Fringe Observations: 3.05 Amber 31422

Welcome to Fringe Observations: the comprehensive clues and eastereggs round-up for episode 3.05 “Amber 31422”.

We dive deep into the mythology, symbolism and resonating factors to explore the meaning and unlock the interconnected mystery of Fringe.

Memory Brain

The brain scans serve as a nice metaphor describing the internal duality-crisis that Olivia is experiencing, and the general parallel universe theme.

The brain also represents memory – which as we’ll see holds major value in the episode’s primary message.


Speaking of twins, the Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep? episode clue for this episode could well be the word ‘TWINS’ on Astrid’s magazine cover.

Break The System

Olivia takes the red pill.

As I’m sure you know, in The Matrix Morpheus offers Neo two choices – the blissful ignorance of the blue pill and the potentially painful truth that comes with the red pill.

Olivia thinks she taking the red pill because she wants to get rid of Projection Peter who is gnawing away at her, telling her that her reality is false. But internally and thematically what Olivia seeks is not ignorance, but truth.

Subconsciously she wants to go home – so much so that she instinctively puts on a blue shirt:

As we know, blue is the thematic color for the ‘Over Here’ universe – Olivia’s true home. This brings Olivia’s internal conflict to the surface – a part of her wants to just get on with her life, but she’s projecting another message entirely. Depending upon your perspective, the red and the blue could be argued to switch meaning.

We could also use this concept to once again examine whether one reality is truly more real than the other. Have the creators already told us through the colors they’ve assigned the respective universes? It’s certainly possible – but right now all Olivia wants to do is to resolve the feeling that something is not quite right with her world.  ‘Home’, real or echo, is where the heart is.

By the end of the episode we discover the message behind Olivia choosing the red pill. The answer is that in order to go home (blue), Olivia needs to embrace the truth (red). Again, we have balance – her subconscious projecting that search.

Stuck on Goo

neutrality of amber

As we discovered last season, the alternate universe use a specially formulated toxin called ‘Amber 31422’ to contain the anomalies caused by tears in the fabric of their universe. This is a callback to the amber toxin used by Matthew Ziegler in episode 1.03 “The Ghost Network”.

Nature demands balance, so it’s only to be expected that such parallels exist. But whereas Over There the amber is used for containment, Over Here we’ve only seen it used as a weapon. Amber is neutral. Man isn’t.

This amber also has significance in describing Olivia’s internal state of being trapped in the alternate universe, while referencing the amberized mosquito in the movie Jurassic Park.

In the movie, DNA from mosquitoes that sucked dinosaur blood before they were preserved in amber were used to recreate (or clone) dinosaurs. We can see a similar thing happening with Olivia, in terms of her spiritual ‘rebirth’ and the possibility that Walternate might use her Cortexiphan to recreate soldiers with her ability to travel safely between worlds.

“The Ghost Network” holds another parallel. The episode featured Roy McComb, who heard voices in his head (aka the ‘ghost network’) due to experiments performed on him years earlier by Walter. Olivia has her own voice in her head (Projection Peter), in part due to her childhood experiments by Walter and William Bell. While projection Peter represents her subconscious (or real self), it’s likely that her Cortexiphan enables  it to manifest so strongly during this highly emotional period.

Ghost Face Killer

While I very much doubt this was the intention behind this visual, it did remind me of the smoke face glyph. :)


The slanted light thematic has been present since the second season. We suspect that it is used to convey the presence of high levels of energy. That idea is preserved in this scene where amber has been used to contain rifts in the fabric of the universe.

Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Lincoln attributes the quote, “The stuff that dreams are made of,” to Cary Grant and not Humphrey Bogart. Chalk this up to another difference between the two worlds.

It’s in the 1941 movie The Maltese Falcon that Bogart’s character utters the famous line:

We can assume that Over There, Cary Grant starred in the movie instead.

It’s also interesting to see that the writers haven’t wasted an opportunity to incorporate another dream reference into our subconscious minds.

October 17th, 1989

As per the information video, in 1989 isolated tears in the fabric of the alternate universe began to increase in frequency, creating micro-black holes. Walternate mentions that they first used amber to contain such anomalies on October 17th, 1989 – a date which corresponds to the Loma Prieta earthquake ‘Over Here’.

The suggestion is that the earthquake Over Here is linked to a devastating black hole Over There. Another reminder that the two universes do not operate in a vacuum – as we’ve seen on countless occasions, nature seeks balance. The interesting thing is that Harvard Yard was hit Over There on that date (and not the San Francisco Bay area) – nature seeks balance..where it can.

This event is also interesting because it was the one in which Christine Hollis’ parents were killed when she was just a little girl. Christine is the girl that our Observer friend August ‘developed feelings for’.

Door To His Heart

Notice how Walternate frames the picture of himself and young Peter with his hands, as though creating a kind of doorway. Actually, by mentally rotating the image it reminds me of the door that Walter used to steal Peter. Intentional or otherwise, I don’t think it holds any less power.

(Then there’s this archway)

Wall Walk

Another parallel – both universes have discovered how to pass through solid matter by using harmonic vibrations. Joshua ‘Over There’ and Mitchell ‘Loeb Over’ Here (back in episode 1.10 “Safe”). Man-made breaches to both sides of the fabric.

Am I In Heaven?

The wakeful-haze thematic is one that has been used frequently throughout Fringestory. It seems to represent the blurry interim between dreams and reality (or life and death, etc), and is an effective way to help transition the audience through the eyes of the character. Above are some examples of its use.

Silence In The Flybry

Either Olivia was really lucky, or her CortexiPOWA! enabled her to hear the bomb.

When she returned from her other side meeting with William Bell, she displayed heightened hearing – a consequence of her childhood trials and the trauma from the crude method of travel used to return her home. It’s possible her ability cranked into gear the moment Charlnate mentioned ‘walking through walls’ – something familiar to Olivia from her universe. Another sign of her mind’s internal protection system while leaving us room to once again speculate just how ‘constructed’ Olivia’s journey is.

It’s also worth noting that Lincoln Lee wasn’t too slow on the bomb uptake either. Does he just trust Olivia’s judgement, or is his own hearing really..super?

The Truth Behind The Curtain

Olivia continues to deny her true nature and takes more red pills..

But all around her is blue..

And the curtain to the other side is beginning to open. Peek-a-boo!

Bra & Panties Tank™: What Dreams May Come

Olivia’s sacrifice dip into the isolation tank is obviously a strong callback to her trials in the Bra & Panties Tank™ in episodes: Pilot, The Dreamscape and The Transformation. Over Here, she primarily used to tank to navigate the subconscious memories of former partner John Scott via drug-induced dreamscapes.

Our hopes of seeing this method of subconscious travel being adapted for travel between universes are now realized. But as the thematical bridge between dreams and reality draws ever-closer, is Olivia heading back to reality, or back to the dream?

The scene also shares a resemblance to Olivia’s leap into the sea of her subconscious in the season 3 premiere – “Olivia”.

Water plays an important part in providing a womb-like environment for the body, regressing the mind back to a state of childhood – the time when it is most free and capable of accessing those special abilities that we each had for a time too brief.

Water often represents transformation and rebirth. As you may recall, it played an important visual role in Walter’s struggle to rebirth his own little Peter, and nature’s failed attempt to evoke the balance that she so craves.

As Olivia takes the plunge, she jokes, “it’s like riding a roller coaster on Coney island, right?”

Bless her, she knows not of what she speaks.

But in reality, it’s a subconscious reference to her happy day out with the littlest of Ellas in the season 2 episode “August”. Olivia’s emotional pull to go back home is being driven by the internal knowledge that it is her niece’s birthday. ‘Projection Peter’, as we call him, manifests in many different ways.

As Olivia pushes herself back to the surface of her true reality, Walternate voices his own preparedness to cross the line:

“Only those who risk going too far, find out how far they can go.”

These words underscore the stakes, while paralleling William Bell’s push for Walter to cross the line (“The Box”):

“Only those that risk going too far can possibly know how far they can go”

Once again we have intrinsic balance – the two universes proving that they travel in similar circles, with those within them caught in the echoes. Walternate’s resolve is fixed – he’ll do anything to see through his objective. Walter’s mettle is less clear at this stage. He has his Prometheus (Massive Dynamic), but does he finally have the wisdom to apply himself towards a more positive outcome? Don’t hold your breath.

Girl Gone

Olivia travels back home to her universe. The suggestion here is that she physically travels home and doesn’t just glimpse over like she seemingly did in “The Road Not Taken”. (although even in that episode, there’s the slight suggestion that she may also have physically traveled during one of her glimpses). The static on the monitor, and the overall presentation of the scene, seems to imply that Olivia’s momentary journey home was physical and not just mental.

Olivia ends up in a gift shop because it is located on Liberty Island – the exact same spot where Walternate’s research facility is located in the alternate universe – makes sense. But why a gift shop?

The answer – because it is Ella’s birthday and Olivia’s subconsciously knows this – she badly, madly, wants to get Ella a gift for her birthday.

The convenience and coincidence of which is eradicated by remembering that much of what we see in this show is Olivia’s journey. Are her worlds self-constructed ones? The further down the rabbit hole we go, the more possible this becomes. But even leaving that idea aside, listening to our internal function often gets us to where we need to be. Olivia listened. Olivia got there.

The snow globe not only represents the gift that Olivia would have possibly picked out for Ella, the falling snow globe also symbolises the Story Beast that is the potential destruction of one, possibly two universes. It’s a callback to Nina’s crazy prop demonstration from “Momentum Deferred”.

The above image adds a third layer to the symbolism. When I look at that I see the Multiverse in all of her glory, the choices – the idea that somewhere out there, there is another, and another, and another. It’s perspective-shifting and may be mindset that resolves our story. If we are just one of many – shouldn’t we want the best for our other selves? Walter and Walternate might do well to get themselves a snow globe. It’s what wishes are made of.

On the same token, we go from external to internal – the multiple universes, the doubles – they are representations of the battle of self. I keep saying this but I think it’s worth saying, Walternate is Walter and vice versa. The difference is the path that was taken. With this viewpoint, we can see that Walter hurt himself on every level (similar perspectives can be gleaned from the other doubles). He stole from himself and he’s seeking revenge on himself – he’s caught in the spiral. Which is why forgiveness and redemption isn’t just a one way street, it’s about acquiring the internal harmony that everyone seeks. For me, this is what the alternate reality story represents at its very core.

The One She Forgot

In remembering Ella’s birthday, Olivia forgets lunch with Mother Dunham. This was supposed to be an important day for the pair of them because it represents the death of R@chelnate, who died giving birth to Ellanate. Much like the auburn diamond scenario in “The Plateau”, Olivia is not from this world, so her other side feelings dictated.

Although Altlivia IS Olivia, just on a different road, she doesn’t share her experiences – certainly not as intimately as Walternate would have hoped.


Olivia’s personal experience of what it’s like to be switched causes Altstrid to look at things in another light – illustrating the limitations of the ‘Lookers’, while implying that emotional logic and statistical logic combined could lead to more accurate problem solving.

On The Right Track

Olivia wakes up on train tracks of her memory. Trains represent travel. She is underneath the Riverdale bank. Rivers represent consciousness. Both of which foreshadow the upcoming reclamation of Olivia’s identity.

It’s also interesting because Altlivia saved Peter from a train splattering not too long ago. Probably not intentional but stories seek balance too.

Amber Vs Water

The episode used amber and water against one another to supplement the primary themes of being trapped and freedom.

Observing The Observer

The Observer eyeballs Broylnate as he presides over the latest goings-on.

Driving Seat

Olivia is now in the driving seat – the feeling now too strong for her to ignore. She needs proof.


Olivia’s second dip in the Bra & Panties Tank™ sees her travel back home for the second time – and once again she shatters the snow globe (callback and possible foreshadowing). Now we get verification that the gift shop is located in the same spot as Walternate’s facility on the other side – the screencap above makes that clear.

Both worlds going about their business, both with their own scars. Look at them, poor fragile worlds. A reminder that we are all in this together. How can we afford to lose either?


Speaking of reminders, the episode did a  good job at conveying the human need to remember. We see it represented through Walternate remembering the day that Peter was kidnapped/the first amber quarantine. With Matthew’s experience of being stuck physically and mentally in amber. With Charlnate remembering that something was different. With the picture of the Raven (symbolizing memories). And, ultimately, with Olivia remembering who she is.

Memory has always been an important theme in Fringe, but it’s application here is particularly poignant as it shifts the trend of memories being painful (as we’ve often seen in the past on this show), and presents memory as a positive device – something that can manifest remarkable inner strength.

For me, there is sadness but also dignity in this scene as Olivia stands shoulder to shoulder with liberty. Finally free, our trapped ‘twin’ has rediscovered herself by holding on to her memories and using them to move forward. No wonder the world around her reflects what’s going on inside – this journey has made her more self-aware than she otherwise would have been, and you have to think that this time..make her stronger and wiser.

The Return

Upon returning from her journey of discovery, Olivia looks quite the part in her cape and ‘halo’. My interpretation is that she has leveled-up and gained a new sense of self and knowledge – having experienced both sides through her own eyes, she is now well placed to use wisdom to solve the problems of both worlds. The journey back, though, can be just as traumatic – and internal peace may not come without a sacrifice.

Other Clues

  • More underground symbolism with the Franklin Street Station quarantine.
  • Update: The next episode clue (6955) can be found outside the Franklin St. Station at the beginning of the episode. (Thanks to Xerophytes for the reminder).
  • Joshua and pal used the famous green, green, green, red when reviving Matthew from the amber.
  • Broyles tells Walternate that if he notices anything “unusual about Olivia he’ll let him know. He certainly recognizes something strange about her – will he let Walternate know?
  • As mentioned in my review, Walternate’s line about nature only recognizing balance and imbalance juxtaposes Walter’s line in 2.15 about there only being ‘one god in his Lab’. Something I didn’t mention in my review is that Walternate’s declaration also confirms our suspicions that he doesn’t see himself as being ‘evil’. Whether we agree with his methods or not, this is a crucial character detail going forward.
  • The Glyphs code for this episode spelled E V E N T – as in, What is The Event? 😮


  1. Anita says

    Wow, I can’t believe I didn’t make the connection that the lunch date with Mommy Dunham was in direct relation to Ella’s birthday – or at least the LACK of an Ella to have a birthday Over There!

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  2. says

    I liked Walternate’s speech to Broylnate about mother nature seeking balance. But his reasoning behind keeping people locked up in amber didn’t sit well with me. His excuse is that taking them out would weaken the structure of the amber. But as we saw when they cut out the twin, the amber aerosol was still active inside apparently and filled in the hole (while unfortunately trapping the helper….balance again?). So wouldn’t it stand to reason that with each person they cut out, the amber would just fill in again, thus maintaining the structural integrity of the whole? And if this is the case, is it just a matter of Walternate’s ignorance (which seems highly unlikely given that he’s a mega genious and all)? Or is it that he knows and has just decided not to release them because of the fallout and bad press? Seems kinda lame either way. You would think, with all the active protesting happening over there that someone would have done more study on the situation.

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    • BklynBetty says

      I imagine the ‘structural integrity’ is more of a concern deeper into the quarantine zone – and therefor closer to the actual anomaly. That Rose was caught on the outer edge, i think, made that less of an issue. As for freeing the rest of the ‘Outliers’ – they probably could do – but, then everyone would know that *all* of the amber victims were alive and that might be a political disaster as well as a threat to their world. Just my take.

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  3. T says

    I will say the static on the monitor does seem to indicate the the trip was physical however I thought the mother blaming her child for the breaking of the globe when Olivia was much closer to it than the kid seemed to indicate that it was not physical. Did the mother not see Olivia? Could only the child see her for some strange reason?

    I still need to re-watch but just some thoughts.

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    • mlj102 says

      I think you kind of missed the point of this scene. Olivia was there… the child saw her. But by the time the mother rounded the corner and was in a position where she would have been able to see Olivia, Olivia had already returned to the other side. So from her point of view, there was her son and a broken snowglobe. Conclusion? Son broke it. That was the irony of the whole scene: Olivia was there long enough to be seen, but she was gone before the mother could see her, so the mother thought the child had been responsible for breaking the snowglobe, when in reality, it was Olivia.

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  4. mlj102 says

    Once again, another great series of observations. It’s always great to read the things you take away from each episode.

    Since you didn’t mention it, I thought I’d point out the fantastic reflection moment when Olivia saw Projection Peter through the mirror in her locker. I think that is quite possibly my favorite reflection yet. I loved the imagery and symbolism of depicting the two Olivias (the one who thinks she’s from over there, and the one who is really from over here) along with the image of Peter, of course being seen only on the reflection side, showing how the image of Peter represents the other side of the mirror — over here. Further confirmation that the reflections are both intentional and significant and represent the two worlds.

    Also, I thought you would point out more of the blue lights. While not the classic blue flashes we’ve come to be familiar with, there were several moments where there was a distinct blue line across the screen, such as the light cast from Olivia’s flashlight at the station, or the light inside the vault with Joshua and Matthew at the end.

    As far as the glyphs go, I had also thought like you had pointed out about the smoke glyph being represented by the amber smoke (though I hadn’t gone as far as to see that particular scene where the accomplice became trapped in the amber — thanks for pointing that out). I also saw the apple in the gift store and thought that could be a subtle reference to the apple glyph.

    Another thing that seemed particularly significant to me was when Matthew was recovering and we saw him and Joshua interact for the first time and how Matthew was wearing white while Joshua was wearing black. This stood out to me as an intentional contrast showing the two brothers and how Matthew in white was the “good” and innocent brother, while Joshua in black had been the “bad” guilty brother.

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    • says

      Great points mlj – thanks for sharing!

      I’ll have to go back and look out for those blue lights. I seem to recall what you’re referring to though. I guess they didn’t impact on me enough to warrant an inclusion, but I’ll have to go back and see.

      The only thing I’d add is that I see ‘light’ and ‘dark’ a bit differently. I don’t believe that either represents “good” or “bad”. Rather, together they represent ‘balance’ – and I think (or I’d like to) that such subtlety may have been the intention there.

      I can certainly see what you’re saying though – Matthew did appear to be the more morally sound of the two twins by the fact that he wasn’t the bank robber. But Joshua kinda redeemed himself by the end – and who knows how they’d stack up when all is said and done – we’d really need to know them both better.

      I guess my perspective can be explained by the fact that neither the red or the blue is the ‘bad’ or ‘good’ universe, therefore I don’t believe that ‘white’ or ‘black’ (or dark and light) can be described as good or bad.

      This is basically what I would have said had I remembered to include the reference (it honestly slipped my mind and never returned until you mentioned it!), so thanks. :)

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  5. LMH says

    Just a quick observation that adds to the idea of similar paths and inherent connections between the experiences of alternates despite their obvious differences: Charlienate lost his first partner to an amber quarantine, while our Charlie lost his partner (when he was a cop in NY) in a shooting while they were breaking up a domestic disturbance. It seems that similar events occur that significantly mark our characters but they do so differently: Both Olivias experience tragedy, one in childhood and the other as an adult but the different environments of the two universes and the timing of the events lead to a different person as a result. I would argue that Walternate’s “experiment” on Altivia as a spy will probably greatly alter her outlook and attitude toward life just as Walter and Bell’s experiments changed Olivia’s forever. More parallels will probably be seen in Broyles and AltBroyles in terms of how the same high level of stress and dedication their jobs require divergently affected their family lives.
    These parallels should get rather interesting.

    Kind of random, but previously I’ve wanted to connect Lincoln Lee as being similar to Peter (e.g. jealously over Altivia’s boyfriend, being a good friend to Altivia/ourliv in crisis, and being a member of the Fringe team) and in this episode he displayed a level of intelligence not unlike Peter, but I think Lincoln is rather unique and does not share most of the personal qualities Peter has (such as a lack of diligence given that Lee has an advanced degree). I for one am very excited to see if we have our own Lincoln Lee Over Here, just as I wait for AltNina to appear.

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  6. SF says

    . “If we are just one of many — shouldn’t we want the best for our other selves? Walter and Walternate might do well to get themselves a snow globe. It’s what wishes are made of.

    On the same token, we go from external to internal — the multiple universes, the doubles — they are representations of the battle of self. I keep saying this but I think it’s worth saying, Walternate is Walter and vice versa. The difference is the path that was taken. ”

    Cool interpretation of the snow globe scene, Roco! I think I subconsciously knew but didn’t focus on all those globes and the worlds they represented. And of course Nina used them in S2! I think you are absolutely right that they represent all the alternate worlds possible, with all the variations of our essential characters.

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  7. William Bishop says

    This episode made me have two toughts:
    1- Maybe the Glyphs (E-V-E-N-T) symbolize Olivia remembering who she really is, or maybe her trips to Over Here, or something that is to come: the “storm” that William Bell said it’s to come, perhaps the war between worlds, or our team discovering what does the “Doomsday Machine” do.
    2- A question: Why Olivia broke the snow globes both times she crossed over?
    I can understand on the first time, she was confused, but on the second time why? Is this some type of “request” that the universe makes, for example: if Olivia crossed over a hundred times would she ALWAYS broke the globe (considering that it would be replaced)? It may be just an idea of the director, but I still find it strange.

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  8. niRty says

    Being a Matrix fan myself, I remember watching this epi and found it really epic, thing is, the “reference” is a bit more than just that, it’s the usage of the same array of resources.
    See, there’s semiotics, and the way it’s used in Fringe reminds me a lot of that on the Matrix. Certain colors imply certain things, as we’ve seen here, Red, Green and Blue are big in here. Those main colors can be associated mainly with three concepts; all of them regarding reality.
    Red is considered the danger, unknown, and sometimes untrue; not in a negative way, but in a “there is more to know about it” one.
    Green is mostly associated with fake, artificial and visual.
    Blue is ultimately truth, the one that you know deep within.
    Most of times, linking semiotics with the Matrix universe is done wrong, once you study semiotics out of it, and apply it to what you see, it’s easier to decode the subconscious message and understand things a bit more. To have a better understanding of the way color semiotics work storytelling-wise, I recommend you watch the movie Hero (starred by Jet Li), it helped me process what I’ve read ^.^
    Shapes, music and other things can work as semiotics, but as Fringe’s forte (or let’s better say, ‘more widely noticed use of semiotic storytelling’) is colors, that’s what I somewhat tried to vaguely put together a little explanation. I’m a bit rusty myself on this area ATM.

    But then again, to link Fringe and The Matrix is to talk about construction of reality, awareness, self growth, enlightenment, subjectivity, media/info manipulation, power, connection and ultimately broken hearts.
    I’ve got heaps to add, but I’ve had a long day at work and I don’t wanna write something that makes no sense (well, LESS sense than what I already wrote, makes :P).


    ps I really recommend you guys cop some Rolland Barthes, Umberto Eco (Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, specially), Jacques Derrida, John Locke, and as always, some good old Foucault, Mark Wolf, Marx, Baudrillard and Bakhtin. But then again I’m talking too much again… 😛 Useful link:

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