Review: Reciprocity ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Review: Reciprocity

      Email Post       2/01/2011 12:48:00 PM      

“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.

(So you got a thing for bananas? Check out my other reviews of Chuck and the Vampire Diaries at,)


Anonymous said...

Better go back and watch it again. There was only 1 shapeshifter at Massive Dynamics, Dr. Falcon. The others worked elsewhere.
I think the First People were/are real. I think they are behind the conflict and/or are manipulating events. Not sure where the third universe will fit in to this.
Brandon assumed different authors but I believe they were all written but the same person using different names, Seamus Wiles/Sam Weiss.
A lot more going on than what we are seeing right now.

Matthew from the Fringe

Josie Kafka said...

Matthew, you're right. I got the flu last week, and I'm still only operating at about 80%. Evidently that includes my ability to count.

Anonymous said...

Hello, everyone:
In keeping with the theme of the "red herring", several interesting plot threads are being spun out in close proximity to each other: Peter's being weaponized; Walternate's schemes for destroying our World; the role of the machine; the First People; and most intriguingly, the role of the Observers in paradoxically shaping events going forward, not merely observing them. I've been getting the feeling for awhile that the role of the Observer-group will become key to the resolution of all these plot lines: they can cross into other universes without shattering into a million bits, like the coffee cup did in Brandon's lab, or like William Bell did at the end of Season Two. And, we have now seen both August and September catch bullets with their bare hands, suggesting they have immense molecular density to neutralize all that inertia without damage -- Our Walter has said "they are not human", but in what sense? Are they the evolved remnants of the First People Group? Are they from another universe altogether? And, most tantalizingly, are they here because they are fundamentally associated with the Machine -- either to protect it, to guide it, to guide Peter to it, or somehow to shepherd it to Somewhere Else??
Interesting impossibilities.

Lincoln said...

Great review as always! Thanks, Josie. Your analysis of the episode was spot on.
I thought that the vacuum would look kind of cheesy but the production team did a nice job
with its presentation. If the vacuum was created by the First People millions of years
ago, and it functions only with Peter Bishop, then it's rational to think they intended to destroy the present universe when he exists. But why?
I had originally thought that Walternate created the vacuum. Then, when it was sent to this universe it somehow got stuck in pre-history. It would be interesting if agents of Walternate were sent back into our time to search for the vacuum and somehow became the First People. But the vacuum seems too advanced even for Walternate's technology. It looks very alien--much like the Observers' technology.
The First People book described the vacuum as having the power to create AND destroy. Perhaps the vacuum will create a new universe rather than destroy one.
So many questions...

Unknown said...

I totally agree that the vacuum looks more like the Observer's technology.
I also agree that the chance of the Observers were the First People is high.

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