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Recap / Fringe S02 E13 "What Lies Below"

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Season 2, Episode 13:

What Lies Below

In Boston, a visibly sick man from the Netherlands arrives at an office building, only to collapse and die. The veins in his body erupt with blood, spraying surrounding witnesses. The Fringe team arrive on site, and while interviewing the witnesses, another man also becomes sick. The sick man attempts to leave the building, only to be stopped by Walter, who sees the man spray out blood and realizes there is a contagion. The building is quarantined with Peter, Olivia, and the rest of the witnesses still inside.

The CDC arrives and soon clash with Walter, who wants some blood samples to take back to his lab at Harvard. As another witness, the receptionist, falls ill, the rest begin panicking that the virus is an airborne contagion. Olivia discovers that the Dutch man was an oil consultant who arrived to meet with Mr. Ames, one of the other office workers trapped in the building.


Walter explains that viruses have forms of "personalities," that influence their hosts to act in certain ways. He posits that the virus is not airborne after all, but needs more samples for further tests. Meanwhile the infected receptionist, influenced by the virus, jumps out a window, and also scares Peter into falling into an infected pool of blood. The woman is sprayed with disinfectant spray, as Peter quickly rinses himself off. Knowing he is likely infected, Peter searches through the Dutch man's pockets, leading to the discovery of a briefcase infected by the virus.

Walter continues his theory that the virus wants to escape the building, hence the multiple escape attempts by the infected. The virus was found on a sample taken 10 miles below the earth, and may be 75,000 years old and responsible for wiping out the Ice Age mammals. As a bio-hazard team enters the building to test people for the virus, a CDC official orders the army to prepare for a "level six eradication", because they still do not know how to contain it.


Peter manages to fake the test and hide his infection. He and Olivia begin leading a team of healthy people outside the building, but before Peter is able to leave, his nose bleeds, clearly revealing that he is infected. While the virus overtakes Peter's health and sanity, Walter becomes increasingly distressed and accidentally blurts out that he "can't let Peter die again" to Astrid. Despite the threat of eradication and death, he and Astrid remain in the building to run further tests on the Dutch man. Walter realizes that sulfuric ash killed the virus thousands of years ago, and successfully finds a cure with some horseradish he found in the office break room.

The CDC agrees to allow Olivia to enter the building and use the air ventilation system to spread some fentanyl gas, which will gain them time while the cure is synthesized. While inside, Peter attacks her, but Olivia is able to turn the air on, successfully knocking out the building's occupants. Peter and everyone else are successfully cured. Astrid approaches Walter and asks what he meant when he said he couldn't let Peter die again, to which he responds by saying "some things are meant to be left alone."


Tropes found in this episode:

  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • While a rabies virus can not survive long outside of its host, it exists in high numbers in the saliva of an infected animal. The host animal being well hydrated is not going to kill the virus, just reduce the probability of futher virus transamission. The phenomena of hydrophobia sometimes observed during advanced rabies infection is thought to be related to painful throat spasms and difficulty swallowing.
    • You can not isolate virus by placing a test tube of blood in a centrifuge. Viruses can be isolated by using a differential gradient gel with an ultracentrifuge.
    • It requires an electron microscope to determine whether a pellet contains virus, but Hubert seems to be able to tell whether they isolated the virus or not with his naked eye.
    • Obviously, viruses do not have intelligence.
  • Artistic License – Medicine:
    • Cheek swabs are used to take DNA samples, but would be a strange way to evaluate for a virus.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Averted Trope
  • Deadly Nosebleed
  • Dug Too Deep: 10 miles is rather impressive, considering the deepest oil well on record was 7.4 miles.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: Walter's story to the children at the Science Center.
    Walter: You see, when you open new doors, there is a price to pay.
  • Hazmat Suit
  • Knockout Gas: When weaponized Fentanyl was used in the Moscow Theater Hostage Crisis, it resulted in the deaths of 117 of the hostages.
  • Lockdown: Mysterious death of unknown cause with spray of blood from his mouth. Why was there no infectious control put in place from the start?
  • No Escape but Down: This is the second episode (first was 'Dreamscape') where someone jumps out of a skyscraper window to kill themselves.
  • The Plague
  • The Scientific Method:
    • No test is 100% correct, and all can have a false negative rate. Yet Walter's unverified test for the virus is considered proof that the individual was not infected.
  • Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: Most oil deposits are over 60 million years old and are at much more shallow depths then 10 miles, but Walter theorizes that the virus is 75,000 years old.
  • Shout-Out: Peter is watching Forbidden Planet.
  • Technicolor Science
    WALTER: If you're infected, the solution will turn black. Swab. Please swab the inside of your cheek. Amber. You're clear.

Example of: