Fringe Rewatch – 1.13 The Transformation

The Transformation - Rewatch

Synopsis: When the Fringe Division delves into another bizarre occurrence aboard an international jumbo jet, freakish remains are discovered at the crash site. Memories tip the team toward some promising leads, but the bigger picture and mysterious threat eludes them. With limited options and insufficient intelligence, Olivia and Peter go undercover.

Below the jump I share my new observations and perspectives, and take a quick look at the unresolved and closed mysteries from “The Transformation”.

New Observations & Perspectives

Dosed1.) Prior to transforming into a beast, Marshall Bowman’s notes went something along the lines of; “avoiding capture is imperative”. Since he was working alongside John Scott, this possibly explains why John tried to run Olivia off the road in the pilot.

2.) I always thought that the old woman’s Old Wives Tale about putting keys on your back to remedy a bleeding nose, seemed too ominous not to have carried weight. In retrospect this  clearly foreshadowed the fact that Bowman had an encryption key embedded in his hand.

3.) Loved, loved, loved the air stewards! “We have a taser in the cockpit which I will use on you if you don’t calm down”. Little did they know Sonic doesn’t take well to threats.

4.) Olivia (and Rachel’s) mom was mentioned in this episode. Everyone talks about Peter’s father(s), but I’d also like to find out more about Olivia’s mom. Interesting that Rachel thought the engagement ring belonged to their mother – why would Olivia have it if that was the case? Have we had reference of their mom being alive?

5.) I wonder whether the blue lights will become a marker for whenever Olivia (from either reality) uses her powers in future seasons? As I’ve mentioned extensively on this blog, the blue lights are present whenever someone (in most cases Olivia) is tapping into memories, observing dreams or ‘crossing over’. They have become a nice thematic element for the show, and to my mind this was the episode where they became way more than a subtle clue.

6.) Walter foreshadowed the existence of alternate Peter’s when he mentioned “twins” during his “one half nipple rule” explanation. He also looked rather sheepish, almost as if something – a memory, perhaps – ‘clicked’ inside his head..or perhaps he was just embarrassed at Peter’s disapproval?

7.) As I’ve mentioned in previous rewatch entries, I find it eye-opening at just how cold-hearted Olivia can be when in pursuit of answers. There has also been some opinionated debate about this in the comments, which has raised some interesting points on Olivia’s humanity (on both sides of the coin). There was another such moment in this episode when she prevented Walter from treating Hicks’. Olivia’s response was brutal: – “you want help, I want answers!”. Yikes Olivia..yikes.

8.) Nina tells Olivia that it wasn’t her decision to keep the truth about John from her. That would mean it was Phillip Broyles’ decision, right? Or perhaps William Bell? In my opinion it would make more sense if it were Phillip – but not because he wanted to keep Olivia in the dark. On the contrary, I suspect that he wanted to protect the intrepid agent because, as Nina revealed, prior to the events in this episode they believed that  John was part of the bio-terrorist cell. As we’ve come to learn, Phillip is in the business of protecting all of his agents.

9.) Olivia’s reaction when Nina informed her that John Scott was indeed a traitor, was amazing to watch. She was stricken with grief, her suspicions (at this stage) confirmed, and yet after allowing herself a few seconds (and I mean a only a few), her focus immediately turned to the plane load of people murdered. Once again we see the duality in Olivia’s humanity. She really is pretty darn selfless, even though her methods sometimes put Peter’s to shame!

10.) After watching this episode again, I think I’m going to settle on my opinion that John could ‘see’ Olivia because that part of his consciousness was basically experiencing waking dreams. Her ability probably helped – if she’s cortexiphaned, presumably the part of John that was in her mind shared that enhancement. It’s probably worth remembering that Walter believed John interacting with her was impossible BEFORE he realised that Olivia was part of William Bell’s clinical trials. Having Cortexiphan in your spine changes everything, in my opinion.

11.) In the “Safe” rewatch post, I speculated that Nina was in a “race against highly motivated individuals” in the form of David Jones and his breakaway ZFT faction. It made sense to me at the time, since Jones’ escape coincided with Nina’s anxiety. But in this episode it seems as though she was referring to Conrad?

In Transformation (more than most of the episodes), it strikes me that Massive Dynamic see themselves as guardians (or ‘policemen’) of our world – which makes me wonder what our chief ‘guardian’ is doing over on the other side?

You do have to stop and think whether the world is safer with a ruling organisation, who are above the law, and with fingers in both ‘pies’, as it were. No wonder the Observer is here – someone has to keep the multiverse in check! Or, how about letting the world in on this multiple reality secret so that we can have some democracy? Perhaps democracy would soon turn into anarchy? Hmm..

12.) This goes for the season in general, but I get the distinct impression that Charlie can’t stand Peter. It makes sense – Peter’s a criminal who has conveniently found himself on the right side of the law without having to work for it. But perhaps there’s more to his dislike of the younger Bishop?

13.) Now that we know what John was working against, perhaps it puts some of his previous actions in perspective? Like murdering that dude in Olivia’s 1.09 dreamscape, for instance. Sure, murder is wrong, but Olivia has killed plenty of people and no-one really questions her allegiance.  We also saw what people like Conrad are capable of doing – perhaps the Scotty-boy was the lesser of two evils? I’m not excusing John, but we’re dealing with some heavy shades of gray.

14.) John’s final words to Olivia: “I know we wont be together, not really. Maybe I wont know the difference?”. Although Olivia found resolution in this episode, I suspect that a part of John’s consciousness still lives on – dead or alive, reality is relative..”life is but a dream”, as they say.

Unresolved Mysteries

1.) I have my theories (above), but we don’t get official confirmation as to why John was able to see Olivia when she visited his memories.

Closed Mysteries

Dunham and I have matching hats.1.) As mentioned in previous rewatch posts, but confirmed in this episode, John Scott was working for NSA – secret government task force. This is also the reason why John couldn’t tell Olivia the truth. (Bowman’s notes suggested that capture was not an option, so, personally I have no reason to doubt John’s version of events).

2.) Marshall Bowman (and Daniel Hick’s, although he was eventually cured) was dosed with a designer virus that re-wrote his DNA, transforming him into a beast. They were dosed by Conrad – the same guy they, along with John, were trying to take down.

3.) The glass encryption disks found in the palms of Evelina Mendoza (The Ghost Network), Marshall Bowman, Daniel Hicks and John Scott were data storage devices, used to transport information (presumably on these “pattern” groups).

4.) Massive Dynamic kept John Scott in a suspended state because they needed information from the disk, which self destructs when the host dies. (I need to get one of those).

Best Performer: Anna Torv

Best Moment: The opening sequence on the plane – one of the best openers.

Retrospective Rating: 7.5/10

You can find our original Transformation articles here.

Next Episode Rewatch: Ability. This episode can be viewed for free on the Fox Fringe player, or on Hulu (also free) – US restrictions.


  1. mlj102 says

    Wow — where to begin? I have lots to say in response to your observations!

    Okay, first off: “Dunham and I have matching hats” seriously made me laugh so hard! Honestly, I think that’s your best one yet — which is really saying something because you’ve had many good ones! Keep it up.

    I’ll talk more about John Scott later, but in response to your theory about what Bowman wrote about avoiding capture being imperative and how that could explain why John tried to run Olivia off the road, I just don’t think so. I mean, really, I think it would depend on who was trying to capture you. If it’s the bad guys you’re trying to capture or take down, then yes, avoid capture at all costs. But it’s the woman you love who works for the FBI — another government organization — I just don’t think that situation would require such drastic measures. Or look at Hicks — he essentially got captured by the FBI, but he didn’t try to kill any of them or take drastic measures to avoid being caught. He even ultimately cooperated and gave them the information they needed. Why couldn’t John have done something similar? I mean, maybe you’re right, but I think that if that is the case, it’s rather over the top.

    I, too, am anxious to learn more about Olivia’s mother. From what I remember, we don’t ever hear about her except in The Cure when Olivia tells Peter about how her step-father abused her mother. My guess is that her mother is dead — it would explain why Rachel would think Olivia had their mother’s ring (things like that usually go to the oldest daughter after the mother dies) and it would explain why we haven’t heard much of her and why Rachel and Olivia are so close — they don’t have any other close relatives to turn to. If that is the case, it will be interesting to find out the circumstances surrounding her death.

    You just had to bring up the cold-hearted thing again, didn’t you? I thought we wouldn’t revisit that one until The Road Not Taken. Well, I am prepared to continue to defend Olivia in that aspect. Don’t get me wrong, I know Olivia’s not perfect and such — I just wouldn’t go so far as to call it “cold-hearted” — that just sounds so harsh. Yes, Olivia’s very dedicated in her pursuit of the truth. But she tries the standard, gentle methods, and the people just don’t cooperate. I mean, look at Hicks before he started showing symptoms — that guy was being as cool as anything and wasn’t going to give up anything. Maybe I’m just cold-hearted, but with that kind of attitude, he kind of asked for it. Olivia could see that he wasn’t going to be honest with them, so when she saw the opportunity to get some genuine answers, she took advantage of it. Besides all that, Olivia’s not the only one to go to extreme measures in order to get answers — just look at Peter. In the pilot, he pretty much crushed Steig’s hand in order to get some answers. Or how about in Safe where he used the guys radiation poisoning to his advantage? He tormented the poor guy by describing the symptoms he was going to experience, got the answers he needed, then walked out on him, giving no indication that he was going to get treatment. I don’t see how that’s any different. I just think that people in that line of work sometimes have to use unconventional means in order to get answers, but that doesn’t make them cold-hearted. (I hope that didn’t come across bitter or angry in any way — I’m not trying to cause problems, just explaining my point of view. Certainly everyone’s entitled to their opinion.)

    I found it interesting that you pointed out that Broyles likely didn’t want to let Olivia know about John because he was protecting her — I had always viewed it as evidence on the side of Broyles possibly not being all he claimed to be and continuing to hold back important information from Olivia — but I can definitely see what you’re saying, and I like that perspective. It’s neat to see how Broyles stands up for Olivia and is looking out for her. I also noticed that when Nina mentioned that evidence indicated John as being part of a bioterrorist cell, even she stepped out of her typically indifferent, calm, composed way of handling things, and seemed hesitant in delivering the news, as though she was being careful and was concerned for how the news would affect Olivia. I thought that was neat.

    I like the thought of Massive Dynamic considering themselves to be protectors or guardians of the world — that definitely makes sense.

    Regarding Charlie and Peter, I hadn’t noticed that before, but I see what you mean. Perhaps it’s simply because Charlie hasn’t had the opportunity to work with Peter much, so he hasn’t had a chance to really get a feel for what he’s like. That, combined with what you said, could explain it. Also, it could be that he’s trying to protect Olivia — he saw how much it hurt her when John betrayed her, and maybe with a shady character like Peter, he’s worried it’s going to happen again. I also get the impression that Charlie, while a loyal friend, isn’t quite as non judgmental and quick to accept people as Olivia is. Maybe it just takes more time for him to warm up to certain people…

    Hmmm… I don’t quite agree that the times when Olivia has had to kill people and the times when John has killed people are the same things. When Olivia has had to, it was clearly in the line of duty, and as the last possible option. And she seems to always feel bad afterwards — to at least show some amount of remorse. But John? He might’ve known that the people he was going to kill were bad guys, but there was no warning. He didn’t try to apprehend them peaceably or to arrest them — just out of the blue pulls out a knife and stabs them. And then walks away passively. Like it was no big deal. I mean, just because he was working undercover for the NSA doesn’t give him the freedom to go around killing people at any given moment. Isn’t he still obligated to try other methods first? There’s just something about the looks John has just seems evil to me. When he tried to run Olivia off the road, he gave her this look that seemed to be pure evil. If he was doing it out of some sort of necessity, I still would’ve expected him to show some sort of concern or regret — but there was none of that. And it was possible that he would’ve killed her! But it didn’t look like he would’ve even cared if that had happened. I mean, talk about cold-hearted! But Olivia, on the other hand, managed to succeed at stopping John, but rather than feeling triumphant, it was obvious that she was still concerned for him, even though he’d tried to kill her! Sure, he could be some innocent undercover agent doing what he felt was best in a situation, but I’m going to need more proof before I’m willing to believe that. I agree — definite shades of gray here!

    Are we sure that Bowman and Hicks were dosed by Conrad? If Conrad were responsible for that, I imagine he would’ve been more cautious before walking into that hotel…

    Okay, moving on to more thoughts I had:

    Let’s just get this out of the way: regarding John. As I mentioned before, I just don’t buy it. I’m more with Peter on this one, where he mentions that the perfect alibi is one that you can’t confirm — it’s just all way too convenient. And that doesn’t sit right with me. I mean, how perfect is it that everything he did can suddenly be explained with the convenient, yet unverifiable, fact that he was a secret NSA agent? I’m going to need more than just his word and the fact that Hicks ultimately cooperated with them like Dream John said he would. Even with the things he showed her in the dreamstate, it’s almost as if he showed her the kinds of things he wanted her to see. However it was that John was able to see her and interact with her and take control of things, it seems like it would’ve been easy for him to pick out any old memory or situation and make it support his claim in order to convince her. I can’t just take John at his word after seeing the things he did. I am willing to say that perhaps he thought he was doing good — much like Loeb, as cruel and evil as he was — believed he was working for the greater good. But that doesn’t mean that I think he redeemed himself and is a good guy and came out on the right side and all. And, ultimately, I think that Olivia was just too personally involved in this situation to come to a clear, unbiased conclusion about it all. Like you mentioned, she was definitely hurt when Nina “confirmed” that John was a bioterrorist. And we also saw it in the scene with Rachel at the beginning — John’s betrayal deeply affected her. And I think she was so desperate to believe him and to believe that he didn’t betray her and he was a good guy and she hadn’t been deceived and all, that she accepted it more willingly than perhaps she should have. I’m glad that she found a certain sort of peace in this episode and that she was able to lay all those hurt, negative feelings to rest and have closure and such. I just worry how much worse it will be if it’s ultimately proven that he was working with Loeb or Jones or another similar group.

    I’m also curious as to just what “evidence” Nina was able to recover from the disc that indicated John was a bioterrorist. We never really find out the specifics of what the disc contained. But I imagine that a group like Massive Dynamic wouldn’t make such a conclusion/accusation (and tell Olivia about it) unless they were fairly certain.

    Another thing that I thought about is why was there no mention of Conrad in the files that John had kept. He kept very specific, accurate records — he had mentioned big things such as ZFT, so why not Conrad? It just seems a little inconsistent to me.

    I think I mentioned this the last time Olivia was in the dreamstate, but I’m curious as to why Olivia first found herself in the hotel she and John went to. It just seems like every time Olivia enters the dreamstate, the first place she goes is really random and seems to have no significance and like it wasn’t an important memory. It’s only after she switches locations once that she ends up in a place with a memory that gives her information she needs. So is there a reason she goes to the places she goes to right at first? Is the hotel significant for some reason?

    I’ve also mentioned before that I don’t believe that John in the dreamstate is just a memory, but that it’s communication from another reality. This episode strengthened that idea in my mind. We saw two Johns — the one aiming at Conrad, and the one talking to Olivia — which seems to indicate that there was actually someone there talking to her — like it was more than just a memory. Also, I found it odd the way John flickered out near the end of the dream. What could have caused that? He seemed almost electronic — it sort of reminded me of when a phone connection starts to fade and you lose reception. I’m certainly interested to find out if we’ve heard the last of John Scott.

    I know some people have speculated that Charlie could turn out to be a traitor, but I really hope that, whatever happens with him, that’s not the case. I just really love the relationship he has with Olivia. You know, Olivia leads a rough life and she doesn’t have many friends or people she can trust or confide in. But she has a really special relationship with Charlie. And I think this episode did a great job at emphasizing that. When Olivia tells Charlie that they need to bring Hicks in for questioning, and she eventually admits that it’s because of her shared memories with John, Charlie’s reaction was so great. He obviously still had questions and all, but he believed her and was willing to take her word for it and move forward with it. Seriously, how many people would do that? And Olivia was obviously touched by it, too. I just think it’s so great that she has that relationship, that Charlie trusts her and is loyal to her and is willing to believe her, even when what she says sounds crazy. He was willing to act on what she said without even asking additional questions. To me, that’s what a true friend is.

    So, this might be nothing, but remember that strange pattern in The Dreamscape — on the walls, in the crayons, etc.? Well, I think I saw it again in this episode, when Olivia first wakes up in the hotel after she enters the dreamscape. She sits up on the bed, and behind her you see the window, and it seriously looks like a tiny version of that same pattern is reflected in the glass. Does anyone else see that? Like I said, I could be seeing things, but I thought I’d mention it.

    Reflections: This episode was full of reflections and I loved them! So it starts out with Bowman on the plane, watching himself in the bathroom mirror as he’s in the process of transforming. Then we see the reflection of the plane in the rear window of the car right before the plane crashes. After that, it cuts to Olivia’s apartment and a reflection of Ella and Olivia in the mirror as Ella is making herself beautiful. We later see a great reflection of Walter as he is watching to interrogation take place. Skip forward to the dreamstate and mirrors play a very important role there. Pretty much the first thing we see is the reflection of Olivia as she’s sitting on the bed while trying to figure out where she is. Then she looks out the window and there’s the reflection of the sign in the window. Then John starts looking in the mirror, and that’s when he notices Olivia. I thought it was very interesting that it was set up that way — that it was through the reflection in the mirror that he saw her.

    Favorite Moment: There are a lot of great moments in this episode, but I think my very favorite is the whole undercover scene with Olivia and Peter. I thought that whole scene was brilliant. I thought it was tense and then bringing in Conrad and having Olivia stalling for time just made it even more nerve-wracking. And to top it off, it’s at that moment that Hicks began to lose it. I just really loved seeing the way Peter and Olivia handled that situation and how they worked together on it. They were both pretty natural the whole time and were pretty convincing, in my opinion. They adapted to the unexpected twists and turns very well. I thought it was brilliant when Peter suddenly jumped up and started insisting on telling the truth. And Olivia didn’t miss a beat or do anything to give them away — she followed right along with what Peter was doing and I thought that was great! Just seeing them work together in that kind of a situation was really neat, in my opinion. We know they’re both experts in that kind of thing, so it was a real treat to watch them together.

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    • says

      Good point about Scott. I would normally agree with you, but there’s also the fact that he tried to run Olivia off the road, yet still turned out to be on the up and up – at least so far. I definitely sense that something was ‘off’ in his earlier actions (although it possibly has something to do with the writers changing their minds about the character?), but at the same time we don’t know that he was trying to ‘kill’ Olivia. As for Hicks, he only co-operated once he started to transform – his resistence levels were very weak at that point. I think the writers just about get away with redeeming Scott under the premise that he was following orders by trying not to get caught. That said, it’s very much open to interpretation!

      True, “cold-hearted” is quite a harsh term, but so is Olivia when she wants something and others aren’t playing game. :) I wouldn’t say that Hicks “asked for it” – he was just doing what most people in his situation would do – he was being difficult, but Olivia was prepared to see him dead rather than treat him like a human-being and bide her time. Granted she didn’t have much time, but still, it says something about her character, imo. She knows where those pressure points are! I definitely agree that Peter can be just as..’determined’. I guess it’s less expected of Olivia as she’s an FBI agent who is a generally more sympathetic character than Peter. I really like Olivia, but rewatching season 1 has been quite an eye-opener in terms of her..aggression and lack of compassion at certain moments. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want her to be Mary Poppins 😀 I like that she has many sides to her character, the fact that she’s not 100% on the straight and narrow is far more realistic, but also makes for some interesting talking points.

      Good suggestion about Charlie being weary of Peter because he’s protective of Olivia – I hadn’t thought of that.

      I agree that Olivia shows a fair bit of remorse – but to be fair we haven’t seen Scott in his quiet moments after an incident like the one in 1.09. Sure, he killed the guy, but from what we can tell, he was on an undercover mission to stop the “bad guys” – he definitely has an ethical case to answer but what he’s doing is only one level up from what Olivia does, imo. I’m not saying it’s right – we’re beyond right and wrong in the normal sense, but Scott (I presume) had a license to kill people in order to do his job – he had more authority to take extreme preemptive measures than Olivia does, and I definitely don’t agree with it in ‘real terms’. But I don’t think he just went around killing people for the sake of it – we only got a snapshot of his character, and to be fair, we did see him hesitate when he had the chance to kill Conrad – so he was at least conscious of ‘getting the right man’.

      You make a good case, but I genuinely think that Scott seemed ‘evil’ because that’s how the creators asked Valley to play the character – with ambiguity and a hint of duplicity, which always allows for greater leg room later on in the season. You’re right though, we shouldn’t ignore those hints – I just feel that John Scott has been redeemed (in Olivia’s eyes) for a reason, I can’t see him turning out to have lied to Olivia post-death. Again, I could be wrong and I’ll hold my hands up if that’s the case.

      True, Bowman and Hicks may have been dosed by someone else – a previous buyer, perhaps?

      Interesting point about Olivia’s first steps into her dreamstates. I just think it’s a writing thing – a form of navigating Olivia and the viewers into her new world, if you will? I also think it could be related to ‘first times’ or special places relevant to both of them – both the restaurant and the motel had that in common.

      I definitely get what you mean regarding the ‘two John’s’. It does seem as though one was guiding her (alter-reality John?), whilst the other one was part of the actual memory. Whilst this is possible, I think it’s is more a way of telling the story – memories are complicated at the best of times, so I imagine that the writers used this technique to illustrate the story to us, almost like a comic book, if that makes sense. Since Olivia is revisiting a memory, her perspective changes depending upon John’s memory and the parts he wants her to see. When he’s pointing the gun at Conrad, I see this as him remembering those specific events – whether Olivia actually saw this part (it might be for our benefit – illustrative purposes) is unknown. But I do get what you mean – there have been other instances where their interaction has raised questions, and I do think that this will come up again in future seasons (i.e. Walter’s certainty that John couldn’t ‘see’ her, etc) – whether the John we see in Olivia’s memories is infact a John from a parallel world, I’m not convinced yet.

      Good points all round!

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  2. Elliot says

    Once again, I seem to have shared consciousness with MLJ. My additions would be:
    1) (It’s endearing, really, your efforts to reassure Olivia that John was a good guy. I don’t buy it for the reasons above; it cuts no ice with me for John trying to hurt Olivia. Surely an FBI agent, even if not in love with his partner, would be able to find a way out of that situation without harming his partner, if he were a moral guy.)

    5.) The blue lights. (Blue lights also happen when Olivia isn’t isn’t even in the scene, and when things like the brain liquefaction happen. I tend to think they are artifacts of observation from…oh, the Observer, maybe.)

    10.) John could ’see’ Olivia because that part of his consciousness was basically experiencing waking dreams. (Sounds the most likely.)

    11.) Conrad/ZFT? (Why could Conrad not be part of ZFT? Its tentacles spread pretty far!)
    And one huge enormous blooper—–Hicks sprays blood, infectious blood, all over everyone in that interrogation room, and nobody bats an eye, and there is no follow up angst over possible infections.

    12.) Charlie & Peter (Hmm–I never got that impression at all. He wouldn’t have apologized to Peter while asking him to break the law if he felt that way.)

    13.) Excusing John from murder because the other guys were bad, probably. (Roco! Olivia shooting someone in self defense isn’t murder; John knifing someone in the guts to still a potential witness isn’t self defense. Tain’t no shades of gray there.)

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    • says

      “Charlie & Peter (Hmm–I never got that impression at all. He wouldn’t have apologized to Peter while asking him to break the law if he felt that way.)”

      I just sense a bit of weight between them – especially on Charlie’s side, but then Charlie doesn’t seem like the most affable person as it is.

      (Roco! Olivia shooting someone in self defense isn’t murder; John knifing someone in the guts to still a potential witness isn’t self defense. Tain’t no shades of gray there.)

      You’re very much right – there is a difference. However if we boil it down the difference is less – John was working for NSA, he killed people when he was certain that he had the right target (and after certain wheels were in motion) – we also saw him choose not to kill Conrad because he wasn’t 100% sure it was him. That’s got to count in his favor? Olivia kills people too – sometimes when it can be avoided, like with Samantha Loeb. Olivia could have got the heck out of Loeb Residence and called for back-up, instead she chose to play Matrix with Mrs Loeb, resulting in one of them getting a bullet through the head. I’m definitely on Team Olivia, but I have to question her reasons for doing things sometimes – not in a ‘John Scott’ kind of way, but a safety-first kind of way.

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  3. FlashWriter says


    I think it was the monster that burst out of the lavatory that put me off this episode and I can’t really explain why. Maybe it’s because, for the brief amount of time that it was on screen, it reminded me of “the monster of the week” on “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”. Well, the rewatch cured me of that. I couldn’t see the zipper, anyway…and besides, that monster wasn’t what this episode was about anyway.

    While “Transformation” is a good episode title, what it could have been titled is “Inside Olivia Dunham”. How ’bout “The Deconstruction of Olivia Dunham”? I think this episode, when taken in conjunction with those that followed, says so much about her and very much foreshadows what we find out in “Ability” and “Bad Dreams” in particular.

    First, I’d like to jump into the continuing conversation about Olivia being “cold”. I should have seen this all along, but Olivia Dunham isn’t cold at all. As we saw with John Scott, she has a tremendous capacity for love and with Ella, we see this incredible capacity to be a nurturer. In the “Inner Child” we see a capacity for tenderness and caring. My experience with cold women is that they’re cold all the way through. If they show any warmth at all, it usually distills down to a very good performance. With Olivia, what we see is what we get.

    …And what is that, exactly? Olivia is a DRIVEN woman. When she’s on a case she’s like a hyper-powered tank. When Walter sees a mystery, he gets high. When Olivia sees a crime she goes into hyper-tank mode. Whether or not this is a Cortexiphan enhanced characteristic I’m not sure. Note, however, every single time when there was a mention about her “coldness”, it was while she was on a case. (Except once, during the infamous Deli scene with Walter and the explanation for that was that she was still in hyper-tank mode from blowing Harris into chunks of burned meat.) What she does during interrogations is to pile drive the suspect into spilling something-usually something VERY important. You get Olivia Dunham on a case and she is driven to finding the cause, driven to find the criminal, driven to save the victims, driven to piece together the Pattern. Olivia does WHATEVER IT TAKES-NO MATTER WHAT. In this episode, even though she has been warned time and again that going into the tank was profoundly dangerous, there she was (in her BLACK bra-no just noting the color!) diving in anyway. Damn the torpedoes. What she learned about John and his motives was a side issue. She got the intel she needed to get Conrad. She dealt with the rest latter.

    Ah, yes. So, here we are in the tank…

    The motel room dream sequence means so much more to me now. It shows me that Olivia is definitely undergoing some kind of a transformation. We get to see Olivia then—a stunningly pretty woman, a woman with a LIGHTNESS about her in her dress and even in her hair color. Standing over the scene was Olivia now, starkly contrasted. (And why does she remind me of the Observer a little?) Dressed in black, her blonde hair now seems to be a darker gold color–she’s a woman who looks the same but is subtly far older, more experienced. Her view of the world has fundamentally changed. She’s a woman who is beginning to know in her gut that there is a level of craziness in the world far beyond what she could even imagine when she was that (…girl?) making out with John on the bed.

    “I just want it go back to before,” Olivia protested.

    “Dunham, I don’t think you can,” Broyles quietly, almost sadly replied.

    Prophetic words spoken by a man who seems to know way too much.


    I don’t know if I’m obsessing about this, but in this episode Olivia was wearing black almost exclusively. In the undercover hotel scene she was wearing so much black she could have been “the lady in black.” In the scene with Nina Sharp. Nina was also wearing black. Clearly the writers knew all about the “blacks and grays” very early and were telegraphing it on a very subtle level. My only question is why Nina is wearing the “Uniform”? She does it a lot. Hmm. What’s the standard dress at Massive Dynamic? And who’s the boss, you say?

    And now that we’re at the drug sale underground sequence let me throw in a few words about the incredible focus of Olivia Dunham. Enough has been said about how well she and Peter worked together. That was fantastic. But what hit me on the rewatch was that while Hicks started to come apart and Olivia’s source of intel was coming to a very noisy end (all being loudly played through her implanted transceiver), she has to stay on exactly the same level and try to answer Gavin’s questions like nothing is happening. Again, here we see Olivia Dunham driven to do whatever it takes.

    (A note about the way the virus containers looked. They were GLOWING—-blue. God, that looked lethal.)

    One last word about this scene. After the fight and now that Conrad is under arrest, Olivia leans over and whispers, “John Scott says hi.” Was this her way of bringing JS back into the picture and giving him partial credit for the bust? With all her other attributes, add loyalty (to those who have earned it, that is). But it seemed like the writers were giving a homage to “The Godfather”…remember? “Michael Corleone says hello.” Just a thought.

    Now it’s over and we have the second dream state sequence with John. It’s quiet and Olivia is standing at the end of a pier on an ice encrusted lake. In Olivia’s eyes John has been vindicated and so it must be with us. For whatever reason the writers want us to think John is really on the right side—Olivia’s side, our side. They want us to think well of him. Remember, as Astrid said, “You’re the best judge of character I’ve ever seen.” So, if Olivia’s happy with John then so am I.

    And it was such a wonderful, romantic scene. Quiet and beautiful with Michael’s music really superior. RIP, John Scott. The woman who is emotionally your wife has so very far to go and so much more work to do.

    As for me, I’m sorry, Olivia for not seeing you as you truly are. There are things that can be right in front of me and I just don’t see them. Damn, I can be so myopic at times.

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    • says

      “First, I’d like to jump into the continuing conversation about Olivia being “cold”. I should have seen this all along, but Olivia Dunham isn’t cold at all. As we saw with John Scott, she has a tremendous capacity for love and with Ella, we see this incredible capacity to be a nurturer. In the “Inner Child” we see a capacity for tenderness and caring. My experience with cold women is that they’re cold all the way through. If they show any warmth at all, it usually distills down to a very good performance. With Olivia, what we see is what we get.”

      Good points.

      I should say that by “cold” I don’t mean that she hasn’t got a heart, just that she can turn it off and on at will, albeit with great difficulty. The thing I like about Olivia is that she doesn’t really fit into any generalisations – she just has great capacity for pretty much everything. As you mention, she has a great deal of love witin her, and this contrasts well with her ‘on the case’ mentality.

      Actually, I’d imagine that she very much believes in the “greater good” line of thinking, which probably allows her to tap into her “cold” side when needs be.

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  4. mlj102 says

    Okay, okay; you make some good points, as well. I can certainly see where you’re coming from regarding John Scott. I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t get over how he was portrayed in the first half of the season. The way he appeared to betray Olivia was really heart wrenching and caused me to be rather protective of her. So I don’t buy his sudden, convenient alibi. I just need more before I’m fully convinced.

    And, for the record, I do believe that he did try to kill her in the car chase. I mean, how can he be trying to run her off the road at those kinds of speeds and not expect her to die? Even if it wasn’t his intention to kill her, he had to have known that, by doing what he was doing, it was a high probability that either she would die or he would. In this instance, Olivia managed to be the one to come out on top, but it easily could have turned out to be the other way around with Olivia as the one who was killed instead of John. I just don’t expect someone to do that to the person he supposedly loves, no matter what the situation.

    Also, you and FlashWriter both made mention of “if Olivia believes in John again, then that’s good enough for me”. FlashWriter referred to when Astrid told Olivia that Olivia’s “the best judge of character I’ve ever seen” and I completely agree with that. I even referred to it in the re-watch for The No-Brainer when I brought up how Olivia is slow to judge people until she has sufficient evidence to make a valid conclusion. I think Olivia has a remarkable ability for judging people and knowing who is trustworthy. But love is a strong emotion and will do funny things to you and will blind you to things that would normally be very apparent to you. And I believe that in this particular instance, that is what happened with Olivia. She was simply too close to the situation to make an accurate judgment as she normally would. It was easy to see how hurt she was by the whole situation with John and how much it seemed to bother her every day. I think she wanted to believe him and so when she got the smallest indication that he might’ve been on the right side after all, she jumped on it because it brought her peace of mind. I’m glad she was able to find peace and closure, I really am. But I worry how she will react if later events will provide concrete evidence that John was, once again, lying to her.

    Like you, I will be the first to admit that I was wrong if things turn out to prove that John was working on the right side all along. But at this point, I just don’t have enough evidence to believe it.

    FlashWriter: I agree, “driven” is a very good word to describe Olivia.

    Okay, I’m done. Truce?

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