May 3, 2016

SVT #53, The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley: It’s Ironic That Leslie Has Stage Fright About a Horror Movie

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

Elizabeth is right to be this amused

Elizabeth is right to be this amused

Summary: The sixth-graders have reached that point in the school year where they just can’t handle the thought of doing more work. When I was in college, we called that October. Mr. Bowman, everyone’s favorite English teacher, agrees to let them do something different. A girl named Leslie Forsythe thinks they should make a movie – writing the script would fit in with their English curriculum, and the whole experience would be educational. Mr. Bowman and the rest of the class think this is a great idea.

Jessica and Lila both want to play the lead. Never mind that the movie doesn’t even have a plot yet. Leslie is somehow friends with a woman named Deirdre who works at a video store and studied acting in college, so Leslie takes a few classmates to meet her after school. Leslie secretly wants to be an actress, too, but is too shy to fulfill her dreams. Deirdre thinks Leslie should work on that and get over it, since her own acting career was derailed by stage fright, and she doesn’t want Leslie to face the same fate.

The guys want to do a horror movie, but the girls want a romance. Elizabeth comes up with a kind of compromise: a horror spoof with a love triangle. The students then write down which three jobs they’d like on the movie. Jess and Lila only want to act. Leslie does, too, but pretends it’s just because she can’t think of another job she wants. Liz and Amy end up thinking up a plot everyone likes: A boy grows cucumbers in his basement, one becomes infested with some kind of slime, and the slime gets into a love triangle with the boy and his girlfriend. This is more creative than 85% of what gets made in Hollywood.

Even though the plot hasn’t been finalized and there’s no script, auditions are held. There are only a handful of characters – in addition to the three mains, there’s the boy’s grandmother and sister, as well as an English teacher. The principal kindly agrees to play himself and get eaten by the Slime. That’s pretty awesome. Two of the boys auditioning for the male lead are Winston and resident nerd Randy Mason. Jess and Lila are horrified that they have to read with these guys, though both boys prove to be good actors. Lila’s audition sucks, but Jessica’s is good.

Leslie’s supposed to audition last, but she overhears Lila and Ellen talking trash about her. They think she’s a loser and could never land the female lead. Even though Elizabeth and Amy were supportive, Leslie decides it’s not worth the risk to audition – she could screw up in front of everyone and embarrass herself. Plus, she would have to read with Randy, and face her huge crush on him. Awww, nerdy love. I’m going to picture Leslie as Alex from Modern Family.

Since Leslie didn’t audition, Jessica has little competition and lands the female lead. She’ll be acting opposite Randy as the male lead. Mr. Bowman first picks Lila to play the Slime (I thought her audition was horrible?), but there’s no way Lila Fowler is going to do something like that, so Winston gets the part and Lila is put in charge of clean-up. Ha! Lila assigns herself the job of camera operator, since her father just got an expensive new camcorder and she’s the only one allowed to use it.

Lila’s new interest in making movies drives her friends crazy. She takes the camcorder on a trip to the mall and films the Unicorns embarrassing themselves. I have a feeling there’s a lot of footage of Ellen doing stupid things. Meanwhile, the movie’s screenwriters – Elizabeth, Amy, Leslie, and Maria – come up with a plot point that will also embarrass Jessica. They think her character, Sherri, should kiss the Slime.

When Jess reads the script, she’s outraged. She’ll have to kiss both Randy and Winston on screen. Plus, rehearsals start next week, so Jessica needs to pucker up pretty soon. Jess finds ways to delay the kiss at rehearsals, being enough of a diva that they run out of time fulfilling her needs, then faking a cold. Lila invites Jess over to teach her about stage kissing, but it’s really just an excuse for Lila to film Jessica while she makes a fool out of herself.

Leslie watches a movie with her new buddies Elizabeth, Amy, and Maria, and when the sound goes out, Leslie acts out the ending. The other girls gush over what a great actress she is. Leslie admits that she was too shy to audition for the movie, and was afraid to have to speak full sentences in front of her crush. Maria, who’s been through this herself, gives Leslie some encouragement.

Lila shows a bunch of people the embarrassing footage she’s gotten of her friends, including Jessica’s fake make-out session with a pillow. She points out that if Jess is humiliated by it, she’ll be even more humiliated when she has to kiss Randy and Winston on camera. Jess agrees and drops out of the movie. Now that Leslie has the courage to audition, she nails it and gets Jessica’s role.

The rest of the filmmaking goes smoothly, and after just a couple weeks, the final product is ready to be screened. Jessica puts together a fake film for the coming attractions, starring Lila doing the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet opposite a mop, while wearing curlers and an oatmeal face mask. This is her payback for embarrassing all her friends. Looks good on you, Li. Why are they all friends with her, anyway?

So I guess the final movie is spectacular and Leslie is a star. She inspires Deirdre to go back to acting. Of course. And after all the talk of her crush, Leslie disappears and we never hear about her and Randy becoming a couple. Oh, well.

Thoughts: Ellen: “It’s worse than dumb. It’s stupid.” Well, Ellen would know.

Caroline: “How do you audition for the part of a Slime victim?” Mr. Bowman: “Just be yourself, Caroline.” I know that was supposed to be innocent, but it reminded me of an exchange from Addams Family Values: “I’ll be the victim!” “All your life.”

The Unicorns have a weird pajama contest at a sleepover: “Belinda’s weird pajamas turned out to be an old Ranger T-shirt and a pair of baseball pants.” Belinda, are you even trying? Then again, Lila just wears a long shirt with a unicorn on it, which is nowhere near weird.

April 30, 2016

The X-Files 2.25, Anasazi: Kill Bill

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , at 1:38 pm by Jenn

This is just how the first season of "Lost" ended

This is just how the first season of “Lost” ended

Summary: It’s April 9th, and on a Navajo reservation in Two Grey Hills, New Mexico, a young man is woken in the middle of the night by an earthquake. In the morning, the man’s grandfather tells him to leave the snakes alone when he goes out riding. The grandfather, Albert Hosteen, thinks the earth has something to say. The grandson, Eric, rides his motorcycle to some red rocks and sees something white underground where the dirt has been displaced. Eric brings his family out to see what he’s brought home, but Albert says it should be returned: “They will be coming.” The thing Eric found is a skeleton, and if I had to guess, I’d say it belonged to an alien.

In Dover, Delaware, a man is ready a book about conspiracy theories while his computer does some hacking. In the United Nations building in New York, an Italian man learns that the “MJ documents” have been breached. Japanese and German men confer, then speak to CSM. He tells some minions that he’s gotten the phone call he never wanted to receive. While masked men break into the hacker’s apartment, Mulder gets a visit from the Lone Gunmen, who are trying to dodge a killer named Garnet who’s after the hacker, Kenneth Soona. He’s the “Thinker” they’ve worked with before. The Gunmen think Soona will try to contact Mulder.

A shot is fired nearby, and Mulder runs to an apartment in another hallway where a woman has just shot her husband of 30 years. The Gunmen decide this is too weird for them and leave. Mulder goes to the U.S. Botanic Garden and meets with Soona, who thinks he’s found the Defense Department’s original files about aliens. This means he has information on Roswell and MJ-12. He didn’t think he’d be successful in the hack, so he didn’t take any precautions with his identity. Soona gives all his downloaded info to Mulder, asking him to promise to make the conspirators answer to the people.

Mulder takes the information (on a cassette – awwww, remember cassettes?) to his office the next day, telling Scully he’s about to uncover “the biggest lie of all.” He’s found the Holy Grail of the DOD’s secrets. Too bad it’s all encrypted and Mulder can’t read it. Scully thinks it’s written in Navajo, telling Mulder that the Allies used the language in World War II and the Japanese couldn’t interpret it. Mulder tells her to find someone who can. Scully’s worried about him since he hasn’t been sleeping. Mulder goes to see Skinner, who wants to know if the rumor’s true that Mulder has received sensitive files. Mulder says no, then tries to leave. When Skinner tries to make him stay, they get into a fistfight.

Scully’s summoned to Skinner’s office the next day for a meeting about Mulder and Skinner’s fight. She doesn’t know why Mulder’s acting so weird, since he only said he’s not sleeping well. One of the attendees wonders if Scully would lie to protect her partner – the partner she was originally supposed to discredit. She’s warned that she could be fired if she tries to protect Mulder. Scully doesn’t seem too worried.

Up in Martha’s Vineyard, Bill Mulder gets a visit from CSM, who was never supposed to contact him again. Bill’s annoyed that the MJ documents weren’t destroyed decades ago. CSM confirms that Mulder has them, as Soona has come forward. Bill’s name is in the files, and he doesn’t want Mulder to know. CSM thinks the encryption will protect him. Bill wonders if Mulder will also be protected. CSM urges Bill to deny everything if his involvement is ever revealed.

Scully finds Mulder napping in his apartment, trying to sleep off a fever. She tells him she covered for him at work and warns that Skinner’s looking for a reason to punish him. She’d like to know what she’s lying to keep secret. She wants to know if the cassette is worth Mulder risking everything. Mulder angrily says he’ll tell her more when the encryption is broken. Scully says she’s meeting someone soon, but she needs assurance that she’s doing the right thing. Mulder doesn’t answer as he puts a masking-tape X on his window. She asks why he attacked Skinner, but Mulder doesn’t know.

Scully meets with someone from the Navajo Nation who can only recognize a few words (“goods/merchandise” and “vaccination”). She says they stand out because they’re modern words. She has someone in mind who can help with the rest. Bill calls Mulder to summon him to the family home, though leaving D.C. will mean Mulder can’t meet with Mr. X. Scully goes back to Mulder’s apartment, where a shot is fired through the window that still has an X on it.

Up at the Mulder compound, Bill tells his son that back when he had to make choices, they were complicated; now they’re clear. He’s proud that Mulder has never joined up with people who might change his doctrines. Once Mulder hears the words, he’ll understand. Mulder asks for details, and Bill clarifies that the word is “merchandise.” He goes to the bathroom to take some medication, not realizing that our old buddy Krycek is lying in wait in the bathtub. Mulder hears a shot and runs to check on his father, who uses his dying breath to ask for forgiveness.

Mulder calls Scully to report that Bill has been killed. Scully wonders if Mulder’s responsible, and when he says he isn’t, she tells him to run away. Mulder’s worried about that making him look guilty. Scully points out that he’ll look guilty no matter what – he’s being set up. Mulder wants to meet her at his apartment, but Scully knows that’s not safe, considering the shot that came through the window while she was there. Instead, the agents reconvene at her place, and Scully realizes that Mulder’s condition is worsening.

In the morning, Mulder (whose personal doctor helpfully removed his clothes during the night) wakes up alone and finds his gun missing. Scully’s taken it to the FBI’s firearms unit to see if it was used to kill Bill. Mulder thinks Scully still suspects that he killed his father. Scully says she wants to be able to give Skinner answers. Mulder yells at her for making reports on him over the past two years. “You have my files and you have my gun,” he says. “Don’t ask me for my trust.”

Scully retrieves the bullet that was fired through Mulder’s window, spotting a man wheeling what looks like an oxygen tank to a van outside. Whatever the tank actually holds, a new one has been hooked up in the building’s boiler room. That night, Mulder spots someone outside his building and chases him. It’s Krycek, who manages to lose a fight to Mulder despite the fact that Krycek’s the only one armed and Mulder has a fever. Krycek won’t admit to killing Bill, but Mulder beats him up anyway.

Scully arrives and orders Mulder to drop Krycek’s gun. Mulder refuses, even though Scully has her own gun trained on Krycek, so Scully shoots Mulder in the shoulder, allowing Krycek to get away. When Scully wakes up on April 16th (to a “Mulder, it’s me”), Hosteen is there with Scully. Mulder’s understandably upset that his partner shot him, but Scully knows that if Mulder had shot Krycek, they would never be able to prove that Mulder didn’t kill Bill. For the first time, Scully’s able to tell Mulder that she’s sorry his father is dead.

Scully explains that when she went to get the bullet from Mulder’s apartment, she saw someone taking out the tank. She found a dialysis filter in the new one and guesses it was used to transmit LSD or dopamine into Mulder’s building. That explains Mulder’s weird behavior and the random shooting in the building. Scully thinks their enemies are trying to turn people against Mulder. She knocked him out for a couple of days to make sure the side effects of the psychosis are gone. They’re now in Farmington, New Mexico.

Hosteen was a Navajo code-talker in World War II, and he’s been working on translating the MJ documents. He says he got an omen last week that let him know Mulder would be coming. Scully tells Mulder that the reservation holds some more evidence of the conspiracy, and Mulder will be able to go see them. Scully has skipped a meeting with Skinner, so now she’s put her job on the line, but she’s obviously more concerned about Mulder. He thanks her for taking care of him. Scully reveals that her name is in the files, along with Duane Barry’s – something having to do with a test. She asks Mulder to find out what it all means.

Mulder and Hosteen head to Hosteen’s house, talking about how secrets “push their way up through the sands of deception” so people can learn them. Hosteen asks Mulder to confirm that he’s ready to put his life on the line to learn the truth. More than 600 years ago, the Anasazi tribe lived on the reservation; now, there’s no evidence of their existence. People claim they never existed because they’re not willing to sacrifice themselves to learn the truth. Hosteen, however, doesn’t believe that anything can disappear without a trace. He thinks the Anasazi were abducted “by visitors who come here still.”

Eric takes Mulder out to the red rocks to see the thing he uncovered in the dirt. CSM calls to ask Mulder’s location, which, of course, Mulder isn’t going to disclose (he says he’s at the Betty Ford Center). CSM warns Mulder not to listen to anything Bill told him. He authorized something and couldn’t live with it. CSM claims he had nothing to do with Bill’s murder. Mulder threatens to expose the “black-lunged son of a b%$@#,” but CSM replies that doing so would also expose Bill. After they hang up, CSM gets in a military helicopter and heads off to find Mulder.

Eric tells Mulder that he thinks the thing buried under the dirt is a boxcar. They find a hatch in the roof and open it. Mulder calls Scully from inside the boxcar to tell her it’s full of bodies. She tells him that the MJ documents mention experiments performed by Axis scientists who were granted immunity after the war. They were testing on humans, AKA “merchandise.” But the bodies in the boxcar look more alien than human. One seems to have a smallpox vaccination scar.

As the agents start to put things together, the boxcar hatch closes. Eric has spotted CSM’s helicopter. Soldiers emerge and CSM tries to question Eric, who won’t talk to him. They can’t find Mulder in the boxcar, telling CSM that if he was there, “he’s vanished without a trace.” CSM, like Hosteen, denies that that’s possible. He orders them to burn the boxcar. As they take Eric with them on the helicopter, a bomb detonates on the boxcar and it goes up in flames. To be continued…

Thoughts: David Duchovny co-write this episode.

My captions in one scene: “speaking native language.” Well, the Hosteens are Navajo, so do you think Albert might have been speaking…Navajo? Just a guess.

Mulder gets cell reception inside a boxcare in a desert quarry but my parents have to leave their building to get a signal. Thanks, technology!

And just like that, I’m done with season 2! On to Jack Black and Clyde Bruckman.

April 26, 2016

SVU #55, The First Time: Finn-timacy Issues

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 5:12 pm by Jenn

This is so "Beverly Hills, 90210"

This is so “Beverly Hills, 90210”

Summary: Sam is out at Todd’s bar, Frankie’s, when he spots Elizabeth’s boyfriend Finn with a woman who is definitely not Elizabeth. And let’s just say the woman can’t be mistaken for Finn’s sister or cousin or some other woman he’s not romantically involved with. Elizabeth actually has a date with Finn planned for later and has no idea that her man currently has another blonde draped all over him. Sam lets her know, but she doesn’t believe him, and not just because Finn would never go to Frankie’s, or any other townie bar. Apparently SVU students are very against mingling with non-SVU students.

On their date, Finn professes his undying affection for Elizabeth and asks to date exclusively. When she says yes, he decides it’s time for the sex to happen. Elizabeth has been thinking about this lot – though, for Elizabeth, even ten seconds of thinking about sex is a lot – and is edging closer to being ready to lose her virginity. She gets turned off, though, when Finn wants to get it on in his car in the parking lot. Fair enough. Finn invites her over to watch movies, though he can’t find any when they get to his place. SUSPICIOUS. They’re about to get horizontal when Elizabeth finds High Noon. Finn gets blocked by Gary Cooper.

Eventually Finn tries to undress Liz again, but she finally tells him she’s a virgin and wants to take things slowly. He assures her that they’ll move at her pace…as long as her pace leads them to the bedroom in the next five minutes. Elizabeth admits that she’s scared about her first time, which Finn says is very high school of her. What a compassionate, caring guy you’ve chosen here, Liz! She ends up running home, crying. Yeah, you’re not ready for this Liz.

On campus, Elizabeth sees Finn talking to another undergrad and thinks he’s getting her phone number. She realizes she doesn’t want to lose him to another girl. Yeah, that would be such a horrible loss. Finn thinks they should work through their sex anxiety by visualizing everything going well. Finn, if you want to picture your girlfriend naked, it’s not like she can stop you. They agree to finally do the deed on Saturday, after a party at the duplex.

Liz is still nervous but not backing out. She gets birth-control pills (a HUGE step for our girl), then wonders if they should also use a condom. Considering Finn’s popularity with the ladies, YES. She calls Finn to chat, but he’s busy with a supposed study group, which sounds suspiciously like just one woman. Poor, naïve Liz.

At the duplex party, Sam tries again to get Elizabeth to see that her boyfriend is a jerk. He brings up seeing Finn at Frankie’s, even getting Todd to confirm that he was there with another girl. Finn just calmly pleads innocent, and of course, Liz buys it. After spending some time at the party, they go to his place for their big night together. Only this time Elizabeth finally realizes for sure that she’s not ready.

Finn, of course, doesn’t react well. He calls Liz out for being a tease, and tells her she’s lucky he chose her since he can have any girl he wants. Then he calls up one of his other conquests and invites her over while Elizabeth is still standing right there. Liz tries to call Jessica to come get her, but she reaches Sam instead. He brings her home and manages to not say “I told you so” about what a jerk Finn turned out to be.

Sam, by the way, has spent the book being an idiot. He wants to show Elizabeth how much of a jerk he is so she’ll see how bad Finn is, too. I don’t get his logic. Anyway, he enlists an ex named Anna to pretend they’re hooking up just so he can toss her out the next morning and make Elizabeth think that guys are dogs, I guess. Since Elizabeth is dumb, it works. I don’t know how it’s going to make Liz want Sam, though.

In the last book, Chloe and her new friend Val were accepted as Theta pledges, and now they’re facing some hazing. A couple of Theta mean girls make the pledges do humiliating things like kiss sorority guys on command and give the sisters massages. In the cafeteria one day, Val is ordered to fat-shame her roommate, Deena. Val has started to grow tired of the Thetas’ shenanigans, and this is the last straw for her. She doesn’t want to be a part of a group that’s so mean to other people. She announces that she’s dropping out.

Chloe is given the task next, and she seriously considers doing it. After all, being a Theta is all she’s ever wanted (for the last two books). But she realizes that Val and Deena have become good friends of hers, and she’d rather spend time with them than with the Theta snobs. She ditches the task as well and quits the pledge process.

But! Denise and Jessica learn about the hazing and reprimand the sisters behind it for being so cruel. They don’t want Theta participating in demeaning activities, and they hope the pledges don’t hold the hazing against the rest of the sisters. They’ve decided that anyone who dropped out of the pledging can be reinstated. Val doesn’t really care, but Chloe’s thrilled. After spending some more time with Val and Deena, she goes to the party at the duplex and hangs out with a semi-nerd named Martin. She judges him harshly at first, then decides to take pity on him because he’s not as bad as she thought. Martin, run away!

Todd spends the whole book working and becoming more and more of a townie, because it makes him feel grown-up. He’s determined not to live off of his parents’ money, though he doesn’t mention to them that he’s dropped a few classes and therefore doesn’t need as much for tuition as they’ve been paying. Todd is annoying so I really don’t care about him anymore.

Nina’s been going out more, and has a crush on Xavier, a singer with a band called Wired. He seems really into her, but then he doesn’t call her after he says he would, and he brushes her off the next time they see each other. Nina’s fooled herself into thinking they’re dating, despite the fact that they’ve talked, like, twice and he would rather flirt with groupies. At the duplex party, guys keep talking to Nina, who’s suddenly a hot commodity. She only has eyes for Xavier, though, and by the end of the book, they’re about to head to bed together. P.S. It’s Elizabeth’s bed. So at least that piece of furniture is going to see some action.

Thoughts: For a med student, Finn sure has a lot of free time to go on dates, and a lot of money to spend at expensive restaurants.

“‘Girls like that don’t have one-night stands. So a guy’s gotta put on a little show. It’s not like I’m the only one who does it. All guys do.’ Not all guys, she corrected mentally.” You know, Liz, it’s usually the guy who says “not all men.”

The ghostwriter needs to NEVER write another sex scene. I want a promise in writing.

The ghostwriter also needs to stop thinking that college students call each other “darling.”

April 23, 2016

The X-Files 2.24, Our Town: Tastes Like Chicken

Posted in TV tagged at 1:36 pm by Jenn

"You said we were going for a bite to eat! ...Oh, I get it now"

“You said we were going for a bite to eat! …Oh, I get it now”

Summary: A man and woman pull over to neck on the side of a county road in Dudley, Arkansas. They’re a little too old for parking, but the woman doesn’t want to go to a motel; someone might see them. The woman gets out of the car, but the man, George, doesn’t follow for a minute. First, he has to have some sort of spasm and take a pill. Then the woman, Paula, wants to be chased before they hook up. George loses track of her in the woods, which aren’t so much romantic as creepy. He sees lights approaching, then gets hit with an axe wielded by someone wearing a mask. Night-night, George.

Ten weeks later, Scully tells Mulder that the case of George’s disappearance is just a wild goose chase. Mulder corrects that it’s a “chicken case,” since George is a federal poultry inspector for Chaco Chicken. Scully argues that the bureau is trying to undermine Mulder’s work. But Mulder’s intrigued by a witness’ story about seeing “strange fire” in the field where George disappeared. Scully mocks the woman’s claim of seeing a “foxfire spirit.” Mulder elaborates on the legend of people being taken away by foxfire. This time, there’s a huge burn mark the agents can check out.

In college, Mulder saw a 1960s documentary about an asylum, featuring a patient who says fire demons abducted him. He refused to be taken or killed, because that would prevent him from getting into Heaven. Mulder says the patient, Creighton, disappeared for a few days and was so shaken when he returned that he had to be committed. Police found his car in Dudley. So the agents head down to Arkansas to check out the field, finding a fork and something called a witch’s peg, which is supposed to keep evil spirits away.

Sheriff Tom Arens meets the agents, and though he’s willing to help, he doesn’t think there’s anything special about the circumstances of George’s disappearance. No one mentioned the witch’s peg to the FBI because there are tons of them in the town, placed there by superstitious “hill people.” Arens thinks the scorch mark comes from illegal trash burning. Foxfire doesn’t exist; it’s just swamp gas. Scully likes this guy. Arens continues that George arrived in town a few months ago and never connected with anyone, except the women he cheated on his wife with. He probably followed one of those women out of town.

The agents and Arens interview George’s wife, Doris, who also believed that her husband just took off with another woman. She’s not too broken up about it. Mulder thinks it’s suspicious that George disappeared the day before he was going to recommend that Chaco’s plant be shut down. Doris reports that he got some suspicious hang-up phone calls, but she figured they were from girlfriends. The agents and Arens then go to the Chaco plant, where a shaken Paula is employed. She takes some sort of pill before starting her shift.

Arens introduces the agents to the floor manager, Jess Harold, who says George had been trying to shut down the plant since he came to town. Paula eavesdrops, and when the agents leave the floor, she starts exhibiting behavior similar to the spasms George had. She pauses, watching chickens go by on an assembly line. She sees one of them as George’s head and throws it to the ground. Elsewhere, Harold shows the agents to George’s area, saying he was the only person who ever had a problem with the plant. Then again, George had a problem with everything. He claimed the job was giving him headaches and even filed a lawsuit with the government, which was dismissed).

Harold lets the agents see what the chickens are fed – an unappetizing mixture of grains and other chickens. Aww, poor little cannibal chickens. Scully still thinks this is a dumb case – whether George left town or was killed, there was no need to call in the FBI. But as they’re leaving, Paula takes Harold hostage, holding a knife to his throat. Scully attempts to talk her down, but when Paula doesn’t let Harold go, Arens shoots her. Her body falls into the chicken/grain mixture. Tonight, the chickens will dine on soylent green!

Harold’s fine, and he has no idea why Paula snapped like she did. The plant’s doctor, Randolph, tells the agents that Paula told him the week before that she was having headaches. She had some tests done but nothing came up, so Randolph thought she was just under stress. He admits that Paula and George exhibited similar symptoms, possibly due to the repetitive nature of their jobs. They were both given codeine, which explains why they both popped pills. Scully wants to do an autopsy on Paula, but Randolph says she’ll have to talk to the man in charge, Chaco – who happens to be Paula’s grandfather and legal guardian.

The agents go to Chaco’s mansion, which has some chickens on the premises. Chaco waxes poetic about how awesome and “useful” chickens are, since they provide both food and feathers for humans. He questions Scully’s desire to perform an autopsy on Paula; didn’t the agents come to town to look into George’s disappearance? Chaco had no patience for George, since he was trying to tear down what Chaco worked so hard to create. But his interest in what happened to Paula wins out, and he okays the autopsy.

Scully does her work and discovers that Paula had Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare degenerative disorder that causes dementia and seizures. She only had a few months left to live. Mulder reveals that Paula wasn’t as young as they thought (and definitely not as young as she looked) – she was 47. They decide to look for her birth certificate at the county courthouse to confirm. Mulder notes that the case is turning into something much more interesting than foxfire.

On the way to the courthouse, Scully says that there’s an extremely low chance that Paula and George both had Creutzfeldt-Jakob (which can be inherited but isn’t communicable). But Mulder thinks it’s more likely than Paula being 47, so there’s that. They almost crash into a truck that’s serving all over the road. Mulder’s able to pull to the side, but the truck goes into a river, spilling crates of chickens. When the driver is ID’d, Scully learns from Randolph that he had the same symptoms Paula and George displayed. Scully worries that someone killed George, put his body in the chickens’ feed, and spread Creutzfeldt-Jakob to anyone who ate Chaco chickens.

When Arens arrives, Mulder asks him why the water in the river is brown. Arens blames run-off from the Chaco plant. Well, great, that probably has Creutzfeldt-Jakob in it, too! Mulder asks to have the river dragged for George’s body, though he doesn’t want to say specifically that that’s what he’s looking for. The river is searched, and a bunch of bones are found – a lot more bones than just the ones from George’s body. Scully thinks some could be as much as 20-30 years old. No skulls were found, and all the bones look buffed. Since the river was pretty calm, it’s weird that they look almost polished.

Arens calls in Doris to tell her that George’s remains were found. She gets upset and runs off. At the Chaco plant, Randolph pulls Harold aside to tell him that a man named Clayton Walsh is showing Creutzfeldt-Jakob symptoms. Chaco knows what’s going on but won’t do anything. Harold decides to try to talk to him. Scully meets up with Mulder (bringing him a bucket of chicken) to look into missing people from the area. Over the past 50 years, 87 people have disappeared. Mulder thinks the poor, innocent people of Dudley, Arkansas, “have been eating more than just chicken.”

The missing people’s bones were boiled, a practice familiar to the cannibalistic Anasazi tribe of New Mexico. Since some cannibalistic rituals are performed to extend people’s lives, Paula may look younger than 47 because she eats people. Mulder decides they should look into the ages of other people in Dudley. Scully tags along, since it’s not like she can sit down and enjoy her chicken dinner.

Over at Chaco’s mansion, Chaco tells Harold he’ll take care of things. Doris arrives, distressed over having to lie about what’s going on. She’s afraid the agents will discover that she helped kill her husband. Chaco reminds her that that was the price she had to pay. He promises that everything will be fine, and they’ll take care of her. After she leaves, Harold worries about Doris’ mental stability, but Chaco says she’s part of their town now. They can’t turn on each other – that would make them no better than animals. The FBI is the real problem.

At the courthouse, Mulder and Scully find that the birth records have been torched recently. Doris calls Mulder, telling him she’s worried Chaco is going to kill her. Mulder sends Scully over while he finds and arrests Chaco. But it’s too late – the masked guy who killed George is in Doris’ house with a knife. While Scully searches the house for her, Mulder sees photos and artifacts of the Anasazi tribe in Chaco’s house. He asks a maid to open a cabinet so he can see inside, but she doesn’t have a key. Mulder smashes the lock and finds the heads of the missing people inside.

Mulder calls Scully to tell her that Chaco’s not at home. He thinks Chaco kidnapped Doris, but he’s in Doris’ house. Chaco knocks out Scully, who’s probably going to end up on the menu at some sort of gathering Harold and Randolph are overseeing in the field where George was killed. Chaco’s upset that the men took Doris after he told them not to turn on their own. Harold reminds him that he brought in an outsider who made everyone sick. Chaco notes that once they turn on their own, everyone’s vulnerable.

Harold tells Chaco he won’t need to worry about that – the masked man is going to kill him next. Scully’s appropriately freaked out about what this means for her. She watches helplessly as the masked man decapitates Chaco with his trusty axe. At least the group’s fire (most likely responsible for the scorch mark in the field) makes it easy for Mulder to figure out where his partner’s being held. She’s next up on the chopping block (sorry), and of course, he’s able to stop the masked man before he can kill Scully. Everyone else at the ritual runs away, accidentally trampling Harold before he can get his gun and shoot Mulder.

Mulder checks on Scully before pulling off the masked man’s disguise to reveal…Arens. Well, of course. The agents see what people probably think is foxfire, but it looks more like people running away with torches. The next day, the Chaco plant is closed down by the USDA. While no tainted chickens have been found, 27 people from the ceremony have Creutzfeldt-Jakob. In 1944, Chaco’s plane was shot down in New Guinea, and he spent some time with a cannibalistic tribe. He was in his 90s when he died (and didn’t look a day over 70). As someone feeds the chickens at the plant, Scully reports that Chaco’s remains haven’t been found.

Thoughts: Arens is played by Gary Grubbs.

I wonder if Doris Kearns was named after the writer Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Well, crap. I love chicken. How can I ever eat it again?

Mulder, in a nutshell: “Did anyone search the river after George disappeared?” Arens: “No.” Mulder: “Well, let’s search it now.” Arens: “Why?” WHY DO YOU THINK?

This episode is a good (though extreme) example of why white people shouldn’t appropriate other cultures.

April 19, 2016

SVT #52, Booster Boycott: Male Cheerleaders? Who Ever Heard of Such a Thing?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 5:03 pm by Jenn

The girl on the right looks way older than middle school-age

The girl on the right looks way older than middle school-age

Summary: Apparently Winston is a really good gymnast, and he wants to showcase his talents by joining the Boosters. The Boosters – well, the Boosters who are also Unicorns, which is all of them except Amy and Grace – are less than pleased. I mean, they already lowered themselves to socialize with Amy. What more can we expect from them? But Winston, Amy, and Grace think they could do a lot more stunts with a guy on the squad, and they need that boost since the Southern California Middle School Cheering Championship is coming up in three weeks.

The Unicorns put their feet down, following Janet’s lead, and Winston complains about discrimination. The girls deny the possibility of discriminating against a boy. The idea of these girls thinking they know anything about gender discrimination makes me roll my eyes so hard they fall out of my head. Elizabeth thinks a lot of other SVMS students will be on Winston’s side, so he starts a petition to get support. Grace wants to sign, but the Unicorns keep her in line.

Annoyed that anyone in the school would want to be on Winston’s side, the Unicorns get to work trying to get him to back off. Lila and Jessica tell a girl named Leslie that they’ll be friends with her if she doesn’t sign the petition, because that’s supposed to be a reward. Leslie’s not interested, and points out that at SVMS, nerds outnumber Unicorns, so Winston’s petition will be a success.

She’s right, as Winston gets more than 100 signatures, including Mandy, Belinda, and Grace’s. Uh-oh, there’s dissention in the Unicorn ranks! Janet gets her hands on the petition and tears it up, but Winston was smart enough to make a copy, which he’s already given to Mrs. Langberg, the Boosters’ completely useless faculty supervisor. Mrs. Langberg tells the girls that they have to let Winston try out. She should have said something before the petition, since I doubt they could have kept him out anyway.

A bunch of people show up to Winston’s tryout, because this is the only interesting thing going on at SVMS right now. I can’t believe Elizabeth isn’t dedicating an entire Sixers edition to it. The Unicorns basically turn the tryout into Missy’s audition from Bring It On, asking Winston to do all sorts of stunts that I doubt they themselves can even do. Winston aces everything, even throwing in an unrehearsed partner move with Grace.

The Unicorns have no choice but to let Winston on the squad…but that doesn’t mean they have to be happy about it. They try to get him to quit by decorating his locker all girly-like, because being a cheerleader means being a girl, of course. Winston ends up with a black eye from bully Charlie Cashman, but he’s able to laugh off everyone else’s teasing. At Winston’s first practice, Ellen puts glue on his seat in the bleachers, Kimberly puts a doll in his bag (not sure what that was supposed to accomplish), and Lila puts peanut butter in his shoes. These girls need some better dirty tricks.

Winston becomes a much better leader than Janet, whipping the girls into pyramid-formation shape and resolving disputes about how much they should practice. Grace is smitten and wants Elizabeth to put a cartoon she drew of Winston as a cheerleader in the paper. Since the cartoon depicts Winston wearing a cheerleading skirt, he’s embarrassed, thinking Grace only sees him as a joke. He decides he should quit the squad, telling Elizabeth the main reason he joined in the first place was because he has a crush on Grace.

After Elizabeth assures Winston that Grace doesn’t think he’s a joke – and, in fact, likes him back – Winston tries to rejoin the squad. Janet says no, since they’re finally rid of him. But when the cheerleading competition comes around, the girls can barely keep it together. They admit that they miss Winston, whose absence means they can’t do their best stunts. Winston happens to be hanging around the school during the competition, so the girls invite him to cheer with them. Of course, he helps them do a perfect routine and come in second in the competition. And then I guess Winston and Grace go kiss chastely behind the bleachers, though I don’t remember her popping up more than once or twice in the rest of the series.

The B-plot sees Todd getting jealous of the time Elizabeth has been spending with Winston. Ah, yes, this is the Todd we know and…well, not love. Tolerate. Elizabeth teaches Todd a lesson by setting him up to be caught helping Amy with a science project, so she can pretend to be jealous and Todd will get a taste of his own medicine. It works. Yawn.

Thoughts: Trivia: Winston’s middle name is Xavier.

Do the Boosters really think a guy who can do a no-handed cartwheel can’t do a handspring?

But really, I don’t get the point of the girls putting a doll in Winston’s bag.

Has Grace always been a Unicorn? I don’t remember that being mentioned in The Big Camp Secret. I thought Jessica, Lila, and Ellen were the only sixth-grade Unicorns before Belinda and Mandy joined.

April 16, 2016

The X-Files 2.23, Soft Light: Me and My Shadow

Posted in TV tagged , at 1:30 pm by Jenn

"Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Savior General Electric?"

“Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Savior General Electric?”

Summary: The guest in room 606 at the Hotel George Mason in Richmond, Virginia, is trying to relax when he hears someone knocking insistently on the door across the hall. The visitor (who we’ll eventually learn is named Banton) is insistent that someone named Morris talk to him. As Banton backs away from the door, his shadow spills under the door of 606’s room. The shadow turns into something resembling a puddle of gas, and a blue light starts flashing. 606 falls through the floor. Banton uses his finger to extinguish a light, then runs from his shadow.

Mulder and Scully are, of course, summoned to the hotel to investigate the third apparent abduction in the area in the past month. They were called there by Kelly Ryan, one of Scully’s students from her time teaching at Quantico. Kelly’s just been made a detective and wants some help with the case. When Mulder meets Kelly, she says she’s heard a lot about him. “We’ll talk later,” Mulder tells Scully.

Kelly tells the agents that the man from 606 is Patrick Newirth, a top executive from Morley Tobacco (important!) who was in Richmond for a meeting. He was discovered missing when he didn’t answer his wake-up call. The door was locked and chained; the windows are all locked and there’s no fire escape Newirth could have climbed down. Scully checks out an air vent, having learned her lesson about strange abductions from Eugene Tooms.

Kelly continues that the only forensic evidence she’s found is a big burn mark stain on the carpet. Stains were found at the scenes of the other abductions as well. Newirth wasn’t a smoker (even though he worked for a tobacco company), and the mark contains materials that Scully says could come from burned flesh. Mulder notices that the mark looks like an arm, and in the place a person would be standing if he were looking out the door’s peephole.

The agents check out the hallway, and Mulder requests that the lightbulb Banton touched be dusted for prints. The lightbulb is out, but he rotates it to turn it back on. He also wants to look into the last abductee, Margaret Wysnecki. He wonders why Kelly was given this case, her first as a detective. Kelly says no one else wanted it, since it’s probably not going to lead to any big media attention. She asks for Mulder’s opinion on what happened. He suggests spontaneous human combustion. Kelly’s like, “Oh, yeah. Sure. I thought of that, too.”

Scully accuses Mulder of teasing Kelly, but he’s serious about his combustion idea. She tells him there’s no scientific evidence to back that up. Like that’s ever stopped Mulder. The agents head to the Wysnecki house, where Mulder notices that a streetlight is out and turns it back on. He thinks it’s significant that both crime scenes had nonworking lightbulbs. He snags this one for fingerprints. Inside the house, the agents find a burn mark.

Margaret Wysnecki recently retired from the Laramie Tobacco Company, but since so many people in Richmond work for cigarette companies, Mulder doesn’t find this significant. Plus, the first abductee, Gail Lambert, worked for Polarity Magnetics as an engineer, so there isn’t much of a pattern. Mulder finds a train ticket in Margaret’s trash dated the day she disappeared. He remembers that Newirth came to town via train, but Gail’s case doesn’t mention anything about trains. Mulder thinks there could still be a connection.

Speaking of train stations, that’s where Banton is right now, smoking a cigarette. He watches the floor carefully as he leaves the station and enters an alley. A police car drives up and Banton runs, but another police car traps him. Banton tells the cops to stay away and runs into a dark area of the alley. The police call him out and Banton reluctantly stands under a light, warning that he’s a dangerous man. He backs away from one cop and his shadow does to the other cop what it did to Newirth. The other cop comes closer and also vanishes, leaving behind the oily goo.

The next morning, Kelly meets the agents at the scene, confirming that she sent two officers there the night before as the agents requested. The cops are now missing, and there are two scorch marks in the alley. Kelly feels horrible that she sent her officers into a dangerous situation, and that she’s in over her head in her first case. Mulder asks about fingerprints on the bulb from the hotel, but there were no matches.

Mulder doesn’t know what’s going on, but he’s sure they’re on the right track. He guesses that their culprit was at the train station when Margaret and Newirth came to town, so he could be on surveillance tapes. The agents view a bunch of tapes but don’t see anyone they think is their guy, until Mulder wonders why the same man keeps showing up, seemingly doing nothing. It’s Banton. Enhancement shows that his jacket bears a patch from Polarity Magnetics, where Gail worked.

So the agents go to Polarity, where an employee IDs Banton, his business partner. The man hasn’t seen him in five weeks and wasn’t sure Banton was even still alive, after an accident. The man, Davey, explains that Banton was interested in dark matter and subatomic particles. (Long story short: Banton believed in the existence of building blocks of the universe that haven’t been proven to actually exist. Sound familiar?)

Davey takes the agents to Banton’s particle accelerator, where his accident occurred. Banton had to go in to make an adjustment, which is a no-no. He accidentally locked himself inside and Davey wasn’t there to free him. Something happened that left Banton’s shadow burned into the wall. Scully’s surprised that he survived at all. Mulder translates for us laypeople: Banton basically underwent a really, really powerful x-ray. Davey came in after it happened and thought Banton looked calm, like he was going to experience dark matter in a physical way, like he’d wanted.

Scully thinks the material in the lab is like what they’ve found at the crime scenes, and they could be dealing with spontaneous human combustion after all. Mulder, however, thinks they’re dealing with something else. All the agents know is that they need to find Banton. They go to the train station, and Mulder sits in Banton’s favored spot, trying to see what he was looking at on the floor. Scully doesn’t think there’s any point; Banton’s probably mentally ill.

Scully hasn’t shared any of the weird details of the case with Kelly, which is probably a good idea. Besides, they don’t have a motive or murder weapon. Mulder sees that because of the diffused lighting – soft light – in this part of the station, there aren’t a lot of shadows on the floor. He wonders if Banton kept looking for his shadow on the floor. Just then Banton approaches, running when Mulder sees him. He tries to lose the agents by getting on and off a train, but they catch him.

Banton begs the agents to leave him alone, warning that they’re making a mistake. He stops Mulder from walking into his shadow, saying it’ll kill him. Mulder shoots out the lights above them so the shadow can’t be seen anymore. He and Scully take Banton to a psychiatric hospital, and though they order the doctor to keep his room dark, Banton insists on soft light. He confirms that his condition is connected to dark matter – it’s like a black hole now. It turns matter into energy.

Banton denies that he ever meant to hurt anyone, especially Gail. He went to see her, and she suddenly disappeared. Mulder asks a dumb question, confirming that Banton can’t control what happens. Banton says he’s just trying to figure out the nature of his shadow before the government finds out about it. He’s sure the government is pursuing him and wants to suck out his brain to get the knowledge he’s been hiding. He begs the agents to hide him, thinking that his shadow won’t be tethered to anything if he dies.

Kelly arrives and introduces the agents to another detective, Barron, who’s confused as to why the FBI is involved. Evidence shows that Banton was present at the crime scenes, so he’s probably the culprit. Banton will now be transferred to the city jail. Mulder protests that the police don’t understand how dangerous the situation is. Scully stays quiet, and Mulder accuses her of supporting Kelly’s ambition. For the first time, she’s putting herself ahead of her work. Scully points out that they don’t have jurisdiction and were just doing a favor.

Mulder believes that Banton’s paranoia is well-founded (I mean, really), and that they just handed him over to the people he wants to avoid. Scully says Banton is delusional, despite the evidence they’ve found in the case. It’s not their job to explain what’s going on. Mulder disagrees and returns to the train station, where he meets up with Mr. X. But X can’t help, since his identity has been compromised and he’s not willing to put himself in danger anymore. He tells Mulder not to contact him again unless it’s “absolutely necessary.”

The light outside Banton’s cell is dying, and when it finally goes out, Mr. X arrives. He tells a nurse he’s there to transfer Banton to jail, moving in two men to secure him for the journey. The shadow zaps them, so it’s just Banton vs. Mr. X now. Mr. X lets Banton go, because he’s not about to let himself be done in by a killer shadow. When Mulder and Scully get to the hospital the next morning, they learn that someone turned out the lights purposely, and Banton’s on the loose.

Kelly’s in trouble, since she was in charge of Banton’s transfer, but that’s kind of the least of anyone’s problems right now. Mulder thinks that, since Banton is just trying to control his shadow, he’s on his way back to his particle accelerator. That’s where Davey encounters his old partner, who says he has dark matter inside him and needs to destroy it. But Kelly’s tracked him down and wants to take Banton back into custody. Unwilling to let himself be captured again, Banton takes a step forward and lets his shadow zap Kelly.

The good news is that now Davey believes Banton, so now he can be an accomplice in Banton’s plan to fix everything – or at least that’s what Banton hopes. He locks himself in the accelerator, but Davey won’t cooperate. He’s working with the government and is ready to turn over his partner. Mr. X has different plans, though, and kills Davey as Mulder and Scully arrive at the lab. They find Kelly’s scorch mark, then hear the whirring of the accelerator. They reach it in time to see Banton turn into nothing but shadow.

Mulder sees that the accelerator was sealed from the outside, most likely by Mr. X. Mulder finds his buddy and accuses him of lying – Mr. X knew who Banton was and used Mulder to find him. Mulder refuses to be used again. Mr. X ignores his question about who he answers to, reminding Mulder that he’s never made any promises. Mulder asks for just one: the promise that this will be their last meeting. Mr. X warns that this is a dangerous time for Mulder to try to seek answers on his own. Then he says that he didn’t kill Banton.

Kelly is given a police funeral, which Scully attends on her own. When Mulder meets her at the cemetery, she says she feels horrible that a student came to her for help and wound up dead. Mulder tells her that Morris West, a physicist from Polarity, reported Davey missing. He wonders if Davey, not Banton, was the person they saw in the accelerator. This means Banton is still out there somewhere. More specifically, he’s in a government lab, crying while he undergoes tests under Mr. X’s watchful eye.

Thoughts: Banton is played by Tony Shalhoub.

When I was a kid, I read a book about unsolved disappearances, and the suggestion for one person’s disappearance was spontaneous human combustion. That’s always stuck with me, so this episode kind of freaked me out.

So now we have a unique new way to quit your job: “Sorry, I can’t come in anymore. My shadow might kill you.”

April 12, 2016

SVU #54, Rush Week: I Really Wish People Would Stop Rewarding Chloe’s Horrible Behavior

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

Is that Chloe? I want to bite her

Is that Chloe? I want to bite her

Summary: When Chloe first arrived at SVU, she was very much against joining a sorority, since she didn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. But now that everyone in her dorm thinks she’s a dork, and she’s kind of become friends with Jessica, she’s desperate to join Theta and move into the sorority house. Chloe befriends a girl in her dorm, Val, and is so eager not to lose her that when Val says she also wants to become a Theta, Chloe decides to work extra-hard to get them both inducted.

Theta has just elected new officers: Denise is president, Alex is vice president, Lila is treasurer, and Jessica is pledge chairwoman. Jessica is immediately inundated with requests to consider new pledges. She was really excited about her new role, but that wears off pretty quickly since people only want to talk to her to kiss up or ask for a favor. Chloe doesn’t like that other girls are sucking up, either, but it’s because she can’t convince them that she and Jessica are totally BFFs. Chloe has totally deluded herself into thinking she’s not annoying and that Jess really wants to spend time with her.

The first step in making Val a viable pledge: a makeover! Chloe wants to turn Val from dorky to glam. Val has un-rush-worthy clothes and spends too much time with her dumpy roommate, Deena, which disgusts Chloe. Chloe, by the way, becomes a huge witch in this book, to the point where I can no longer tolerate her. She thinks that if Val keeps hanging out with Deena, Deena will ruin Val’s chances with Theta. Chloe takes Val shopping, buys her a bunch of new clothes, and pays for her to get a haircut. Val continually objects to letting Chloe spend so much money on her, but Chloe’s family is so rich that she doesn’t think her parents will even notice.

Rush week events begin, and Jessica is already sick of them. The girls rushing Theta are all idiots. Two of them make the huge mistake of saying homophobic things about Neil, not realizing that he and Jessica are best friends. They figure they’ve lost their shot at Theta because of that, but Jess tells them it’s really because Theta doesn’t want bigots. It’s a pretty awesome moment.

Chloe is shocked when Val hits it off really well with the Thetas – much better than Chloe herself does. Jess can see that Chloe’s trying really hard and reminds her that the whole sorority votes on new members. In other words, sucking up to Jess is a waste of time. But Chloe doesn’t catch the hint, and she hatches a plan to win Jessica over. She buys scalped tickets to a concert Jessica really wants to go to and offers them to Jess, pretending her mom bought them but Chloe can’t go. Even though Jess was really hoping to get tickets, she turns Chloe down, knowing it’s wrong to accept a bribe.

Val meets Chloe’s horrible roommate and her horrible friends, and again, Val manages to make a good impression. Chloe worries that Val will end up surpassing her in the popular department and ditch her, so she invites her to the concert. But then they run into a couple of Thetas who want to go to the concert, and Chloe gives them the tickets, deciding that a bribe is more important than having a good time with a new friend.

At the next rush event, Chloe goes on and on about how she’s a Theta legacy and her family’s rich and her mom is BFFs with some designer. Jess is irritated until someone calls Chloe out for lying about dating Tom. Jess comes to her defense, saying that Tom led her on. That night, Chloe starts worrying that she won’t get into Theta, and even wakes Val up to get reassurance. I really don’t know what Val sees in Chloe, especially since she’s starting to get that Chloe thinks Val will ruin her chances with Theta.

When it comes time for the Thetas to discuss pledges, it first seems like Chloe will be turned down. Jessica starts talking her up, though, and everyone begins to spin Chloe’s negatives into positives. I don’t understand this. Jess clearly can’t stand Chloe. Why is she going to bat for her? Anyway, the officers decide to give Chloe a little test.

On Bid Day, Val gets an offer from Theta, Jessica invites Chloe to breakfast off-campus. Chloe thinks she’s being taken somewhere private so Jess can break bad news to her where she can’t make a scene. They meet up with Lila, Alex, and Denise, and everyone but Chloe orders a huge breakfast. When they’re done, the Thetas all pretend they haven’t brought any money with them, so Chloe will have to pay. Chloe says she will, since she’s desperate to be a Theta and will do anything for a bid.

The girls imply that they’d like Chloe to buy new furniture for the house (didn’t Alison do that?), so if she agrees to, they’ll make her a Theta. Chloe says again that she’ll do anything because being a Theta is the most important thing in the world to her, despite the fact that she was so against it just a couple books ago. When bids go out, Val gets an offer from Theta, but Chloe gets nothing. Then Jessica tells her in person that Theta wants her, but they wanted to teach her a lesson about sucking up. I can’t believe they want to voluntarily spend time with this trainwreck of a girl.

Elizabeth is still seeing Finn, and since she hasn’t talked to him for a little while, she goes by the med school to see if she runs into him. She does, and she has to pretend she’s there to meet up with someone else. This makes Finn jealous, and he quickly invites Elizabeth to his place for dinner. Sam is also jealous because Liz likes Finn, but I really don’t care how Sam feels about anything.

The couple’s date goes well, but when Finn is ready for dessert, Elizabeth backs off. Oh, and by “dessert,” I mean sex. Elizabeth isn’t quite ready to take that step, so she asks Finn if they can slow things down. He’s all, “Yeah, that’s completely fine. Now I’m going to take you home for a completely unrelated reason.” Smooth, Doctor. He tries again after another date, using the excuse that he’s so into Liz that he can’t help himself. Red flag!

Elizabeth tells Jessica what’s going on, and Jess says she’s doing the right thing – Finn will be more interested in her if she keeps denying him sex. Yeah, that sounds like a foolproof plan. Off-screen, so to speak, Liz tells Finn about her relationships with Todd and Tom, and why she’s a little gun-shy. She’s still thinking over what to do the next time Finn brings up sex. Also, somehow their relationship has made her feel like she needs to stop fighting with Sam over stupid things, since she’s dating a man instead of a boy, which makes her more of an adult. Oh, just hook up with Sam already. We all know it’s going to happen.

Nina decides to move out of the duplex, thank God – her constant fighting with Sam was bugging the crap out of me. She gets a single in a dorm, but I guess she doesn’t have any friends other than Elizabeth, because she gets lonely pretty quickly. She meets a classmate named Francesca and agrees to go see a band with her. Nina has to study, so she plans to only go out for a few hours, but she ends up staying out until one in the morning. Then she decides to keep partying since she’s already out. Never mind that she has an 8 a.m. class.

After falling asleep in class, Nina goes to her dorm to take a quick nap before she has to go to her part-time job. The nap turns into an hours-long sleep, and Nina misses work. Francesca is completely unconcerned. Nina doesn’t seem to get that Francesca only cares about having fun. Then again, Nina’s decided that she needs to have more fun, even if it means her grades suffer a little. There’s no way this will turn out badly!

Todd gets the really boring plotline in this book. To make a long story short, Dana has moved out, and Todd wants to become a big ol’ bachelor. He decides to drop some classes and work more hours at the bar, possibly using some of his money to buy a motorcycle. He meets a girl named Lucy and they hit it off, but she cools off on him when she finds out he works at a “townie” bar. He hangs out with a friend all night and decides going to class isn’t that important, now that he’s a grown-up with a grown-up job. Yeah, good luck explaining that logic to your parents.

Thoughts: In a throwaway moment, we learn that Neil lost the election. Boo!

Finn wears “a black Armani jacket, Levi’s, and loafers without socks.” Run away, Elizabeth! Never trust a guy who wears loafers without socks.

A girl named Angela asks Jessica if she can eat coconut, since she’s allergic to nuts. Jessica can’t believe she’s never had coconut before. Angela says it’s because she’s from Michigan. Jessica doesn’t know what that has to do with anything, but she realizes she doesn’t know if coconut is a nut. My head hurts.

April 9, 2016

The X-Files 2.22, F. Emasculata: How to Expose an Exposure

Posted in TV tagged , at 2:13 pm by Jenn

"One day you'll be on a show where you get to play a better-developed character, buddy. I promise"

“One day you’ll be on a show where you get to play a better-developed character, buddy. I promise”

Summary: In Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Rainforest, someone is collecting bugs. The birds don’t seem happy about this. Or maybe they’re just focused on picking at the remains of a dead animal. The collector shoos them off so he can look at a pulsating pustule (say that five times fast) on the animal. It bursts and he digs around inside it. That night, the collector, Torrence, tries to contact the field base for extraction. He’s now covered in his own pustules. In the morning, his remains are the birds’ new attraction.

At Cumberland State Correctional Facility in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, an inmate named Bobby receives mail from an unknown source. It looks like an animal’s leg, and Bobby thinks someone’s playing a joke on him. When he wakes up in the middle of the night, something on the leg is pulsating. 18 hours later, Bobby’s in the hospital, being treating for his own pustules. FYI, his last name is also Torrence. As Bobby undergoes surgery, two other inmates clear his cell without any kind of precautions, so I guess they’ll be the next to be infected.

Sometime later, Mulder and Scully arrive at the prison to work on finding two escaped death-row inmates. They wonder why there are people in biohazard suits there. A federal marshal, Tapia, tells them to play nice and stop asking questions. Mulder wonders why Skinner assigned them to this case – and why the FBI is involved at all, let alone why the National Guard has taken over the prison.

The escaped inmates (the two from Bobby’s cell) head to a rest stop and to steal a family’s RV. Scully talks to Bobby’s doctor, Osbourne, and learns that he’s from the Centers for Disease Control. She demands to know why people are quarantined at the prison. He admits that 14 people have been infected and ten are dead. It seems the odds that the two escaped inmates were infected are very good.

Scully calls Mulder (“Mulder, it’s me”), who’s at the rest stop, and warns that they’re dealing with a contagion that kills within 36 hours of exposure. The RV owner is now dead, so at least the inmates took him out before the contagion could. A doctor tries to kick Scully out of the prison, refusing to let her see any of the infected patients’ charts. As the inmates gas up the RV, one of them, Paul, calls his girlfriend to let her know he’s free and on his way home to her and their young son. A gas station attendant finds the other inmate in the bathroom, sick. Paul’s not pleased with his snooping.

Scully sneaks into the prison’s incinerator room, where the bodies are being stored. She starts to examine one, but Osbourne stops her, trying to keep her from being exposed. A pustule bursts, so Osbourne will probably be the next to die. But at least he tried to save Scully, so that was nice. Mulder and the marshals finally track down the stolen RV at the gas station, but only the attendant, Angelo, is there, having been knocked out by Paul. Mulder figures the inmates are on their way to see one of their loved ones, so he traces the last call made from the pay phone outside.

A helicopter arrives with men in biohazard suits there to extract Angelo. The men won’t tell Mulder who they are. Tapia’s as confused as Mulder about what’s going on. But Mulder has a lead on Paul’s destination, and Paul is dumb enough to go straight to his girlfriend’s house (with his dying, contagious friend in tow). Scully looks into the sender of Bobby’s package, which came from Wichita by Pinck, a huge pharmaceutical company. She and Mulder guess that that’s where the contagion originated.

Scully notices something in a pustule on one of the infected prisoners and extracts a bug from it. Ewwwwww. One of the escaped prisoner’s pustules bursts, so now Paul’s girlfriend, Elizabeth, has been exposed. Her day gets even worse when Mulder and the marshals burst in. They find the second inmate dead and no sign of Paul. So he exposed his girlfriend and son to a deadly illness and then ditched them? Jerk.

At the prison, Osbourne tells Scully that the whole prison has been quarantined, and he’s now infected. The CDC has nothing to do with the quarantine – Pinck is responsible. Also, Osbourne works for them. He explains that an etymologist (that would be Torrence) disappeared in Costa Rica while researching a new species with possible drug applications.

Torrence send back samples, including faciphaga emasculata, the bug Scully found. It carries a deadly parasite that causes pustules and attacks people’s immune systems. Scully realizes that the illness only spreads when pustules erupt and the bug burrows into a new host. Yay, now they can stop the spread! Everyone’s saved! Oh, except Scully could be infected, since she was nearby when Osbourne was exposed.

Mulder goes to see Skinner, reporting that the purpose of the investigation might not have been disclosed to the FBI. CSM is there, and Mulder announces that he and Scully weren’t told about a contagion. CSM says knowing the truth would have just slowed the agents down and caused a panic: “We control the disease by controlling information.” Mulder doesn’t want to play this game, but CSM notes that he’s already playing.

Scully calls Mulder to let him know that the prison is now under full quarantine. She’s sure that the government is helping Pinck cover up their mess. Mulder wants her to document everything so they can tell the public – after all, this is a health crisis. Scully, however, wants to prevent a panic. Mulder notes that someone could die because they covered up the truth. Scully counters that someone could die because they didn’t. They can expose the truth later.

Osbourne uses an uninfected insect to test whether Scully has been infected. Basically, she lets a bug bite her, and if she doesn’t get sick, they’ll know she wasn’t exposed to any larvae. Fun! Mulder visits a quarantined Elizabeth at the hospital to find out where her husband went, but she’s not helpful. He tries to guilt her by telling her that Paul could spread the contagion to other people.

Elizabeth doesn’t think she has anything to worry about; if there were a real threat, she would have heard something on the news. Why should she tell the truth if Mulder isn’t? Mulder eventually gets her to admit that Paul’s taking a bus to Toronto. Tapia wants to go to the bus station with guns a-blazing, but Mulder needs they need to be careful to control the spread. Good luck – Paul has a shiny new pustule on his face.

Osbourne collapses at the prison, so Scully will have to finish her exposure test on her own. She wonders why Osbourne decided to confide in her. He thinks people have the right to know when they’re in danger. Scully needs to expose the truth – she can’t believe this won’t happen again. Scully does the test, which comes back negative. When she goes to tell Osbourne, he’s missing.

Just in case we don’t feel enough fear and sympathy for the general population in this episode, they put a preteen boy on the bus to Toronto with Paul. The Pinck biohazard guys start incinerating bodies, including Osbourne’s. Scully threatens to reveal the truth, but with Osbourne dead, she’s going to have trouble finding someone to corroborate her story. A biohazard guy tells her she should be happy the contagion is under control.

Mulder and the marshals enter the bus station, all wearing normal clothes and acting like there’s no deadly contagion for anyone to worry about. Scully calls to tell Mulder that things are okay at the prison, so Paul should be the only person left to worry about. Scully warns that Paul is the only person left who can back up their story about the contagion. He’ll need to make a statement before he inevitably dies.

Marshals search the buses, quietly clearing everyone from the depot so they can swarm the Toronto bus. Mulder wants to handle things on his own, getting on the bus and calling for it to be cleared while he apprehends Paul. But when he gets on board, he doesn’t see Paul. Paul emerges from the bathroom, sees Mulder and the driver looking at him, and pulls a gun, taking the preteen boy hostage. Well, of course.

Paul and Mulder engage in a standoff, though Paul’s at a distinct disadvantage, what with a dozen marshals aiming guns at him. Mulder tells him he’s already exposed his loved ones, so he needs to end this before anyone else gets sick. Paul wonders if the illness originated from the package in Bobby’s cell. Mulder gets everyone else off the bus, then extracts the preteen. But before Paul can tell him what was in the package, a marshal takes a shot through the window and kills him.

Mulder’s taken off the bus by men in biohazard suits, but I guess he’s okay, because he’s able to tell Skinner everything that happened later. Pinck was trying to circumvent FDA trials, and Mulder wants the public to know so it doesn’t happen again. Skinner’s like, “You have an empty package and a dead bug. Pass.” Mulder says Skinner’s as guilty as everyone else if he keeps quiet. Skinner replies that Mulder doesn’t know who he’s dealing with.

Scully arrives and announces that the Costa Rican government sent her information on the missing scientist. Whoever’s really behind the whole cover-up chose a prisoner with the same name as the scientist so they could blame a postal error in case things went south. Mulder guesses that the case was made an X-File so that the FBI would be discredited even if they uncovered the truth. “You never had a chance,” Skinner confirms. He stands on the line Mulder keeps crossing. As Mulder storms out, Skinner warns him to watch his back: “This is just the beginning.”

Thoughts: Tapia is played by Dean Norris from Breaking Bad.

Mulder and the Marshals is the name of my new band. First single: “Pulsating Pustules.”

What’s with this show and bugs? I know they’re big on bees later, but right now it’s all gross insects.

April 5, 2016

SVT #51, Elizabeth the Impossible: For Your Consideration

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:08 pm by Jenn

She looks pretty annoying, all right

She looks pretty annoying, all right

Summary: Elizabeth’s life is pretty fabulous right now – she got to write an article for the Sweet Valley Tribune as part of their Junior Journalist column, and she won a national essay competition in Teen Scene magazine. Everyone’s proud of her, especially some random girl named Pamela McDonald who is apparently obsessed with Liz.

The middle-school students learn about a contest to find model students in various schools. Each school gets to nominate someone, and Jessica thinks Elizabeth fits the bill. Considering some of the criteria are things like being studious, pleasant, and helpful, this certainly does sound like something right up Elizabeth’s alley. The teachers are the ones doing the nominating, so Jess talks up her twin to every teacher she can think of. Pamela also thinks Liz should be nominated, and wants to go so far as to circulate a petition asking the teachers to consider her. This is like Oscar campaigning.

Elizabeth likes the idea of being nominated but doesn’t want to draw attention to herself the way Jessica and Pamela do. Then she overhears Mr. Bowman telling the principal that he’s considering nominating her. Suddenly Liz is determined to find out everything she can about being a model student so she can fit the criteria perfectly. Thus begins her insufferability (is that a word? It is now!) in this book.

Liz starts getting up early, wearing preppy clothes (even preppier than she usually does), and taking everything way too seriously. Think Tracy Flick from Election, but even more annoying. For example, a couple of captions in the Sixers accidentally got swapped, so Liz decides she needs to oversee every detail of the paper’s production so it’s all perfect. Her staff thinks she’s crazy.

In fact, everyone’s gotten fed up with Liz, except Pamela. She’s so eager to help Elizabeth become a model student that she encourages Liz to be the most boring, straight-laced 12-year-old in history. The recapper at 1bruce1 makes the excellent analogy that Pamela is the Iago to Elizabeth’s Othello, telling her that everyone else is wrong and she should keep doing what she’s doing.

Elizabeth turns into a little bossypants, urging Jessica to focus less on shopping and more on playing chess or the harp. She starts jogging with Pamela (since a model student is healthy) and throws out the family’s junk food. Her parents are a lot nicer about this than I would be, considering she’s throwing away perfectly good food that other people eat, and that she didn’t pay for. When Aaron calls during dinner, Liz won’t let Jessica come to the phone. She even tells Aaron not to call during mealtimes, which embarrasses both him and Jess.

Amy comes over to hang out and quickly regrets it. She’s annoyed that Elizabeth and Pamela are such close friends now, since all Pamela does is talk about how great Liz is. When Pamela shows up, Amy tells her off, which is pretty awesome. Liz doesn’t listen, just continuing to let Pamela egg her on. Elizabeth somehow doesn’t get her hair torn out when she tells Janet she shouldn’t eat two pieces of cheesecake at lunch, since they’ll make her fat.

At the end of her rope, Jess perks up when she hears a rumor that Todd might be nominated for model student. She turns her campaign to him, talking him up to teachers so they’ll drop Elizabeth as the nominee. At first Liz thinks Todd is no competition, but she soon realizes that he’s just as well-rounded and wonderful as she is. And at this point, everyone sees it. Even Todd thinks Elizabeth has gone around the bend.

The Sweet Valley Tribune wants to interview Elizabeth about her article, and they really want to include her friends. Too bad everyone has turned on her. She manages to get some of them to meet with the interviewer, but Amy just takes the opportunity to mention that some people are much more humble than others when their accomplishments are recognized.

Pamela learns that Jess is backing Todd now, and lets Elizabeth know. Elizabeth hears the principal talking about the contest and how Todd may end up being the nominee. She gets caught eavesdropping and is punished with a week’s worth of detention. Liz realizes that this could be the end of her consideration for the nomination. When Pamela tells her that Jess is campaigning for Todd, Liz is actually happy – he deserves it. She finally tells Pamela that her friendship isn’t really friendship; she’s just a toady, and Elizabeth doesn’t need one.

In the end, it’s a moot point. Sweet Valley Middle School is so big (apparently) that they’re allowed to nominate two students, and Elizabeth and Todd both get nods. I’m not sure what they get for being nominated, other than bragging rights, but Elizabeth is back to normal now, which is enough to make everyone happy. Except Pamela, who we never hear from again. And that makes ME happy.

Thoughts: Apparently Elizabeth doesn’t see everything in the Sixers before it’s printed. Then what’s the point of her being the editor? I mean, if it were a real paper with lots of sections, it would make sense to have editors for each section, but it can’t be that many pages.

Todd’s pretty awesome in SVT, so what ruins him in SVH? I’m going to guess…Elizabeth.

A week of detention seems excessive for eavesdropping, but Elizabeth was such a jerk in this book that she deserves it.

April 2, 2016

The X-Files 2.21, The Calusari: Superstition Ain’t the Way

Posted in TV tagged at 1:32 pm by Jenn

You're telling me this whole thing could have been avoided if this kid had just gotten a balloon?

You’re telling me this whole thing could have been avoided if this kid had just gotten a balloon?

Summary: In Murray, Virginia’s Lincoln Park, a boy named Charlie Holvey is admiring a train. His toddler brother, Teddy, loses his balloon, then his ice cream cone. His parents replace the balloon with Charlie’s, which is pretty crappy. Charlie demands his balloon back as his mother takes Teddy to get cleaned up. Mr. Holvey angrily says they’ll get him a new balloon.

In the restroom, Mrs. Holvey straps the toddler to something while she uses the toilet. He loses the balloon again (sheesh, this kid). When Mrs. Holvey emerges, Teddy’s gone. Charlie looks on as Teddy follows his balloon onto the train tracks. Mr. and Mrs. Holvey are helpless as they watch the conductor try and fail to slow down the train. Teddy gets smushed. So…that’s disturbing. Charlie’s unmoved, but at least he got his balloon back.

Three months after the incident, Mulder and Scully are at a lab at the University of Maryland, looking at a photo taken just seconds before Teddy’s death. The medical examiner was disturbed by the case and called Mulder in. He finds it strange that the balloon, which was filled with helium, was moving in a way it shouldn’t have. Mulder might not know a lot, but he knows that helium makes a balloon go up, not to the side. “Did you learn about wind in kindergarten?” Scully replies.

Mulder says the balloon moved against the wind, so he called in a man named Chuck Burk, who’s an expert at digital imaging. Chuck enhances the photo to show electromagnetic energy under the balloon. Scully thinks the men believe a ghost used the balloon to lure Teddy to the tracks so he would be killed.

Scully asks if the camera used for the photo could have produced a false image, but of course Mulder’s not going to entertain that idea. Mulder continues that Teddy escaped the halter his mother used to tie him to the sink. Since the kid was only two and probably not Houdini reincarnated, that’s another wrinkle in the situation.

In Arlington, a woman watches from outside as the agents visit the Holveys’ home. The parents think their son’s death was an accident and nothing more. The fire in the fireplace flares up as Charlie appears in the doorway. Scully follows him, seeing him on a staircase with an older woman who’s drawing a symbol on his hand (and since the symbol includes a swastika, this can’t be good). Mrs. Holvey explains that her mother came to live with the family after Teddy was born.

The smoke detector goes off, ending the conversation. The lights then go out, and when they come back on, Mrs. Holvey’s mother is in the room with Charlie. She says something in Rumanian, insisting that they perform a ritual so the killings don’t continue. “You marry a devil, you have devil child,” Grandma says. (Yeah, I knew Mr. Holvey was bad news.)

Mulder and Scully head back to the FBI building, where Mulder looks up the symbol Grandma drew on Charlie’s hand. They think she’s trying to protect him, but probably not from the right thing. Scully believes Teddy was a victim of Munchausen by proxy, as he was hospitalized ten times in the two years he was alive. His illness was never diagnosed. Charlie has also had medical problems since Teddy’s birth, so maybe Grandma’s responsible, thinking Charlie’s evil.

The agents go to the State Department to talk to Mr. Holvey, who admits that things in the house have been strange since Grandma (Golda) moved in. Mr. and Mrs. Holvey met in Romania in the ’80s, and Golda forbade the marriage, saying Mr. Holvey was evil. Golda settled down until she moved in with the family and strange things started happening. Golda’s very superstitious and is obsessed with protecting the kids. She seems to both fear and dote on Charlie.

Scully brings up Munchausen by proxy, an idea that doesn’t seem too crazy to Mr. Holvey. In fact, he kind of wonders if Golda didn’t sneak into the bathroom and let Teddy out of his harness the day he died. Scully wants to consult with a social worker, which Mr. Holvey thinks would be fine. Mrs. Holvey, however, objects. Scully catches Golda putting something in the food she’s cooking for the family, like, she’s probably not going to poison the kid right in front of you, Scully.

Mr. Holvey takes Charlie against his wife’s wishes, but he’s unable to open the garage door so they can leave the house. As the agents leave, having parked on the street, Mr. Holvey climbs a ladder to fix the garage-door mechanism. His tie gets caught in it just as it starts working. Charlie screams as he watches his father get hung. The agents rush into the garage, and Scully sees Charlie express emotion for the first time in the episode.

Police arrive at the house and show Scully a room full of candles and dead chickens. Festive! Outside, Golda welcomes the woman who was watching the house earlier, plus a trio of older men, telling them they need to move quickly because “it” is getting stronger. Mulder checks out the garage-door mechanism, finding something inside that looks like ash. It’s all over the car as well. The motor in the mechanism is working fine. Scully thinks they should have Charlie removed from the house, as she still suspects that Golda is harming him.

Mulder gets a chemical analysis of the ash, which turns up nothing. Literally, the ash is made up of nothing organic or inorganic: “According to the technicians, this ash doesn’t exist.” The agents take it to Chuck, who recognizes it as vibuti, holy ash from India. It’s known as “an apport – something that materializes out of thin air.” He compares it to the loaves and fishes Jesus created in the Bible. Chuck himself saw a guru create something out of thin air in the ’70s. Scully says he should have taken a picture to run through his imaging system so he could see the Last Supper.

Chuck continues that vibuti can materialize after someone’s energy transports from one location to another. Mulder thinks that could have happened when the garage door opened on its own. Scully points out that someone could have used the remote control to open the door, killing Mr. Holvey – someone like Golda.

Back at the Holveys’ house, Charlie listens at his grandmother’s door as she and her four friends chant in Rumanian and perform some sort of ritual. An apparition of Charlie appears in the smoke their candles produce and yells in Rumanian. The social worker, Karen Kosseff, comes to the house, and Mrs. Holvey reluctantly lets her in. She hears Charlie yelling and finds him lying on the floor outside Golda’s room. Mrs. Holvey says he’s been sick.

Seeing smoke under the door of Golda’s room, Mrs. Holvey bursts in and orders her mother and her friends out of the house. The friends leave, but Golda insists that Charlie’s blood needs to be cleansed. She pulls him into the room and locks the door, announcing, “We must finish this.” Karen runs off to get help, so it’s convenient that the agents arrive right then. As Golda finishes her ritual, the room fills with the sound of wind. She raises a knife to Charlie, telling him it’s the only way.

As Mulder tries to get into the room, Charlie stands over his grandmother, holding the dead chickens. But they’re no longer dead, and he throws them at Golda. Then I guess she…gets pecked to death. Yikes. Mulder doesn’t seem to think Charlie’s an innocent victim anymore. But the chickens are dead again, and Charlie claims he doesn’t remember anything. Despite having her eyes pecked out, Golda’s cause of death has been determined as a heart attack.

Mulder finds more ash in the room and IDs another substance in the room as mugwort. Scully thinks that means Golda’s death may have been ceremonial, but Mulder says it was being used in a protective manner. He thinks Golda knew the family was in danger and was trying to help them, with assistance from her four buddies.

Speaking of the buddies, they’re back, but Mrs. Holvey doesn’t want to talk to them about their superstitions. After she kicks them out, she tells the agents that they’re the Calusari, people responsible for making sure that sacred rites are observed correctly. They’ve warned Mrs. Holvey that there’s still evil in her house. GEE, I WONDER WHERE IT COULD BE COMING FROM?

Mulder tries to talk to the Calusari, who aren’t that interested in chatting. One of the men says that evil has been around all through history, in various forms (such as Lucifer and Hitler). It doesn’t care if it kills one boy or a million people. If Mulder tries to stop the Calusari from stopping the evil, he’ll have blood on his own hands.

Mrs. Holvey tells the agents that in Rumanian superstition, someone who has suffered a misfortune will always have bad luck. Now that all of this is happening to her, Mrs. Holvey isn’t sure anymore that it’s just a superstition. She used to think her mother had cursed the family. Now she knows Golda was trying to get rid of evil in the house – and she thought Charlie was behind the evil. Mrs. Holvey doesn’t know how her little boy could be responsible for such horrible things.

Charlie’s been taken to a hospital, where Karen tries to get him to tell her what happened in Golda’s room. He still claims he doesn’t remember. In fact, he says he wasn’t even there. He gets worked up, insisting that he wasn’t in the room and didn’t hurt Golda. He blames someone named Michael. Mrs. Holvey’s shocked that he knows the name – Michael was Charlie’s stillborn twin.

Mrs. Holvey continues that when Michael died, Golda wanted to perform a ritual of separation to divide their souls. If she didn’t, she thought “the world of the dead would follow Charlie.” Of course, Mrs. Holvey always thought it was just a superstition. Just then, Charlie has a seizure. Doctors examine him but can’t determine the cause. Later, as Charlie’s about to get an injection he really doesn’t want, Michael appears in the room and attacks his brother’s nurse.

Sometime later, Charlie approaches his mother and tells her he’s been released. But since I’ve seen TV before, I’m 99 percent sure this is really Michael. Scully sees mother and son leaving the hospital, which is pretty weird since Charlie’s still in his room. His nurse explains that there were two boys, and one attacked her. Mulder quickly figures out that Mrs. Holvey left with a spirit or ghost or whatever it was they saw in the photo.

Mulder sends Scully to rescue Mrs. Holvey while he gets help. At the Holveys’ house, Charlie asks if they can go to the park the next day. Can he have a balloon and ride the train? Ohhh, demon child. Mrs. Holvey is on to him and heads to her mother’s room to finish her protection ritual. She lights matches and throws them in water, praying that what she’s figured out isn’t true. As one of the matches disappears, she realizes it is.

Michael appears in the room and asks what his mother’s doing. She’s armed with a knife and chants in Rumanian. Meanwhile, Mulder calls the Calusari to the hospital so they can perform a ritual. Charlie’s not happy about it, so it turns into a sort of exorcism. One of the Calusari tells Mulder to look away so “it” won’t recognize him. Mulder sees something seeping out of the walls of the room.

At the Holveys’ house, wind blows through the rooms, breaking windows and spooking Scully. She finds Mrs. Holvey almost on the ceiling, still chanting. Mulder thinks Charlie’s suffering and almost lets go of him, but a Calusari says he’s being tricked. They continue the ritual as Michael goes after Scully with a knife. Fortunately, the Calusari finish up in time for Michael to disappear, leaving Scully and Mrs. Holvey unharmed.

Mrs. Holvey rushes back to the hospital, happy to see that Charlie’s okay. One of the Calusari tells Mulder that it’s over for now, but he needs to be careful, because now “it” knows him. Mulder’s case report says that the case in unsolved (like every other case on this show), and “neither innocence nor vigilance might be protection against the howling heart of evil.” Geez, take it down a notch, Fox.

Thoughts: The actress playing Golda also played Joey’s grandmother on Friends, so I kept expecting her to say, “Sam Waterston!”

I always knew nothing good could come from balloons.

Imagine being the parents of the triplets playing Teddy. “So we’re just going to have him walk around a bunch, and then he gets hit by a train. Is that cool?”

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