The Road Not Taken
Season 1, Episode 19
Air date May 5, 2009
Written by J.J. Abrams
Alex Kurtzman
Directed by Fred Toye
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Cast | Transcript

"The Road Not Taken" is the nineteenth episode of the first season of Fringe.


Olivia experiences "awake dreams," seeing elaborate visions of things not really there. While investigating a disturbing case of a woman who apparently spontaneously combusted, Olivia throws caution to the wind and explores her unexplained visions further. Meanwhile, Walter discusses key information about the Z.F.T. manifesto, and Peter reveals a secret that yields unexpected results in the case.


The Fringe Division investigates the case of Susan Pratt, a woman who "spontaneously combusts" in the middle of a busy New York street. The team discovers that the victim is the subject of a Z.F.T. experiment to cultivate pyrokinesis. As they investigate, Olivia experiences "visions" while awake. Walter Bishop suggests she is seeing a parallel universe which has branched off from our own. Olivia Dunham and Peter Bishop visit an agoraphobic website designer named Emmanuel Grayson who is apparently aware of William Bell, the drug trials, and the coming war, although his credibility comes into question when he believes himself to be a character in the plot of Star Trek.

Using information from her visions, Olivia tracks down the victim's twin sister, Nancy Lewis, who only moments before was kidnapped for more ZFT experimentation. Sanford Harris is revealed to be responsible for the crimes, and while closing in on him, Olivia gets locked in a room with Lewis, whose unstable pyrokinetic abilities threaten both their lives. With Olivia's guidance, the woman focuses her energy on Harris and incinerates him. Olivia finds out that the sisters were part of the same nootropic drug trial that she was as a child. She presses Walter to reveal why he and William Bell were developing "supersoldiers," but Walter only shares that it was for protection against some impending doom that he regrettably cannot recall.

Meanwhile, Walter reveals that the ZFT manuscript was written by William Bell and that the copy of the manuscript that ZFT uses is missing a chapter dealing with ethics. He locates the original, but The Observer shows up and takes Walter away, cryptically stating: "it is time to go." Nina Sharp visits Phillip Broyles to discuss the Observer and is later shot in her hotel by two masked gunmen using silenced weapons.

Notable Quotes[]

Olivia: I feel like I'm losing my mind.
Walter: Oh, I don't think so. If you were actually going insane, you'd likely have no idea what's happening. Take it from me.

Walter: Matter is just energy waiting to happen. The average adult at rest contains enough potential energy to explode with the force of five very large hydrogen bombs.
Peter: You know, theoretically, you're actually right.
Walter: Ho ho ho ho! My son finally agrees with me. Agent Farnsworth, take a note of that.

Peter: There's something strange in your neighborhood.
Walter: Who you going to call?

Olivia: What process?
Grayson: To create super soldiers.
Olivia: Super-soldiers.
Grayson: Yes. Like Khan Noonian Singh. To defend us in the coming war.
Olivia: What war?
Peter: I'm sorry. The Khan?
Grayson: Yes.
Peter: As in The Wrath of...?
Grayson: Yes.
Peter: Let me guess. This war, it's against...
Grayson: The Romulans. Renegade Romulans from the future, here to change the timeline. The sworn enemy of the Federation.
Peter: The Federation. That would be the United Federation of Planets.
Grayson: Yes.
Peter: Hmm. And you know this because?
Grayson: I am the son of Sarek.
Peter: Which makes you Spock.
Grayson: Yes.
Peter: Well, Mr Spock, thank you for your time. We'll let you get back to the bridge now.
Grayson: Live long and prosper.


  • The episode shares its title with the Robert Frost's poem about a man reaching a road bifurcation and taking one path instead of the other.
  • The Observer arrives at Walter's lab and escorts him away.
1x19 Clue
  • The clue for "The Road Not Taken" appeared in the previous episode, "Midnight". The clue was a mysterious fire which breaks out on the bottom of the newscast, and additionally, a featured song in one of the club scenes was "Burning Up" by Ladytron.

    “He is here;” a clue William Bell is in the other universe

  • In Olivia's 'vision,' there is graffiti on the building on the left of the frame that states 'He is here' - possibly referring to William Bell being in the other universe.
  • When examining the woman's charred corpse, Walter Bishop is carrying a Slusho! cup. Slusho! is a fictional company created by J.J. Abrams for Cloverfield.
  • The sequence with conspiracy theorist Emmanuel Grayson contains numerous references to Star Trek which serve as multi-level in-jokes. Emmanuel claims to be Spock, son of Sarek, and Spock actor Leonard Nimoy makes his Fringe debut in the next episode. He bears the same surname as the mother of Spock and wife of Sarek, Amanda Grayson. In addition, the series' creators were, at this time, involved in producing a new Star Trek movie which involves a plot similar to the one Grayson described. Emmanuel lives in number 1701. That's the number of the starship Enterprise. Lastly, the actor playing Emmanuel, Clint Howard, guest-starred in "The Corbomite Maneuver", the very first regular Star Trek episode to be filmed in 1966.
  • This episode suggests the plot for the JJ Abrams reboot of the Star Trek: "Romulans, renegade Romulans here to change the timeline. The sworn enemy of the federation."
  • The conspiracy theorist story about the super soldiers created for a war mirrors the plot of the 1st season and while it seems that Grayson goes on to a crazy Star Trek-inspired rant, the "Future Romulans, here to change the timeline" could be an allusion to The Observers and their plots to change the timeline in order to create their version of the perfect earth.
FBI Ceased to Exist A Decade Ago


  • When Olivia has a vision of the alternative universe Broyles' desk is facing the window. But when Olivia is talking to Charlie the desk is in the background and it doesn't move.
  • In the scene where the forensics team is going over Nancy Lewis' apartment when Olivia is walking towards Peter to help him cut the glass, and she's wearing blue gloves. When she holds the glass she uses her bare hands.
  • The glimpses Olivia sees of the Alternate universe have her talking to an alternate Broyles and Francis but inside the FBI building. According to the alternate universe Broyles, however, the FBI ceased to exist a decade ago. Either Olivia saw a different alternate universe from the one we are familiar with, one with events closer to the Prime universe such as the existence of the FBI and Cortexiphan, or the alternate universe was not fully developed at this time.
  • Charlie is seen placing a call on a cell phone. The scene that immediately follows shows Harris getting into an SUV. The camera then pans to Olivia, who uses a radio and says, "I got him, Charlie, he is headed West." The scene then cuts to Charlie who is on a cell phone and says, "I'm right behind you" and there is an audible beep of Charlie ending a call.


  • "Traveling Riverside Blues" by Robert Johnson


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