It might be the slightly more advanced tech. It might be the way they dress. It might be Fauxlivia's gung-ho attitude and her deriding smiles. It might even be the particular orchestral music in the background, or it might be all of the above. The fact is that whenever an episode of Fringe is set on The Other Side, there is an extra quality to it. And when the story is as well put together as "One Night in October", we are in for a treat.
The episode starts on This Side with Lincoln used once again to bring us up to speed on past events of the current timeline. We discover that our Olivia was kidnapped and replaced by Fauxlivia for (only) two weeks, so there was no voluntary trip to The Other Side to retrieve a nonexistent Peter or someone else. Walter still has a weakness for baked Portuguese food, and after Fauxlivia returned to The Other Side with some stolen parts, the machine created a bridge instead of destroying This Side as they apparently hoped. Still no detail, however, on whether the machine needs a specific person's DNA to function.
After the short informative scene, the episode gets down to business with Olivia being asked to help Fauxlivia and her team (on The Other Side) in their investigation of a serial killer. And here, we have to stop and marvel at the writers' storytelling skills and at Anna Torv's wonderful performance in a scene that is not only representative of the relationship between the two universes, but is also a perfect illustration of the differences between the two Olivias.
During the meeting, Olivia is as tense and as buttoned-up as ever while Fauxlivia, sporting different versions of her mocking smile, can't seem able to stay put. Even while exposing the facts, she needs to pace the room with her typical tomboyish gait and postures. The Other Side is looking for a serial killer and the Fringe Division believes that taking This Side's version of the man to the killer's environment might help them glean something that could be a lead. Olivia is opposed to it until she discovered (with us) that our John Lewis McClennan is a professor of forensic psychology specializing in serial killers!
The contrast between the Olivias is further developed throughout the story. Before "One Night in October," I believe the only extended scene between the two (ignoring the short scenes of this season's premiere) was the confrontation in Fauxlivia's apartment at the end of the second season. That was essentially a fight during which they each used their knowledge of the other inferred from what they knew about themselves.
In this episode, it was interesting to see them one after the other with Prof. McClennan and the two of them together with him. Even with the same outfit, there was never any doubt about who was whom. The "I button my jacket" moment was priceless. Fauxlivia's inquiry into Olivia's stepfather showed a subtle interest, and I believe the answer must have led her to reevaluate her double from This Side. Fauxlivia was also impressed by Olivia's quickness of mind during the investigation and by her team spirit with the very alive Alt-Broyles — when referring to what "they" thought instead of what "she" thought. Both are wonderful characters, but I must admit that for now, I have a soft spot for Olivia, who was much more likable here than in the season premiere.
Prof. McClennan's escape ushered in the final act of the episode. It brought us to the impressive Fringe Division headquarters on The Other Side, which is another way to say it brought us to Alt-Astrid, a personal favorite. I liked what passed in the room between the Olivias. The story then led us to a tragically beautiful scene between the McClennans (very well portrayed by John Pyper-Ferguson) that gave its title to the episode with the story of how, on one night in October, their destinies split significantly. It was a nice touch for the writers to have Prof. McClennan retain the memory of the teachings that helped him become a better man, even though he couldn't remember the teacher, and it was also an elegant way to segue to Peter.
I am beginning to think that until he is recovered or rescued one way or another, Peter's "imprint" in this timeline as well as indirect references to him will only keep getting stronger. He was right there at the beginning when matchmaker Astrid suggested that "maybe [Olivia's] type just doesn't exist" or when Broyles took the risk of appearing sentimental with his "imprint" comment, and of course, he was literally with Walter in his bedroom.
As expected, the first episode set on The Other Side significantly improved on the season premiere. It also effectively started the collaboration between the two universes, even if it was on a peripheral case away from the core issues between the two worlds. The episode was well inspired to put the relationship between Olivia, the cornerstone of the series, and Fauxlivia at the heart of the storyline. Considering the way the story was developed, it is very tempting to see a parallel between the events during that night in October with what happened between Olivia and her stepfather. The events in Olivia's life that have possibly made her into what Fauxlivia isn't...