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Recap / Fringe S02 E09 "Snakehead"

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Season 2, Episode 9:

Snakehead

In Dorchester, a damaged cargo ship from China washes ashore; all of the crew members seem to be infected with squid-like creatures which soon erupt from their mouths, effectively killing their hosts. Other survivors flock to a contact house in Boston's Chinatown, only to suffer the same fate in the presence of a mysterious man. While investigating the crime scene shore, the Fringe team discover a healthy young Chinese woman, who tells them all of the passengers except her were given pills for their perceived seasickness, and that another ship is expected in two days. In the lab, Walter suggests that the creatures are gigantic parasitic worms, a modified version of Ancylostoma duodenale, that needs hosts for their gestation period, hence the distribution of parasitic pills. One of the still-living worms bites Walter, boosting his white blood cell count and making him suddenly feel better.

The Fringe team discovers a Triad gang member and ties to several shell companies the gang has set up in the US. They interview Elizabeth Jarvis, one of the companies' large investors, but she seems unaware of her investment's criminal background. While at her house, Peter observes signs of obsessive compulsive and germaphobe characteristics such as large quantities of hand sanitizer. Walter informs him the worm has a medicinal purpose, not a narcotic one as they previously believed. These two discoveries lead Peter and Olivia back to Jarvis' house, and they learn that her son has an immunodeficiency disorder. To allow him to be able to go outside, his mother and doctor have been giving him an injection to his spleen once a month, though he is unaware of the medicine's origins.

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Meanwhile, an invigorated Walter ventures out to Chinatown to find a herbalist for his research; unaware of the clerk's connection to the case, Walter casually mentions the giant worms. Walter manages to lose Astrid, who was sent to follow him out of worry for his ability to travel alone. She goes back to the lab, but is attacked by Triad gang members intent on getting back the remaining worms. Unaware of this, a distraught Walter becomes lost and wastes all his bus money on wrong phone numbers, causing Peter to have to pick him up. Olivia talks to Jarvis, who finally admits to being aware of the medicine. She tells Olivia the whereabouts of the incoming ship, but they find it already empty. Peter and Walter return to the herbalist shop and discover the remaining passengers. The FBI storms in and the survivors are sent to the hospital for care. Feeling remorseful about the trouble he caused, Walter injects himself with a tracking implant and gives Peter the transponder.

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Tropes found in this episode:

  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Hookworms do not have an immune system.
    • The copulatory bursa on the male Ancylostoma duodenale can have numerous spicules, but the worms' tentacles were quite elaborate and the females would not have these structures.
    • When the worm attached itself to Walter, the end with the spicules attached to him instead of the end with the mouth and the rather nightmarish teeth of the hookworm.
  • Artistic License – Geography: A Chinese merchant ship traveling between Hong Kong and Boston?
  • Artistic License – Medicine:
    • A white blood cell count "through the roof" is not an indication that Walter is fine, but instead is much more likely to be an indicator of infection.
    • Helminthic therapy is a "fringe" treatment practiced by some, but it is used to reduce autoimmune (overactive immune response) disorders, not to treat individuals with an immune deficiency.
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  • Better to Die than Be Killed: This is the 3rd person to die during an interrogation so far (#1 = Dr. Patel in 'The Cure'; #2 = Andre Hughes on 'Night of Desirable Objects'). They might want to revisit their protocols.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Walter's Tracking Device
  • Continuity Nod: Walter sings "Van Amburgh's Menagerie" when waiting in the car, which is the same song he sang when facing the beast in 'Unleashed'.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: "This is a not a good idea, son". What was Peter thinking when he decided to take on the Triad on his own?
  • Friendly Local Chinatown
  • Lamprey Mouth: Averted, not really sure why the hook worm's frightening mouth would not have been featured as one of nature's prime examples of terror and Vagina Dentata.
  • Loose Lips: Walter telling the Chinese herbalist he has a 4 foot worm.
  • Mega-Microbes
  • Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: Ancylostoma duodenale are 8-13 mm long. The "hookworms" at the Chinese herbalist store are a few centimeters in length and look like insect larvae instead.
  • Similarly Named Works: Alex Rider's novel about human smuggling by Chinese gangs.
  • Slashed Throat
  • Square-Cube Law: Even if the simple cylindrical shape of the nematode could tolerate it's new weight, a creature weighing 7 pounds 10 ounces would require a more complex circulatory system
  • Tattooed Crook
  • The Triads and the Tongs
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