This week, we open on a plane. Marshall Bowman – we’ve seen him before, way back in Season One – is writing something about technology being too good to be true. His nose starts bleeding, so he heads to the bathroom. He pulls out a little zippered kit, swabs his mouth, and swishes the swab around in some liquid. The liquid turns red.
Bowman demands that the attendants collect all the sedatives they can from the passengers. He insists he’s not having a panic attack, and if they don’t listen to him, people will die. That’s some shit you do not say on an airplane, so one attendant gets on the phone while the other tells Bowman to sit down and chill out. Bowman repeats his demands, and tells the attendant not to let him out of the bathroom if he’s not himself. Because that door really seems sturdy.
He returns to the bathroom, and starts grunting and thrashing about in pain. The other passengers are naturally freaking out. The air marshal demands that Bowman come out. After a few moments, he does. He appears to be fine.
At the airport, they’ve taken Bowman aside for questioning. He says he was having a panic attack after all. His nose starts bleeding again, so they let him go to the bathroom. Then the TSA agents find his drug kit and call it in. In the bathroom, his teeth start falling out. He transforms into a giant porcupine-like creature, and comes tearing out of the bathroom.
After the credits, Olivia is talking to an FBI shrink. She knows her situation is odd, but insists she’s fine and her time would be better spent going after David Robert Jones instead of taking a bunch of tests. She talks about her sister Rachel, who moved back to Chicago to be near her daughter Ella’s terrible father.
Olivia goes to Broyles, who informs her that Rachel is still married, and has two kids, Ella and Eddie. Furthermore, 40% of the information Olivia gave about her life was incorrect. The people on “the tenth floor” say she’s not the Olivia Dunham they hired. Olivia heads home, where Peter’s waiting with dinner. He suggests they use Olivia’s time off to go to Vermont. Then Lincoln calls Peter with the latest case. Olivia tells him to go ahead, she’ll be fine.
At the lab, Lincoln starts telling Peter about Flight 718 and Marshall Bowman. Peter remembers the case, but in his timeline, the plane crashed. He remembers that Marshall Bowman was an undercover cop who was given a drug to turn him into a giant porcupine. Walter is eager for Peter to see the gifts he bought and saved for all his Peter’s birthdays, including a beer (for his 21st) and an issue of Hump magazine (for his sweet sixteen). Peter hugs and thanks him. It’s a bit awkward, but Walter is obviously touched too. And okay, yes, so am I.
They all view the TSA footage of the rampaging monster. At the scene, Walter examines Bowman’s body while Peter questions the sister. That seems like something a full-fledged agent should be doing. The sister doesn’t know what Bowman was into, but he did seem stressed lately. Yeah, dicking about with your DNA will do that to you. Lincoln has learned that Bowman officially “retired” from detective work six years ago. Peter knows Bowman had a partner, but can’t remember his name. Olivia supplies the name and address of Daniel Hicks.
On the ride to Daniel’s house, Peter initiates an awkward conversation about Olivia. Lincoln doesn’t quite understand how it happened, but he’s accepted that Olivia loves Peter. Peter says Lincoln is a good guy, like, thanks.
Olivia, disobeying orders, meets them at Daniel’s house. No one responds to their knocking, so they let themselves in. Search warrants are for amateurs! The house is dark, windows covered, lights not working, fridge empty. A medical waste bag sits in the kitchen sink. We see another giant porcupine zip past a doorway. Guess Daniel’s home after all.
When Lincoln’s flashlight beam lands on his face, Daniel attacks, knocking Lincoln clear across the room. Then the creature escapes through a window. The team heads back to the lab, where Walter stitches up the scratch on Lincoln’s back. Olivia apologizes for getting Lincoln hurt, since he didn’t call for backup because she was there.
We learn that Daniel somehow got away unseen. Walter thinks Bowman died because the rapid mutation caused organ failure. They’re still testing the contents of his lab kit, but track marks on the victim reveal that he was regularly injecting himself with something. They also find a tattoo on the body, which Walter thinks is probably Sumerian cuneiform.
Astrid informs them that the Dr. Conrad who was behind the mutations in the first timeline died five years ago in this one. Dead end. Lincoln has to stay behind so Walter can finish sewing him up, so Peter and Olivia go alone to visit Peter’s fried Ed at the bookstore. Ed, naturally, doesn’t know either of them now. He takes one look at their sketch of the tattoo and asks, “Are you one of them?”
At the lab, Walter offers Lincoln a stack of peanut butter and bacon sandwiches. No, thank you very much. He then casually informs Lincoln that he probably got infected when the creature scratched him. Walter can’t work on a cure until the virus matures, but he’s 80% sure Lincoln will be fine. Lincoln, understandably, is worried about the other 20%.
At the bookstore, Ed confirms that the symbol means “rebirth” or “renewal.” He’s heard murmurings online about a cult “obsessed with the guided evolution of man” “¦ into giant porcupines, apparently. Way to go, cult.
Elsewhere – and this is where I was so damn confused, because the woman playing Bowman’s sister Melinda and the woman playing Kate Hicks look exactly alike – Kate Hicks arrives home. It seems to be an entirely different place than the one the team was searching, which is not helping my confusion, but anyway, Daniel’s waiting for Kate. She embraces him and gives him his final injection. She says they’re going to be special, like Adam and Eve. More like Gregor Samsa, but whatever story you have to tell yourself to get up in the morning, fine.
At the lab, Peter, Olivia and Astrid banter amiably over their research. Walter looks on fondly. He’s quick to assure Lincoln that he’s also part of their little family. This version of Walter seems to be a lot better at reading people. He says Lincoln is a “perfectly suited chess partner.” Walter notices a palindrome code in Astrid’s findings. He and Bell used to use palindromes to organize their files (while tripping, of course), which leads Peter and Olivia to Nina. She’s a bit surprised to see Olivia out in the field, but chalks it up to her innate stubbornness. Nina finds the old file on mutation, but the data’s been erased. It turns out DRJ was overseeing the project.
Lincoln, meanwhile, is dismantling Walter’s sandwiches and cramming bacon in his mouth. It’s adorable, because even when ravenous, dude looks more like a squirrel than a dangerous beast. Lincoln is also craving onion rings and cheesecake, and eyeing up Walter’s midsection in a very disturbing manner.
Walter has a breakthrough and calls Peter and Olivia back to the lab. He’s realized the creature needs human fat to fuel its metamorphosis, which it’s probably stealing from lipo clinics. Astrid has already started a search on clinics willing to admit they’ve been robbed. Walter is still stumped as to how the creature’s getting around unseen. Cut to Mr. and Mrs. Hicks, taking off from a rooftop. He’s got wings! Because the whole giant porcupine thing wasn’t quite strange enough.
Walter has developed a wheatgrass-and-insulin smoothie to cure Lincoln. There’s a bunch of other stuff in there, too. Walter has also determined that Bowman was using the drugs to safely manage his transformation, and died because he couldn’t get to his kit in time. Walter has used Lincoln’s infected blood to create a computer model of the mutation sequence, which is still rendering.
Olivia and Astrid have learned that the clinic Daniel was using was locked down after the last robbery resulted in two dead guards, so he’s going to have to go elsewhere for fat. The model has finished rendering, and the wings are now visible. There’s only one local clinic in a high rise, which they figure is the most likely target. Lincoln tells Peter he’s going to have to call for backup now, but Olivia’s already done that. Broyles was not amused, to say the least.
The team, wearing night-vision goggles, heads into the closed clinic. We see Daniel slip past a doorway to the sound of something suspiciously close to a certain smoke monster noise.
Back at the lab, Walter emerges from the bathroom clutching that copy of Hump. No. NO, I did not just see that. He starts murmuring to himself about Lincoln’s move in their ongoing chess game, which prompts Olivia to remember that porcupines are nocturnal. Wow, if you’re guiding your own damn mutation, wouldn’t you pick an animal that’s less, I don’t know, sucky?
Astrid tries to pass this info on to Lincoln, but the team’s radios have been turned off. Olivia calls Peter and tells him to turn on the lights. Meanwhile, Daniel has slapped the shit out of Lincoln, again. The lights come on, and Lincoln shoots the disoriented creature. Then he has to fend off the creature’s crazy-ass wife. Peter takes her down with one shot. She sees what has become of her mutation dreams and starts crying.
After the break, Walter is ripping open all of Peter’s gifts. He’s like a kid on Christmas morning. Astrid is playing the role of my mother, wearily stuffing discarded wrapping paper in the trash. Olivia reports that Lincoln’s talking to Kate, who’s at the hospital being treated with Walter’s cure. She says she doesn’t know where the serum came from, only that Bowman obtained it for them.
There are still plenty of questions left unanswered, like what DRJ’s endgame is, and where the hell he’s finding volunteers, but at least someone (Olivia in this case) acknowledges this. Broyles comes to talk to Olivia. She promises not to disobey orders again. He tells her “the 10th floor” has decided they want Olivia working for them regardless of which Olivia it is.
Elsewhere, Bowman’s sister Melinda is talking her boyfriend into taking the serum. (And this is where I was super confused again, wondering why the hell the FBI wasn’t keeping tabs on Kate.) The boyfriend also has the “rebirth” tattoo on his arm.
Cut to DRJ locking two more porcu-people into a large cage. It doesn’t look like he has a gun, so it’s not clear why they don’t just kill him. He walks through a room full of cages containing giant mutated creatures, up a flight of stairs, and through a door labeled with Sumerian symbols. We see that DRJ has emerged onto the deck of a container ship out to sea.