Ladies and gentlemen, we got ourselves a good old-fashioned Freak-Meet on Fringe this week. And quite a freak, too: a shaven-headed old dude, code-named The Candy Man, who sports creepy red tattoos, a silvery mask, and skin that secretes sucrose. He sneaks into the room of a New Yonkers youngster named Max, and after the boy has his mother do a sweep for closet-monsters and under-the-bed-monsters, The Candy Man steps out of the shadows, defying Max’s efforts to will him away by closing his eyes and counting to three. Later The Candy Man—whose real name is Wyatt Toomy—will stow Max in a dark closet, hook him up to a machine that drains his pituitary gland, and attempt to calm him with platitudes like “with suffering comes redemption” and “through the pitch-dark comes a cleansing fire.” And all the while, Wyatt transitions from old to young.
As with our last visit to Earth-2 in “Amber 31422,” I thought the last five minutes or so of “The Abducted” were more compelling than the case-of-the-week. But not far more. The Candy Man is just so creepy—and his crime so powerfully symbolic—that I felt better about this episode overall than I did about “Amber.” (Plus, that ending! But more on that in a moment.)
After the abduction, Ourlivia and the Earth-2 Fringe Division are called in because of “The Peter Bishop Act,” which requires that every kidnapping be treated like a Fringe Event, at least until the team can determine that nothing Earth-1-related took place. In the case of the missing Max, the situation is more complicated, because The Candy Man was previously responsible for abducting Colonel Broyles’ son, Chris. The perp follows the same M.O. each time: He strikes every two years, and always sets his victims free after 48 hours, though when the kids emerge from their cages, they’re frail and sickly, and rarely live to adulthood. Broyles doesn’t like to talk about Chris, nor does he want his agents to talk to Chris, but Olivia is intrigued by Chris’ initial statement to the authorities that he was held by two men—one young, one old—and so she convinces Broyles to let her see his boy. And when Chris confesses to Olivia that The Candy Man pledged to kill his family if he ever said anything about his weird religious rituals, Olivia replies, “That won’t happen. I promise.”
The problem with that promise is that at the same time Olivia is pursuing The Candy Man, she’s also conspiring with her cab-driver pal Henry to get off Earth-2 for good. She wants Henry to pilot a boat that will take her to Liberty Island in the middle of the night, so she can sneak into the DOD facility and submerge herself in Walternate’s sensory deprivation tank. But as Henry’s explaining that he’s terrified of the water and that he needed his cousin to teach him the basics of boating, Olivia realizes that Chris Broyles’ “two men” are not an older and younger version of Wyatt Toomy, as she had suspected, but rather Wyatt Toomy and the man who taught him how to tap the pituitary to make a revitalizing serum. A man that she had interviewed earlier: a former doctor turned preacher named Reverend Marcus.
Olivia makes an emergency call to Colonel Broyles, and then rushes to his house to save the day, fulfilling her promise to Chris, who may be able to get better, since that the doctors now know exactly what The Candy Man and Reverend Marcus did to him. The Colonel is so grateful that when Ourlivia slips up and says she works for “the FBI,” Broyles notes her mistake but gives her a pass, saying, “I won’t forget what you did here.”
Outside of the Reverend reveal, there’s not much to The Candy Man case. But the look of the villain himself is slick and shocking—especially in the opening scene in Max’s room—as are the trappings of his crime, like the discarded baby dolls around his apartment and our old favorite Burlap Bear Goes To The Woods on Max’s wall. And there are echoes of Ourlivia’s situation in the Reverend stalking Chris, saying, “God wants me to find you,” and, “You gave so much to heal others.” You can almost hear Walternate saying that to our heroine, just before he uses her up and leaves her to rot. And if Ourlivia does manage to escape Earth-2 and make it home, I bet she’ll be haunted by what Colonel Broyles says about his son: “When I got him back, he wasn’t my little boy anymore.”
But that doesn’t happen this week, even though I was fully expecting it to. I thought I had the ending of “Abducted” all mapped out: Broyles would pay back Olivia right away by helping her sneak into the lab, and Olivia would cross back over, perhaps to find herself eye-to-eye with Fauxlivia, who I guessed would be tipped off by Walternate that her double was on her way. And that would’ve been fairly awesome, if the episode had gone that way.
Instead, Walternate yanks Olivia out of the tank before she can fully cross over, but not before she can beg a cleaning woman to call Peter, and tell him that she’s trapped on Earth-2. So now we have an even more complicated situation. On Earth-2, Olivia’s being held by Walternate but has an unexpected ally on the inside in Colonel Broyles (who previously didn’t trust her because of where she’s from, but now sees that E1ers aren’t all bad). And on Earth-1, Peter now knows that he’s literally sleeping with “the enemy,” although the enemy in question may be having second thoughts about her mission.
The stakes have been raised. Your move, Earth-1.
- Some pertinent pop culture references in tonight’s episode, including Chris Broyles listening to an old episode of The Shadow (“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” indeed) and Peter and Fauxlivia watching Casablanca (which the latter has never seen, though she thinks it stars Ronald Reagan). When we come upon them watching the movie, Rick and Ilsa are snuggled up in their Paris flashback, and Rick’s asking her, “Who are you really and what were you before?” Good
- Every time there’s a Fringe Event, another church pops up. Earth-2 is a weird place.
- I watched this episode on a digital screener, so the image was small and the sound muted, and I couldn’t see or hear as much as I would’ve liked. I’ll leave it to you all to note the cool Earth-2 stuff I missed. (I did catch the line on the radio about “two of the three major parties” though.)
- I never fully understood why Olivia couldn’t just stay late in the office and sneak into the lab after everybody had left, but I’m sure I just missed a key line of dialogue. I full expect you guys to enlighten me—perhaps by writing something like, “I can’t believe this idiot gets paid to watch TV and he doesn’t even pay attention.”
- Fringe is off next week for the holidays; see y’all in December. (I’ve got access to a digital screener for that one, too. I hear it’s a good one.)