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Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 11, Season 3, Reciprocity

Posted by Karl Withakay on January 29, 2011

A Blue Episode

As always, an episode synopsis can be found over at Scott’s Polite Dissent.

Fauxlivia Official at All Levels

It’s nice that we now have confirmation that the name Fauxlivia is official on all levels in our universe now.  Sorry Bolivia fans.

Check the Horizontal Hold

Those were LCD flat panels in the hanger, not CRTs, so they should not have been affected and distorted by the magnetic field the way they were in the show.  The picture on a CRT will be affected by a magnet because the electron beam(s) are directed by magnetic deflection.  LCD flat panel displays are not distorted by magnets like that.

Strange Magnetism

So the device created a magnetic field strong enough to pull an office chair across the floor, but not strong enough to collapse the steel scaffolding which was closer?  The ceiling fans right above the device weren’t ripped form their mounting either.  I believe the force generated by magnetic attraction falls off relative the inverse square of distance such that the force exerted on the scaffolding and fans should have been much stronger than the force on the chair.

Was that a Psychic Nosebleed?

We’ll see what Scott has to say.

Mystery Force

Dr. Falcon says to Walter,

“Every human being has a unique electromagnetic signature.  We’re testing to see if it was indeed your son’s that triggered the machine.”

Walter responds,

“I have a graduate degree form MIT as well.  I don’t need a test to know how unlikely it is that this has anything to do with electromagnetics.”

Well, as unlikely as it may seem to Walter, I would still think it is more likely than any other explanation.  There are only four fundamental forces through which things can interact.  The strong and weak nuclear forces operate only over very short, sub-atomic distances, and gravity is very weak.  (Consider that you have the entire mass of the Earth pulling on you, but you are still able to lift your feet off the ground to walk.)  The only interaction left if electromagnetic.  It’s far more likely the interaction is electromagnetic than some unknown mystery force such as dark energy.

MRI, CAT Scan, Tricorder, or What?

What was that scanner-machine Dr. Falcon put peter through supposed to be anyway?  Walter says to Peter,

“Peter, do you have any idea how much radiation you’re about to be exposed to?”

I thought they were trying to determine Peter’s unique electromagnetic signature, but Walter is implying Peter is about to be exposed to dangerous levels of ionizing radiation.  Why would it require dangerous levels of radiation to measure Peter’s electromagnetic signature (if it exists)?  They way Walter describes it, it sounds like that’s a CAT scan machine, though why they need X-Ray imaging to determine Peter’s EM signature is beyond me.

Walter’s Marbles

It’s going to take more than just replacing lost brain cells/tissue for Walter to get this wits back.  Growing new brain cells won’t re-grow the pathways or regenerate the missing knowledge.  By analogy the data and the formatting of Walter’s hard drive is missing as well as part of the platter.  Just replacing the missing part of the disk won’t replace the formatting, and it won’t restore the lost data.

Did Astrid Run Over the FBI Director’s Dog?

If Astrid has these ninja like data analysis skills, why is she assigned to the Fringe division and cleaning fish tanks in Walter’s lab?

Computer Clichés

Mainframe computers aren’t particularly common these days.  The term is used whenever a writer wants to describe a really powerful computer, and they don’t think it’s impressive enough to just call it a server.  If they want to impress us, it would make more sense to call it a supercomputer rather than a mainframe.

The Death Star Plans are not in the Main Computer


“Shut down the mainframe; shut it down now, and from on, no one accesses that file except you.”

I’ve already covered the mainframe issue, but is all of Fauxlivia’s data really contained in a single flat file rather than in a database or series of files and databases?  Also, if the system has been compromised, shutting the system down isn’t a bad idea, but there’s a good chance it’s too late and all the data has been copied already.

Infiltrated, Hacked, or Both?


“Suppose Walternate knew we were close to identifying the list of shapeshifters on that drive.”


“How would he know that?”


“Because someone on our side may have told him.”


“We got a mole.”

It’s a little surprising that Broyles and Olivia assumed that they had a mole.  (Or maybe it’s not so surprising, considering how inept the Fringe team often is.)  While that is a likely possibility, the other possibility is that their computer systems have been hacked by someone who comes from a universe where the Motorola Razor cell phone was developed in 1985.  That person might consider cracking our most sophisticated computer security child’s play.  It seems like an equal probability to me.

Electromagnetic Blood Analysis?

Dr. Falcon,

“…but your lab work, the EEG readings, it all looks pretty standard.  Nothing to indicate you and the machine share an electromagnetic signature.”

What does lab work have to do with looking for an electrometric signature?

It Must Work, William Bell Designed It!


“Lie detectors are unreliable.”


“He’s right; people beat them all the time.”


“Not this one.  William Bell designed it.  It measures the slightest shift in the facial muscles, which allows us a link to stress and a particular emotion.

His facial muscles tell us his stress is not connected to guilt or shame.”

Bull on numerous levels.  Bull that it’s possible to 100% reliably determine the underlying emotions behind facial expressions.  Even if it were, you better hope your suspect is not a sociopath who doesn’t feel guilt or shame for his or her actions.  Even if they’re not a sociopath (or just someone who doesn’t feel guilty or shamed by their actions), you better hope they haven’t had cosmetic surgery (or injury) to alter their facial muscles and structure to throw off your lie detector.  Lastly, these aren’t human beings here.  They’re SHAPESHIFTERS.  There’s no reason to assume they have normal emotional responses or that they’re not able to completely control their facial expressions due to any emotions they do have.  They can shift their shape, after all.

Or You Can Choose Door Number Three

Why didn’t Nina wait until after they had done the DNA analysis on the three different serums before telling Walter about them?

Basic Data Analysis

The first thing they should have done with the list of names from Fauxlivia’s data file is run a cross index again the FBI & Massive Dynamic personnel lists and red flagged any matches, but this is the Fringe team we’re talking about here.

No Comment

On Walter’s expression of chimp behavior just because he might have a few chimp cells developing in his brain.

Walter’s a PhD, Not an MD, Right?

Walter speaking about the chimp DNA in his brain,

“My immune system will recognize it as foreign and reject it.”

I’m not a doctor, but I believe it’s generally considered a bad thing when immune cells cross the blood brain barrier.  I could be wrong, but it’s my understanding that under normal circumstances, immune cells don’t cross the BBB, which is why infections of the brain are very serious, if rare.  It remains to be seen (or at least to be confirmed by someone with more medical knowledge than me) if Walter’s immune system will rid him of that chimp DNA that’s supposedly in his brain

Why No Mention Of Olivia?

The files in Peter’s room, which were presumably Fauxlivia’s files, listed the members of the Fringe team, but Olivia’s name was not listed.

Too Simple?

Did the computers fail to crack Faulivia’s simple letter substitution code because they ruled out something that was so elementary that an eight year old reader of Encyclopedia Brown stories could crack it?

You Might Want to Consider Some Chelation, Peter

Peter’s probably got some significant mercury poisoning going on.  He was covered in mercury from killing that guy.  He probably got a lot more exposure from the other killings.

Paleontology Class

Brandon Fayette to Nina,

“The planet has been spinning for five billion years.  We’ve only been around for the past 250,000.  There were six major extinction events before we even crawled out of the slime.  So who’s to say one of them didn’t wipe out a great civilization?”

First of all, everything I can find says there were only five major extinction events, not six.  Second only the first two can be considered to have occurred before our ancestors “crawled out of the slime”.  Lastly, we have fossil records of those mass extinctions, but no archeological evidence of any civilizations.  It seems unlikely any disaster would wipe out any traces of a civilization, but leave the fossil record intact, so an undeteced, previous civilization is implausible.  Also, the Earth is only about 4.5 billion years old.

Good Idea, By the Way

I’m still not sure why it makes sense to assemble the weapon intended to destroy our universe.  It seems like we’re playing right into our adversary’s plans.

Fringe Compensated for Last Week’s Show

While I enjoyed last week’s show, I didn’t find a lot to blog about.  They made up for it in spades this week.  Eleven pages of notes and 3-1/2 pages (as Word flies) of blog material.


10 Responses to “Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 11, Season 3, Reciprocity”

  1. […] This week’s Fringe cipher was: ALTER. A list of all previous Fringe reviews is available here. Karl, as always, has much more to say. […]

  2. Dr. Falcon’s machine looked like an MRI to me, which would fit better with “electromagnetic imaging”, but not explain with Walter’s radiation comment. Putting metal electrodes in an MRI is probably not a good idea either.

  3. bros said

    Perhaps it was a fMRI? But that wouldn’t make sense either.

    EEG electrodes and MRI are not a pleasant combination, I would imagine. Might result in loss of skin

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Karl Withakay, Karl Withakay. Karl Withakay said: New Fringe Post Up! […]

  5. asdf said

    They were looking for shapeshifters with the pretty reasonable “stick them with a needle and see if they leak silver” method. The lie detector was for human moles. The infallibility pitch was still hokey of course.

  6. Fringe It said

    Re: Basic Data Analysis

    Cross indexing the Fauxlivia lists with FBI and Massive Dynamic personnel lists wouldn’t have helped because all the people in Fauxlivia’s lists were real FBI & Massive Dynamic Personnel. People like Nina Sharp were listed for instance, so every name in the lists would have matched to a real person. They stated that the file was hundreds of pages long – it would have taken far too long to check them all.

  7. Karl Withakay said

    But the shapeshifters replace real people. Any name in Fauxlivia’s list that matched either the Massive Dynamic or FBI personnel lists would need to be red flagged as a potentially having been replaced by a shapeshifter. That would be better than flying blind. It really wouldn’t take very long to run the check by computer, even if the list of names was thousands of pages long.

  8. G said

    A few little mistakes made by writers, who cares?

  9. Karl Withakay said

    You mean besides me and the regular readers of this blog and Polite Dissent?

  10. […] Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 11, Season 3, Reciprocity […]

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