Fringe Rewatch: 1.03 The Unsocial Network


The third episode in our impossible rewatch sees us revisit The Ghost Network in search of new perspectives, clues and connections.

Though we remain conscious of the fact that we are a long way from our ultimate destination, we are confident that our minds will pick up the hidden frequencies, leaving no coffee bean unturned in our bid to see the show like water passing through time.

Gather your Jedi sticks, your eyes and your minds, as we head back to the chapter we are renaming “The Unsocial Network” – because Ziegler and his chums were a clandestine lot.

New Perspectives

  • Opening scene – A Bell tolls. Is that you trying to contact us from beyond the ether, William?
  • As per Roy’s question about God and the devil, the episode makes it clear that science – or rather mans nefarious application of science is the devil, the big bad of the series. Looking at it with retrospective eyes, I’d pretty much agree with that.
  • Roy’s “Pattern visions” with Olivia’s glimpses to the other side raises are quite thematically similar.
  • Looking back at my “Ghost Network” rewatch from last year I noticed that I said the following in relation to John Scott:

“There may be no dual intention behind this, but it makes me wonder about death in context of the show – what does it really mean if the dead can still interact with the living? In many ways John is still alive and at peace..somewhere. It also makes me wonder whether Walter could have sought solace from the idea that Peter was in a better place when he died.”

  1. Which is funny, because Walter went on to express a similar thought in the episode called “Peter“, where he assures Elizabeth: “somewhere Peter will grow up, somewhere he will lead a proper life, somewhere he will be happy, but just not here”. I just find it interesting to look back at just how close we come to the big ideas and themes before they’ve been laid out to us.
  • It’s interesting look back at the amber toxin and how it was applied Over Here as a means of cruel destruction, while in the alternate universe we see it used for the more altruistic reason of containment. That’s not to say it hasn’t been used as a weapon Over There, but this is the comparison the show has shown us and it fits with the rather reckless tendencies of our main universe.
  • Poor Livvy, she’s really hurting, huh: “He told me he loved me”. I imagine that if John hadn’t told her the L-word it would have been easier for her to accept his perceived betrayal. You can almost see her grappling between wanting to slip back into the world of before – with its veil of ignorance, and getting right to the very bottom of who John was working for.
  • Goodness! How strange is it to be reminded of the long lost story-arc that was “Big Eddie” and those early days when he and the mob were still a general point of interest.  For me, Big Eddie always felt like a rather small and irrelevant part of Fringe. Some two seasons later, it’s practically inconceivable that he ever mattered. Sorry Ed, but there’s..um..‘bigger’ fish to fry.
  • Broyles to Olivia/team. “If I knew that then you wouldn’t be here”. Oh Really. Do tell more.
  • The value of this episode for me stems from the show’s early depiction of the human mind and the ways that it perceives the information it receives.
  • Oh look, the good old days when Walter couldn’t get Astrid’s name right no matter how hard he didn’t bother to try.
  • I got the faint impression that Broyles knew that agent Davidson was lying from the start, but let him continue to see where it led. Another test for Dunham, perhaps? Again, it would be interesting to know if Reddick received specific direction on how to play those micro-expressions, or whether this is just another example of the show instinctively informing its participants.
  • Intwisting! So the the amber toxin was used before, in Prague – and Broyles knew but decided not to tell Olivia. To his credit, he did explain himself later, saying that he doesn’t tell Olivia everything for her own safety, but that he will, “when you’re ready”. Dun, dun, duuun!
  • Seeing Walter moving coffee between the two cups made me think of the coffee shortage in the alternate universe and the cause and effect that his ‘passing’ through the to other side had on that world. I don’t for one minute think this was the intent, but it could be an indicator that the show was subconsciously informing the writers (and actors) even at this early stage. Or, you know, it’s just Walter being Walter.
  • Walter posits that psychic communication is possible between people who are “linked”. I talked about this quite a bit last season, but I do wonder whether a similar thing could happen between characters and their Doubles in various universes (specifically the parallel earth we are currently dealing with). To my mind, we’ve already witnessed examples of the inherent connection between the two worlds and the people in them. The next step must surely be for the show to explore this further.
  • Roy had metal in his blood – reminded me of the shapeshifters and the mercury goodness.
  • The rabbit and the duck test – our first “white rabbit” reference. Okay, going too far with that one, bit it did spring to mind, what with the heavy focus on perception.
  • Peter is unknowingly onto something when he asks Olivia: “of all the career choices, how did a girl like you end up in law enforcement?”. Olivia doesn’t realize how close she came to the real source of her path, when she said: “I pretty much knew that this was what I wanted to do by the time I was nine”. I’ve gone on about this a lot, but I’m still intrigued by the lack of choice that Olivia may actually have had in her crucial life landmarks, such as her career path. She was always the strong one, and like her fellow Cortexikids, she developed an urge to protect people. Unless, of course, her ability to protect was purely instinctive, purely natural. I’d love for the show to explore the “natural and unnatural” part of Olivia’s being.
  • Walter: “This brings back some sore memories”. Heh.
  • My main take-away from this episode is that the mind is a perception reservoir – taste, touch, sight..experience can all be created (or recreated) in the mind. For instance, Roy was able to accurately depict Patten events merely from hearing them described in an foreign dead (“ghost”) language. Now, imagine what could be created – perceived – with a more power and attuned mind. Why, whole new worlds could be manifested. Worlds which are only a few degrees removed from dreams and only a couple more from a different decision which branches off into its own ‘reality’. It’s pretty trippy stuff when you think about it, but I’d say that we’ve already seen echoes of it. I’m not saying that ‘the road not taken’ idea is not the main model for the show’s alternate universe concept, but the mind and its ability to perceive is the engine which brings it all to life. If what you see can change your mind, what if your mind could change what you see?

Mysteries & Answers

  • Why was Peter supposed to check-in as soon as he arrived home?
  • My Opinion: Big Eddie needed some love. That, or Peter owed him money/information or blah.
  • Why did Roy’s visions only begin 9 months earlier – the same time as the FBI became aware of the Pattern?
  • My Opinion: Probably because that’s when people started using the Ghost Network and/or the compound in Roy’s bloodstream had multiplied enough for him to pick up the signal. Plus, the writers may have intended to connect the Ghost Network to many, if not all, of the Pattern incidents.

New Clues & Observations

  • The encryption disc is yellow-ish in color. Yellow being a prominent color in the world of Fringe.
  • Yellow mats were also used to lay down the victims killed by the amber toxin.
  • The walls of Roy’s house were yellow, particularly striking because Pattern Events were stuck on the walls.
  • The outside of the Bishop’s old house had a lot of red. Probably not an early alternate universe (red) reference point, but it somehow informs us in retrospect.

Possible Retcons

  • This was pretty much explained in the DVD extras, but it does seem as though the left the door open to do something with John’s mother if the desire took hold. The creepy-ass smile that she gave Olivia at the funeral was really disconcerting, but ultimately went nowhere (at least not on the broadcasted version of the show).

Theme Tracker

Tracking the root of some of the most intriguing Fringe themes.

Dreams / Sleep

  • Peter explaining to Walter: “We put Rufus to sleep about 20 years ago”

God / Faith

  • Episode opened on a church and Roy’s confession. Roy wanted to know if God talks to people. Then expressed his concern that the devil was communicating with him.
  • “The souls of the just are in the hand of God”

Evidence of Narrator

Who is the Fringe narrator?

Once again there’s not much to go on, although questions of spirituality and faith could be coming from Walter or Olivia’s perspective. Or perhaps we have a higher power narrating? It’s possible. Walter flashing the light across Roy’s (and our) eyes was the only other flash point. Shall remain ever vigil.

Quote Terrific

  • “It’s horrible. They’re like Mosquitoes trapped in amber”.

Best Retrospective Performance: Blair Brown

Favorite Retrospective Moment: The meeting between Nina and Broyles.

Retrospective Episode Rating: 5.5/10

Useful Links

Next Rewatch Episode – 1.04 “The Arrival”, Wednesday, July 28th, 2010.

If you have any comments on the above rewatch, or you have your own rewatch thoughts and observations, feel free to share them below. While I have personally chosen to tackle new perspectives, feel free to approach this rewatch in whichever way you want.

Comments

  1. FinChase says

    Great review!

    “The Ghost Network” has never been one of my favorite episodes. It seems like after the grisy grimness of “The Same Old Story” they were deliberately going for a lighter tone in episode 3. The piano makes it’s first appearance–how the heck did Astrid requisition, find, and arrange for a piano to be delivered in a matter of a few hours? It always struck me as an odd little episode. Maybe I’m a bit prejudiced against it because it got an audio commentary while a great episode like “Ability” did not get one.

    I liked the fact that the amber made an appearance again in “Over There,” making me wonder which side actually created this technology. I’m not sure I’d agree that the other side is using it altruistically, though; the people trapped in it are just as dead as those people on the bus.

    This episode certainly contained more broad humor than most other episodes. Charlie’s “He told me loved me too,” never fails to get a laugh out of me. And Olivia’s little encounter with the students looking for PolySci 101 is priceless, and Anna Torv’s delivery was dead on perfect. Another moment that always amused me was the discussion in the conference room between Broyles and Walter. This is, I believe, Broyles’ first prolonged exposure to His Walterness. Walter tells Broyles he wants to prove Roy is seeing/hearing the ghost network discussing the Pattern cases. I love the little cutaway to Olivia and Peter waiting for Broyles’ reaction to whatever weird scheme Walter proposes. Peter even says, “And here we go.” I also love Olivia’s response to Walter’s question about whether he’s required to keep poor Roy alive: “That would probably be best.” Another great line delivery from Torv. I half expected Broyles to take Olivia aside and demand if Walter was stoned, as Charlie did in “Safe.”

    Totally agree about the great scene between Nina and Olivia. Nina Sharp is one of the few people who usually can get the best of Olivia in their verbal duels. She seems able to keep Olivia a bit wrong-footed, although occasionally Olivia will attack, such as in “The Dreamscape,” and throw Nina off-balance. One of my complaints about season 2, besides the lack of Federal building sets, (totally with you on your demands for a real office for Broyles, although even that dungeon office was a step up from the park bench) is that we didn’t see enough of Nina Sharp. Some of my favorite moments from Season 1 were watching Olivia and Nina match wits across Nina’s big white desk. I wonder how AltLiv will fare against Nina?

    My final conclusion about “The Ghost Network” is that it showed a TV show still finding its direction. Not bad, but nowhere near where it was capable of going.

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    • says

      Great thoughts, Finchase!

      “we didn’t see enough of Nina Sharp. Some of my favorite moments from Season 1 were watching Olivia and Nina match wits across Nina’s big white desk.”

      Completely agree!

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  2. mlj102 says

    Wait… where’s the molebaby joke in this one? You’ve got me so trained to expect that, that without it, it feels empty and incomplete.

    “Goodness! How strange is it to be reminded of the long lost story-arc that was “Big Eddie” and those early days when he and the mob were still a general point of interest.”

    I agree that there are certainly more interesting stories that take precedence over Big Eddie and that aspect of Peter’s past, but I’m also still interested in learning more about that storyline. And, in my personal opinion, while it may have been abandoned to make way for deeper, more relevant stories, I expect they will come back to it at some point in time. There’s definitely more there they can develop and explore that I believe is significant.

    “To his credit, he did explain himself later, saying that he doesn’t tell Olivia everything for her own safety, but that he will, “when you’re ready”. Dun, dun, duuun!”

    Personally, that particular explanation has always irritated me. It felt like a lame cop out to cover the fact that he was intentionally withholding information from her. I can understand him not telling her everything about the pattern and such in order to “protect” her, but not telling her all the information for a specific case she’s working on is just inexcusable.

    “Seeing Walter moving coffee between the two cups made me think of the coffee shortage in the alternate universe and the cause and effect that his ‘passing’ through the to other side had on that world.”

    Nice analysis… I’d also picked up on that subtle action from Walter, and was intrigued by it, but didn’t know how to interpret it with any deeper meaning. I like your interpretation.

    “If what you see can change your mind, what if your mind could change what you see?”

    Ooh… I like how you said that! I had to read it a couple of times to fully grasp the meaning behind it, but I like it. I definitely think that’s the kind of theme they have been building up to and that they will continue to explore as the show progresses.

    “Why did Roy’s visions only begin 9 months earlier – the same time as the FBI became aware of the Pattern?”

    What gets me about this whole timeline that they introduced in the first few episodes is that it later becomes clear that they have known of pattern events that occurred much earlier than nine months before the pilot. The Earthling episode alone indicates that Fringe Division was investigating strange cases at least four years earlier. Maybe they just hadn’t made the connection that those cases were part of something bigger? But even then, I doubt that Broyles’ involvement with Nina and all that she knew began a mere nine months ago… So is there a particular reason that Broyles decided to tell them that they’ve only known of the pattern for such a relatively short amount of time, or is it a case of the writers/producers still figuring out the details of the story?

    “Retrospective Episode Rating: 5.5/10″

    You pointed out that I rated Same Old Story quite a bit higher than you’d expected, and it looks like that’s going to happen again with this episode. I think it really has to do with a difference in how we interpret the scale. In my opinion, anything at 5 or lower is considered to be an especially low rating, reserved for only the most disappointing of episodes. I would probably rate Northwest Passage around 5.0… if I’m in a generous mood. Anything around 7 is considered to be average, and anything above 8 or 8.5 is considered to be exceptional. So based on that scale, I definitely feel that a rating of 5.5 for this episode is too low.

    Putting aside the apparent differences in our individual rating systems, I have to point out that I’m surprised to see you rated Same Old Story higher than this episode. I like Same Old Story, but I have always considered Ghost Network to be a slightly better, more engaging, more significant episode, and I thought that was true for the general fan opinion. Is there anything in particular that caused you to rate this episode lower than Same Old Story?

    Just a few other thoughts:

    I think it’s completely brilliant the way they brought back the amber substance from this episode and integrated it into the season 2 finale. That’s the kind of connection that I expect we’re going to continue to encounter with elements from early storylines that most fans have categorized as “insignificant” or “unrelated to the overall story”. And those are the kinds of connections that make me love Fringe even more.

    I’ve always been rather intrigued by John’s funeral and his mother. I find it interesting that they ultimately chose to leave that story open to speculation. Her behavior at the funeral certainly leaves the impression that she isn’t too pleased with Olivia. The deleted scene definitely provides more closure to that. I know in the commentary they claim to have removed that scene simply because they wanted the ending to be more focused, and I agree that adding that scene in would have detracted from the power of the ending, but I also think it would have been a significant thing to include. Of course, it could be that they just figured it didn’t really matter what John’s mother thought about Olivia. But they made such a point to emphasize that during the funeral, it would have helped if they followed up with it. Also, while I’m on the subject of the deleted scene, his mother gives Olivia a medal he’d earned for his work on the Nadler investigation. We also see that mentioned in the obituary article we see in the Arrival. I’m quite curious to know what that is all about and if they will ever revisit that little detail.

    I think there was another comment I read where someone mentioned they didn’t quite like the piano and how it randomly showed up, but I personally really liked that whole storyline and how they incorporated it into the story. I doubt it would have been much harder to find an old piano for the lab than it was to get a cow for the lab… Anyway, I really enjoyed how they used the piano to help Walter figure out how the substance worked, how they used it for comical value by having Walter play the random notes as he explained what they had learned about the substance, and how Peter played the piano at the end. I thought that was a great moment as we saw our “odd little family unit” come together for that brief moment there. I really liked that.

    I also really liked how they had Peter and Olivia visit Peter’s old house in Cambridge. I really love that early, subtle glimpse we got into the backgrounds of both Peter and Olivia, and how they got to be where they are. That was the first cryptic reference we got to Elizabeth and it’s very satisfying now that they have developed and explored that story a lot more.

    Random theory: after rewatching this episode, I got to wondering if it could be possible that Ziegler and the people working for him were possibly shapeshifters. I imagine we’ll never know for sure, but it would make sense how they had the knowledge of the quarantine amber substance, how they were connected to pattern cases, why they wanted the discs, etc. Of course, if the guy had been bleeding mercury after getting hit by the bus, I imagine they would have looked into it… but it wouldn’t be the biggest plot hole we’ve seen yet *cough*Charlieswitch*cough*

    Themes/Observations:
    Perception: As you’ve pointed out a couple of times in the review, perception was a big theme in this episode. I absolutely love the scene with the rabbit/duck and how Walter explains that those types of illusions demonstrate our brain’s need to make sense out of input that really doesn’t make sense at all. I think that’s a very key aspect of the theme of perception.

    I also found it interesting how Olivia’s initial perception of Davidson’s actions toward Evelina was influenced by her own current situation and the recent events surrounding John, and it wasn’t until she got more information that she was able to see the reality of his actions. In fact, the commentary mentioned how they had specifically looked for an actor for Davidson that had a certain similarity to Mark Valley to play into that. I like how they used that substory to show how Olivia’s perception was influenced and affected by the recent events in her life.

    Boat: I’ve mentioned that I am keeping an eye out for anything connected with boats, and I think I noticed a picture of a boat on a calendar at Roy’s work.

    Glyphs: The hand glyph was represented by the fact that the discs are hidden in the person’s hand. Also, it could be argued that the smoke glyph was present in the way the weapon was a gas (smoke) that solidified into the amber substance.

    Chess: I know that Chess was something that showed up several times in the first season, and I initially expected it might be a significant recurring theme, however, I don’t think Chess came up at all in the second season. Nonetheless, I thought I’d point out that there was a chess game in Roy’s apartment, as I don’t recall having seen that particular appearance documented before.

    Bridge: Given the focus on the bridge symbolism, it stood out to me that one of the fringe events Roy had predicted was the Birmingham Bridge collapse…

    Funniest moment: It hasn’t changed… I still love the moment where they’re about to drill into Roy’s head, and the freshmen knock at the door. It was brilliant the way they were drawing out the tension and suspense, only to interrupt it with that amusing moment. And, as has been mentioned, Anna Torv’s delivery of that line was absolutely perfect.

    Favorite moment: I mentioned it above, but I think my favorite was the whole scene between Olivia, Peter, Walter, and Astrid, as Walter used the slide projector to explain what was going on with Roy and his proposed solution. All around great scene!

    My rating for the episode: 8.0 (they were clearly still figuring out a lot of the details, but this is still a great episode with some very significant moments, as well as many classic, memorable moments).

    And, finally, I just wanted to add that I am thoroughly enjoying reading your reviews for the rewatch. It is so nice to have something to look forward to in the midst of an otherwise long and dull lowatus. Also, I want to thank you for taking the time to respond to my comments. I always enjoy seeing what you have to say in response to some of the things I mention.

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  3. Pwnsauce says

    in the end the MD scientist comments that the disc has no oscillations. i was struck by this line, just not really sure what that meant. oscillations have been shown in ‘Safe’ when they’re breaking in to the bank, as well as the portals to the AU seem to be oscillating, so maybe there’s a connection.

    i dunno, i always liked this episode. i think 5.5 is too low as well. more towards a 7.

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  4. Angela says

    I have to agree with mlj102: I thought this episode was much stronger than Same Old Story. I was surprised you rated it so low… I would have given it at least a 7.

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  5. fedorafadares says

    I light of what we know now about “the other side,” I see this episode differently.

    I wonder if the use of quarantine amber on this side wasn’t terrorism, but protectionism. Did someone from the alt-universe try to come over and created a weak spot on our side that needed mending?

    In “Over There, part 1,” Olivia tells her colleagues she’s given witnesses to the Fringe event “chips” so they can get a radiation scan. Are those chips the glass discs we’ve seen? Maybe Altlivia doesn’t know the true purpose of the chips.

    The female undercover agent in the “Ghost Network” had a chip. Was it necessary to neutralize her because of this? The other people on the bus were just collateral damage?

    I’m also thinking a lot about the factions on this side: our Fringe division, Broyles and the illuminati-like council, Massive Dynamic and ZFT. Were the team using the ghost network to communicate one of these groups? Nina has said that MD, at least, is working against “highly motivated individuals.” It’s possible that the ghost network people are working toward the same goal, even if they’re on a different team.

    Maybe the agent who removed the disc wasn’t trying to steal technology, maybe he was protecting his team’s edge in the fight.

    I remember I liked this episode from the start because it had all the elements — humor, drama, intrigue and, of course, a little romantic piano performance at the end.

    But the episode is far richer now, knowing what we know. Kudos to the writers!

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    • SF says

      I was wondering too about the amber substance, surely it’s the same as the containment field in the AU. I have to agree with mlj102 also, the amber isn’t used in a good way except to close the breach between the two worlds. As FinChase points out, those people are still dead. I would love to know how the AU made this stuff, and how it got over to our side! Like you say, fedorafadares, who brought it over here? Was it terrorism?

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  6. number six says

    This was the first episode I really liked, when I started watching Fringe and I really appreciate that, this time, the funny scenes also included Olivia and Broyles. I like poor innocent Roy and the fact that he is so eager to help and it is great to see how protective Astrid and Peter were of him to an extent.

    Walter might not remember Astrid’s name, but he sure watches Peter very closely, when he confronts that stalker in the diner and later, when Peter tells Broyles about being a poker player. Peter on the other hand is getting angrier and more impatient with Walter. I love how he throws back any criticism Walter has of him in his face, but then he ends up complying with Walter’s wishes, in this case, playing the piano for him.

    Olivia knew she wanted to be a cop since she was 9. Was it thanks to Cortexiphan or was it because of the issue with her stepfather? I suspect both contributed in the end.

    Peter wanted to be a Brontosaurus. Well, it seems Olivia is in the way of his ambitions :-P

    Astrid is great in this episode, thanks to her smarts and Linguistics degree. She needs more of this stuff in S3, I’d like to see more of her FBI agent side.

    Walter and Olivia have the same taste in music, both ask Peter to play some Bach for them. He plays some jazz instead, was it “Someone to Watch Over Me”? I wonder if this piece was chosen to convey their future dynamic in the show.

    I give this one a 7.5/10.

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    • LMH says

      “Someone to Watch Over Me” is a playful title because you can connect it Olivia & Peter (mutual guardians of each other), Peter & Walter (Peter as his guardian), and September our main observer.

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  7. LMH says

    First of all, I’m still waiting on those glass discs to come back. Especially since the 47 billion clues about glass in the latter half of S2 (Brown Betty anyone)!

    “Walter posits that psychic communication is possible between people who are “linked”. I talked about this quite a bit last season, but I do wonder whether a similar thing could happen between characters and their Doubles in various universes (specifically the parallel earth we are currently dealing with). To my mind, we’ve already witnessed examples of the inherent connection between the two worlds and the people in them. The next step must surely be for the show to explore this further.”

    -Can also connect this stream of thought to Walter’s conversation with Peter in “The Arrival” (coming up next of course), in which he explains that Peter must alter the way he thinks about communication/the sharing of ideas between persons. Though here it is descriptive of some phenomenon, some inherent connection b/w Walter and Peter, it may later come into play b/w alternates.

    “Peter is unknowingly onto something when he asks Olivia: ‘of all the career choices, how did a girl like you end up in law enforcement?’ Olivia doesn’t realize how close she came to the real source of her path, when she said: ‘I pretty much knew that this was what I wanted to do by the time I was nine.’ I’ve gone on about this a lot, but I’m still intrigued by the lack of choice that Olivia may actually have had in her crucial life landmarks, such as her career path. She was always the strong one, and like her fellow Cortexikids, she developed an urge to protect people. Unless, of course, her ability to protect was purely instinctive, purely natural. I’d love for the show to explore the natural and unnatural’ part of Olivia’s being.”

    -I always interpreted this line as connected with the incident where Olivia almost kills her stepfather in order to protect her mother: this as THE turning point where her protective instinct (I think ‘natural’ to her and greatly enhanced by the cortexiphan experiments) kicked in and she knew somehow she had a mission to fulfill (as a soldier) which involved being a guardian of others (and of a ‘gate’ later on).

    Oh and I have to bring up the fun little continuity connection b/w this ep and “Brown Betty.” Here Peter plays Olivia a jazz song, and in the BB kitchen scene (prior to Observer ass kicking) he asks her if she likes jazz. I loved that line! It was a great little wink to those who really remember small things about the show.

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    • Elaine says

      Oh, wow, I never made that connection, but you’re right! I always thought that line from Peter was telling because it was another little nod to his being able to affect Olivia. In ‘BB’, Peter’s asking if she liked jazz made me think that even though she says not so much, he kind of knowingly looks at her like, “Yeah, you do, you just don’t know it yet.”

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