Friday, January 18, 2013

Case Study No. 0735: Edwin Massey, the Recorder of History

Fringe Episode 5.03 Scene - For The Record
Edward shows Walter his archives but they can't find out what he is looking for scene from The Recordist.

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Tags: Fringe Walter Fringe (TV Series)
Added: 3 months ago
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[scene opens with Edwin Massey leading Doctor Walter Bishop into the bomb shelter which serves as his group's makeshift archives room]
WALTER: What is this place?
EDWIN: You're looking at history.
WALTER: Whose?
EDWIN: Ours. Yours. Mankind's.
[he goes over to the wall and pulls out a translucent cube]
EDWIN: These are data cubes. Stored on them ...
[he places the cube in a pedestal in the middle of the room, causing a holographic image to display]
EDWIN: Are accounts of every major historical event from the day of the invasion onward.
[he begins "pressing" buttons on the holographic image, pulling up several news files (with headlines like "Fringe Division Sanctioned to Police Natives" and "Thousands of Libraries Burned to the Ground")]
WALTER: You have files on us ...
EDWIN: Of course, you're relevant. We gather important information from around the world, and then we record it.
[he uses his finger to rotate through more headlines ("Oxygen Levels Reach New Lows", "Original Fringe Team Presumed Dead", "Special Division of FBI Called Upon to Fight Invaders", etc.)]
EDWIN: You have a healthy lore about you. My son, River, is something of an expert on the Fringe Division.
[he removes the cube from the pedestal]
EDWIN: We were ... we were a group of refugees from the cities. My father started this historical record.
[Walter looks around at the other people in the room (sitting and typing at computer terminals)]
EDWIN: He believed our history, like that of all other conquered races before us, would be rewritten by our oppressors. Someone has to survive to tell mankind's story.
WALTER: What happened to all of you? Your skin? You said we've already been exposed.
EDWIN: We noticed it after we settled. Small patches at first, and then over time, it spread. It has something to do with this area. We thought it was the drinking water or the soil.
WALTER: Why didn't you evacuate?
[Edwin places the cube back into its place on the wall]
EDWIN: What we do here is important. Even after we became afflicted, we couldn't leave. It's all here, everything. We can't move it. We can't travel. The way we look, we ... don't want to draw attention. We just want to be left alone to record history.
[Walter looks away]
EDWIN: No one wants to come here ... which is perfect for us. You're the first in a very long time. But you and your team should leave, unless you wanna look like us.
WALTER: We can't. There was a plan to defeat the Invaders. I mean, there is ... a plan to defeat the Invaders. And I believe it will be successful.
[he hesitates]
WALTER: But I don't remember it. But I know that I am supposed to get something from here. I've been here before. I must have.
[Edwin suddenly steps into the middle of the room and looks up]
EDWIN: Search ... Bishop, Walter.
[this causes a hologram to appear (a "search box" with the words "Bishop, Walter")]
EDWIN: If you've ever set foot in this camp before, it would be documented ...
[the room goes dark, as several of the previously shown news files begin flashing through the air]



"The Recordist" is the third episode of the fifth season of FRINGE. It first aired on 12 October, 2012. The science team continues its resistance efforts against the oppressive invasion forces from the future and are diverted into the forest to retrieve part of the puzzling plan Walter left himself. There they encounter a strange subculture devoted to recording all of human history before the invaders have rewritten mankind's past.

In Walter's damaged lab, he and Astrid continue to bore their way deeper into the Amber embankment with the laser they modified. The deep tunnel they have excavated runs to the back of the lab where Walter has left one of the essential videotapes needed to be seen, understood and instructions accomplished. Without the tape, the plan to defeat the Observers will be lost to the ages along with Walter's memory of it. Astrid reaches the objective of the lasing exercise and adeptly carves the Amber from around the delicate housing of the cassette. Walter can't help but coach during the delicate procedure - she needs to use the touch of a surgeon, not a butcher. With the tape free of its confines, the two backtrack through the tunnel and find the rest of the crew returning with positive results... they found fuel for the van. After gathering around the television screen, the tape begins with good then bad news. The good news - the tape is easily viewed and heard. The bad news - this is Tape #3. They will likely need the pair of tapes before this one, unless Walter remembers what is on them. In the tape, Walter explains that a trip is in order to very specific geo-coordinates in a heavily forested part of Northern Pennsylvania. The entire area is undeveloped with nothing around it for miles. The group decides they will make the effort to go there, even though they aren't certain what they are supposed to look for, or be doing. Security is a concern and they will need to avoid checkpoints on the long road trip. Astrid will remain in the lab and continue working on videotape restoration. Walter wants to remain behind and tend to his medicinal herb needs, but won't be allowed - the trip, or the destination may jog his memory some... helping to fill-in the gaps on the tapes and the battle plan.

In the rolling pine forests of Northern Pennsylvania, Family Bishop finds the exact coordinates they are searching for along a simple two-lane road carving through the wilderness. The long voyage in Henrietta's van finds Walter as testy as ever... certain he has blood clots because he wasn't allowed to stop and stretch. Peter offers up the reality check - Walter. We are fugitives. We can't stop every five minutes. Olivia looks around and is unimpressed - this is it? Trees. Shrubs. Roadway. Them. Henrietta confirms the coordinates with her electronic map - precisely beneath their feet. Walter - what were you doing out here two decades ago? Suddenly, everyones hackles go up, and they start visually searching the underbrush around them. Was that a sound? Is someone there? There is - behind the tree. Walter is certain it was a wicked Tree Dwarf. As they start after the smaller individual Peter is sticking with the pragmatic probabilty - it's a kid. Nicely camouflaged to boot. Henrietta is enjoying this, she always wanted to go on missions with Mom. Now she has one. Deeper in the forest and well away from the van, Family Bishop is surrounded by camouflaged men with substantial weaponry. These are not the dwarves Walter is looking for.

Act I
Deeper in the forest, the science team is escorted to a well maintain compound of tents and the high technology equipment that supports the small community living there. Walter gets a better look at the 'camouflage' everyone seems to be wearing, which they aren't, and warns not to touch anyone. The aggressive skin condition they have could be communicable. Surrounded in the compound, the foursome is searched and weapons confiscated, as a few dozen of the citizens there look on. One man arrives at the gathering and immediately recognizes the infamous Fringe Division science team of yore. The scholarly host introduces himself to Doctor Bishop, whom he thought dead for ages. Walter wants to avoid physical contact and contracting the skin condition that everyone is afflicted with, but Edwin kindly informs him it is too late. The team was exposed when it got here. Walter gets to his requirement - the team came to this place because it needs to retrieve something very important. Edwin is extremely familiar with Walter, although they have never met. Edwin will show him why.

In a quieter part of the compound, Edwin leads Walter through a pair of metal storm doors on the surface and down a spiral staircase to the shelter below. A technician works at a console next to the wall, but the real showpiece of the operation is the bright sterile chamber lined with small transparent cubes. Massey steps into the chamber through the electro-magnetic curtain across the entrance. Walter follows as the E-M discharges slightly at the incursion. What is this place? Massey explains it as a repository of human history. Stored on the data cubes are accounts of every major historical event since the invasion began. Edwin is familiar with Walter because a chunk of that history was about him and the science team... quite the lore. In fact, his son is somewhat of an expert on Fringe Division history. Massey's group settled here after fleeing the cities and are scribing mankind's history because they don't want it rewritten by the invaders. Walter is curious about the skin condition everyone suffers from - if something here is causing it, why not leave? The facility and archive they developed can't be moved and besides, the way the group looks will only draw attention. If Walter's science team doesn't leave soon, they may be permanently afflicted too. Walter explains that they can't go, just yet. His plan to defeat the invaders relies on something from this part of Pennsylvania... he just can't remember what. Maybe there is something in the archive that places Walter in the area two decades earlier.

Topside, a young adolescent approaches the Fringe team with a stack of hand-crafted graphic novels. Edwin's son, and Fringe historian, River, is hoping to get a few autographs from the real deal on his artwork. River is a bit starstruck with his visitors - they are true heroes who stood and fought against the invaders before he was born. He has created more than a few comic tales about Fringe Division: some are based on accounts he has heard, others are just fiction he came up with. Peter appreciates the praise, and the strong jawline River penned for him. One panel in Olivia's comic catches her eye and gets her thinking - her cartoon self is holding and nurturing a female infant... around her, the floor is litered with the dead Observers she just shot to protect the child. Astrid calls from the lab and needs to talk with Walter. She has been working with the video they de-Ambered and she has more information that needs to be passed along. Even though Walter and Massey found no evidence of Bishop visiting the area years earlier, his own taped message says that he needs to look in a mine... m-i-n-e. Massey? We've got one of those - an old gold mine.

High in a Manhattan skyscraper, Captain Windmark looks out of his office window at the traffic below. An assistant escorts two Loyalist security men in with news to report. The handheld holographic device they deliver has evidence of the rogue Fringe team Windmark seeks. Needing to change a tire, security surveillance caught them in the process. They're in rural Pennsylvania.

Act II
As the science team makes it's way from the surface to the heart of the gold mine, Walter recollects his knowledge about a mine collapse more than a century ago in Peru. Cannibalism was a factor in surviving the ordeal, but Walter is certain that won't be a factor today. Peter is skeptical about finding gold in an 'abandoned' gold mine. Walter corrects Peter's false assumption... they don't know that it is gold they are supposed to retrieve as part of the plan. At the end of a long horizontal shaft, a short vertical shaft lined with wood seems the logical place to search. Henrietta tests the rope running down to the next level before her father climbs down and feels some weight attached at the bottom. They haul the attached load up - a badly decomposed man at the other end. Walter examines the cadaver and finds a much more virulent case of the bark-like skin condition their hosts harbor. He originally thought the condition was fungal, but the cadaver shows signs of calcification. But why so extreme? Maybe the mine is the source of the affliction.

At the Resistance headquarters complex a few hundred miles away in The Bronx, Anil takes a call from a mole they have embedded in the Loyalist ranks. The news is not good. He knows what Windmark knows - where Fringe Agent Henrietta Bishop and her friends are located in the mountains.

Clear of the mine and back in the encampment, Walter splits off from the group to study the cadaver while the kids take a break and set-up some of the equipment they brought with them. Peter is starving and is offered a pill by his daughter. It's what? An Apple. Okay. Olivia declines her pill-sized apple and Peter's mind immediately snaps back to the amazing pie they had in Boston, right after the invasion? Can't remember the name of the joint. Olivia doesn't recall the name either, which is odd, besides numbers, Olivia has near perfect recall for names and faces... hmm. Time to join Walter. The air sample results are ready. Walter is busy with a field autopsy of the body they hauled from the mineshaft. It all looks fairly straight-forward. The alkaline-acid balance has been radically altered and it seems that every pore on the body has been completely sealed - protecting itself against airborne corrosiveness. This man died of asphyxiation. Maybe the high levels of toxic gases being introduced into the atmosphere by the Observers are related. Prolonged exposure may have created the drastic immune response that led to this extreme skin condition, like a severe form of Psoriasis. Edwin Massey finds Walter, excited with the information he recovered down in the archive.

Down in the guarded archive, the entire science team gathers and is briefed by Massey on his findings. The three-dimensional record shows an entry for 20 December, 2015. A man named Donald came to the encampment five weeks after the invasion and went down into the mine to gather specific rocks with a reddish hue. Donald, in his late 30's with dark hair, said he was waiting for a scientist from Boston to arrive. Walter can't remember if it was him, or not, but he doesn't know any 'Donald'. Maybe that info was wiped by Windmark during Walter's interrogation. The only reason this entry was made, a man collecting rocks, was because two Observers came and took the man away against his will. Why are the rocks so important? First things first though - both Olivia and Walter are showing signs of the skin condition.

Walter takes a closer look at the eruption on Olivia's neck and scalpel's off the dark fragment. Luckily it had not rooted further into her skin and is easily removed. That luck won't last much longer, they need to retrieve what they came for before the skin affliction becomes a permanent condition. Massey arrives with the material Walter requested - excellent. Walter intends to build a protective suit that will allow one of them to enter the mine without being harmed, he just needs to figure out what alloy to incorporate into the suit's lining for the best result. One task that Peter and Olivia can help with is to return to Henrietta's van and pull-off all of the weather stripping around the doors, windows etc.... Henrietta takes a call from Anil back in The Bronx. He tells her one of their operatives called - the Loyalists are tracking her and she needs to move before they find her.

Yanking the weather-stripping from the van, Peter and Olivia get some alone time. He wants to talk about the mood she seems to be in, she wants to dismiss it. She isn't upset with him, but feels bad for herself. Of course she remembers the name of the restaurant with the great pie. Great memory is her thing... it's just that she wanted to forget that day, that time - when they were searching for their missing daughter. His urge was so strong to follow any lead that would bring the family back together. Her urge, not so strong. She was doubting her maternal capacity and was more compelled to head in the opposite direction, back to fight the invaders. She never felt worthy of the wonderful child they brought into the world. Finding her dead at some point was unthinkable, and returning to fight wasn't her strength of character: unwillingness to continue looking for Henrietta was her weakness. Motherhood just seemed more like punishment, and the fact that her grown daughter admires her so, doesn't help. Peter won't let her wallow in that emotion. He knows how good she is with their daughter and how much Olivia loves her. The past is the past, don't let the way she once felt interfere with the good that is happening now. The family has this fresh chance to start anew and he wants to take that chance. Henrietta finds them talking and shares what she just learned - the Observers are tracking us.

Back in camp, the suit Walter envisioned is coming together. With the aid of their host, the self-contained breathing part of the suit is nearly finished. The group that was robbing the van of it's flexible stripping returns and Olivia shares the bad word - the Observers saw them near Route 11 on the way in and know they're in the area. Massey insists the group leave, there aren't many ways in and out of the area. Walter wants to finish his quest. He needs copper for the lining of the protective gear... something they may be able to get from another isolated tribe nearby. Massey is desperate for the Bishops to leave. If security forces are on the way, they will be here by morning, and destroy everything. All of the archives will be lost. Determined to remain until he gets safe passage into the cave, all Walter needs is the copper. Massey warns that the other group on the mountain, though they may be able to get the copper, won't trade with anyone they don't know. Massey's son points out that his father has talked to the group on the radio before. True. But Edwin has never met them, and he only talks to them when it is convenient for them. Peter points out that Edwin is the best chance for getting the copper they need, regardless of his relationship with the other group. Peter will even tag along as an armed escort. Walter offers-up some medical supplies if they need barter for the copper. Massey still wants out of the deal... build the suit back in Boston, then return to the mine when the threat for capture has gone. Henrietta sees a flaw in that option. If the camp does fall to a security sweep while they are back in Boston, Observer interrogations of Massey's troop will reveal the Bishop clan was there, and headed for the mine for the same rocks that 'Donald' was after decades earlier. They would surely seal the mine for good, in that case. Massey won't yield. All of his people are at risk, and Walter doesn't even know what the rocks he is after will do. And the folks over in the next quadrant, they are bad people... there is no guarantee they will get the copper they are going to ask for. Massey finally yields. He will radio the other group with the request. He also needs time to say good-bye to River, just in case he doesn't survive the excursion.

In the radio tent, Edwin Massey makes a call to the other group that shares the mountain with them. The call to KA-42 is received in short order. The offer to barter receives a negative - they don't have the copper that is needed. Is Ivan available to speak with?

On the all-season dirt road leading into the heavily forested area, a convoy of Loyalist enforcers drive through the dark countryside looking for their target. The lead vehicle stops and takes a digital image of the prominent tire tracks in the dust - the tread matches the make and model of the van they are after. The road ahead runs higher into the mountains. The stop does not go unnoticed. Henrietta is nearby on reconnaisance and sees that their time is limited.

Act IV
In his own tent, River Massey sits and draws his latest graphic novel as his father joins him. Dad wants to clarify what just happened outside with the Bishops. Not wanting to help the Bishops is complicated. Getting the rocks out of the mine is something that needs to be done, but the danger is immense. He could lose everything... the archive, his life, and they would never be together again. Edwin promised River's mother that he'd protect him, no matter what, and he is conflicted about putting himself at risk now. Hero or coward, it is normal to be frightened at times like this... but a hero acts when the time comes. Edwin has decided to help... to do his part for the greater good. River doesn't want his father to lose his life, and ditto, Massey doesn't want to lose his life either, but Edwin has to make the effort - to make sure there's a world out there that River can thrive in. River should understand someday... when he has children of your own.

Fresh news comes in from the lab in Boston. Astrid has repaired the videotape to the point that Walter's specifics on the tape can be understood. She sends the improved version of the tape over videophone to the Northern Pennsylvania encampment. The science team watches as the recording tells them they are looking for a crystallized form of quartz that will create a powerful energy source. Without the specialized mineral, they will not be able to implement the final phase of the plan to defeat the invaders. Forty pounds of the quartz is required. Massey rejoins the Bishops after Astrid's call with good news. The other group has two kilos of copper to trade, but he is backing out of the trip down the mountain - they can make the trade without him. Massey hands over directions to the meeting spot and the schematics for the solar technology they use here in Barksville. Those folks will gladly trade copper for the solar tech. Be careful.

Peter and Olivia make the drive down the mountain in the van to the rendezvous point and find no one waiting for them. Peter rechecks the written instructions that Massey gave him. They are exactly where they were told to go. Why would he send them there? Maybe Massey never wanted them to find the other camp.

Back at the top of the mountain, Edwin Massey walks to the gold mine with a lantern and a pail. The sullen look on Massey's face suggests a noble choice has been made... a choice with dire consequences. A fellow citizen sits near the entrance to the mine shaft and questions his arrival. Henrietta and Walter sit and work in the main gathering space back in camp. A loud clank rattles through the cold night air, getting everyone's attention. The noise came from the gold mine.

Act V
With Peter and Olivia back in camp, the entire team and a half dozen locals hurry to the mine shaft entrance with flashlights to investigate. The man Massey met on his way into the shaft explains to them what Edwin wouldn't. There was no copper waiting at the bottom of the mountain. Everyone rushes down the main shaft to the vertical shaft where they found the first corpse. Waiting for them is a pail of the quartz rock they came for - raised for them on a tackle rig from below. River Massey steps to the edge of the vertical shaft and checks the bottom. In the glow from his father's lantern he can see the rigored remains of Dad, heroically holding the chains that gave the Bishops the mineral power source needed to drive the invaders from the planet. It's time for Family Bishop to leave.

Still stunned with tremendous loss, River Massey makes his way to the underground archive and steps into the sterile chamber to record the events of the day. A hero - sacrificing himself in order to get the Fringe Team the resources they need to save our world - his father, Edwin Massey, the Recorder of History, made history. Like other great men before him, he gave his life selflessly in pursuit of freedom... and a better future.

In the early morning light, Henrietta's black van moves quickly along the dirt backroads through the thick pine forest of Northern Pennsylvania. The Loyalist search convoy races to intercept the vehicle and cuts the van off so it can't drive anywhere. A Loyalist enforcer hurries to the passenger door, opens it and fails to find what he was after. The male driver is alone - he found the van at the side of the road with the keys in the ignition... so he took it.

In a widely devastated ghost town, Peter hotwires an abandoned car to replace the van they sacrificed during their evasion. Walter throws his box of 'special rocks' in the back seat and jumps in beside them. Olivia reaches back and gives her daughter a maternal squeeze on the calf along with a loving smile - receiving a reciprocal smile for the effort. Peter puts the Vista Cruiser station wagon in gear and sets out for the long drive back. Pleased with the choice of transportation, Walter rolls down the window, dons his sunglasses and beams - "Now this is a ride."



Walter (John Noble) and Astrid (Jasika Nicole) use the makeshift laser to recover another tape from the ambered part of the lab. The contents point to a location in northwest Pennsylvania, though the instructions for what to do there are garbled. While Astrid stays behind to try to improve the tape's playback, Walter, Peter (Joshua Jackson), Olivia (Anna Torv), and Etta (Georgina Haig) travel to the designated location. There, they find a small camp of human outcasts, all displaying splotches of bark-like material over their bodies. They are introduced to Edwin (Paul McGillion), the camp's leader, that explains that their condition is due to some unknown agent within the area. The group consider themselves to be recorders of history ever since the takeover by the Observers as to prevent history from being rewritten by the Observers, and maintain a large number of data cubes containing whatever knowledge they can recover, including much about Fringe division. Edwin is unable to find information about Walter's previous visit to the site, but Astrid is able to fix the playback enough to know that Walter must find a mine in the area, which Edwin identifies as an abandoned gold mine.

In the mine, they find a well; hanging from a rope is a corpse showing extreme signs of the bark infection, which Walter believes is due to something in the mine and evacuates everyone. In examining the body, Walter determines that the condition is caused by the Observers' modification of the Earth's atmosphere, the effects being diluted due to the remote location; the atmosphere in the mine accelerated the process, calcifying the body. Edwin discovered that, sometime in the past, the Observers took away a man that had gone down into the mine for red-colored rocks, which Walter suspects he needs to get and starts working on a suit to protect its wearer from the effects of the mine. Astrid, working with the tape, discovers that the rocks provide a necessary energy source for Walter's plan. While working on the suit, Peter and Olivia discuss the events shortly after the Observers' arrival, with Olivia revealing that seeing all the "missing persons" posters while they were looking for Etta had made her realize that her work with Fringe division in fighting the Observers was more important than getting Etta back.

Meanwhile, human Loyalists discover evidence of the Fringe team, and report it to the Observers, who set off to capture the team; one of the Loyalists is actually a mole, and contacts the underground as to warn Etta of their approach. With time short, the only way to get the right materials for the suit is to barter with another nearby refugee camp, a step Edwin is reluctant to do and would rather see the Fringe team leave instead. However, Edwin's son River (Connor Beardmore), who idolizes the Fringe team, accuses his father of never helping and runs off. Edwin realizes his mistake, and makes contact with the other camp, then later has a heart-to-heart with River about no longer just being a recorder of history but becoming part of it. Edwin gives Peter and Olivia directions to the other camp and bartering goods, but when they arrive, they find the spot empty, and Peter realizes it was a deception. Meanwhile, at camp, Edwin goes to the mine alone to recover the rocks; by the time Walter and Etta discover this, Edwin has been able to bring enough of the rocks out of the well, while his body succumbed to the calcification at the bottom of the well.

As the Fringe team escapes with the mineral and return to the lab, abandoning their van to deceive the Loyalist forces, River takes over for Edwin as the recorder, writing a eulogy for his father.



"Fringe" (Season 5, Episode 3)
"The Recordist"

The Fringe team meets with a group of humans who have taken refuge in the forest and seek to preserve humanity's history any way they can.

Directed by: Jeff T. Thomas
Written by: Graham Roland
Production code: 3X7503
Original air date: October 12, 2012

Guest Stars
* Paul McGillion as Edwin Massey
* Connor Beardmore as River Massey
* Georgina Haig as Henrietta "Etta" Bishop
* Michael Kopsa as Captain Windmark
* Shaun Smyth as Anil



Over the past week I've been thinking a lot about fictional dystopias - as depicted on TV in particular - and how hard it is to build one from scratch and make it compelling. I thought the recent V remake had its moments, and I've been enjoying some parts of Revolution, but there's just so much groundwork that has to be laid with shows like these, from explaining the nature of the trouble that's befallen the world to describing how the resistance has developed, that the characters and the story tend to get shortchanged. Fringe has the advantage of four seasons' worth of character-development (or three, if you discount last year's "reset"), and now has a task-based narrative structure to help shore up the story elements. Even still, I've been impressed with how easy it's been to adjust to this future, and all its little quirks and nooks.

It wasn't even that difficult in this week's episode "The Recordist" to get used to a community of nebbishy treepeople with a weird bark-like growth all over their skin - perhaps because the treepeople have such an interesting purpose, and such a tragic dimension.

It's one of Walter's "how to beat The Observers" tapes that sends the Fringe Division (Resistance Subdivision) out to the wilds of Pennsylvania, where Past Walter may have left something vitally important to the cause, although the tape's too garbled to confirm what may be there. So while Astrid works on ungarbling the old message, the Fringe team goes into the woods, where they meet these bark-faced technophiles, who've been busy for the past two decades documenting human history on little data cubes, so that someday when the story of the Observer Invasion is told, it won't entirely be written by the winners. (Note the pessimistic inevitability embedded in these historians' cause; like the Loyalist we met last week, they just assume defeat.)

Edwin Massey is the main "recordist," who also explains to Walter that the reason for their skin condition is unknown, but that it affects everyone in their camp, and eventually spreads and kills the affected. But the recordists can't leave, because they have a job to do. Walter, meanwhile, figures out that the source of the trouble is a kind of radiation, emanating from a mine that contains red rocks. Thanks to Astrid's work on cleaning up the tape and Edwin's extensive records, the team surmises that Past Walter was headed to that camp some 20-odd years ago to meet a man named Donald and to retrieve those rocks, which are a power source for whatever The Resistance needs to build to defeat The Observers. But before that could happen, Donald was taken by The Observers. (My guess is that we haven't heard that name for the last time, especially since Walter says he doesn't remember Donald. My other guess is that Donald may not have been waiting for Walter at all, but rather some other "scientist from Boston" ... perhaps William Bell.)

Plotwise (and even thematically), "The Recordist" would've been a little livelier had Astrid discovered something on the tape that had seriously changed the mission: like if in one of the warped sections, Past Walter had said, "No matter what, stay away from the treepeople!" The biggest complication in this episode is that The Observers figure out roughly where the good guys are, though even then, a Resistance spy is able to tip off Etta that they're running out time. So outside of cutting the Fringe-ers stay with the treepeople short and forcing them to mine those red rocks as quickly as possible, it's not that big of an obstacle.

Well... not to the Fringe folks, anyway. It's a problem for Edwin, who knows that he's not going to be able to get the copper that Walter needs to make a safety suit for the mine excursion - and who also knows that his son River thinks he's a coward for not being willing to risk anything to help Walter. So Edwin lies and sends Peter and Olivia on a wild goose chase, while he goes into the mine himself to get what Walter needs, and set a good example for his own son.

The conversation between Edwin and River about cowardice is corny, yet moving (especially in the way it all plays out, which I'll get back to in a second). It was trumped though by the conversations between Peter and Olivia about their own history of "strength" and "weakness," in regards to the time when Etta went missing. When Peter downs an apple pill and tries to reminisce about some awesome apple pie they ate together in Boston while on their Etta-hunt, Olivia changes the subject, because she finds the whole memory embarrassing. Etta and Peter admire Olivia for staying with Walter to fight The Observers, but Olivia admits to Peter that when Etta disappeared, she assumed it was a punishment for her feeling so conflicted for so long about becoming a mother; and adds that she found it much easier to to re-channel her energy to something else than to face finding the dead body of the little girl who changed her understanding of herself.

This is one of the reasons why this grimly futuristic version of Fringe is working so well: because it's not just about the the big issues of what it means to be a hero, but also the small ones, like how best to document and remember that heroism. Edwin just compiles and cross-files all that he can, while his son River draws his own very cool-looking comics about the past adventures of Fringe Division, giving history a much more dynamic slant. Meanwhile, Peter and Etta remember Past Olivia as a brave woman fighting for a cause despite crippling grief; while Olivia remembers herself as cold and terrified.

I suspect parents may identify with what Edwin does (and what Olivia is saying) more than non-parents, and that may affect some opinions of this episode. Personally, I think "The Recordist" wasn't as good as the last two weeks of Fringe episodes have been, because as I said, it's straighter in its storytelling and pushes its emotional buttons too hard. But I'm not going to pretend I didn't get choked up at the end, when River found the data-cube that his dead father left for him, full of family memories. I kept thinking back to what Edwin told his son about facing the fear of losing everything, and how River may think he understands it, but he can't, really - not yet. "You don't know," Edwin says, speaking to how the meaning history changes as we change. "But you will one day."



A one-off character who appears in the Season 5 episode "The Recordist", Edwin serves as a self-appointed "archivist" for the human race, as well as the de facto leader of a band of refugees who attempt to avoide detection by the Observers within their small community hidden in the mountains of Northern Pennsylvania.

Because of their refusal to abandon their location - as that would adversely affect their sworn duty of keeping a record of human history - Edwin and his fellow refugees suffer from a severe skin condition caused by the high levels of CO2 in the surrounding atmosphere, where large patches of tissue show signs of unnatural calcification (Walter called it an "extreme form of Psoriasis").

At first, Edwin is portrayed as a coward who refuses to help Fringe Division for fear of losing his life; he later attempts to explain his actions to his son River:

EDWIN MASSEY: River? Look at me, Son. What you saw back there in that tent... there's a lot more to the word coward and the word hero than you think. It's complicated. You're not a coward if you're frightened. That's not what it means. You're a coward if you know what needs to be done and you don't do it. I was telling that man out there that I have a lot to lose -- our work, the life we have here... you. I told him I love you so much, I wouldn't know how to say good-bye. When your mother got sick, I promised her I'd protect you no matter what. But I'm conflicted. There's a time for recording history, and there's a time for making it. We don't get a lot of opportunities up here to make it. I've decided to help them... to do my part.
RIVER MASSEY: I don't want to lose you.
EDWIN MASSEY: I don't want to lose you either. But protecting you... means making sure there's a world out there that you can thrive in. I love you so much.
RIVER MASSEY: It's okay, Dad. I understand.
EDWIN MASSEY: No. You don't. But you will one day... when you have children of your own.

It eventually appears that Edwin will contact a nearby camp in order to barter for the copper that Walter needs to construct a rudimentary containment suit (since the mine that contains the crystallized form of Quartz that Fringe Division is searching for also contains lethal doses of the gases which cause the skin condition). Olivia and Peter want him to accompany them, since they recognize him and thus would be willing to trade with him, but at the last moment he refuses to go; however, in the end it is revealed that the camp had no copper to trade, and Edwin had sent Olivia and Peter out on a "wild goose chase" so they would not be able to protest when he went into the mine unprotected and retrieved the Quartz by himself.

Proving his courage (by sacrificing himself so that no one else would be put in danger), Edwin died at the bottom of the mine, when every pore on his body was completely sealed over by the calcification process, causing him to asphyxiate to death. This left his son River to enter the archives and record his father's eulogy:

"A hero died today, sacrificing himself in order to get the Fringe Team resources they need to save our world. Edwin Massey, the Recorder of History, made history ... He will be greatly missed. Like other great men before him, he gave his life selflessly in pursuit of freedom. And a better future."

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