January 21, 2017

The X-Files 4.14, Memento Mori: How to Save a Life

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

I love this

I love this

Summary: Scully gives us a voiceover about “[feeling] time like a heartbeat” and sharing a burden through words. She wants the person reading her words to know that she feels comfort because she’s receiving understanding. She’s standing in a hospital gown, looking at a scan of her head, which shows a mass right between her eyes. Scully finishes her voiceover by asking forgiveness for not finishing the journey with her audience.

Mulder joins Scully at Holy Cross Memorial Hospital in D.C., where Scully has just received her medical news. She tells him she feels fine, despite the tumor in her brain. He’s the only person she’s called. The tumor is inoperable, and its size and placement make it hard to treat. Mulder refuses to believe that. Scully’s amused that, for once, she believes something he doesn’t – she’s certain that the cancer isn’t going anywhere and will most likely kill her. Mulder still won’t accept this, saying that there have to be people out there who’ve received treatment.

Scully gives the news to Skinner, asking him to keep it quiet. She plans to delay treatment until she and Mulder meet with the MUFON women in Pennsylvania, as Betsy was being treated for the same type of cancer. Scully wants to pursue this as a case rather than a personal matter. But when the agents arrive at Betsy’s house, they learn that she died a few weeks earlier. They’re just in time to see files from Betsy’s computer being downloaded by someone.

The agents trace the hack to a man named Kurt Crawford and go to his apartment. Mulder heads to the back of the building just as someone tries to sneak out. The agents capture Kurt, but the exertion of the chase gives Scully a nosebleed. She tells Mulder again that she’s fine. Kurt tells the agents he was in Betsy’s MUFON group and downloaded her files at her request. He ran because he believes his life is in danger.

Scully wants to question the other MUFON members, but Mulder says they can’t. Kurt confirms that all of the other members have died of brain cancer except one, Penny Northern. Kurt believes the women’s stories about being abducted and developing tumors as a result. Mulder thinks Scully’s in denial about her illness coming from the same circumstances. Scully notes that Penny’s still alive, so there’s nothing definitive about the situation.

Mulder suggests that Scully talk to Penny, but Scully doesn’t see the point. What would they talk about, knowing what it’s like to be dying of cancer? Mulder puts it in FBI terms, pointing out that she’s a witness they need to talk to. So Scully visits Penny in the hospital, surprised that Penny seemed to expect her. Her doctor, Scanlon, thinks he’s found the cause of the cancer, though it’s probably too late to do anything. Scully seems to grasp that it might not be too late for her.

Scully calls Mulder (“Mulder, it’s me”), who’s at Betsy’s with Kurt, looking through her files. Penny and Betsy were both treated for infertility at the same clinic. Scully asks him to come to the hospital with her overnight bag and call her mother. Whatever Mulder found isn’t important right now. “The truth is in me,” she says, and she needs to suspend the investigation and look into what’s happening to her. Mulder immediately heads off, leaving Kurt in Betsy’s apartment. Seconds later, a man enters the apartment with an icepick, and someone ends up as green acid.

Scully spends the night at the hospital, waking to meet Dr. Scanlon, who she first sees as an alien-like being. She’s bracing herself for chemo and radiation, which Scanlon says will make her “feel like dying.” Maggie arrives, and Scully repeats her new mantra, that she’s fine. Maggie’s upset that Scully didn’t tell her about her diagnosis right away. Scully says that she wanted all the answers first, and though she hasn’t found any yet, she has some clarity, as well as a possible way to fight back.

Maggie makes it clear that she doesn’t want to be left out of whatever happens. She cries as she says that Scully was always the strong one. Having lost Melissa, Maggie only has one daughter left. Scully remains stoic as her mother breaks down. She undergoes some scans, voicing over about how cancer “starts as an invader, but soon becomes one with the invaded,” turning a person’s body against itself. You can destroy it, but you risk destroying yourself in the process.

The voiceover is a letter written to Mulder in case Scully doesn’t survive. She wants him to know that he should never feel like there was something more he could have done. Though they’ve been working together, “this last distance must necessarily be traveled alone.”

Mulder, having not read the letter yet, is still determined to do something. He goes to the clinic where Betsy and Penny were treated and tries to access some files, but has to hide when he hears someone approaching. It’s Kurt, who survived the icepick assassin after all. Kurt and Mulder are looking for the same thing, so Kurt gets to work hacking the computer with the files they need. Mulder notices a snowglobe of a place called Vegreville, which turns out to be the password.

Back at the hospital, Scully has a nightmare about her head being drilled while she was abducted. Penny comforts her when she wakes up, feeling sick for the first time. Scully remembers hearing Penny’s voice in her dream. Penny says “they” let her sit with Scully during the procedures, though she’s not sure why. Scully doesn’t want to hear about this right now, but Penny thinks it’s important for her to understand what’s happening to her.

Mulder returns to D.C. and asks Skinner to get him a meeting. He has a disk containing a file from the clinic; it has Scully’s name, even though he’s pretty sure Scully’s never undergone treatment for infertility. Since the file is a directory for a mainframe at the Lombard Research Facility, Mulder doesn’t know what it’s about. That’s why he wants to meet with CSM. Skinner warns that if Mulder offers up anything, CSM will “own” him. But Mulder thinks CSM knows what happened to Scully and may know how to save her. “You can’t ask the truth of a man who trades in lies,” Skinner says, refusing the request.

Fortunately, Mulder has the Lone Gunmen to turn to. They decrypt the file, which contains a gene code from her blood post-abduction. The branching in the code can lead to mutation. The Gunmen think someone was doing research to find the cause of the mutation, though Mulder notes that someone could instead be looking for a cure. He invites the Gunmen to come to Lombard with him: “Pick out something black and sexy, and prepare to do some funky poaching.”

Skinner goes to Mulder’s office and finds CSM, who’s surprised that Mulder’s been relegated to the basement. Skinner spits that at least Mulder doesn’t have to “take an elevator up to get to work,” which I think is his way of saying that CSM is from Hell, but…try harder, Skinner. Despite Mulder and Skinner’s agreement to keep Scully’s illness confidential, CSM knows she’s sick. He notes that modern medicine can lead to miracles. Skinner would like for one, so he asks what he needs to do to save Scully. CSM will get back to him. “Which way is the elevator?” he asks pointedly as he leaves.

Mulder and Byers stake out Lombard while Frohike and Langly sneak inside and patch into the facility’s security cameras. Mulder and Byers head in next but immediately hit a roadblock with a security code. While Langly figures it out, Mulder looks at a directory of doctors and sees that Scanlon is on staff there. Langly gets the code, but Mulder sends Byers off on another mission, telling him to contact Scully and get her to stop treatment.

Scully writes to Mulder again, now feeling the effects of her treatment. Penny’s condition has worsened, and Scully dreads going down the same road. She can feel Mulder close, even though he’s not with her. She’s grateful for his work and needs to know he’s out there if she has any hopes of beating the cancer.

The security feed and comms get fuzzy, and Langly and Byers lose contact with Mulder just as Byers sees security guards arriving at the facility. Mulder makes it to a lab, where he’s greeted by a bunch of clones of Kurt. The lab is full of tanks containing more clones. Mulder thinks Kurt was using him, but the clones really want him to help them end the project that created them. Mulder recognizes a clone in a tank as the boy from the farm. Kurt confirms that the adult clones are the end result of the experiment.

Mulder thinks the clones want the developing clones to be destroyed. They say they actually want what Mulder wants. One shows him a storeroom full of ova harvested from abducted women, including Scully. The ova are then used to create clones. Unfortunately, the procedure leaves them barren and gives them cancer. The Kurt clones want to save them, since they’re technically the clones’ mothers.

When Mulder’s comms return, Langly warns that there’s a security breach. In another part of the building, Byers hides from guards. Langly gives Mulder directions to get out of the building, but the Gunmen can’t get the doors open fast enough for him to leave. A guard finds Mulder and fires at him, trying to break through bulletproof glass. The Gunmen manage to get Mulder out just as the shooter breaches the glass.

Mulder goes straight to Scully’s room, which is empty except for her journal. Byers meets up with him and assures him that he reached Scully. She’s sitting with Penny, who’s barely holding on. Scully confirms that Scanlon probably isn’t coming back. Penny tells her to keep looking for answers, and Scully promises not to give up hope. Her stoicism is beginning to falter.

Penny dies, and Scully can no longer keep her emotions hidden. Mulder tells her he read a little of what she wrote to him, but Scully now wants to throw it away. She’s decided not to let the cancer beat her. She’s going to work as long as she can. Mulder is determined to find Scanlon and figure out exactly what happened to Scully and the other women. He knows that Scully will find a way to save herself.

Scully notes that many people live with cancer, and she will, too. She has things to prove to herself and her family, and things to finish. Mulder hugs her, happy to be able to keep working with her. “The truth will save you, Scully,” he tells her. “I think it’ll save both of us.” He kisses her forehead, but only her forehead, because they cut the version where they kiss on the lips. As she goes back to her room, Mulder hides a vial of ova in his pocket.

Mulder calls Skinner to let him know that Scully’s going to keep working. He thanks Skinner for talking him out of meeting with CSM; he’ll just find another way to get the truth. “There’s always another way,” Skinner says. “Yes, I believe there is,” CSM agrees from the other side of Skinner’s desk. “If you’re willing to pay the price.”

Thoughts: Gillian Anderson won an Emmy for this episode.

Way to protect your witness who thinks his life is in danger, guys.

And way to keep your shady doctor’s identity secret, Lombard. Also, did Scully do ANY research before she started treatment with Scanlon?

I finally feel like Skinner is really part of this show. He was pretty ineffectual in the past, but in this episode, we see that he knows exactly what’s going on and is willing to go to great (possibly dangerous) lengths for his agents.

January 17, 2017

SVT #79, Jessica’s Blind Date: Print Media Really Isn’t Dead

Posted in books tagged , at 5:18 pm by Jenn

Jessica's dress is actually really cute

Jessica’s dress is actually really cute

Summary: Jessica has recently started to think that a 12-year-old boy might not make the best boyfriend. Aaron Dallas may be cool and popular, but he’s not exactly mature. She tries to avoid him in the cafeteria, getting delayed by Elizabeth, who’s trying to find a tutor for Amy. Jess suggests that she run an ad in the Sixers. She’s unable to run off before Aaron can reach her, so she agrees to go get ice cream with him after school. But he’s childish, ordering bubblegum ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, and wearing a Donald Duck shirt. They have a fight about how she’s snobby and he’s immature, and that’s it for their relationship.

Going off of Jess’ suggestion to run an ad in the paper, Elizabeth comes up with the idea to start a Classified section. Jessica decides to run an ad looking for a date to a party at Rick Hunter’s house. Liz balks at running it, since she wants the Sixers to be a serious paper, like The New York Times. (No, seriously, she makes that comparison. I don’t think the Times prints cafeteria menus, though.) But Jets gets her way, of course.

The ad gets Jess a few responses, including one from a high schooler who says Johnny Buck is his cousin. Jess is naïve enough to believe that, as well as believe that a guy old enough to drive is looking for a 12-year-old girlfriend. She goes to meet him at the Dairi Burger, but it turns out to be Steven pulling a prank. Still, there are some guys at SVMS who are interested in Jessica, or at least her personal-ad persona, Gorgeous Blond.

Lila’s having guy problems of her own now, as Jake forgot their one-month anniversary. I didn’t realize they were officially dating. He probably didn’t either, which explains not acknowledging their anniversary. Jess suggests that Lila write a personal ad, too, keeping quiet the fact that she wrote the first one. After they write Lila’s ad, she tells Janet, and suddenly a bunch of girls at SVMS want to find new guys.

Suddenly the Sixers is super-popular, though not for the reasons Elizabeth would prefer. Everyone’s reading the paper just for the Classified section, which is now mostly the Personals section. She’s also annoyed that Amy ran an ad, and they fight about it. The only good thing she has going for her right now is that Todd has no interest in running an ad or finding a new girlfriend.

Unimpressed with the guys who responded to her ad, Jessica reads the other ads and comes across Athletic Guy. He likes pineapple pizza and roller coasters, just like she does. She writes him a letter but doesn’t get a response. She’s disappointed until she realizes that she didn’t give him the number of her response box, so he couldn’t write her back. Instead, he places a new ad asking for her contact info.

The two start writing each other like this is You’ve Got Mail, and Jess is smitten. A bunch of other girls who wrote ads have also made new love connections, and with Rick’s party coming up, they all decide to meet there for their first official dates. The only pair not going on a blind date to the party is Elizabeth and Todd. Liz is also happy because she’s turned the Classified/Personals section into a profit center. Charging people $1 to place an ad, the Sixers makes about $200.

Athletic Guy shows up to the Wakefields’ house to get Jessica for the party, and she’s floored to see that he’s Aaron. He, like Tom Hanks, already figured out who she was but didn’t say anything. Jessica, like Meg Ryan, is glad he’s Athletic Guy. They’ve learned a bunch about each other, and I guess now their relationship is going to be fine. They even skip the party so they can get pineapple pizza together.

This was probably a good idea, since the party isn’t great. All the new couples are complete mismatches, like Janet and Ken, Sophia and Rick, and Ellen and nerdy Donald Zwerdling. Everyone quickly realizes that they were happier with their original people. So the paper made $200 while everyone went back to relationships they were already in. I think Elizabeth comes out on top here.

Thoughts: Please enjoy the song stylings of Mr. Johnny Buck:

“Bringin’ me down
Bringin’ me up
Rockin’ me round
Just like a pup
She’s my roller coaster baby
My roller coaster gal
See if you can catch her
My roller coaster pal.”

Everyone gets pretty dressed up for a party at a teenage boy’s house. These kids go to parties practically every week; they can’t consider this a special occasion.

Mandy: “How did you come up with the name Awesome Dude?” Jake: “It fit me.” Mandy: “Oh. I should have known.” For some reaso, that cracked me up.

January 14, 2017

The X-Files 4.13, Never Again: The Silence of the Tattoos

Posted in TV tagged at 1:36 pm by Jenn

Let's be honest, Scully's taste isn't an issue here at all

Let’s be honest, Scully’s taste isn’t an issue here at all

Summary: A court case in Philadelphia has just been declared closed, and a man named Ed Jerse is officially divorced. He drowns his sorrows at a bar, using a cigarette to burn his face in a picture of himself and his kids. He ends the night at a tattoo parlor, enticed by a sketch of a winking Bettie Page-type woman. He gets the tattoo and heads home, where he passes out. The woman, who has “never again” written under her picture, now has both eyes open.

Mulder and Scully are at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C., meeting with a contact in the middle of the night. The man is telling them about his experiences working on a base under the KGB’s control. Scully loses interest and looks at some things left at the memorial, including a dried flower petal.

Jerse goes to work, calling people about stocks, but he looks a little under the weather. A woman’s voice calls him a loser, and he thinks the woman he’s on the phone with is insulting him. Jerse hears laughter and goes down the hall to confront a co-worker. The voice (Betty) tells him to trash her desk, so he does. His boss sends him home.

In D.C., Scully studies Mulder’s nameplate and “I want to believe” poster in their supposedly shared office. Mulder tells her that he’s being forced to take a week’s vacation, since he hasn’t had one in four years and would otherwise lose eight weeks’ worth of pay. (I’m pretty sure that’s an illegal policy, but whatever.) He expects Scully to keep an eye on some things while he’s gone.

Scully asks why she doesn’t have a desk. Apparently Mulder has never noticed that she doesn’t have her own space in the office. He offers to get her a desk, though there isn’t really room for it. He then chastises her for not being interested when they were talking to the contact the night before. The contact, Pudovkin, worked at a military space center and smuggled out reports of alien craft. Scully is to go to Philadelphia and confirm the identities of people Pudovkin is blowing the whistle on.

Scully announces that she’s not going. Pudovkin’s story the night before was the plot of an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Mulder confirms that she’s refusing an assignment. Scully remarks that he’s acting like he’s her superior. He notes that he worked hard to get the X-Files reopened, while Scully was just assigned there. She replies that the job isn’t her whole life like it is his.

Mulder’s hurt that she doesn’t seem to want to be there, but Scully tells him it’s not about him. She admits that she feels like she’s lost sight of herself. They’re not even going in circles anymore; they’re moving in a line that never ends. Meanwhile, the rest of her life is standing still. Mulder thinks his vacation is coming at a perfect time – they need some time apart.

Scully asks where Mulder’s vacationing, and though he won’t give details, he tells her he’s going somewhere he’s always wanted to go. He hopes to have a “spiritual journey” and discover something about himself. He suggests that Scully do the same. She pulls the dried petal out of her pocket and leaves it on Mulder’s desk.

Jerse tries desperately to keep his job, but his boss won’t give him a second chance. He responds politely as she fires him over the phone. Betty mocks him for letting yet another woman screw him over. Jerse thinks the voice is coming from his downstairs neighbor, a woman with birds who doesn’t appreciate him pounding on her ceiling.

A couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses come to Jerse’s door, and he asks if they hear what he hears. The female half of the pair is sure that his downstairs neighbor, Ms. Schilling, isn’t doing anything to bother him. Jerse tells them that “she” somehow knows what he’s feeling. Maybe he’s the victim of surveillance. The visitors leave quickly, giving Jerse a pamphlet that asks, “Are you a failure?” Betty mocks Jerse again, saying that no woman wants to waste her time on him.

Jerse goes downstairs, bursting into Ms. Schilling’s apartment and attacking her. Her episode of The Partridge Family continues, asking, “Doesn’t somebody want to be wanted like me?” as Jerse kills her and puts her body in the building’s furnace. Betty praises him and volunteers herself as Jerse’s “right-hand gal.” She promises that no one will hurt him as long as she’s with him: “Never again.”

Mulder pulls off to the side of a road to call the office and check on Scully. She’s not there, as she’s gone to Philadelphia after all. She tracks one of the men Pudovkin named to a convenience store, then follows him across the street to the tattoo parlor. Jerse is there again, asking to have his tattoo covered. “Everyone gets the tattoo they deserve,” the artist tells him.

Scully is asked for her opinion on the tattoo, which she finds impressive. The artist, Svo, got the distinct red pigment on Betty’s lips from a Soviet prison. “Thought I was your girl,” Betty says as Jerse shows some interest in Scully. She warns him not to break her heart over a “cheap redhead.” (Not cool, Betty.) Svo tells Scully that a tattoo reflects what’s in a person’s soul. He did his prison tattoos using found items, and now uses grasses like rye, which he used for Jerse’s.

As Svo leaves the room, Jerse warns Scully to give any tattoo she might get more thought than he did. She admits that she’d like to be a little more impulsive. Jerse asks why she’s there, and she lies that she’s visiting an aunt in the neighborhood. He offers to show her the city, by which he means take her to dinner. Scully says she’s leaving that night, so he gives her his card in case she’s ever back in town.

Scully does some work in her hotel room, getting a call from Mulder, who’s now at his destination. His “spiritual journey” will be taking place at Graceland. Scully’s surprised that he knew where she was, so he explains that he checked the hotel where they always stay in Philly. He knew she wouldn’t “abandon” him. Scully tells him she’s handed Pudovkin’s case over to the local bureau, since they’re not dealing with an X-File. Her background check just turned up swindlers.

Mulder asks her to hold off until he joins her in Philly. Scully calls him on questioning her work, repeating that their time on the case is over. She tells him she has to go, and he sarcastically asks if she has a date to get to. When she doesn’t answer, he thinks she really does have one. Mulder’s not too worried, though, since he just goes back to touring Graceland and trying to imitate Elvis.

Betty tries to convince Jerse that he’s better off with just her. Other women are controlling and jealous, and Scully wouldn’t have been any different. Just then, Scully calls (going by Dana) and pretends her flight was cancelled, so she’d like to have dinner. Betty tells Jerse that Scully might be pretty, but that’s only skin deep. Betty goes “all the way to the bone.” Jerse responds by burning her face with his cigarette.

Scully comes to Jerse’s building, passing the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have come back to talk to Ms. Schilling but aren’t getting a response at her door. Scully warns Jerse that she doesn’t date much, but before he can respond, she sees that his arm is bleeding. She offers to take a look, since she’s a doctor and all, but Jerse says the tattoo has just been “nothing but trouble.” She sees his burned picture and asks him to take her to the bar where he drank the night he got the tattoo.

The two have a drink as Scully talks about her life often going in a circle. A controlling or authoritative figure comes into her life, and she appreciates it for a while, but eventually she gets annoyed. Her father was a Navy captain and she always loved him, but when she was 13, she snuck out to smoke her mother’s cigarettes, knowing it would make her father mad. Since then, she’s had “other fathers” in her life.

Jerse wants to live in a straight line rather than a circle. He got the tattoo to mark the moment his life changed. It’ll remind him of something he never wants to happen again. Scully asks to see the tattoo, but Jerse tries to keep her from pulling up his sleeve. He tells her that if she’s so curious about tattoos, she should get her own. So in one of the weirdest erotic-though-it-shouldn’t-be scenes in the series, Scully gets an ouroboros on her back in the same red as Betty’s lips.

The weather’s bad, so Jerse suggests that Scully spend the night at his place (he’ll sleep on the couch, if you believe that). Scully says she feels different with a tattoo, even though she can’t see it. She sees blood on his arm again, and this time he lets her check out his tattoo. Betty orders Jerse to get Scully’s hands off of her. Jerse grabs Scully’s hands as Betty warns, “You kiss her and she’s dead.” Jerse ignores the voice.

Mulder’s back in D.C., but he can’t reach Scully, since she’s not in her hotel room. He sees the petal on his desk. In Philly, Jerse wakes up and checks his tattoo. Later in the morning, Scully’s alone when she’s woken by two detectives at the door. They’re investigating Ms. Schilling’s disappearance and the blood found in her apartment. There were “abnormalities” in the blood, which wasn’t Ms. Schilling’s. The detectives urge Scully to get Jerse to contact them when he gets back.

Scully finds a note from Jerse telling her he went to get breakfast. She uses his super-primitive Internet to get into the FBI database and look into the blood abnormalities. She discovers that the blood contained ergot, which can come from grass and can cause hallucinations. Scully quickly puts everything together and calls Mulder, but she hangs up just before he answers the phone.

When Jerse returns home, Scully tells him about the blood, which she thinks may be his. Jerse says he helped Ms. Schilling move in and must have cut himself in her apartment. She tells him about the ergot, a parasite that could cause “dangerous and unlikely behavior.” They both need to go to a hospital and get tested. Jerse admits that he hears a voice “in [his] head, only deeper.” Scully realizes that his tattoo his talking to him.

Jerse continues that Betty hates women and makes him do things he doesn’t want to. He thinks Scully made her go away. Scully calmly repeats that they need to get help. As she leaves to get dressed, she drops her FBI badge, but Jerse doesn’t comment on it, so it’s not clear if he saw it. Betty pushes Jerse to find out who Scully called while he was gone. Jerse star 69s the call, reaching the FBI and asking for Scully. When the operator says she’ll connect him, he gets violent with Scully.

Jerse yells, “Never again!” as he tries to go up against a trained FBI agent. Scully locks herself in the bathroom and manages to grab some scissors. Unfortunately, scissors are no match for Jerse knocking her out. Betty laughs maniacally and tells Jerse, “Burn her!” He wraps Scully in a sheet and takes her to the furnace room. He hesitates, so Betty tells him to do it for her.

The hesitation is enough to let Scully free herself and stab Jerse in the arm with the scissors he accidentally wrapped up with her. She tries to convince Jerse that he’s not acting like himself, telling him to get control of himself. Betty disagrees, telling Jerse that losing control is good. Jerse sticks his arm in the furnace, effectively destroying Betty and the voice (as well as a few layers of skin, but, you know, everything’s a sacrifice).

Scully spends some time in the hospital, then heads back to work, where Mulder congratulates her for becoming an X-File for the second time. Jerse is in a burn center and will be psychiatrically evaluated. The Pudovkin/Svo case is being wrapped up. Mulder jokes that it’s too bad Svo will be put out of business, since he wanted to get “NY” tattooed on his butt in honor of the Yankees’ World Series win.

Scully finds the petal still on the desk as Mulder tells her about their next case. He stops, wondering if she went wild in Philly all because he didn’t get her a desk. “Not everything is about you, Mulder,” she replies. “This is my life.” He starts to respond, but the look on her face makes him fall silent.

Thoughts: Betty is voiced by Jodie Foster, whose portrayal of Clarice in The Silence of the Lambs inspired Chris Carter’s creation of Scully.

After this episode, Gillian Anderson dated Rodney Rowland (Jerse) for a while. She took him to the Emmy’s that year, where she famously kissed David Duchovny before him when she won.

Ms. Schilling is named for Entertainment Weekly editor Mary Kaye Schilling. James Wong and Glen Morgan wanted some petty revenge after the magazine gave some episodes a bad review. Ms. Schilling even uses an issue of the magazine to line her birdcage.

This episode was shot before “Leonard Betts,” so Anderson didn’t know about Scully’s cancer yet, which is why she acts like everything’s normal.

I think it was Carter who later insisted that Scully never had a one-night stand during the course of the series, even though, in this episode, it’s pretty clear she did. Like, are we supposed to believe Scully and Jerse slept in the same bed but didn’t do anything?

January 10, 2017

SVT #78, Steven the Zombie: Steven Voodoo Dolls, Now from Mattel!

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

Calm down, Jess

Calm down, Jess

Summary: The kids at SVMS are studying the Civil War-era south in Social Studies, and they each have to do some sort of project. Lila’s somehow allowed to throw a party and call it a project. Everyone will dress up in period costume and eat food from the era. Jessica’s stuck for an idea until she reads about voodoo and decides to try it out on Steven. He’s been bugging her more than usual lately, and messing with her Johnny Buck poster (using a marker to make him cross-eyed) is the last straw. She decides to make a Steven voodoo doll and torture it, getting revenge on him while also completing her project.

Jess turns an old G.I. Joe into a mini-Steven, using pieces of her brother’s lucky shirt as clothes. She tells Elizabeth what she’s up to and swears her to secrecy. She starts doing things like poking and tickling the doll, and is surprised when she gets a reaction out of the real Steven. Meanwhile, Elizabeth has befriended a kid named Benjamin from the homeless shelter. He has some mysterious pain in his leg that doctors can’t figure out. Jessica wonders if she can use voodoo to heal as well as harm. She makes a doll for Benjamin and mixes up some ingredients that she thinks will be healing.

Steven isn’t feeling well, and Jessica gives herself the credit. She’s convinced that her voodoo doll is working. She makes him twitch around while he’s with Joe, who mentions to Jess that her brother has been acting strange lately, kind of zombie-like. Later, Jessica makes Steven randomly do a headstand in front of Cathy. He starts being really nice to Jess, which makes her wonder exactly what’s going on with the voodoo.

The night of Lila’s party, Jessica is ready to wow with her costume. Most of the girls are going as Scarlett O’Hara, and Janet has decided that whoever has the best costume gets to be acting president for a week when she goes on vacation. Lila has told all the guys coming that whoever has the best Rhett Butler costume gets to dance with her. Jess schemes to get Janet to announce that the best Rhett gets to dance with the best Scarlett, hoping that she and Aaron will win.

Since she didn’t have time to get a good costume, Jess (with a hint from Amy) decides to make a dress out of the family’s curtains. She also uses temporary brown hair dye, but her hair turns out orange. She briefly wonders if she’s somehow brought on a punishment for using voodoo. Elizabeth saves the day with a hat and encourages Jess to be confident that she can pull off her costume. It works, and Jessica is named the best Scarlett, with Aaron as her Rhett. She manages to get the curtains back home and her hair back to blond before Ned and Alice notice anything.

In other Jess success, Benjamin’s leg is doing better for no apparent reason. She’s sure that her voodoo is working on both him and Steven. Elizabeth is skeptical. Steven gets weirder and weirder, being especially nice to Jessica even while he doesn’t feel well. He also keeps twitching after she stops using the doll on him. Jess starts worrying that she’s gone too far. She even has a nightmare that Steven drowns trying to save her from drowning.

She decides to try to heal Steven the way she (allegedly) healed Benjamin. She plays easy-listening music for the doll and makes sure it’s comfortable. She gets spooked when she later hears Steven humming a song she played for the doll. He’s still sick, and Jess is afraid that she didn’t stop her voodoo in time. She wakes up from another nightmare and discovers that the doll is lying in some water. She runs to Steven’s room to make sure he’s okay, but she can’t wake him up.

Jessica freaks out and wakes up the rest of the house. In response, Steven cracks up and reveals that he was faking. Later, the truth comes out: Elizabeth told him what Jessica was up to, so he made sure he could always see what she was doing with the doll, then acted it out to mess with her. None of the voodoo actually worked. Steven really is sick, but it’s just the flu. (Of course, this doesn’t explain how Benjamin miraculously got better…)

Jessica still has a project to complete, so she gets Steven to agree to come to her class and demonstrate how the “voodoo” works. The two of them and Elizabeth work out a system of coughs so Liz can signal to a blindfolded Steven what Jess is doing to the doll. The demonstration goes perfectly, though Mrs. Arnette doesn’t like the implications. She gives Jess a C+ and tells her never to talk about or practice voodoo again. Jess caps off the experience by buying Steven a replacement for his lucky shirt and asking him to stop being so nice to her, since it’s weird.

In the B-plot, Todd volunteers himself and Elizabeth to cook a southern meal for their class. Todd is a horrible cook and can’t even follow directions properly, so every practice meal they cook turns out terrible. Todd apparently never bothers to taste what he’s cooked, so he thinks everything’s great. He’s even thinking about becoming a chef someday. Instead of telling him that he’s screwing up and needs to pay attention, since they’re doing this for a grade, Liz just pretends everything’s fine.

Jessica suggests that Elizabeth change markings on measuring cups and labels on measuring spoons so Todd’s mistakes will actually be the right steps. Elizabeth does, but the meal still turns out awful. People in the class even get sick, including Mrs. Arnette. Everyone thinks Liz and Todd just pulled a prank, which I don’t get, because there’s no way Liz would do something like that, especially with a grade on the line.

Elizabeth confesses her actions to Todd, who isn’t upset. He’s just glad that he didn’t screw things up, and still has a future as a chef. Later, in exchange for helping Jess with her project, Liz makes her tell Todd that she had the idea to sabotage everything, so Liz is off the hook. Todd doesn’t care. That was pretty pointless.

Thoughts: So has everyone at SVMS seen Gone With the Wind? Seems unlikely.

Jessica knows what the Spanish Inquisition is but not who Patrick Henry is. Sure, okay.

Dear ghostwriter, no 14-year-old boy says “blouse.”

Jessica: “Mom! Dad! Wake up! I’ve killed Steven! Come quick!” Ned: “What time is it?” Priorities, Ned.

I thought it was working, so in theory, it did kind of work.” With logic like that, Jessica has a future as a politician.

January 7, 2017

The X-Files 4.12, Leonard Betts: “You’ve Got Something I Need”

Posted in TV tagged at 1:16 pm by Jenn

Probably the last time Mulder will be this amused for a while

Probably the last time Mulder will be this amused for a while

Summary: An ambulance is on its way to a hospital in Pittsburgh, carrying a man who seems to be having a heart attack. One of the paramedics, Leonard, does something life-saving and tells his partner that the patient was really having breathing problems. He can tell that the patient is dying of cancer. Before he can explain to his partner how he knows that, the ambulance crashes. The partner survives, but Leonard ends up headless. That night, after putting Leonard in a drawer, a morgue attendant hears noises and goes to investigate. Guess who’s still alive?

Mulder and Scully come up to Pennsylvania to find out how Leonard’s drawer can now be empty. The morgue attendant was knocked out and his clothes stolen, but he didn’t see who the thief was. Scully asks if Mulder’s suggesting that a man without a head walked out of the morgue. Mulder’s face: “…What if I am?” Scully thinks someone stole the body and there’s a cover-up going on. Mulder wonders why someone would steal a body without a head.

A police officer shows them surveillance photos of the thief, but static on the feed obscures his head (or possibly the space where his head should be). Scully thinks the thief hid the body in an area of the hospital marked for the destruction of biohazardous material. She volunteers to check the storage place, an experience Mulder isn’t happy to have to join in on. They find Leonard’s head, but not his body. Mulder sends Scully to examine the head while Mulder checks out Leonard’s house.

Scully does her thing, noticing that the head hasn’t decomposed in the amount of time it should have since the accident. Also, the eyes and mouth open and close on their own, which probably isn’t normal for a decapitated head. As Mulder enters Leonard’s apartment, someone runs through it and hides. In the bathroom, Mulder finds the stolen scrubs and a bathtub full of something dark, with a trail leading out the window. He also spots a bottle of iodine.

Scully calls to report that every time she tries to scan the head, the image is grainy, like the security footage. The technicians told her that only radiation could distort the image, but there’s no indication of where it’s coming from. Scully has suspended the examination because of the head’s movements; she knows they’re from chemical reactions, but she’s still wary about cutting into it.

Mulder tells her that whoever took the body went to Leonard’s apartment. Maybe it was Leonard himself. Scully doesn’t know how to respond to that. As Mulder leaves the apartment, Leonard, now reheaded, emerges from the iodine-filled bathtub.

Mulder tracks down Leonard’s partner, Michele, who confirms that he had no family or friends. They worked together, but Leonard did most of the work – he could diagnose people practically just by looking at them. He was always healthy, despite being around sick people, and was never injured on the job until the accident. Michele’s curious as to why Mulder’s asking questions about Leonard when he should by trying to find out what happened to his body.

Scully does something high-tech with the head so she can autopsy it. A doctor named Burks examines a piece of his brain, which shows cancer in every cell. Leonard shouldn’t have even been alive. This isn’t as shocking to Mulder as it should be. Michele is back at work with a new partner, and she’s stunned to hear what sounds like Leonard’s voice on her radio, helping out with a patient in another ambulance.

Burks does something called aura photography to show Leonard’s chi, or coronal discharge. Scully’s skeptical (shocking!), but Mulder thinks this could explain the unclear scans. Burks explains that this kind of procedure can show things that have been removed, like vestigial tails. This one shows “some kind of energy.” Burks finds it hard to believe that the head was decapitated, since the picture shows a regular neck and pair of shoulders attached to the head.

Mulder thinks everything makes sense – the cancer wasn’t destructive, as it usually is, but Leonard’s “normal state of being.” His life force retained a kind of blueprint of his body, allowing him to regenerate quickly. Scully, translating to English: “You think that Leonard Betts regrew his head?” Mulder tells her about the iodine he found, which is often used in regeneration. Scully points out that no creatures can regrow their heads (worms don’t count). Mulder thinks they just haven’t found one yet that can.

Scully gets a call about Leonard’s fingerprints, which reveal that he went by another name, Albert Tanner. Albert’s mother, Elaine, is in the area, so the agents head over to talk to her. Elaine has never heard the name Leonard Betts, and she hasn’t heard that he died recently…since she thinks Albert died in a car accident six years ago.

As Michele leaves work that night, she asks around about new paramedics. She spots Leonard, who confirms that he’s alive, then says he wishes she hadn’t found him. As he’s hugging her, he injects her with something that makes her convulse. A security guard sees them and chases after Leonard, tackling him in the parking lot and handcuffing him to a car. As the guard walks away to radio in a report and check on Michele, Leonard removes one of his thumbs to escape the cuffs.

At least now Mulder and Scully have another of Leonard’s body parts to examine. Michele’s dead, thanks to a lethal dose of an electrolyte that the coroner wouldn’t normal check for, since it occurs naturally in the body. Scully doesn’t believe Mulder’s theory that Leonard tore off his own thumb to get away. Evolution doesn’t work that way. Mulder disagrees – evolution doesn’t proceed in a straight line, and the unimaginable can happen in the gap between what humans are and what Leonard has become.

Scully argues that Leonard would have to be so evolved that he’s technically not human anymore. Mulder thinks the fact that he drives a Dodge Dart is evidence of that. They check out his trunk, which contains a cooler full of surgical waste – specifically, tumors. Mulder thinks that Leonard’s not just cancer, but that he needs it to survive. It makes sense to him that evolution would incorporate a threat in its makeup. As a paramedic, Leonard would have access to cancer wards.

The police trace Leonard’s car to Elaine, so the agents go back to her house with a warrant. Even after being warned that she might be an accessory to murder, Elaine isn’t helpful. She tells the agents that when Leonard was picked on as a child for being different, he ignored them because he knew he was special. Even when he was beaten up, he didn’t fight back. She doesn’t believe that he’s capable of murder, but if he killed Michele, he had reasons. God wants him to stay alive for a reason.

Leonard and his slowly regenerating thumb go to a bar and stalk a man with a bad cough. Leonard tells the man, “I’m sorry, but you’ve got something I need” and removes a scalpel from his sleeve. At Elaine’s house, Mulder and Scully find a receipt for a storage locker. Leonard’s already there, growing another new head with help from some truly gross CGI. When the agents arrive, the find the coughing man’s body and barely get out of the way of Leonard’s car as he’s driving away. The agents shoot at the car, which goes up in flames. I don’t think that’s FBI procedure, guys.

Scully examines the body of the coughing man, which is now missing a lung. Mulder guesses that he had lung cancer, and Leonard took his tumor. Scully’s sure that Leonard’s dead for real this time, and he’s even willing to bet on it. The agents check out Albert’s coffin, which still contains a dead body, now lying near Leonard’s dead body. Scully thinks they’re just dealing with identical twins. Mulder’s able to believe that Leonard can just regenerate his whole body and will turn up again.

This is exactly right, as Elaine has a body in her bathtub and is regenerating it with iodine. She warns her son that the FBI is still investigating, and he’ll need to restore his strength so he can keep fighting. Mulder and Scully stake out Elaine’s house, where an ambulance soon shows up for a call about a woman with chest trauma and massive blood loss. The agents go inside with the paramedics, and Scully finds Elaine alive, though she’s had something removed from her chest.

Mulder calls for backup while Scully goes to the hospital with Elaine. She calls Mulder from the hospital (“Mulder, it’s me”) to report that Elaine has gotten worse, so they won’t be able to talk to her for a while. As Mulder’s talking, Scully feels something dripping on her and sees iodine on her fingers. When she spots it on the roof of the ambulance, she tells Mulder to get to the hospital ASAP. It seems Leonard hitched a ride to the hospital on top of the ambulance. He pulls Scully inside the vehicle and says, “I’m sorry, but you’ve got something I need.”

Leonard tries to cut into Scully with a scalpel (right between the eyes, just where Gerry indicated in “Unruhe”), but she’s awesome and manages to fight him. She finishes him off by using defibrillation paddles on his head. Mulder wraps up the case as Scully tries to figure out just what Leonard’s words to her mean. That night, she wakes up coughing and sees drops of blood on her pillow. Her nose is bleeding.

Thoughts: Leonard is played by Paul McCrane (ER, Fame).

You can tell Scully’s seen a lot of weird things because when Mulder tells her that Leonard disappeared despite not having a head, she doesn’t even blink.

Scully says Leonard’s head weighs 10.9 pounds, which means the kid from Jerry Maguire was wrong.

Mulder, answering his phone: “Mulder.” Scully: “It’s me.” Nope, not the same.

If people think you’re dead and you don’t want them to find out you’re not, maybe move to another town? How did Leonard get a new job so quickly anyway? And since he was a well-known paramedic, wouldn’t the person who hired him find him familiar?

The coughing man’s name turns out to be John Gillnitz, a name used multiple times on the show. It’s a combination of three writer/producers’ names: John Shiban, Vince Gilligan, and Frank Spotnitz.

January 3, 2017

SVT #77, Todd Runs Away: Put the Ball in the Hoop and Stop Trying to Get Good Grades

Posted in books tagged , at 4:49 pm by Jenn

Back in 1994, I would have wanted Elizabeth's jacket

Back in 1994, I would have wanted Elizabeth’s jacket

Summary: Todd is the new star of SVMS’s basketball team, which is in the middle of a winning streak thanks to him. Everyone at school loves him, including the Unicorns. His dad is especially proud because he wanted to be a pro basketball player but had to give up his dream because of knee problems. So now he lives vicariously through his son, though he won’t admit it.

SVMS is offering a new creative writing class that Mr. Bowman gets to pick students to participate in for a few weeks. Apparently the students who are chosen can’t opt out, which is dumb, since it’s an after-school thing. Todd is worried that he’ll be chosen, since he has basketball practice right after the class is supposed to take place. Plus, he thinks there will be a lot of extra work. Of course, he does get chosen, and Mr. Bowman won’t let him back out. He thinks Todd shows a lot of potential as a writer and wants him to develop his skills.

The class is taught by a guy named Mark Ramirez who’s brought in from outside the school. He’s every cliché you’ve seen in the young, hip teacher who wants to connect with his students. They can call him Mark! Todd is immediately interested in writing and puts in a lot of work on a story about making a difficult decision. He even skips out on shooting hoops with his father. Mr. Wilkins is concerned that Mark is assigning too much work. The thing is that he really isn’t – he tells the kids to write a story that’s three pages long or so, and Todd just chooses to do a lot of work on it.

It pays off, as Mark thinks Todd wrote the best story in the class. But all that writing took time away from practice, so Todd doesn’t play as well as usual in the next basketball game. Mr. Wilkins is ticked. How dare Todd enjoy writing as much as he enjoys basketball! How dare he want to do well in a class if it’ll conflict with a sport! How dare he want to go see a play with his class when he should be practicing! He’s also mad that Mark doesn’t use textbooks to teach. Shut up, Mr. Wilkins.

Todd’s father says he can make his own choice about going to the play; of course Mr. Wilkins wants him to choose to go to practice instead. He doesn’t, and in the next game, Todd misses the winning shot. The team’s winning streak is over. What’s nice is that the coach doesn’t hold it against him, because the coach is a better parent toward Todd than his own father is. Now Mr. Wilkins wants Todd to drop out of the writing class, since it’s taking too much time away from basketball.

Todd talks to Mark, who gets him to realize that he likes writing and doesn’t necessarily want to choose basketball over the class. Todd gains some courage and tells his dad he’s not dropping the class. Mr. Wilkins is furious and decides to go after Mark. He goes to the principal, Mr. Clark, and complains that Mark gives his students too much work. Mrs. Wilkins, by the way, is useless in this book. Apparently she’s totally okay with her husband basically bullying their child.

Some of Todd’s friends see his father going in to talk to Mr. Clark and wonder what’s going on. Todd worries that his dad is going to get Mark fired. Mr. Wilkins says nothing happened in the meeting, but then Todd overhears him calling Alice in an attempt to rally all the parents against Mark. His classmates think he complained to his dad about Mark, and now Mark’s going to get in trouble. Instead of explaining what’s really going on, Todd ditches school to avoid everyone.

Mr. Clark suspends Todd from the basketball team for skipping school, so Todd’s life is just getting worse. He ditches school again, this time planning to run away. Now that he can’t play basketball, his father’s mad at him, and his friends have all turned on him, he doesn’t see a reason to stay in town. The kid thinks $50 and a can-do attitude will help him get by in San Diego. Good luck renting an apartment, buddy. Apparently he’s learned nothing from the assignment about making difficult decisions. He’s just giving up and not making any decisions.

Mr. Clark changes his mind about Todd’s punishment, letting him back on the team as long as he serves a few detentions. Todd, however, is already on his way to the bus station when the news gets out. Todd’s friends find out about the new punishment, and Elizabeth tracks Todd down and lets him know about it. He doesn’t care and continues his plan to run away. But Liz knows something’s up and follows him to the bus station. When he falls asleep waiting for his bus, Liz calls his parents.

Now that he’s realized how distraught Todd has become, Mr. Wilkins finally feels bad. He comes to the station and reveals that he actually talked to Mark and learned he’s a good guy. Todd will be allowed to come to practice a little bit late, and he won’t have to do as much work in the class. Which…he didn’t have to do that much work in the first place. He wanted to. But why would Mr. Wilkins want to encourage Todd in an activity he likes when he can push him to be successful at a sport he has a 2% chance of playing professionally someday? What’s Mr. Wilkins’ damage?

In the B-plot, the twins have realized separately that it’s time for them to start wearing bras. They’re too nervous to actually talk to each other about it (and Alice is too useless a parent for them to talk to her), so Jessica leaves a magazine ad for bras in Elizabeth’s closet in hopes of starting a conversation. Liz finds it and hides it in Jessica’s room. Eventually they “find” the ad together and agree to go bra shopping together.

There’s a pep rally on Wednesday, so the girls decide to go to Kendall’s then, since everyone at school will be occupied. But they spot Rick Hunter’s mother at the store and worry that she’ll say something to Rick about seeing them there. The next time they go, they see Caroline Pearce and run away before she can see what they’re shopping for. Panicking about Mrs. Hunter was an overreaction, but I have to say, leaving before Caroline could see them was a good move.

The twins go back to Kendall’s a third time, but they can’t just sneak in and out with their purchases: They’re customers 1,000,001 and 1,000,002, and Kendall’s wants to use them in their ads for the next year. Plus, they get 10% off anything they buy for the year. Wow, 10%. Way to be generous, Kendall’s. The girls panic and run again.

On their fourth attempt, right before a big basketball game, the girls encounter a super-loud employee who doesn’t get that 12-year-old girls buying their first bras might want a little discretion. They finally manage to get their bras, but on the way home, the bag breaks and the bras fall out in front of some of their guy friends. Womp womp. It’s probably more embarrassing for the guys than for the girls. The twins decide to buy from a mail-order catalog next time. Wait until the Internet comes around – they’ll be ecstatic.

Thoughts: Continuity alert: Pamela Jacobson exists again.

First description of Mark: “Instead of a suit and tie, he was wearing faded jeans and high-top sneakers.” That means he’s fun, guys! He’s not like a regular teacher, he’s a cool teacher!

“I already know what I want to write about: a girl who has to choose between being a mystery writer and a journalist.” Now I have to choose between telling Elizabeth to shut up and telling her to stuff it.

“That class is going to ruin your chance to make something of yourself.” Is this the first time a parent has argued AGAINST school being vital to a child’s future?

December 31, 2016

The X-Files 4.11, El Mundo Gira: No One Cares About Undocumented Migrant Workers (Except This Show)

Posted in TV tagged at 1:17 pm by Jenn

Just be glad I didn't pick a picture of a dead goat, or something even worse

Just be glad I didn’t pick a picture of a dead goat, or something even worse

Summary: It’s story time! A woman named Flakita wants to tell a bunch of people a story that takes place in a migrant workers’ camp in San Joaquin Valley, California. She watches as a young couple kisses goodbye before one of them heads off to work. Then another man approaches the woman to tell her he enjoyed the time they spent together the night before. He’s the other guy’s brother, so we have a tricky love triangle going on here.

Flakita stops the woman, Maria, from flirting by pointing out that her goats have escaped. She and Eladio, the brother she’s not with, run after them. Suddenly there’s a loud noise and a bright flash of light. Rain pours down, and Flakita notices that it’s yellow. It stops as quickly as it started, and the goats start coming back to the camp. Flakita runs out to find Maria, who’s dead, her eyes seemingly burned out.

Three days later, Mulder practices his Spanish as Scully checks out one of Maria’s dead goats. He tells Scully about the “transient,” the flash storm that took place just before Maria’s death. They’ve been linked to alien encounters and cattle mutilations in the past. However, no one’s examined Maria’s body yet because no one cares how she died. The camp is full of undocumented workers, and Mulder wants to talk to them before they leave for jobs elsewhere.

When the agents check out a house to talk to people, someone yells that they’re the immigration police, which sends everyone running. The agents promise that they just want to talk about what happened to Maria. Flakita announces that the chupacabra killed her. No one saw it, but everyone at the camp believes that’s what happened. Everyone, that is, except Soledad, Maria’s boyfriend – he thinks Eladio killed Maria out of jealousy.

Mulder asks about the yellow rain and dead goat. Soledad calls them tricks, “for fools who believe in fool superstitions.” Scully likes Soledad’s explanation makes sense, and the case is nothing more than a “Mexican soap opera” the local cops can take care of. Mulder points out that the local cops don’t care about migrant workers. He wants to talk to Eladio.

Unable to find Eladio in police custody, Mulder checks with an INS agent named Conrad Lozano to see if he’s picked up Eladio. The problem is that the people the agency has rounded up gave fake names (they currently have Jose Feliciano, Juan Valdez, Cesar Chavez, and Placido Domingo in custody). Lozano has heard the Maria/chupacabra story and tells Mulder that migrant workers often turn to their folklore because they can’t go to the law with their problems.

Scully goes to a morgue in Fresno to examine Maria’s body, which is covered in some sort of green plant. Meanwhile, Lozano and Mulder find Eladio in custody, using the name Erik Estrada. Eladio insists that he’s innocent and gives the version of events that Flakita gave. Maria said his name and then died in his arms. “This guy is better than Erik Estrada,” Lozano says of Eladio’s passionate monologue.

No one else in custody wants to be near Eladio, who will be taken before a judge as a formality before being sent back to Mexico. Mulder wants to delay his deportation in case he can help with the case. Lozano doesn’t think it’s worth Mulder’s time, but he might as well file his paperwork. Eladio will probably be back in the country before it’s processed anyway.

Scully reunites with Mulder and tells him that Eladio didn’t kill Maria – a fungal infection did. Aspergillus is usually harmless, but since Maria had a buildup of a toxic pesticide in her system, the fungus may have compromised her immune system. Mulder still wants to know how the light, rain, and story of the chupacabra fit in. Scully makes the first “get it? Illegal aliens? On a show about aliens?” reference by saying that in this story, the aliens are the victims.

On their way back to the camp, the agents see the INS bus on the side of the road, and all its passengers running for freedom. Inside, the driver is dead, his body swollen. Scully thinks he suffered a fungal infection as well; this one sent his body into systemic shock. Lozano joins the agents and tells them that Eladio is missing. The other passengers ran from him, still thinking he’s the chupacabra. Mulder thinks that Eladio is still important to the investigation, as he’s tied to two deaths.

Scully wants to figure out the pathogen they’re dealing with first. Mulder sends her to do that while he and Lozano look into the chupacabra. Meanwhile, Eladio goes to a barbershop to get help returning to Mexico from the man who brought him to the U.S. The coyote won’t help without money. Also, the coyote is a racist jerk, and if the chupacabra were to kill him next, I wouldn’t be sad.

In the morning, Eladio goes to the pickup spot and gets in the truck of a foreman trying to hire day laborers. The other workers don’t want to get in the truck with him. Scully learns that the fungus that killed the bus driver is the same as that in athlete’s foot. A pathologist thinks an enzyme found in the yellow rain acted as a catalyst and accelerated the growth rate of the fungus. He demonstrates with another fungus common in the area, showing how the enzyme makes it ooze out of its petri dish.

While Lozano talks with some workers, Mulder waits patiently by a wall covered in graffiti that reads “el chupacabra vive!” An illustration of the chupacabra makes it look like an alien. Lozano confirms that Eladio got into a foreman’s truck, and that people still think he’s the chupacabra. Lozano thinks Eladio has bigger problems, like what Soledad will do when he finds him. He thinks they should back off of this family feud, since anyone who stands between brothers will be cursed. Mulder disagrees.

Eladio works all day, barely able to stand by the end of his work. He’s also sweating something yellow. Soledad tracks him down, not noticing that the water cooler Eladio just touched has now started growing a fungus. Soledad thinks his brother’s hiding in a port-a-potty, but instead he finds the foreman, dead and covered in fungus. Eladio steals the foreman’s truck and almost runs over Soledad as he drives away.

Eladio winds up at a house where a woman named Gabrielle is working. She’s heard the stories about him and isn’t about to run off with him. However, she’s willing to give him some money if he can wait until she gets paid at her job at a market that night. He tells her he doesn’t have time and runs off, ditching the truck.

Scully calls Mulder (“Mulder, it’s me”) and tells him she thinks Eladio is responsible for the deaths after all, accidentally passing on a super-strain of fungus to people. She warns Mulder not to come into contact with it, or even breathe it in. Mulder and Lozano are at Eladio’s work site and have found the dead foreman. Mulder thinks that the transient might have been caused by something falling from the sky, a bolide created by space debris. So…aliens.

Scully points out that that’s not really important right now – Mulder and Lozano need to find Eladio and keep him from accidentally killing anyone else. Lozano comments that Mulder, like the migrants, has his own stories to explain the unexplainable. The coyote drives by just then and offers to give them information on Eladio’s whereabouts, for a price.

Mulder and Lozano find Eladio as he’s about to get on a truck bound for Mexico. A bunch of other migrants run from Eladio, which they don’t realize is the best thing to do. Unfortunately, the agents lose track of him. Later, they’re called to the scene of a bunch of dead goats in a truck. Lozano explains to Mulder and Scully that migrant workers are basically invisible; they do tons of work but people don’t pay attention to them. “To most people, they’re aliens in the true sense of the word.” Yeah, we get it.

Flakita arrives and tells the agents that Eladio went to see Gabrielle (his cousin). Soledad went there later, looking for his brother. The agents are the next to visit, but no one believes her claims that neither brother is there. Scully warns her not to let Eladio in if he comes back. The agents leave the apartment, but Mulder thinks they should hang around outside for a little while.

Eladio goes to a convenience store, showing signs of infection. He steals some nuts, which quickly start growing fuzz. Rest in peace, clerk who touches one of them. The agents spy Soledad leaving Gabrielle’s building as Gabrielle calls Eladio at a pay phone at the market, where she’s supposed to be working. She lets him know that Soledad is after him. Soledad arrives at the market moments later, followed by the agents. Everyone draws a gun, so insert your own “Mexican stand-off” joke here.

Soledad says he just wanted to avenge Maria’s death. The agents subdue him as Scully sees the dead clerk and massive amounts of fungus in the store. Eladio goes to Gabrielle’s apartment, and she quickly sees that his face is deformed. She says he killed Maria and really is the chupacabra. Eladio screams dramatically.

By the time the agents arrive, Eladio’s gone, along with the money Gabrielle gave him to go back to Mexico. Lozano peaces out, saying he’s going to take Soledad in while the agents deal with the rest of the case. Scully worries that Eladio will take his fungus somewhere with a high population and inadvertently kill a bunch of people. Mulder thinks Gabrielle lied about Eladio going back to Mexico, since everyone thinks he’s a killer and would never welcome him back there. He’s going to face Soledad instead.

The agents assemble a hazmat team as Lozano goes to the migrant camp and demands that Eladio come out and face his brother. Flakita watches as the brothers fight and a gun goes off. Unfortunately, it’s Lozano who ends up dead. There’s a light in the sky, and creatures that look like aliens come toward the camp.

Flakita finishes her story, telling her audience that other chupacabras were coming to save Eladio. She closed her door and prayed, but she’s sure that Soledad was taken away and punished by being forced to suck blood from goats. Another woman says that Gabrielle admitted that she lied to the FBI. The night of the confrontation, Lozano stops Eladio and orders him to face Soledad. Soledad grabs Lozano’s gun and threatens to shoot Eladio. Eladio turns around and announces that he’s the chupacabra.

In Gabrielle’s version of story, which she tells some workers, Lozano urges Soledad to shoot Eladio, but Soledad can’t hurt his brother. She thinks he also knew that she would never forgive him. Lozano called Soledad a coward and tried to take the gun from him, which is when it went off, killing Lozano. Gabrielle thinks Lozano wanted Soledad to kill Eladio so Lozano wouldn’t be cursed for standing between them. Instead, Soledad was cursed by God and turned into a chupacabra. Now the brothers are back in Mexico, killing goats together.

The agents present the case to Skinner back in D.C. Thanks for showing up for four seconds, Skinner. Flakita was the only eyewitness, but her version of events is questionable. The hazmat team was able to contain the fungus in the camp, but the brothers escaped. They paid the coyote and headed to Mexico, though the coyote died from the fungus. (Aww, how sad.)

Mulder still thinks the enzyme from the rain came from outer space. Skinner is somehow able to ignore that, since he’s more concerned with why the brothers haven’t been found. Scully explains that they’re basically invisible. Mulder says that, really, no one cares. Okay, seriously, we get it.

Thoughts: Lozano is played by Rubén Blades, who’s now on Fear the Walking Dead. Flakita is played by Lillian Hurst, who’s been in a ton of stuff.

“El mundo gira” is Spanish for “the world turns,” as in As the World Turns, because this episode is supposed to be like a soap opera, or whatever.

Scully’s worked with Mulder for four years and has never heard of the chupacabra? Doubtful.

How did no one notice the dead clerk and fungus all over the market? The Health Department is going to be so ticked.

December 27, 2016

SVT #76, Yours for a Day: Indentured Servitude Has Never Been So Romantic

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , at 4:53 pm by Jenn

I can't believe the Unicorns let Mandy wear this outfit in public

I can’t believe the Unicorns let Mandy wear this outfit in public

Summary: Valentine’s Day is approaching, as is a Valentine’s Day dance at SVMS. The Unicorns (spurred on by Mandy) are organizing a fundraiser for the local children’s hospital (appropriately named Children’s Hospital) in which students can hire a personal servant for a day or two. Ellen wants to call it Yours for a Day, but the other girls say that’s dumb since the fundraiser takes place over two days. But that’s what the book is called, so I guess Ellen wins in the end. Anyway, for $5 you can hire someone for a day, and for $10 you get someone over two days. The “servants” don’t have to pay, but they also don’t get compensated, so servants are just volunteering out of the kindness of their hearts.

Mandy has a crush on a guy named Peter Jeffries, but she’s too nervous to ask him to the dance. When she calls to talk to him, she just hangs up the phone. Oh, Mandy, we’ve all been there. She also can barely speak to Peter when he comes by the Unicorns’ table to sign up to be a servant. Jessica realizes that if Peter and Mandy (who will be a master) get paired up, she can order him to take her to the dance. How romantic.

At the drawing, Mandy winds up as Jessica’s servant, which Jess is thrilled about. Not only is she paired with a friend (the other girls were worried about being paired with people they don’t like), but she can order Mandy to ask Peter to the dance. The drawback here is that the Unicorns are working as both servants and masters, and Jess winds up as Lloyd Benson’s servant. Lila’s working for Peter, and Janet’s working for Winston. Ha ha!

Lloyd’s annoyed with Jessica for the earthquake stuff in the last book, so he makes her do lots of stuff for him. If Jess were really smart, she would have Mandy do it for her. Instead, she tells Mandy that her only task is to ask Peter to the dance. Mandy manages to pull herself together and do it…but Peter already has a date to the dance. Aw, Mandy. At least he’s nice about having to turn her down.

Still, Mandy feels humiliated and gets mad at Jessica. She gets a little pleasure out of watching Jessica do dumb things on Lloyd’s orders, like eat gross cafeteria food and help him with science experiments. Aaron feels bad for Jess and tries to think of a way to get her switched to him so Lloyd can’t mess with her anymore. Elizabeth correctly guesses that Lloyd won’t agree to a switch since he’s eager to get revenge on Jessica.

Jessica is also hoping to switch, and she even asks Elizabeth to be Lloyd’s servant. Liz balks, but since Jess rigged the drawing for her and Amy (see the B-plot), she eventually agrees. But Lila and Mandy, scheming against Jessica, pull their own switch. Jessica was supposed to work for Belinda, so the girls get Belinda to switch servants with Mandy, making Jessica serve Mandy instead. In the meantime, Aaron convinces Lloyd to switch with him, thinking he’d get Jessica. Now he has Elizabeth as a servant.

The usually-not-vindictive Mandy makes Jessica sing “Feelings” in the cafeteria so she’ll be humiliated like she inadvertently humiliated Mandy. The song makes Grace Oliver cry, but not from horribleness. She and Winston had been going out, or whatever the 12-year-old equivalent of that is, but they had a huge fight and aren’t speaking. Grace asked Peter to the dance, but now she wants to make up with Winston and go with him. Jessica realizes that she has the opportunity to make everyone happy.

She goes to Lloyd, who’s Grace’s master for the day, and gets him to switch servants with Winston. Winston thinks he’s getting Jessica as a servant, but he’s getting Grace. They quickly make up and will be going to the dance together. Half of Jess’ plan is a success, even though the switch means Lloyd will be Janet’s master.

Jessica tries to negotiate with Lila to get her to make Peter, her new servant, ask Mandy to the dance. Lila wants too much in return, so Jess just calls Peter on her own. But it turns out that her work is done, and Mandy and Peter have already decided to go to the dance together. Once Peter learned that Grace was going with Winston, he asked Mandy, the person he’d wanted to go with in the first place. He wasn’t sure Mandy liked him, but once Jessica made her ask him to the dance, he realized she did. So Jess’ meddling helped a couple get together!

The new couple has a great time at the dance, and the master/servant fundraiser makes $800 for the hospital. Jessica’s the only one who’s not happy at the end, since Janet makes Lloyd a certificate entitling him to another day of servitude from Jessica. I guess it’s a small price to pay for a successful fundraiser.

In the B-plot, Elizabeth and Amy are annoyed with Todd and Ken, who are just acting like typical preteen boys. They play a prank on the boys, getting them to eat mayo instead of vanilla pudding. They think this makes them even, especially when the guys send the girls on a scavenger hunt for what the girls think will be invitations to the dance. They get the invitations, but they also get drenched with cold water. The girls decide they need more revenge.

Elizabeth and Amy get Jessica to rig the master/servant drawing so Todd will be Liz’s servant and Ken will be Amy’s. Then they make the guys do things like wear embarrassing ties, walk on their hands in the cafeteria, and give the wrong answers in class. The guys handle things well, and still want to take the girls to the dance. They’re even going to get them corsages. The girls think they’ve learned their lesson and are going to be gentlemen from now on.

On Valentine’s Day, the girls spend most of the dance sneezing. They figure out that the guys got one last revenge by putting sneezing powder in their corsages. The girls get revenge right back by making them sing “Feelings” in front of everyone. I guess this evens things up, as the pranks stop. The girls were definitely winning that war anyway.

Thoughts: Grace is in a lot more books than I remembered. I really didn’t think she was ever mentioned again after The Big Camp Secret.

I can’t believe Amy and Elizabeth didn’t think the guys might try to get them back after everything they had to do as servants. I would expect Elizabeth to be smarter than that.

“Daddy would give more, but he already donated a whole wing to the hospital, and he didn’t want to overdo it.” Oh, of course not. There’s such a thing as helping too many sick children.

December 24, 2016

The X-Files 4.10, Paper Hearts: Confessions of a Serial Killer

Posted in TV tagged , , at 11:01 am by Jenn

The FBI quickly realized that playing pickup games with inmates was a bad idea

The FBI quickly realized that playing pickup games with inmates was a bad idea

Summary: Mulder wakes up to see a red light shining on his wall. The light floats around, spelling out “FOLLOW,” so he does. The light takes him to Bosher’s Run Park in Manassas, spelling out “MAD HAT” on the side of a white El Camino. It shines on a tree, then points Mulder to a girl lying on the ground. The light becomes a heart on the girl as she sinks into the leaves she’s lying on.

Mulder awakens from his dream, looks up the park, and drives over in the middle of the night. There are leaves next to the tree from his dream, but no body. In the morning, Mulder gets a team to dig around in the dirt. As he tells Scully that he’s had a recurring dream about the girl, one of the diggers finds a skull.

The diggers start to expose an entire skeleton, but Mulder thinks they’re moving too slowly. He tells Scully he already knows that the victim was strangled, and her killer took a heart-shaped piece of fabric from her clothing after she was dead. Scully thinks he’s guessing at this because of his dream, but Mulder’s focused on a serial killer named John Lee Roche who killed 13 girls between the ages of eight and ten. Well, 14 girls now.

Back at their office, Mulder shows Scully Roche’s file, telling her that he killed girls between 1979 and the early ’90s. The case was called Paper Hearts because of the pieces of cloth taken. Mulder helped find the killer, a vacuum cleaner salesman who used his job to check out potential victims. The hearts were never found, and though Roche confessed to killing 13 girls, Mulder always wondered if there were 13 hearts. With a 14th victim, he’s even more curious.

Scully thinks Mulder’s dream was his way of unconsciously processing the case. After all, he once said “a dream is an answer to a question we haven’t had time to ask.” She congratulates him on finding the 14th victim and suggests that they get her identified so Mulder can finally put the Paper Hearts case behind him.

This doesn’t take long, and Scully IDs the girl as Addie Sparks, who disappeared from King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, in 1975. Mulder isn’t sure Addie was one of Roche’s victims, since they thought his earliest murder took place in 1979. Scully says Addie’s death matches everything about Roche’s other murders.

The agents go see Addie’s father, who recognizes a little pouch found on his daughter’s body (her mother sewed it to leave her teeth in for the Tooth Fairy). Mr. Sparks confirms that Roche is already in prison. He used to think that it was worse to think his daughter was missing than know she was dead, but he was wrong. He’s sad to know that the agents might have to visit other families to tell them that their children are dead – are there other victims they weren’t aware of?

As the agents leave the house, Mulder flashes back to the part of his dream with the El Camino. He remembers that Roche drove an El Camino and wonders if he left them in his car. Mulder still wants to find the hearts and count them. They track down the person who bought it at auction (and who’s kind of excited that he drives a car once driven by a serial killer). They don’t find the hearts, but Mulder remembers “MAD HAT” from his dream and thinks of the camper shell the owner took off. It’s in the backyard, and inside is a copy of Alice in Wonderland and 16 cloth hearts.

Mulder and Scully go see Roche in prison, where he’s playing basketball in a gym, so I guess this isn’t a maximum-security facility, even though he’s a freaking serial killer. The agents ask him why he said there were 13 victims when there were really 16. Roche says 13 “sounds more magical.” Mulder urges him to name the last two victims so their families can get closure.

Roche remarks that he knows Mulder takes the situation personally. He offers to give the agents information if Mulder can sink a three-pointer. Mulder does it easily, because David Duchovny is a basketball wizard. Roche has another condition before he’ll tell the agents anything: He wants the hearts.

Mulder studies the hearts at his desk, then looks up to see the red light again. It takes him to another room in the basement, which turns into his family’s living room. Samantha’s there, playing a board game and watching a news report on the Watergate scandal, though she wants to watch a movie instead. It’s the night of her disappearance, and Mulder reenacts the events, saying the same things he said and going for his father’s gun as he did as a child. But instead of aliens, Roche arrives to abduct Samantha. Mulder wakes up and looks at the two unidentified hearts.

He goes back to see Roche at the prison, asking why Roche remarked about Mulder taking things personally. He wants to know where Roche was on November 27th, 1973. Roche says that he sold a vacuum to Bill Mulder and had a long conversation with him. If Mulder brings the hearts, Roche will tell him more. Mulder punches Roche just as Scully arrives. He tells her that Roche took Samantha, just like his dream said.

Scully disagrees – Roche has access to “the Net” (oh, 1996, you’re so funny) and could have easily looked up Mulder’s personal information. She thinks Roche is playing mind games with him. Mulder walked into their meeting with his “heart on [his] sleeve” (nice one, Scully); Roche saw where he was vulnerable and took advantage of it. The case is bringing back old feelings, but Mulder’s dreams are just dreams.

Mulder notes that his dream about the park came true, so this one could be true, too. He reminds Scully that she doesn’t believe that Samantha was taken by aliens, which means they don’t know exactly what happened to her. He doesn’t know what to believe, but he knows he needs to find the truth.

Mulder goes to his mother’s house and searches the basement. He shows her the two unidentified hearts and asks if she’s ever seen the fabric before. She doesn’t recognize them, but since her stroke***, her memory isn’t great. (Other than that, she seems to have fully recovered, though.) Mulder asks about the vacuum Bill bought her and checks to see if it’s the same kind Roche said it was.

After being denied further access to Roche, Mulder goes to see Skinner, who’s upset with him for punching a prisoner. He thinks Mulder’s let Roche get in his head, and now he’s too close to the case. Scully backs him up, though, saying Roche was in Martha’s Vineyard around the time Samantha disappeared. They still need to identify two victims, and Mulder has the most insight into Roche, so who better to continue the investigation?

The agents are allowed to see Roche again, and Mulder brings the last two hearts this time. Roche says that one of them belonged to Samantha. Scully tells him to prove it, so Roche describes the scene in the Mulders’ living room when Samantha disappeared. Mulder asks where Samantha is, and Roche says he’ll answer if Mulder picks the heart that belonged to her. Mulder chooses one, and Roche says it’s a “good choice.”

Roche sends the agents to Forks of Cacapon, West Virginia, to dig in the dirt by a rock with “MAD HAT” spray-painted on it. Scully thinks Mulder should let someone else dig, but he ignores her, telling her to help him. They find a skeleton, but once it’s in a morgue, Mulder determines that it’s not Samantha – she broke her collarbone when she was six, and the skeleton doesn’t have a deformity in that bone. Scully confirms that it’s not Samantha’s. Mulder sadly notes that it’s still someone’s child.

The agents go back to Roche, who IDs the girl as Karen Philiponte from East Amherst, New York. He says he killed her in 1974, making her the first victim. Mulder hands over the last heart and Scully tells Roche to drop the mind games and just give them the information they want. Roche thinks Mulder wants to be led through everything that happened. He needs to go with the agents to get Samantha’s body. “I can’t wait to see your face,” he tells Mulder.

Scully’s disgusted and tells Roche he’ll never get out to go get the body. Mulder clearly isn’t so hesitant, so Scully tells him they can’t let Roche get his way. But Mulder ignores her again, arranging to get Roche out of prison so they can fly to Massachusetts together. On the way to the airplane bathroom, Roche stops to chat with a little girl, and he’s lucky Mulder doesn’t strangle him with his handcuffs.

Back in D.C., Scully tells Skinner that Mulder sprang Roche from prison without her knowledge. She wants to go after him, but Skinner decides to go to Massachusetts himself. He’s mad that Scully didn’t babysit her partner better, and now they have to rush to clean things up before they get out of control.

Mulder takes Roche to his family’s house to walk him through the events of November 27th, 1973. Roche says he didn’t plan to take Samantha that night, but when Bill and Teena left, he saw his chance. He watched Mulder and Samantha through the window for a while, then cut the power. The door was unlocked, so he didn’t have to kick it in. He just simply came in the front door and grabbed Samantha while Mulder was frozen in shock.

Mulder asks Roche to confirm that that’s exactly what happened, then reveals that it had to have been a lie. The house they’re in is six miles from the one Samantha was taken from. But Mulder thinks that when he profiled Roche years ago, somehow they formed a connection and Roche was able to get into his head. Roche argues that geography is the only error he made. Mulder notes that all of his other claims about his other murders were accurate. He thinks Roche watched the events of the abduction through Mulder’s eyes in his dreams.

Roche taunts that Mulder’s a little off since he believes in aliens and flying saucers. He’s telling the truth, and if Mulder doesn’t believe it, he’s not as open-minded as people think. Mulder notes that with this kind of demeanor, Roche must have been a great salesman. The men will be spending the night in a motel before heading back to D.C. and prison.

While Roche sleeps, Mulder looks at the hearts, hearing Samantha calling to him from an El Camino in the parking lot. He manages to unlock the door and get her out before the car can drive off. A red light in the window spells “BYE,” and suddenly the car and Samantha are gone. When Mulder wakes up, Roche is also gone, and his handcuffs are now on Mulder’s wrists.

Scully and Skinner are displeased with this turn of events, especially since Roche took Mulder’s badge and gun, along with the last heart. Mulder thinks he might have gone after the girl he was talking to on the plane. He calls the airline for a passenger manifest, learning that someone with his name called ten minutes earlier to get the girl’s identity.

Thanks to Mulder’s badge, Roche was able to pretend he needed to take the girl from her daycare because of an emergency. Mulder tells Scully that she was right – Roche was playing him the whole time. They consider that Roche might take the girl someplace familiar, since he used to live in Boston. Scully sees in Roche’s file that he lived on Alice Road, which sounds perfect to Mulder, as they found Alice in Wonderland in the camper shell: “He’s the Mad Hatter.”

The agents go to Roche’s old apartment, but Mulder quickly determines that it’s not where Roche and the girl went. He sees a lot behind the apartment building that’s full of old…cable cars? Subway cars? Something like that. As he’s looking around, he hears a girl screaming. When Mulder finally finds Roche, Roche says that maybe they have that connection Mulder mentioned after all.

The girl, Caitlin, is fine, but she’s sitting between Mulder and Roche, who’s holding a gun on her. Mulder tells Caitlin to close her eyes and count to 20. As she does, he holds his gun on Roche. Roche doesn’t think Mulder will shoot him – Roche still hasn’t said who the 16th heart belongs to, and Mulder can’t be 100 percent sure it wasn’t Samantha’s. As Caitlin nears 20, Roche moves his finger like he’s going to shoot her. Mulder shoots first, killing Roche while Caitlin runs to safety.

Tests show that the fabric of the 16th heart was made between 1969 and 1974. Scully tells Mulder that it didn’t belong to Samantha, but she’s sure they’ll find the real victim eventually. She suggests that Mulder get some sleep, which just makes him laugh. She leaves him alone in the office with the 16th heart, which he puts in a desk drawer.

Thoughts: This show has a lot of good one-episode guest stars, and Tom Noonan, who plays Roche, is somewhere near the top of my list of the best.

Someone needs to write another trippy children’s book that TV and movie writers can refer to instead of Alice in Wonderland.

I love that Skinner questions why Scully wasn’t with Mulder when he got Roche out of prison. Maybe because, even though I joke about them being married, they’re not actually together 24 hours a day? And why does he think Scully has any kind of control over Mulder’s behavior?

December 20, 2016

SVT #75, Jessica and the Earthquake: (Not a) Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 4:48 pm by Jenn

I thought Jessica's walls were brown

I thought Jessica’s walls were brown

Summary: Jessica wakes up in the middle of the night during what she later finds out is an earthquake. It’s minor – only a 3.2 – but it’s Sweet Valley’s first in 20 years, so it’s kind of a big deal. It becomes an even bigger deal for Jessica when she learns that she was the only person at school who woke up. I don’t know why anyone cares, but they do. Jessica uses her overactive imagination to spice up the story a little. She tells people that she woke up before the earthquake, and must have sensed that it was coming. Super-nerd Lloyd Benson is intrigued and starts following her around, wanting her help with a project on earthquakes.

With news of an aftershock possibly coming, Lila and Janet, who are sick of Jessica’s embellishments, decide to get some revenge. They urge her to predict when the aftershock will come, then plan a big part at the Fowlers’ so everyone can experience it together. At first Jess loves all the attention, but when Lila and Janet try to call her bluff, she gets worried. If she predicts an earthquake and nothing happens, she’ll be humiliated. She’s already humiliated enough by Lloyd’s sudden obsession with her.

Everyone is really excited about the possibility of Jessica proving her earthquake-sensing powers. A ton of people are invited to Lila’s party, and Bruce even has souvenir T-shirts made. Since the date of the party is on them, Jessica’s prediction better be right or no one will want a shirt, and she’ll have to deal with Bruce’s anger on top of everything else. Jess tries to put a stop to the party, but everyone wants earthcake, a cake Lila and Janet will decorate to look like Sweet Valley, then cut in half like it’s been split by an earthquake. I have to admit, that’s pretty clever.

Desperate for her prediction to come true, Jessica does an earthquake dance (a variation on a rain dance) before the party. This involves her hopping around her room, chanting, “Earthquake, earthquake, please come soon. If you don’t come, I’ll be ruined.” I have a feeling that if Lila and Janet saw this, they’d be satisfied with their revenge. Elizabeth sees Jess dancing and tries to cheer her up, noting that there’s a chance the aftershock will come just when she said.

At the party, Jessica frets that she’s going to be embarrassed in front of everyone. People are making a huge deal out of the aftershock – Aaron is even taking bets from people on what time it will occur. Jessica says it’ll happen at 8:30, so everyone spends the party checking the time. Bruce warns that if the aftershock doesn’t happen that night, Jess will have to pay for all his unsold shirts. Hey, Bruce, no one asked you to make shirts. That’s your own problem.

8:30 rolls around, and guess what? No earthquake. Jessica pretends that the vibes she was getting before were just off a little, but everyone’s lost interest. Jessica sulks off somewhere in the basement and takes a nap. As Lila brings the earthquake down to the party, the aftershock hits. Lila takes a header into the cake. Oh, sweet justice for Jess. Too bad she slept through the whole thing. (Fortunately, Amy takes a picture.)

In the B-plot, Steven’s new favorite band, the Katybugs, comes out with a video about animal cruelty and why people should be vegetarians. Steven’s so disturbed by the images and ideas that he reacts like Lisa in that Simpsons episode where she can’t eat lamb chops after seeing a lamb at a petting zoo. He gets very Dawn Schafer about the whole thing, annoying his family and friends with his self-righteousness.

In what I think might be an attempt to shove him out of his new habits by overloading him, Ned and Alice have the whole family adopt Steven’s new diet. The twins aren’t happy, though Elizabeth at least puts forth an effort. Steven quickly grows tired of his new self-imposed restrictions (the boy loves a bacon cheeseburger), but he knows he can’t back down, because his family and friends will call him out for being a hypocrite. Cathy tells him she understands his convictions, and she does what she can, but she’s not going to change her whole lifestyle just because some animals are cute.

Steven finally breaks down and decides to have some spaghetti and meatballs. But the earthquake hits and he drops the jar holding the sauce, ruining the last bit of non-healthy food in the house. The twins figure out what happened and follow him to Hughie’s Burger Shack (competition for the Dairi Burger? Oh, no!) after school. They catch him about to eat a burger and tease him about it. At this point he doesn’t really care anymore, and he agrees to stop trying to push his beliefs on other people if it means he can eat some meat.

The C-plot is connected to the A-plot: Elizabeth and Amy think they can only be true reporters if they experience something themselves, so they decide to stay up all night for a few nights in case the aftershock comes. That way, at least one of them will be able to write about it from first-hand experience. This leads to the girls falling asleep in school and even struggling to stay awake at Lila’s party. Of course, they’re awake for the aftershock, so they end up able to write their article without learning a lesson about responsible journalist procedures, or something.

Thoughts: These kids act like they’ve never experienced an earthquake before, but even if there hasn’t been one in Sweet Valley in 20 years, they can’t all have lived in S.V. their whole lives. None of them has ever been to L.A.? San Francisco? Any other freaking place in Southern California?

Alice has nothing to say about Elizabeth and Amy trying to stay up all night multiple nights in a row. I mean, of course.

Lloyd talks about “the magical terror of earthquakes.” Please get a life, Lloyd.

Next page