In Absentia
Season 5, Episode 2
Air date October 5, 2012
Written by David Fury
J.H. Wyman
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
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Cast | Transcript

"In Absentia" is the second episode of the fifth season of Fringe.


The Fringe team revisits the Harvard lab, now under Observer control, to try to find the information they need as the team fights on in their mission to save the world.


Determined to retrieve the plan to defeat the Observers from his memory, Walter Bishop tries again with the Thought Unifier, but it just makes him talk nonsense and speak in Portuguese and Swedish. Olivia Dunham suggests that because Walter typically documents everything, he may have written it down. But even if files exist, they can't go back to the old Harvard lab, because the Observers have made the university a "No-Go Zone." - it is heavily patrolled by Loyalists and impossible to get into.

5x02-Ambered Lab

The ambered lab.

However, Walter knows a secret way into Harvard - steam tunnels that run underground. He sneaks in with Astrid Farnsworth, Olivia, Peter Bishop, and Henrietta Bishop. A section of the lab has been ambered, and Walter's Betamax video recorder sits just inside it. Walter states that he made a video instead of writing anything down.

When Loyalist officer Gael Manfretti unexpectedly enters the lab, Etta captures him. Since he is carrying a bag of breadcrumbs, and pigeons enter the lab through open windows, Olivia later figures out Manfretti just came there to feed the pigeons. Walter improvises and builds a laser out of items in his lab to melt the amber and free the camera, but they need electricity and the breaker blew out when Walter ambered the lab. Astrid says the campus substation was in the science building.

Etta questions Manfretti about the science building, using a device that ages a person many years in a few seconds. It's Observer tech that the Loyalists adapted to use on the resistance. The torture bothers Olivia, but Etta says Manfretti doesn't deserve sympathy. The Observers have brought war - and they're losing.

Walter asks Etta for her necklace; they need the silver for solder. She hands over the chain but keeps the spent bullet she wore on the chain.

Privately, Manfretti asks Olivia to go to his home after he's dead and tell his son that he's never coming home and that he loved him very much. He says he has seen too many people waiting for loved ones to return home that never do, and he doesn't want his son to go through that. Olivia tells him that if he cooperates, she'll tell his son this. He says the science building contains the main power grid, but rumor has it the Observers use it for experiments "on everything." He gives them his access code but says there is also a retinal scan. Walter fashions a substitute for Manfretti's eye from a preserved pig's eyeball, so Peter and Etta can fool the scanner.

Manfretti tells Olivia he joined the Loyalists after a resistance action killed his oldest son. He thinks humans have no chance, and if the resistance stopped fighting, the world would be safer. Olivia says they have to win so that everyone who died, didn't die for nothing.

In the science building, Peter and Etta gain entrance using Manfretti's access code. His retinal scan is flagged by security, but Manfretti volunteers to talk to them and convinces them to let "him" (Peter and Etta) inside.

They walk by several labs, one with a woman with stitches in her head and another with an Observer in a room full of human brains. In the next room, Etta is shocked to discover Simon Foster's head, without his body, attached to a machine. She is even further distressed when he blinks, showing his head is still alive. She pulls her gun, but Peter stops her. He tells her that there will be a time for revenge and a time to grieve, but it is not at that moment. Peter promises that one day the Observers will pay for what they've done. They get to the breakers and reroute power to Walter's lab and return.

The camera is retrieved from the amber, and Etta prepares to take Manfretti to the resistance. Olivia is uncomfortable, knowing he will die. Etta says he doesn't have a son; he lied in hope that Olivia would free him. Olivia says she sees what the Observers brought to Etta's world. But she's more concerned about what they've taken away.

Etta drives a drugged Manfretti to a remote location. He wakes up laying on the ground. He admits that Etta was right; he doesn't have a son. He became a Loyalist because he's a coward. When Etta lets him go anyway, he vows to join the resistance. Something in Olivia's eyes made him feel, for the first time, that the humans are supposed to win. Etta's letting him live because she saw something in Olivia's eyes too: pity, for all of them.

At Harvard, the team watches the video. It shows Walter explaining that the parts of the plan are documented on a series of videotapes. Once all are recovered, they'll know how to get rid of the Observers.

Etta calls Olivia on her comm device and shows her Manfretti walking away. Videotaped Walter says they must follow the tapes, and begin the journey right away. "You are humanity's only hope."

Notable Quotes[]

Henrietta: Loyalists sell out their own kind like rats. I know you just woke up, but look around you, Mom. Can't you see what the Observers have brought? This is war. And we're losing.

Olivia: I don't know your world. But I had hoped for you that, wherever you were, you weren't hardened by what had happened to you. And it's not that I don't see what the Observers have brought, I do. But what concerns me more is what they've taken away.


  • In real-world terms, Walter's Lab on the Longwood Campus is directly 3.08 miles from the Science Building depicted on the Loyalist security monitor. A steam tunnel between the two would have to pass beneath the Charles River.
  • The first half of the passcode provided by Henrietta's prisoner is 010567. The birthday of J.H. Wyman, a writer for Fringe, is Jan. 5, 1967.

Featured Music[]

  • "Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues