Ability

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Ability
Episode114.jpg
Season: 1 Episode: 14
Air Date: 10 Feb 2009
Written by: David H. Goodman (teleplay)
Glen Whitman (story)
Robert Chiappetta (story)
Directed by: Norberto Barba
Starring: Main Characters
Guest Cast: Jared Harris as David Jones
Michael Gaston as Sanford Harris
Chance Kelly as Mitchell Loeb
Noah Bean as Agent Kent
Kenneth Tigar as Johan Lennox
Clark Middleton as Edward Markham

Philip LeStrange as Thomas Avery
Elizabeth Davis as Joanne
Eric Abrams as Davis
Ben Van Bergen as Customer
Darby Totten as Agent Simmons
Chinasa Ogbuagu as Agent #1
Chad Gittens as FBI Tech
John Wu as Paramedic #1
Adam Ludwig as Prison Guard #1
Henning Fischer as Prison Guard #2
Anthony Mazza as Swat #1
Robert Matzelle as Swat #2

Next: Inner Child
Previously: The Transformation
Transcript  —  Additional Images
Introduction

Ability is the fourteenth episode of the first season of FRINGE. It first aired on February 10, 2009. Olivia's connection to escaped prisoner David Jones becomes evident when he surrenders to officials and coerces her into a controversial test of 'will and ability'. The team investigates related cases - where victims die faceless by having their mouth and nose mysteriously seal shut.

Synopsis

Prologue

At Wissenschaft Prison in Germany, lawyer Salman Kohl is led down a hallway by a guard to the cell containing David Robert Jones. In a previously aired scene (Safe), Kohl enters with Jones legal paperwork and the items he requested. While the lawyer rifles through his briefcase, Jones sneaks up behind him and breaks his neck, dons his clothes, swallows some pills, applies eye drops, and puts sunscreen on his face. He is then teleported out of the prison to Little Hill Field, Massachusetts. Back in Germany, guards sound the alarm and Warden Johan Lennox is brought to Jones' cell, the entire corner of which has been scorched.

ACT I

Olivia arrives at Walter's Lab to find Walter preparing to make a mold of Gene's udders. Olivia shares that German authorities questioned her about David Jones and his recent escape. Walter remembers that Jones was working with Mitchell Loeb, the man who stole an invention he had made years earlier and hidden in safe deposit boxes across the East Coast. Olivia asks Walter what exactly that invention was. Walter says that he created a
Face sealing
transportation system - "DizRay". But if someone were to use it, they would require weeks in a decompression tank to survive, and even then would suffer adverse side effects.

At a warehouse, a small group of men stand around a massive tank as its door is opened, releasing gas and pressure. Out steps Jones. He briefs his team, thanking them for all of their sacrifices. Although calm and collected, Jones hand is shaking noticeably as he attempts to sip his tea.

↑ At a Boston newsstand. A man with latex gloves picks up a paper and drops a $2 bill. The vendor, Thomas Avery, puts the bill in the register as he chats with another customer. His eyes begin to form a gooey mucus -- and then slowly begin to cover with skin. The man panics as his eyes, nostrils, and mouth seal over and suffocate him.

ACT II

At the Federal Building, Charlie tells Broyles he's found financial records for Salman Kohl, Jones's attorney. Apparently he kept a slush fund under an assumed name to use on his clients' behalf.

Loeb in Chains

← At a military installation, armed guards bring out a shackled Mitchell Loeb to meet with Olivia. She says she knows he and Jones were working together and that he must know Jones's whereabouts. But Loeb won't cooperate in spite of Olivia's threat to transfer Loeb to more dangerous prison. Instead, he tells her it doesn't matter whether she finds Jones, because he's just a part of the army - that 'what was written will come to pass', and nothing Olivia does can change that. Then Olivia receives a phone call summoning her to the hospital.

At Boston General Hospital, Broyles briefs Olivia and Peter on the case of the skinned-over newsstand vendor. Walter examines the body and concludes that the lipids responsible for skin growth have somehow mutated and sealed off all bodily orifices. Olivia suspects this is Jones's work.

Olivia pulls Peter aside and relays what Loeb told her about 'what was written'. She has a hunch - maybe ZFT, which they thought was the name of Jones's terrorist organization, might actually be the name of their bible. Olivia's already contacted the German authorities to investigate this possibility, and they found references to a document by the name "Zerstorung durch Fortschritte der Technologie," which loosely translates to 'destruction by advancement of technology'. The document, a rare self-published manuscript, was recovered from a crime scene and inventoried, but was destroyed ten years ago. Olivia wonders if Peter might have any 'weird connections' that could get their hands on another copy. Peter believes he does.

In the lab, Astrid and Walter perform some tests on the orifice-less body to recover any available evidence. They cut open the man's mouth and capture the putrid gas in an IV bag.

Agent Kent stops Charlie and tells him that a friend at the SEC has provided him with a list of the businesses incorporated by Jones' lawyer, Kohl, in the last three years. He has reduced the list to the US addresses only.

Unexpected visitor
Peter visits Edward Markham, the crusty proprietor of a used-book store. Peter tells him about the ZFT manuscript and asks if he can find it for him ASAP. If anyone can find this document, it's Markam.

At the Federal Building, Charlie believes he may have found something. Jones's attorney leased a warehouse in Allston whose power had been cut until two weeks back, when it was turned on again. As Broyles makes a call to have the place raided, an agent comes in and interrupts. She tells him David Robert Jones is in the lobby. Broyles races downstairs and confronts Jones. Jones calmly announces that he'll only speak to agent Olivia Dunham

ACT III

Harris, Broyles, and Olivia watch Jones sitting in the interrogation room from the observation room. Broyles reveals that when they searched his person they found only a key. Olivia wants to speak with Jones, but Harris says that Jones doesn't get to dictate the terms of his captivity. Olivia points out that since Jones has been in town one man has died in a gruesome fashion, and that Jones likely has more terror planned, but Harris refuses to let Dunham interrogate Jones until she gets hard evidence connecting him to the event at the newsstand.

En route to the warehouse leased by Jones's attorney, Olivia gets a call from Peter. Markham found a copy of the ZFT manuscript in someone's collection of scientific ephemera. He reads an excerpt, which states, "The advances of science ... will, if not carefully controlled, destroy the world as we know it." The book goes on to assert that this apocalypse will take the form of warfare.

As the FBI unit sweeps the warehouse, Olivia finds a drawing of herself on a desk. She knows immediately this is Jones' work. Charlie orders the team to bag and tag everything.

At the Federal Building, Harris has a go at interrogating Jones, who alludes to the fact that he killed the newsstand man. Then Jones brazenly says that he'll require a few items when agent Dunham comes to visit him: a standard walkie-talkie, a ballpoint pen, an eyeglass repair kit, and an analog watch like the one Harris is wearing.

Viral Two Dollar Bill
Back at the warehouse, a young agent finds a $2 bill in a desk drawer upstairs. Olivia and Charlie, downstairs, hear the young agent's screams.
A Silenced Agent Kent
They arrive to find the agent's mouth, nose, and eyes covering with skin, suffocating him to death. Olivia performs an emergency tracheotomy, and the agent appears to have been saved... until the skin grows over the hole in the trach tube and he dies.

Olivia and Charlie arrive back at task force headquarters as Harris drops his watch into a paper bag with the items Jones requested. Olivia interrogates Jones, who coughs sporadically, clearly not well. With shaking hands, he removes the items from the bag and takes apart the walkie-talkie and Harris's watch. Using all the components, he quickly fashions a bizarre device. Once it's complete, he switches it on and sends squealing feedback into the surveillance room.

Jones tells Olivia that they're now alone - he's jamming the surveillance feed. He tells Olivia that he's planning a far bigger attack using the same method that killed the field agent and the newsman. But before he gives any details, he needs for Olivia to pass a test. He needs for Olivia to take the key that was confiscated from him to an amusement park in Salem, where she will find a package he left for her.

Jones then shudders in pain, and Olivia suggests he needs medical attention. He explains that there's no medical specialist who could help him; being dematerialized and reassembled at a molecular level (by the teleportation device) seems to have certain "unadvertised side-effects." Olivia demands to know about the attack. Jones explains that a device capable of killing hundreds is being transported somewhere in a white cargo van and will detonate in 16 hours. Olivia, thinking she has some leverage, tells Jones that she won't complete the test until he defuses the bomb. Jones says no, she will defuse the bomb.

On her way out, Olivia tells Broyles and Harris she needs them to track down every white cargo van rented in the last 48 hours. Meanwhile, she needs two hours alone... for a massage.

ACT IV

On her way to Salem, Olivia checks in with Peter. He explains that the toxin used to kill the two victims so far triggers hyperactivity in the protein responsible for scar tissue. Olivia asks if Peter's found anything interesting in the manifesto. He tells her "It reads like a happy combo between an anti-science manifesto and a call to arms."

As Olivia arrives at the amusement park and retrieves the package, Walter reads an excerpt from the manifesto in voice-over. According to the manifesto, our universe is only one of many, and that it is possible to travel from one to another. The means of such travel has already been discovered by beings much like us, but whose history is slightly ahead of our own. The repercussions of such travel will manifest themselves as a series of unnatural occurrences, starting small and growing in severity until, ultimately, only one world will survive.

In the lab, Astrid and Peter unpack the box Olivia retrieved from the park.
Box of Tests
The letter says that the box contains an evaluation system, a number of tests to evaluate inherent skills present in certain individuals. Olivia must complete test number one, then go to see Jones so no one else will die. The instructions for test #1 say the "recruit" must sit in front of a wooden box that houses an array of lights. The recruit must focus on the light-board and turn off all of the lights without touching them. In short, Olivia must turn the lights off with her mind. Walter points out that the term "recruit" appears in the manifesto, as a reference to future soldiers in the coming battle. Olivia, despite her skepticism, focuses intently on the lights -- but her ringing phone breaks her concentration.

On the phone, Charlie tells her someone rented a white van in Olivia's name in New Haven, Connecticut. Olivia, now believing this is just a mind game Jones is playing, goes to pay him a visit.

Harris does not want Olivia to meet Jones without full surveillance, but yields when she convinces him otherwise - warning of the potential for more deaths. Olivia talks with Jones and admits she didn't complete the test. Jones says it's normal for her to be skeptical, but she was one of a small group of people few treated with a drug called Cortexiphan. That's why they kidnapped her - confirmation of Cortexiphan dosing requires a spinal tap. Olivia refuses to play Jones's game anymore, but Jones insists that Olivia must cooperate -- and suddenly passes out. Jones is rushed to the lab, where Walter rushes to stabilize him.

ACT V

Olivia is just getting off the phone with Charlie, who's informed her that Cortexiphan is a drug patented by Massive Dynamic. Olivia tells Peter that Jones is still expecting her to pass the test and she wants Peter to rig it. Peter agrees.

At Massive Dynamic, Olivia meets with Nina Sharp and asks her about Cortexiphan. Nina says that the drug's clinical trials were performed by Massive Dynamic founder William Bell, in order to test his theory that the young brain is infinitely capable of absorbing information at birth but becomes increasingly limited with age. Cortexiphan was administered to young children in the hope that it would limit this degradation. But the drug was only administered in one trial - on the Wooster Campus at Ohio State University, in the early 1980's.

Jones Revives

In the car, Olivia calls Peter and tells him that she couldn't have possibly been dosed with Cortexiphan, because in 1981 she was three years old and living in Jacksonville, Florida. Peter informs her that he's successfully rigged the light-box.

In his lab, Walter uses an injection to wake up Jones, who thanks Walter for the incredible work that allowed him to escape his imprisonment. Walter tells Jones that he locked away the teleporter for a reason, one which Jones is now experiencing. With only two hours before Jones's device goes off, Olivia performs the light-box test in front of Jones. Peter's rig job works like a charm, so Olivia appears to pass the test. A satisfied Jones reveals the device is at 923 Church Street, on the 47th floor. Olivia calls in an evacuation.

Olivia arrives on the scene, where Charlie tells her the bomb squad can't diffuse the bomb because they've never seen anything like it. When she sees the bomb, secured to a window overlooking the city, she realizes the front panel of the bomb is a light-box identical to the one in the test.

ACT VI

Peter realizes that when the bomb blows, the toxin will spread for miles. Charlie leaves the area and directs an assistant to contact the Weather Service and get FEMA up-to-speed. Olivia calls the lab and pleads with Jones to tell her how to disarm the bomb. She can't turn the lights off with her mind, and if she stays to try she's going to die. Jones knew she faked the test earlier, but now she has to pass it for real. Olivia orders everyone out. Peter tries to talk her out of it, but she ignores him. Peter runs for the exit. Meanwhile, Olivia focuses on the light-box, and Peter reluctantly returns to watch. All sound disappears, her focus becomes complete... and gradually, one by one, all the lights extinguish with only two seconds to spare.

Astrid receives a call with the news of Olivia's success and passes the information on to Jones as he is being wheeled out on a gurney.

Afterward, Olivia insists she didn't do anything. Jones planned the lights to turn out just in time; it was just a mind game. Peter, for a change, is not the skeptic. He saw that Olivia was in the zone, and something amazing happened.

Back at the lab, Astrid admits to Walter that she's pretty impressed by his teleportation device, even if using it does kill you. Walter says the device does something unthinkable, but it doesn't kill you.

Jones Escapes

Meanwhile, Jones has been transported to Boston General, and Olivia goes to visit him. But when she arrives in his room, she finds an enormous hole torn out of the wall -- and a large handwritten scrawl on a side door -- "You Passed." Jones has escaped yet again.

Later, Walter reads the manifesto alone in the lab. As he reads, we notice that every lower-case "y" in the book is curiously raised.

At her apartment, Olivia receives an unexpected call from Nina Sharp, who tells her that it turns there was another, much smaller clinical trial of Cortexiphan... at a military base in Jacksonville, Florida.

In the lab, Walter pulls a dusty tin box from a closet. He opens it to reveal an old typewriter. Walter sets it down and loads a sheet of paper into it. He slowly types one word: "Ability." And as the last character appears, he sees it is a curiously raised "y."

Quotes

"So... in all the excitement of today, I forgot to say something. I haven't overlooked the fact that you actually created a teleportation machine.... which, despite using it, 'kills you' - is pretty damn cool!"' - Astrid Farnsworth (to Walter, in admiration - and apparently back on speaking terms since he drugged her to abscond with 'the Beacon')

Walter's Lab Notes

Project 1097 Exploration 1

Project 1097, Exploration 1Trimmed Copy of Typed Notes

  • In English (not German), the folder is titled 'Destruction Through Technological Progress'.
  • The index cards with symbols are similar to (but not) 'Zener Cards'. Cards that are used to test for precognition and/or telepathy, much like that displayed by Olivia at the end of the episode.
  • 'King Canute' holding back the rising nucleotide likely refers to "Canute The Great," who ruled Norway, Britain and Denmark one thousand years ago with heavy-handed tactics.
"A book of revelations, fallen into my lap. "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird."

Trivia

General
  • The Observer ducks out of the way of the news vendor's grasp as the vendor stumbles down the street.
  • Jones' warehouse is in Allston, where Peter moved with his mother after his father got institutionalized (The Ghost Network).
  • The meaning of ZFT is confirmed. (The Cure)
  • Nina Sharp reveals that her artificial arm needed adjustment and, later, that the adjustment was successful (Pilot).
  • A January 19, 2009 Time Magazine issue is on display at Avery's newsstand, placing these events in early 2009.
  • This is the first time Walter's typed lab notes were created on the portable typewriter with the superscript (elevated)... y.
Continuity Errors
  • When Olivia is turning off the lights on the bomb, two lights go off together right before the scene jumps to her face. When the panel is shown again, the two lights are still on.
Recurring Themes
  • Genetic Manipulation. Induced Rapid Healing (Scar/Scab) Response
Cultural References
  • Star Trek. Dunham characterizes Jones escape as having "Star Trek'd" himself out of a maximum security prison. Teleportation is a science-fiction theme made popular by the "Star Trek" television and movie franchise over the past four decades. The 2009 "Star Trek" movie was created by the producers of FRINGE.
Episode References

Previously

NextEpisodeClue114.jpg
NextEpisodeClue114.jpg
NextEpisodeClue114.jpg
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    As Olivia investigates her dreamscape (The Transformation) - the hotel sign reflected in the window reads ZFT - foreshadowing the revelation of the meaning and implications of ZFT in Ability.

Glyphs


—   Plot Relevant Questions   — Address theories about questions on Ability/Theories   Ask minor questions on the Talk Page  

 1) Do not answer the questions here.
 2) Keep the questions open-ended and neutral: do not suggest an answer.

  • What are the physical hazards of being teleported?
  • Is The Observer mentioned in the manuscript?
  • Is the pattern in which the lights go out on the bomb related to the Fibonacci sequence?
  • Why is the pattern of bulbs different between the light-box and the explosive device?
  • What are the other nine tests for recruits?
  • What is the use/purpose of the cards with the glyphs?
  • Why does the Manifesto, written in English, have a German title?

Episodes

Season 5 : Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11In AbsentiaThe RecordistThe Bullet That Saved The WorldAn Origin StoryThrough The Looking Glass And What Walter Found ThereFive-Twenty-TenThe Human KindBlack BlotterAnomaly XB-6783746The Boy Must LiveLibertyAn Enemy Of FateSeason 4 : Neither Here Nor ThereOne Night In OctoberAlone In The WorldSubject 9NovationAnd Those We've Left BehindWallflowerBack To Where You've Never BeenEnemy Of My EnemyForced PerspectiveMaking AngelsWelcome To WestfieldA Better Human BeingThe End Of All ThingsA Short Story About LoveNothing As It SeemsEverything In Its Right PlaceThe ConsultantLetters Of TransitWorlds ApartBrave New World, Part 1Brave New World, Part 2Season 3 : OliviaThe BoxThe PlateauDo Shapeshifters Dream Of Electric Sheep?Amber 314226955 kHzThe AbductedEntradaMarionetteThe FireflyReciprocityConcentrate And Ask AgainImmortality6BSubject 13OsStowawayBloodlineLysergic Acid Diethylamide6:02 AM ESTThe Last Sam WeissThe Day We DiedSeason 2 : A New Day In The Old TownNight Of Desirable ObjectsFractureMomentum DeferredDream LogicEarthlingOf Human ActionAugustSnakeheadGrey MattersUnearthedJohari WindowWhat Lies BelowThe Bishop RevivalJacksonvillePeterOlivia. In The Lab. With The Revolver.White TulipThe Man From The Other SideBrown BettyNorthwest PassageOver There, Part 1Over There, Part 2Season 1 : PilotThe Same Old StoryThe Ghost NetworkThe ArrivalPower HungryThe CureIn Which We Meet Mr. JonesThe EquationThe DreamscapeSafeBoundThe No-BrainerThe TransformationAbilityInner ChildUnleashedBad DreamsMidnightThe Road Not TakenThere's More Than One Of Everything

Transcripts

Season 5 : Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11In AbsentiaThe RecordistThe Bullet That Saved The WorldAn Origin StoryThrough The Looking Glass And What Walter Found ThereFive-Twenty-TenThe Human KindBlack BlotterAnomaly XB-6783746The Boy Must LiveLibertyAn Enemy Of FateSeason 4 : Neither Here Nor ThereOne Night In OctoberAlone In The WorldSubject 9NovationAnd Those We've Left BehindWallflowerBack To Where You've Never BeenEnemy Of My EnemyForced PerspectiveMaking AngelsWelcome To WestfieldA Better Human BeingThe End Of All ThingsA Short Story About LoveNothing As It SeemsEverything In Its Right PlaceThe ConsultantLetters Of TransitWorlds ApartBrave New World, Part 1Brave New World, Part 2Season 3 : OliviaThe BoxThe PlateauDo Shapeshifters Dream Of Electric Sheep?Amber 314226955 kHzThe AbductedEntradaMarionetteThe FireflyReciprocityConcentrate And Ask AgainImmortality6BSubject 13OsStowawayBloodlineLysergic Acid Diethylamide6:02 AM ESTThe Last Sam WeissThe Day We DiedSeason 2 : A New Day In The Old TownNight Of Desirable ObjectsFractureMomentum DeferredDream LogicEarthlingOf Human ActionAugustSnakeheadGrey MattersUnearthedJohari WindowWhat Lies BelowThe Bishop RevivalJacksonvillePeterOlivia. In The Lab. With The Revolver.White TulipThe Man From The Other SideBrown BettyNorthwest PassageOver There, Part 1Over There, Part 2Season 1 : PilotThe Same Old StoryThe Ghost NetworkThe ArrivalPower HungryThe CureIn Which We Meet Mr. JonesThe EquationThe DreamscapeSafeBoundThe No-BrainerThe TransformationAbilityInner ChildUnleashedBad DreamsMidnightThe Road Not TakenThere's More Than One Of Everything