Review: 1.21 Unearthed



Welcome to the FB review of the special unaired episode of Fringe from season 1 – episode 1.21 Unearthed. In this review I present my honest opinions on both the good and bad aspects of the episode. I also take a look at the answers and unresolved mysteries, before sharing my thoughts on other aspects which may have been overlooked.

THE GOOD

  • Themes of faith and science, and how people on both sides reconcile with their beliefs when faced with the unexplained, resonated with me. So in that sense, I was intrigued by some of the episode’s subtext.
  • Though this wasn’t her most enjoyable adventure, I liked watching Olivia grapple with faith and seeing how it related to her past. The tidbit that her mother was a woman of faith, and that Olivia didn’t necessarily believe it did her any good, was interesting and gave me a more rounded understanding of Olivia – particularly with the denial of her own ability after disabling the bomb in Ability. Her reaction makes a bit more sense now. The funny thing is, I think that Olivia has a lot more faith than she realises – perhaps not religious faith, but faith nonetheless. I really hope we get to explore that some more.
  • The episode did a pretty good job of juggling the 3 main characters and giving each of them a worthwhile role to play in proceedings.
  • Lisa was pretty convincing. At one point I thought she was going to turn into the Hulk.

THE BAD

  • It was all a bit random. There was no real connection between Andrew Rusk and Lisa Donovan. I just found this aspect of the plot a bit disappointing because the chain of events lacked the poignancy (and/or explanation) needed to really make me buy into the story.
  • The episode wasn’t nearly as polished as it could have been. It was clear that Unearthed went through a less intensive editing process than usual episodes – several scenes should have been left on the cutting room floor, and some scenes looked as though they were only put through one take. I found this distracting, but not overly unbearable as I knew that  it was an unaired episode from season 1. I wonder whether casual viewers would have noticed?
  • Mrs Donovan. I’m not quite sure what it was but I didn’t buy her character. Her motivations and reactions seemed a bit all over the place. She also didn’t seem very grateful that her daughter had been brought back from the dead – I was expecting a lot more emotion and amazement there.
  • Lack of explanation and science. I’m not usually a stickler for scientific fact when watching Fringe (let’s face it, at least this show usually makes an effort to combine fantasy and plausibility), but there was a lack of explanation on several key elements. For example, I could have done with knowing more about the what caused Rusk’s radiation and the treatment he received, since it was this which set up the whole plot in the first place. I also felt that Rusk’s experimental drug was primed for a tie-in, or at least an allusion to Olivia’s own Cortexiphan treatments. But to top it off, we get a contrived resolution when Walter tells Mrs Donovan that Rusk’s consciousness has left her daughter forever..because, well, he thinks it has. WHAT!? :) He had no real reason to come to the conclusion that Rusk had ‘finished his business’, especially since he was wrong a few scenes earlier. It just seemed like a quick and convenient way to end the episode and get out of Dodge with a ribbon on top. And that for me is one of the show’s main weakness, but on a magnified level. Perhaps it would have come off better had there been a more satisfying explanation as to why Walter came to his conclusion. Of course, I realise that the writers were restricted for two reasons: 1. They wanted to give Walter a reason to rely on his faith (I liked that scene, by the way), and 2. they wanted to set-up end scene reveal that Rusk had simply found another host. So I understand their motivation, I just think the execution could have been better in this instance.
  • In a similar vein, I thought it was a bit of a cop-out for Walter to gloss over Rusk’s shipmates, who he suggested were also at risk. I would have preferred Walter to not mention them, instead his claim that Rusk was the “exception and not the rule” was pretty weak and without verification.
  • I didn’t buy that Jake Selleg would kill Rusk after a bar conversation with Teresa Rusk. Also strange was his justification that he went 7 years in the navy without killing a man. Sorry, dude, that’s not reason enough for killing a man. I get that they wanted to give him a good reason for murdering Rusk, but I felt that they could have come up with a better angle. As far as we know he was just some random guy who had a couple of beers with Mrs Rusk. I’m not defending Rusk in the slightest, but I think I would have bought it more had Selleg been a professional hitman (like Donald :P), a love interest, or someone more involved.
  • A pretty meaningless episode (aside from the tidbit on Olivia’s mother and slight evidence of ‘Peter Powa’) which didn’t add to the mythology or the character journey one iota, and those elements are kinda why I’m invested Fringe.

UNRESOLVED MYSTERIES

  • Why did Rusk’s consciousness jump into Lisa’s body? Why her? Was she the nearest available (i.e. deceased) host? Does it work on proximity?
  • What would have happened to Rusk’s consciousness had it not found a host? Would it have just floated around in the ether until it did, or would it have gone to wife-beating hell? What does this say about the consciousness and the afterlife in the Fringeverse?
  • Why did the radiation treatment (or the combination of the radiation and the treatment) cause Rusk’s consciousness to jump into another person in the first place? Speaking of which, what are the government doing in terms of researching this drug?

ANSWERS & REVEALS

  • Peter speaks Russian, knows mostly swear words. Cool.
  • Olivia’s mom was a woman of faith.
  • Rusk was suffering from radiation poisoning and was being treated with a highly experimental radiation (inhibitor) drug when he was murdered. This combination caused his consciousness/memories – his energy, to somehow transfer into Lisa, thus jump-starting her back to life and becoming trapped inside her consciousness.

FRINGE THOUGHTS

  • Walter communicating with the elderly comatose woman was a cute scene and reinforced his previous ideas on the true nature of communication (The Arrival).
  • I found it odd that Lisa saw Rusk in the mirror. We established that she wasn’t suffering from hallucinations, so other than for our thematic benefit there was no real reason why she’d see him standing beside her in the mirror. Had she seen him instead of her own reflection then I think it may have made more sense.
  • What was the time period of the events in this episode? That girl not only suffered melded consciousness, but she was also cut open as the surgeons prepped her for organ donation. I find it hard to believe that she was back at school (as she claimed) if this episode only spanned a few days, which is what appeared to be the case.
  • I love the fact that Peter can speak any language the writers need him to speak. I love it. Really. :P
  • Once again we have an episode which reinforces the theme of memories, and the idea of two entities residing where there should be only one. This references other episodes such as Transformation; when Olivia struggles to flush John Scott’s memories from her consciousness; Dream Logic, with Dr. Nayak’s whole ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ drama; and Earthling, with the Shadow becoming one with the Russian cosmonaut. And of course, the memory aspect also mirrors Walter’s struggle with his memories, Olivia’s struggle with her memories and Peter’s struggle with his memories. Y’know, I think memories are a theme in this show. :)
  • The episode seemed constructed, in part, to remind us that although Walter may be a scientist, he is very much on the edge of that field. He’s probably far closer to faith or supernatural driven belief systems than conventional science. I just hope they explore this idea more often as it makes him more relatable as a human being who, like most (many) of us, isn’t boxed in by a rigid singular outlook on the way of the world.
  • Once Walter made the connection between Rusk’s energy/memories being responsible for Lisa’s condition, wouldn’t he naturally make the connection that her illness was also related to Rusk? It was slightly contrived that this should cause Walter to lose faith in his own convictions – obviously set up so that Olivia could make the connection. Which was important, I felt, because she seemed eager to find a logical answer to Lisa’s problem (as opposed to a completely faith based conclusion), even if that answer was within the confines of the mystical. I felt this correlated with Olivia’s rather cynical outlook on her own mother’s faith.
  • A nice shout-out to the early season 1 theme of Walter and Peter having shared consciousness at some stage, came in the following conversation:

Peter: “Do you wanna know what I think, or what Walter would think?”

Olivia: “Either”.

  • Aww! Peter’s got himself a little girlfriend! :) To be honest, I’m not sure that was necessary – do the fans really need a heavy-handed approach to a possible Peter/Olivia hook-up? Thank goodness they didn’t have Olivia dwell on the matter, I would have stopped watching the show had she gotten jealous like she did with the R*chel thing.
  • Peter gets yet another “gun” reference. That dude really has some firearm issues. I guess he was a weapons dealer, so maybe that explains it.
  • Gene seemed to know that something was afoot when Lisa (AKA Rusk) was lulling Peter with the drink of water request. At least someone is on the ball! What made it worse (so to speak) was Walter just sitting there for 10 minutes as he let the realisation of Rusk still being present in Lisa’s mind sink in. A bit more urgency next time please Walter! Also, I’m not sure how Rusk managed to pull that trick off in the first place? I guess he’s quite the ventriloquist.
  • I enjoyed the scene where Peter appealed to Lisa’s ‘better half’. That was a really nice moment, and it looked like they did something different with the way it was shot, although I can’t quite put my finger on it. Shame it was so short.
  • For a split second I thought the end scene with the car crash was going to be a surprising play on Olivia’s ‘near miss’ in the season 1 finale. Alas, my hopes were short lived, and in retrospect inconceivable.

FINAL THOUGHT

I found it really strange that Walter & Co. assumed that Rusk’s consciousness would just leave Lisa and that would be the end of the matter. That said, it’s interesting to wonder what underlying idea the writers are making on the human consciousness. On the one hand it seems that Walter expected Rusk’s consciousness to wither away and perhaps find peace somewhere. On the other hand we see that it actually finds another host. The former suggests some kind of afterlife and supports the popular idea that once a life has run its course, the energy from that person goes to another realm (some might call it heaven..or hell). The latter implies rebirth and even reincarnation, and the idea that our energy is constantly being renewed, giving life to others (or through others) – similar to the opening organ donation scene. Personally, I think it’s only a matter of time before the show explores this in more detail.

I often like to take a moment to look at the episode title and how it possibly relates to the episode. “Unearthed” works well enough with the themes of resurrection and rebirth, as well as the uncovering of Olivia’s back-story, with the painful memories of her mother. Mostly though, the title stands out as a marketing gimmick, to the fans who have been paying attention, highlighting the fact that this was an unearthed episode from season 1.

Finally, while this isn’t the most glowing review, for what it’s worth I’m glad that FOX aired it. They didn’t have to give us the special Monday airing, and they probably took a bit of a risk in doing so, what with all the people who now think Charlie’s aliiiiiive, and whatnot! It was still good to see some unseen Fringe, and so my views on this episode are honest, but also appreciative of the fact that Unearthed didn’t have some of the bells and whistles of a normal Fringe installment. Plus it was interesting to see just how much work actually goes into a ‘proper’ episode of the show before it hits the air.

Best Moment: Olivia talking about her mother / Peter appealing to Lisa’s suppressed consciousness.

Best Performer: Alice Kremelberg (why not, she did a decent enough job as Lisa).

If you liked Unearthed, you’ll like: Dream Logic, Earthling.

Episode Rating: 5/10

Comments

  1. Badmojoman says

    Thanks R — I agree that this was a random episode and seemed fairly half-baked. I felt like they wanted to introduce some ongoing themes (like Olivia’s faith background and Walter’s own beliefs), but they didn’t go far enough. In addition, since this episode was aired out of sequence, seeing Charlie made this episode less “compelling”.
    One thing I’m curious about — from what I understand, the ratings for Monday’s episode were very good (spanking Heroes). My concern is that, if there were a number of new watchers on Monday — how many of them will get fully confused when they see the next episode where Charlie is dead and the storyline is far beyond what “Unearthed” ever hinted at?

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    • says

      Hi Badmojoman, good point – looking around the net and talking to a few people it looks like a lot of current viewers were initially confused by Charlie’s appearance, so I imagine any new viewers gleaned from Monday’s outing could be a bit baffled come Thursday and beyond. Although hopefully not enough to stop watching (maybe just enough to research for an answer).

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  2. SLRebel says

    I really like all of the episodes of Fringe, but it was a STUPID decision to put the “Unearthed” episode on at this point in Season 2. Seeing the now-dead character “Charlie” in this episode was super confusing. In addition, I now own a Season 1 DVD package that is now INCOMPLETE without this Season 1 episode. Just a dumb decision by all involved.

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    • says

      Hey SLRebel.

      It’s a difficult one. Personally I can see the value of airing the episode because it was a bonus – an extra episode of Fringe which we otherwise may not have received (although, granted, they could have included it in the DVD).

      On the otherhand, I can also see why it may have been confusing to viewers who weren’t prepared to see agent Francis swanning about the place. My concern would be that new viewers don’t see this episode as the barometer for what Fringe is capable of.

      Still, I’m glad that it aired, and my only real criticism is that they failed to inform viewers by way of a notice that it was an unseen episode from season 1.

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  3. Elaine says

    Besides English, this will make at least four different languages Peter either speaks fluently, or conversationally. Greek, Cantanese, Arabic and Russian. Cool. And while I would find that cheesy on just about any other show or character, it works for him. Makes me wonder if his ability to pick up languages (which I realize some people are display an ability to do so easier than others) isn’t a part of whatever otherworldly capabilities he posseses.

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    • says

      You’re right Elaine, whilst I poked a bit of fun at his ability to understand any language the writers need him to, it does work for him and fits in well with his previous nomadic existence.

      I guess it’s a fine line the writers tread between contrivance and relevance – hopefully the latter will come into play more often – who knows, maybe we’ll meet his Russian ex-girlfriend..although I doubt it!

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  4. Frobozz says

    A yawner of an episode, would have ranked down there beside “The No Brainer” if aired in Season 1.

    Still, it was nice to see the old set, and I think that really underlies what is missing in some ways with the new season. Olivia and Broyles had an office. Now they just meet in the park. And Charlie…stupid decision to kill him off, I’m thinking. Oh but they had a replacement…whoops! What ever happened to Agent Whatever-her-name-was?

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    • says

      They really need to bring Jessup back into the fold. Hopefully she’ll return in the second half of the season, though that might just be wishful thinking on my part.

      It would be strange for them to drop her storyline (as brief as it’s been so far), as it had potential in terms of the larger arcs. I still want to know how she got those “classified” access codes…….

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      • Page 48 says

        “It would be strange for them to drop her storyline”

        They are becoming serial storyline droppers (why did Broyles send Olivia to the storage facility? Wassup with Olivia’s creepy stepfather or the shadowy people following Peter back in the early days, or Rachel and Ella, or Agent Jessup?). And of course, the ultimate dropped storyline, Charlie Francis.

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        • says

          I get the feeling that they sometimes throw a bunch of cool ideas up in the air to see what sticks – especially in the early days when they were still finding their way with the mythology. Which is fair enough. We just need something (perhaps a “pattern”) to bring all of these disperate elements together again.

          Out of the deferred/dropped storylines that you mentioned, If I had to choose just one..I think I’d hope for ‘Olivia’s creepy stepfather’ – that seems like it has some legs story-wise. That said, I have a soft spot for the ‘Broyles/storage facility’ thread – at the time I’d like to think that the writers had a very intriguing plan in place. Worse thing is, he’s no longer around (in body or spirit) to be questionned! :)

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  5. mlj102 says

    Regarding language abilities, we certainly can’t forget Olivia and her ability to speak German, Mandarin, and a little bit of Arabic. Who knows what other secret language abilities she has yet to reveal? Nor should we forget Astrid – linguistics major that she is. Factoring in all of the language abilities from each of the Fringe team members, I think it’s safe to say they have all the languages covered. And if they ever find a language one of them isn’t familiar with, I’ll seriously be shocked! :)

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    • says

      Good point mlj – it’s easy to forget that Olivia is quite fluent in other languages. I recall a nice moment in 1.07 when she revealed that she could speak German.

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  6. annon says

    I think it is an assumption out there that Jessup was brought on to the show to replace Charlie. I don’t agree with that and the producers have never said that was the case.

    I honestly don’t think her role, while brief, was ever defined, other than bringing in the religious thoughts to the show that she was investigating. Her appearance on the show was too brief to do that. My guess, they the writers, didn’t like how she fitted into things.

    The extra support Olivia has needed this season has come from Broyles, Astrid and Peter.

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    • says

      I agree that she probably wasn’t brought in to replace Charlie, but I do wonder..if Charlie hadn’t been cut, would there have been room for Jessup? But yeah, she definitely isn’t a direct replacement.

      Good point about Olivia getting support from other areas – she definitely has her family unit around her these days. I just have a feeling that Jessup will be back – especially if they continue with the pattern/religious connections, which looks like being a long-game arc. Don’t quote me on that though.

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  7. Elaine says

    Frobozz, I agree regarding the something missing-ness about this season, and it’s a lack of an proper office for Broyles and Olivia. So often, much of what they figured out investigating these cases took place at FBI headquarters, which was a nice balance to the crazy that was happening back at the lab.

    I also think the writers may have been too hasty in poofing away Agent Jessup. There was no way she could replace Charlie, and I didn’t think that was why they brought her on. Outside of having no clue how she got a password to the classified cases the Fringe team investigated, I liked the religious/Armageddon perspective it appeared the writers were going to introduce through her. Like Roco, I hope she returns in the latter half of the season, too.

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    • says

      Nice catch!

      I found him pretty easy to spot in this ep. I think they’ve become more sneakier in season 2 when it comes to planting the Observer.

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  8. charliefan19 says

    I didn’t love the episode, either. And though I was glad to see Charlie, it was kinda rough, too. Almost made me miss him more, watching him and Li work together again. They were a great team. :'( KA’s “re-appearance” really has thrown a LOT of people for a loop, from what I’ve been reading.

    I agreed with a lot of what you said, Roco…it made no sense whatsoever why/how Lisa “became” Rusk, and it made no sense why/how Lisa was no longer Rusk. Weird and rather meaningless. And if I had just gone through watching my daughter die and come back to life, I would be a little more of a complete emotional basket case. Mrs Donovan seemed a little too…calm. (btw, I am also a woman of faith, lol)

    One of my all time creepiest Fringe moments is when Olivia finds the birthday card under her door. Ever since then I have waited with bated breath for a continuing story about her mother’s husband…so obviously I loved the little mention of him. :)

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    • says

      One of my all time creepiest Fringe moments is when Olivia finds the birthday card under her door. Ever since then I have waited with bated breath for a continuing story about her mother’s husband…so obviously I loved the little mention of him. :)

      Ah, I forgot to mention Liv’s step father. I agree, it will be nice to continue that story – the whole card under the door thing is high on the creep-o-meter, that’s for sure.

      Thanks for the reminder!

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  9. FringeFan2009 says

    Thanks for the review Roco!

    In reference to the languages that the characters seem to know on the show, I don’t think it is too out of hand considering the IQ amongst the bunch, and that I actually know people that can speak that many languages and more. It seems to come easier to people that have been exposed to different languages. Olivia being born on a military base could indicate that she traveled a lot when she was young, and Peter moved around a lot so it makes sense that he knows a little of a lot of languages. I think he said on the first episode that he spoke Farsi as well.

    I’m kind of glad that they didn’t bring Agent Jessup back in the picture. She felt really out of place to me, like she just didn’t fit in with the Fringe team. And I’m sure that if she is accessing information that she’s not supposed to be, she would be caught at some point.

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  10. says

    Hey FringeFan – good point, both Peter and Olivia seem to have moved around quite a bit at various stages in their lives, which just makes their backstories all the more interesting. Kinda makes me wish Fringe used the flashback mechanism a bit more..

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  11. Page 48 says

    Lisa appeared in the recent movie, “The Taking of Pelham 123″, as did Mitchell Loeb and the Stieg twins.

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    • says

      Ah, Mitchell Loeb. Will we ever see him again, I wonder..

      I can just about remember Lisa in “123”, although not before I looked on IMDB.

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  12. Elaine says

    That would explain some the lack of explaination of how Walter came to the conclusion about Andrew Rusk’s consciousness jumping over to Lisa. I miss the “Fringe will return in thirty, sixty, ninety seconds” no fastfoward commercial breaks. *sigh*

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  13. Ivan Yachavich says

    did anyone except me notice special agent Charlie Francis being alive?
    I know that last season he was killed and thrown into an incinerator by the watcher. wtf is that about?!?!?

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  14. Tom C says

    Had to break my rule of not reading your reviews before i’ve seen the episode.
    Fringe isnt back in the UK until March and i dont think we’ll get this episode either.

    Great review & i really want to see the episode, seems like a interesting episode. I think i’ll have to use the old download machine to see this one.

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  15. says

    Hey Tom – It’s a shame that Fringe isn’t back on Sky1 ’til March (the last time I checked).

    I hope you enjoy the episode, if you find it – it’s normal what we’ve come to expect from the show, but as a bonus episode a few days before the season resumes..I’ll take that any day!

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  16. Xochitl says

    Surprisingly, I think I liked this episode more than “Johari Window”,
    (I waited to watch them together online),it made me realize even more
    how many things they’ve lost on season 2 :(

    The scene where Olivia and Peter are just talking, this is so
    missing in season 2, they only share conversations in a car now, and
    they seemed so plastic. I think, like Jhon Marzan, that most of the
    problems are because of the scenes they cut to fit the new time frame,
    but who knows, they cut a scene in johari window.

    “Aww! Peter’s got himself a little girlfriend! To be honest,
    I’m not sure that was necessary – do the fans really need a
    heavy-handed approach to a possible Peter/Olivia hook-up?
    Thank goodness they didn’t have Olivia dwell on the matter,
    I would have stopped watching the show had she gotten jealous
    like she did with the R*chel thing.”

    I’m a P/O fan, please don’t kill me, and maybe the writers gave us a
    hint to point us in some kind of direction, and remember this is
    possibly after Unleashed so maybe there were trying to fix that
    almost creepy thing between Peter and RAchel, I appreciated the comment,
    but I was glad Olivia didn’t dwell on it, it would seem out of place
    at that point on their evolving relationship, but again, who knows,
    they cut 7 minutes of tape.

    Of course Fringe will kill heroes, that show is a joke, try to decide
    wath to watch between FRinge and Lost, that’s dificult desition.
    And the girl totally stole the episode. :)

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  17. matt says

    where does this episode take place in the time line/season 1 if I wanted to watch it in chronological order as part of my own season 1 re-watch?

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    • mlj102 says

      As far as I know, there hasn’t been any official confirmation regarding where this episode was originally meant to air. There have been many different theories put forth, but personally, I think that it was supposed to take place between Bad Dreams and Midnight.

      From what I understand, they had been unable to air this episode during Season 1 because FOX decided to air the premiere of Glee in the Spring, which left Fringe with one less episode. That announcement was made sometime in March, if I remember correctly, meaning that they likely would have started writing the episode by that point, but filming hadn’t yet begun. At that point, they had to decide which episode to cut. They couldn’t cut out The Road Not Taken or There’s More Than One of Everything, and Midnight also had some significant information concerning ZFT, so it probably made the most sense to cut Unearthed. If there had been any important information in Unearthed, they probably cut it out and included it in one of the other episodes so that we would have all the necessary information for the finale.

      That’s probably more than you were asking for, and it’s all speculation, but for what it’s worth, there’s my opinion.

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