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Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 17 Season 3, Stowaway

Posted by Karl Withakay on March 18, 2011

A Blue Episode

As always, an episode synopsis will eventually be found over at Scott’s Polite Dissent

Soul Rape/ The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul

I hope I’m not the only one who considers that what William Bell did to Olivia without her consent constitutes an immoral assault against Olivia.  He slipped her the soul magnets into her tea without her consent, which constitutes an assault by itself.  The purpose of the magnets was to facilitate the seizure of her body and suppression of her consciousness against her will, another assault, both legally and morally.

I proclaim “Bellivia”

…as the name for Bell possessed Olivia

Why the Funny Voice?

I guess I have to accept that the funny voice was so we could tell when it was Bellivia and not Olivia, because I can’t really think of any other good reason for Olivia’s body to talk with a funny voice when Bell is controlling it.

I Proclaim “Nerdly”

First, let me just say, I have street cred here, so I can get away with calling someone a nerd.  I’m going with the name Nerdly (or NerdLee or Nerd Lee if you prefer) for our universe’s version of Agent Lincoln Lee with the thick, black framed glasses and conservative clothes & haircut.

Location, Location, Location

I’ve probably asked this before, but why hasn’t Walter moved his lab to Massive Dynamic where they have many more resources available, or at least decked his lab out a little more now that he’s the owner of a multi-billion dollar corporation?

Physics 102 (Literally 2nd Semester Physics, After Motion and Kinematics)


“In performing the tests, we noticed something odd in the molecules of Miss Gray’s body.  They didn’t want to come apart.  They were held together by an unusually strong electromagnetic bond.”


“I’m Confused.  You’re saying her body is held together by magnetism?”


“Well, we’re all held together by magnetism.  Our molecules are like theses hematite rocks.  Magnetism is what keeps us from flying apart.  It’s what keeps us solid.”


“In Miss Gray’s case. The attraction was almost unbreakable.  Uh, it’s a miracle she left behind any blood at all.”

Ok, let’s set things straight here.  Magnetism and electromagnetism are not the same thing.   Magnetism is property of materials that respond at an atomic or subatomic level to an applied magnetic field.  Electromagnetism is one of the four fundamental interactions or forces in nature.  Electromagnetism is responsible for molecular bonds, not magnetism.  Out molecules are not held together like ferromagnetic hematite stones.

Stronger Molecular Bonds = Dead

If Dana Gray’s molecules had unusually strong molecular bonds, her molecules would have a very hard time undergoing chemical reactions.  Chemical reactions are all about the breaking and forming of molecular bonds.  If the bonds of Dana’s molecules were so strong that they are nearly impossible to break, they wouldn’t’ be able to undergo the chemical reactions necessary to support life, and she’d be dead.  Consider the following in support of the notion that even minor changes to chemical properties can be detrimental to life:  While we generally state that different isotopes of the same element have identical chemical properties, this is not 100% accurate.  For all practical purposes, most isotopes of the same elements have indistinguishable chemical properties, but in rare instances, there is a detectable difference.  One such instance is with Deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen.  Normal hydrogen has no neutrons in its nucleus, but deuterium has one neutron in its nucleus.  The chemical properties of deuterium are very close to those of regular hydrogen, but they are not 100% identical.  The properties are different enough, that water with at least one atom of deuterium (heavy water) is slightly different from regular water.  If as little of 25% of the water in the human body is replaced with heavy water, heath problems such as sterility occur. At 50% concentration death occurs, due to inhibited cell division due to the altered bond energy in the deuterium-oxygen bond.

An Innuendo Too Far

Hey, I’m a healthy, heterosexual male, and I appreciate a hint of girl on girl action as much as anyone, even if I know it’s not going to happen (even though one of the hot actresses is gay), but the milking comment by Bellivia was a little creepy.

It’s All Energy, Man…


“Life force?  You mean like a soul?  Is that even a scientific concept?”


“It’s best to try to not be reductive.  I mean After all, every living thing is just bundled energy.”

Any so is a rock, and a block of ice, and a cloud of hydrogen (e=mc^2).  No souls there.

Not In an Unfringified Universe


“If Dana Gray was struck by lightening twice, do you think that would help to explain whye she was overly electromagnetic?”


“I suppose that’s possible.  The ions due to multiple lightning strikes could cause her molecules to become supercharged.”


“And possibly intensify the electromagnetism, why do you ask?”

The elementary charge carried by electrons and protons is one of the fundamental physical constants of the universe.  You can zap someone with lightning all day long and its not going to change the behavior of molecular bonds or behavior of the electromagnetic force.

Remedial Phone Trace 101

FBI Phone Trace Guy:

“Can’t run a  trace unless the line’s open.  She has to pick up.”

OK, apparently the FBI assigns their technical flunkies to Fringe division work.  For a physical land line, you don’t need to do a trace if you have the number; you just look up the address in the phone company’s database.  For a CELL PHONE, you don’t need to do a traditional trace at all if you know the number of the phone.  Even if the GPS function on the phone is switched off, as long as the phone is on and able to receive calls, you can do a reasonably accurate location of the phone by determining which cell towers it is registering with.  They should also have been able to tell that the phone was moving at a reasonable velocity and determine the general path it was taking by observing it switching between towers as it moved.

Superman’s Suit is Super Too?

How come Dana’s Clothes weren’t singed at all by the explosion?



“As a scientist, I like to believe that nothing just happens,”

OK, so far, so good, cause and effect, that’s from science…

“that every event has some meaning, some sort of message.  You just have to be able to listen closely enough to hear it.”

Whoops, you lost me here as to how that has anything to do with science.  You just jumped into philosophy, which is fine.  It’s just not science anymore.

Please Set Your Phone to Vibrate, or Set a Non-Ringy Ringtone, Mr Potter.

Is Bellivia going to swap with Olivia every time an angel gets their wings?


13 Responses to “Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 17 Season 3, Stowaway”

  1. NickS said

    I did like Bellivia’s subtle Spock/Nimoy-ian eyebrow raise, even if the voice was nonsensical.

  2. JediVulcan said

    The other thing I noticed was Olivia wore less make up that she did before Bell took over her body. It was subtle but it’s consistent with the notion that William Bell wouldn’t bother or think of that sort of thing.

  3. DanielT said

    I would love it if Bell stayed in possession of Olivia for the rest of the series–it makes her a much more interesting character. And yes, what he did to her was unconscionable. But Walter and William have a habit of treating persons unconscionably, so at least there’s some continuity.

    I also like Nerdly more than his counterpart and hope we get to see him again.

  4. Naomi said

    I have second your proclamation of Nerdly on my facebook. Great moniker!

  5. HomiSite said

    I like “Nerdlee” (and came up with Bellivia myself). As you wrote above, there was a lot BS in this episode. I really dislike the (non)tracking of Dana’s phone – you can’t sell this to viewers who probably saw 8 seasons of 24 or other recent crime shows. Position tracking, call tracing – not possible, but faking the own number is no problem?! And then this soul/fate stuff – don’t like the direction the show seems to take.

    Anna Torv’s permformace as Nimoy/Bell was maybe interessting and funny, but also annoying – I (and Peter 🙂 would profoundly hate it if we have Bellivia for the reast of the season/series (the end of this episode indicates something else *pew*). I didn’t notice JediVulcan’s make-up thing, but it would be a nice and Fringe-typical note.

  6. Tom said

    RE: “Soul Rape/ The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul” — Not only did he slip her the soul-magnet tea, but in the original episode where that happens, she angrily attempts to refuse the tea, only to suddenly find herself drinking it after what Bell assures her is just a ‘time slip’ that she’ll get used to. Coincidence? I think not…

    Also, this is Olivia’s — what, third possession? After her forced cohabitation with the memories of John Scott, and the wholesale implantation of Fauxlivia’s life story (complete with Olympic-quality sharpshooting skills)… I mean, how many consciousnesses can one body hold? I thought it was creepy what Walter did in Season 1, hooking Peter up to the dead ZFT member’s head for “interrogation” purposes, but at least that was voluntary…

    Ick, I say. Ick.

  7. Karl Withakay said

    RE: The time slip at tea time: What I like about that, is that it shows that at least some things were planned a while ago, and the writers aren’t just making everything up as they go along.

  8. Daedalus said

    Just like to note that if you’re Australian, like Anna Torv and John Noble, you’re already manufacturing a voice for your main role, so manufacturing another, one as Torv did for Bellivia, is not as much of a stretch as it would be for an American. Now if only Bell had been Australian…

  9. Jake said

    Long time reader, first time writer.. Because those last 2 episoders were over the line of “make-believe”. There are some things, even in fringe-y science that can’t be. Such as stronger electro-magnetic bonds. Let alone that chemical bonds won’t change with lighning (nor the EM Force), but if it did whole atoms would cease to exist. Nucleus and electrons would collide and maybe the nucleus itself would blow away. Because you know, like charges (like protons) repel each other.

    Another thing is that it’s not the EM that holds the atom together. (If anything it tries to blow it’s nucleus apart) It’s the Strong Force that keeps it together. If the powers of these forces are changing, i get it. But if their whole properties are screwed… Well Fringe is getting into the “idiocy well” episode by episode. Wish they don’t keep this up until the end of the season. (Get a Physics PhD Student for advice ffs, if not someone more qualified.)

    PS: I’m not a PhD student.

  10. Karl Withakay said

    Good point. I didn’t even get into the issue with the the stronger electromagnetic repulsion between the protons likely overpowering the strong nuclear force (residual color force) in the nuclei, resulting in the nuclei fissioning.

    I’m not as sure that an increase in the electromagnetic force would cause the electrons to collide with the nucleus rather than just orbit it faster. As you swing a weight on the end of a string (such as a yo-yo) around you, the harder you pull, the faster the object rotates, but it does not crash into your hand. However, at some point, currently possible neutral atoms wouldn’t be able to exist due to the fact the electrons would have to orbit the nucleus at faster than the speed of light, which isn’t possible.

  11. Jake said

    Nice take on faster orbits, that didn’t come to my mind. And it seems for a Hydrogen atom with one electron, its speed is just two orders of magnitude less than that of light. Stronger EM is a nasty thing.

    Although in any case even a newly graduated physics student* should be able to correct those mistakes.

    * What’s it called? Newly graduate physicist? Graduate physicist? Would you even count as a physicist without a PhD? 😛 I don’t know.

  12. […] This week’s Fringe cipher was: ERODE. A list of all previous Fringe reviews is available here. Karl has more to say, as always, over at his blog. […]

  13. […] episode is debunked at Polite Dissent and Cordial Deconstruction, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. […]

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