Fringe recap: Ep 3.11 "Reciprocity"`
Monday, January 31, 2011 | Author: Mad Typist

Two administrative points: One, while I've been calling Earth-2's Olivia "Alt-livia", the show has decided to dub her Fauxlivia (as in "fake" Olivia, which actually to me isn't exactly correct -she's a real Olivia, just not the Earth-1 version, versus a shapeshifter who would in fact be "fake", but whatever....). In any case, from here on out, I'll roll with the show and call Earth-2's Olivia Fauxlivia. Point two, if you haven't watched this week's Fringe, definitely don't read this recap, since *SPOILER ALERT* you will want to be surprised for the big twist. *SPOILER ALERT*

Now that you've been sufficiently warned....

On this week's Fringe, the Fringe team has finally cracked the encryption on Fauxlivia's hard drive, and it's a treasure trove of intel, with lists of contacts, location data, observations on the Earth-1 Fringe team and a diary of her nights of passion and betrayal (probably with "Mrs. Peter Bishop" scrawled all over the margins). Most importantly, the hard drive contains a list of all the shapeshifter agents in play on Earth-1, which is what drives the plot of the evening - someone has gotten access to that list, and is murdering them one by one.

But before we get back to that subplot, the show opens up with a night time scene at an isolated airplane hanger, which invokes memories of some great episodes from Fringe's spiritual predecessor The X-Files. Remember the giant Peter-powered Universe Destroying Device (PUDD) that was designed to possibly rip apart our dimension and kill every living thing? Yeah, well, Nina Sharp and the Massive Dynamic gang of merry scientists have re-assembled it and are running a series of tests on it. That seems like a great idea and I cannot imagine that anything could possibly go wrong with this scenario.

The Massive Dynamic scientists are frustrated that their attempts to provoke the PUDD have thus far produced nothing. However, the minute Peter walks near the device, his nose starts to bleed and the machine grumbles into life, making a whirring sound that sounds something like, "You look delicious, Peter Bishop. Get in me now. Nom nom nom." Everyone looks surprised and a little worried about this.

Meanwhile, Broyles has other concerns on his mind. Fauxlivia's files are apparently quite saucy in certain places, and Broyles is worried that it will upset both Olivia and Peter if they read what's in there. So, having no one else to really task with this, he's forced to bring Astrid up to the big leagues, where she will actually get to lead a task for once, versus her normal "helper" role (which seems to entail mostly passing Walter tools off the operating tray and fetching strawberry milkshakes). I'm happy that Jasika Nicole finally has something to do other than look bemused at John Noble.

In what should be a giant red flag for viewers who are paying attention, we see Peter creeping back into the house he shares with Walter, carrying a duffel bag. While the front door doesn't seem to wake Walter, the sounds of Peter making a sandwich do. It's sort of like when my cats are nowhere to be found, but the minute I even touch the can of cat food, they materialize seemingly out of thin air. Peter totally lies to Walter about where he's been (red flag #2), but does offer to make him a sandwich. I'd point out the role reversal here, with the way Walter asks, "Can I have one too?" like a child, but really, isn't that how it has always seemed with these two? Peter has always played the role of provider and comforter to Walter. Now he must once again take on the parent role and remind Walter of a valuable life lesson: that you can't always protect the ones you love and sometimes you just need to let people deal with things on their own. This is a small scene, but it's superbly acted.

In any case, dead shapeshifters start popping up, and Broyles suspects that someone is cleaning up before the FBI can use Fauxlivia's files to hunt down the remaining agents. The team quickly realizes that this all started once they put Fauxlivia's files on the FBI mainframe. For some reason they seemed surprised that they might have a mole. Um... didn't you deal with a shapeshifter posing as Charlie Francis for weeks, and then Fauxlivia herself running amok for several months? Why is this a surprise, exactly? And you think they would have put measures in place earlier than now to deal with potential double agents. Shapeshifters can easily be detected with a blood test (since they have mercury blood), and those key figures who are known to having living dopplegangers on Earth-2 simply need to have a safety word installed with trusted people. Jeez, Fringe team....

Olivia offers to help process Fauxlivia's files, even though she knows it may be difficult to read all the juicy details of Fauxlivia's romance with Peter. Peter explains that his problem with that plan isn't just about him wanting to spare her feelings. Rather, as a former con man, he knows exactly how someone like that likely respects (or rather, doesn't respect at all) the marks they are fooling. He's embarrassed and also can't stand Olivia seeing him in that light. Again, this is another small scene, but it's just so well done - it's nice to see characters actually talking about their problems in an honest way, versus the standard TV trope of leaving these kinds of things unsaid.

The investigation turns up more dead shapeshifters - including the lead Massive Dynamic scientist working on the PUDD (whoops!) - and the Fringe team deduces that a human mole must be involved in the killings, thanks to some DNA left behind at one of the crime scenes. Olivia finally realizes that she needs to man up and just read Fauxlivia's files already, because she has unique insight into the woman's brain that no one else has, and it's time to stop letting her girly romantic feelings derail this investigation. This perseverance pays off, not only because Fauxlivia describes Peter in the same way that Olivia would have (thus reminding her why she fell for him in the first place, and inching her closer back to him), but also because she is able to crack the code detailing who the next shapeshifter is on the list of seemingly random names. She and Astrid race off to find the next victim before he can be murdered.

They're too late, however, and it might be the best thing for everyone, because they barely miss the man's murderer - Peter Bishop. Dun dun dun! Both we the audience and Walter learned earlier that Peter was behind it all, but it's still pretty shocking to see Peter execute the man right in front of Walter. Peter coldly explains that he isn't doing anything wrong, since the shapeshifters are 1) soldiers, and therefore ready to die for their mission and 2) technically not human. Walter is horrified and his voice breaks as he points out to Peter that people who truly believe they aren't doing anything wrong don't tend to lie to their friends and families about what they're up to. The Bishops flee the crime scene just in time before Olivia and the rest of the team show up.

Later, Olivia debriefs the Bishops on the details of the case, which of course they already know. Walter makes all these crazy guilty faces at Peter, but luckily Olivia is used to Walter acting squirrely and doesn't seem to notice anything is amiss. It seems for now Walter is going to keep Peter's secret for him. After Olivia leaves, Walter tells Peter that he may know why Peter is acting so strangely lately. Much as the machine is affected by Peter, so too is Peter affected by the machine. In other words, the PUDD is turning Peter into a weapon. And weapons are really only good for one thing (and it isn't dispensing hugs). And with that ominous note, yet another Fringe episode comes to an end.

Well, this makes two great episodes in a row now for Fringe since returning from the break. The show has managed to both move Olivia and Peter closer together, by showing Olivia gradually thawing to Peter's advances, while at the same time adding new compelling (and most importantly, logical) reasons for them to be pushed apart. This latest revelation about Peter is just another lie that will probably come between them, so it'll be exciting to see where the show goes with this plot line. The idea that you cannot affect something without being affected by it in return is something the show has unintentionally shown in many forms already - we see how Fauxlivia has changed Peter, Olivia and all the other people she came in contact with, and the contents of her diary suggest that those same people had unintended affects on her as well (it seems she grew fond of both Bishops despite herself). The same can be said for all the character pairings on the show.

Summary: when writing up your mission logs, do your best not to sound like a giggly, love-struck seventh grader, because you never know who's going to read them.
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