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Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 21 Season 3, The Last Sam Weiss

Posted by Karl Withakay on April 29, 2011

A Blue Episode

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

Blatant Product Placement

Gee, the backup camera on the cars sure was cool.  If only I had a way of knowing what model car that was so I  could get one…

You know, there’s a distinction between product placement and writing elements into a show just to feature products and their features.  Showing that a person is driving a Ford Focus by the camera pausing on the car’s name plate is a product placement.  Intentionally inserting a scene where a car backs up just so you can show the backup camera of a Ford Focus is artistic compromise.

Today’s Winner of the Darwin Award Is…

What kind of idiot gets out of his car during a freak electrical storm like the one in this episode in order to see what’s going on, even if he thinks the storm is over?

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Lightning does strike cars, and being insulated from the ground by the tires does not make much difference.  Just as lightning is powerful enough to travel through the air to the car, it can also arc from the car to the ground.  What keeps you safe in a car that is struck by lightning is the metal skin of the car conducting the electricity around you.  (Sorry fiberglass bodied Corvette owners.)  If you are in a car and lightning is striking around you, the advice is to pull over, shut the engine down, and keep your hands in you lap and wait for the storm to pass.

Wait, What Did He Just Say?

Sam Weiss (not to be confused with Samwise Gamgee):

“It’s not a doomsday device, but it’s acting like one.”

Uhh, isn’t that exactly what everybody so far has been thinking it is, a doomsday device?  It does present the intriguing possibility that the devices were not designed to be doomsday devices but were intended for some other purpose.  Perhaps they are really anti-doomsday devices indeed to fix problems like the ones caused by Walter, and Walternate is using his device incorrectly.

 Are You Sure You Have a PhD in Physics?


“Walter this can’t possibly be safe.”


“Nonsense, I’m fully insulated.”

So were the cars, Walter.  The lightning has enough current to overcome the resistance of the air, I don’t think Walter’s rubber boots and gloves are going keep him safe.  Rubber tires don’t keep cars from being struck by lightning, and Walter has no metal skin to harmlessly conduct the electricity around him, though that didn’t seem to help the people at the beginning of the episode very much.

Top Notch Care

How come no alarms went off when Peter ripped off his monitors?  The display went flat line, and not one alarm went off?  I know the hospital was overwhelmed by the large number of lightning victims, but it sure took a long time to notice the monitors had flat lined and their patient was missing.  Apparently Peter could have actually arrested and died, and nobody would have noticed for quite a while.

Are You REALLY Sure You have a PhD in Physics?


“These two magnets create a magnetic field between them.  As a result, these iron filings line up in a pattern consistent with that field.”

Walter is explaining his demonstration wrongly.  In Walter’s demonstration, each magnet had its own magnetic field, and the iron filings lined up with the magnetic field lines of each field.    The filings would be lining up even with only one magnet.  The intersection of those patterns indicates the overlap of the two magnetic fields.  Also, if Walter had re-agitated the table after bringing the two magnets together, he would seen that the magnetic fields combined rather than disappeared, and the pattern would have look something, like this.

Security By Acme Solutions

Why would the alarm system be controlled by breakers in the regular breaker box?  How secure would that be?  I would think they would be on their own, secured bus with a battery backup system so the system could still be active in a power outage.

Secrets Of the Ancients

That paper was remarkably flexible and robust for something that was presumably thousands of years old.

What If You Believe Really Hard?


“But believing doesn’t make it true.”

Please tell that to the Birthers.

Quantum Entypement or Just Telekinetic Typing?

Just curious, how would they be able to tell the difference between Olivia controlling the typewriter in the other universe, causing the typewriter in our universe to work, and her just controlling the typewriter in our universe?

Oh, God!

The quote in the magazine Sam was reading,

I love to sing.  And I love to drink Scotch.  Most people would rather hear me drink Scotch.”

is from George Burns.

Official Personnel Only, No Exceptions

I know you’re in the loop on everything that’s going on right now, and you might prove invaluable, but I’m sorry, you aren’t an official member of the Fringe team.  You aren’t allowed to come along and try to help save the universe.  There’s liability concerns, after all.

Product Placement Question

Does Fox give the writers a list of things (like a Sprint tablet or Ford backup camera) that they have to figure out a way to work into the episode each week?

Are You Sure You Know What Exponential Means?


“Exponential microquakes building towards a massive event.”

If they were building exponentially, they wouldn’t remain micro for very long.

Did they Use Giant Rubber Gloves?

How did they move the device when it was protected by a force field that wouldn’t allow even a pen to touch it?

Unanswered Questions

What did Peter want to show Walternate when he went to Liberty Island?  Was it important or significant to the future resolution of the plot?

Why do Peter and Olivia have no memories of each other as children?


16 Responses to “Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 21 Season 3, The Last Sam Weiss”

  1. Josh said

    A few spelling mistakes, “The Last Sam Weiss” in the title, and
    “each magnet had its own magnetic field” (instead of ‘filed’)

    In relation to the typewriter question, the keys on our universe’s typewriter were shown to be not moving, so presumably this would be how you would differentiate.

  2. Max said

    > Walternate is using his device incorrectly
    He is holding it wrong.

  3. Nick said

    Just curious, how would they be able to tell the difference between Olivia controlling the typewriter in the other universe, causing the typewriter in our universe to work, and her just controlling the typewriter in our universe?

    I was wondering that too, but if you watch when it finally starts typing, the keys here don’t move. It isn’t the keys that are entangled/connected, but the typing head.

  4. Karl Withakay said

    Thanks, I didn’t spend as much time proofreading as I usually do last night.
    I don’t want to change the URL now, but I don’t think that matters too much.

  5. Karl Withakay said

    Since they didn’t show the typewriter keys in the other universe while the typing is in process, we still can’t be sure which typewriter she is manipulating. If we had seen the keys on the other typewriter move, we could reasonably conclude she was moving the keys on the alter-writer, but the possibility remains that she is directly manipulating the typing head of our universe’s typewriter.

  6. jedivulcan said

    Anyone going to mention the episode’s ending where Peter ends up in the future? If you get a glimpse of what Peter’s looking at in the end, there’s a 20 year anniversary memorial plaque for the World Trade Center attack. Peter is in at least 2021. He’s in either a third universe or “our” future. It’s interesting to note that now there is a Fringe Division with similar insignia from the alternate universe on our side now.

  7. Llama said

    These reviews get even more hilarious the more ridiculous the show becomes!

    The product placement, yes, oh dear… Hey Mister, are you sure you want to walk on top of that bridge (or whatever that was) during the storm? Why not drive there backwardly? (Which, as the video above pointed out, would have been actually safer.) And the moving of the device: Why is it so hard to notice such extremely obvious things? That really puzzles me. Because after giant rubber gloves, it really comes down to “A wizard did it!”. Or Olivia subconsciously psycho-moved it.

  8. RicSantiago said

    About the idiot leaving the car during the electric storm, notice that he said to his wife before leaving: “You’ll be safe in the car. Just stay down and don’t touch anything.” And then he goes out and climbs to higher ground… Very dummy indeed!

  9. Ken said

    My understanding is that this episode was completed before the series’ renewal had been announced. At the time of the announcement, only this season’s final episode had yet to be completed. It seems to me that the jump into the future was written into the plot to wrap up the series quickly, allowing us to see what happened to the universes retrospectively, when there were potentially not enough episodes remaining in the series to show us the events unfolding.

  10. Daedalus said

    Finally we got to a mysterious drawing of Olivia! It had to show up sooner or later, given the way they’ve been stealing from the “Alias” playbook.

    I guess it doesn’t count as stealing when it’s your own stuff. Doppelgangers, prophecies, ambivalent father figures, absent mothers, mysterious devices, ancient lore – it’s all there. If they’d used the glamour, glitz and red hot outfits of “Alias” in “Fringe” it probably would have been a real hit instead of a cult.

  11. jedivulcan said

    The ending reminded me of “Heroes” more than anything. There’s one or two futures that the characters jump to that introduces a messed up New York city and a whole lot of panic.

    Fringe is really nothing more than a targeted advertising experiment with a story. Fox tried extended episodes in the first season, then went to Ford and Sprint for product placement in seasons 2 and 3.

    The one thing that REALLY bothered me about the Sprint video calling last week was… that… well, I know that in a lot of more confidential facilities run by the government and elsewhere, they don’t like camera phones. Some companies and agencies actually ask you to remove the cameras from your phone. The fact that Nina was walking around with a video phone showing Broyles a crazy doomsday device on her phone was kind of braindead.

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

  13. Zed said

    I like your reviews, Karl, but c’mon — you do really think Fringe would still be on the air without product placement? I’m sure no one who works on the show LIKES having to do that stuff… and by it’s nature it can’t, alas, be subtle.

  14. Tom said

    Anybody know what that shot was that they flashed just before Peter walked into the machine, of Peter holding a naked girl in his arms? Wasn’t that a scene out of “Brown Betty”?

  15. lilacsigil said

    My old workplace had an alarm system running off the regular switchboard which was an ancient and terrifying piece of junk with porcelain and wrapped wire fuses. Eventually the switchboard caught on fire and we got a new one…and the boss had the alarm wired into the new board. Fortunately, when we moved buildings, the *other* boss got a new alarm company and they set it up properly. So yes, Acme Security is out there!

  16. […] 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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