Season 1, Episode 14
Aired: February 10th, 2009
Written By: Glen Whitman, Robert Chiappetta, David H. Goodman
Directed By: Norberto Barba

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Resources: IMDb | Wikipedia | Transcript
Listen: The Fringe Podcast | TFP Rewatch

The Glyphs

This episode's glyphs spell: O-L-I-V-I-A

In this episode Olivia realizes she may have been a part of Walter and Bell's drug trials as a child and it's suggested that she may have special abilities.

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The Observer

The Observer can be seen at the newspaper stand as the first victim collapses.


Timestamp: 06:01

Episode Clues

Previous Episode Clue

The motel sign in Olivia's dreamscape in 'The Transformation' says "ZFT" on it, foreshadowing the resurgence of ZFT in the plot of 'Ability.'

Previous episode clue

Timestamp: 24:00

Next Episode Clue

The air freshener above the newspaper stand in 'Ability' is the same one that The Artist has in his car in 'Inner Child'

Next episode clue

Timestamp: 04:53

Items of Interest

  • Jones had to decompress for 2 weeks after teleporting to Boston.
  • ZFT: Destruction by the Advancement of Technology.
  • Markham is introduced.
  • Jones said there are 10 tests for Olivia in total. The first was a box of lights that Olivia had to turn off with her mind. (Image 1)
  • Olivia is referred to as "the recruit."
  • Cortexiphan is patented to Massive Dynamic.
  • The ZFT manuscript was typed on Walter's typewriter.
  • A Cortexiphan trial was also done in Jacksonville, Florida.
Item of interest: Test #1
Image 1: Test #1
Timestamp: 30:17

JJ Abrams Easter Eggs

  • Test #1 and the matching bomb have 47 lights. (J.J.) (Image 1)
  • The bomb is set to go off "16 hours from now." (Lost)
  • Jones' bomb is at 923 Church St., 47th floor. (J.J.) (Image 2)
Item of interest: Test #1 has 47 lights
Image 1: Test #1 has 47 lights
Timestamp: 30:06
Item of interest: Bomb that matches test #1
Image 2: Bomb that matches test #1
Timestamp: 40:15

Fringe Division Case File

U.S. Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
121 105th Street • Washington, DC 20735
Phone: (202) 555-2100 • Fax: (202) 555-2101
E-mail: washington.fbi@fbi.com


FRINGE EVENT: A powdered toxin that triggers scar tissue

CLASSIFIED CASE CONNECTION(S): Dr. Bishop's "Dizray" teleportation system; David Robert Jones/ZFT/Pattern connection

AGENTS ASSIGNED: Dunham, Francis

SUPERVISING AGENT: Consultant Sanford Harris (DHS), Broyles

FILE ARCHIVED BY: Patrizia Tucci, Eric Steele

WITNESSES/CONTACTS: Joanne [redacted], Edward Markham, David Robert Jones

LOCATION: Boston General Hospital; Allston Warehouse, Boston, MA; 923 Church St. Boston, MA

VICTIM(S): Thomas Avery, Salman Kohn, FBI field agent [redacted]


Newsstand owner Thomas Avery died due to sudden facial scars created by a powdered toxin absorbed through the skin. Witnesses say the whole thing happened in less than two minutes. Case connected to the escape of David Robert Jones from a maximum security German prison. He arrived at the Boston FBI building requesting to talk to Agent Dunham alone. He then demanded: a standard walkie-talkie with removable crystals, a metallic ballpoint pen, an eyeglass repair kit, and an analog wristwatch. Jones used the material to block surveillance equipment and reveal his threat of a white cargo van transporting explosive materials capable of killing several hundred people in the same manner as the newspaper salesman within sixteen hours. Jones explained he would cease the plan if Agent Dunham submitted to an evaluation system—part of tests designed to cultivate specific innate skills present in particular indiviuals. If Dunham succeeded, Jones would stop his attacks.
 Agent Dunham attempted to rig the test, but failed to trick Jones and ended up in front of a bomb in a high-rise. Seemingly using only her mind, Agent Dunham lit up the lightbulbs, which switched off the bomb. Jones left a note: "You passed."

Walter's Food

Walter thought about coffee cake (three times) and mentioned a lasagna platter in his lab notes.

Walter's Lab Notes

- Project 1097 - Exploration 1 -

The Bos Taurus is, of course, a notable exception to the one-half rule -- one I had hoped to explore via the cast of Gene's udders. An exploration that must now be placed on hold, whilst I investigate this curious skin condition. The cause, it appears, is overproduction of ribosomal s6 kinase along with a hyperactive keloiding process. But why the body perceives orifices as wounds, I have not yet been able to detaerlmar sdlf;qpie vllzuadsf; xyayayurf -----------------

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." Now I envy the experimental subject's ignorance. He knows nothing, needs to know nothing, indeed is required to know nothing. Like these poor victims -- sightless, speechless, breathless, and constipated -- someone's warped parody of a double-blind experiment. Thank heavens we remained in the control group. We'll not have an easy time of it, trying to keep up with the Joneses. I need someone to tell me why -- why why why why why -- he ran away. And I wonder if they'll let me stay? I ordered the lasagna platter and the waiter told me it came with two sides, but I was unable to choose. Hatfields or McCoys? Al Capone or Bugs Moran? york or Lancaster? Survey says: BZZZT! The opposition has a chance to steal. They'd steal all four bases if they could: adenine, guanine, thymine, cytosine. None can hold back the rising nucleotide, not even King Canute. One two, contract the flu. Three four, infect by spore. Five six, genetic mix. Seven eight, procreate. Oh well. The malady was only skin deep, but 'twas enough. And sad as it was, I just had to laugh; I saw the photograph. I took my secret box and dumped out all the pieces, but I couldn't see the big picture. The big becomes the little when you see it back a bit, and that's about the size of it.

Walter's Lab Notes

Notable Quotes

WALTER reading the ZFT manuscript: "We think we understand reality but our universe is only one of many. The unknown truth is that the way to travel between them has already been discovered, by beings much like us but whose history is slightly ahead of our own. The negative aspects of such visitations will be irreversible to our world and to theirs. It will begin with a series of unnatural occurrences, difficult to notice at first, but growing, not unlike a cancer, until a simple fact becomes undeniable: only one world will survive. And it will either be us, or them."

DAVID ROBERT JONES to Olivia: "Ms. Dunham, I know how this appears, that I've sent you quite a distance to pick up a box of children's games. But what I've hidden here is not a game at all; you're holding an evaluation system, a series of tests designed to cultivate specific, innate skills present in particular individuals."

WALTER reading the ZFT manuscript: "Many warriors of the inevitable confrontation are among us now. But before they can be considered soldiers they must be regarded as recruits, and the expectation must be that they shall be unwilling."

JONES to Olivia: "You were among those treated with Cortexiphan. It's why we had you taken, we needed confirmation."

NINA SHARP: "Cortexiphan was part of a clinical trial of a drug that Dr. Bell created in 1981. Dr. Bell theorized that the human mind at birth is infinitely capable and that every force it encounters - social, physical, intellectual - is the beginning of a process he referred to as 'limitation,' a diminishing of that potential. Cortexiphan was meant to limit that limitation to prevent the natural shrinking of that brain power. The drugs were extensively animal-tested; they were harmless to the children who received them. Unfortunately they were also unsuccessful so Dr. Bell abandoned his research on Cortexiphan in 1983."
OLIVIA : "And where were the trials?"
NINA : "Dr. Bell conducted the trials himself at Ohio State University, Wooster campus."
Nina later reveals a second, smaller drug trial was done in Jacksonville, Florida, where Olivia lived as a young child.

Connection Chart

A visualization of all the ways this episode connects to other episodes. Scroll down to see the actual connections.

Episode Connections

S1E07 - In Which We Meet Mr. Jones

  • BROYLES to Olivia in 'In Which We Meet Mr. Jones': "You got superpowers you aren't telling me about?"
    OLIVIA: "Maybe."

      In 'Ability' Olivia learns that she may be able to control things with her mind.

Spoilers for future episodes below!

S1E18 - Midnight

  • In 'Midnight', Olivia discovered that Lubov Pharmaceuticals procured a substance called RUD-390 which was one of the components of the skin growth toxin from 'Ability'. Nicholas Boone later revealed that ZFT ordered him to make the skin growth toxin.

S1E20 - There's More Than One of Everything

  • OLIVIA about Jones in 'Ability': "The man was clever enough to Star-Trek-himself out of a maximum security German prison."
      Jones' goal in 'There's More Than One of Everything' is to visit and impress William Bell in the Redverse (Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock in Star Trek).
  • DAVID ROBERT JONES in 'Ability': "All the [medical] assistance in this world could not cure me Ms. Dunham."
      Getting shot had virtually no effect on him in 'There's More Than One of Everything' because of how his teleportation changed his body. This could also imply that Jones needed to go to a different world to get the kind of medical assistance he required.

S2E14 - Jacksonville

  • Olivia's powers to diffuse the bomb in 'Ability' only started working when Peter reentered the room. She felt a mixture of fear and love, the emotional combination that triggers her abilities as discovered in 'Jacksonville'.

S2E21 - Over There (Part 1)

  • In 'Ability', the ZFT manuscript appears to have been written by Walter and/or Bell. In 'Over There (Part 1)' Fauxlivia states that Walternate wrote and published ZFT in the Redverse.

S3E15 - Subject 13

  • DAVID ROBERT JONES to Olivia: "You are holding an evaluation system. A series of tests designed to cultivate specific innate skills present in particular inspaniduals."
      These innate skills are what the Cortexiphan drug trials attempted to bring forth in children in 'Subject 13'.
  • Olivia's powers to diffuse the bomb in 'Ability' only started working when Peter reentered the room. She felt a mixture of fear and love, the emotional combination that triggered her ability to cross over in 'Subject 13'.

S3E21 - The Last Sam Weiss

  • Olivia, as 'the crowbar', needed to control the Machine with her mind in 'The Last Sam Weiss' like she did with the light box in 'Ability'.

S4E14 - The End of All Things

  • Jones presented Olivia with the light box test in 'The End of All Things' just as he did in 'Ability'.
Connection: Light box
Light box
S4E14 - The End of All Things
Timestamp: 12:11

S4E22 - Brave New World (Part 2)

  • Patterns drawn on cards from David Robert Jones's box of tests for Olivia in 'Ability' bear a resemblance to the stasis runes used in 'Brave New World (Part 2)'. Very little is known about either.
Connection: Cards from Jones's box of tests
Cards from Jones's box of tests
S1E14 - Ability
Timestamp: 28:13
Connection: Stasis runes
Stasis runes
S4E22 - Brave New World (Part 2)
Timestamp: 04:51

S5E01 - Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11

  • Markham took a liking to Olivia when they met for the first time in 'Ability'. Decades later in 'Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11' he buys her when she's stuck in amber.
Connection: Olivia in amber
Olivia in amber
S5E01 - Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11
Timestamp: 12:34

S5E04 - The Bullet that Saved the World

  • The Fringe team used the skin-growth toxin from 'Ability' as a weapon against the Observers and Loyalists in 'The Bullet that Saved the World'.
Connection: Skin growth toxin
Skin growth toxin
S5E04 - The Bullet That Saved the World
Timestamp: 27:07

S5E13 - An Enemy of Fate

  • The Fringe team used the skin-growth toxin from 'Ability' as a weapon against the Observers in 'An Enemy of Fate'.
Connection: Skin growth toxin
Skin growth toxin
S5E13 - An Enemy of Fate
Timestamp: 32:07