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Fringe - Episode 3.11 - Reciprocity - Recap by Robz888

"We've run all the diagnostics. The Machine continues to be unresponsive." - Dr. James Falcon

Maybe Dr. Falcon and Ms. Sharp should have tried entering 4-8-15-16-23-42-EXECUTE into the nearest computer, because this was a "Lost" moment if ever there was one.

Though no one can figure out how to turn on the Machine, as soon as Peter shows up it springs to life, emanating electromagnetic energy. It pulls a metal chair across the room, which was very reminiscent of the Swan hatch during System Failure. Peter even gets a nosebleed, the common side effect of temporal displacement from JJ Abrams' previous show about strange electromagnetic doomsday devices and alternate realities.

It would appear that the small, central piece that Fauxlivia stole is what powers the Machine, though Peter's proximity to it has a similar effect.

I have plenty of questions about the Machine. Presumably, the First People built it, split it into pieces, and then buried it--or, after they wiped themselves out with the Machine, someone else disposed of it. But how did Walternate first learn about it? I suspect William Bell may have had something to do with that, as we learn in "Reciprocity" that he looked into the book about the First People some time ago. We also know that despite his stated desire to prevent a war between the two worlds, he designed weapons and shapeshifters for the other side in order to gain Walternate's trust.

My BIG question is this: Aren't there Machine pieces on the other side, too? Walternate showed Peter pieces of the Machine in "Over There," but it wasn't clear to me if he had a complete alternate set. Theoretically, there should have been First People in the alternate universe with their own device. So, I'm assuming that there are two sets of pieces for two versions of the same Machine on both sides. Of course, if Peter is what ultimately part of what powers it, he's a key piece of the Machine that's only available on one side.

And if there IS only one set of pieces to one overall Machine (which I doubt, but it's possible), then the Observers are the First People, maybe, since all the evidence suggests that there is only one set of Observers.

Unfortunately, we didn't learn much else about the Machine or the First People during the rest of "Reciprocity," which disappointed me. Instead, we discover that someone is hunting down the shapeshifters, killing them, and swiping their data storage chips.

Dr. Falcon is a shapeshifter, of course. It is briefly thought that Brandon is working for the enemy, which led me to briefly consider the idea that the Brandons may have switched universes just like the Olivias (or what if our Brandon had been in league with evil Brandon all along?). But as it turns out, our sweeter, more lovable Brandon isn't the shapeshifter hunter. I would bet that he probably freaks Olivia out, though, since his alternate self tried to vivisect her.

The episode took an odd turn when we learned that the mysterious hunter is none other than Peter. I'm not going to lie; the show didn't really sell me on why that had to happen, other than tying up the loose end of having so many shapeshifters around. It felt like Lost, but not in a good way. One of my least favorite elements of Lost was how it would randomly wipe out whole groups of people when they became inconvenient for the plot (the freighter detonation in "There's No Place Like Home," the flaming arrow attack in "The Lie," the missile attack in "The Last Recruit," to name a few of the more egregious examples).

I don't understand why Peter would take it upon himself to kill all the shapeshifters. It was, after all, a major undertaking. To learn who they were, Peter had to crack Fauxlivia's code way before Broyles or Massive Dynamic or Astrid. He also claimed that he analyzed the data chips but there wasn't any useful info. Could he really have done that without someone noticing? Wouldn't he have needed Massive Dynamic's equipment, or Walter's?

Walter's explanation--that the Machine was "weaponizing" Peter--cleared things up for me a bit, but wasn't totally satisfactory. Peter was obviously already on the hunt for the shapeshifters before the Machine "activated" him at the beginning of the episode.

The plausibility of all this aside, I like the theme. "Reciprocity" was very much about the reciprocal relationship between man and machine. Not all machines are totally un-human (as we learned in "Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?"), and, like Peter, not all humans are totally non-mechanical. I think of Walternate on the other side; he is a man, to be sure, but his countenance, his habits, his driving force... very mechanical. He has been touched by the things he created, by the monstrous circumstances of his work and what happened to him, and he has become something between man and machine. Perhaps our Walter was on that path, too, before William took out pieces of his brain.

Actions have consequences both obvious and unforeseen, as the Observer told us last week. In each episode, we learn more about the various ways those consequences play out. We see the physical and mental changes in our characters, their lives, and the world around them.

The other main storyline of "Reciprocity" concerned Olivia and Peter deciding to read Fauxlivia's notes, which make it clear that she did develop feelings for Peter before her mission was over. Olivia explains that this makes sense--Fauxlivia thinks in a similar way, and would come to feel the same way about Peter that she does.

Moments like this always make me wonder just how similar the other universe really is. How many people get married to the same person on the other side as they did here? How do the differences--like the other William Bell dying in a car accident as a young man--factor in? I would think, scientifically speaking, that the differences would tend to increase over time. For instance, if a man died in an accident on the other side, but lived and had children on our side, his descendants would only exist in our world. Right?

On a side note, I'm coming to believe that Fauxlivia may indeed be pregnant with Peter's child. Her having feelings for him seems to make this a more potentially interesting route to go. It would certainly make things so much harder for our Olivia, the poor girl. Peter does love her, doesn't he? Or was it the other Olivia who he truly fell in love with?

The big, big, BIG question, though, remains this: Why does Peter have this connection to a Machine that was constructed hundreds of thousands of years ago?

By the way, I'm loving Fringe Fridays. It really starts the weekend off on the right note, doesn't it? See you next week!

Episode Grade: B-

If you enjoy my writings, I encourage you to friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. I post my recaps, as well as other opinion articles, to both sites. I'm also an editor for a nationwide campus news site--check it out if you're interested in college happenings.

- Robby "Robz888" Soave

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