Fringe Rewatch #1.12 - The No Brainer (mxpw vs. Frea)

The No-Brainer took place in the middle of Fringe's first season (back when the show was part of FOX's No Remote campaign, which meant that episodes were 50 minutes long rather than 42 or 43 minutes like they normally are).  In this episode Olivia Dunham and the rest of the Fringe division get a new and fun bizarre case: brains are melting.  And not just because Sarah Walker's coming out of a swimming pool. Brains are literally melting into goo.

Spoilers ahead!

The setup is simple: seemingly random people are dying thanks to their brains leaking out of their ears and noses.  Fringe division investigates and discovers that just before their deaths, each of the victims downloaded a large file off of the Internet.  Olivia works her FBI mojo, interviewing those closest to the victims, Astrid does computer researching and helps Walter out in the lab, Peter gets in touch with his seedy contacts, and Walter determines that the brains were overstimulated right before death.  A connection finally pops up between victims, leading Olivia to the killer, but to do that, she must maneuver around Agent Harris, who has it out for her and the Fringe Division.

In the C-Story of the episode, a woman named Jessica Warren wants to speak to Walter about her daughter, whose accidental death sent Walter to the mental institute 17 years before, but is constantly stonewalled by Peter until Olivia has something to say about it.

So what did we think of the episode?  We did an mxpw vs. Frea and everything so you'd know, and don't forget to tune in for the rewatch tonight (Wednesday) at 7:30 central time!

Frea: Okay, so "The No Brainer."

Frea: Or, alternatively titled, Olivia vs. the Intersect

mxpw: Haven't we kinda been reviewing it already as you watched? *is lazy* But yes, yes, Olivia vs. the Intersect.

Frea: I totally did not make that connection until you mentioned it earlier tonight. But then, that's not surprising. This was after I quit watching during the first season and had to basically mainline half of S1 right after the premiere of S2 all those years ago. I remember being a little braindead (ha, pun intended!) at the time.

That's weird. I don't remember the Intersect doing THAT before...
mxpw: To be honest, I don't think I made the connection quite as well as I did during my rewatch compared to my original viewing.

mxpw: But yeah, from the very first second of this episode, I thought: Intersect.

Frea: Also, shouldn't people know not to click pop-up ads?

mxpw: It reminded me a lot of stuff like Chuck vs. the Suburbs when the Intersect was actually, you know, scary when somebody not named Chuck Bartowski downloaded it.

Frea: Oh, good times. I remember those times fondly.

mxpw: Instead of becoming gnome-safe.

Frea: So this episode definitely takes place back when Fringe was a gore-fest (though it doesn't make me cringe as much as the one with the magnetized pigeon). The basic premise is this: somebody is sending folks a computer virus that literally melts their brains. The Fringe Team has to battle a bureaucratic bastard and the killer in order to find out who's doing this, as victims keep piling up. And when I say gore-fest, I mean there are melty brains. And snot. I feel like the snot is very important to mention because melty brains are bad enough, but adding snot? Yuck.

mxpw: mmmm melty brains

mxpw: Probably tastes like chicken soup.

Frea: That's because we're in the Matrix.

mxpw: Obviously.

 mxpw: Do not pay attention to the woman in the red dress.

Frea: Even if it's Peggy Carter?

mxpw: Huh? What? Sorry, my brain kinda drifted off for a second there.

Frea: Understandable. A lot of people have called the first season of Fringe rather slow, and on the one hand, I'd agree with that assessment. However, watching the latest episodes, it's kind of awesome to be able to go back and see those little character moments that build up in these earliest seasons. And this episode definitely had plenty of those, as well as a couple of misfires.

mxpw: Rewatching this episode made me realize one main thing: Fringe needs more Charlie Francis.

Frea: Everything needs more Charlie Francis.

mxpw: Agreed with that. I liked his little moment of cop ESP with Olivia when they were talking about letting the kid go free. I miss that kind of stuff in the later seasons.

mxpw: But yeah, there were hit and misses in this episode. A hit: Olivia's scenes with Ella, a much welcome character. Miss: Olivia and Peter's conversation in the quad outside of the lab. That was painful for me.

Frea: Miss: Any time the villain had dialogue.

mxpw: Hit: Olivia sticking it to Harris.

Frea: Hit: Olivia and Peter's conversation at the end.

mxpw: Miss: Did they ever explain what the car salesman guy had to do with things?

Frea: No, I don't think they did. Maybe it was a joke about always getting screwed over by car salesmen?

mxpw: Maybe.

mxpw: Oh well.

Frea: Never let it be said Fringe doesn't have a morbid sense of humor

Frea: Hit: Astrid is a Nerd!

mxpw: Hit: Broyles sticking up for Olivia.

mxpw: Miss: No Gene.

Frea: Definitely a miss, there.

Frea: Hit: the landline scene. The sheer puzzlement of everybody in the lab when the phone rings. "Wait, we have a phone?" It tied in well with the fact that Olivia's apartment has no landline.

mxpw: Hahaha. That was probably my favorite bit of the episode.

What IS that noise?
mxpw: It was just quirky. Ah, the modern age.

Frea: Overall, I'd call this a good episode. Some of (well, okay, a lot of) the dialogue was a bit clunky, but I thought it was a great episode full of tension between Olivia and Harris (who could go mustache-twirly, except for his use of "autonomous"), and each of the team using their skills together to find a killer. Olivia uses the FBI and does her due diligence, Peter talks to the shady side of Boston, Walter plays with melty brains, and Astrid is a Nerd. That's one of the things I enjoy about this show. Olivia may be the one to go in with a gun and defuse situations, but it takes all of them to get to the bottom of something.

mxpw: By their powers combined, they are the Fringe Division.

Frea: Moo.

mxpw: Oh, and before I forget, for the love of God, somebody get Olivia a new wardrobe. That is all.

Frea: I like her wardrobe, personally. At least it's professional. I just wish she'd put her hair up. Which, amazingly, she does, later!

Frea: Episode rating?

mxpw: It's so boooooring.

mxpw: Um...a 7, I guess? We should probably rate it on the same scale as the podcasts.

Frea: There is just no pleasing you. Sarah Walker wears a too short skirt, and you're like, It's not professional! And Olivia dresses professionally, and you're like, It's boring!

mxpw: She wears the same freaking colors for everything. I can't help it if Sarah Walker has totally altered my perception of wardrobe choices.

mxpw: I'm just a product of my environment!

mxpw: Also, I never said Olivia's wardrobe wasn't professional. Just boring. If she dressed a little more like Kate Beckett, I'd be content.

Frea: Kate Beckett wears insane shoes.

Frea: And needs to put her hair up.

mxpw: I did say a little!

Frea: Uh-huh. Well, I give it a 7, too.

Don't forget to come watch the episode live with us on Castle Inanity at 7:30 PM CST, August 17!



  1. BigKev6717.8.11

    Funny! I watched this ep (for the first time) last week and tweeted "so Fringe has an intersect that sucks your brain out through your ears? Royalties to Fedak!!"....
    Still a good solid episode though. S1 is a little slow but I love the way it's building and character beats are beginning to recur, and longer term threads becoming clear. Huge kudos to Josh Jackson too - I rarely watched Dawson's Creek and when I did Pacey just annoyed me - but he's fantastic in Fringe! Plenty of depth with a little bit of edge. I'll be watching the last 2 in S1 tonight - and remembering not to eat when the first scene of each ep is on!

  2. 'Instead of becoming gnome-safe.'

    LOL! That caused me an embarrassing OJ dribble moment at breakfast.

    Thanks Maximus, you made my day.

  3. Crumby17.8.11

    A lot of people have called the first season of Fringe rather slow, and on the one hand, I'd agree with that assessment. However, watching the latest episodes, it's kind of awesome to be able to go back and see those little character moments that build up in these earliest seasons.

    I'm enjoying S1 way more now than I did back when it aired. It's fine when you watch the episodes quickly but stretched over 9 months, it was really slow. And they were kinda experimenting with that season. But now, I can appreciate it.

    Also, Ella was a great addition.

  4. Just a couple quick things as I'm thinking about the episode... The car salesman is the "villians" old boss who fired him.. It gets a VERY brief mention in the show... easy to miss if you're doing ANYTHING else. Also, the explaining of Olivia's wardrobe actually does come up later as part of the overall mythology. Don't want to say a LOT more here for the folks who may be appreciating it for the first time, but I kinda loved it when it gets mentioned and then you look back and have the realization "They've been planning this HOW long? That's GREAT." Also I'm sure that the FBI has very different dress codes compared to the Deep Cover operations of the CIA.


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