"The Recordist" is my least favorite episode of the first three episodes of the fifth season, and there are numerous reasons for that being true. To begin, the reasons behind why the "tree people" have developed this rather horrifying skin disorder are not very clear, as they don't make a whole lot of sense. The episode seems to say that the people developed the skin disorder as a result of the stones in the caves in combination with the carbon monoxide that is present in the atmosphere as a result of the Observers, but this doesn't make much sense because if this were true, one would think that carrying the stones in their new car would be unsafe for the Fringe team, especially since intensity of the disorder depends on proximity to the stones, so either the stones actually have nothing to do with it (in which case, what ultimately happened to them and, perhaps, even more importantly, to Edwin?) or we're dealing with an annoying plot-hole. Additionally, I can't say that I am too happy with the episode because it was pretty much a "case of the week" episode, which I didn't think we were going to get anymore of this season. I, in fact, had a feeling that it was going to be a "stand-alone" episode from the promo that we got at the end of "In Absentia" the week previous. Did these feel more like classic Fringe? It did, indeed, but I don't want any cases of the week this season; this is our last season, and we have a lot of ground to cover, so I want every episode to be crucial. Am I the only one who feels that way? I really want issues that have been raised since the first season to be covered, not just issues that were raised in "Letters of Transit" (4.19).
The team does successfully get a hold of the stones (which must be very happy because that didn't look like forty pounds worth to me) which will apparently help them defeat the Observers, and a compelling father/son story is told to get to that point, but I still feel like most of this episode is a throw-away episode and disrupts the "13-episode film" pattern. Perhaps, that statement included "Letters of Transit" (4.19) but excluded this episode. Fret not; that is a joke, but it may be logically true by the end of the series. Speaking of the father/son relationship, though, Edwin, the father, is played Paul McGillion, and this is exciting for me because as a Stargate Atlantis fan, I am excited by the fact that this is the second time (the first time being Joe Flanigan's appearance in the season 4 premiere, "Neither Here nor There") that a Stargate Atlantis alumnus has made an appearance on Fringe, and Paul has been making appearances sporadically lately. He was in the Alcatraz pilot, and he was also on Once Upon a Time in the "Hat Trick" (1.17) episode. He did a pretty good job playing Edwin here, and the child actor who played River did a pretty good job, as well. River is a pretty cool kid, and I love his comic book. I wonder if that comic will actually get released; I really hope so, but I think that it's a lot more likely that the original copies will simply be auctioned off as props after the series ends. Edwin ultimately sacrifices himself after telling River that being a coward means knowing what the right thing to do is but not doing it, and his death is touching.
One question that I have about the recordings is if they could possibly be even further evidence that the timeline may have been restored at some point in between 2012 and 2036. If so, I sincerely hope that that will be somehow covered, even though I sincerely doubt that it will be even if that is the writers' intention. When I refer to the recordings, I refer to the photographs and what not that are present amongst the history that Edwin and his people had been recording within the data cubes. There are photographs in which Peter is present, and I am pretty sure that the photographs are from seasons 1-3; there is, in fact, one, in particular, that is of only Olivia and Peter that I am sure is either from the first or second season, so if Peter didn't exist throughout seasons 1-3, how do those photos exist? It could just be that they were randomly chosen by the Fringe crew in hopes that we wouldn't notice that, since they are rather general photos, and I could be over-thinking, but I am pretty sure that I am right. The premiere episode shows us a Markham who seems to really know Peter, which I took as the first piece of evidence that the original timeline may have been restored. During this episode, there are the photographs, and there is some evidence in the following episode ("The Bullet That Saved the World"), as well (I am writing this after having seen it), but I will save discussion of that until that episode review.
I think that another reason why I find myself so disappointed by this episode is the fact that I read the brief plot synopsis well before I saw the promo, and the brief plot synopsis mentioned a group of people across which the Fringe team cross, a group that records important events of human history, and that sounded exciting to me because it sounded like that would have a pretty close connection to the Observers. After all, that is sort of what we saw the calendared Observers doing throughout seasons 1-4, isn't it? I expected this people to somehow be connected to the calendared Observers, and not only do they not, they don't even have any information recorded regarding September. We do see Windmark in the episode, but it is very briefly and doesn't do anything to move the overarching story along. Another issue that I have with the episode is the lack of logic regarding some elements of the story; for example, Astrid stays behind in the lab (which is annoying in and of itself because once again, we are seeing Astrid being drastically underutilized), and how, especially after someone already entered the lab last week, would that be safe? She is alone there and would essentially have no way to defend herself. Did Walter, especially, learn nothing from "Snakehead" (2.09)? It also doesn't make much sense that they would be stupid enough to use cell phones. Why, especially Etta, would they not consider the fact that they would be tracked? It's also odd that they would even have service, especially out in the middle of nowhere with the tree people.
We see that despite the fact that (according to "Brave New World") Olivia's Cortexiphan abilities have, more or less, worn off, she continues to have a photographic memory when it comes to numbers. I really wondered what was up with her when she told Peter that she didn't remember Donovan's; you could tell that she was blowing him off, and I was wondering what was wrong. It looked to me like she was angry with Peter; however, we learn that it is herself with whom she is angry because she blames herself for what happened to Etta, and this is followed by an immensely beautiful scene between Olivia and Peter. I love that scene because she looks somewhat fearful or doubtful in "Brave New World" (4.22) when she tells Peter that she is pregnant, and now, we know why. Regarding Walter, he, at some point, apparently switched to Grapevines, a pretty funny scene, and I love how he related a story about Peru. When I first started watching NCIS, I immediately liked Ducky and said that he reminded me of Walter, and this is an example of why. I am glad to have learned from having listened to the Fringe Podcast that I am not the only one who is reminded of the DHARMA videos with Candle on LOST, and some parts in general just reminded me of LOST, such as the environment of the camp where the tree people live. It would also seem that Etta has even more help on the inside than we had thought, which is awesome, as that could be useful. Did anyone, by the way, notice an ambered Gene in the background of one scene? I wonder if they will ever free her. My final thought, ultimately (besides the fact that it is nice to have a happy ending), is that I instantly thought of "Ability" (1.14) when we learned that the skin disorder ultimately seals all of your orifices. To conclude, I definitely have my issues with this episode, and I give it a relatively generous rating of 7 Carson Beckett tree people.