November 21, 2017

SVT #112, If Looks Could Kill: No TV and No Fighting Make the Wakefields…Something Something

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 5:01 pm by Jenn

No, I don’t know why it’s called “If Looks Could Kill”

Summary: It’s New Year’s Eve, and of course there’s a party. This one will be at Lila’s house. The twins go shopping and pick out matching makeup bags. Jessica’s the only one who wants to actually use hers for makeup; Elizabeth has recently gotten into rock-collecting and thinks the bag will be perfect to store her collection. Jess hates the idea of having the same bag as her dorky sister with her dorky new hobby, so she ditches the bag. Liz does, too, since it’s expensive. So that whole part of the book was pointless, and only sets up a new fight between the twins.

The girls run into a new classmate, Eric, and Jess invites him to Lila’s party. She already has a crush on him, but Eric seems to have more in common with Liz, as he also likes rocks. Meanwhile, Joe Howell spots Eric’s sister, Patty, and tries to flirt with her. She’s nice to him but doesn’t seem that interested. Steven has a much easier time talking to Patty, though she doesn’t show much interest in him either.

The Wakefield kids all go home, where the twins get into a fight over Eric. Alice tells them that their aunt and uncle have invited them to go skiing during their next school break, but the twins’ constant bickering makes her think they’re not mature enough to go away without their parents. Alice, you’re looking at this all wrong: If they go away on a trip, they’re out of the house and you don’t have to deal with them. But no, Alice decides that Steven can go on the trip, but the twins have to earn it.

The twins really want to go skiing, so they quickly come up with an idea: Their New Year’s resolution will be to stop fighting for a whole week. Steven hates the idea of his little sisters tagging along on the ski trip, and he complains to his mother that she wasn’t hard enough on them. Alice ignores this and instead notes that Steven has been watching a lot of TV lately. Steven volunteers to stop watching TV, movies, and videotapes for a week, though at this point he’s not getting anything out of the deal.

At Lila’s party, Janet becomes smitten with Eric and basically calls dibs on him. Then Janet starts hassling Elizabeth, telling Jessica to let her know how dumb her rock collection is. If Jess doesn’t, she may be kicked out of the Unicorns. Remembering her resolution, Jessica defends her twin. Then she has to tell her friends about her resolution, so they don’t think she actually likes her sister.

Some of the other girls decide to make resolutions as well. Lila thinks they should compete – anyone who breaks her resolution has to wear a cloth diaper to the party Janet’s having in a week. For some reason, they all agree to this. The winner gets nothing other than the satisfaction of not wearing a diaper. Weak. Anyway, the resolutions:

  • Amy has been late for school a lot recently, so she resolves to be on time.
  • Maria wants to stop being vain, and will give up looking at herself in the mirror.
  • Lila will stop bragging for a week.
  • Janet will give up all sweets.

Steven and Joe somehow get roped into the competition as well; Steven will make his TV ban official, and Joe will avoid going to Casey’s for a week. The kids seem to be on the honor system for the competition, and the threat of having to wear a diaper in front of their classmates is enough to keep them on their best behavior.

On top of the competition, Steven still wants to get the twins banned from the ski trip, so he tries to come up with ways to get them to fight. Nothing works. Meanwhile, everyone else in the competition gets really serious about it. Amy even makes up scorecards with “kill” columns so they can check off when someone breaks a resolution. Everyone wants to make Janet break, but Lila’s the one who cracks first. It makes sense, since bragging is so much a part of who she is.

Janet proves to be a master manipulator, taking down both Amy and Maria even as the others try to get her to break her resolution. Maria’s easy to crack, since it only takes one glance in a mirror to make that kill. Amy’s tougher, but Janet turns her own manipulation against her. Amy takes Janet to a bunch of places to try to tempt her with sweets, but makes the mistake of eating them all herself. Janet just sits back and lets Amy stuff herself until she’s sick, thereby ensuring that she doesn’t make it to school on time the next day.

Steven is now desperate to get the twins to fight, and he turns to Janet for help. In exchange, Steven will get Janet a date with Eric. They’re not very good at this, though; their plan is to have the Unicorns run into Elizabeth at a rock and mineral show, and make Liz think that Jess brought her friends to mock her, but the twins just pretend everything is great. However, Elizabeth is starting to crack, and when the kids go to Casey’s, and Jess orders the same shake Liz wanted, Liz throws a tantrum.

Because the answering machine had started to pick up when Steven called Janet to present his plan, Joe is able to hear their conversation and learn that they’re plotting against the twins. He doesn’t want Janet to win the competition, so he runs to Casey’s to warn the twins that she’s trying to take them down. Unfortunately, this means he’s broken his own resolution, so he’s out. Then the twins eliminate Steven by talking up some awesome action movie and getting him to watch it in secret. It’s actually an episode of Jess’ soap, Days of Turmoil, so Steven didn’t even get eliminated for something cool.

The twins and Janet are the only people left in the competition, so the twins bring in the big guns: Eric. They get him to bake cookies for Janet’s party, then pretend to be disappointed when she declines to try one. Since Janet doesn’t want her new crush to think she’s a loser, she has to eat a cookie, thereby removing herself from the competition. This means the twins win the competition and are the only participants who don’t have to wear diapers to the party,

But Steven gets one last swing in by telling each twin that the other is going to buy the diapers, leading to a fight when neither has them. This should mean they can’t go on the ski trip, but now Ned and Alice have been invited along, so the whole family is going. Sorry, Steven. The twins make up, Eric dances with both of them at the party, and no one wears diapers. So what was described as a book where the twins fight over a guy turned out to be something completely different (and actually kind of fun to read).

Thoughts: Alice should have offered Steven something in exchange for his week without TV. He had no incentive to try it.

TV shows in the Sweet Valley universe: Celebrity Ping-Pong (which I’m surprised hasn’t become a real thing yet) and The Extra-Late Show hosted by Daniel Betterman. Sigh.

Quotable Liz, when the twins are listing things Steven might like about the fake movie: “And the babes. They were so, like, um, pretty.”

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November 18, 2017

The X-Files 6.12, One Son: No, Seriously, Trust No One

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , , , , at 1:19 pm by Jenn

“What do you mean, this ‘isn’t an appropriate substitute’ for our loved ones? We folded it into a triangle!”

Summary: Mulder voices over about two fathers, CSM and Bill Mulder, who fought a 50-year war that served as the “dawn of Armageddon.” We flash back to October 13th, 1973, as the men in question gather at an airplane hangar to greet a group of aliens with an American flag. Mulder says they had to choose between fighting or fleeing.

Back in the present, Cassandra’s pleas for Mulder to shoot her are interrupted by a bunch of men in Hazmat suits who spray them and the apartment with something. They explain that they’re with the CDC and are quarantining Mulder, Scully, and Cassandra. Fowley’s with them, and she tells them they’ve come into contact with “a contagion of unknown origin.” The agents undergo decontamination showers and try not to look at each other naked. They’re then scanned with meters, but the men in Hazmat suits won’t tell them anything about what’s going on.

Scully guesses they’re at Fort Marlene, a facility equipped for high-risk contamination. Fowley apologizes to the agents for how the quarantine had to begin, but Cassandra underwent an experiment that killed seven doctors, so they have to take a lot of precautions. Scully points out that Cassandra was in a regular hospital for a week, and only then did Spender tell Fowley to call in the CDC. It looks really suspicious. No one’s sick, so why has Cassandra been isolated?

Mulder tries to quiet Scully, who’s determined to see Cassandra. Fowley reminds Scully that she was suspended from the FBI, so she has no rights. As the agents go to get new clothes, Scully makes sure Mulder knows how much she despises Fowley. She thinks they’re using Cassandra’s supposed infection as an excuse to stage a “high-tech government kidnapping.” But Mulder says Skinner told him he heard Spender calling the CDC.

Scully reminds her partner that Cassandra wasn’t sick; she just asked Mulder to kill her so all the tests and questioning will stop. Scully can relate, since she was also abducted and then underwent scrutiny afterward. She believes that Cassandra has been taken away so the process can continue. Mulder disagrees – he thinks Cassandra really is “the one.”

Krycek looks over Cassandra’s medical records and tells CSM and some other Syndicate members that Mulder’s suspicions seem to be correct. The rebel aliens want to keep the Syndicate from killing her. They know that when the aliens learn about her, colonization will begin. CSM thinks that’s exactly what should happen. They need to hand Cassandra over to the aliens and save themselves.

A Syndicate man argues that this is what Bill warned them would happen. CSM reminds him that Bill sacrificed Samantha because he know this day would come. They don’t have a choice now, if they want their living loved ones to stay living, and their dead loved ones to come back.

The agents are, indeed, at Fort Marlene, and not under much security, since Mulder’s allowed to wander around in search of a pair of shoes that fit. He spots a familiar woman and follows her to a room full of plastic-covered equipment. It’s Marita, and her eyes are red from all the Syndicate’s tests. She tells Mulder that Cassandra’s part of the hybrid program, but Marita was infected with the black oil so a vaccine/cure could be tested on her.

Mulder realizes that the hybrid program was never expected to succeed. It was just a way to buy time while the vaccine/cure was developed. Cassandra was an accidental success. Marita knows that colonization will begin if the aliens learn about her.

Spender and Fowley visit Cassandra, telling her they’re keeping her there to protect her from CSM. Spender promises that she won’t have to undergo any more tests. Cassandra tells him that he doesn’t understand what will happen to both of them if “they” find her out. She’s willing to be hurt or even killed if it means everyone else on the planet is protected. Spender just leaves the room.

I guess the quarantine’s over, because Mulder and Scully go see the Lone Gunmen. Scully asked the guys to dig up info on Fowley, and she wants to present Mulder with the truth about a woman he thinks he can trust. She spent seven years in Europe, working with a counter-terrorism unit, but there’s no information available on what she did there. Her travel records were purged from her FBI files, but the Lone Gunmen were able to find out that she traveled to all sorts of MUFON chapters.

Mulder doesn’t find this significant, but Scully thinks Fowley was monitoring abductees and the tests they underwent. She points out that Cassandra is the ultimate test subject, and Fowley’s watching over her – it all makes sense. Scully can prove or disprove Mulder’s beliefs, but not when Fowley is keeping them from seeing Cassandra. Why did Fowley come back into Mulder’s life just when he was getting closer than ever to the truth?

Scully says that Mulder always tells her to trust no one, but he trusts Fowley. Mulder argues that Scully hasn’t given him any reasons not to. Scully replies that she can no longer help him. Maybe she’s making things personal, but without the FBI, that’s all she has. If Mulder takes that away, there’s no point in her continuing.

Mulder goes to the Watergate Apartments to see Fowley; when she doesn’t answer her door, he picks the lock. He searches through her things for a minute, then gets interrupted by CSM. Mulder pulls a gun on him and reveals that he knows CSM’s real name. He has nothing to lose now. CSM says that Mulder couldn’t shoot him the last time he had the opportunity; why should this time be any different?

CSM says he’s looking for Spender to confront him for switching sides. Mulder doesn’t know how CSM can think his side is the wrong one, since the Syndicate’s side is the one doing experiments on innocent women. CSM says Bill had the same views back in the ’70s, but he came around to CSM’s side and gave up Samantha. Mulder says that Bill was forced to give her up. CSM tells him he’s wrong.

Over another flashback to 1973, CSM tells Mulder that their super-top-secret group had voted to align with the aliens. Bill objected, even though the agreement meant avoiding an alien invasion. CSM argues that they saved billions of lives, including Mulder’s. We see Bill arguing with CSM as the group’s family members, including Cassandra, arrive at the hangar. Mulder realizes that the men willingly gave up their family members “like they were things.”

CSM says the family members were sent away because it was the right thing. They would be experimented on, but they would come back to their families. The men made the painful decision to let the aliens take their loved ones, and they had to watch it happen. Mulder points out that Samantha was taken from the family’s house, not a hangar. CSM tells him that Bill refused to give up a member of his family, but the aliens insisted on taking someone. Without Samantha, the Syndicate couldn’t proceed.

The aliens provided the Syndicate with an alien fetus, from which they could use an alien genome to create an alien/human hybrid. They would create a new race that could survive the alien holocaust. Mulder would also survive, and live to be reunited with Samantha. CSM confirms that the plan was just to stall and use the alien DNA to make a vaccine/cure. Now it’s too late, and colonization will begin.

First a state of emergency will be declared. Then the bees will deliver the alien virus. Then the aliens will take over. CSM knows his only choice is to hand over Cassandra. Mulder tells him to stop it, or he will. CSM says he won’t if he wants to see Samantha again. Mulder points his gun at CSM again, demanding that he stop the colonization so people won’t die. His mistake is thinking that CSM cares about anyone except himself. Bill wanted Mulder and Samantha to be reunited, and Mulder will realize that, as his father’s son. If he doesn’t, he’ll “die in vain” with everyone else. “Save her. Save yourself,” CSM says.

Spender goes looking for CSM at the Syndicate’s headquarters in New York, but Krycek tells him that the group has all dispersed. They’re in West Virginia, awaiting colonization. CSM is going to get Cassandra, and the guards Spender has watching her will most likely not be any match for him. Krycek is right, and CSM’s people easily get access to her and drug her, even as she swears and yells at them.

CSM wants to chat with his ex before they go on their road trip, which means he has to listen to her call him a bastard and a coward. He wants to talk about the future, not the past. Cassandra notes that he stole her past from her. CSM says that they’re only alive because of what he did in the past. Cassandra didn’t understand before why she was abducted and experimented on, but now she knows it was because of CSM.

He swears that he wanted to save her and Spender, not cause any harm. Cassandra says that CSM can never save Spender now that he knows what his father has done. The only way to save everyone on the planet is if CSM kills Cassandra. But CSM still can’t do it.

Mulder’s still at Fowley’s apartment when she gets home. He tells her he came looking for evidence that her loyalties are with anyone other than him and the X-Files. Though he didn’t find anything, fate found him. He realized that the choices he thought he had in life were made for him. Mulder says that CSM is looking for Spender, who’s now fighting for the same cause Mulder used to fight for.

Mulder now knows it’s futile, though, since there’s no way to stop the colonization. Giving up is the only way to save everyone. Mulder gives Fowley the location of the first steps of the colonization process, El Rico Air Force Base. They need to go there if they want to survive. In response, Fowley kisses Mulder.

Spender goes looking for Cassandra at Fort Marlene but instead comes across Marita. She asks him for help, knowing that the Syndicate is going to abandon her there. He doesn’t know her, but she knows who he is and claims she can help him, since she knows where Cassandra is being taken.

Someone retrieves the alien fetus from a cryolab, warning an intruder that she’s at risk for contamination. The intruder is actually an alien rebel, though, so she’s not too worried. Meanwhile, Mulder calls Scully (“Scully, it’s me”) to tell her that he and Fowley are coming to get her. Scully wants to take Mulder to Cassandra; Spender told her they’re taking his mother back to Potomac Yard.

The agents head over and, for some reason, fire their guns at the train car carrying Cassandra. They don’t stop it, but at least now the experimenters on the train know they’ve been found out. Mulder and Scully get a ride to El Rico from Skinner, where others have already gathered. CSM and Cassandra join them, and CSM tells the other Syndicate members about the gunfire at Potomac Yard. He notices that Krycek isn’t there.

That’s because Krycek is back at Fort Marlene to get the alien fetus. Of course, it’s already gone. On his way out, he runs into Spender, who says that security won’t let him take Marita out of the facility. He wants to help her tell her story of what CSM did to her. Krycek tells Spender it doesn’t matter – the rebels took what they came for, so they’re going to win.

Fowley arrives at El Rico just as the aliens arrive, reenacting the scene from 1973. The Syndicate members are confused; supposedly no one contacted the aliens to tell them they were ready. There’s a mole in the group, one of the rebels, and he alerted his buddies that it was time to attack. As CSM and Fowley escape, the other Syndicate members and their loved ones are burned alive.

Kersh receives photos of the aftermath from Mulder, Scully, Skinner, and Spender, and expresses sympathy over the (alleged) death of Cassandra. (She’ll be in season 11, so who knows?) Spender takes responsibility for all the deaths, and credits Mulder and Scully for their work trying to prevent them. He thinks Mulder and Scully should be reinstated to the X-Files division so they can prevent worse things from happening. Spender himself is ready to leave the FBI.

Kersh asks why Mulder never gave him any answers before now. Mulder’s like, “I’ve spent years saying this stuff; no one ever listened to me.” The Syndicate members made the choice long ago to align themselves with the bad guys, but instead, they allowed another enemy to take hold. “The future is here. All bets are off,” he says. Kersh asks Scully to make some sense of this, but Scully sides with Mulder.

Spender finds CSM in his office, looking at a picture of himself with Bill in 1973. He tells Spender who Bill is, that he was a good man who betrayed CSM. Spender isn’t up for a father/son reunion, and CSM isn’t that surprised, though he’d hoped his son would honor him “like Bill Mulder’s son.” CSM pulls a gun and seemingly shoots Spender, then leaves with the picture.

Thoughts: It’s not mentioned in the episode, but IMDb lists a character as “C.G.B. Spender’s daughter,” indicating that he and Cassandra had another child, and she was the one CSM gave up to the aliens. That would definitely explain why Cassandra hates him so much.

What kind of lax medical facility is Fort Marlene running, where Mulder and Marita could cross paths?

And in a similar vein, Fowley should have better security for someone who works on such super-top-secret projects.

The scene where Mulder and Scully shoot at the train is so unintentionally funny. What, exactly, did they think the bullets would do?

November 14, 2017

SVT Super Edition #10, The Year Without Christmas: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…Again

Posted in books tagged , at 4:52 pm by Jenn

Oh, if only this had happened

Summary: The twins are having a Christmas Eve party for their friends, and everyone has gathered to choose names for a Secret Santa gift exchange. Jessica hopes she draws cute new guy Mike, though really, why would you want to buy a present for someone you barely know? Jess isn’t as thrilled as she should be to draw her own twin’s name, even though Liz should be the easiest person to shop for. She’s gracious enough to at least pretend to like anything you give her.

The twins haven’t yet finalized their plans for the party (which is only two days away), and haven’t even agreed on the theme. Jess wants to do something sophisticated, though I’m not sure Jess would know what sophistication is if it were the pair of elbow-length gloves she probably plans to wear with her evening gown. Liz would prefer a traditional Christmas party with caroling and tree-trimming. When I was 12, I would have thought both of these ideas were dumb. Just feed your friends pizza and cookies, exchange gifts, and let me go home and dream of the presents I’ll open the next day.

Elizabeth has drawn Lila for Secret Santa, and she has no clue what to buy the girl who already has at least one of everything. She eventually decides to make a scrapbook with pictures of Lila and all of her friends. It makes sense: Give the girl with the giant ego a big book of pictures of herself. However, Liz is going to put a lot more work into this present than she needs to, considering the amount of praise Lila is likely to give her in return.

Jess goes to the mall to get Liz’s gift and runs into Mike. He’s looking at hats for his Secret Santa recipient and asks Jessica her opinion on one for a basketball team called the Utah Unicorns. I cry foul (a little bit of basketball humor there, folks) that there would be a professional team with that name. Mike claims the hat is for his sister, Miranda, but it’s obvious he’s lying even before Jessica asks around and learns that Mike doesn’t have a sister. Jess thinks the hat is really for her.

She moves on to look at earrings for her sister and finds a pair shaped like little typewriters. They’re $8.99, easily under the $10 cap for the gift exchange, so Jess is really pleased. But then, like a raccoon, she gets distracted by something shiny. She sees some $10 earrings shaped like Christmas decorations and decides they would be perfect to wear to the party. But she doesn’t have enough money with her to buy both pairs of earrings, and the clerk tells her the ones she wants will probably sell out quickly. Jess convinces herself that the typewriter earrings are dorky anyway, so she buys earrings for herself and decides to come back to the mall the next day to get something for Liz, as well as a new dress for herself.

The twins discuss their party theme again, which means that, the day before this big bash, they have yet to do any baking, shopping, planning, etc. Sounds about right. Jess’s “sophistication” idea is officially shot down. Also, Steven is assigned to be a waiter/host for the party, and will even be paid for it. I would have guessed that this is so Ned and Alice can have someone keep an eye on the party without having to pay any attention themselves, but they end up attending, so this is just a contrivance to keep Steven there.

Jessica wakes up Christmas Eve morning to hear her parents discussing whether or not to give the kids cards from their Uncle Bob then or later. They decide on then, and each kid gets $50. I don’t know who Uncle Bob is, but he’s either very generous or feels very guilty about never paying his nieces and nephew any attention (which could be why we’ve never heard of him before). Jess now has more than enough for her new dress and Liz’s present. Liz, however, plans to donate her money along with the clothes she’s giving to charity. For anyone else, this would be a last-ditch effort to get on Santa’s nice list, but we all know Elizabeth has always been there.

Jessica goes back to the mall and buys a red dress she thinks is perfect for the party. As she’s leaving, she runs into Janet, Ellen, and Mandy. Janet makes fun of the red dress, saying that Jess will look like Mrs. Claus. Jessica returns the dress and buys a silver lame one that any 12-year-old, even one as dense as Jess, would know her parents would never let her wear. Indeed, Alice vetoes the outfit, and Jess has to find something in her closet to wear at the last minute. The horror!

Even worse than a wardrobe disaster is Jessica’s realization that she never bought Elizabeth a Secret Santa gift. For some reason (oh, right, because she’s a sociopath), Jess swaps out the tag on Elizabeth’s present for Lila so that it looks like Jess made the scrapbook. She’s mad at Liz for taking control of the party, and she figures this works well as revenge. Jess has probably struggled to get on the nice list in the past, but this is one year she’s not going to make it.

Instant karma smacks Jess around all night. Janet shows up to the party in the dress Jessica returned, and Jess is chastised for mocking her. Her sometimes excellent/sometimes awful singing voice is awful here, and she embarrasses herself while singing carols. She’s chastised for trying to get food before anyone else, and her friends are too greedy to save her any lasagna. She accidentally breaks Elizabeth’s favorite ornament. Ned embarrasses everyone by playing the harmonica while Winston plays the accordion. Steven tricks everyone with garlic-flavored candy, since he was left in charge of buying party favors.

Mike is late to the party, but just after he arrives, the kids start trimming the tree. Jessica accidentally knocks it over, almost crushing Lila. Jess laughs off Lila’s overblown traumatic reaction, but Mike says that people can easily be killed by trees – his grandfather was. And he doesn’t appreciate Jessica’s attitude when one of her friends was almost hurt.

The kids exchange gifts, and Jessica is secretly humiliated when the hat Mike bought turns out to be for Ellen. Jess is further humiliated when her gift from Winston is three accordion lessons. Lila gushes over Liz’s present, but thinks it’s from Jessica. For some reason, Elizabeth doesn’t correct her. But then Amy arrives late, having been held up by helping her mother make gingerbread houses for charity, and reveals that she knows Liz, not Jess, made the scrapbook. Everyone turns on Jess, who flees the party crying.

The next morning, things unfold exactly as they did the day before. It takes Jessica a little while (I guess she hasn’t seen Groundhog Day), but she eventually realizes that it’s Christmas Eve again, and she gets to relive the whole day. Most people would be happy that they get the chance to make all the wrongs of the previous day right, but…you know, sociopath. (She also doesn’t question how it’s possible for the day to repeat itself, but Jess isn’t the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.)

As far as Jessica’s concerned, Elizabeth still deserves revenge, and Amy is the key to getting it. After buying the red dress again, and keeping it this time, Jessica calls in a fake order for more gingerbread houses, hoping that Amy will be so busy that she can’t come to the party. As the party progresses, Jess does everything right this time, but Amy still shows up and outs Elizabeth as the real scrapbooker. After all that work, Jess ends up in the same place she was the night before.

But the next morning, it’s Christmas Eve again. This time Jessica slashes Amy’s bike tires, because I guess Jess has never heard of cars. Of course, Amy can still get to the party, and Jess still ends the day in tears. On the fourth go-round, Jessica fakes illness and stays in bed all day. But even though she didn’t put her name on Lila’s present, she gets busted for not getting Elizabeth a present, as Liz is the only person in the gift exchange without one.

Take 5: Jessica buys Amy and Mrs. Sutton tickets to some ice show the night of the party. But Amy would rather be with her friends, so that doesn’t work. Jessica gets credit for the scrapbook, but this time, Elizabeth just pretends that Jess made it. She’s all noble about making Lila happy and letting Jessica feel proud by getting the credit. Jess finally feels horrible for how badly she’s treated her sister. She figures that since she’s finally gotten things right, the repeating Christmas Eves are over, and she feels bad that she won’t get to make things up to Elizabeth.

But surprise, surprise: The next day is Christmas Eve again. Jessica wants everything to be perfect, so she basically acts like Elizabeth. She donates her check from Uncle Bob to charity, she buys Elizabeth the typewriter earrings, she compliments Janet’s new red dress, and she pretends she loves Winston’s gift. Everyone is thrilled with Jessica’s attitude – especially Mike, who wants to take her to a Utah Unicorns game. And the next day is Christmas, which means Jess finally did things right and learned her lesson. I mean, until the next time she has to choose between being a good person and being selfish, which will most likely be sooner rather than later.

Thoughts: If I had Lila for Secret Santa, I would just give her a $10 bill. Though she would probably say, “They make them this small?”

“And everyone knows, red is the color to wear to holiday parties this year.” And every year. Because it’s a Christmas color. Go away, Sweet Valley Fashions store clerk Danielle.

“You know, Mr. Wakefield, I always wanted to play the harmonica.” How does Ken become popular in high school?

November 11, 2017

The X-Files 6.11, Two Fathers: Hey, Big Spender

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , at 1:09 pm by Jenn

Hey, Skinner, can you let them have a family moment without lurking around?

Summary: Doctors in Hazmat suits operate on someone in a train car. The patient’s blood comes out green, and her incision immediately heals. A doctor named Openshaw comes to the train in Potomac Yard in Arlington, and is told that his work is completed. He goes in to see the patient, who he’s been working on for 25 years. A colleague leaves to celebrate with the other doctors but is immediately set on fire. The fire-starter, whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut, goes into the train car and sets Openshaw on fire as well. He then turns his attention to the patient: Cassandra Spender.

“This is the end,” CSM announces to an unseen audience, noting how unbelievable it seems. No one could have scripted what happened. They had a “perfect conspiracy” with aliens who wanted to destroy the planet. Their job was to prepare the way for the invasion and help the aliens create a slave race of alien/human hybrids. The plans were secret for more than 50 years, and they would have been successful if an alien race hadn’t interfered – and if CSM’s own son hadn’t betrayed him.

Skinner visits Spender in his office to catch up on whatever Spender’s been working on for the past few months. He knows Spender’s been spending most of his time looking into Cassandra’s disappearance, and he has some news. The two men go to Potomac Yard, where only two people survived the fire-starter’s spree. Cassandra is one of them, but she won’t tell the agents what happened. She only wants to talk to Mulder. Spender resists the request, but Skinner wants to bring Mulder in. He asks if Spender is afraid of the truth. If he really wants to know what happened to his mother, he should take advantage of the resources available to him.

CSM continues his tale, saying that Spender refused to believe that Cassandra had been abducted by aliens. Even after CSM got Spender placed in charge of the X-Files, he still couldn’t believe in the possibilities of aliens. When he finally came around, he turned to Mulder instead of to CSM. Mulder’s currently playing basketball (because David Duchovny likes to show off) and being super-white with “street” slang. Scully finds him and tells him that he needs to come to work for once, since there’s an X-File waiting for him.

They head to the office, where Spender tells Mulder that Cassandra wants to talk to him. Mulder wants a polite request, and when Spender won’t offer it, Mulder tells him to find the truth himself. Meanwhile, CSM goes to the medical center where Openshaw worked and looks in on the doctor, the only other survivor of the fire-starter’s attack. He’s in a hyperbaric chamber and covered in bandages, but he’s conscious. CSM learns for the first time that “Cassandra is a success.”

CSM says that the timing is wrong. Openshaw tells him that he’s prepared a syringe for Cassandra. CSM thinks she was saved to expose them. Openshaw warns that Cassandra will be given medical tests, so she needs to be terminated. He knows he’ll be questioned next, which means he needs to be terminated, too. CSM does the honors. “A man should never live long enough to see his children or his work destroyed,” Openshaw says before dying.

CSM calls a man in Silver Spring, Maryland, to tell him about the fire-starter’s attack. He’s summoning the Syndicate for a meeting. But just then, a man who looks like Openshaw shows up at the Syndicate member’s door. The Syndicate man tears off Openshaw’s face, but it’s not enough to keep himself from being burned alive.

Mulder looks through pictures from Potomac Yard, though he tells Scully he’s not working on the case. He thinks Spender offered him the case as a set-up. Scully sees the burned bodies in the pictures and thinks this is exactly what happened in the memories she recovered through hypnosis. She thinks Cassandra may be able to expose who abducted Scully. Mulder’s still hesitant to talk to her, so Scully says they can see Cassandra without Spender finding out.

Scully goes to see her first, surprised to learn that Cassandra’s medical problems have been resolved, and she no longer needs a wheelchair. She plans to keep her stories to herself this time around, since no one has believed her abduction tales in the past. The only person she’ll tell is Mulder. The two meet up with him, and Cassandra announces that Samantha is with the aliens. Scully asks about the train car and the operation. Cassandra says the doctors there were working with the aliens. She’s always thought the aliens had come to do good, but now she knows that’s wrong.

Cassandra continues that the aliens have come to take over the universe. They’re infecting everything living with their life force, black oil, which they call purity. (This explains the substance labeled “purity control.”) Scully notes that the doctors were burned, not infected. Cassandra says they were attacked by a rebel group of aliens who mutilate their faces so they won’t be infected.

Cassandra knows that Spender won’t believe this, even though he’s in danger. He’s unknowingly working with the Syndicate to continue doing whatever it is they did to Cassandra and Scully. Mulder asks if Cassandra knows who the men are. She says yes, adding that one of them is her ex-husband, Spender’s father.

CSM tells his audience that Cassandra was the key to the Syndicate’s plans, even though they didn’t know it. He killed to keep them in the dark, but he should have killed Cassandra instead. However, he couldn’t bring himself to kill his son’s mother, despite never having loved her. The Syndicate was distracted by the arrival of the alien rebels, unaware that they would never win. The rebels had already used their powers of disguise to infiltrate the group.

Krycek addresses the Syndicate, who think they’re about to be exposed. One member suggests that they join up with the resistance. Krycek reminds the men that they already gave up that option; what’s changed? They’ve been able to stall colonization, and their work on creating a hybrid should ensure their survival. The man who suggested joining the resistance points out that they’ll only be kept alive so they can be slaves to the aliens, which isn’t the best choice.

Krycek brings up the vaccine, and its part in fighting the future. CSM finally tells him to shut up. He reminds his colleagues that they’ve been working on this project for 50 years, and they can’t sacrifice themselves every time a new threat comes along.

Mulder and Scully use Spender and Fowley’s computer to look up the name Spender so their own computers won’t attract any attention. The name gives them three results: Spender, Cassandra, and CSM, whose real name is C.G.B. Spender. Skinner catches the two and tries to clear them out of the office before Spender can catch them, but it’s too late. Spender plans to make sure Skinner’s actions are mentioned when he’s fired.

Spender meets with CSM to confirm that he’s done what his father wanted and gotten Mulder and Scully booted from the FBI. Now he wants something in return: the truth about what happened to Cassandra. CSM knows that he won’t believe the truth, no matter which parent it comes from. First he needs to demonstrate that he’s ready to handle the responsibility of knowing the truth.

Spender gets sassy, so CSM smacks him. He argues that he gave Spender the position at the FBI, but Spender couldn’t do the job. Spender replies that keeping Mulder down wasn’t a job, it was CSM’s “dirty work.” CSM smacks him again and says, “You pale to Fox Mulder.”

Scully finds Mulder playing basketball again (without the slang this time) and tells him that C.G.B. Spender appears to be an alias. The two agents have been put on administrative leave, but Scully’s not going to spend her time off idle. She has a box full of information on CSM. This includes a picture of CSM and Bill Mulder in 1973, when they were working together on a highly classified 25-year-long State Department project.

Scully confirms that Cassandra was married to CSM, and was first abducted on November 27th, 1973, the same night Samantha disappeared. There are many names connected to both CSM and Bill, including Openshaw. Mulder guesses that the State Department project is still ongoing.

CSM tells his audience that Mulder now has names and dates to put some more pieces of the puzzle together and discover CSM and Bill’s sins. “The truth was out there, fatally exposed,” he says. CSM has one last chance to preserve his legacy – his ungrateful son. They meet up on a street in D.C., and CSM agrees that Spender deserves a chance to prove him wrong. He hands over an alien icepick and tells him to kill the man who has infiltrated the Syndicate disguised as one of his victims. Then he puts him in a car driven by Krycek, who warns him to watch where he points the icepick.

Spender goes to the house of the man who suggested the Syndicate join up with the rebels. (I’d really like a character name here, show.) Spender’s about to do his father’s bidding when the man grabs him. Spender tears off his face and struggles to jam the icepick in his neck, finally succeeding with help from Krycek.

Mulder summons Skinner to his apartment so the two of them and Scully can all get on the same page about the aliens’ colonization plans. Skinner wonders why Cassandra’s in danger but Scully isn’t. Mulder believes that Cassandra is the first successful human/alien hybrid, but the men who created her would rather kill her than risk having her expose what they did. Skinner says she’s under 24-hour guard, but that guard was arranged by Spender, so she’s probably not really safe.

Spender has a little trouble accepting that the man he just helped kill is now dissolving in a puddle of green acid. Krycek can relate, since it seems like something you’d only hear about in a story. But seeing it yourself makes you realize what “great men” like CSM have made sacrifices for. Sacrifices like Cassandra. Kryeck reveals that she’s been the subject of experiments for 25 years – experiments that CSM has been overseeing. That’s the whole reason Spender was put in charge of the X-Files. He was sent here tonight to protect the project and become a great man like his father. But Spender doesn’t want that.

CSM addresses his audience one last time, saying he’s never trusted anyone. The truth is finally out, and there’s only one person left he can turn to for help. It’s Diana Fowley, and she’s willing to help. It’s not too late for CSM to achieve what he’s been working toward.

Skinner goes to Cassandra’s hospital room, but she’s gone. Spender arrives moments later and realizes that “he” took Cassandra. In truth, no one took Cassandra – she left on her own, and is now at Mulder’s apartment. She begs him and Scully to keep her from the men looking for her. They have to kill her, or “it all starts.” As someone bangs on the door, Cassandra begs Mulder to shoot her, and Mulder prepares himself to give her what she wants. To be continued…

Thoughts: After six-and-a-half years, Mulder and Scully (and even Skinner) have never looked into CSM’s identity? Even with all the resources available to them through the Lone Gunmen? REALLY?

I really like Veronica Cartwright, and she’s great in this role, so I’m glad she’ll be in season 11. Can we have Krycek, too? He’s even more important to the show’s mythology.

Speaking of Krycek, I’m conducting an informal poll: Whose face is more punchable, Spender’s or Krycek’s?

I want to see Kersh’s reaction to Mulder’s street slang.

November 7, 2017

SVT #111, Sisters at War: I’m Thankful I’m Not Part of This Crazy Family

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:02 pm by Jenn

This has to be Elizabeth. Jessica would never wear that dorky jumper

Summary: Alice’s sisters Nancy and Laura are coming to Sweet Valley with their families for Thanksgiving. We’ve read about Nancy’s daughters, Robin and Stacey, a few times, but Kelly has never appeared in SVT, only in SVH. The twins are excited to get to spend time with their cousins. Steven is much, much less excited, since there are no boys in the family. I wouldn’t want to spend that much time with four 12-year-old girls either, so Steven actually has some of my sympathy for once.

The kids have to give the house a massive cleaning to prepare for their guests. Everyone will be staying at the house, which sounds like a recipe for disaster. Even before that, the twins are starting to get on each other’s nerves. Alice claims that she and her sisters never fought as kids, which is either a) the biggest lie she’s ever told, b) means she’s in incredible denial, or c) indicates that at some point, Alice suffered a head injury or some sort of trauma that wiped out part of her memory.

We know from Kelly’s previous appearance in the Sweet Valley-verse that her parents are no longer together. At 12, the twins don’t know why, and are especially confused about why Laura and her husband Greg would split up since he’s so likable. Alice mentions that he’s “unreliable,” which is PG code for “deadbeat.” Alice also mentions that she thinks Laura should have married another guy. Steven’s interested in learning more about this family dirt, since he has to write about family stories for a school project.

Jessica overhears Alice on the phone, talking about arranging a surprise for someone at Thanksgiving. She’s pretty sure she hears Aaron’s name in the conversation, which means Alice must have invited Aaron over for dinner. I’d make fun of Jess for believing this, but it’s a pretty 12-year-old thing to think, and very keeping with Jessica’s character (mainly, her belief that the world revolves around her).

The relatives all arrive, and Kelly soon proves to be a quiet, shy, delicate flower. The twins aren’t as close to her as they are Robin, so they don’t know her very well. Kelly is clearly depressed, and hasn’t made any friends since she and Laura moved to Tucson, even though it was four years ago. Jessica wants to help Robin and Kelly become close, so she makes up some things they might have in common. Robin quickly discovers that they’re not true, but fortunately, the two have enough real things in common that they’re able to connect anyway. For the first time in four years, Kelly’s happy.

Steven tries to glean some interesting information from Alice’s conversations with her sisters. All he learns is that Kelly is boring, and Nancy shares Alice’s opinion that Laura shouldn’t have married Greg. She thinks Laura should have ended up with her high school boyfriend, Darren Caruso. In fact, they were supposed to go to college together and would probably have gotten married eventually, if not for Darren’s sudden disappearance. Laura never found out why he ditched her and joined the Marines with no notice. He sent her a couple letters a few months later, but she never read them.

It isn’t long before the Robertson sisters’ supposedly solid relationship starts to crack. Nancy criticizes Laura for not being a stricter parent. Alice has fonder memories of a childhood trip to the Grand Canyon than her sisters do. Elizabeth is like, “So you guys never fight, huh?” The tension isn’t helped by the fact that the younger pairs of sisters are bickering, especially the twins. They fight through most of the book, ignoring the fact that there are guests in the house. If I were Ned or Alice, I would pull them aside, threaten to never give them allowance again if they kept fighting, and mean it. But of course, Ned and Alice have no parenting skills, so the girls just keep fighting.

By the time Thanksgiving dinner rolls around, everyone seems to be ready to calm down and enjoy the holiday. Then they realize that there are 12 places set at the table instead of 11. Alice reveals that she ran into Darren, exchanged a few letters with him, and invited him to dinner. Jessica’s embarrassed that she misheard “Darren” as “Aaron” and isn’t getting a surprise visit from her sort-of boyfriend after all.

Laura goes nuclear. She tells Kelly they’re leaving immediately and refuses to stay long enough to see Darren. Kelly’s upset, since she’s been enjoying the time with her cousins and was just starting to feel happy. Both of Alice’s sisters are mad at her. Surprisingly, we don’t get a moment where Steven’s like, “Can I eat while everyone’s fighting?” Because honestly, that would be me.

In the midst of the chaos, Darren arrives, deeply apologetic for the way things went down with Laura. He explains that he was too embarrassed to tell her when he didn’t get into college, thanks to some learning disabilities. He joined the Marines and wrote a letter to ask her to wait. But his dyslexia made him transpose the numbers in her address, so she didn’t get the letter. By the time Darren figured that out, a few months had gone by. He sent more letters, but as we know, Laura didn’t read them. He asks her forgiveness, and amazingly, she quickly grants it.

But not everything is peachy: Kelly’s now missing. Her cousins find her at her old house, and she admits that she hates living in Tucson. Her only friend is her mom. She’s worried that, now that Laura and Darren have reconnected, Kelly and her mother won’t have as much time together anymore. Okay, girlfriend, they’ve talked for five minutes after 20 years apart. They don’t even live in the same state. It’s not like they’re going to get married tomorrow and ship you off to boarding school.

Stacey, who at eight years old is an Elizabeth in training, tells Kelly a story she wants to turn into a play. It’s about a girl who makes a ragdoll that comes to life and becomes her friend. Somehow, this makes Kelly feel better, like, is she going to go back to Tucson and build herself a friend? Is there a Build-a-Friend Workshop at the mall? The cousins try to cheer her up by pointing out that, if Laura and Darren do get back together, Laura could decide to move back to Sweet Valley to be closer to him. Then Kelly would be around the twins all the time.

Back at the house, Kelly tells everyone that they’re lucky to have sisters, and she wishes she had one. I think Steven just wishes he had something juicy to include in his family-stories project. How about a story about a disastrous Thanksgiving? No, wait, every family has one of those stories. Eh, just borrow one of Stacey’s.

Thoughts: I’d love to know the odds of three sisters all having children in the same year, especially when there’s an eight-year age difference between two of them.

Way to be on time for dinner at someone else’s house, Darren.

…And then Kelly got therapy, right? Her mother realized she’d been depressed for years and did something about it?

November 4, 2017

The X-Files 6.10, Tithonus: What’s Black and White and Dead All Over?

Posted in TV tagged , at 1:12 pm by Jenn

Fellig looks like a woman who just had a man tell her to smile

Summary: A woman delivers mail in an office building in New York City, quickly realizing that a man is following her. She speeds up, rushing to get on an elevator so she can get away from her stalker. But he follows her, seeing the reflections of everyone else in the elevator in black and white, while he remains in color. He gets off, and the woman relaxes. The man runs down the stairs as the elevator starts to shake and the power goes out. The elevator plummets, and the man is there to take a picture of the aftermath.

In D.C., Mulder and Scully are still conducting background checks, and still bored with their new roles. Mulder won’t quit, though, since he knows that’s what the agency wants. Scully gets a call summoning her to Kersh’s office – just her, not Mulder. He thinks she’s going to be punished even further.

Instead, Kersh introduces Scully to Agent Peyton Ritter, who’s from the New York office. He was scanning old crime-scene photos when he found one of Margereta Stoller, a woman who overdosed on nitrous oxide. She supposedly died at 11:14, though the clock in the photo states an earlier time. Another photo states a later time. Both photos were taken by Alfred Fellig, a photographer often used by the NYPD. He’s the man from the elevator.

Ritter suspects that Fellig killed Margereta, then came back an hour later to take photos for his job. Thanks to shadows, Ritter has discovered the same weirdness at three other crime scenes. Scully points out that the victims all died by different methods, so if they were killed by the same person, he doesn’t have a consistent M.O. Ritter hopes that Scully can help him unravel what’s happening. Kersh dismisses him from the room, then tells Scully he wants her to work the case with Ritter. Mulder isn’t invited.

In New York, Fellig watches a man get off a bus, seeing him in black and white. The man goes to his apartment building and promptly has a heart attack. Fellig spies on him through the window and takes pictures of the man’s dying moments instead of calling for help.

Back in D.C., Mulder looks into the Fellig case himself, giving Scully some suggestions of what might be going on. She denies that this will be a permanent arrangement; they won’t be split up permanently. Mulder knows that if she does a good job on this case, she won’t be doing any more background checks. Mulder meets Ritter and manages not to get territorial over his partner.

Scully and Ritter head to New York to talk to an NYPD officer about Fellig. Ironically, Scully has to look through Fellig’s background check for more information. In all the photos of Fellig through the years, since 1964, he looks exactly the same. Ritter calls him “a regular Dick Clark.” (Unlike Fellig, that joke didn’t age well.) He’s starting to think this approach is a dead end.

In the Bronx, a man runs down a street, yelling for someone to call the police. He ends up in an alley, struggling with a man who robs him at knifepoint. The robber hears the sound of a camera, sees Fellig, and runs off. Fellig approaches the robbery victim and snaps a photo of his body. Behind him, the robber is ready to claim another victim. He stabs Fellig and takes his camera. But Fellig just pulls the knife out of his back and walks away, leaving it behind in a pool of his blood.

Scully and Ritter wind up with the knife and tie it to Fellig via his fingerprints. They guess that he killed the robbery victim, as well as another person whose body isn’t there. Another officer tells the agents that Fellig has been found. He’s brought to the police station for questioning, specifically about how he’s always on the scene when someone dies. “I have a nose for news,” Fellig quips. He claims that the robber chased him but ran off. He must have touched the knife after the robber dropped it.

Scully notices that Fellig seems to be in pain; she guesses the blood from the second victim was his. He admits that he was cut and shows the agents his wounds. Ritter sends Fellig to get his blood drawn and have his wounds photographed (presumably by someone other than Fellig). Ritter wonders why Scully seems to be trying to get Fellig cleared. She replies that she thought they were looking for the truth.

Mulder calls Scully and says in a goofy voice that they used to sit next to each other at the FBI. She tells him the Fellig case isn’t an X-File, but they haven’t made much progress. They had to let Fellig go. Mulder looks up the robber, Wiggins, and confesses that he’s been keeping an eye on the case via the progress reports Ritter’s been sending Kersh, which Mulder’s computer happens to be “intercepting.” The good news is that Ritter has been saying nice things about Scully. Mulder offers to run a background check on Fellig, since that’s his job now.

That night, Scully takes over Ritter’s spot in a stakeout of Fellig’s apartment building. She looks at the crime-scene photos again and notices something that piques her interest. She then hears the sound of a camera coming from Fellig’s apartment. She goes up to ask about the photo from the scene of Margereta’s death and asks flat-out why he keeps showing up at crime scenes early, then coming back to take photos. Fellig offers to show her what’s going on if she’ll go for a drive with him.

He takes her to a street corner and tells Scully that the prostitute hanging out there is going to die. He takes out his camera, ready to capture it on film. Scully thinks Fellig is saying that the prostitute is going to be murdered. Fellig says he doesn’t know how people will die, just when. As usual, Scully’s skeptical, but a man approaches the prostitute and starts hassling her, making it look like she will, in fact, be murdered. Scully jumps out of the car to arrest the man and save his potential victim. But as the prostitute is walking away, she gets hit by a truck. Nice try, though, Scully.

The next morning, Scully brings the man in for possession of an unlicensed gun. Ritter blasts her for talking to Fellig instead of continuing the stakeout. She passes on his claim that he knows when people are going to die, though that’s not something they can arrest him for. Ritter disagrees – he questioned Wiggins, who says that Fellig killed the robbery victim. Scully doesn’t think they can take the word of a man who’s already a convicted felon, but Ritter doesn’t care. They can still arrest Fellig.

Ritter tells Scully that Kersh warned him about her. If she screws up his case, Kersh will hear about it. He asks “Dana” if they’re clear. Scully icily makes it clear that that’s not the name she prefers. Her real partner calls, and she tells him that it turns out the case is an X-File after all. Mulder isn’t surprised, since Fellig appears to be 149 years old. Alfred Fellig doesn’t exist before 1964, but his fingerprints match those of a Henry Strand, who applied for a press pass in 1939, at the age of 53. And before that, another man with the same fingerprints was born in 1849.

Scully knows that Fellig can’t be more than 65. Mulder says that that’s just what he wants her to think. He points out that, for someone like Fellig, “life in prison” means something more significant than it would for another criminal. He thinks Scully should track him down before he changes his identity again and disappears.

Scully does exactly that, going to Fellig’s apartment to warn that he’ll be arrested and charged with murder in a couple of hours. He tells her that all he does is take pictures; he doesn’t kill people. Scully’s disgusted that he profits off of people’s deaths and doesn’t try to help them. Fellig admits that he doesn’t feel sorry for them – in fact, he’s jealous of them. Fellig doesn’t take their lives; “he does.” Scully asks who “he” is, but Fellig doesn’t explain.

Scully follows Fellig into his darkroom, seeing a picture from the elevator. He points out a lens flare and tells her that it’s a photo of Death himself. He takes pictures to try to get a better glimpse. Scully doesn’t buy it, but she wonders why Fellig wants a picture of Death. He says that he wants to look into Death’s face so he can die. No other method of trying to end his life has worked. “I got left behind,” he says. He can’t remember a time when he wanted to be alive. “This is all I know to do.”

Despite Scully’s assertion that she doesn’t believe him, Fellig thinks she does – that’s why she’s there. She looks at some of his other photos, including one from 1928, and asks how he knows when people are about to die. He says it’s something he’s picked up over the years. Scully gets overwhelmed and leaves to call Mulder (“Mulder, it’s me”). She gives him the name of the photographer who took the 1928 picture, Louis Brady, so he can find out if it’s one of Fellig’s former identities. Fellig overhears the conversation, and when Scully returns to the darkroom, he bumps into her and steals her cell phone.

Mulder looks up Louis Brady and confirms that he’s Fellig. He also committed two homicides in 1929. Unable to reach Scully, since Fellig turned off her phone, Mulder calls Ritter and tells him that Fellig is a murderer. He killed two people, hoping to “catch up with death,” and served a year in prison before simply walking off a work detail. Mulder tells Ritter not to worry about the math, but just go save Scully from Fellig.

Scully wonders how Fellig can feel like he’s lived enough. There’s so much for him to learn. Fellig, however, feels like he’s missing out on something that everyone else gets to experience. Scully asks about love, but Fellig notes that that doesn’t necessarily last forever. He was married once, but it was so long ago that he’s forgotten her name. He doesn’t like that he’s still around after someone he loved has left him. Suddenly, he sees Scully in black and white and tells her to count her blessings.

Scully asks Fellig why, if all he says is true, he is this way. She needs science to explain this. Fellig says that he had yellow fever decades ago, and survived when so many didn’t. He saw Death in a contagion ward, taking people all around him. Fellig worried that, if he saw Death’s face, Death would take him, too. When Death came, Fellig turned away, and Death killed a nurse instead. Fellig feels like the nurse took his place. Now he knows that you have to be careful what you wish for. He missed his chance to die, but Scully’s lucky.

She realizes that Fellig took her picture from his apartment the night before – does that mean she’s going to die. Fellig starts to take another photo, but Scully handcuffs him so he can’t. She looks for her phone, asking why Fellig took it. What doesn’t he want her to know? He calmly tells her that Death is coming and Scully should make her peace with it.

The curtain to the darkroom is pulled aside, and Fennig raises his camera to capture a picture of Death. Instead, Ritter’s there. He shoots Fellig, hitting him through his camera and shattering the lens. He realizes too late that the bullet has also passed into Scully. Ritter runs off to get help.

Fellig’s blood pours out of him, through his camera. He picks up another one and starts to take Scully’s picture, seeing her in black and white. “Did you see him?” he asks her. “Don’t look. Close your eyes.” She does, and as Fellig takes her hand, he turns black and white as well, taking Scully’s place.

A week later, Scully’s recovering at NYU’s hospital, with Mulder nearby. He tells Ritter he was lucky, I guess since he didn’t accidentally kill a fellow FBI agent. Fellig’s coroner’s report just says that he died of a gunshot wound. Scully, on the other hand, is recovering quickly. She murmurs that people don’t live forever, but Mulder isn’t sure. Maybe “Death only looks for you once you seek its opposite.”

Thoughts: Ritter is played by a pre-Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place Richard Ruccolo.

I wish they’d written Fellig less two-dimensionally, but I guess he’s supposed to be depressed. Still, Ritter’s the more interesting character. It’s hard to feel sympathy for Fellig. Like, do something meaningful with your 149 years.

So after this episode and “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” the question is: Is Scully immortal? Discuss.

October 31, 2017

SVT #110, Pumpkin Fever: This Halloween, Jessica’s Masquerading as a Good Person

Posted in books tagged , at 5:00 pm by Jenn

Do it! Do it! Do it!

Summary: A week before Halloween, Mr. Clark tells the students at SVMS about a local contest to find the school with the most “pumpkin fever.” If SVMS can get into the spirit of the season better than any other school in the area, they’ll win money they can use for a big school trip. The kids immediately start brainstorming, and Elizabeth comes up with the winning idea: elect a King and Queen of Halloween, with votes cast via jack-o’-lanterns. Aaron volunteers the soccer team to carve jack-o’-lanterns in each contestant’s likeness.

The Unicorns figure that since they’re the prettiest, most popular, bestest girls in the school, they’ll lead the votes. But Liz accidentally puts herself ahead in the running by arranging for a local newspaper reporter to cover SVMS’s participation in the competition. Everyone repays Liz’s favor by voting for her. And since the carvers put each contestant’s initials on the pumpkin, there’s no way Jessica can pretend those votes are really for her.

Jessica has to do a fall-themed art project, but she has no ideas. She sees some jack-o’-lantern earrings Elizabeth made out of acorns and decides to pass them off as her project, after telling Liz that they’re dumb and a big fashion don’t. This is exactly the opposite of the truth, as everyone at school loves the earrings. Janet decides that the Unicorns should make and sell them to make more money for the school trip. Since Jessica would rather die than lose the approval of Queen Janet, she agrees.

Elizabeth catches Jessica gathering acorns for the earrings, so Jess lies that she’s been taking care of a poor, orphaned baby squirrel. Liz buys this, even though Jess isn’t usually the type of person to do something like this. Elizabeth even decides to write an article about her heroic sister for The Sixers. And no, she doesn’t do any fact-checking.

The Unicorns’ earrings are a huge hit, and Elizabeth quickly realizes that a) Jessica stole her design and b) the acorns weren’t for a squirrel. She tries to stop the paper from going to press with her story, but it’s too late. Now Jessica is both an artistic visionary and the next Dr. Doolittle. Everyone votes for her for Queen of Halloween, and the reporter who comes to cover the contest gets interested in doing a piece on Jess and the squirrel, too.

Liz is fed up with her sister and tries to out her as a liar by telling the reporter to get a picture of the squirrel. Jess lies that the squirrel died, and she’s really emotional about it and would rather not talk about it right now, okay? Elizabeth’s plan completely backfires, as Jessica’s popularity only increases, and people commission pumpkins for her in the squirrel’s memory. Jess, sociopath that she is, has no remorse.

Apparently the acorn earrings are so fashionable and creative that a woman from a local boutique wants to buy two dozen pairs. Jessica enlists the Unicorns to make them, though they’re growing tired of all the attention she’s getting. California Girl magazine, which declined to feature Jessica back in Breakfast of Enemies, now wants to include her in a fall fashion article. Somewhere, Claudia Kishi is incredibly jealous.

Elizabeth is even more tired of Jessica’s sudden popularity than the Unicorns are, and she tells Amy and Maria that the first earrings were actually hers. They agree to help her get revenge on her twin. At first they want to just pelt her with water balloons, but Liz chooses to inflict some psychological damage instead. She writes a Telltale Heart-ish story called The Telltale Jack-o’-Lantern (I guess Elizabeth’s creativity was all tapped out by the earrings) about a girl who steals and buries her twin’s jack-o’-lantern so she won’t win a contest. The jack-o’-lantern digs itself out of the ground, driving the thief crazy with the sound. The girls also play a tape of digging noises to drive Jessica crazy.

It works, and when Jessica is inevitably crowned Queen of Halloween, she reveals that Elizabeth deserves the honor. However, everyone wants to reward Jessica’s honesty by letting her keep the title. Ultimately, though, Liz gets the last laugh, as she’d arranged for a big pumpkin-guts fight without telling Jess. Yeah, getting slimed with pumpkin guts totally makes up for all the lying. Also, California Girl no longer wants to feature Jessica in the fashion section, but they do want her to write about everything that happened for a piece about embarrassing experiences. She makes up with Liz by asking her to co-write the article. So, as usual, Jessica gets away with her scheming. Sigh.

Thoughts: I can’t believe this came up on the schedule the week of Halloween. What are the odds?

Also, what are the odds that the soccer players are also accomplished enough carvers that the faces on their jack-o’-lanterns turn out recognizable?

I guess we should be grateful that Jessica doesn’t try to catch a squirrel just to back up her story.

This book proves that Elizabeth can be almost as devious as her twin, just in a different way. Fortunately, she normally chooses to ignore her evil inclinations.

October 28, 2017

The X-Files 6.9, S.R. 819: Like “The Ring,” But With a Tighter Deadline

Posted in TV tagged , , at 1:10 pm by Jenn

Make up your mind – are you supposed to be homeless or Jesus?

Summary: At D.C. General Hospital, a doctor named Cabrera consults with an intern about a patient who has just been transferred to her care. She tells the intern to contact Scully because the patient is going to die. It’s Skinner, and he looks pretty bad, all veiny and weak. He tells Cabrera a name, then flatlines. The intern wants to shock him and revive him, but Cabrera tells him to let Skinner die. Skinner voices over about making choices, or, in his case, not making choices, which is how he’s ended up dead.

24 hours earlier, Skinner’s at a boxing gym, sparring with a guy named Dre, when his vision starts to blur. Dre’s able to get the upper hand (or upper fist, in this case) and win the bout. Skinner loses consciousness, then wakes up in the hospital just after 9:30. He gets a phone call from a robotic voice that informs him, “It’s in you.” He has 24 hours left, and is already dead. Ooh, it’s like The Ring!

A doctor named Plant comes in as the phone call ends, and Skinner tries to shake off the weird call. Plant tells him he’s fine and can leave, though he has a nasty bruise over his ribs. The doctor assures him he’ll live. Instead of going home or going out to live up what may be the last 24 hours of his life, Skinner goes to work, where Mulder’s amusing himself with his favorite office activity, throwing pencils at the ceiling. Skinner decides to lie down to get some rest.

Scully shows up and examines her former boss. Mulder tells her about the phone call, which Skinner thinks was just a prank. Scully guesses that he was poisoned, and whatever he was given didn’t show up on the doctor’s blood tests. Mulder thinks whoever drugged him wanted to see who he would turn to for help. This must have to do with the X-Files. Skinner calls him paranoid.

The agents ask Skinner to walk them through his day. At first he doesn’t remember anything out of the ordinary happening, but then he recalls a man stopping him in the hallway to ask the time. The man grabbed his wrist, which may have allowed him to transfer poison. The agents look at surveillance footage and Scully recognizes the man as Kenneth Orgel, an advisor to a Senate subcommittee on ethics in technology. When he signed in, he stated he was going to see Skinner.

Scully recommends that Skinner go back to the hospital for observation, but Skinner wants to find the man who poisoned him. He and Mulder track Orgel down in Chevy Chase, Maryland, but Orgel claims not to know who Skinner is. He’s acting weird, and Mulder catches on that he’s not home alone. He sends Skinner to the back of the house while he tries to get in the door. Skinner gets in but is overpowered by two armed men who then takes off with Orgel.

Mulder chases them, capturing one while the other gets Orgel into a car and speeds off. Skinner’s still in the house, his health quickly worsening. Mulder’s captive will only speak Arabic, and he has diplomatic papers, so Skinner has to let him go. He decides he needs to stay out of whatever’s going on while Mulder goes to look into the man they just released, Alexander Lazreg, a cultural attaché with the Tunisian mission in D.C.

Scully goes to the hospital to talk to Plant about Skinner. She invites herself to examine his blood samples, which supposedly haven’t been processed, though Scully disagrees. Mulder looks through Orgel’s things and finds a picture of him with Mulder’s senator friend, Matheson. At the hospital, Scully finds carbon in Skinner’s blood, though she and Plant have no idea how that could act as a poison. It’s also multiplying at a fast rate.

Mulder goes to Matheson’s house and shows him the picture. In it, Matheson and Orgel are holding a copy of a Senate resolution, S.R. 819. Matheson says it’s a health-funding bill. Mulder knows it’s connected to Skinner’s approaching death, and he wants to piece together how Orgel and the Tunisian mission are involved. Matheson tells him that the bill provides supplies to the World Health Organization, allowing third-world countries to access medical technology. He doesn’t want to be involved in whatever’s going on, even if someone might be dying. He kicks “Fox” out.

Skinner follows someone to an Embassy Row parking garage as the blood in his veins darkens. The man he followed spots him and fires his gun at him. Skinner’s barely well enough to shoot back, but he loses the shooter in rows of cars that are starting to look blurry to him. The shooter is about to sneak up on Skinner and finish him off when a speeding car plows into the shooter, then drives off. Skinner collapses, unable to see who just saved him from the shooter.

Scully realizes that the carbon is creating a matrix stimulated by blood flow and movement. It’s building valves and dams in the vascular system. Plant says that means it’s building up to a heart attack. The two learn that Skinner was found in the parking garage and is being taken to D.C. General Hospital. He’s send straight to surgery, where Cabrera plans to remove his arms to save his life. Scully and Plant interrupt the procedure and announce that Skinner needs to have a scope inserted instead.

Still in possession of his arms, Skinner is transferred to another room while Scully promises that they’ll help him. The events of the day flash through Skinner’s memory, but he still can’t remember everything that happened to him. At FBI headquarters, Skinner’s secretary catches Mulder searching his office for anything about S.R. 819. There’s a locked drawer, and when Mulder goes to get a letter opener to force it open, he finds a confidential letter that piques his interest.

Mulder joins Scully and Skinner at the hospital, where Scully admits that they still don’t know what’s going on. They can keep lasering Skinner’s arteries open so his blood can circulate, but sooner or later, they’re going to run out of time. They don’t have the technology to fight the toxin. Mulder disagrees, showing her the confidential letter. It’s from Matheson, who was doing a security check for the bill. Skinner was supposed to review it and Orgel’s analysis of the bill.

Scully guesses that this means Orgel poisoned Skinner to cover up his analysis. Mulder tells her that Orgel actually came to tell Skinner about a violation of laws involving the exportation of medical technology. Skinner’s phone rings, and Mulder answers a call from the same robotic voice that spoke to Skinner before. It’s been transmitted via some sort of ’90s text-to-voice technology being used by someone in the hospital hallway.

Mulder spots the messager and chases him to the parking garage, but loses him. He follows a speeding car, but the driver crashes into someone else and runs off. The messager then calls Matheson to warn that there’s a new threat to the bill. Matheson claims not to buy the messager’s threats, but the messager says that Orgel does. He offers to tell Matheson how to find Orgel.

The messager’s crashed car is taken to a garage, and Mulder has things inside it analyzed. The analyst finds hairs from a wig and ’70s-era chemicals on the tires, indicating that it was parked somewhere like a chemical plant. That’s where Matheson goes next, and it’s where Orgel has been strapped to a table to face the same veiny fate as Skinner. The messager looks on as Orgel promises not to expose anyone to the FBI, then starts writhing and yelling in pain. The messager appears to be using his messaging technology to dial up the torture.

Back at the hospital, Scully tells Skinner she has a treatment that might cure him, though it’s pretty radical and might send his body into shock. Skinner apologizes for not joining her and Mulder on their quest for the truth. If he dies now, it’ll be in vain. Scully tries to assure him that his life won’t have amounted to nothing. He regrets playing it safe and never choosing sides or letting Scully and Mulder pull them into their craziness. Scully says he’s been their ally plenty of times, but Skinner wishes he’d been better at it.

Skinner remembers his encounter with Orgel again, then recalls that he saw the messager in the hallway when they met. He was also at the boxing gym and the hospital, and is the driver who ran down the man who was going to shoot Skinner in the garage. Skinner tells Scully to look for him on the surveillance tape.

Mulder gets to the plant and finds Matheson standing over the table Orgel was lying on. Matheson says that Orgel is dead, and he took whatever he knew with him. Mulder demands to know what Skinner was given, but Matheson says he already knows that it’s the same technology S.R. 819 will export. It’s technology the world only thinks is hypothetical – nanotechnology. Mulder says technology can be stopped, but Matheson warns that if the truth is exposed, everyone who knows about it will be killed. He claims he’s a victim fighting for his life, and it’s too late to stop what’s been put into motion.

We’re back to the opening scene of the episode, when Skinner is allowed to flatline and is declared dead at 9:33. But the messager uses his technology to restore Skinner’s heartbeat and revive him. Skinner is briefly able to see his bearded, bewigged savior through the window before he disappears.

Three weeks later, Skinner’s pretty much recovered and is back at work. Mulder and Scully shows him pictures of the messager, but Skinner says he doesn’t recognize him. S.R. 819 has been withdrawn, making Skinner think that the messager got what he wanted. Mulder doesn’t understand why the messager would call to tell him he was being poisoned if he was trying to kill him to keep him from investigating S.R. 819. He even used his own government’s resources and killed one of his own to save Skinner.

Skinner asks if Mulder still thinks this was about the X-Files. Mulder does, and he has an idea who was behind it, but he’ll need Skinner’s authorization to investigate. Skinner declines, reminding Mulder that he works for Kersh now. He declares the matter closed.

As Skinner leaves for the evening, he finds the messager in his car. He’s no longer wearing the wig, and he’s shaved his beard, which means we can all admire his pretty, pretty face: It’s Krycek. He reminds Skinner that he can use his technology anytime he wants to. Skinner asks what this is all about, but Krycek only replies, “All in good time,” then leaves him in peace.

Thoughts: “Guys, I’ve barely been in this season. Can I have my own episode?” “Okay, Mitch, but we’re going to make you look gross.” “I’ll take it.”

Plant and a nurse both make a joke to Skinner about how at least no one bit off his ear. The ’90s were a weird time.

As we learned from Alias, nothing good happens in parking garages.

Having your arteries lasered sounds like such a fun time, doesn’t it?

Krycek saying he can kill Skinner whenever he wants made me think of CSM saying, “I can kill you whenever I please.”

October 24, 2017

SVT #109, Don’t Go in the Basement: The Principal of the Matter

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:10 pm by Jenn

Yeah, they never actually went in the basement, but nice try, cover artist

Summary: As periodically happens in this series, the twins want money. Elizabeth wants an Amanda Howard computer game, and Jessica wants a $75 blouse. For $75, that blouse better also paint my garage and cook me dinner. (In this scenario, in which I can afford a $75 blouse, I also have a house with a garage that needs painting.) The girls know their parents won’t give them a raise in their allowance, so they’ll need to find a way to earn money. Their past experiences with babysitting and dog-walking don’t sound appealing, but they figure house-sitting might be both easy and lucrative.

Wakefield and Wakefield post fliers advertising their new “company,” but no one seems to need their services. They’re losing hope when their principal, Mr. Clark, tells Elizabeth that he has to leave town for a little while and needs the twins to feed his fish and collect his mail while he’s gone. He’s nervous about leaving Jessica in charge of such important tasks, but I think with Liz around, he can rest easy. Mr. Clark is in a rush to leave town and doesn’t have many options anyway. He gives Liz a key to the house and a few instructions, including the order not to go in the basement.

When the twins go over to take care of the house the first time, a neighbor tells them that Mrs. Clark has been gone for three weeks. Then, when the girls are looking for a net to rescue the fish after they accidentally break the fishbowl, they find a knife with some blood on it. They try to convince themselves that it’s a fishing knife, and the blood isn’t human. But then they find a few drops of blood on the floor and some hair in a door hinge right near the basement. Jessica’s conclusion: Mrs. Clark was murdered.

The next day, Elizabeth learns from Mr. Clark’s secretary that he didn’t leave a number where he could be reached. No one knows where he went or when he’ll be back. The secretary later tells Maria Slater that Mrs. Clark hasn’t been to her job in three weeks, ever since Mr. Clark called to say that she would be taking a leave of absence. The twins encounter the Clarks’ paperboy, who tells them he heard yelling the last time he was at the house, just about three weeks ago.

Jessica thinks her murder theory is just gathering more and more evidence. She snoops through the Clarks’ things, surprised to see that Mr. Clark’s side of the closet is empty, while all of his wife’s clothes are still there. She suspects that he doesn’t plan to come back from wherever he is. Then a guy named Hank calls to announce that he’s coming over later in the week to do some work Mr. Clark needed done in the basement.

Jessica’s more convinced than ever that Mr. Clark killed his wife, and the proof is in the basement. She tells all her friends her suspicions, and word gets around school. However, Jess can’t find a basement key, so she can’t go down and confirm her theory. Elizabeth tells her to leave it alone and stop spreading rumors, but she can’t help thinking that Jess might be right. She goes to Maria’s house in the middle of the night and convinces her to go to the Clarks’ house with her to see if Jessica’s right.

The girls check out the whole house, finding a room where sheets have been placed over the furniture. For some reason, they think this is an indication that no one’s coming back to the house. They’re spooked when they realize someone else is in the house with them, but it turns out to be Jessica and Mandy Miller, who are there on the same mission to find clues about the possible murder. They learn from an answering-machine message that Mr. Clark is in China, so if he did kill his wife and flee the country, he went pretty far away.

With no other way to get into the basement, the girls agree that they need to take the door off its hinges. Since it’s dark out and they don’t want to turn on any lights, they decide they’ll need to come back during the daytime. Elizabeth has convinced herself that they may find Mrs. Clark’s body in the basement. If she was killed three weeks ago, I’m guessing they would be able to tell there was a rotting corpse in the basement without even having to go down there, but okay.

At school the next day, Jessica invites the Unicorns to come to the Clarks’ for a door-removal party. The other girls are too freaked out to want to be a part of the investigation. It’s just the twins, Maria, and Mandy back at the house when Harry shows up. He has a key to the basement but tells the girls not to follow him down. They wait around while he does something for a few hours, then leaves with a large metal box, telling them t won’t be safe to go downstairs for 24 hours.

The girls follow Harry to see what he does with what they think is Mrs. Clark’s body. It’s about here that I realize this is really twisted for a book aimed at preteens. Harry goes to a hazardous-waste dump, then calls out the girls for stalking him. They worry that he’s going to hurt them, so they split up and run away. They head to the police station and report a murder.

The police accompany the girls back to the house, where they’re surprised to see that Mr. Clark has come home. They’re even more surprised to see Mrs. Clark there, alive and well. She also has a little girl with her. The girls pretend that they called the police because they thought Harry was robbing the house. The Clarks are a little confused but not that worried. They’re probably jetlagged and distracted anyway, since they just got back from China with the little girl they were there adopting.

The story: The Clarks have been trying to adopt for years, and they finally heard about an organization that could help them get a slightly older child from China. When they called to say there was a child available, Mrs. Clark had to fly over immediately. She was there for three weeks before the adoption became a sure thing and she summoned Mr. Clark to join her. They decided not to tell anyone what was going on in case the adoption fell through, like one they hoped for a few years ago.

As for the basement and other weird stuff in the house, there’s lead paint downstairs, and Mr. Clark hired Harry to remove it. Mr. Clark’s clothes were missing from the closet because he and his wife are moving to a different bedroom to give their new daughter their old room. The blood on the knife was from a fish, and the blood on the floor was Mrs. Clark’s, but only because she accidentally cut herself with a pair of scissors. Her hair got caught in the door frame when she excitedly ran to tell Mr. Clark about the phone call from China (which I guess was the yelling the paperboy heard).

Jessica thinks the girls are in the clear for their crazy theory, but Elizabeth reminds her that everyone at school still thinks Mr. Clark killed his wife. They manage to distract everyone from mentioning the accusations, then divert everyone’s attention entirely by coming up with the idea to throw a shower/welcome to America party for little Janelle. So at least something nice comes out of it what could have been a disastrous situation. I assume Mr. Clark never finds out that so many of his students – including logical Elizabeth Wakefield – were willing to believe that he’s capable of murder.

Thoughts: Someone please teach these girls about Occam’s Razor.

Mandy at the police station, accusing Mr. Clark of murder: “We have proof.” Unseen narrator Ron Howard: “They did not have proof.”

Since the girls only tell the Clarks that they thought they’d been robbed, it’s pretty nice of the police not to mention that they came out to investigate a possible murder.

Lila: “I like kids! As long as they keep their dirty fingers off me.” Amen to that.

So the lesson here is, if you have to admit to your friends that you were wrong about something, just distract them with a party.

October 21, 2017

The X-Files 6.8, The Rain King: “You’re Not Just a Weatherman, You’re THE Weatherman”

Posted in TV tagged at 1:21 pm by Jenn

Look how concerned he is that Scully’s seeing this

Summary: A woman named Sheila signs a valentine, leaving a lipstick print on it. It’s Valentine’s Day, and Sheila’s in Kroner, Kansas, eating candy and watching TV. She tunes in for Holman Hardt’s weather forecast, turning it off when her fiancé, Daryl, comes home. He’s upset that she put a marriage announcement in the newspaper, since he thought they were going to keep it quiet until business picked up. Since it hasn’t rained in a while, and there’s no rain in the forecast, he’s not optimistic.

Daryl slams Sheila for eating candy, since her butt is already getting big. He goes out to his car, mocking Sheila’s assurance that it’ll rain soon. Sheila puts on the radio, which is playing “Rainy Days and Mondays.” Daryl listens to the same song in his car, drinking a beer as he drives away. As Sheila cries into her candy, it starts raining outside. Daryl’s happy at first, but the rain turns to hail and breaks his windshield. He crashes his car as heart-shaped hailstones continue to fall from the sky.

Six months later, Mulder and Scully arrive in Kroner via a prop plane. They’re greeted by the town’s mayor, Jim Gilmore, and a young baton twirler. Gilmore apologizes for not arranging better accommodations, but he didn’t realize Mulder would be bringing his wife with him. He also apologizes for the poor welcoming committee. Gilmore tells the agents that drought has devastated the town, and Daryl is profiting by charging people for rain. You can hire him to come to your farm and do his “dog and pony show,” and it’ll rain. Gilmore thinks he’s causing the drought so he can make money.

Scully’s starting to get why Mulder didn’t tell her the reason they were coming to Kroner. He denies that he “intentionally misled” her. Kroner seems to be “ground zero for extreme weather,” and if Daryl is controlling it for profit, he’s a criminal, so they’re right to investigate. Scully thinks the people of Kroner are just frustrated and looking for a scapegoat. Mulder asks how many scapegoats turn that into a business – specifically, Rain King, Inc.

They go to Daryl’s office, where Mulder asks to see “the king,” putting an Elvis-ish spin on the word. Daryl’s receptionist tells them he’s out of town, and she’s unwilling to give them any information without a warrant or subpoena. Besides, he’s a hero to Kroner, so the FBI shouldn’t be accusing him of anything nefarious. Holman’s giving a forecast on TV, and the receptionist credits Daryl with the rain Holman says is coming. Scully won’t give up, so the receptionist hands over a client list.

Mulder gets the idea to visit the TV station where Holman does his forecast. Sheila works there and greets them enthusiastically, saying she couldn’t be happier for them. It turns out she’s mistaken them for a couple named the Gundersons who won a contest. Holman takes the agents to his office and raves about how awesome it is to be a meteorologist in a place with so much interesting weather. He doubts that Daryl can control the weather, which is all Scully needs to hear.

Mulder asks about the rain, which Holman puns is “a more clouded issue.” Mulder brings out Daryl’s client list – dozens of people are claiming that he made it rain for their farms. Holman says he went to high school with Daryl, and though he’s not very accomplished, it’s true that it rains wherever he goes.

The agents head to a farm, where some people are having a picnic and waiting for Daryl. Scully feels bad for these people who are putting their trust in someone who could be scamming them. Daryl arrives on crutches and chastises his receptionist for bringing him the wrong boot for his prosthetic leg. Mulder asks him to explain his “unique ability,” but Daryl says it’s just a gift. He comes from a line of healers, and his spirituality allows him to connect with the “unseen real.”

The receptionist puts on some music, and Daryl dances around, saying he communicates with his ancestors (he’s 1/64th Cherokee) to bring rain. Scully walks away, done with this craziness. Mulder notes that plenty of Native Americans in the past performed rain dances; Daryl’s just doing the same thing. Scully doubts that the rain dancers in the past looked quite this stupid. She doesn’t think that Daryl looks like a man who can control the weather. She has to stop talking when it suddenly starts raining.

At the TV station, Sheila chats with Holman about their upcoming 20th high school reunion. She wishes the agents would leave Daryl alone. It turns out that she and Daryl have broken up; he was only with her for her money. Holman can’t believe that she still loves him after that. It looks like he wishes she would love him instead.

Scully has trouble sleeping, thanks to the noise caused by the rainstorm outside. Mulder’s still awake by choice, eating sunflower seeds and reading up on tornadoes in Kroner. He gets up to close a window and sees a cow being pulled into the air by one of those tornadoes. It comes crashing back down right through the roof over his motel room. R.I.P., Bessie or Elsie or whoever you were.

The next morning, Mulder’s things are moved into Scully’s room, since the rest of the rooms in the motel are booked for the high school reunion, and the people working there think Mulder and Scully are dating anyway. Mulder thinks Daryl tried to kill him with the cow on purpose, to try to scare off the FBI. Scully asks if he was checked for head trauma. Holman shows up and blames the cow incident on a regular old tornado. Sheila arrives next and announces that she’s to blame for Mulder’s near death by bovine.

Scully tries to ease Sheila’s guilt, but she says this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. The high school was destroyed by a tornado the night of the senior prom. On her wedding day, it snowed, even though it was July. Three years later, the day her divorce was finalized, the clouds in the sky looked like they were laughing at her. In the ten years since, nothing has happened until last night. The agents learn that Sheila and Daryl were engaged until six months ago, when he crashed during the hail storm and lost his leg.

Mulder promises Sheila that none of the weird weather is her fault. She says she wants to believe him. A medic who heard the whole conversation tells Mulder that the hail didn’t cause Daryl’s accident – he was drunk. No one said anything because he’d already been punished enough by losing his leg. Holman is shocked to hear this. Out at a farm, Daryl brags to his receptionist about his powers of concentration and his ability to make it rain. Then the rain stops.

At their motel, Mulder shows Scully an old newspaper article about a time it rained rose petals. Scully tells him there’s no case, and he himself told Sheila she wasn’t controlling the weather. Mulder continues that Holman’s mother died the day of the flower shower. Every time there’s a big meteorological event, he’s hospitalized for exhaustion. He thinks Holman is controlling the weather. If people with seasonal affective disorder can be drastically by the weather, why can’t the opposite be true? Maybe he has feelings that he’s not expressing, and they come out in the weather.

Holman wants to get those feelings out the right way, telling Sheila that he’s in love with her. He practices making his declaration, getting interrupted when Sheila calls to tell him that she’s decided she’s over Daryl. She wants someone who makes her feel safe, someone she can talk to. Then she confides that she’s decided to pursue Mulder. Holman responds with a lightning storm.

Mulder goes to see Holman the next day, asking him to get help for his problems: “You’re not just a weatherman, you’re the weatherman,” Mulder says. Holman says that if he could control the weather, he would end the drought. Mulder doesn’t think he can control his abilities, and in fact, his emotions make the weather go out of control. He needs to express his feelings for Sheila. Holman confirms Mulder’s theory, confiding that he accidentally destroyed the school when he found Sheila getting it on with her boyfriend. But how can he, a frog, telling Sheila, a swan, he wants to be with her?

Scully calls her partner (“Mulder, it’s me”) to tell him they’re not going to be able to leave Kroner as planned, thanks to thick fog. “Holman!” Mulder chastises. He tells Scully that Holman wants his dating advice. Scully’s speechless, then asks the last time Mulder went on a date. “I will talk to you later,” Mulder replies, hanging up on her. (If you can find this scene, please watch it, because I can’t do it justice here. Duchovny and Anderson’s delivery makes it gold.)

Daryl learns from his receptionist that his business isn’t doing well. She tells him he’s like Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain, who “shined too bright for too short a time.” But she’ll still tell their future kids how awesome he was. Daryl’s distressed about his money woes, but the receptionist isn’t worried – she can always go back to Dairy Queen, where she was making almost $6 an hour. Daryl has another idea, knowing that Sheila has money. He decides it’s time to break up with the receptionist and go back to his former fiancée.

At the TV station, Holman tells Mulder that he’s always been envious of men like him who have so much experience. After all, Mulder gets to spend all day with the “beautiful, enchanting” Scully. He’s surprised that the partners have never hooked up, especially since they seem to gaze at each other. Mulder claims he’s happy enough just being friends with Scully. He takes Holman to Sheila in hopes that the drought will end if Holman tells her how he feels. As a P.S., Mulder says he doesn’t gaze at Scully.

Holman starts to bare his soul to Sheila, declaring his love, but she thinks he just means as a friend. It starts raining, and Mulder thinks Holman succeeded, but Holman tells him that Sheila said she’s in love with Mulder. She tells Daryl the same thing when he comes by to try to get her back. Daryl doesn’t get the appeal and takes a swing at Mulder. Sheila yells at him to avoid Mulder’s face, which is a good priority. Since Daryl’s drunk, Mulder doesn’t have much trouble ducking his punches and subduing him. Scully and Holman come around the corner just in time to see Sheila thanking Mulder with a kiss.

The fog has lifted, so now Mulder and Scully can go home. Mulder, who’s covered in Sheila’s lipstick, sees on Holman’s weather radar that thunderstorms are moving in, so their flight is probably canceled. The reunion is still on, with a Wizard of Oz theme, though people have to avoid the buckets placed around the high school gym to catch leaks. The agents show up looking for Holman, who says the thunderstorms aren’t his fault.

Sheila asks Mulder to dance, but the agents get her to dance with Holman instead. He finally tells Sheila that he’s been in love with her since high school. Mulder and Scully watch them from a distance, swaying back and forth, either to get a better view of them or because they like the song. When Sheila runs off, Mulder jokes that he’ll build an ark if Scully gathers the animals.

Scully follows Sheila to the bathroom and tells her Mulder’s theory about Holman and the weather. Sheila thinks Scully’s just jealous because Sheila and Mulder have a “special connection.” Daryl shows up to the reunion, looking for Sheila. Scully tells her that she and Mulder aren’t involved, and Holman really does want to be with her. Sheila’s surprised, since she and Holman have only ever been friends. Scully thinks that the best relationships are ones that start out as friendships. One day, you see something new in your friend, and the friend becomes the only person you want to be with.

The storm drains are filling up from all the rain, and the bathroom sinks back up and start to flood. The women leave the bathroom as Mulder and Daryl fight in the gym. The power goes out as Daryl passes out, claiming he could take on Mulder if he had two legs. Sheila comes back to the gym and confirms that Holman can affect the weather. She kisses him and tells him that’s the most romantic thing she’s ever heard. As they kiss again, sparks fly and the rain stops.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” comes over the sound system and everyone starts dancing. The receptionist comes to bring Daryl his leg back, and the two of them make up. Mulder asks Holman how it went, and Holman replies, “You should try it sometime.” A year later, Holman and Sheila have a baby, and the skies over Kroner are beautiful, with a rainbow right outside the family’s window.

Thoughts: Gilmore is played by Dirk Blocker (Hitchcock on Brooklyn Nine-Nine).

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I love the running joke of everyone thinking Mulder and Scully are a couple. I also love that, while Scully corrects everyone, Mulder says nothing until he’s talking to Holman.

Mulder: “I do not gaze at Scully.” Everyone who’s ever seen an episode of the show: “Uh-huh.”

Having a Wizard of Oz-themed reunion right after a tornado was a rough coincidence, but it’s Kansas, so that probably happens a lot.

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