The Recordist
Season 5, Episode 3
Air date October 12, 2012
Written by Graham Roland
Directed by Jeff T. Thomas
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Cast | Transcript

"The Recordist" is the third episode of the fifth season of Fringe.


As the rogue Fringe team continues to fight off the oppressive Observers’ invasion, unforeseen events lead them into a forest where they encounter a strange subculture of people devoted to recording human history.


Astrid Farnsworth liberates another Betamax videotape from the amber in the Harvard lab. It's not the first in the series documenting Walter Bishop's plan to defeat the Observers; it's the third. On the tape Walter says this tape explains a crucial element they will need and gives coordinates in rural northern Pennsylvania; the Walter watching the tape doesn't recognize the coordinates.

Astrid stays behind to extract information from the wonky tape. In the Pennsylvania woods, Henrietta Bishop confides in Olivia Dunham that she used to imagine going on missions with her, but now finds that Olivia is so much more than she expected.

Suddenly they're surrounded by humans with severe, bark-like scabbing on their skin. Their leader, Edwin Massey, knows Walter, Peter Bishop, and Olivia from the secret library of holographic data cubes his people are keeping. Started by his father, the library records every major historical event from the day of the invasion onward.

Edwin explains they noticed the skin condition after settling there: small patches at first, spreading over time. He tells the Fringe team that they should leave unless they want to develop it too. Walter says he has to stay to obtain something from this area, something needed for his plan to defeat the Observers. 

Edwin's young son, River, knows about the Fringe team too. He's even made comic books about them, which he shows to Etta, Olivia, and Peter, calling them the last real heroes.

Walter eventually decides the skin condition is a severe immune reaction to the byproducts of the Observers' atmosphere-changing machinery in Central Park. It's like an extreme kind of psoriasis.

Astrid checks in, having gotten more information from the tape. She tells them that they have to find a mine. Edwin leads them to a nearby mine, formerly a gold mine where they find a body deep in a mineshaft, his body completely calcified. Walter determines that the immune reaction flares up intensely in anyone who enters the mine, causing immediate paralysis through the acceleration of the scabbing.

In New York City, Loyalist officers tell Captain Windmark they've tracked down the Fringe team. But one Loyalist, a resistance member, secretly contacts Etta's friend Anil, who warns her.

Edwin shows the team a hologram from one of the data cubes: five weeks after the invasion, a man named Donald - dark-haired, in his late 30s - gathered several reddish rocks from the mine. He was waiting for a scientist from Boston when he was captured by two Observers. Walter doesn't know, or remember, Donald. He's very puzzled ... and he and Olivia have developed specks of the skin condition. For now, Walter can remove them. 

Olivia privately tells Peter her belief that Etta's disappearance was her punishment for feeling conflicted between motherhood and some other destiny. Peter reassures her and says their family's getting a second chance.

Astrid contacts the team, having deciphered more of the tape, telling them they need 40 pounds of the crystals. Walter starts to build a protective suit so he can enter the mine. Etta tells everyone the Loyalists are tracking them. Walter needs copper to complete the suit; Edwin says a nearby camp may have some, but he's afraid to help and asks the team to leave so the archive won't be discovered. River is disappointed in his dad. Edwin reconsiders and has an emotional talk with his son about cowards and heroes.

Edwin tells the team that the other camp has copper they will trade, but he refuses to go, sending them to make the exchange themselves. Peter and Olivia go to the rendezvous point, but there is no one there. Meanwhile, Edwin enters the mine.

Peter and Olivia return to the camp and are told that the other camp told Edwin that they didn't have any copper. They head to the mine and find a bucket containing the crystals at the top of the mineshaft. Edwin is at the bottom, dead, his body completely calcified.

River returns to the library and records his father's sacrifice.

The team leaves the camp to return to Harvard. Loyalists stop the van on the road, but the team has already abandoned it. Peter hot-wires a battered station wagon, and they head into the wastelands with the stereo blaring, Walter wearing wraparound shades and grinning in the backseat.

Notable Quotes[]

Edwin Massey: You're a coward if you know what needs to be done and you don't do it.

Walter: Welcome to tape three of my plan.
Olivia: What happened to tape one and two?
Peter: Walter, you stored the tapes out of order.
Astrid: Shocker.

Astrid: Walter, is there a mine where you are?
Walter: Mime. The only mime that I know of is Marcel Marceau. What's he got to do with any of this?
Astrid: No, a mine.

River: A hero died. 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.

Edwin Massey: There is a time for recording history, and there is a time for making it. And we don't get many opportunities up here to make it.


  • The coordinates recited by Walter Bishop in his video presentation (not the corrected ones stated by Olivia Dunham) included the 49th parallel. The 49th Parallel is a Canadian WWII film that was released in the United States as "The Invaders" (the term the Recordists used to identify the Observers) and starred Raymond Massey, who shares his surname with Edwin, The Recordist. Olivia's coordinates, at 41º 20’ 2” N, are in a wooded area in Pennsylvania, near the Allegheny National Forest. Walter's coordinates are in Quebec.