self-image reaches another psychiatric plateau when he looks up from the flames and meets eye-to-eye with his alternate, angrier self.
Animation. Walter's animated flying vision, while trying to remember Donald's password, resembles the original 'cut & paste' segues interjected in Monty Python's Flying Circus.
• Hurdy Gurdy Man by Donovan
• The Pusher by Steppenwolf
• Habanera - Carmen Suite #2 by Georges Bizet
• The Happy Wanderer by Frank Weir
|| ||The signage on the building behind Peter as he calls Walter (The Human Kind), foreshadows the pixies seen in Walter's drug-induced hallucinations
| — Plot Relevant Questions —
||Address theories about questions on Black Blotter/Theories Ask minor questions on the Talk Page
1) Do not answer the questions here.
2) Keep the questions open-ended and neutral: do not suggest an answer.
- Did Richard and Carolyn know Sam Weiss, or even aware he relayed their radio signal?
- Did Richard and Carolyn know Sam Weiss as Donald?
- Why is the vision of Nina so adamant in fighting the vision of Carla Warren, and a polar opposite to her apparent goals?
- Is Walter's mental torment because of the drugs he used, or was the re-tooled vision of Carla Warren embedded in his mind during one of his periods of captivity by the Observers?
- Did Captain Windmark manipulate the memory of Carla Warren, in Walter's mind, to get Walter to reveal the master plan against the Observers that September scrambled two decades earlier?
- When William Bell removed portions of Walter's brain, did he embed the vision of Nina in Walter's mind to help Walter defend against any visions, like Warren, that the Observers may use to extract the master plan?