October 18, 2016

SVT #68, The Middle School Gets Married: You Mean Young Love Doesn’t Always Work Out?

Posted in books tagged , , , at 5:17 pm by Jenn

Not a bad cover, actually

Not a bad cover, actually

Summary: I guess some of the teachers at SVMS don’t want to have to teach for a little while, so science teacher Mr. Seigel is heading up a project where all the middle-schoolers get fake-married to each other and learn what being an adult is all about. The project combines math (because they have to make budgets), social studies, and science, somehow. The “couples” have to work together on every aspect of the project. A lot of the students are excited about getting “married,” even though the couples will be chosen randomly.

Jessica’s paired with Rick Hunter, a hot seventh-grader, and though she knows she should be happy about this, she’s not. Rick is the epitome of a seventh-grade boy, and most of his interactions with Jess involve teasing her. They fight most of the time. When the couples get eggs they have to pretend are babies, Jessica keeps breaking hers and Rick’s (which they hilariously name Steven Fido). Normally Jess would just grit her teeth and wait things out, but she needs a good grade on the project, so she actually does some work. Rick is horrible with making a budget, but Jess ends up being good at it.

One of the tasks during the project is to shop for, cook, and eat a meal together. Jess and Rick both screw everything up and get in yet another fight. But then, in something right out of a movie, Rick kisses Jessica in the middle of the fight. Suddenly they’re happy together and getting along for the first time. Except it quickly becomes clear that they only thing interesting they had going for them was their rivalry. Now they have nothing to talk about. Womp womp.

Elizabeth is paired with Bruce, who really couldn’t care less about the project. Then when he comes to the Wakefields’ house to work with Liz and sees what an involved parent Ned is, he gets really intense about the whole thing. They have to spend quality time with their egg, he lectures Elizabeth with information from a guide they’ve been given for the project, and he basically treats her like she’s his child. Elizabeth gets mad and accidentally breaks their egg, but replaces it and pretends nothing happened. Bruce doesn’t find out until he realizes their “baby” is hard-boiled.

The only people generally happy at the beginning of the project are Sophia Rizzo and Patrick Morris, since they got along well before being partnered up. Unfortunately, being with Patrick brings out the worst in Sophia. She’s afraid to eat too much in front of him because she might not seem girly. She won’t give her opinion or make any decisions because she’s afraid she’ll come across as bossy, like Janet. Since Patrick is nice and wants to make sure he and Sophia are making all their decisions together, this leads to a lot of stalemates. They can’t make up their minds on anything because neither wants to hurt the other’s feelings.

After things finally boil over and Sophia and Patrick have a big fight, Sophia learns that her mother and Sarah’s father are getting married. (And in only two weeks!) Sophia hates this idea, even though the adults are happy together right now – marriage is stupid, and they’re just going to end up hating each other.

All of the students are in study hall together, working on the finishing touches of their final projects, when Rick and Jessica get in their last big fight. The tension between all the other couples finally reaches its peak, and everyone starts fighting. Eggs are even thrown. The students all agree that it’s impossible to get a good grade on the project because marriage itself is impossible to succeed at. But this is exactly what Mr. Seigel wanted to hear. He wanted the kids to realize that marrying someone without discussing what you want from the partnership won’t work out. For recognizing this, everyone gets an A.

With the madness over, Jess and Rick sort of become friends. Just the kind of friends who mock each other all the time. Bruce calms down, but I don’t think Elizabeth wants to spend any more time with him. Lila, who was paired with Todd (though we don’t hear much about them, other than that Lila has expensive tastes and Todd is a little too obsessed with neatness), decides he’s a nice guy. Sophia realizes that her mom and Sarah’s dad know what they’re doing, so there’s no reason to think their marriage won’t work out. And then I think no one who participated in the project ever eats an egg again.

Thoughts: I’m not sure the lesson taught here was the right one. What are the odds that these middle-schoolers will grow up to get married without discussing the details of marriage? Probably lower than the odds of them getting married young because they think it’s romantic (which is how a lot of them feel before the project begins). I wonder what would have happened if they’d been allowed to pick their partners, and kids with crushes on each other had been forced to face every aspect of each other’s personalities and find out if they’re really compatible. I mean, obviously the project was harder for people who didn’t get along. Pairing everyone up randomly basically stacked the deck against them.

I don’t think Mr. Seigel has the patience to teach middle-schoolers. He should probably go into a different line of work.

Lila and Todd were late turning in their budget because he couldn’t find a folder that looked neat enough. This is why Todd and Elizabeth are perfect for each other.

October 15, 2016

The X-Files 3.24, Talitha Cumi: Stop Using Your Alien Powers for Good!

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , at 1:55 pm by Jenn

Awww, they have matching coats!

Awww, they have matching coats!

Summary: A man at a busy fast-food restaurant in Arlington, Virginia, is ranting about being mistreated by someone. He pulls a gun and takes everyone hostage (though he’s kind enough to let the children go). An employee calls the police as another customer approaches the first man and calmly tries to talk him down. “They made me do it,” the first man says. The second man calms him enough to take the gun.

Outside, the world’s fastest sniper team gets ready to take out the possible shooter. He sees a couple of customers trying to leave and shoots them, but the snipers shoot him as well. The calm man assures the hostage-taker that he’s not going to die, then puts a hand on his wound, clearing up the blood.

By the time Mulder and Scully arrive on the scene, the medics are there and confused that they didn’t actually need to come – no one’s hurt. All the witnesses are also confused. One of the men who was shot has a mark on his shirt from the bullet and blood, but he’s totally fine. He tells Scully that the calm man healed him. Mulder sits with the shooter, Galen Muntz, who says that God took pity on him and forgave him, sparing his life. He thinks the calm man was God’s vessel to heal him. However, the calm man is now gone, so the agents can’t talk to him.

Up in Rhode Island, Teena Mulder has gone to her family’s old home to see an old friend: CSM. He wants her to try to remember something. Someone takes pictures from a distance as the two fight. Back in Virginia, the agents learn that the calm man said his name was Jeremiah Smith, but the address he gave the police was for a P.O. box. A police officer says he seemed to vanish in an instant.

Skinner calls Mulder at the restaurant to tell him that Teena’s been admitted to a hospital in Rhode Island. Mulder rushes up there to find his mother unconscious after a stroke. Scully tries to assure her partner that Teena could make a full recovery. When she wakes up, she can’t speak, but she writes her son a note: PALM. Teena’s soon taken to another facility, and Scully again assures Mulder that she’s getting good care.

Mulder wonders if there’s a connection between his mother’s illness and the incident in Virginia – Jeremiah used the palm of his hand to heal people. Scully thinks it’s just a coincidence. Instead of staying near his mother, Mulder decides to return to D.C. and find out who Jeremiah is. He reviews footage shot by a local news crew and sees the moment Jeremiah disappears while speaking to a detective. He’s replaced by someone wearing the same clothes.

A bunch of men in suits head to the Social Security Administration, where Jeremiah’s working. CSM is among the men, smoking even though this is a GOVERNMENT BUILDING, SIR. Jeremiah tries to leave, but the men grab him and leave. He’s taken Hannibal Lechter-style to a prison cell.

Mulder returns to Rhode Island, where Mr. X joins him at the family home. He reveals that CSM was there with Teena, showing Mulder pictures of their fight. Mr. X figures that Mulder knew they knew each other, and why they were there. He’s the one who called an ambulance for Teena, but he doesn’t know what she and CSM were fighting about. He thinks CSM was looking for. Mulder says that his mother hasn’t been to the house since she divorced his father. Mr. X thinks the thing CSM wants is very old.

Jeremiah shows up at FBI headquarters, telling Scully he wants to turn himself in. He tells her, Skinner, and some other agents that he doesn’t remember anything that happened at the restaurant. He hasn’t done anything wrong, so they have to let him leave.

In Rhode Island, Mulder searches the house but can’t find anything that fits with the word “palm.” He pulls out Teena’s note and rearranges the letters to come up with the word “lamp.” There are plenty in the house to choose from, but the second one he checks contains what looks like a retractable ice pick.

CSM visits Jeremiah’s cell to slam him for helping people instead of working toward his “greater purpose.” His actions could have huge consequences. Jeremiah says that CSM’s actions take away people’s freedom. People believe in authority and science, so they don’t need other explanations. They need to keep this up if the “project” is going to be successful. And CSM thinks it will be, since the date has been set.

Jeremiah turns into Bill, questioning how many people have to die so CSM will be successful. CSM says he’s not impressed with Jeremiah’s miracles or trickery. He’ll get justice. Bill/Jeremiah asks where that will come from. “By those who possess the tool of your destruction,” CSM replies.

Mulder’s back at FBI headquarters, demanding that Skinner help him look into CSM’s background. Skinner can’t help, and it doesn’t really matter, since Mulder can go to Jeremiah for answers without going through CSM. Mulder and Scully go to the SSA to talk to Jeremiah, who pulls the same trick as before, disappearing and leaving behind someone wearing his clothes. That man easily leaves the building without anyone noticing.

CSM returns to Jeremiah’s cell so they can babble some more about miracles and what people believe. CSM says people fear God without believing in Him. If they can appease people’s consciences, they can rule them. Jeremiah turns into Deep Throat and mocks CSM for a minute, then turns back into himself. He announces that CSM is dying of lung cancer, but CSM accuses him of lying.

The man who left the SSA appears at Jeremiah’s prison with a new face and his own retractable ice pick. It’s our old buddy the Bounty Hunter! He’s led to Jeremiah’s cell, but it’s empty. Meanwhile, Mulder visits his mother, who isn’t doing so well. After crying for a few minutes, Mulder leaves the room and sees CSM in the hallway. Mulder attacks him, pulling his gun. CSM says he met with Teena at her request because she had questions about Samantha’s whereabouts. But the person with that information has disappeared.

Scully works late at FBI headquarters, looking up information on every Jeremiah Smith who works for the SSA. There are six of them, and they all look exactly alike. Mr. X meets up with Mulder, asking for the ice pick, but Mulder won’t hand it over. He knows it’s the only way to kill “them.” Mr. X warns that Mulder will be killed for the ice pick, even if it means he becomes a martyr. Mulder knows they’re facing colonization, and the date has been set.

Mr. X again demands the ice pick, and Mulder again refuses to give it over. The two men fight and end up pulling guns on each other. Mulder notes that Mr. X will never get the ice pick if he shoots Mulder. Mr. X is considering doing it anyway, since Mulder’s squandered everything Mr. X has done for him. But it doesn’t really matter, since one way or another, Mulder’s a dead man walking.

Scully gets a visit at home from Jeremiah, or at least someone who looks like him. She’s smart enough to make him follow some instructions that ensure she’s not putting herself in danger. Jeremiah wants to hand over some information about an “elaborate plan” and Samantha. Scully wonders why Jeremiah didn’t tell her this before. He says they’ve never talked – the person she talked to before was an imposter.

Mulder calls (“Scully, it’s me”) and Scully tells him Jeremiah’s there. Mulder tells her to meet him at a construction site; her apartment isn’t safe. When Scully and Jeremiah arrive, Mulder separates them, pulling out the ice pick. Jeremiah promises to explain everything, but first Mulder wants him to go see Teena. Before they can go anywhere, the Bounty Hunter arrives, ready to use his ice pick on Jeremiah. To be continued…

Thoughts: David Duchovny co-wrote this episode.

The SSA looks like a horrible place to work. It’s just a big room full of people working on computers. There aren’t even any cubicle walls. I’d go crazy there.

And just like that, I’m done with season 3. Only seven more seasons to go!

October 11, 2016

SVT #67, Jessica the Thief: American Swiper

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , at 4:54 pm by Jenn

I probably would have worn Jessica's skirt when I was her age

I probably would have worn Jessica’s skirt when I was her age

Summary: Veronica Brooks is settling in at SVMS, and she wants to become a Unicorn. Elizabeth is the only person who thinks Veronica is bad news. This is even after Veronica threatened to get even with Jessica at the end of the last book. The Unicorns haven’t yet invited Veronica to join them, possibly because right now they’re more interested in their newest accessories. Lila just got a Watchman (a watch/TV combo) and Ellen’s been allowed to wear her mother’s expensive hoop earrings to school.

At lunch, Ellen takes off her earrings (they’re heavy) and leaves them at the table while a bunch of the Unicorns go get cookies. Jessica and Veronica hang behind a little. When everyone gets back to the table, the earrings are missing. Then, at Boosters practice (which Veronica hangs around, since Bruce is also in the gym), Janet’s hairbrush and Lila’s newest Teenager magazine disappear. Veronica wonders if the same person took the magazine, hairbrush, and earrings. Jessica thinks the girls are all just bad at keeping track of their stuff.

Some of the girls chat about the disappearances in the bathroom, nicknaming the thief the Sweet Valley Swiper. Jessica admires Mandy’s new hat, which she got from a thrift store. By the way, everyone used to see Mandy’s style as low-class, but now she’s considered quirky and unique. She accidentally leaves the hat in the bathroom, and when she goes back to get it…well, of course it’s gone. The Sweet Valley Swiper strikes again!

Elizabeth fancies herself a detective, so she takes an interest in the case. She figures that since the hat was taken from the girls’ bathroom, the thief is probably a girl. Well, yeah – a guy probably isn’t going to steal earrings and a brush. Next, Mandy’s jacket vanishes. Ellen thinks her deodorant was also stolen, which leads to a lot of jokes about how she smells. There’s a pattern emerging beyond girls having their things taken – they’re all things Jessica has admired. Also, only the Unicorns have been victims of the thefts.

The pattern breaks when Veronica reports her notebook missing. The girls finally tell the principal, Mr. Clark, who promises to get the teachers to keep their eyes out. Elizabeth and Amy apparently solved mysteries together as kids, calling themselves the Snoopers, and they consider getting back together for one last case. How is this situation different from the other times they’ve teamed up to solve mysteries?

Lila gets her Watchman taken away in class, and when she goes to get it back from the teacher, it’s gone. I’m impressed that the thief was able to grab it without the teacher seeing. Later, Lila gets a note telling her she can find the Watchman in Jessica’s locker. Indeed, that’s where it is, though Jess has no idea how it got there. Half the Unicorns turn on her, thinking she’s the swiper. They want to oust her from the Unicorns and replace her with Veronica.

Even Elizabeth isn’t sure about her sister’s innocence. After all, Jessica borrowed her sweatshirt and lost it…or did she steal it? But Elizabeth thinks that Occam’s Razor is bull: The simplest explanation is that Jess is the thief, but that’s too easy. She’s probably being framed. Liz decides to focus on the note Lila got about the Watchman’s location, but she’s already thrown it out. Elizabeth recruits Amy to help her dig through the trash at school, which means Amy is a much better friend to Liz than I could ever be. Too bad they don’t find the note. Right now the only thing going in Jess’ favor is the fact that Aaron doesn’t think she’s the swiper.

Elizabeth sees the Unicorns hanging out with Veronica and thinks she’s cracked the case. She comes up with a multi-step plan to catch the swiper. First, Jessica pretends to be sick so she can stay home from school. Elizabeth goes to school as her twin, saying Liz is the one who’s sick. She chats with Veronica, telling her that Mandy still believes in Jessica’s innocence. The only thing that could make her turn on Jess is if her favorite rhinestone pin disappeared.

Guess what disappears not long after? Like Lila, Mandy gets a note telling her Jess took the pin. But Elizabeth announces that she’s not Jess, and that Jess isn’t even at school today, so there’s no way she could have taken the pin. Mandy calls Alice to confirm that Liz is who she says she is, getting confirmation when Jessica can’t spell “thief.” But even with Jess out of school, the pin is in her locker.

Elizabeth tells Mandy and Lila that she’s figured it out: Veronica is the thief. She framed Jessica to get her kicked out of the Unicorns. While Amy goes to get Mr. Clark, Elizabeth and Mandy stage a fight so Veronica will overhear. Veronica thinks Mandy’s mad at “Jessica” for stealing her pin, but the girls point out that they never mentioned a pin being missing. Mandy even says it’s not gone.

Elizabeth notes that only the thief would know it was missing. Veronica tries to blame Jessica, but Liz tells her that Jess isn’t at school. Mr. Clark checks Veronica’s locker, where all the missing things have been stashed. Jessica’s name is cleared, and Veronica’s suspended. Jess figures out that Veronica got her locker combination from a book she borrowed from Jess. The Unicorns, amazingly, feel horrible about the way they treated Jess, and they bring her ice cream as a peace offering. Also, Jess finds Elizabeth’s missing sweatshirt, proving once and for all that she may be a thoughtless sister, but she’s not a thief.

The B-plot is kind of entertaining. Steven and Joe take tests to see if they qualify for MEGA (the Mentally Gifted Association), the Sweet Valley-verse’s version (say that five times fast) of MENSA. Steven’s mailed results say he’s in the 99th percentile, the “genius intelligence quoshent [sic].” Steven thinks this is awesome, not just because it means he’s super-smart but also because Jess told him she would never tease him again if he got a genius score on the test.

Suddenly Steven has a new hobby: being an intellectual. He gets interested in tort law, chess, opera, and a Jeopardy-style TV show called Q&A. Even the twins are impressed with his ability to answer all the questions correctly. He gets Joe to watch a documentary about the mating habits of porcupines. Everyone finds him insufferable now, since he just wants to talk about high-brow things, and doesn’t even want to play basketball anymore.

On her day home “sick,” Jessica helps clean Steven’s room and does some detective work of her own. She finds a list of answers (or questions, I guess) from the episode of Q&A they watched, and realizes that he cheated – they watched a taped episode that Steven had already seen. Along with some other evidence proving that Steven isn’t, in fact, a genius, Jess is able to bust her brother.

Steven admits that he was playing a joke on Joe; he knew Joe made up the test results. Messing with the twins was just a bonus for Steven. Now he wants the girls to help him get payback. A bunch of the Wakefield kids’ friends come over, and Janet tells Jessica that Joe made up the test results to mess with Steven. Jessica pretends that Steven has no idea. Then Steven announces that his genius IQ makes him too smart for high school, so he’s going to drop out and try to get into Harvard. Joe tries to pretend that the test results were a mistake (there’s a guy out there named Steven Wokefield who doesn’t know he’s a genius), but Steven comes clean. Everyone’s amused by the whole thing.

Thoughts: A watch that you can watch TV on is so ahead of its time.

“When a crime seems too easy to solve, there’s probably a good reason.” And maybe the reason is that the criminal was too dumb to avoid getting caught.

Rick Hunter thought Jessica was too much of a klutz to be a thief. I don’t get that logic. She would have dropped the things she tried to steal? She would have tripped while taking them? Please explain yourself, Rick.

October 8, 2016

The X-Files 3.23, Wetwired: Let’s Go to the Videotape

Posted in TV tagged , , , , at 1:21 pm by Jenn

I had roughly this many videotapes in the '90s, too

I had roughly this many videotapes in the ’90s, too

Summary: It’s after 10 at night in Braddock Heights, Maryland, and a man is digging a big hole to bury another man’s body. You know, just typical springtime fun. Though the digger says the other man’s killing days are over, so I guess he thinks he’s done something good. The digger washes up back at home, but his victim shows up in his house. The digger uses his shovel to kill the victim again, and is dragging his body outside when the police arrive. Both cops look like his victim. The digger attacks one and gets tased in return. There’s a glitch like the diggers watching a faulty TV, and he sees the cops’ real faces. They find a body in the digger’s trunk – it’s his wife, Sarah.

Mulder’s in downtown D.C., meeting with a man who contacted him wanting to talk. He suggests that Mulder look into the five murders the digger (Joseph Patnik) committed. The man denies that he’s one of Mulder’s “sources,” but he won’t clarify who, exactly, he is. He does warn that if Mulder doesn’t look into the crimes, more will die. So Mulder looks into them, visiting Patnik at a psychiatric hospital. He tells Scully that Patnik says he killed the same man over and over, but he wouldn’t die. A babysitter in Patnik’s neighborhood recently attacked the children she was watching, saying she thought they were wolves.

Patnik’s doctor, Stroman, tells the agents that Patnik has been having outbursts, though he’s calm now. They found amphetamines in his system. Suddenly Patnik starts screaming and has to be sedated again. The agents see that Patnik was watching TV when a news story came on about murderous Bosnian dictator Lladoslav Miriskovic (not to be confused with Slobodan Milosevic, I imagine). The agents head to Patnik’s house, wondering why Mulder’s source pointed them toward the case. Scully wonders if they’re being used. Mulder doesn’t think it matters, since they need some answers anyway.

The agents hear screaming from upstairs, but it’s just the movie a couple of preteen boys are watching. As the boys leave, the TV goes snowy – a cable guy appears to be working on the lines. Scully notices the Patniks’ extensive videotape collection, which seems to consists mostly of recorded news broadcasts. Scully wonders if there’s a connection between them and Patnik’s crimes. The agents review some of the tapes their motel rooms that night, and Scully discovers that pieces on Miriskovic aired on each night Patnik committed a murder.

Mulder dismisses the theory that violence on TV leads to violence in real life; it’s pseudoscience. Scully thinks that Patnik’s drug use combined with the violent imagery made him kill. Mulder argues that that’s not enough to make a previously stable person violent – “not even must-see TV can do that.” He heads off to bed while Scully keeps watching the tapes. She passes the time by crunching ice, eventually going outside to get more. She sees Mulder in his car in the parking lot, having a chat with CSM. She sees Mulder hand CSM a videotape and then drive off with him.

The next morning, a woman is washing dishes and watching a game show when her kitchen starts to glitch. She looks in the backyard and sees her husband fooling around with a woman in their hammock. She responds by grabbing a gun. Mulder tells Scully about the latest murder, and she meets him in the car, checking the ashtray first (it’s empty). She asks if he took the car out last night, since it’s parked in a different spot now. Mulder says he got a newspaper that morning.

At the latest crime scene, the agents learn that the killer, Helene, said she saw her husband in the hammock with a blonde. Apparently the blonde was really the couple’s golden retriever. (Thankfully, the dog is unharmed.) Oh, and the man in the hammock isn’t even Helene’s husband; he was a neighbor. Helene was in the wrong backyard. The agents check out the house, which is full of items purchased from home-shopping channels. There are also a bunch of videotapes, which Scully starts watching.

Mulder spots the same cable guy from the Patniks’ house outside. He goes to talk to the guy, who drives off. Mulder then climbs the utility pole himself (seems about right for him) and sees that the worker installed something in a box, possibly a scrambler. Scully suggests that they hand it over to Pendrell for analysis, and Mulder says he’ll take care of it. Instead, he takes the device to the Lone Gunmen, who tell him it adds something between the still pictures transmitted in a normal TV broadcast. It’s emitting some sort of signal.

Scully calls Mulder (no “Mulder, it’s me,” unfortunately), who tells him that someone may be conducting a test. She tells him she talked to Pendrell, who said Mulder never brought him the device. Mulder says he took it somewhere else and tries to explain the device to her. Scully hears clicks on the line, though Mulder doesn’t hear them. She hangs up on her partner and doesn’t answer when he calls back. She unplugs the phone and pulls apart the receiver. Next, she checks a lamp, the underside of the couch, the backs of paintings, and a light socket. As she’s trashing the room, the walls start to glitch.

Seeing headlights outside makes Scully panic, and she goes for her gun when someone knocks at her door. It’s a good thing her shots miss because Mulder’s there with a motel clerk. Scully runs off and still hasn’t turned up in the morning. Mulder calls Maggie, trying to downplay the seriousness of the situation. Skinner arrives and Mulder tells him to keep the investigating officers from treating this like a manhunt for an escaped criminal. He thinks Scully’s suffering from the same psychosis as Patnik and Helene. She’s not responsible for her violent actions. Skinner suggests that it might be a good idea to find her before she hurts anyone.

Mulder puts an X on his window, even though the last time he spoke to Mr. X, he was told there would be no more communication. The Lone Gunmen call to tell Mulder they found something interesting on a tape from Scully’s room. Mulder joins them to learn that there were red and green lights being transmitted between frames in a home-shopping segment. The signal triggers something in the brain, similar to subliminal messages used in movie theaters in the past to make people buy popcorn.

Byers says that American and Russian scientists have been working on this technology for a long time. The guys just don’t know why Mulder wasn’t affected. Mulder asks if color could be a factor – he’s red-green colorblind, so he may not see the signal like others do. As the guys discuss the possibility, Mulder gets a call from the police reporting that Scully may have been found…or rather, her body may have been found. He heads to the morgue, taking a moment to steady himself. Before he can go inside, his source arrives and demands a conversation. He tells Mulder to keep following the evidence before “they” can destroy it.

The body in the morgue is, of course, not Scully’s, and Mulder wants someone to let Maggie know. Maggie hasn’t been answering her phone, so Mulder pays her a visit. She doesn’t want to let him in the house, which makes him realize that Scully’s there. Scully greets her partner with a gun, thinking he’s there to kill her. Mulder explains to her that she’s sick, but Scully thinks he’s been working against her from the beginning. He was one of the people behind her abduction, he put the chip in her neck, and he killed Melissa. Maggie moves in front of Scully, reminding her daughter that she’d never let anyone hurt her. Scully calms and cries in her mother’s arm.

Scully’s admitted to Georgetown Hospital, embarrassed that she believed the things the signal made her think were real. Mulder tells her that the other killers were also affected by events they thought were playing into their worst fears. Patnik, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, wanted to kill Miriskovic because he saw him as a modern-day Hitler. Helene was scared that her husband would cheat on her. Mulder thinks the TV signal turns people’s fears into reality. Scully admits that she thought she saw Mulder talking to CSM as if Mulder were reporting to him. Mulder thinks it’s reasonable that CSM could be behind all of this.

On his way out, Mulder chats with Scully’s doctor, who hasn’t found anything medically wrong with her patient. The only abnormal thing she’s found is high levels of serotonin, which has in the past been linked to mania. Now they’re back to normal. Mulder wonders if the doctor might have suspected that Scully was on amphetamines, but the doctor says that doesn’t fit with the high serotonin levels. Mulder calls Patnik’s psych hospital to talk to Stroman, who’s no longer working there. For some reason, Mulder guesses that his new phone number is the one for the motel where he and Scully were staying.

Mulder returns to the hotel (where the clerk makes him go into the room first this time), but Stroman’s already checked out. While the clerk gets Stroman’s phone records, Mulder finds the butt of a Morley cigarette in an ashtray. He traces a number on the phone records to a house, arriving just before the cable guy shows up and lets himself in. Mulder watches through a window as the cable guy and Stroman wonder where the person they’re supposed to meet is. When Mulder starts to break in, he hears gunshots. Both men are now dead, thanks to Mr. X. Mulder’s unknowingly been working off of his tip the whole time.

Mulder complains that he doesn’t have evidence now, but Mr. X reminds him that he was warned about this happening. Mr. X says he had to move quickly because he was being watched. His orders were always to kill the cable guy and Stroman; he just hoped Mulder would finish his investigation first. Mulder wants to know why the signal was being used in the first place – sales? Voting? Mr. X says “they” won’t stop there.

Mulder calls him a coward for putting Mulder and Scully in danger without risking his own life. Mr. X just smirks and starts to leave. Mulder pulls his gun, but Mr. X isn’t intimidated. He tells Mulder he’s putting his life in danger right now. He knows Mulder won’t kill him – Mulder needs him. Mulder has no choice but to let him go.

A few weeks later, Mulder turns in a report on the case, though he doesn’t have much information to provide. Scully tells him and Skinner that the cable guy didn’t have any record of shady behavior, and the only doctor with a medical license in Stroman’s name was a guy from Falls Church (hometown shout-out!) who died in 1978. Mulder says the killer remains unknown. Said killer sneaks down an alley one night and gets in a car with…CSM. Mr. X assures him that all the tech from the case has been removed, though Mulder still has a transmitter. The man who originally contacted Mulder has been eliminated. And his source, like Mulder said, is still unknown.

Thoughts: I assume the author of Channel X watched this episode.

I was under the impression that you couldn’t by an FBI agent if you were red-green colorblind, but it looks like there’s a special test that they’ll give colorblind applicants, and if you pass it, you’re in. Not that this is the most ridiculous thing to happen on the series anyway.

Scully, it’s okay to change out of your work clothes once you’re back in your motel room.

Helene’s victim’s name is John Gillnitz, a name used multiple times over the course of the series. It’s a combination of the names of three show writers: John Shiban, Vince Gilligan, and Frank Spotnitz.

October 4, 2016

SVT #66, The Great Boyfriend Switch: Middle-School Relationship Drama Is the Worst

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 5:09 pm by Jenn

Everyone looks fine except Amy (what else is new?)

Everyone looks fine except Amy (what else is new?)

Summary: Believe it or not, but even though it seemed like there was a dance in every SVH book, the SVT crew has yet to have one. Their first is coming up, and the girls are worried that the boys will be their usual annoying, immature selves. New girl Veronica Brooks would be especially disappointed if that happened. You see, at Veronica’s old school, the boys were all charming and intelligent and clearly alien life forms because there’s no such thing as a mature 12-year-old boy.

Todd asks Elizabeth to the dance, and Veronica’s totally jealous. Amy hopes Ken will ask her, since they’re basically dating, but Ken is an idiot in this book and doesn’t get that his sort-of girlfriend might want to do something girlfriend-y with him. When the Unicorns graciously hold an “open meeting,” which is basically a crash course on style, Amy attends so she can get some pointers on making herself girlier so Ken will want to take her to the dance. The Unicorns happily take on Amy as a project. I don’t know why they care whether a girl they don’t even like has a date with a guy they don’t like, but okay.

Amy wears some eye makeup to school, and I guess it’s a pretty bad application because Ken thinks she was in a fight. So did Amy try to do her own makeup, or did the Unicorns overdo it on purpose? Discuss. Either way, later Ken does ask her to the dance, but he’s really casual about it and doesn’t want it to seem like a date. Amy will take it. Meanwhile, Veronica’s mad that Elizabeth keeps outscoring her on tests, because at her old school, Veronica was the best student (and, I imagine, also the most popular and the prettiest and the best athlete and the best singer and…). Also, she likes Todd.

The night of the dance, a bunch of girls get ready together at the Wakefields’. Remember middle-school dances, you guys? My friends and I got ready together, too. Then when high school came around, we skipped all the dances except homecoming and prom because we realized how boring they were. Anyway, everyone has a date, and the guys all come by the house to pick up their girls, which is cute. Todd gives Elizabeth a heart-shaped locket with their pictures inside.

Even though Aaron is Jessica’s date to the dance, she accepts a dance with Bruce. One dance turns into many dances, and Aaron is effectively ditched. Then Veronica steals Todd away from Elizabeth, so Liz and Aaron are stuck on the sidelines, watching their dates with other people. Jessica and Bruce even kiss on the dance floor! Elizabeth tries to comfort Aaron by dancing with him, and they end up kissing, too. They’re outside, so at least they’re not giving the whole school a show…but Caroline Pearce sees them, so that event isn’t going to stay secret for long.

Indeed, by Monday morning, rumors are flying that Elizabeth and Aaron kissed. Todd confronts Elizabeth, who blasts him for spending so much of the dance with Veronica. He argues that he was just trying to be nice, like, one dance with her is nice enough, Todd. They end up having a big fight, as do Jessica and Aaron. Then Jess confronts her sister, and the two of them fight about Jess treating Aaron badly, and how Liz kissed her sister’s guy. No one comes off looking great.

Elizabeth and Aaron have lunch together, as do Todd and Veronica. It’s clear that they’re all trying to make each other jealous. Amy thinks everyone’s nuts. Jess starts hanging out with Bruce, who’s at his Bruceiest in this book. We always hear about how self-centered he is, and it’s really apparent here. He expects Jess to laugh at all his jokes, and for everyone to talk about how awesome he is. Ohhhhhh. Bruce is Donald Trump. I get it.

That night, Aaron calls the Wakefields’ house, and there’s a fun moment where Ned offers the phone to Jessica and is shocked when Aaron wants to talk to Elizabeth. He’s not much of a conversationalist on the phone, as most middle-school girls can confirm about their middle-school boyfriends. Bruce also calls Jessica, but again, he just wants to talk about himself, so she’s not as thrilled anymore about having a popular seventh-grader interested in her.

Jessica wants revenge on Elizabeth, and who better to help her than Liz’s new #1 enemy, Veronica? Veronica changes a bunch of answers on Elizabeth’s math homework so her grade will be lower than Veronica’s. She wants to read Liz’s diary, too, but Jessica doesn’t want to go that far. Instead, Veronica steals something from Elizabeth’s room, though Jess doesn’t see what it is. The next day, Elizabeth is shocked to learn that she failed her math homework. Veronica changed a lot more answers than Jessica expected, and Jess isn’t happy.

Also not happy: Amy, who’s trying a new look to attract Ken. The Unicorns give her a makeover, styling and dressing her like a hippie. Ken thinks she’s sticking it to Valentine’s Day (which is coming up) by acting like it’s Halloween instead. He still wants to go to Ellen’s Valentine’s Day party with her, though. Jess will be going with Bruce, and Liz is going with Aaron. But the twins have realized they want to get each other back together with their original boyfriends, and they’ve separately decided that the party is the place to do it. Neither twin realizes it, but they’ve both decided to pull a classic twin switch.

Liz also wants to make up with Todd, and thinks wearing her locket is a good way to indicate that, but she can’t find it. Then Veronica shows up to the party wearing one just like it. Amy sees her first and thinks this means Todd is moving on from Elizabeth. Jessica, meanwhile, is at the end of her rope with Bruce. He can’t believe she didn’t notice that he parted his hair on the left instead of the right! Bruce in this scene reminds me of Joey from 10 Things I Hate About You. Through all this, Amy and Ken are fighting because he thinks Valentine’s Day is dumb, and she doesn’t want to admit that she likes all the heart-shaped stuff at the party.

The twins quickly get to work on their switch, though they still have no idea that they’re both up to the same plot. “Jessica” makes up with Aaron pretty easily, but “Elizabeth” takes longer with Todd. He gets really awkward and clumsy when he sees “Elizabeth,” making Jessica think that he still likes her. Also, the only thing she can think of to talk to him about is books.

Amy tells “Elizabeth” that Todd gave Veronica a locket just like Liz’s, and Jessica realizes that it’s really Liz’s locket – that’s what Veronica stole from her room. “Elizabeth” calls Veronica out, and they end up in a little shoving match. Once it’s over, the twins switch back and make up with their boyfriends. (Also, they catch Amy and Ken making out.) Veronica, however, is angry (even though she ends up with Bruce), and she tells Jessica she’s going to get revenge. Hell hath no fury like a 12-year-old girl scorned.

Thoughts: Veronica: “At my old school, I was one of the in crowd. We were really wild. We didn’t just have geeky school dances – we had real kissing parties.” Wow. Wild.

The local drugstore has a soda fountain. What year is this?

“[The Unicorns are] all obsessed with this romance stuff. It’s like they’re always trying to get guys to say mushy things. That’s why I like hanging out with you, Amy. You never do stuff like that. It’s almost like being with another guy.” KEN. STOP TALKING.

“You still love to read. I love to read. We both love to read. That’s why we have so much in common.” You stop talking, too, Jessica.

October 1, 2016

The X-Files 3.22, Quagmire: Here Be Aquatic Dinosaurs

Posted in TV tagged at 1:19 pm by Jenn

Why did they make him look angry? That's speciesist profiling!

Why did they make him look angry? That’s speciesist profiling!

Summary: A researcher in Striker’s Cove at Heuvelmans Lake in Georgia chats with someone about the frogs he’s been working with. Dr. Farraday is afraid the frogs will be extinct in a few years if the government doesn’t do something. The man he’s talking to, Dr. Bailey, tells him that they can’t put every threatened animal on the endangered-species list. Farraday tells Bailey they’re facing a “frog holocaust,” and they shouldn’t turn their backs on nature – nature will eventually turn its back on us.

Bailey ignores him and goes to his truck to leave. He realizes he’s dropped something and goes back to the cove to look for it. It doesn’t look like nature’s happy to see him. Everything suddenly goes quiet, which at least makes it easier for Bailey to find his dropped pager. It also makes it creepier when something attacks him and pulls him into the lake. He gets no sympathy from one of the frogs Farraday’s trying to protect.

“What’s older than the hills?” a sign asks as Mulder and Scully arrive in Rigdon, Georgia. Scully wants Mulder to pull over, since “nature’s calling” for Queequeg. Mulder isn’t happy that she brought him along, but since he made her get ready in five minutes and she couldn’t find a dogsitter, she didn’t have a choice. Scully doesn’t know why they took this case anyway. Mulder tells her that Bailey worked for the U.S. Forestry Service, so his disappearance is a federal case. A Boy Scout troop leader also recently vanished, which means they could be dealing with a serial killer.

They pass another sign, this one asking, “What’s bigger than the sky?” Scully thinks Mulder has another motive for taking the case, and she’s right. A third sign invites them to visit Heuvelmans Lake and look for Big Blue, the Southern Serpent. In other words, Mulder wants to spend his Saturday in middle-of-nowhere Georgia, looking for a poor man’s Loch Ness Monster.

The agents interview Farraday in his lab, since he was the last person to see Bailey alive. Farraday quickly guesses that they suspect him of being responsible for Bailey’s disappearance, but he tells them he wouldn’t kill someone just for dismissing years of his research. Mulder asks if there’s any creature in the area that might attack someone. Bailey says another human could do it, of course.

Mulder asks straight out if Farraday has any evidence of the existence of Big Blue. Farraday mocks people who turn to the supernatural instead of using reason and logic. Mulder argues that plenty of lakes have strange creatures living in them. Bailey disagrees, saying the people who look for them are pursuing fairy tales.

The agents (and Queequeg) next head to a bait and tackle shop decorated with a huge inflatable Big Blue on its roof. Scully admits that she was interested in these kind of mythical creatures when she was a kid, but now she’s a grownup with grownup sensibilities. Mulder argues that some cryptozoologists think we’re dealing with an “evolutionary throwback” – an aquatic dinosaur, if you will. Scully agrees with Bailey that they’re just fairy tales created because people fear the unknown (even if the unknown eats government officials and Boy Scout leaders).

Inside the shop, which sells Big Blue souvenirs, Mulder points out what’s supposedly one of Big Blue’s scales on display. Scully thinks it’s more likely an insect casing. Mulder asks a clerk, Ted, for directions to the cabins where they’re staying and receives a map. Ted tells them that when he was ten, he heard wailing while he was fishing at the lake. His father said the wailing came from a cow attacked by Big Blue. Scully: “Cool story, bro.”

A photographer named Ansel (get it?) comes in to develop film, and Ted tells the agents that the cow in question belonged to Ansel’s father. Ansel thinks the agents are wasting their time looking into the disappearances – obviously Big Blue is responsible. He’s determined to snap a picture of the monster some day.

Back at the lake, a guy thinks he’s gotten a bite on his fishing line, but really, his hook has snagged on someone’s body. He runs to the shop to get help, and the agents go to the lake to pull out the body, which is really only someone’s bottom half. Mulder thinks it’s the Boy Scout leader, I guess since his fly is down and the leader disappeared while peeing. Scully notes that a lot of people drown after falling in the water while peeing off of boats. Fish must have just eaten the top half of the body. Mulder asks if they just saved the bottom half for later.

That night, Ted goes to the cove and stomps around in shows shaped like giant claws. Something watches him from the water and runs at him when he gets stuck in the mud. ‘Bye-‘bye, Ted. In the morning, Mulder and Ansel find the clerk’s hat and think the tracks he left indicate that he was taken by Big Blue.

Scully brings Queequeg out to the scene, and she and Mulder talk to the sheriff about closing the lake while they investigate. The sheriff thinks they’re just dealing with the same annual deaths the town always experiences. Besides, he doesn’t have enough deputies to close the lake. Queequeg runs off, leading the agents to one of Ted’s monster boots. There’s blood on it, so even if Ted was just pulling a hoax, they still don’t know exactly what happened.

The stoners from “War of the Coprophages” are now in Georgia, trying to get high by licking Farraday’s frogs. They’ve befriended a snorkeler who quickly becomes Big Blue’s next victim. When Mulder and Scully are called to the scene, Scully guesses that the snorkeler lost his head thanks to a motor-boat propeller. The sheriff thinks that makes sense. Mulder does not. Scully continues that Ted probably hurt himself while pulling his hoax, got embarrassed, and doesn’t want to show himself.

Ansel stakes out the lake, baiting a buoy with some meat in hopes of luring Big Blue into photographing territory. Something tugs on the bottom of the buoy, then heads toward the shore. Ansel is able to snap a few photos before he’s attacked. The agents have another crime scene to check out, and Mulder thinks that with three disappearances and/or murders in three days, they really need to close the lake.

The sheriff says again that he doesn’t have the manpower. Plus, who says a lake monster is to blame? Scully thinks they need to find Ansel’s body before they make any decisions. The sheriff slips into the water while trying to drag the lake, and reports that something brushed against him. Now he’s ready to authorize closing the lake.

The agents check out Ansel’s photos at their hotel, but what Mulder wants to believe is a shot of Big Blue’s tooth is really just something white and blurry. Scully takes Queequeg for a walk, and again the dog senses something in the woods. Scully chases him but is unable to see what makes the dog start squealing. When Scully retracts the leash, only his collar remains. Poor Queequeg.

Scully returns to the hotel in shock, not in the right mind to hear Mulder’s theories about how Big Blue sightings over the years have moved closer to the shore. They charter a boat (apparently Scully can drive one – who knew?) and go on a monster hunt. Scully mentions that cartographers used to mark dangerous territories with “here be monsters.” Mulder quips that his map of New York says the same thing.

Something shows up on the boat’s radar – something coming straight at them. The something is strong enough to damage the boat, which begins taking on water. The agents mayday for help, then abandon ship, though they’re conveniently right next to a big rock. Mulder suggests swimming to shore, but they’re not longer sure where the shore is. Also, it’s really dark.

Here be the show’s famous Conversation on the Rock. Scully says that when you live in the city, you forget that nature is always out to get you. Her father also taught her to respect nature because it doesn’t respect people. They see a disturbance in the water and Mulder even pulls his gun, ready to shoot Big Blue if necessary. Scully doesn’t care what’s in the water, aquatic dinosaur or not – why does Mulder care?

Mulder says he wants to find it, and Scully should, too, since she’s a scientist. They could make a discovery that revolutionizes biology. Scully admits that when she looked at Ansel’s pictures, she saw Mulder’s future. He’s going to wind up a man obsessed with finding the truth. Mulder says that Ansel actually wanted to copyright his photos and live off his profits. Scully thinks that’s a better reason for a monster hunt than Mulder’s unclear motives.

There’s another sound in the water, but it’s just a duck. As time passes, Mulder asks if Scully could ever cannibalize someone. Scully uses a lot of words to say yes, and Mulder asks if she’s lost weight recently. They talk about the lengths animals will go to in order to survive. Mulder thinks Big Blue keeps coming to shore because he has to – that’s where his food is.

Scully explains the origin of Queequeg’s name (Moby Dick), as well as her and her father’s nicknames for each other, Ahab and Starbuck. She realizes that Mulder’s a lot like Ahab, so obsessed with a “personal vengeance against life” that everything can be twisted to fit the way he wants it to. “Scully, are you coming on to me?” Mulder teases. Scully says it doesn’t matter if you’re obsessed with the truth or a white whale – it’s impossible to obtain them, and you’ll only die trying.

Mulder says he’s always wanted a peg leg, because even if you’re disabled, you have enough to keep living – “it’s heroic just to survive.” Without crutches like that, you’re expected to make something of your life. Mulder might be happier with a peg leg, and not feel the need to chase monsters. Scully thinks he’s being flippant. He tells her what’s flippant is his favorite line from Moby Dick: “Hell is an idea first born on an undigested apple dumpling.”

Yet again, there’s a sound in the water, but this time it’s Farraday. He lets the agents know that they’re close enough to the shore that they could have walked. The agents are a little embarrassed that they feared for their lives when they could have rescued themselves. Farraday’s out at the lake to study his frogs, which used to thrive in the area but are now harder and harder to find. Now he breeds them in captivity and releases them at the lake.

Mulder realizes that the frogs are affecting the ecosystem. Big Blue probably used to eat the frogs, but as they’ve started dying out, he has to come to the shore for people. Farraday says he’s twisting scientific research. Plus, Farraday’s been here for three years, doing his research by the water, and has never seen anything. Mulder argues that the Loch Ness Monster supposedly lives in cliffs, not the actual lake, so maybe Big Blue doesn’t live in the water either.

Farraday leaves, unimpressed, and Scully asks Mulder (calling him Captain) what’s next. The sheriff joins them and announces that there’s been another death. Mulder tells him to call off the search of the water and check out the cove instead. The sheriff thinks that’s a horrible idea, but Scully negotiates to get a few officers to help search the cove.

The agents hear something in the woods and realize something’s happened to Farraday. He was attacked by something he didn’t see, but it didn’t kill him. Mulder heads off to look for the attacker, and though he doesn’t find Big Blue, he does find (and kill) an alligator. When he rejoins Scully, she notes that he killed his white whale. Mulder notes that he still doesn’t have a peg leg.

She wonders why he’s disappointed when he killed a dangerous animal that could have attacked a bunch more people. Mulder admits that he wanted Big Blue to be real; he sees hope in that kind of possibility. Scully says that there’s still hope – after all, stories about these creatures have been around for centuries: “People want to believe.” Mulder gives the lake one last look, then leaves just before something briefly surfaces in the water.

Thoughts: Who named it Big Blue? Why such an uncreative name? At least the Loch Ness Monster gets the nickname Nessie.

Licking Farraday’s Frogs is the name of my new emo band. Our first single is called “Conversation on the Rock.” Come see us at Skyland Mountain!

I like to think that Big Blue didn’t kill Queequeg – he just wanted a dog but didn’t have money for the adoption fees. Queequeg lived out the rest of his days in peace on a farm with a bunch of other dogs by the shore, chasing frogs.

September 27, 2016

SVT #65, Patty’s Last Dance: Not Here to Make Friends

Posted in books tagged at 5:01 pm by Jenn

Girl in the multicolored tights: WOW

Girl in the multicolored tights: WOW

Summary: Even though Patty’s not friends with the twins, this book is all about her. Actually, Patty’s not really friends with anyone. She’s too focused on someday becoming a ballerina to do things like socialize. After all, you can’t make friends with girls who might beat you for roles. Patty doesn’t even bother being friends with Kerry Glenn (who’s previously been mentioned as a ballet classmate/friend of Jessica’s), a super-nice girl. Patty’s lack of friends only strikes her as sad when she wins the lead in a performance of Swan Lake and has no one to celebrate with.

Patty’s dance teacher, Madame Baril, notices that something’s off with her posture and advises her to get it checked out. Instead of worrying that there’s something wrong with her, Patty gets nervous about Madame Baril scrutinizing her. At home, she asks her sister Jana if something’s different about her, but Jana just thinks she’s taller and that’s changed her posture. Now Patty’s worried that she’ll end up too tall to be a ballerina. This girl has a lot of worries.

Madame Baril disagrees that growth is Patty’s problem – she needs to see a doctor and make sure everything’s okay. Patty thinks this is overkill and just tells her teacher she saw a doctor and everything’s fine. Madame Baril scares her by telling her about a girl she once taught who danced on an injured ankle and hurt herself so badly that she couldn’t dance professionally. Patty immediately gets a doctor’s appointment and is soon given a diagnosis: scoliosis. She’ll probably need to wear a back brace, which could be a serious obstacle in her dream of becoming a professional dancer.

Patty looks up scoliosis in the school library (aw, pre-Internet research methods, how cute) and freaks out. The brace looks like a torture device, and she refuses to think about having to wear one. Because she’s so preoccupied with her health, Patty struggles in her dance classes, leading Madame Baril to decide to give her role to Kerry. But Kerry thinks she can help Patty polish up her moves and keep the role.

Patty learns that she will, indeed, need to wear a brace for a couple of years. She’ll be able to take it off for hour-long dance classes a few times a week, but that won’t be enough to get her on the road to being a professional ballerina. Patty decides that Swan Lake will be her swan song (I’m so mad the book doesn’t say this. Come on! What a perfect opportunity!), so she works hard with Kerry to make it a great farewell performance.

The girls start spending more and more time together, and suddenly Patty has a friend. When Patty trips during a move and worries about her skills, she confides in Kerry that this will be her last performance. Kerry advises her to get the brace on as quickly as possible (after Swan Lake, of course) because the sooner she starts wearing it, the sooner she’ll get better and be able to stop wearing it.

The girls go to Casey’s together and meet up with some of the Unicorns. Patty ends up telling them she has scoliosis, and the girls are sympathetic. Patty realizes that, hey, maybe having friends is…good? She even agrees to participate in the B-plot. Kerry goes with Patty to get her brace fitted, and encourages her to chat with another girl in the waiting room who has a brace. The girl promises that wearing a brace isn’t as bad as it seems, and she understands where Patty’s coming from since she’s a gymnast. But she’s started swimming for exercise and now she really loves it, so maybe Patty will find something else she likes along with ballet.

Of course, Patty gives a terrific performance in Swan Lake. Madame Baril invites her to be an assistant teacher while she’s not able to dance as much over the next couple of years. So Patty has a new role and new friends to hang out with. If only she had a personality.

The B-plot also has to do with dancing. There’s a new show everyone loves, You’ll Never Believe This, which features kids breaking silly records. The show is coming to Sweet Valley, so Jessica, always the Lucy Ricardo, resolves to get on it. The Unicorns come up with the idea of having a dance marathon. They’ll have to dance for 12 hours to break the record. Suddenly people aren’t quite so excited about participating. But Jessica’s determined to get on TV, and she’s not going to let her lazy schoolmates ruin her chance.

Jessica figures that if she can reach out to the show’s host, Hollywood Jones (call me crazy but I don’t think that’s his real name), and convince him to feature SVMS, kids will want to come to the marathon. She lies and says 100 people have signed up to participate, even though it’s really less than ten. Then she learns that Big Mesa is having a 146-person three-legged race in a bid to be featured on the show. Jessica has even more motivation now to get on TV. She manages to put in a call to Hollywood’s assistant, and when he learns that they have 200 people signed up for the marathon, he promises that Hollywood will be there with cameras.

Now the Unicorns have to sign up a bunch of people to make Jessica’s lie a reality. They manage to sign up 124 people, which is pretty impressive, but, you know, not 200. The day of the marathon, not everyone shows up, and a few people have to drop out. Hollywood is less than impressed with the “200 people” at the event. Jessica doesn’t really care, since Hollywood’s a phony and she gets to be on TV anyway. She makes sure they have a flashy ending, with everyone doing the conga to a Johnny Buck song and having a great time. She even gets Hollywood dancing. SVMS is featured on the show, and everyone ends up happy.

Thoughts: Kerry’s awesome. Instead of the Unicorns, there should be a Cool Girls Club with Kerry, Mandy, Melissa, Maria, and Mary.

Lila’s neighbors have six tennis courts. When would having that many courts EVER be necessary?

There’s no other way to think of Hollywood Jones than as Ryan Seacrest.

Once again, Jessica lies and suffers no punishment. No wonder she becomes so horrible in high school – she spent her childhood getting away with whatever she wanted.

September 24, 2016

The X-Files 3.21, Avatar: More Like Suck-ubus, Right?

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

In a shocking plot twist, Grandma was Little Red Riding Hood all along!

In a shocking plot twist, Grandma was Little Red Riding Hood all along!

Summary: It’s March 7th, 1996, in D.C., and Skinner’s about to sign some paperwork. (We’re not supposed to realize he’s signing his divorce papers, but it’s kind of obvious.) He can’t bring himself to do it, telling his lawyer he’ll sign tomorrow. He goes to the lounge at the Ambassador Hotel, where a woman joins him at the bar, trying to avoid a conversation with another man. They end up having sex, and let me tell you, if there’s anything I never wanted to see Skinner do, it’s that. He sees his new bed buddy as an old woman, for some reason. When he wakes up, she’s dead.

The police are called, and Mulder gets the lead detective, Waltos, to let him talk to Skinner. Apparently Skinner’s having trouble remembering everything that happened. Scully calls (“Mulder, it’s me”), having heard that Skinner called in a homicide. Mulder tells her that he seems to have been there at the time of the murder. Skinner tells him not to get involved, which, of course, Mulder won’t listen to. Waltos tells him that Skinner only remembers taking the woman to bed, but since he won’t take a polygraph, it’s a little suspicious.

The victim has no ID, and Mulder’s eager to find out who she is. Waltos tells him the police are doing their job. Mulder asks Scully to meet him at the coroner’s office so they can check out the woman’s body. Scully agrees with the county coroner that the woman’s neck was broken without a struggle, and most likely in a “manual trauma.” She also may have had a mild allergic reaction to latex, so now Mulder and Scully get to think about their boss using a condom.

Mulder tells Scully that the victim was named Carina; she was a legal secretary who was recently fired for moonlighting for one of her firm’s clients. Specifically, she was working as a prostitute. As Scully turns off the light to leave, she notices a glowing substance around Carina’s nose and mouth. The agents head to Georgetown to chat with Lorraine Kelleher, the very successful madam Carina worked for. Lorraine’s surprised to hear that her upcoming meeting with Carina won’t be going forward. She first declines to reveal who Carina was hired by the previous night, saying that she works for the government just like the agents do, but she confirms that Skinner hired Carina.

Mulder’s mad that his boss was so indiscreet, but he knows there isn’t enough evidence to prove he’s a murderer. After all, someone could have stolen his credit card. Scully’s like, “To pay for the prostitute who died in his bed?” That happens all the time! It’s just a coincidence, Scully! She points out that they don’t know anything about Skinner’s personal life. He could be murdering hookers all over the country, for all they know! Mulder reminds her that Skinner has put his career on the line for them multiple times, so they owe it to him to try to help.

Skinner’s released, so Mulder and Scully meet him at the police station to ask him what happened the night before. Skinner tells them they’ll have to investigate without his help. He clearly didn’t know Carina was a prostitute when they hooked up, so that’s something. He sees an old woman in a red jacket nearby, and nearly gets hit by cars when he tries to run across the street to her. She mouths something at him, then seems to disappear. Skinner finally makes it across the street to someone in a red jacket, but she’s younger. She also knows him – she’s his wife, Sharon.

The agents go inside the police station with Sharon, who confides that she and Skinner have been separated for eight months. She doesn’t like that he’s built a wall around himself to keep people out. They felt more like roommates than spouses, and she didn’t want to live like that anymore. Sharon tells Mulder that Skinner’s talked about him and clearly respects him. She thinks Mulder can tell her if Skinner’s a murderer. He says no, but if you have to ask someone if your husband of 17 years killed someone, that probably won’t ease your fears.

The agents go to Skinner’s office, where an agent named Bonnecaze has taken over. There’s a hearing the next day to determine if Skinner should keep his job as assistant director. Bonnecaze tells the agents to stop investigating, and to present any evidence they’ve already found at the hearing. Mulder tries to tell Skinner as Scully says he’s acting like he’s guilty. If he’s unstable enough to hire a prostitute, “what else is he capable of?” Mulder wants to give their boss the benefit of the doubt. Plus, Skinner didn’t seem to know that Carina was a prostitute. Scully thinks he just doesn’t remember.

Scully shows Mulder a video of a man having a form of night terrors called REM sleep behavior disorder. People commit acts of violence while dreaming. Scully reveals that Skinner’s been receiving treatment at a sleep-disorder facility for the same disorder for months. He has a recurring dream about an old woman who talks to him (though he can’t understand her) and sometimes straddles his chest. Scully thinks Skinner may have accidentally killed Carina in his sleep, thinking she was the old woman.

Mulder tells Scully that in the Middle Ages, people reported the same behavior, attributing it to a succubus. If the succubus became too attached to the man with the behavior, she would kill any woman she thought was a romantic rival. Sometimes a luminous substance was left behind. Hmmm, just like the glowing substance Scully saw on Carina! She takes Mulder to see Carina’s body, but the substance is gone. Fortunately, Scully got a sample. Unfortunately, the lab claims there was nothing analyzable in the sample container. Mulder wonders if Skinner suspects himself as the killer and is running because he’s not sure.

Sharon visits her husband to check on him and have a lovely conversation about how their marriage has collapsed. She wants Skinner to let her help him, or at least comfort him. He declines, so she leaves. He finds their wedding picture (he had hair!) and falls asleep holding it. He wakes up after dark, hearing screams, and sees the old woman in the red jacket. Moments later, Waltos comes to his door to tell him that Sharon was in a car accident – someone ran her off the road. And not that there’s any connection or accusation, but Waltos would like to see Skinner’s car keys.

Mulder meets up with Skinner at the police station while Sharon undergoes brain surgery. Skinner isn’t being charged (yet), but Mulder knows the police are building a case against him. Skinner wants to know if Scully thinks he’s innocent. Mulder admits that she wants to know why he’s not doing more to defend himself. Skinner replies that he can’t do that when he doesn’t know what’s happening. Mulder asks about the old woman, and what the police might discover in their investigation.

Skinner says that he started seeing the woman “again” a few months ago. He first saw her in Vietnam, but since he was using drugs, he thought she was just a hallucination. Skinner thinks the woman was watching him when he killed people, and she kept him from being killed. Mulder wonders if she’s trying to protect him. However, only Skinner can figure out what he needs protection from. If I were him, I’d start with CSM, who’s watching the conversation through a window.

Mulder and Scully go to see Skinner’s impounded car, which sure looks like it hit another car. Skinner’s prints were the only ones found on the steering wheel. With half an hour to go before Skinner’s hearing, Mulder cuts off the airbag and takes it to Pendrell (yay, Pendrell!), who’s able to find an impression of the face of whoever was driving the car when it crashed. From the impression, he should be able to create a replication of the driver’s face.

Scully goes to the hearing and testifies that there’s no conclusive evidence that Skinner killed Carina. She puts forth Mulder’s theory about a “visitation,” though she won’t say whether she believes this. The man running the hearing asks if Skinner might sometimes bend the rules a little for Mulder. Has Scully’s loyalty to Skinner led her to conceal anything? Scully says no, but the people in charge are done listening to her.

Mulder and Scully meet up, and she announces that Skinner’s been announced. Mulder thinks he’s being set up – the impression from the air bag shows a face that isn’t Skinner’s. Scully wonders why the people behind this setup don’t just kill Skinner. Mulder thinks they can use the driver (who must have hired the prostitute, as Scully says in a voiceover that was obviously added in later for clarification) to find the people behind the conspiracy.

The agents return to Lorraine’s apartment, but she’s dead, apparently having jumped from the roof. They spot Judy, one of Lorraine’s other prostitutes, and take her to a diner to ask her questions. She recognizes the driver’s face and confirms that he hired Carina. The agents convince Judy to arrange a meeting with the driver at the Ambassador Hotel, pretending she wants money to leave town before the FBI asks too many questions.

Skinner visits an unconscious Sharon and tells her he’s not signing the divorce papers. He kept himself closed off from her for years because he didn’t want to tell her about all the horrible things he’s seen, or about the things he couldn’t explain. He wishes he’d told her before that the thought of ending each day with her got him through his work. As Skinner’s kissing her goodbye, an alarm on one of Sharon’s monitors goes off. He leaves to call a doctor, but when he looks back, the old woman is in Sharon’s bed, beckoning him. When he goes back in, she’s Sharon again, and she has something to tell him.

Mulder and Waltos stake out the lounge at the Ambassador Hotel while Scully and Judy wait in a room. Scully hears a noise and tells the men to come upstairs. The driver has somehow gotten into the room, where he knocks out Scully and aims his gun at Judy. Mulder and Waltos hear gunshots as they race toward the room. When they arrive, the driver’s dead and Judy’s okay, thanks to Skinner.

Skinner quickly gets his job back, but not everything gets wrapped up. The driver still hasn’t been ID’d, and Skinner figures they’ll never get answers. Mulder wonders how he knew something was going to happen at the hotel. Skinner says whatever happened can’t go in an official report. Mulder asks for the info off the record, but Skinner won’t give it even then. After the agents leave, Skinner puts his wedding ring back on and gets back to work.

Thoughts: This episode was co-written by David Duchovny.

Waltos is played by Tom Mason (Joe on Party of Five). Carina is played by Amanda Tapping, who’s done all sorts of sci-fi/fantasy TV shows.

Sharon seems pretty together for someone who’s ending a miserable marriage with a possible murderer.

This episode makes no sense. Obviously they just wanted to give Skinner something to do. Thanks for trying, guys!

September 20, 2016

SVT Magna Edition #1, The Magic Christmas: “Game of Thrones” for Preteens

Posted in books tagged , at 4:57 pm by Jenn

I guess this is cute

I guess this is cute

Summary: It’s almost Christmas, and Elizabeth is excited about her present for Jessica. She found a picture of the two of them at their seventh birthday party and has written a story about that day. I don’t know why she thinks Jessica would like this more than, say, a sweater, but okay. Jessica has also gotten her twin a great present – tickets to a big concert in L.A. on New Year’s Day. Considering this is Jessica, who doesn’t usually plan ahead, this is pretty big. But Jess thinks Liz’s present is dumb, and Liz is mad that Jess didn’t remember she’s been planning a big brunch for the Sixers staff on New Year’s Day. They have a huge fight about selfishness.

Alice’s parents come for a visit and give the twins family heirlooms, two harlequin dolls that belonged to Samantha and Amanda. The dolls have medallions that are somehow big enough to contain poems. Elizabeth’s:

Together apart,
Wheels on a cart.
Unite all these things:
Eyes, feet, and wings,
Scissors and socks,
Hands found on clocks.
Dolls harlequin.


Together apart,
Joined from the start.
Answer this well,
Escape the dread spell.
Answer again,
And magic’s your friend.
Add a good rhyme,
Escape one last time.

The twins don’t really care about the dolls, since they’re too old for them, and they’re more caught up in their fight than anything else. But that night, they wake up at the same time and realize that Elizabeth’s poem is about things that are usually found in pairs. When they say this out loud, the dolls suddenly come to life, then disappear. There’s some sort of gold haze that makes the twins disappear as well.

Elizabeth and her doll end up in a meadow, where she learns that the doll is really a preteen boy named Prince Adair. He’s from the Hidden Kingdom and was turned into a doll by Medwin, a wizard who wanted to take his throne. Elsewhere in the Hidden Kingdom, Jessica learns the same from her doll, Adair’s brother Dorin. Medwin put a spell on the princes that could only be broken by two people solving the riddle at the same time but in different places. The princes have been dolls for a hundred years. Wow, that sucks.

To get back to Sweet Valley, the twins have to go through a Labyrinth (no David Bowie in this one, sadly), but that means going to the palace, where they’ll inevitably run into Medwin. The princes don’t want Medwin to know they’re back, which means they can’t use magic, because doing so would immediately alert Medwin to their return. Wait, what, magic? Yes, magic. Everyone in the Hidden Kingdom can do it, including the twins, even though they’re just visiting. All they have to do is imagine what they want – clothes, food, weapons, whatever.

As the story gets more Princess Bride-y, Elizabeth and Adair are cornered by bloodrats (think ROUSes) while Jessica and Dorin are chased by a Serpasaur (it’s described as looking like a dragon, but I can’t help thinking of the shrieking eels). Elizabeth and Adair head up a mountain to some snow, since ROUSes hate snow. Elizabeth realizes that she can conjure a weapon, but all she can come up with is a cardboard sword from an elementary-school play. Thanks for trying, Liz. Then she conjures a match, which allows Adair to make a torch and burn a bloodrat. The bloodrat’s shrieks cause an avalanche and kill most of the other bloodrats.

Meanwhile, a mermanon (whatever, it’s a mermaid) rescues Jessica from the Serpasaur. She and Dorin are sent underwater in giant bubble fish to meet with Merelantha, the mermanon queen of Zerasharb. Now we’re getting into Game of Thrones territory, with all these weird names. Merelantha doesn’t like Dorin much, so she has him and Jessica held captive so she can hand them over to Medwin. Dorin calls her bluff, knowing that Merelantha hates Medwin because he killed her sister. He’s right, and Merelantha offers to let him and Jessica spend the night in Zerasharb before they head to the palace to take out Medwin. What was the point of that?

Elizabeth and Adair are stuck in a cave for the night, but the accommodations aren’t too bad. In the morning, Elizabeth uses her newfound magical abilities to accidentally conjure up breakfast. Now that’s a superpower no one ever thinks about. Adair gives her a history lesson – he and Dorin inherited the Hidden Kingdom from their father and planned to rule together. Dorin would do the administrative stuff that kept the kingdom running, while Adair would do the fun stuff like planning parties. In case you haven’t guessed, Dorin is like Elizabeth and Adair is like Jessica.

Underwater, Jessica and Dorin learn that Medwin is throwing a ball, and with all the activity going on around the palace, they should be able to sneak in undetected. Things are tense in the Hidden Kingdom since Medwin is going to attack everyone any day now and kill a bunch of people. Blah, blah, winter is coming. Merelantha has someone give Jessica an emerald key, warning her not to tell Dorin about it. Jess and Dorin start heading for the palace, taking a ride on some unicorns. Dorin’s like, “You don’t have unicorns where you’re from?” Jessica’s like, “Yes, but they’re just annoying girls who like to wear purple.”

Elizabeth and Adair continue their trek up the mountain, where Adair hopes they can chat with Toramon, the wise man who lives at the top. He remembers a nursery rhyme from his childhood about how Toramon, Merelantha, and Medwin (pre-evilness) are the three wisest people in the land. Elizabeth hopes Toramon hasn’t gone bad like Medwin. Luckily, he hasn’t, but he’s a little nuts, and it’s hard to get a straight answer out of him. But the good news is that he can see everything in the kingdom and even events in the future (Three-Eyed Raven, anyone?), so he knows Jessica’s hanging out with Dorin.

Toramon gives Elizabeth a brief glimpse of the kingdom, which lets her know that there’s a ball that night. Adair realizes what Dorin did about being able to sneak into the palace while everyone’s running around, getting ready for the festivities. Before he and Liz leave, Toramon gives Liz a ruby key, telling her to keep it secret from Adair. Then Elizabeth and Adair try to speed up their journey by riding huge leaves like hang-gliders, though Liz almost gets killed in a freak tornado. The two sets of twins spot each other from sky and ground but are too far away to recognize each other.

Jessica and Dorin make it to the palace first, and it’s not a very welcoming place. Medwin has tapped everyone’s magic to make himself more powerful, so everyone’s depressed and poor. Jessica conjures fancy clothes for herself and Dorin, and they sneak into the palace. Dorin’s plan is to get Jess in the Labyrinth so she can go home while he fights Medwin. But Elizabeth and Adair learn that the Labyrinth is locked, and only three people have keys – Medwin, Toramon, and Merelantha. Adair thinks he’ll have to kill Medwin and get his key. Elizabeth decides to keep quiet about the key Toramon gave her. The two of them dress as servants and enter the palace.

Dorin and Jessica find the Labyrinth but also learn that it’s locked. Dorin makes the same decision as Adair about getting Medwin’s key. But before anyone can make a move, Medwin recognizes Adair in the ballroom and attacks him. Adair uses magic to fend off all of Medwin’s weapons, which is pretty impressive for a guy who hasn’t used magic in a hundred years. Medwin finds a way to slow Adair down, and Adair has trouble holding on to his strength. Dorin tries to fight Medwin but doesn’t have much better luck.

Medwin, thinking he’s going to kill the princes and earn the throne for real, taunts that there’s another mystery to solve surrounding the way the spell he put on them was broken. Jessica remembers the part about the poem that said “answer again and magic’s your friend,” and realizes that the things in Elizabeth’s poem aren’t just in pairs, but are also things that work better together. Obviously, the princes need to work together to beat Medwin. Why didn’t they think of that themselves?

Wonder Twin powers, activate! The princes win the battle against Medwin, who disappears. The fight drains the princes and they’re confined to bedrest for a few days. This allows Elizabeth and Jessica to hang out and make up with each other. They tell each other about their keys to the Labyrinth but don’t want to tell the princes; they think Medwin’s in the Labyrinth and the guys will want to go after him again. The girls debate staying in the Hidden Kingdom to be with the preteen princes they’ve known for three days. But ultimately they know they have to go home.

The girls plan to leave without saying goodbye to Dorin and Adair. After one last unicorn ride, they create goodbye presents for the guys. The twins are fighting again, though, still mad about each other’s Christmas presents. Guys, you were almost killed by bloodrats and Serpasaurs and an evil wizard. Get some perspective.

Time to head to the Labyrinth! Inside is a cottage surrounded by roses that look like Alice Larson’s wooden rose. While Medwin hangs around, watching, the twins knock on different doors of the cottage to chat with the Guardian of the Labyrinth, who will give them a test before they’re allowed to enter. The Guardian takes a different form for each girl – Jessica sees Amanda and Elizabeth sees Samantha. But their test is the same, and they just have to answer one question: What’s the most important gift they’ve ever gotten?

The twins have learned the big lesson from the book about appreciating each other, or whatever, so they name each other’s Christmas presents. Unfortunately, that’s not what the Guardian was looking for. No Labyrinth for the twins, and what’s worse, Medwin wants to kill them. The girls make up, thinking they’re going to die, but Elizabeth remembers that Jessica’s poem ends with “add a good rhyme, escape one last time.” Liz’s poem ends with an unrhymed line. There has to be another answer.

Jessica’s solution for a rhyme to “dolls harlequin” is “a pair of aspirin.” Yes, Jessica. The solution to saving yourself from an evil wizard in a magical kingdom is aspirin. Fortunately, the girls’ brains kick in and they finish the poem with, “My very own twin,” meaning that they’re the best gifts each has ever gotten. This is the right answer, and they’re allowed to enter the Labyrinth. First, though, the princes find them, turn Medwin into a doll (poetic justice!), and ask the girls to stay in the Hidden Kingdom. Sorry, boys. Sweet Valley is just too awesome to leave behind.

The twins are magically transported back to Sweet Valley, where it seems no time has passed (though their parents noticed that they were missing). In the morning, Steven announces that he’s solved the riddle in the dolls’ poems. But now they’re different. (Also, the princes sent the twins back with new dolls, I guess so no one wonders what happened to the originals.) Jessica’s new poem:

A place far away
Where unicorns play,
Where a mermanon dives,
And magic survives.
Two princes the same,
Each with his own name.
Say both names together,
And return here forever.

The girls officially make up when Jessica reads (and loves) Elizabeth’s story, and Liz cancels the Sixers brunch so she can go to the concert with Jess. All’s well that ends well! Actually, all’s well that ends awesome, as Lila has received a confusing present she wants to tell the twin about: an ugly doll with a poem on its medallion. The twins know it’s Medwin, though they don’t tell Lila how they know his name. His poem:

As a doll he’s been set.
Free him now? Not just yet.
He lived none too well,
To escape a dread spell,
But all in good time,
You’ll find a true rhyme
To send him back to his kingdom.

But why send him back to the Hidden Kingdom to torture people when he can spend eternity stuffed in the back of Lila’s closet?

Thoughts: After Jessica’s told she might have to wait a year to get home: “‘A whole year?’ Jessica repeated faintly. She would miss the rest of Christmas vacation – and summer vacation too. She would miss dozens of Unicorn meetings, and hundreds of episodes of Days of Turmoil. By the time she returned, her whole wardrobe would be out of date!” Oh, Jessica. We need to discuss your priorities.

“Unicorns are creatures of goodness and light. In a way, they’re like small children.” Clearly Dorin hasn’t spent an extended period of time with small children. They’re more like creatures of destruction and screaming.

There’s a character of Days of Turmoil named Flame. I wonder if Bambi got the part.

“The Hidden Kingdom was beautiful. But it wasn’t Sweet Valley.” Yes, folks, Sweet Valley is better than the magical land where you can use magic to get anything you want.

Stop saying “impetuous,” Elizabeth. Be a 12-year-old.

It’s always bugged me that I can’t come up with a rhyme for “kingdom” to finish the last poem. I guess that’s the point, that there’s no good rhyme, but still.

September 17, 2016

The X-Files 3.20, Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space”: “This Is Not Happening”

Posted in TV tagged at 1:34 pm by Jenn

He's just upset because he doesn't have any pants. He's cold, that's all

He’s just upset because he doesn’t have any pants. He’s cold, that’s all

Summary: Look, stars! And a…spaceship? No, just the underside of a cherry-picker being used in Klass County, Washington. Two teens, Chrissy and Harold, are on their first date, and he’s already in love. Their car suddenly loses power and stops in the road. A spaceship descends and two aliens approach the teens. “What are those things?” Chrissy asks. “How the hell should I know?” Harold replies. The teens pass out and are dragged down the road just as another spaceship arrives and a monster exits, growling at the aliens. “Jack, what is that thing?” an alien asks. “How the hell should I know?” the other alien replies.

Mulder’s “I want to believe” poster gets a close-up as a man named Jose Chung tells Scully that he never gave alien life much thought before. Mulder has refused to talk with Chung, but Scully’s excited to meet him, since he wrote one of her favorite novels. Now he’s writing a book about an alien abduction. He wants to create a new literary genre: “non-fiction science fiction.” Scully hopes he writes the truth, but Chung’s having trouble putting together all the witness statements from Klass County. Now he wants Scully’s version of the truth.

Scully tells Chung that she first heard of the strangeness when Chrissy returned from…wherever, with no memory of what happened to her. Her clothes were on inside-out and backwards, and she showed signs of abuse. Chung and Scully debate whether they should use the term “experience” or “abductee.” Scully says it doesn’t matter – Chrissy was probably raped, not taken by aliens. But that night, she claimed she had a “visitation.”

In a flashback, Harold comes to Chrissy’s window to try to convince her that he did what he could. Chrissy’s father hears Harold and calls the police, who question him at his house. Harold says he and Chrissy were abducted by aliens, and he passes a lie-detector test when questioned. But the investigating detective thinks Chrissy’s telling the truth about Harold raping her. Mulder and Scully question Harold, then Chrissy, and the latter makes Mulder think there was an abduction, and that Chrissy has “post-abduction syndrome.” Scully thinks it’s just stress.

Scully tells Chung that Mulder convinced Chrissy’s parents to let her be hypnotized, but Scully doesn’t like the use of hypnosis – she thinks it actually makes things worse. People in a hypnotic state are prone to making things up. Chung researched CIA mind-control experiments for a Manchurian Candidate-like book, and is surprised that so little is understood about it. Just hearing words can transform a person’s state.

Chrissy undergoes hypnosis, seeing her parents, Mulder, Scully, and the detective turn into aliens. She describes being on a spaceship with Harold and little gray creatures. The aliens seem to be arguing, but Chrissy can only understand the leader. He tells her through ESP that this is for the good of the planet. She remembers feeling like the alien was stealing her memories. After the session, Mulder tells Scully that Chrissy has described a textbook abduction scenario. Scully thinks that’s the problem – it’s so textbook that anyone could come up with it.

Scully censors some of Detective Manners’ words as she tells Chung how upset he was with the agents. Manners disagrees with the agents that Chrissy and Harold’s stories are exactly the same. Apparently Harold’s story involves being locked in an electrified cage with a captive alien nearby. Mulder questions Harold, who says the alien smoked a cigarette and ignored him. Chrissy was then beamed up from their cage, just after Harold promised to protect her. He tells Mulder that the alien repeated the same thing over and over (in English, and not telepathically): “This is not happening.”

Harold tells Mulder that he was beamed up next, but he’s not sure where he was taken. He felt like he was a bug having its body parts torn off. When he was returned to…wherever, he checked on Chrissy. Scully gets tired of the questions and asks Harold if he and Chrissy had sex that night. He admits that they did, but he’s worried about Chrissy’s father finding out. Scully thinks they’re dealing with two teens who don’t know how to deal with the aftermath of sex, rather than two alien abductees. But Manners has found another eyewitness.

The agents meet with a guy named Roky who has spent the past 48 hours writing down everything he saw. He warns them that they’ll put their lives in danger if they read it. Last night, while he was writing, a car drove into his garage and a man told him the planet Venus is often mistaken for a flying saucer. Roky felt like he was in a trance, and he can’t remember what the man and his partner looked like, other than that they were wearing black. Mulder guesses these were the legendary Men in Black, who often visit abductees after their return.

Chung tells Scully that the Men in Black have featured in stories for centuries, so this isn’t that surprising. Scully disagrees. One of the Men in Black tells Roky that Jimmy Carter once thought he saw a UFO, but again, it was Venus. “I’m a Republican,” Roky replies. The Man in Black continues that Venus was at its peak last night, so that’s definitely, 100 percent, unequivocally what Roky saw, no matter what he believes. The other Man in Black says nothing as the first warns Roky to keep his mouth shut.

Roky turns over his work to Mulder, then announces that he’s going to disappear so he can’t be found. Mulder reads Roky’s statement to Scully in a hotel room, describing how Roky saw the aliens with the monster from the second spaceship. In flashback, the monster approaches Roky to tell him, in language usually used by angels in the Bible, not to be afraid. He wants to show Roky his spaceship. So Roky goes aboard and travels toward “innerspace,” to the Earth’s core, to meet another alien, Lord Kinbote. Mulder angrily realizes he’s reading some really bad fan fiction.

Chung agrees with Scully that Roky’s a nutbar. Mulder, however, thinks that Roky was just inspired by something he really saw. He wants to have Chrissy hypnotized again. This time, her story matches Harold’s. She remembers being taken somewhere by men in suits and Air Force uniforms. A doctor tells her she’s feeling sleepy and relaxed as the Air Force officers suggest questions to ask her. They mention looking for others. One man says they should give her the usual spiel they give abductees. The doctor tells her this is for the good of her country. Chrissy feels like he’s stealing her memories.

After the session, Scully accuses Mulder of feeding Chrissy leading questions. Manners interrupts again to announce that someone claims he found the body of an alien. Chung meets with this witness, Blaine, who says he wants to be abducted and taken someplace where he doesn’t have to find a job. He tells Chung he was out in a field that night, hoping to stumble across some aliens. The police showed up with a couple of Men in Black, though one of the Men in Black was a poorly disguised woman whose hair was too red to be believable. The other was so expressionless that he might be a mandroid.

Manners IDs the alien as an alien, and Scully orders it wrapped up. She tells Blaine that he didn’t see anything and better not say he did. Scully’s shocked that Blaine told Chung she threatened him, especially since they let him view the autopsy. In her version of events, he bursts into the autopsy room with a camcorder, declaring that people have a right to know the truth: “Roswell! Roswell!” Mulder has him record as Scully performs the alien’s autopsy.

Someone has gotten hold of the footage and edited it for what most likely turned out to be a disappointing Fox special hosted by the Stupendous Yappi. For instance, they cut out the part where Scully finds a zipper and pulls off the alien’s head. It’s a costume being worn by a dead human. Blaine realizes he’s been dealing with a dead person, and he runs off. The agents ID the man as Air Force Major Robert Vallee, who recently went AWOL. Mulder tells the Air Force that they can’t take Vallee’s body, but they can speak to his partner, Lieutenant Jack Schaefer. No, wait, they can’t, because he’s still AWOL. When the agents take the Air Force officers to see Vallee’s body, it’s gone.

Blaine gets a visit from the Men in Black, one of whom he finds familiar. He gets knocked out, only waking up when Mulder slaps him and demands the autopsy tape. Blaine claims that Mulder threatened to kill him if he lied about the tape being taken. Chung tells Blaine he was brave, which Blaine credits to all his years playing Dungeons and Dragons. Scully tells Chung that Mulder was driving back from Blaine’s house when he encountered a naked Jack Schaeffer on the road. “This is not happening,” Schaeffer insists over and over.

Mulder takes Schaeffer to a diner, where he does a Close Encounters of the Third Kind with some potatoes and tells Mulder that most people lose time after seeing a UFO. He doesn’t know much about abductions, but he’s had some experience flying a UFO. He takes the abductees to a base, where they have their minds messed with until they believe they were taken by aliens. Mulder wonders what abducted Schaeffer. Schaeffer’s sure that he, Vallee, Chrissy, and Harold were all taken, but he doesn’t know by what – and he’s not sure what’s real anymore, or if he even exists.

Air Force officers arrive to collect Schaeffer, so Mulder only has time for one more question: What was the monster everyone saw with the aliens? Schaeffer IDs it as Lord Kinbote. Chung tells Scully that he ate at that same diner when he was in Klass County, and the cook told him about the night Mulder and Schaeffer were there. Mulder identified himself as an FBI agent, ordered sweet potato pie, and asked the cook about UFOs and abductions. He ate a whole pie, asking one question with each piece, and then never returned. The cook never saw Schaeffer or other Air Force officers there.

Scully tells Chung that Mulder then came to her hotel room, where the Men in Black were waiting for him. The one who talks warns him to keep quiet. The other, who looks like Alex Trebek, tells him he’s feeling sleepy and relaxed. Scully admits that she was there but doesn’t remember the encounter. She woke up the next morning to find Mulder asleep on her couch, though she didn’t remember letting him in.

Manners calls the agents to tell them the UFO has been found. But, of course, it’s being called a “top-secret experimental plane” the military didn’t want anyone to know about. The pilot’s dead, and Mulder recognizes him as Schaeffer. Manners recognizes the other dead man as Vallee. Scully knows that Chung isn’t thrilled with the ending of her story, but at least this case has more closure than a lot of the X-files.

Mulder visits Chung to ask him not to write his book. He’ll just make a misunderstood phenomenon seem even more ridiculous. Also, Chung’s publisher is owned by a company that may be part of the military industrial complex. Chung just wants to know what really happened to Chrissy and Harold. “How the hell should I know?” Mulder replies.

Chung asks him to leave so he can finish writing and take over the episode-ending voiceover. He says that people like Blaine will continue to struggle to be content on Earth, since they haven’t yet been abducted. At least Blaine has a job and gets to ride in a cherry-picker. Roky has basically become L. Ron Hubbard.

Scully reads Chung’s book, From Outer Space, where she’s called Diana Lesky and has to suffer a 9-to-5 job while she searches for aliens. Reiner Muldrake, her partner, probably struggles to get any pleasure out of life. Maybe footage of Bigfoot will help. Chrissy is now focused on bettering herself, while Harold is still focused on her. Chrissy wonders if love is all men think about. Chung thinks that people who find meaning and happiness in others are lucky, since really, we’re all alone. Cheery!

Thoughts: Chung is played by Charles Nelson Reilly, who the cast and crew gushed over and considered their favorite guest star. The Men in Black are played by Jesse Ventura and, yes, Alex Trebek.

Detective Manners is named for Kim Manners, a longtime X-Files director. The show also paid tribute to him in season 10, putting his headstone in Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.

This episode was so difficult to recap. Just know that everything that happens outside of Scully and Chung’s conversation (and then Mulder and Chung’s) is a flashback.

If you watch nothing else from this episode, you have to watch Blaine’s version of Mulder’s reaction to finding the dead “alien.” It’s in my top 10 X-Files moments of all time.

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