Fringe Suds Things Up with a Soapy Twist

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Duh, spoilers obviously lie ahead for those of you who haven't seen the most recent episode of Fringe.

On Friday's installment of As the Alternate Universe Turns, a three-megaton Jack-in-the-Box was dropped on us, and once its song stopped playing the box sprung open, Fauxlivia popped out, and slapped us in the face with a surprise the size of New Jersey. She's brought back a gift from the other universe! And by "gift," I mean "six-week old fetus that looks an awful lot like Joshua Jackson."

There were also bugs and the gradual destruction of dreamboat-Frank's adorable little heart, but in the light of the baby mama drama (we are contractually obligated to use that phrase at least once in stories about shocking pregnancies), I think we should focus our discussion on, well, the baby mama drama.

It was the sci-fi series' most soap-opera-ish twist in the series' most soap-opera-ish season to date. But that's not a diss, as no one can deny that a large part of this season's success has stemmed from the love debacle that is the isosceles Peter-Olivia-Fauxlivia triangle. That itself is very soapy, but it's been written in so well that we barely realize it. And hey, pretty much everyone has an evil twin, so it's not like Fringe hasn't been setting up a sci-fi soap this whole time. We're one eyepatch-wearing uncle short of Days of our Lives.

But this isn't one of those twists conceived just to get you to watch next episode; it's a carefully planned, believable plot point designed to tear Peter (and us) in half. We're naturally predisposed to rooting for Olivia in the Peter's heart sweepstakes. We grew up with her, watched their relationship slowly thaw, and we're very much home-teamers—or in this case, home-universers.

So why am I at the point where, even before newly discovered pregnancy, I wouldn't blame Peter if he ran off to the other side and shacked up with Fauxlivia? The groundwork has been laid for all of us to think this, and let's face it, the whole Olivia vs. Fauxlivia thing wouldn't work at all if there wasn't some part of us—no matter how small—that believes Peter and Fauxlivia should be together.

It's been meticulously set up by Anna Torv, who has managed to play two sides of the same coin brilliantly. We like Fauxlivia because she's a likable person. She smiles. She jokes around with her co-workers. Her emotions explain her reactions. That's the same reason Peter likes her. Olivia, meanwhile, is a rainy day. She broods, she's emotionally handicapped, and she's much less comfortable in her own skin. I'm very impressed that the writers have felt no need to rush Olivia back to being a favorite. They're intentionally keeping Olivia in our dog houses to sell the possibility that Peter will jump ship, and adding a baby to the mix only sells it to us more.

In a conference call last week with Fringe showrunners Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman, the pair addressed the pregnancy and said that more info would reach our universe very soon. But they promised that the repercussions would "not unfold in a way that is traditional," citing the fact that, in this case, The Other Woman isn't really another woman at all; she's another version of Olivia. S***storm imminent! This is pretty darned good television, folks.

Phew! Now for the bad news. Fringe dropped in the ratings again, notching a 1.4 in the adult demographic. When it first moved to Fridays, the show was in the high 1's, knocking on the door of a very respectable 2.0. Four weeks later, it's all the way down to a 1.4—not good. However, Wyman did say that Fox would be happy with anything in the 1.2-1.4 range. We'll see.

Extra tidbits:
... I'm still waiting on some more explanation of Peter's shapeshifter killing spree, the whole "Peter is going to the dark side" thing we saw in "Reciprocity." Just wonderin'.

... Carrying the grandchild of the Secretary of Defense? That's one way to get a company car. Nice work, Fauxlivia!

... Bug lady: You were cute, but annoying.

... Alterna-Astrid: You are weird.

... Joan Chen, where have you been? The Fountain of Youth, apparently.

... Easter Egg! The second victim's car license plate read "APT 6B," which is a call-out to the next episode, titled "6B."

Question: Which side of the Peter-tug-of-war are you on—Olivia's or Fauxlivia's? It's okay to say Fauxlivia. I did.

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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