Fringe Rewatch – 1.02 The Same Old Story

Rewatch - The Same Old Story

Synopsis “Our unlikely trio’s strange partnership begins as they investigate the mysterious death of a woman who conceives, carries to full-term and births a baby in the span of hours, and her baby who ages 80 years in a matter of minutes.

As the bizarre and seemingly unexplainable occurrences are explored, quirky Dr. Bishop runs extensive testing in the lab; his reluctant son Peter endures his new role as his father’s keeper; and Olivia turns to Massive Dynamic Chief Operating Officer Nina Sharp for assistance.

General Thoughts: If the pilot episode was about Olivia and her team passing “tests”, this episode was about making connections and putting the pieces together – “like a puzzle”. The title of the episode serves to illustrate the collision between Olivia’s past and present. Her world may have been turned upside down, but the same old stories are playing out – only now she is better equipped to solve them.

This episode retains the prize for being the most X-Filesque of all Fringe episodes. This disconnected me from the story somewhat, as did the score. I also felt that some of the scenes were a bit ‘clunky’.

Below I outline my New Observations and Perspectives, Unresolved Mysteries, Closed Mysteries and provide my Final Thoughts based on my rewatch of this episode.

New Observations & Perspectives

Phillip1.) Phillip Broyles seems to have extensive knowledge of Walter Bishop and his involvement in the Pattern, as evidenced during the ‘oversight committee’ meeting. This changes my perception of Broyles slightly – he seems even more knowing than I thought he was at this stage, with his p-p-p-poker face.

2.) According to Phillip, Nina Sharp only has “limited” clearance on all things Pattern. Funnily enough I always had the impression that she knew more than most about Pattern-related events. Maybe Phillip was just blowing his own trumpet to impress Olivia – what with the tug of war for her services?

3.) There were even more blue flares present in this episode than I originally remembered. All of them appeared during the Chris or Clause scenes. I’m sticking to my belief that the lights are indications of observation or travel.

Unresolved Mysteries

Peter1.) Peter’s Medical history. I’m tempted to put this in the “closed mysteries” section but although we know that Peter almost died in a frozen lake, had a rare strain of bird flu and was stolen/taken from another reality, I doubt we know all there is to know about the health of the boy Bishop. For one thing I’m still wondering how many Peter’s Walter has been through? Did he acquire just the one replacement..or have there been several who didn’t acclimatise? And why-o-why didn’t Olivia press Walter for more info! :)

2.) We never did find out what happened to Clause. Peter managed to shoot him in the leg but he still managed to escape and is never captured. This isn’t a major mystery but the poor man could be lying in a ditch somewhere bleeding to death.

3.) Nina tells Olivia that she has also lost people close to her. A rare moment of complete sincerity from Nina? Just like in the pilot, it could be argued that this is a loaded scene and Nina is referring to losing Olivia (I know, crackpot, right?). At any rate, we never get to find out about Nina’s loved one’s – she may have a robot arm but her aching heart is made of muscle and nanobots.

4.) Clause tells Chris that he only needs “one more” (pituitary gland). Why only one more? Was Clause on the verge of a growth hormone breakthrough or was he just trying to comfort his creepy son?

Closed Mysteries

Dream1.) Olivia’s dream with “Broyles” asking her “were you safe?”. It seems like an allusion to the idea that Olivia and John didn’t use protection during their last romp – leaving Olivia worried that she might be carrying John’s child, and making her more invested in protecting the women of Massachusetts from pituitary thieves.

2.) The final scene with the Christopher Penrose clones inside Massive Dynamic labelled chambers tells us who Clause was working for. What is not entirely clear however, is whether or not MD knew that Clause was holding back on them by keeping one of his “children” for himself.

Final Thoughts

All the horrorsAlthough this is still one of my least favourite Fringe episodes, it did have some gems in the way it foreshadowed future allegory. Walter tells Peter “I feel like I’ve been asleep for the last 17 years” – considering their crossed paths, this marries nicely with Olivia’s own ‘awakening’. She learns in “Bad Dreams” that she was put to ‘sleep’ several years ago, casting doubt on all of her experiences and the things she holds to be true.

This in turn adds context to the song referenced at the beginning and end of the episode – “row your boat”, which ends in the ominous words, “life is but a dream”. Dreams are often seen as subconscious messages – some offer guidance whilst others are not to be trusted. This is exactly the dilemma facing Olivia at the moment – she has been led into a dream-like ‘world’, she wants to go back but she can’t – not just because she’s seen too much, but because this perspective is actually turning out to offer more answers than the one she previously held. I doubt it would have been lost on her that after 12 years of Clause and Chris getting their pituitary on, it’s only now that she has been able to stop the ‘same old story’ from playing out.

AwwAt it’s core though, this episode reminded me very much of Midnight – not only because it was fairly ‘standalone’, but also with the idea that people will do ANYTHING for those they love. In Midnight we saw it with Nicholas Boone giving his wife his own spinal juice – in turn killing himself and knowingly facilitating her murderous (yet sexy) rampage. In TSOS, we have Clause Penrose who helps his son kill people so that he can stay alive. The motivating factor is love and the continuity it provides. Walter understands both men because he too has crossed unethical boundaries for his son (and perhaps also for himself), with scant regard for society. Love can be fairly selfish at times – it could be argued that we need to love as much as we need to be loved. Even if Peter was in a better place, would this have stopped Walter from trying to bring him back..would it have stopped him from replacing him with another? Who did Walter really do it for? I guess we will have to wait for ‘the powers that be’ to show us that episode – needless to say it will represent an important landmark in the history of Walter, Peter and the show itself.

Best Performance: Anna Torv

Favourite Moment: Walter admitting to Olivia that he has found it difficult to distinguish between “God’s domain and our own”. The resonance of that scene increases now that we have greater insight into the lengths Walter has gone to ‘retain’ his son.

Retrospective Rating: 6/10

Our original Easteregg observations from The Same Old Story can be found here.

Next Rewatch Episode: The Ghost Network – Thursday (ETA)


  1. Gillian says

    4.) Clause tells Chris that he only needs “one more” (pituitary gland). Why only one more? Was Clause on the verge of a growth hormone breakthrough or was he just trying to comfort his creepy son?

    Olivia say he killed 5 women the last time and then disappeared, so I assume he had got 4 pituitary glands and only needed one more to sustain him until the next time.

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    • says

      Nice catch, I missed that. Thanks!

      I wonder – was it ever stated why he needed to extract the pituitaries of living people?

      It would seem as though he needed the human growth hormone ‘fresh out of the oven’ so to speak, but I can’t recall any reasoning behind that being offered. Perhaps I’ll skip back to the Walter lab scenes to see if he mentions something.

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  2. mlj102 says

    Once again, I loved the recap – it’s nice to have something to look forward to over the long summer months.

    Regarding your comment about how many Peter’s did Walter go through, I tend to be of the opinion that it was only the one time that he ventured to bring back a Peter from another Universe. The way I see it, Walter seems genuinely bothered by what he did – seems to question if he should have done what he did. You can see it in the way he looks at Peter – he can’t look at him without remembering what he did and wondering if he was justified in doing so. He seems almost haunted by it, which says something considering we’re talking about Walter, the mad scientist who really doesn’t think twice about performing a variety of experiments on human subjects and such. I would imagine that if it was something he had done multiple times, it would have gotten to the point where it became standard and commonplace and no different from any other procedure he performed on a regular basis.

    You also asked why Penrose had told Christopher that he only needed one more. I’d always sort of figured Christopher’s need for pituitary glands went in some sort of cycle. Earlier in the episode, when Olivia was telling Peter about when she and John had investigated this case, she had mentioned that he would kill five young women over the course of a few days. From this, I got the impression that Christopher didn’t need to continually replenish his supply (unlike Valerie Boone, in Midnight, who constantly required more and more spinal fluid) but that he just needed five of them every once in a while. That said, if that is the case, I’m not sure why he only needed one more, because from what I can tell, Christopher had only had three victims this time around. So maybe there were two previous ones that the police hadn’t picked up on yet?

    You mentioned a time where Walter says that he feels like he’s been asleep for the past 17 years. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you might be mixing two quotes, one where Walter reminds Peter that he’d been in St. Claire’s for the last 17 years, and another where Olivia tells Peter that she feels like she’d been asleep for the last year, referring to John and how she feels like she didn’t see him for what he really was and now has to second guess everything that had happened between them. Either way, the concept is the same and I like how you pointed out the recurring imagery/symbolism of being asleep/dreams/reality. That does seem to be an ongoing theme in season one. In the Pilot, in attempt to convince Peter not to send him back to St. Claire’s, Walter says, “This experience… It woke me up again and you can’t put me back to sleep.” I thought that was pretty significant, considering how in this episode Olivia feels like she’s just been woken up, and then later in Bad Dreams Nick Lane tells Olivia that “Sometimes what we wake up, it can’t be put back to sleep.”

    A couple of other things that stood out to me:

    I’m really curious about why Nina chose to offer Olivia a job working at Massive Dynamic. It seems to me like that was a rather bold move on her point, considering she’d really barely even met Olivia. I wonder what her motivation was behind that offer? Was it simply because she could see Olivia’s potential and how she would be able to contribute to the success of the company, making it a very logical and smart business move, or was it something more? Perhaps it was because she didn’t want Olivia heading up the investigation into the Pattern and such because she had something to hide and she feared Olivia would be able to discover it?

    Also, I mentioned in the Pilot discussion about how I’ve been looking for occurrences of reflections in each episode. This episode had a really great one in the scene where Peter finds Walter in the closet. There’s this perfectly clear reflection of Walter in the mirror on the closet door, so that it literally looks like there are two of him. It had to be a deliberate thing and I thought it was pretty significant, so I figured I’d share.

    And, just in conclusion, my favorite scene/line in the episode was in the opening scene while Broyles is briefing the committee about Fringe Division and Nina asks why Broyles chose to recruit Olivia, “An FBI agent who had an illicit affair with her partner, a man who turned out to be a traitor.” Broyles responds with, “I was thinking that a woman who didn’t hesitate to follow the evidence and expose the man she loved at the cost of great personal pain and embarrassment must surely be worthy of our trust.” I just love this line because it is such a great, accurate description of Olivia – who she is and what motivates her. The way she reacted to developments in the Pilot was really significant. You can see how she is willing to pursue the truth at all costs and how that is what makes her successful in what she does. It’s a trait that really makes me love her character all the more.

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    • says

      You’re right, it does seem likely that Walter ‘only’ brought back the one Peter. His rhetoric in 1.20 suggested that it was just the one Peter that was “lost” to him. I still think it possible that he might have tried more than once to replace Peter – he hasn’t gathered all of his memories yet, but the one replacement does seem enough to drive this storyline for the moment.

      Like Gillian, nice catch on Christopher’s pituitary cycle. The episode just took on even more of a Tooms/X-Files feel.

      Do’h! Looks like got the quotes mixed up whilst working from my notes :) There does seem to be a lot of early references to the conscious and unconscious mind. The writers certainly knew where they were going with some of the overarching themes.

      Re: Nina – I have a sneaking suspicion that she’s known Olivia for a while. I’m assuming that she knows about most of Belly’s ‘test subjects’. I also have a feeling that Nina uses many of the ‘events’ in the first season to test how ready Olivia is for whatever plans they have for her. You’re right though, it was a bold move by Nina to offer her a job so early – I think she was testing Olivia’s resolve and her character. On the one-hand, working for MD would give Olivia greater access to the Pattern (among other things), but on the other-hand it wouldn’t be a very loyal move after just signing up to Fringe Division. I sense that Nina was quietly satisfied that Olivia opted to stick with Broyles for now – especially since Nina and Broyles have a fairly close working relationship involving shared resources. You also have a point in that perhaps Nina wanted to keep closer tabs on Olivia, who has a knack for shaping events without knowing it..

      The reflection was a great little moment (for some reason I forgot to mention it). I’m glad you brought it up because there’s another one coming up in the next episode :) I definitely agree that it was intentional – a subtle yet meaningful device illustrating multiple realities, but we could also read it to signify the internal conflict that still resides within Walter (and indeed many of the characters), perhaps?

      I too enjoyed Broyles’ defence of Olivia – it was a nice moment which crystallised both the character and others’ perception of her determination and commitment.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

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  3. Gil_Cdn says

    Tracking death toll #2:

    Here is the death count for ep.1-02 The Same Old Story:
    – Loraine Daisy Alcott (impreganted, die during childbirth) = 1
    – Stacy (girl at Dance Club, retrieve image from eye-ball) = 1
    – Christopher Penrose (Penrose’s clone,die of rapid growth) = 1

    Cumulative Death toll = 149 + 3 = 152

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  4. FlashWriter says

    This episode is hard to comment on beyond what has already been said. Just a few asides:

    In the scene when Olivia was talking to Charlie, I loved the line: “Mostly, I just want to take a shower from the inside out.” Great line and so illustrative of how she feels inside. Every now and again during the first season she says something that just made me want to reach out and give her a hug, and tell her it’s OK. Foolish impulse maybe, but there it is.

    In the external bench scene Peter showed his ability to calm and focus people. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but he brought Olivia back and smiling very quickly.

    Also, in the very early episodes we can see Anna’s freckles in the closeups. Man, those freckles make her look all the cuter! You can’t see them so much in the latter episodes, I know photography directors hate freckles because it makes it look like there’s something on the lens. But Anna…well…(sigh).

    And then, at the end when Walter was discussing the line between God and man, along with Peter’s medical history, I was hit with a crazy thought: What if Peter wasn’t stollen from the alterverse at all? What if all of that is a red herring? While there’s been much said about Walter bagging Peter and bringing him back, I don’t remember it ever being stated outright. What if Walter “grew” him, which may explain some of his comments during the episode (such as Peter’s eye color at birth–something I don’t think many men would notice in passing). Anyway, it’s just something that popped into my head during the last scene.

    Overall, my original viewing gave this episode about a 7 of 10. What’s been happening on these rewatches though, is that they all seem to end up being better than I originally thought. This one went up a solid point to an 8. I took off 2 points for it being a derivitive plotline.


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    • says

      “And then, at the end when Walter was discussing the line between God and man, along with Peter’s medical history, I was hit with a crazy thought: What if Peter wasn’t stollen from the alterverse at all? What if all of that is a red herring? While there’s been much said about Walter bagging Peter and bringing him back, I don’t remember it ever being stated outright. What if Walter “grew” him, which may explain some of his comments during the episode (such as Peter’s eye color at birth–something I don’t think many men would notice in passing). Anyway, it’s just something that popped into my head during the last scene.”

      I prefer that to the ‘clone’ theories, but I think the dialogue suggests that Peter is indeed from another reality – especially the dialogue from the finale, where Walter mentions taking something precious (that he had lost) from another reality and bringing it back with him:

      Walter talking to Peter in 1.20: “Around this time, something was lost to me, Peter. Something precious. I became convinced that if only I could cross over myself, then I could take from there what I had lost here”

      Then we have the clue that Peter and Walter’s memories not quite syncing up – seemingly because they both have slightly different experiences of parallel events, prior to Walter bringing Peter 2.0 over from this other world.

      I think this would also explain the eye-color, etc.

      I do expect there to be a lot more to this, but I don’t think it’s a red-herring. Just my opinion’s worth holding on to your line of thought.

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    • mlj102 says

      The tough thing about a show like Fringe is that it’s hard to know when to trust something that is revealed and when to be suspicious that it’s just a red herring. I think it’s easy to get to the point where you doubt or second guess anything that is revealed. That said, sure, the idea that Peter was taken from another universe certainly could be a red herring, but my opinion is that it is one of the things that we can actually take at face value.

      Like Roco said, the dialogue and the clues that we get all point to that being the case. It’s also a very big plot development — one that is big enough that it’s actually one of the fundamental pieces of the story, and I doubt they would be misleading on something that important. Another thing is time. If Walter had grown or cloned a second Peter, that would’ve taken time. He would have had no reason to start before his Peter had died (before he died, he would have been looking for a way to save his life, not replace it), so in 1985 he would have been just beginning trying to clone a person. I imagine it would’ve taken more time for him to actually successfully figure out how to do it. So all that considered, it would be suggesting that Peter is really nearly 10 years younger than he’s supposed to be, which just doesn’t make sense. The only way that wouldn’t be the case would be if Walter had been able to perfect the accelerated growth experiment, which he obviously hadn’t been able to do. I think it’s safe to say the writers are telling the truth when they are suggesting/implying that Peter is actually from another reality.

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  5. luvliv says

    I agree with the comments about this episode… It’s kind of a filler episode in my opinion. It’s really impressive that you could find that many little things. Trust me, that is REALLY impressive!! Flashwriter– I love the Anna freckles comment. It’s true though, they started hiding those & I really don’t understand why. Just like Gillian Anderson on X-Files. They hid hers and her beauty mark then closer to the end of the series they stopped. WEIRD… Anna is beautiful and I personally wish they would let her freckles shine!! OK sorry.. Roco, good job my friend and I need to induct you to the OG club!! :)

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  6. bookinist says

    Hi, me dear Fringe friends. Does anyone has any ideas why the ‘oversight committee’ meeting was taking place in the room with “pro patria et gloria” motto on the wall? And another guess – how many committee members were there? 7? Might it be connected with the “7” sign which is visible?

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