Let’s just call this episode of Fringe what it was: "The John Noble Hour!" And folks, that’s a mighty fine way to spend an hour, let me tell you. This week’s episode didn’t balance the personal and mythological as well as last week’s entry in the series, but the personal side was so damn good that I really couldn’t care less. Am I interested in the Pattern? Absolutely. But if the show wants to spend a few weeks making us care more about those investigating it, you’ll scant hear a complaint from me.

I have to admit that this week’s use of hypnotism freaked me out. Why? Because hypnotism freaks me out in general, that’s why. And now that Fringe has linked it with Christmas, I’m going to be a nervous wreck waiting for Santa Claus to show up this year. Even more so that usual. Luckily, I won’t be as much of a wreck as the multiple abduction victims this week. Someone hypnotized these people through the use of red and green lights, and they all went sorta kinda crazy. One woman tried to give herself a lobotomy (bad idea), and another brutally murdered his wife (even worse): all from mentally induced hallucinations created to coerce the unwitting subject into finishing a mysterious, complex formula.

See, the wife killer, Dashiell Briggs Kim, just so happened to be working on an equation found inside the musical composition of the most recent kidnapping victim. Dashiell also happened to be a former roomie of Walter Bishop in St. Claire’s. Once you learned that, did you have any doubt whatsoever that Walter would soon be going back inside? Of course not, and the heartbreaking part was that Walter saw this inevitability the moment we did.

I mentioned at the top of this recap that this was "The John Noble Hour," and one only need watch Walter and Dashiell together to realize the small miracle Noble pulls off week in and week out in this show. He’s still the show’s eccentric, but he pulls it off in a way that doesn’t feel over-the-top. Dashiell’s shouts were met with Walter’s whispers; it’s the difference between scaring an audience member away versus drawing him or her in. Moreover, this week allowed Walter his first real act of heroism, plunging himself directly into harm’s way (mental and physical) to save the life of a boy he has never even met.

If Noble held up his end of the acting bargain, then Joshua Jackson was every bit his equal this week. The bonding of the Bishop boys in this week’s installment might have been my favorite thing on the show to date. Everything from Peter’s instinctive protection of Walter at the outset, through Walter’s declaration of (minimal) independence by episode’s end was note perfect. The best moment? Walter’s absolutely devastating, "Son, is that what it’s like to talk to me?" before leaving St. Claire’s, in regards to Dashiell’s ramblings. Their bond grows stronger each week, which makes the show by extension that much stronger as well.

Course, it wouldn’t be a drama without obstacles, and it looks like Peter’s past is about to start wedging itself in between himself and Walter. Aw, man, just when Christmas was safe again! St. Claire’s resident in chief, Dr. Sumner, was the latest in a string of people alluding to Peter’s less-than-rosy past. We knew Peter was an MIT dropout, but we learned this week he actually faked his way into the institution. His former business endeavors also came into obstructed view once again, both through Sumner’s insinuations and his keen ability to find people not even the government could locate. Can a Pattern case with his fingerprints all over it by too far in the future?

As for this week’s Pattern case: clearly an insidious plot against the produce industry! OK, not really, but it looks like the elusive equation solved by little Ben (Folds?) allows one to phase through solid materials. (Can we call it the Shadowcat Equation? Pretty please?) Now, I couldn’t tell if the vibrations caused the man’s hand or the safe’s material to suddenly give way, but the point is this: such an equation would make any previously impenetrable space suddenly accessible. And this would be pretty handy if you wanted to rob a bank. Or bust someone from prison. Perhaps bypass Massive Dynamic security. Or, you know, sneak in after curfew. Limitless possibilities here.

But all of that pales in comparison to the awesome that was Walter Bishop this week. If the show can continue to develop his relationship with Peter in so strong a fashion, then what’s been largely an esoteric genre show will tug at the heart in addition to teasing the mind. Such a transformation is worth all the oddly obtained apples in the orchid.

What did you make of the John Noble Hour? What’s in Peter’s past that has everyone so concerned? And if you could possess the ability to phase through material, what’s the first way in which you’d use said ability?

Ryan makes sure to never look at blinking lights over at Boob Tube Dude.

Posted by:Ryan McGee