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Welcome to Fringe Observations — your weekly guide through the visual clues and overarching connections in Fox’s Fringe. This week, we’re observing 5.02 — “In Absentia”.



  • Continuing the theme of “perspective“, here we glimpse Olivia’s recollection of the day Etta was taken. As contrasted in the images above and below, there are subtle differences between her memory of events and Peter’s, among them:
  1. The blanket is green vs red.
  2. Peter is wearing a brown shirt vs light blue/gray.
  3. Olivia and Peter are both prominent in Peter’s nightmare, Peter is largely obscured throughout Olivia’s account.
  • All in all, Peter’s account of events is pretty reliable in relation to Olivia’s. In other words, there are not many major differences between their accounts, though we could of course question the ‘reliability’ of both perspectives. (Perhaps an Etta dream would confirm which is most accurate?).
  • However, the underlying differences seem to speak for themselves and play into their eventual separation. They might also say something about how both characters view their relationship now — remember, these are dreams/nightmares so their current anxieties and emotions are likely being reflected.
  • Does Peter have more hopeful that their marriage can be saved while Olivia is less sure? Just one perspective that could be extrapolated from the above comparison.

  • Further, the above caps seem to reinforce Peter’s nagging guilt over what happened to Etta — notice how he ‘puts himself’ in the frame with Etta as the building collapses. He would spend his days looking for her instead of fighting the Observers. By contrast, Olivia’s mind focuses more intently on the destroyed building, illustrating her sense of responsibility to the bigger picture, to her job (or “destiny”, if you prefer).
  • That both parents loved Etta is not really in question, but you could certainly extrapolate their respective approaches to dealing with grief. Again, since this is a flashback through a dream, it’s a way to show the audience what happened (or versions of what happened) directly through the internal lens of both characters. A kind of two-in-one job.
  • There are other interesting bits to observe, including the fact that in some respects Peter’s nightmare, once the Observers arrive, seems slightly more frantic than Olivia’s, which again plays into his self-placed guilt.


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  1. Aria Mohtadi says

    Neat observations! Awesome.

    I liked the analysis of Olivia’s dreamy flashback…don’t know why, but the scene had a Sarah Conner feeling to it.

    Also, nice crossovers! The writers never fail to please.

    Like: Thumb up 3

  2. Conner says

    I’m sure I’m missing something here, but can anyone explain why it was called an Angel Device? Some kind of reference I’m not getting?

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    • Rick Terry says

      I assume it is called that due to the original use of the device. Remember the Observers originally used it to prepare themselves for time-travel, thus making them angel-like so as to appear in and out of time-periods/timelines/universes.

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      • g33k says

        I wonder if that could be a callback to another episode that gave information on Observer tech 4×11’s “Making Angels”. None of the devices in there were explicitly called angel devices, but its another hint towards calling Observers angels. Maybe all Observer tech used for time travel and viewing time and events are called “Angel devices” in 2036.

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  3. says

    I’ve waiting for this since friday! I just love this observations!

    About Walter speaking portuguese, it’s also linked to Lost. If you remember, when they stopped to press the buttons, and the hatch exploded, some guys in a ship found the signal and called Penny (then again another Desmod/Simon reference) and they spoke portuguese. As a portuguese speaker, I would love to hear Walter speak some portuguese and maybe drop some sort of clue, like happened in Lost.

    And also, now that I noticed, why Etta have pictures framed in the bathroom? It’s, maybe, like a new trend in 2036?

    Somethin else, I think, I noticed. Etta is reading people minds, or at least they intentions. Like she did with Gael, and Olivia, and maybe, to all observers. But she probably won’t say about it too easily. There will be a moment when Olivia and Etta will realises they share some powers. Can’t wait to see!

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  4. jade86 says

    I have to say…
    Olivia’s dream is more like a real memory of what happened, while Peter’s dream looks like a dream itself, because of all the visual and sound effects (the sound of wind chimes, strange voices and the sound of an engine in the background, distorted images) totally absent in Olivia’s dream. It’s like those effects came from Peter’s subconscious and i tend to believe there is an important hidden message.

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  5. emi says

    I just loved Etta’s “sweetheart” echoing Peter on the pilot. When I heard it I thought that Olive would scold her; instead, Olivia went the other way round teaching Etta how to feel compassion.

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  6. williamreturns says

    I gotta disagree with you about the lab being properly reintroduced. I agree that the lab is pretty much its own character in the show, and in previous episodes had been treated as such, but this time there was no warm reunion, and I was really looking forward to it. I really think they missed a great opportunity of a “we’re home” moment for our team and the audience.

    ROCO, do you have any thoughts on how Etta knew the Angel Device was in the desk? Has she maybe been there before, and is not being completely up front with the team? Or was it just a continuity error…?

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  7. says

    Did you guys notice the observer who appears at 6:38 after the opening is the same that appears in episode 3×03 The Plateau and some other episodes I can’t remember.

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    • Rick Terry says

      Yeah, he’s the one who appears in episodes when Michael Cerveris couldn’t be there. Not a bad gig now that he gets to be the one to spot in each eppy out of the bajillions of other Observers. I hope they give him a storyline. I noticed he is older in appearance than September, so perhaps he is September 20 some odd years into the future. Wouldn’t that be a twist!?

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      • says

        What if he is friends with Seppy and ends up helping the fringe team? He’s gotta be important enough that the camera stopped when he was walking up to the check point

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  8. Brandon W says

    The actor Henry played *Simon* Foster…not Henry Foster. Main reason I know is because …and I’m not 100%here but I don’t think we have ever had a character named Henry on this show that wasn’t a child of peter/(some)olivia. again just an awesome episode. Fringe never disappoints:)

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  9. Jim says

    I really liked the LOST references in this episode. They go down a hatch, and inside they find Radzinsky (Eric Lange) and one part of a video that has been cut and hidden in secret locations. And like you said, ”Desmond” was in the episode as well.

    The ”grape vine” line seemed very interesting to me. It felt like it was supposed to be more than just a joke. But I have no idea what it could mean. Is there some twist coming up about the ”reality” of this timeline?

    Simon’s head inside the lab makes me wonder what the Observers did with William Bell’s body. Did they just keep that one in the amber? Maybe there could still be a connection between Bell and the Observers’ arrival.

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    • Rick Terry says

      Grape Vine, as in: “Ooh ooh I heard it through the grapevine…not much longer would you be mine…”

      Lyrics: ( not sure if there are clues or not. You be the judge.)

      Ooh, I bet you’re wondering how I knew
      About you plans to make me blue
      With some other guy that you knew before.
      Between the two of us guys
      You know I love you more.
      It took me by surprise I must say,
      When I found out yesterday.
      Don’t you know that…

      I heard it through the grapevine
      Not much longer would you be mine.
      Oh I heard it through the grapevine,
      Oh and I’m just about to lose my mind.
      Honey, honey yeah.

      I know that a man ain’t supposed to cry,
      But these tears I can’t hold inside.
      Losin’ you would end my life you see,
      ‘Cause you mean that much to me.
      You could have told me yourself
      That you love someone else.


      People say believe half of what you see,
      Son, and none of what you hear.
      I can’t help bein’ confused
      If it’s true please tell me dear?
      Do you plan to let me go
      For the other guy you loved before?
      Don’t you know…


      Honey Honey I know
      That you’re letting me go
      said, “I heard it through the grapevine”
      Heard it through the grapevine……

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  10. Jake says

    Just a quick comment, while I don’t disagree that the dragon may be the next episode clue, I think the reason that Walter commented on it and it was quite prominently featured is that in many cases of ‘secret’ routes through confusing places (such as underground tunnels) one way to obscure the route for those that aren’t meant to know about it is to use symbols instead of obvious signs. I’d have to rewatch to be sure but I think they followed the direction of the dragons tail which may have been pointing the way.

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  11. edgesight says

    My interpretation of the RED DRAGON:

    Smaug was the red dragon in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. He kept the riches of Lonely Mountain for himself after killing several dwarves to get it. Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the wizard, and thirteen other dwarves all ventured to Lonely Mountain in order to obtain their riches.

    The riches are, of course, the contents of the lab.

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  12. edgesight says

    Next episode clue (or maybe just a reference to the whole season)

    When the team is discussing how to turn on power at the lab there is a book shelf next to Etta. Most of the books look like science stuff except for a novel, Before and After. Written by Rosellen Brown. Here is the synopsis on Amazon:

    The Reisers were a typical American family. Two loving parents. Two bright teenagers. A lovely home in a small New England town. But then one day the doorbell rang, bringing news of a shattering crime that would turn their son into a stranger and tear their lives in half. As the case unfolds, parent is pitted against parent, brother against sister, family against community.

    Before and After is a novel that dares us to ask how well we, as families, really know each other and ourselves…dares us to see that one event can change everything…dares us to confront the fine–and shattering–line between guilt and innocence, between love and rage, between before and after.

    Sounds very familiar. 😉

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  13. Overkast says

    I’m I missing something…. on 419 Etta found Walter with peter, William, and Astrid and now in this espoised he Ambered himself in the lab alone?

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  14. Jonathan says

    Maybe you can go get a screen capture, but when Peter was pulling the Betamax out of the amber, just before the scene cuts you can see an upside-down heart to the right of him in the amber. We’ve seen a lot about loyalty this season, but not sure how love might fit into it.

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