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Fringe: Reciprocity

“The tiniest changes in our composition result in a drastic change in our behavior.”

What an odd, unexpected episode. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing: Fringe is keeping me on my toes, and it was fun to gradually realize that I was watching a traditional who-done-it with a few chapters from the killer’s point of view interspersed with our detectives attempting to mulder out the mystery.

The theme of this week’s episode is the red herring. The opening seemed to indicate that the device would be our guest star: an impenetrable object whose destiny and motivation are unknown. But, really, this was Peter’s episode, as he tries to grapple with his anger at having the con-tables turned on him. And, of course, we also had the red herrings of numerous possible moles.

But let’s return to Peter for a second. Walter told him that the machine weaponized him, turned him into a killing machine out to get the shapeshifters—a case of the “tiniest changes in our composition result[ing] in a drastic change in…behavior.” That may be part of it, but I think Peter is also acting out his rage at being conned. By pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes, Peter is trying to engage in a productive con—trying to remind himself that he is still capable of his old tricks.

Is he still the same con man that he was, though? No. So he’s put himself in the position of relying on old habits to get him through new problems, and he has forgotten that he now has a group of people who can, and will—and want to—help him deal with all of this insanity. Peter told Walter, “You can’t protect me from everything,” but he’s not even giving Walter a chance to try. It’s understandable, of course: Peter has really been through the emotional wringer, and he’s dealing with his problems as best he can.

Will Peter’s trauma make him cold, like Fauxlivia? She, too, thought that the shapeshifters were just tools to be used, not beings with emotions and attachments. Peter’s willingness to kill the shapeshifters seems very Fauxlivian to me. I wonder if, eventually, every soldier on both sides of this war will become cold, pragmatic, and un-sentimental?

[Random aside: yes, we got confirmation this week that Fauxlivia felt, um, warmly towards Peter. But she certainly didn’t treat the shapeshifters any better than I treat the salmon I’m having for dinner tonight.]

I worry about Walter, too. He can’t—or hasn’t, yet—mastered the problems before him, despite the comical use of chimp DNA, and now he is stuck lying to Olivia about Peter’s involvement in the shapeshifter deaths. I want everyone to be happy, with puppies and red vines and champagne. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Especially not with the revelation that Walternate managed to plant so many shapeshifters in key positions at Massive Dynamics. That sort of long-range planning and reach might indicate that there are many, many people—more than just the shapeshifters Peter killed—doing Walternate’s bidding Over Here. Plus, we still don’t know what the device does, or how it can be tuned to Peter.

And now I’ve got a question for you: how much of this “First People” stuff are we supposed to believe? Three books, evidently published within the past 150 years, about a group of people who pre-date the dinosaurs…are we supposed to find that to be compelling proof? Is it because of an implication that the author of the books is himself a First Person? Or are the First People a red herring, too?

So What’s With the Dead Fish?:

• It’s official: Fauxlivia.

• Dr. Falcon mentioned NASA, the CIA, and the NIH. The National Institute of Health? Is there a chance the device is going to spread disease?

• I’m so glad Brandon isn’t a spy.

• We got to see Peter’s room. It feels very lived-in. Interesting set design.

• I loved Olivia breaking the code with Astrid.

• Walter: “I have a graduate degree from MIT as well!”

• Walter: “I’ve snorted worse.”

• Walter: “I’m establishing dominance.”

• Brandon: “Can I swallow?”

Three and a half out of four retroviral chimp DNAs.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. I've loved every single episode this season, and this one is no exception. Didn't see that is was Peter killing the shapeshifters until the very end, and more importantly, neither did my other half, who tends to ruin every whodunnit 5 minutes in. The inventiveness, and the characters in this show make it what it is, and I'm so glad the the move to Fridays doesn't seem to have made the slightest bit of difference to them. Or to the ratings for that matter, although how 4.7m is considered good for Fringe while 4.9m meant cancellation for Firefly makes me rage :p

  2. The "First People" stuff leaves me groaning, too. Another "human" race before there were significant mammals to evolve from? Please.

    I'm not sure I'd call Peter's room "lived in". If you take away the stuff about the doomsday machine, you're left with one childhood photo (which, from the date, may be DeadPeter!) and a twin bed that might as well be in a barracks. Oh, and a couple of books on a shelf. I guess he leaves most of his stuff down in the public rooms.

    Thanks for another interesting review.

  3. The first half of this episode was so frustrating because *of course* Olivia is the right person to read Fauxlivia's files. Olivia was over there living Fauxlivia's life, after all. Argh!

    I didn't see the Peter as shapeshifter assassin thing coming. It doesn't seem like him at all. But Peter has a lot of depths. He's so sweet and funny that you forget he's also a genius and a criminal until you're reminded, like we were with this episode.

  4. Nice easter egg, James Wilson was on Fauxlivias lists. Being a shapeshifter might explain why he puts up with House all the time.

    Peter as an assasin was strange, he even seemed more threatening just standing and looking at Walter. Unsettling.

  5. A rather unpleasant turn of events with Peter. I really liked the scene where Olivia apologized to Peter for not really considering the effect Fauxlivia's actions had on him. It was so nice to see him accept that apology and her "we can get past this" olive branch. To then learn that he was the one out there taking down the shapeshifters as an act of vengeance was extremely unsettling. I get where he's coming from, but his actions definitely felt very wrong to me, and I was glad to see Walter calling him on it.

    I agree with you re: Peter adopting some Fauxlivia-ness. I actually thought Walter was referring to Fauxlivia when he was first talking about relationships being reciprocal, and each person changing the other in some way.

    I'm disappointed that Walter hasn't given up his efforts to restore the parts of his brain he asked Bell to remove. You don't want to be that guy, Walter! We don't want you to be that guy!

    Josie, I, too, was glad that Brandon wasn't a spy. I know he's a morally challenged d-bag Over There, but I rather like him Over Here and was disappointed when he appeared to be more like his counterpart than it initially seemed.

  6. I bought the first four seasons of Fringe after I had watched the first four or five episodes. I proceeded to watch the whole first season very slowly. At the end of the first season, I got into re-watching a favorite of mine, Lost. Fringe got put on the shelf for about a year and a half until I decided to force myself to pick it up again. After all, since I did buy four seasons of Fringe, I should get my money's worth :) I ended up re-watching the first season just to remind myself what happened (I should have just picked it up at the season finale...)

    Anyhow, once I got to season 2, I became quite fascinated with the show and was hooked. By the time I watched "Jacksonville", I was addicted and lost a lot of sleep. Needless to say, I am thoroughly enjoying this show now.

    (This is my first posting on Doux Reviews even though I have been reading reviews from here for the past few years, so bear with me and this long-ish post.)

    I found this episode to be both predictable and unpredictable. First, I must say, that I am almost never able to predict whodunnit. However, this time I did and was quite proud of myself, then I read the comments and everyone seemed surprised that it was Peter. I then had to go back and re-watch parts of the episode to find out why I thought it was Peter initially because I got distracted along the way.

    To be honest, I actually thought the mole was Olivia as soon as she said there was a mole. I thought maybe some part of her brain was still making her function as Fauxlivia, in which case she could be unaware of what she was doing. However, in the scene where Peter said they need to round up everyone who has had access, I noticed conveniently that none of our heroes would be included in the questioning, because why would it be one of them? And yet that was exactly why I suspected Peter and not Olivia anymore. Don't forget, one of Peter's password suggestions worked... probably because he had already broken into it.

    All this to say, once I was sure it was Peter, I got distracted by Brandon. When he was the guy questioning everyone, I wondered why he was not be questioned, so when he was, I thought, "Gotcha!" Even when he passed the polygraph, I suspected that since he was once the questioner, he would know how to fake out the polygraph.

    Even when Peter was revealed to have shot Bermudas, I thought he had just figured out something the others hadn't and would show them the data storage. It seemed a little off, but I still suspected Brandon and forgot about my suspicions of Peter. When I realized that I had gotten distracted, I thought it wasn't really Peter but rather a drugged Peter. Maybe Fauxlivia did something to him before she left. And maybe she did nothing other than mess with his sense of awareness, but, in my opinion, it's not too early to rule out the possibility that Peter has been drugged. I could be wrong, but I'm thoroughly enjoying trying to figure out how messed up Fauxlivia has made our heroes.

    Btw, I know this show is finished, but just wanted to thank Josie for these awesome reviews.

  7. Thank you for your comment, Tisherey! I hope more people discover Fringe as a great cult show.

  8. 2021 - I loved Fringe the first time around. Now 13 years later there is so much more meaning.
    You have to go back to go forward.
    Time is perception.
    13 years later, the Future proves past. So many many coincidences that it would be mathematically impossible.
    Perhaps the most telling red pill of all.

  9. Incredible episode. Watching it for the 2nd time i see where this series took a hard turn & turned itself into a new darker mission.
    The lighting, musical score, framing, was all different. Excited to rewatch the rest of the season. I started the series over but only recently found this blog. Very well done & good comments & observations.


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