December 6, 2016

SVT #74, Elizabeth the Hero: Nobody Puts Janet in a Corner

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:13 pm by Jenn

That's some forehead on Denny

That’s some forehead on Denny

Summary: It’s another perfect day in Sweet Valley, and Elizabeth, Amy, and Maria are hanging out at the beach, collecting seashells. Suddenly, things go horribly wrong! Denny Jacobson, the object of Janet’s affection, is knocked out while surfing in rough water. His brother Sam is nearby but doesn’t notice anything wrong. The girls try to get his attention, but he doesn’t hear them yelling that his brother’s unconscious. So Elizabeth puts to use the lifeguard skills she’ll display in SVU and saves Denny from drowning.

Suddenly Liz is a local hero. The Jacobsons are forever in her debt. (By the way, even though it was established a long time ago that Pamela with the bad heart is one of these Jacobsons, she’s never mentioned in this book. In fact, there’s a completely different Pam.) The rescue gets media coverage, though Denny exaggerates what happened, saying the waves were twice as high as they really were, and that Liz risked being struck by lightning to save him. He goes from never noticing Elizabeth to suddenly being her biggest fan.

Liz, however, doesn’t want a biggest fan. She’s humble about what happened and doesn’t appreciate Denny making a big deal out of it. I’m not sure she gets what a big deal it is – she actually saved someone’s life. He would be dead without her. But then again, Denny gets really annoying really fast. He wants to walk her to school and carry her backpack every day. He tells everyone they run into how she saved him. He talks the school into giving her a medal (then complains that it’s too small). Liz is miserable. She’s lizerable.

Also lizerable: Janet, who resents that Denny is giving Elizabeth so much attention. She orders Jessica to fix it, threatening to take away her chances to be hostess at the upcoming Teen Health Fair. Janet’s representing SVMS and giving a speech about orthodontia, which I guess means she’s not so embarrassed about her new night gear that she won’t use it to get something she wants. As representative, she gets to pick hosts and hostesses, and for some reason, this is an honor and all the Unicorns want in.

No way is Jessica going to pass up the chance to do whatever it is a Teen Health Fair hostess does, so she comes up with an idea to get Denny to back off: Elizabeth will pretend she’s drowning at the pool, and Denny will save her. Amazingly, this doesn’t go as planned. Denny eats too much and falls asleep, so when Liz pretends she needs help, he doesn’t hear her. Amy tries to save her instead. Good old Amy. Then when Denny goes swimming, he really does need help, and Elizabeth has to save him again. Maybe Denny should just stay away from water.

Now Denny’s even more obsessed with Liz. He serenades her outside her window and needs to know where she is at all times. Alice won’t let Liz tell him off; she thinks Liz should just let him feel grateful for a while. Alice, he’s stalking her. Shhh. Steven agrees to help the twins fix things, and Joe Howell happily joins in, since Janet’s being horrible and he wants to make that stop. He’ll pretend to mug Liz and Denny, and when Denny gets rid of him, he’ll be Elizabeth’s hero. Wouldn’t that just make him think he needs to spend even more time with Liz, to protect her?

Anyway, the fake mugging occurs, but Denny attacks Joe, and Joe has to fight back. Elizabeth grabs Joe’s arm and forces him to leave, which just makes Denny think she’s saved him yet again. Janet’s so angry that she accuses Liz of stealing her boyfriend. Elizabeth almost has her convinced that she hates the situation as much as Janet does, but Bruce ruins it by saying that Liz should take Janet’s place as the Teen Health Fair representative. Janet takes out her anger on Jess, taking her out of the running for hostess. She even forbids Jess from wearing purple! THE HORROR!

Even with the backfire, Joe’s still on board to help the twins and Steven (as is Denny’s brother Sam, who should really feel more embarrassed about not noticing that his brother was dying). They realize that they need to get Janet to do something heroic so Denny will focus his hero-worshipping on her instead of Elizabeth. They come up with a complicated plan involving skates and a big papier-mâché tooth Mandy and Mary made for the health fair. Liz has to get Denny to a spot in a strip mall at a certain time so the guys can skate toward him in the tooth. Jessica will get Janet there, and Janet will push Denny out of the way.

Somehow, despite a few hiccups, this goes almost exactly as planned. Janet panics as the tooth approaches, and Maria has to knock into Amy to get her to collide with Liz and domino into Jess and Janet to get her to save Denny. But Denny’s dumb enough to think Janet saved him, and suddenly he’s all into her instead of Liz. Everyone’s happy now. Denny should maybe have a chaperone with him everywhere, though, since he keeps getting into dangerous situations.

In the B-plot, Steven and Cathy are fighting because she’s sick of him bragging about how good he is at basketball. Instead of being sad or changing his attitude, Steven decides to go after another girl, Pam Martin. Joe encourages him to talk to her, but when he pushes Steven into her path, she trips over him and immediately thinks he’s a doofus. Well, he is, but not usually like this. Joe also likes Pam, and he wants to make Steven look bad in front of her so she’ll like Joe instead. What a nice friend.

After Joe pretends to mug Elizabeth and Denny, Steven gets him to pretend to mug him and Pam, too (though he tells Joe he’ll be with Cathy). Joe doesn’t fulfill his end of the bargain, so Steven ends up chasing him down the street like an idiot. Steven spends the whole book crushing on a girl who’d be happy never seeing him again. But he finally realizes that Cathy’s great and he needs to stop being an idiot so she’ll want him back. They fix things in, like, five seconds, though I don’t know why Cathy would even want to be with Steven after he spent the whole book being a dork.

Thoughts: Way to stand around, doing nothing, while Elizabeth saves someone’s life, Amy and Maria.

Hospital admissions calls the newspaper to tell them about Elizabeth’s heroics, which has to be some kind of HIPAA violation.

Hey, Ned, why is it okay if Steven asks for six pancakes but not if Jessica does?

Joe: “Ever since this thing with Elizabeth and Denny started, Janet’s been a nightmare to live with.” She wasn’t already?

Fun with out-of-context quotes: “It’s my tooth! And it’s out of control!”

December 3, 2016

The X-Files 4.7, Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man: Sympathy for the Devil

Posted in TV tagged , , , , at 1:32 pm by Jenn

"Yes, I will be your soulless killing machine. Does it come with health care? Because I'm about to ruin my lungs"

“Yes, I will be your soulless killing machine. Does it come with health care? Because I’m about to ruin my lungs”

Summary: A title card quotes to us from Henry IV, Part 1: “For nothing can seem foul to those that win.” CSM arrives at an abandoned warehouse, lighting up with a lighter that says “trust no one.” He opens his briefcase and uses the technology inside to eavesdrop on Mulder, Scully, and the Lone Gunmen. The Gunmen are wary about being overheard, and Frohike refuses to say anything else until they put on a filter that blocks surveillance. Too bad CSM has tech to cut through that filter, and he starts assembling a rifle as Frohike reveals that the Gunmen have uncovered secrets from CSM’s background.

Frohike continues that CSM came on the scene just as Leon Trotsky was assassinated. His father was a Communist activist who spied for the Nazis during the Nazi-Soviet pact. He was executed under 1917’s Espionage Act. His mother also died (of lung cancer) when CSM was young, so he became a ward of the state. He was a loner who disappeared for a while, then reappeared a year and a half after the Bay of Pigs.

Part I: “Things really did go well in Dealey Plaza.” It’s October 30th, 1962, at Ft. Bragg’s Center for Special Warfare in North Carolina. Soldiers do their daily exercises, chanting about going after Khrushchev and Castro. Later, one soldier reads The Manchurian Candidate, though one of his fellow soldiers thinks he should just go see the movie. The reader (okay, it’s CSM, let’s drop the mystery) says he’d rather read the worst novel ever written than sit through the best movie ever made.

CSM, who happens to be a captain, is summoned to see General Francis. His buddy reports that his one-year-old just said his first word: “JFK.” (That’s not a word, but okay.) He shows CSM a picture of his wife and son. P.S. The buddy is Bill Mulder. In General Francis’ office, CSM is questioned about activities he may have participated in, such as the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, training Cuban nationals during the Bay of Pigs, or the assassination of Rafael Trujillo. The questioner notes that CSM’s father was a known spy. CSM says he just wishes he’d been able to execute his father himself.

General Francis assures CSM that they know what it’s like to be scrutinized for someone else’s actions. He offers CSM a cigarette, but CSM declines: “I never touch ’em.” OKAY, WE GET IT. General Francis says that sometimes our objectives don’t match up with the objectives of others who want liberty and justice. “Viva la libertad,” says another man in the office. General Francis continues that a lot of powerful people aren’t qualified to lead others; some of them get caught up in bureaucracy. They should be looking to “another form of government.” CSM’s father did, and General Francis considers that extraordinary. He thinks that runs in the family.

Communism is evil, so CSM’s father deserved to be executed, but it’s also what brings CSM there today. A man comes out of the shadows to tell CSM that he’s going to be presented with an extremely classified task. If he takes it, he’ll be let out of the Army. He’s going to be asked to kill an American man who used to command a Navy boat. The country was just almost destroyed by nuclear war, which never would have been a possibility if this individual didn’t provide air support during the Bay of Pigs. A patsy has been found and will be set up while CSM does the dirty work.

For slower members of the audience, a chyron informs us that CSM is now in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963. He meets up with Lee Harvey Oswald, advising him not to smoke. CSM, using the name Mr. Hunt, is posing as someone who supports Lee’s political beliefs (and also a movie lover). He needs Lee to hide some curtain rods in the book depository; once they’ve been retrieved by a third party, Lee will be paid and can head to Cuba.

Lee holds up his end of the bargain while CSM goes to an overflow unit, posing as a worker with the city’s Department of Public Works. When JFK’s motorcade approaches, Lee’s co-workers wonder if he wants to come see it with them. Lee’s at a vending machine, picking out a soda, while CSM assembles a gun. He gets a signal from a man with an umbrella and fulfills his task, assassinating the president.

Lee quickly realizes that he’s about to be framed for the crime. He grabs a gun of his own and heads off to find CSM, but a police officer finds him first. Lee asks to see the officer’s credentials, suspicious that he’s with “them.” The officer gets out of his car to talk to Lee, who shoots him and runs off. He then goes to the movie theater, which is showing War is Hell. He fights the officers but is outnumbered and subdued. He yells that he’s “not the one” and complains about police brutality. CSM sits calmly nearby, lighting up a cigarette.

Part II: “Just down the road aways from Graceland.” CSM types something while Martin Luther King, Jr. gives a speech. “I can kill you whenever I please,” CSM murmurs to himself. “But not today.” He’s writing a story, and this is the end. He’s just finished Take a Chance, a Jack Colquitt Adventure, writing under the pen name Raul Bloodworth. He pauses as King says that some feel “Communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real.” CSM doesn’t like this.

He meets with J. Edgar Hoover and two other men, who are worried about King’s supporters. CSM likes and respects King, but he’s talking like a Maoist now. If African-Americans listen to King and refuse to fight in Vietnam, American will lose and “the first domino will have fallen.” CSM mocks Hoover’s letter trying to convince King to kill himself; it only let him know that he’s being watched.

One of the men suggests that they blackmail King with a faked film of him having an affair with a white woman, but CSM says they need a “more intense” idea. A general named Fryatt suggests just killing King and his supporters. CSM notes that a lot of supporters think they’re still fighting the Civil War. If they find a white patsy, this becomes an issue of race, “another patsy.” CSM has too much respect for King to let anyone else assassinate him.

On April 4th, 1968, CSM goes to Memphis and smokes while King gives his last speech. He looks at the picture of Teena and Mulder that Bill showed him back in the Army. Then he meets with James Earl Ray in a rooming house and gives him some money to go away for a while (he suggests that Ray see a movie). As soon as Ray’s gone, “Raul” gets his gun and goes to the Lorraine Motel to kill King.

As the news goes out across the country, CSM reads a rejection letter from a publisher who’s uninterested in Take a Chance. The characters are unbelievable and the ending is dumb. He should just burn it. CSM puts the picture of Teena and Mulder in a drawer as Robert Kennedy quotes Aeschylus: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” CSM recites along with him (while probably planning his assassination next).

Part III: “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” It’s Christmas Eve 1991, and CSM is meeting with a few fellow CIA agents to wrap up some business before the holidays. They decide to let “the Anita Hill thing” go, and are pleased that Rodney King’s trial has been moved to Simi Valley, as CSM instructed. CSM and his nicotine patch ignore a call from Saddam Hussein so the conversation can continue.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is working on separating from Yugoslavia, but CSM knows America doesn’t care. Personally, he also doesn’t care about the upcoming Oscar nominations. What he does care about is making sure the Bills never win a Super Bowl. “Buffalo wants it bad,” an agent notes. “So did the Soviets in ’80,” CSM replies. The agent is shocked that CSM rigged the famous hockey game. “Don’t you believe in miracles?” CSM asks. Another agent explains that they drugged Russia’s goalie with Novocain via a pat on the back.

CSM starts to leave, but an agent thinks they should chat about “that spooky kid” working on the X-files. He might be trouble. CSM says he’ll keep an eye on him. Moments later, he learns that Gorbachev has resigned, which means the U.S. has no more enemies. CSM hands out Christmas presents to the agents, who invite him to join them and their families for the holidays. CSM says he’s going to see family of his own. He leaves, and the agents open their presents, seeing that CSM got them all the same tie.

CSM listens to Christmas music and works on his next Jack Colquitt story, which is about Colquitt being alone in his apartment on Christmas. Art imitates life! Sometimes Colquitt wants a second chance. Well, maybe Colquitt should take a writing class or something. Deep Throat calls to let CSM know that they’ve just received a surprise Christmas present.

CSM heads to Dogway, West Virginia, where an alien spacecraft has just been captured. CSM thinks they can get away with the kind of story they used to explain Roswell, since it had everyone looking in the wrong direction. Deep Throat disagrees – even with the Russians in disarray, the KGB will be on their backs, as will other countries. They probably have an operative advancing on them as they speak.

Deep Throat and CSM look in on their new alien buddy as CSM wonders how many historic events they’ve witnessed together. “How often did we make or change history? And our names can never grace any pages of record. No monument will ever bear our image, and yet once again tonight, the course of human history will be set by two unknown men standing in the shadows.”

An alien could advance Bill’s work, so CSM knows they need to kill it. Deep Throat reminds him that Security Council Resolution 10.13 requires them to kill any alien in their custody. He wants CSM to do it: “I’m the liar. You’re the killer.” CSM notes that Deep Throat’s lies have killed more people than CSM has: “I’ve never killed anybody.” He wants to keep up that streak. Deep Throat says that maybe CSM’s the liar after all.

Deep Threat knows that the world could be destroyed if they don’t kill their “new enemy.” The men decide to flip a coin to determine who gets the job. Deep Throat loses the toss, so he has the job of ridding the U.S. of its latest threat to democracy and peace and whatnot. He puts on a gas mask and enters the alien’s chamber as CSM takes off his nicotine patch and lights up a Morley.

Part IV: “The X-Files.” Frohike tells Mulder and Scully that this is where they enter the story. CSM attends Scully’s interview at FBI headquarters in March of 1992, then uses his briefcase surveillance device to listen in on Mulder and Scully’s first meeting. I sincerely hope that, later in the series, he has to listen to them make out.

In the present, CSM trains a rifle on the door of the Lone Gunmen’s lair as Frohike quotes Thoreau to the agents: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” CSM hasn’t had a quiet life, but it’s been pretty desperate. Frohike thinks he’s “the most dangerous man alive.” He thinks his actions are necessary, and he can never escape himself.

“Raul” has submitted another story to Pivotal Publishing, and this time it’s received interest. Second Chance involves alien assassinations, and a publisher wants to serialize it. This could lead to a huge career for “Raul.” However, he’ll have to give up some control. The story will be published in Roman a Clef on November 12th. CSM types up a letter of resignation and throws out his Morleys, ready to start a new life.

On November 12th, CSM picks up the new issue of Roman a Clef, which looks more like Playboy than a classy literary publication. He’s stunned to see that someone changed the ending of his story. After some heat from the news vendor, CSM buys the magazine anyway, along with a pack of Morleys.

He smokes at a bus stop, waxing poetic to a homeless man who’s just found a box of candy: “Life is like a box of chocolates – a cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for.” You can’t return it because all you’ll get back is more candy. Sometimes you find something good, but the good ones don’t last. You end up with broken, crappy candy, “and if you’re desperate enough to eat those, all you’ve got left is an empty box filled with useless brown paper wrappers.” CSM tears up his resignation letter and heads to work as the homeless man picks up his magazine.

In the present, Frohike’s still looking for proof that everything he’s determined about CSM’s past is true. As he leaves the Lone Gunmen’s lair, CSM takes aim, saying, “I can kill you whenever I please.” He takes his finger off the trigger and lets Frohike go. “But not today.”

Thoughts: The younger version of CSM is played by Chris Owens, who later plays Jeffrey Spender.

“Mom, I got a role on The X-Files!” “That’s great! Who are you playing?” “Lee Harvey Oswald. …Hello? Mom?”

So are we supposed to feel bad for CSM, since he didn’t become a famous writer and he was alone his whole life? HE MURDERED PEOPLE.

November 29, 2016

SVT #73, Lila’s Music Video: Another Dork Gets a Makeover

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

Way to be discreet, Johanna

Way to be discreet, Johanna

Summary: Remember music videos? If not, the Unicorns are here to remind you. They’re hanging out at Lila’s house, watching a Melody Power video, and start dancing along. They decide to make their own video and enter it into [music TV station that isn’t MTV so don’t sue]’s School Days competition for teens. If they win, they can buy a new VCR for the school! Totally radical! Jessica’s never-consistent singing talents are currently present, so she wants to be the lead singer. But Lila has the practice space and the video camera, as well as the massive ego, so everyone is forced to let her sing lead.

The next step is to write an original song. Jessica can do the lyrics (okay, sure), but no one on the project can compose the music. Someone suggests Johanna Porter, a dork who happens to be a talented musician. Lila asks her to join the project, but Johanna declines. Lila’s shocked that someone would refuse to spend time with the coolest people in school. Johanna should be honored that someone like Lila Fowler would loser herself to even speak to her! Lila wears her down, though.

The first gathering of the music video-makers starts off horribly. No one seems to be in charge, and no one pays any attention to Johanna. Finally things start to come together, but then Lila pulls some of Jessica’s stunts from The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley, making excuses so she doesn’t have to sing. The others send Lila and Johanna off to work alone, and Lila confesses to Johanna that she can’t read music. This is the least of her problems, as Lila also can’t actually sing. Johanna can, though she’s too shy to sing in public. She agrees to work with Lila to get her voice into shape.

Lila practices a ton but doesn’t make any progress. Amazingly, she’s ready to admit defeat and concede the position of lead singer to Jessica. Then Jessica overhears Johanna telling her sister Julie that Lila can’t sing. Jess tries to get Lila to come clean, but Lila just gets mad and decides not to back down after all. She comes up with a new plan: She’ll lip-sync while Johanna sings off-stage.

Johanna doesn’t like the idea, so Lila says that Jessica found out about her lack of talent and is going to blackmail her into giving up her spot. Johanna caves and agrees to the plan. Things go so perfectly that they tape the video in only one take (okay, sure). Now that she doesn’t need Johanna anymore, Lila stops being friendly to her, which confuses the poor dork, since she thought Lila genuinely wanted to become friends.

Jessica’s suspicious, since Johanna said that Lila couldn’t sing. She watches the video over and over, looking for anything strange. She tries to get Elizabeth involved, but Liz has the flu and is barely in the book. Amy, however, is all excited for a mystery. She’s been bitten by the investigative-journalism bug and is itching to find something to expose for the Sixers. Meanwhile, the video wins first place in the School Days competition, and a [not MTV so seriously, don’t sue] VJ enters Lila in a new competition for young singers. Lila starts feeling really guilty about her lie.

Jess determines that Lila was lip-syncing in the video, and Amy publishes an exposé in the Sixers. But Johanna lies that she taught Lila to sing, and it really was her performing in the video. Jessica isn’t convinced, and when she hears Janet saying something to Kimberly about a secret, she starts to think that Janet’s behind whatever really happened.

Lila wins the second competition, of course, which means she’ll be performing on TV in L.A. She talks Johanna into pulling their lip-syncing stunt again, even though she knows it’ll be harder to do this time. She gives Johanna a makeover and tries to encourage her to have more self-confidence. I guess if you want to be more self-assured, Lila’s the right person to turn to.

While Jessica and Amy follow Janet to a super-top-secret appointment, Lila and Johanna head to L.A. in Mr. Fowler’s limo. They’re sidelined by a flat tire, so Lila decides that they should grab a bus. That’s right, Lila Fowler is willing to take public transportation. She snags her clothes on something and tells Johanna to make the driver wait while she untangles herself. Johanna practices having self-confidence by acting like Lila, which basically means being entitled. When the girls get to L.A., they realize they don’t have money for lunch or a cab to the studio, so Johanna sings with a guy playing guitar on a street corner to make some quick cash.

Back in Sweet Valley, Amy and Jessica spot Janet leaving an office building with something weird on her head. Since one of the companies in the building does something with radio satellites, they decide that Janet is going to sing there and transmit her voice to the TV studio so Lila can lip-sync. Janet admits that she’s actually wearing head gear and kept her orthodontist appointment secret so no one would know. For some reason, Amy and Jess find this harder to believe than the idea that Janet’s going to use a satellite to pull off a Milli Vanilli-style stunt.

In L.A., the studio won’t let Johanna go in with Lila, since her name isn’t on an approved list. It doesn’t matter how many times Lila insists that Johanna’s her hairstylist and absolutely has to come – only one girl can go in. So Lila convinces Johanna to go on in her place. Johanna overcomes her stage fright and gives an amazing performance (of course). People aren’t even really mad about the lie; they’re so impressed with Johanna that they quickly get over it. They realize that Johanna isn’t such a dork after all. So you see, kids? If you’re talented, everyone will like you! They certainly won’t use you, befriend you for five minutes, and then never speak to you again!

Thoughts: The Unicorns eat Ken & Harry’s ice cream and Amy gives Elizabeth a book called All the Emperor’s Tailors by Carl Birnbaum. Please kill me.

Amy does the same thing Elizabeth got in trouble for two books ago – she publishes an article without researching all sides of the story. What kind of trash publication is Mr. Bowman running?

Johanna gets her hair crimped and curled. That sounds like a disaster, and I’m so sad there’s no picture.

November 26, 2016

The X-Files 4.6, Sanguinarium: Nip/Tuck

Posted in TV tagged at 1:22 pm by Jenn

Someone saw "Face/Off"!

Someone saw “Face/Off”!

Summary: A patient is being prepared for plastic surgery at Greenwood Memorial Hospital in Chicago. A nurse assures her that her doctor has done liposuction a thousand times, so she’s in good hands. The nurse checks in with Dr. Lloyd, who tells her to get his other patients prepped. He’s scrubbing for the first patient’s surgery, but he’s probably going a little overboard, since his hands are bleeding. Despite the fact that that can’t be sanitary, he just puts on some gloves and gets to work on his first patient.

The nurse checks in with the next patient, who’s been waiting so long that her tranquilizer is starting to wear off. Also, she was probably supposed to be the first patient, since the man in with the doctor now has markings on his scalp indicating that he was supposed to get a hair transplant, not lipo. The nurse goes to the OR and finds Lloyd practically sawing into the patient. “I think this patient is finished,” Lloyd says. His first clue was probably all the blood.

Everyone’s favorite FBI agents interview Lloyd, who says he was having an out-of-body experience and couldn’t stop himself. Mulder figures he was possessed. Lloyd’s lawyer doesn’t approve of this meeting, but the agents proceed anyway. Scully asks if Lloyd is taking any medication, and when she wants to check the dosages of his antacid and occasional sleeping pill, Lloyd balks. Off a look from his lawyer, Lloyd says he can’t remember how much sleep he got the night before.

Scully looks into Lloyd’s sleeping pills, which have been linked to strange behavior. When he started taking them five years ago, he was addicted, which could have affected his ability to do his job. Mulder notes that only one patient suffered ill effects. Scully tells him that the hospital is like a plastic-surgery factory. Mulder spots five circular marks on the floor next to the patient’s blood. He thinks they were scorched into the floor. He uses a tongue depressor and the patient’s blood to draw a pentagram between the marks.

Scully thinks they’re just looking at a case of a doctor taking drugs and screwing up. Mulder points out that he mistook a lipo patient for a hair-transplant patient, which is a little more than just screwing up. He also wonders how no one noticed what was going on, since there are cameras monitoring the activity in every OR. He thinks they’re dealing with black magic or sorcery.

The agents talk to the nurse, Rebecca Waite, who says she did everything she was supposed to and didn’t notice anything amiss. Mulder asks if she’s aware that Lloyd says he was possessed. “I guess it’s cheaper than malpractice insurance,” Waite quips. A doctor named Shannon sends Waite off on a task and claims to be too busy to talk to the agents. Scully thinks the only magic going on at the hospital is the medical kind.

Around a table that looks like it has a pentagram on its surface, some hospital execs discuss the trouble they could be in. One man worries that they’ll be burned at the stake if anyone thinks Lloyd’s possession story is true. Dr. Shannon is concerned that the agents were talking to Waite, but another man doesn’t think there’s a problem, since Waite doesn’t know anything.

Waite preps her next patient, who’s anxious about being put under for her facelift. She should be more anxious about the five leeches Waite is removing from her stomach. Waite promises to protect the patient. At their hotel of the week, Mulder shows Scully a video of Lloyd’s operation; he’s standing right in the middle of the supposed pentagram. Scully doesn’t think it makes sense for a pentagram to be in the OR, since it’s used to control the elemental forces to protect someone. Mulder disagrees – why not use black magic to prey on “the weak and vainglorious”?

Scully still doesn’t think there are any signs of black magic being used at the hospital. Mulder asks about the antacid Lloyd uses; it contains belladonna, which is used in witchcraft. Scully taunts that he should “put out an APB for someone riding a broom and wearing a tall black hat.” Mulder thinks that if they’re dealing with a ritual or hex, it might not be over.

A doctor named Ilaqua washes up after a procedure as Shannon assures him that, now that the Feds are gone, they should be in the clear. I’m going to guess that’s not true, since Ilaqua is acting a little robotic. When Shannon heads to the OR to operate on the facelift patient, she and Waite find the door locked. Ilaqua’s in with the patient, using a laser for what I’m pretty sure isn’t a facelift. I mean, I don’t think the woman wanted a hole burned through her head, but I could be wrong.

Scully examines Ilaqua, confirming that he doesn’t remember killing her. He was supposed to be leaving for the night. He’s still robotic, possibly due to the contents of the bottle of pills in his pocket. At the hotel, Mulder’s probably supposed to be working on the case, but instead he seems to be considering a nose job. He shows Scully the five spots on the patient’s stomach, left behind by the leeches (though the agents don’t know what made the marks). Scully hands over Ilaqua’s pills, which are the same as Lloyd’s prescription.

The agents interrupt another meeting at the hospital, which one attendee, Dr. Franklin, says is about their concerns for finding the party responsible for the patients’ deaths. He reveals that there were several deaths at the hospital ten years ago; all were ruled accidental. Waite was on the ward at the time, and has now transferred back to the ward. She’s the only person who’s had contact with all the victims. P.S. Now she’s disappeared. (Not really – she’s at home. But she’s doing some sort of ritual with hair and fire, so she probably just wants privacy.)

Mulder and Scully go to Waite’s house, where Mulder points out a broom on the front porch and calls it probable cause. There’s also a pentagram carved into the door. The agents enter and find the aftermath of Waite’s ritual, but no Waite.

Over in Winnetka, Franklin arrives home to find that his electricity is out. (He should consider this a blessing, because now he doesn’t have to see his super-ugly home.) “Vanitas vanitatum” is written on his bathroom wall in what appears to be blood. Speaking of blood, his bathtub is full of it, and it’s still coming out of the tap. When Franklin goes to turn it off, Waite leaps out of the tub and attacks him. Franklin gets away and calls 911, but Waite attacks again.

When Mulder and Scully arrive, Waite rants that something’s too powerful and she’s trying to stop it. She starts convulsing and spits out straight pins, then collapses. Thanks to internal bleeding, Waite will be the next person in this episode to undergo surgery. Scully heads to the hospital with her, while Mulder examines the pins. Without gloves. Come on, Mulder.

Shannon comes over to stitch up a cut on Franklin’s forehead, though he’s otherwise okay. Mulder quips that he can just get a little plastic surgery. Franklin and Shannon claim that they don’t know why Waite would have attacked him. Mulder says she practices witchcraft, so Shannon takes the idea and runs with it – she must be responsible for the patients’ deaths. They plan to put this behind them and get back to work. Franklin lies down in his bed, and as soon as Mulder and Shannon leave, he starts to levitate. He seems to be enjoying himself, so that’s nice.

Mulder’s examining his face in the mirror in his hotel room when Scully comes by (saying “Mulder, it’s me” when she knocks on the door) to tell him that Waite’s dead. Cause of death: massive blood loss thanks to hundreds of straight pins. Scully says that Waite could have suffered from pica, which leads sufferers to consume things that shouldn’t be consumed, but there’s no way she could have lived very long with all those pins inside her. Mulder thinks the more likely situation was [long word I don’t want to look up], which leads possessed people to cough up things they didn’t consume.

Scully will accept that Waite practiced witchcraft, but the rest of it is a little farfetched for her. Mulder gives her a book he got from Waite’s house, along with a calendar. A couple of days are marked with a symbol. Those days, the Witches’ Sabbaths, were also the birthdays of the victims. Mulder doesn’t think the symbols meant Waite was marking them for death, though. He thinks she was trying to protect them.

Franklin and another doctor are scrubbing in for an operation when Shannon warns that the agents are asking questions again. The second doctor complains that the good thing they have going is probably going to have to end. He doesn’t think Franklin’s up for the procedure, noting that they can’t afford to have any more screw-ups.

The agents head to the hospital, confirming that Franklin’s next patient has a birthday that matches up with a symbol on Waite’s calendar. The second doctor, Kaplan, has sent Franklin away to do the patient’s chemical peel, and I don’t think he’s using the chemicals he’s supposed to. Shannon doesn’t either, if her screams over the patient’s blistering skin are any indication.

Shannon tells the agents that the department has been lucrative even as other hospitals have lost revenue. They saw a need and filled it. The agents confirm that the department wanted to cover up the negligent deaths from ten years ago. Shannon says the hospital gave its blessing, like that makes it okay. She mentions that there were five deaths – four patients and a doctor, Cox, who died of a drug overdose.

Mulder asks Shannon to run Cox’s picture through an imaging program while he starts to share his theory with Scully: The four patient deaths ten years ago coincided with Witches’ Sabbaths, but Cox’s didn’t. Mulder and Shannon use the imaging program to alter Cox’s appearance as Shannon explains that doctors use it to show patients what they can look like. “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity,” Mulder says, quoting the Latin on Franklin’s bathroom wall. With a few clicks of the mouse, Cox’s face turns into Franklin’s.

Franklin’s in his super-ugly home, carving something with a blade. I don’t know what he’s carving because this show had no money in the budget for lighting. Mulder tells Scully that he thinks Cox killed four patients so he could become Franklin. They were blood sacrifices, the “most potent offering in black magic.” He couldn’t perform any more medical miracles, so he turned to witchcraft. Scully’s like, “He did this to become pretty?”

Franklin returns to the hospital and gets ready to perform another operation. Shannon catches him and he uses magic throw surgical instruments insider her. Meanwhile, Mulder and Scully go to Franklin’s ugly house, where they find a pentagram in the tiles in his foyer. The patients’ names are written at the pentagram’s points. Four have died so far, and Shannon’s name is written at the fifth point.

Shannon’s taken to surgery to remove the surgical instruments Franklin magically placed inside her. Elsewhere, Franklin starts carving up his own face, then peeling it off. Scully bursts into Shannon’s ER to halt her surgery while Mulder looks for Franklin. He finds an empty room, a bloody scalpel, and Franklin’s face. Shannon’s surgery is successful, which means Franklin hasn’t claimed his final victim. But another patient has a birthday on Halloween, AKA Samhain, AKA the fourth Witches’ Sabbath, and she’s not quite as lucky.

Sometime later, Franklin and his new face and name get a new job in L.A. The doctor he meets with is impressed by his credentials and patient portfolio. Franklin tells her that he likes to say that it’s plastic surgeons’ jobs to recreate in their own image what God created in His. But we never hear about this guy or any other patient murders again, so maybe Franklin has changed his ways and decided to behave himself from now on!

Thoughts: You’d think that with his black-magic skills, Franklin could change his appearance without having to cut off his face.

Nothing like watching someone get fat sucked out of him right before lunchtime.

Hey, Mulder, maybe don’t use blood to draw pictures on the floor of a crime scene. CSI teams must hate him.

Ooh, a rare “Mulder, it’s me” that’s not on the phone. How fun.

November 22, 2016

SVT #72, The Love Potion: The Unicorns Will Make It Up Right Here in the Sink

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

I can't figure out who the girl in the middle reminds me of and it's driving me crazy

I can’t figure out who the girl in the middle reminds me of and it’s driving me crazy

Summary: SVMS throws an annual carnival with the proceeds going to charity, and every year the Unicorns find time in their busy schedule of flirting and practicing new hairstyles to run a booth. This year, the group who raises the most money will get a prize. That’s great and all, but it’s not the biggest news in town: Johnny Buck is going to give a concert in Sweet Valley. Instead of selling tickets, they’re being given away raffle-style, and people can only win them by sending an entry in to the Sweet Valley Tribune. This requires filling out a form only found in the paper, which means if you want to send in multiple entries, you have to buy multiple copies of the paper.

As if that weren’t enough for the Unicorns to be anxious about, they’re worried about Mary’s new hanger-on, Peter Burns. Peter’s a nerd (he’s good at science! Ew!), and his obvious crush on Mary makes the girls worry that their reputation will be tainted. They (well, mostly Janet) urge Mary to be rude to Peter so he’ll go away, but Mary’s an actual nice person and doesn’t want to do that. When he walks home with her one afternoon, she mentions how much she’d like to go to the Johnny Buck concert. He tries to be encouraging, even though the odds of her winning a ticket are pretty slim.

The Unicorns have been trying to come up with an idea for their booth, and Jess thinks up one that everyone agrees on: selling a love potion. They’ll mix up some drink and sell it for a dollar a bottle, promising that whoever drinks it will soon become the object of someone else’s affection. At least it’s a creative idea.

Peter gives Mary a magazine with info about Johnny, which worries the Unicorns. They decide she should be taken off the market so Peter will back off. Mary used to have a crush on an eighth-grader named Tim, so the girls do some matchmaking and let him know that Mary’s interested. He invites her to a big picnic at Secca Lake the day after the carnival, and though she’s not that excited about going with him, she agrees because she doesn’t want to tick off the Unicorns.

Peter helps out with the Sixers and chats with Elizabeth, admitting that he entered the concert raffle even though he doesn’t like Johnny Buck that much. She figures out that he wants to win tickets for Mary. Over the weekend, the ticket winners receive their prizes (more on this in the B-plot section), but Peter and Mary are both out of luck. But everyone has one more chance: Mr. Bowman bought tickets for his niece but is now going to raffle them off at the carnival. This time, people can only enter once, which puts everyone back on equal footing.

Even without the tickets, Peter gets up the courage to ask Mary out. Just before he can, Tim arrives, and Peter learns that he and Mary are going to the picnic together. Peter realizes he’s lost his chance with the girl he’s in love with. Poor guy. The Unicorns are happy, though, since Mary now has a respectable boyfriend. Mary herself isn’t so happy – Tim is full of himself and more interested in talking about what he likes than finding out anything about Mary. Also, he doesn’t like Johnny Buck.

The girls mix up their love potion, which is really pineapple punch with purple food coloring. (It actually sounds kind of good.) They make a ton of sales, either to people who really want to fall in love or to people who are just thirsty. Tim buys three bottles to make himself look like a bigshot. Mary is, unsurprisingly, not impressed. Everyone buys raffle tickets, including Peter, who’s still holding on to hope that he can win Mary over.

Mary runs into Peter, who’s back to hoping that things will work out for them. He tells her that he bought a raffle ticket but is hopeful about things even if he doesn’t end up winning. She tries to get him to explain that, but he clams up. Now she thinks he’s being cold to her, which confuses her, since he was so nice before. Maybe he didn’t like her as much as she’d thought. Yeah, or maybe he’s upset that you’re dating a jerk instead of him. Wake up, Mary.

Jessica’s sick of Peter and decides to sell him a love potion. This one is special – it contains a bunch of ingredients Jessica finds around the carnival, including salsa and root beer. Peter first says he doesn’t believe in love potions, but he figures it can’t hurt to try. The poor guy drinks the whole thing while the Unicorns giggle about him. Joke’s on you, girls – he’s going to grow up to find a cure for cancer or something, while you have three kids you don’t even like and spend your lives trying to recapture the magic of your senior year of high school.

Mr. Bowman lets Elizabeth and Amy hang around while he draws the winner of the concert tickets. Unsurprisingly, it’s Peter. He swears the girls to secrecy, since he won’t announce the winner until the next day. But Jessica tricks Elizabeth into telling her, pretending she’s going to read her mind, then getting her to write the winner’s name on a napkin, which Jess just grabs. She wishes Mary had gone out with Peter instead of Tim, since this would ensure her a ticket to the concert. Then Jess realizes that she can secure a ticket by buttering Peter up. She also tells Lila that he won.

Mary finally realizes that Peter is a nice guy and she hasn’t treated him well. She decides to make up with him at the picnic. She’s still going with Tim, but she was zero interest in him. The next day, Mary has a horrible time getting to the picnic. Tim’s father was supposed to drive them, but he can’t make it, so they have to ride bikes. Mary rides Tim’s mom’s bike but gets a flat tire. Tim says she must have done something wrong, then ditches her. When Mary finally gets to Secca Lake, she yells at Tim in front of all his friends, which is awesome.

Mary then apologizes to Peter, who now has a bunch of girls being nice to him. He doesn’t know he won the tickets, so he doesn’t get that they’re trying to kiss up to him. Well, except for Mary, who genuinely feels bad about how she treated him. Peter figures the love potion actually worked. Sorry, buddy, Mary just realized she was being a jerk and stopped letting her friends peer-pressure her into staying away from you.

The Unicorns get a plaque for making the most money at the carnival. Lila is unimpressed. Peter learns that he won the tickets and gives them to Mary and Jessica, even though he knows that Jessica gave him a gross love potion on purpose. Once again, Jessica’s bad behavior is rewarded and she suffers no consequences. Sigh.

The B-plot is about how much the Wakefield kids want to go to the concert. Steven wants to win tickets so he can take Cathy, and he sends in 30 entries.  Jessica can only get her hands on six copies of the paper, and Elizabeth just sends in one entry. Apparently the paper receives 25,000 entries all together, which has to be, like, 2.5 times the number of subscribers, so the Tribune is going to have a great Christmas party this year. Jess and Steven get competitive, agreeing that whoever doesn’t get to go to the concert has to do the other’s chores for a month.

Thanks to his 30 entries, Steven wins tickets while Jessica doesn’t. (Elizabeth doesn’t either, but Amy does, so Liz gets a ticket anyway.) Then Steven misplaces his tickets, so Jess makes another deal with him: If she finds them, she gets one. Steven ends up cleaning the entire house while looking for the tickets, but he can’t find them. He even accuses Jessica of stealing them, which is kind of dumb, because how would she get away with going to the concert without him finding out?

Eventually Steven finds the tickets in his geometry book. His parents aren’t happy with the realization that he didn’t find them earlier because he hasn’t used his geometry book in days. Jessica isn’t happy with the fact that, since Steven found them without her help, he doesn’t have to give her one. Just before the concert, Steven misplaces the tickets AGAIN, this time in his Spanish book. Maybe Steven should focus more on schoolwork and less on buying 30 copies of a newspaper. Anyway, all three Wakefield kids get to go to the concert, so yay.

Thoughts: “How about a booth selling special paper?” This is why you’re never allowed to do anything in this series, Kimberly.

Jessica mentions that she has good luck with pineapple recipes, which is a nice bit of continuity.

Mary: “I think he cares more about himself than anyone else.” Lila: “What’s wrong with that?” As if Lila would waste two seconds on a guy who cared more about himself than he did about her.

November 19, 2016

The X-Files 4.5, The Field Where I Died: See You in Another Life, Mulder

Posted in TV tagged at 1:32 pm by Jenn

Hey, look, a field! A field where someone died!

Hey, look, a field! A field where someone died!

Summary: Mulder opens us up with a voiceover of a poem while he looks at old pictures in a field. At 5:15 a.m., federal agents raid the Temple of the Seven Stars in Apison, Tennessee, to look for illegal firearms. They have a warrant to arrest a man named Vernon Ephesian. Mulder and Scully are among the agents looking for him, but Mulder gets distracted when he sees a door. He goes out back to a field while Scully reminds him that there are no hiding places out there. A woman’s voice says she was dead but “behold, I am alive forevermore.”

The agents find a hidden bunker in the field, where Vernon and some women are about to drink something together. Mulder stops them, pausing when he sees one of the women. The people are all arrested, and the agents head to Chattanooga, where Skinner joins them. He plays a phone call from someone reporting the goings-on at the Temple of the Seven Stars – Vernon was mistreating children, and there were a ton of weapons. Thanks to the call, the ATF were allowed to investigate, and now some awful people are behind bars.

Scully wonders how Mulder knew there was a bunker, since no one else knew after an 18-month investigation. He doesn’t respond. Skinner’s angry since they haven’t found the weapons, which means someone must have tipped Vernon off to the raid. The charges against Vernon and his cohorts aren’t going to stick without evidence, so the agents only have 24 hours to find the weapons. They also need to find Sidney, the person who called in the tip in the first place. Skinner’s worried that Vernon had him killed.

While the other agents head off, Skinner keeps Mulder and Scully behind to remind them that they’re supposed to look into claims that Ephesian has supernatural abilities, like astral projection and channeling. Scully thinks he’s just a paranoid sociopath and uses the book of Revelation to manipulate his followers. Skinner reminds her that he almost got six women to kill themselves. If Vernon and his followers are released, he could become so paranoid that the FBI ends up dealing with another Waco or Jonestown.

The agents meet with Vernon, who says their arrival was written in Scripture. Well, really, the apostle John Mark said that believers would be tried, but Vernon has a different interpretation than, oh, every other Biblical scholar in the world. Mulder points out that that message is from a letter to the church at Smyrna, while Vernon’s church is supposed to be a reincarnation of the church at “Ephesia” [sic]. Vernon points out that his church is the Temple of the Seven Stars, meaning all seven churches that got the message. Besides, his members aren’t reincarnated. He himself claims he was there when John Mark gave his message.

Scully asks if Sidney got a “crown of life” for being a member, even if he tipped off the Feds to Vernon’s practices. Vernon’s lawyer speaks up, saying there are no members at the temple named Sidney. Vernon calls Scully a nonbeliever, but he doesn’t care what she thinks of him. However, he’d like her and Mulder to keep an open mind so they’ll know that soon, everyone will “be destroyed by God’s mighty men.” Vernon’s just following God’s orders so his soul will be protected from evil.

Mulder and Scully return to the temple’s compound as members are released. Scully isn’t looking forward to having to interview Vernon’s six wives, since she knows they’ll only say what he’s been saying, and no one will mention Sidney. Mulder wants to start with Melissa, the wife who gave him pause in the bunker. She tells the agents she doesn’t know where she’s from, though she’s only been at the temple for a year. She’s totally okay with being one of multiple wives since Scripture says it’s cool.

Scully asks about children, and Melissa says Vernon told her they have to wait until the “right soul” is ready to be reincarnated. She clams up when the agents ask about child abuse. Suddenly she starts speaking in Sidney’s voice, saying she saw some things that might have been considered abuse. Scully’s like, “Cool, multiple personalities, case closed.” But since Sidney thinks the current U.S. president is Harry Truman, Mulder thinks they’re dealing with someone channeling a past life. He tells Scully he “just knew.”

With 15 hours to go before Vernon and his wives’ arraignment, Skinner urges Mulder and Scully to come up with something. Confirming that Melissa, as Sidney, called in the tip isn’t enough, since Melissa won’t give them anything else. Mulder thinks Sidney wants to talk, and he thinks taking her back to the compound will make her want to talk. Skinner and Scully think Melissa could just be putting on a show. Mulder argues that Melissa fits the diagnostic criteria. Since they could be facing a disaster, Skinner allows Mulder to move forward with his plan.

After Skinner leaves, Scully calls Mulder out for not mentioning that he thinks they’re dealing with a past life. She doesn’t believe he really feels responsible for helping Melissa or the people at the temple. He’s only responsible to himself. Mulder just ignores her. They take Melissa to the compound and urge her to talk so she can help the children. She takes them to her bedroom and starts crying when she looks at pictures from happier days. Mulder sees a verse from Revelation on the door: “Behold, I am alive forevermore.”

Melissa next goes to the children’s playroom and speaks to Scully using a child’s voice, saying her name is Lily. When Scully tries to ask her questions, Sidney emerges and tells the agents to leave Lily alone. Mulder says they’ll leave and everyone will be safe if Sidney tells them where the guns are. Melissa leads them to the door Mulder went through to the backyard, where he found the bunker. Mulder gets a strange feeling as he and Scully follow her.

Melissa uses a southern accent as she tells the agents that the weapons were placed in the bunker by people who thought they were about to die. Their own family members had just died on Missionary Ridge, and General Cleburn had left the Union Army. Melissa was a nurse and was supposed to meet the troops, but she wanted to find Cleburn. The women hid in the bunker while the armies battled above them. It was November 26th, 1863. “I was here, as were you,” Melissa tells Mulder. “This is the field where I watched you die.”

Mulder wants to have Melissa hypnotized, which gives Scully hope that he agrees with her that Melissa has multiple personalities and he wants to talk to one of them. Of course not! Mulder wants to regress Melissa to a past life. Scully objects, since Melissa’s not exactly stable right now, and regression could do further harm. Mulder yells that Scully heard everything he did – why can’t she feel it? How did he know about a bunker unless he knew about it 130 years ago? Scully wants to know why Mulder thinks Vernon’s nuts but he himself is sane.

A hypnotist puts Melissa under and gets her to talk about a woman named Elizabeth who came to the temple with her son, Scott. Vernon said Scott was a returning prophet and took him away from Elizabeth. Since Vernon’s children are God’s grandchildren, they were kept separate from the others. Elizabeth snuck in to see her son, and when Vernon caught her, he had his “mighty men” beat her in front of Scott. Scott cried, so Vernon punished him with a beating and made him sleep with the trash, saying he was no longer a child of God.

Sidney emerges and tells the hypnotist to leave Melissa alone. He says the guns are in the bunkers, though Sidney doesn’t know exactly where. Scully thinks they can use maps of the compound to find the other bunkers, but Mulder thinks they’ll get better information from Melissa’s Civil War personality. He gets the nurse to emerge, but all she says is that she misses Mulder. Scully notes to Mulder that they don’t have any details or proof that Melissa’s telling the truth. Mulder thinks they need to keep trying.

So Mulder takes Melissa’s place and lets himself be hypnotized. He’s regressed to a past life as a Jewish woman in Poland; Samantha is his son and Scully is his father. “Souls come back together,” Mulder says. “Different but always together, again and again, to learn.” He cries when he remembers seeing the Gestapo next to his dead father. One of the officers is CSM (of course): “Evil returns as evil, but love…love…souls mate eternal.” Past-life Mulder’s husband, Melissa, is taken to a concentration camp. “We’re always taken away,” Mulder says.

Next Mulder is rising above the field, after the federal soldiers have left. He’s dead, as is his sergeant, Scully. The nurse, Sarah Kavanaugh, holds Mulder, whose name is Sullivan Biddle. Mulder says she doesn’t know that he’s waiting for her so they can live again. Scully asks Mulder about bunkers in the field, but his “soul is tired” and he’s ready for a nap. Scully leaves him and goes to a Hall of Records to look up information on Sarah and Sullivan. She finds pictures of them, and I guess there’s kind of a resemblance?

Mulder studies the pictures while Vernon and Melissa are arraigned. Scully thinks they’re going to be released. Mulder asks if Scully would have felt differently about him if someone had told her in the past few years that they’ve actually known each other a long time. Scully says she wouldn’t change a day, even if she knew it for sure. “Well, maybe that Flukeman thing. I could have lived without that just fine,” she quips.

Melissa listens to a recording of her hypnosis session, but she doesn’t believe in past lives. She admits that it’s a nice idea that we chose the lives we lived and who we lived with. She says the magic words, “I want to believe,” and tells Mulder that if it were true, she’d want to “end this pointless life” and start over. Mulder says that if it were true, no one’s life would be pointless. He shows her Sarah’s picture, which she rips in half before leaving with Vernon.

Scully tells Mulder that since the field outside the compound doesn’t belong to the Temple of the Seven Stars, the ATF can keep searching for the weapons even as the church members move back in. Mulder wants to do another raid. Skinner thinks that he believes that Vernon will attack the ATF agents, following talk of battles in Revelation. But Mulder and Scully don’t think Vernon believes he can defeat the “devil’s army.” Instead, he’ll want to deny himself so his members can live forever.

Back at the compound, the followers are rounded up and locked in a room together. The ATF agents refuse Skinner’s orders to leave, but a hidden mic at the compound allows them to hear Vernon quoting Scripture to his followers about laying down his life for his brethren. Scully guesses that he’s going to get them all to kill themselves so their fellow believers can live. Out comes the Kool-Aid. Some of the temple members shoot at the ATF agents as the others start to carry out Vernon’s orders.

Mulder and Scully arrive as the shooting stops and the followers begin to drink. Vernon stops in front of Melissa, trying to urge her to give up her wicked, lying ways. But Melissa’s now Sidney, and when Mulder heads into the compound, she’s the only one who’s still alive. Vernon declares himself “alive forevermore” and gives Melissa another cup of Kool-Aid. She looks out at the field. Mulder finally gets to the room where all the believers have died and finds Melissa dead, holding the torn picture of Sarah. The episode-ending voiceover is the same as the one from the beginning, only now we know that the pictures Mulder is holding are of Sarah and Sullivan.

Thoughts: This has some interesting trivia about references in the episode. The trivia’s more interesting than the episode itself.

Writers, if you’re going to do all this Biblical stuff but have Mulder say “Ephesia” instead of “Ephesus,” I can’t take you seriously. Also, for your reference and for the reference of everyone else in the world: It’s Revelation, not Revelations.

So…we’re not going to talk about how Scully was Mulder’s father in a past life?

November 15, 2016

SVT #71, Jessica Saves the Trees: Soccer? I Hardly Even Know Her!

Posted in books tagged , , , at 4:59 pm by Jenn

Untuck your shirts, you nerds

Untuck your shirts, you nerds

Summary: Soccer has become a big deal at SVMS, especially since the boys have just qualified for division A. (Apparently this means they’re really good.) As boys try out for the team, they dedicate their goals to the girls they like. I had no idea this was a thing. Jessica’s excited that Aaron might make a goal and dedicate it to her. Considering how low-scoring soccer games can be, she may have to wait a while.

Elizabeth isn’t having such a great day – she wrote an article for the Sixers about two boys being kicked out of a new sweet shop, and the shop owner, Mrs. Simmons, is upset that she wasn’t interviewed. The article said that the boys were turned away because Mrs. Simmons doesn’t like kids, but she claims it’s because they started a food fight the last time they were there. Elizabeth is embarrassed, and Mr. Bowman is unhappy with her failure to get both sides of the story.

At the scrimmage that serves as tryouts for the soccer team, Aaron dedicates two goals to Jessica. The Unicorns fawn all over her, except Lila, who’s jealous. Janet thinks Denny Jacobson is going to dedicate a goal to her, but he gives a shout-out to his English teacher instead, since he failed a test last week. Heh. Jess thinks Elizabeth should write an article about Aaron and the goals, though of course it should focus on Jess rather than Aaron’s accomplishments. Liz knows better than to write something stupid just to boost her sister’s ego, but at least she can hide behind the excuse of journalistic integrity.

Jess watches an interview with her favorite actress, Lois Latimer, who’s really into activism. She encourages kids to get involved in good causes because doing so makes people beautiful. Jess realizes how many protests her parents were involved in back in college, and starts to think that activism really does make you more attractive. You know, like how all the people who marched for Civil Rights woke up the next morning with magically clearer skin.

Liz writes a correction piece to retract what she reported about the boys at the sweet shop. But she’s in for another embarrassment, as she accidentally publishes a version where Amy added a line about the boys being jerks for lying to Liz about the reason for their banishment. Liz is in trouble with Mr. Bowman again. Doesn’t he read the paper before it’s published? Later, it turns out that Mrs. Simmons mistook the two boys for two other troublemakers, so their banishment was based on mistaken identity. Maybe she should just require all kids in her shop to be chaperoned. Anyway, the whole thing is a mess, and everyone’s upset with Elizabeth for not covering all the angles of the story.

The students receive some bad news: The school’s soccer field is a few yards too short for regulation size, which means they can’t compete in division A after all. No other fields nearby are available, and expanding the field would cost $5,000, so the season is effectively cancelled. Can’t they just compete in division B instead? Whatever. The kids take a shot at fundraising, but since they only have a week to make the money (for some reason), they only get $1,767. Lila gets her father to make up the difference, so she gets all the credit for the fundraising, even though Jessica gave an impassioned motivational speech. The boys on the team decide to dedicate all of that season’s goals to Lila.

Jess gets depressed about the turn of events – the students got what they wanted, but they’re not paying attention to her. Sadly, Lois Latimer doesn’t show up to tell Jess to suck it up because activism isn’t about getting praise. Jess just spends the afternoon in the woods by the soccer field, crying to a bird that she thinks is sympathetic but that’s probably just waiting for Jess to feed it.

Elizabeth takes Jess with her to an interview with an engineer who will be working on the enlargement of the soccer field. She tells them that some trees will have to be bulldozed to make room. Jessica then goes with Liz to the Nature Society to learn more about the trees. (Elizabeth is obsessed with covering every single angle of the story. She’ll probably interview the birds about how they feel about their trees being taken away.) A man named Bill tells the twins that knocking down trees isn’t the greatest idea. Some trees in the area are 400 years old, and should be put ahead of expanding a soccer field.

Jess, feeling lonely and unappreciated, grabs a hold of this idea. She thinks the enlargement of the field should be stopped so the trees aren’t disturbed. She tells Elizabeth to say so in her article, but Elizabeth wants to just present facts and let the readers decide for themselves what they want. So Jessica starts recruiting her own little band of environmentalists and starts a movement to stop the expansion of the field. They only have a week to get out the word, so they get right to work.

Aaron is surprised that Jess is suddenly against the soccer field. After all, there are plenty of other trees around; cutting a few down isn’t going to hurt anything. He takes it personally that Jess wants to keep him from playing soccer. The Unicorns are also unhappy with Jess (and Mandy, to a lesser extent, since she’s on Jess’ side); they want to keep watching cute guys play soccer. Janet tells Jessica and Mandy to pick the Unicorns or the trees. The girls pick the trees, even picking up another supporter when Mary decides to join their cause.

By this point, pretty much everyone at SVMS has chosen a side except Elizabeth and Todd. Elizabeth is refraining from making a decision on the issue so she can continue to remain objective in her articles. Todd just hasn’t made up his mind yet. Both sides are getting ugly, calling each other “tree killers” and “tree huggers.” They protest on school property and get threatened with suspension for not being civil to each other. Jessica almost gets in trouble for announcing that they refuse to negotiate.

Aaron tries to make up with Jessica, but it’s really so she’ll back down and let the field expansion go forward. She’s so sure she’s on the right side that she refuses to compromise or admit that she’s done anything wrong. Aaron thinks she’s acting out because Lila got all the glory for the fundraising. Jessica insists that she really does want to save the trees. They’re at a stalemate.

Elizabeth interviews some students and teachers for her article on the whole fiasco. Randy Mason helped with the fundraising for the field, but now that he knows the trees are 400 years old, he thinks they should be protected. Rick Hunter points out that 400 years isn’t very long when you consider how old the world is, so they can sacrifice some trees to enlarge the field. A teacher tells Elizabeth she’s for saving the trees because she likes nature, and somehow Liz interprets this as her wanting to side with her friends, which she and Todd had agreed was a bad idea.

The only thing everyone can agree on at this point is that Elizabeth should be on their side. They want her to write articles supporting their opinions rather than just presenting the issue in a straightforward manner. Mr. Bowman finally tells Liz that she needs to put stories in the paper that express people’s passion over the situation. She gets Jessica and Aaron to write editorials and publishes them next to each other. Everyone’s mad about that, too, since Liz still hasn’t backed one side over the other.

There’s a protest outside Casey’s, I guess because the kids got in trouble for protesting at school, and it ends with yelling and everyone getting kicked out. Todd gets booted, even though he wasn’t involved in the protest, and he tells Liz he’s now against both sides. I can’t believe Todd makes it through this book without getting beaten up.

After chats with Bill and Ned, Elizabeth decides to do some research on the trees themselves. This research leads her to a surprising turn of events. She tries to tell Jessica what she found out, but Jess is too focused on her cause to listen. Just as the trees are about to be bulldozed, Jessica and her supporters leave their classrooms and run outside to chain themselves to the trees with bike locks.

Elizabeth brings Bill to the school to confirm what her research has revealed: The trees that would be knocked down for the field are diseased and actually NEED to be removed. What’s more, their disease could spread to other trees, so the whole wooded area needs to be bulldozed so the trees don’t die. People object, since the trees are 400 years old. Bill says that he told Jess some of the trees in Sweet Valley are that old, but he didn’t specify that they were the ones she wanted to protect. Those trees are actually only about 60 years old. (Not that it should matter – if they’re dying and going to kill other trees, their age isn’t really an issue.)

Jessica is embarrassed that she went full force on the protests without having all the information, and with faulty facts. Steven thinks she should look on the bright side: Without her protests, no one would have paid attention to the trees in the first place, and the disease might not have been discovered until it was too late. Not that Jess cares about that right now. The trees still have to go, and getting rid of the whole wooded area will cost so much that the school won’t be able to afford the field expansion after all.

Finally, though, Jessica’s desire to be an activist leads to something good. Since the trees are part of the town, not just the school, the community should contribute to the cost of removing them. The City Council agrees and will pitch in, which means SVMS can still expand their field. The students finally stop fighting and organize a fundraiser so they can plant new trees. Jessica even gets rewarded with a letter from Lois Latimer telling her to keep up the good work. Well, crap, now Jess is only going to do good things so she can get praise.

Thoughts: Jessica: “I’m not just trying to get attention for myself.” So you admit you ARE trying to get attention, at last partly.

Of course Todd is neutral. When has he ever been passionate about anything?

If Mr. Bowman doesn’t read the paper before it goes to press, and he never taught Elizabeth about interviewing both sides of a matter, what, exactly, does he do as the Sixers‘ advisor?

November 12, 2016

The X-Files 4.4, Unruhe: Look at This Photograph, Every Time I Do It Makes Me Scream in Terror

Posted in TV tagged at 1:18 pm by Jenn

Not the worst picture of Gillian Anderson ever taken, though

Not the worst picture of Gillian Anderson ever taken, though

Summary: A woman in Traverse City, Michigan, makes a quick stop at Kelso Drugs to have her passport photo taken. Her boyfriend, Billy, is eager for her to get it done so they can continue their plan. While the woman, Mary, waits for the picture to develop, a man enters the store in a yellow raincoat. Mary goes back out to get her money from the car, unaware that the man in the raincoat is following her. He bumps into her, piercing her shoulder with something. When Mary gets to the car, Billy’s been murdered, and it looks like Mary will be next. Back in the store, the pharmacist looks at Mary’s picture, which shows her screaming.

Mulder and Scully head to Michigan three days later; Mary is missing, and there’s no hair or fiber evidence at the scene of her disappearance, thanks to the rain. Billy’s cause of death was a puncture wound through his ear to his brain, possibly made by an awl or long needle. Scully looks at Mary’s passport photo, which the pharmacist said was fine when he took it. He didn’t even know anything had happened to Mary until three years later.

The agents meet with the pharmacist, and Scully checks out his film and photo equipment. She notices that the film, branded Etap, is out of date. The agents agree that the pharmacist, who’s older and walks with a limp, probably had nothing to do with Mary’s disappearance. Scully also thinks that the out-of-date film is to blame for the screaming photo. A police officer arrives and tells the agents that there’s been a development in the case.

He takes them to Mary’s house and introduces them to Inspector Puett, who’s from the Post Office. They’re investigating a case of mail theft tied to Mary, a postal employee. She’s been stealing credit cards, and she and Billy have been using them to commit fraud. Puett thinks Mary faked a kidnapping to avoid being arrested. Mulder asks why she killed Billy, but Puett doesn’t have an answer. Scully doesn’t get what Mulder thinks the connection is with the screaming photo.

Mulder finds a Polaroid camera and takes a couple of random pictures. He tells Scully about a photographer who used to take scotographs, photos that he claimed showed what he was thinking. The Polaroids Mulder has just taken all show Mary screaming. She’s surrounded by faces that look like ghosts. Mulder thinks her abductor was at the house, and his closeness altered the photos. You won’t be surprised to learn that Scully thinks “psychic photography” is a ridiculous idea. She thinks someone doctored the images and planted them to throw the authorities off the track. But Mulder thinks the photos are a glimpse into the mind of a killer.

Mary turns up on the side of a road, wearing a nightgown and looking dazed. She ends up in the hospital, and thought she’s been given an anesthetic often used by dentists, Scully diagnoses her with a different problem – her brain has been pierced. She was given a sort of icepick lobotomy, but it wasn’t exactly up to medical standards. Mary starts to murmur the word “unruhe” in the CAT scan machine, and Mulder tells the doctors to get her out. Just then, an officer announces that someone else has been abducted. This second abductee is with a man who speaks German to her while showing her the giant pick he’s probably going to shove in her brain.

The agents go to the new crime scene, an accountant’s office. The account himself is dead, and the missing woman is his secretary, Alice. Mulder has looked up “unruhe” in the phone book, but he doesn’t think it’s the killer’s last name. Scully agrees; she took German in college and knows the word means “unrest.” She thinks the killer returned to the first crime scene and will turn up in a photo. Mulder disagrees.

A cop tells the agents that they haven’t found any cameras or film at this scene. Scully thinks Mulder should drop his focus on psychic photography, but Mulder thinks they can use them to their advantage. He doesn’t think the killer even knows about his scotographic ability. Scully reminds him that they don’t have any for this abduction. But then she sees a sign for Iskendarian Construction outside the building, and another sign in a photo of the first crime scene. Maybe the killer worked at both construction sites.

Mulder still wants to pursue the scotographs, so he goes back to D.C. to get them analyzed. Meanwhile, the killer gives Alice a nightgown like the one Mary was wearing. In D.C., Mulder gets a photo enhanced by a tech who admires the killer’s composition. The tech is able to get a good human face out of one of the ghostly faces. In Michigan, Scully gets a list of construction employees who worked at both sites, though they’ll have to do a little more to get the names of any off-the-book workers.

Mulder and the tech keep enhancing the photo, able to see a shadow. Mulder sees it as the kidnapper standing over Mary, passing judgment on her. The shadow has incredibly long legs, though. In Michigan, Scully visits a construction site and meets foreman Gerry Schnauz, who spends their entire conversation standing on stilts. He tells her that all of his employees are on the books. Mulder calls to tell Scully that the kidnapper seems to have really long legs. Scully immediately figures out that she’s looking right at the killer. “Unruhe,” she says.

Gerry takes off before Scully can arrest him, but even once he gets out of the stilts and can run faster, Scully’s able to catch up to him. She finds a pick in his pocket, so it’s going to be hard for him to explain his way out of this. He tries, though, telling the agents that he has no clue who Alice is or what’s going on. That pick is just for sheetrock! Doesn’t everyone carry one around with them? The agents ask Gerry about his past crimes, like when he beat up his father and ended up in an institution, undergoing treatment for paranoid schizophrenia. Gerry claims that he’s spent the past ten years making amends by taking care of his father.

Mulder asks about Gerry’s sister, who committed suicide the same year Gerry beat up his father. Did anything else happen that year? Gerry won’t answer, so Scully asks where Alice is. He doesn’t respond. Mulder shows Gerry the photo with the enhanced face, asking if it’s Gerry’s father. Judging by Gerry’s response, it is. Mulder thinks that when Gerry went after Mary, he saw his father in his mind’s eye. Mulder asks about Alice, and Gerry says, “She’s safe from howlers. She’s all right now.” When the agents and police find Alice, she’s dead.

Scully’s shaken by the turn of events. Mulder’s stuck on the word “unruhe” and the “howlers” from Mary’s picture, but Scully thinks the case is over, so it doesn’t matter. Mulder thinks the photo is a scene from Gerry’s nightmares. He wants to know what they’re really dealing with here. Scully doesn’t. Gerry’s taken to jail, where he’s fingerprinted and photographed. But when his mug shot comes out of the printer, it’s now a photo of the officer with him, dead. Gerry grabs the cop’s gun and makes the photo reality.

The agents are again called to a crime scene, and Mulder tells Scully that the photo doesn’t match what happened. In the picture, the cop has been shot in the head, but Gerry shot him in the throat. Scully announces that there was an armed robbery at the pharmacy where Mary was taken. The agents head over and talk to the pharmacist, who confirms that Gerry was the robber. He took a camera, Etap film, and drugs to anesthetize his next victim. Since there are apartment buildings around the construction site where Scully found him, he may have already picked out who’s next.

Mulder sends Scully to the site alone while he does something with a photo machine. Scully shares their theory with the police, who head to the site. Gerry’s not there, though – he’s under Scully’s car, waiting to drug her and make her his next victim. Inside the pharmacy, Mulder gets a new photo developed, this one showing a screaming Scully. By the time he runs outside to save her, Gerry is already on the move in Scully’s car.

The car turns up abandoned, and another car is stolen from nearby, so Mulder figures Gerry’s going to keep switching cars for a while. He studies the picture of Scully and sees a skeletal hand with six fingers reaching for her. The police can’t come up with any addresses where Gerry might have gone. Mulder looks through Gerry’s wallet and finds his father’s obituary, which says that he was a retired dentist. Well, that explains where Gerry’s been getting his anesthesia.

Mulder and some cops head to Gerry Sr.’s former office, which has clearly been abandoned for years. Mulder finds a footprint left a little more recently and realizes that Gerry took a dental chair. He’s set it up in his lair, along with a light that will allow him a better view of Scully’s face when he jams his pick into it to puncture her brain. (I hope you weren’t eating while you were reading this recap.) Gerry speaks German while Scully tries to convince him to let her go, telling him it’s already over.

Scully speaks German back to her abductor, telling him she doesn’t have any unrest and doesn’t need to be saved. Gerry says everyone does, especially Scully. She wonders if she reminds him of his sister. Did their father do something to her? Gerry blames the howlers, which live in your head and make you do and say things you don’t mean. You have to have help to remove them. Gerry touches Scully between her eyebrows and says, “You’ve got them right there.” (This is MAJOR foreshadowing that will be addressed in a few episodes.)

Scully says she doesn’t have howlers, but Gerry thinks they made her say that because they know he’s going to kill them. Scully suggests that he made up the howlers to explain the things his sister said their father did. Gerry yells at the howlers that he knows their tricks and they can’t fool him. Besides, he saw them in the picture Mulder showed him, and pictures don’t lie. Scully argues that if howlers exist, Gerry’s the only one who has them. He walks away to get a camera, returning before Scully can reach for the pick. He turns the camera toward Scully, then back toward himself, taking his own picture.

Mulder’s almost out of ideas, but another look at Scully’s picture makes him think of something. There are five headstones in the photo in Gerry Sr.’s obituary. Gerry Sr.’s would make six, the sixth finger on the skeletal hand. Mulder takes the police to the cemetery where Gerry Sr. is buried and tells everyone to search there for Scully. He spots a piece of construction equipment nearby. In Gerry’s lair, he shows Scully the photos he took of himself and asks what they mean. She tells him he needs help, but he thinks he’s running out of time.

As Gerry picks up the pick, ready to make Scully his next victim, he hears a noise outside. Mulder’s at the door of Gerry’s lair, which turns out to be an RV. When Mulder sees that the key in the ignition is on a keychain shaped like a tooth, he knows he’s in the right place. He yells for Scully, who yells back while Mulder smashes windows to get inside. Gerry tries to continue his operation, but Mulder’s able to shoot him before he can do any harm to his patient. Scully leaves the RV as soon as she can, leaving Mulder behind with Gerry’s photos, which show him dead on the floor.

Post-case wrap-up: Scully says they found Gerry’s diary, written in the second person and addressed to his father. It includes the names of all the women he wanted to “save,” including Scully. She can’t explain the photos or what might be coming. She admits that her captivity made her dependent on Gerry and even sympathize with him. To understand monsters, “we must venture into their minds. Only in doing so do we risk letting them venture into ours.”

Thoughts: Gerry is played by Pruitt Taylor Vince, who’s always good in everything he’s in.

If only the howlers here had been like the ones in Harry Potter. This episode would have been very different.

I like that Scully finds out who the killer is halfway through the episode. It’s nice when mysteries unfold a little differently from usual.

No “Mulder, it’s me” in this episode, but we do get to hear Mulder yell, “Scullay!” a few times.

November 8, 2016

SVT #70, Psychic Sisters: Fakers Gonna Fake, Fake, Fake, Fake, Fake

Posted in books tagged , at 4:51 pm by Jenn


Summary: The morning after a movie marathon the twins tried to stay up for, Steven finds his sisters asleep on the couch in the den. Alice is on the phone in the kitchen, trying to book a conference room (preferably the George Washington Room) at the Regent Hotel for a black-tie even for 317 people on either the 15th or 28th of the month. Ned tells Steven that he watched part of the marathon (including a movie where Johnny Buck, who must now be both a rock star and an actor, played a hero in the French Revolution) but got annoyed because they kept showing ads for Corny-Os cereal. Coincidentally, Corny-Os is exactly what both twins wake up wanting to eat, even though they haven’t had it for a while. Very strange…

At school, everyone has to pick a topic for a history paper, and the twins both pick the French Revolution. Jessica thinks it’s funny that, for the second time, they’ve had the same idea at the same time. Elizabeth just brushes it off. At lunch, the Unicorns, Elizabeth, and Amy discuss an upcoming talent show. Ellen is doing the spotlight performance, even though she can’t sing and Janet’s worried that her lack of talent will make the Unicorns look bad. Amy thinks the twins should enter with a psychic sister act. Clearly, since they had the same ideas a couple of times, they’re psychic.

Suddenly everyone’s interested in a demonstration of the twins’ abilities. Jessica loves the attention, of course, and Liz decides to go along because she thinks they’ll just quickly disprove the theory and move on. But when the twins are told to write down a number between 1 and 400 hundred, they both pick 317. When told to think of a president, they both think of Washington. Then Liz guesses that Jess is thinking of the number 28. Bruce suggests that they go for something more complicated – they should both think of a color and an item of clothing. Both girls think of a black tie.

Jess takes advantage of her newfound abilities to give people advice. For example, she warns Denny Jacobson to look both ways before he crosses the road. Elizabeth doesn’t like the idea of Jess pretending to be psychic, but she can’t really argue with that kind of suggestion. Jessica thinks they should keep having fun with their new parlor trick, especially if it leads to a role in the documentary Randy Mason’s uncle is making about psychics. Plus, now the talent-show committee wants to make the twins the star performers. Liz tries to decline, but since the show’s proceeds are going to charity, she can’t say no.

At school, Denny tells Jess that a car came the wrong way down his one-way street, so if he hadn’t listened to her and looked both ways before crossing, he would have been hit. Jessica thinks she might really be psychic after all. Randy’s uncle is coming to town soon, but Randy isn’t sure the twins are interesting enough for the documentary. Jess wins him over with a story about knowing Elizabeth was locked in the basement when the twins were younger; it was flooding, and Jessica was able to save her from drowning. Randy thinks this will be enough to make his uncle want to interview the twins. Oh, by the way, the documentary is about phony psychics and how the police hate them because they make real psychics look bad. Yeah, I don’t think that’s why the police hate them. Jessica doesn’t think the twins have anything to worry about, since obviously, they’re really psychic.

Elizabeth disagrees – Jess’ story about saving her never happened. In fact, Jessica knew Liz was in the basement because she locked her down there. Heh. I don’t know why that makes me laugh. There was barely any water down there either. Elizabeth is worried about the whole thing, but Jessica wins her over with her eagerness to practice their act for the talent show. Liz sends Jess the psychic message to smooth her hair, and when Jess does it (after, like, five minutes), Elizabeth thinks there might be something to this psychic business after all.

Before going out of town for a few days, Alice asks Elizabeth to take a check to the Regent Hotel so she can secure the conference room. Liz totally forgets about it and has a nightmare about the whole event falling apart. Everyone in the dream is wearing a black tie – all 317 of them. Dream Alice tells Liz that she went through a lot trying to book either the 15th or the 28th. When Elizabeth wakes up, she realizes why she and Jess had all the same thoughts. They must have unconsciously heard Alice on the phone, talking about the event.

Liz shares her revelation with Jessica, who’s disappointed that they’re not really psychic…but not so disappointed that she’s not going to keep up the act for the talent show. Why be honest when you can keep getting loads of attention? Jess barely even blinks when Randy talks about how horrible fake psychics are, and how his uncle helps the FBI put them in jail. She just decides to approach things from a different angle. She asks Maria, who once did a movie about a fake psychic (how convenient!), to help the twins put together an act that will fool everyone.

At first Elizabeth agrees, thanks in part to Jessica turning on the fake tears, but then she changes her mind. The twins fight, then have dreams about getting busted on stage. This is enough to make Elizabeth change her mind back. When the twins learn that Randy’s uncle is going to come film the talent show for his documentary, Elizabeth almost rechanges her mind, but Jess and Maria help her feel better about communicating on stage without words. They make up hand gestures and facial expressions that correspond to letters so they can silently spell out words. They have to practice a ton to get everything down, and they’re worried that they’ll seem obvious, but at this point, there’s no going back.

On Friday, just before the talent show, Liz takes the check to Mr. Peters, the manager of the Regent Hotel. The hotel is being renovated, and all the workers are off for a few weeks, so it’s basically deserted. Mr. Peters is planning to leave right after he gets the check. After she’s handed it over, Elizabeth starts to take the elevator back down, but it’s slow, so she decides to take the stairs. Unfortunately, the doors are all locked. With Mr. Peters gone, there’s no one in the building to let Liz out. Not only will she miss the talent show, but she’ll be trapped in the stairwell until Monday.

Jessica makes it to school for the show but has no idea what’s keeping her sister, who said she’d be there right after she dropped off the check. Jess worries that Liz’s conscience made her back out of the act. She does feel a little better when Ellen loses her voice just before the show, which means she won’t embarrass the Unicorns. But when show time rolls around, Jessica has to take the stage by herself.

Jess plans to just apologize to the audience and explain that Elizabeth isn’t there, but suddenly she realizes that something must be wrong. No matter how guilty Liz felt about the act, she wouldn’t just ditch Jess without an explanation. Jess figures that something happened at the hotel to keep Elizabeth from making it to school. While Liz tries to psychically communicate with her twin, hoping that there’s some ability there after all, Jess pretends to receive a message from Elizabeth begging for rescue.

Mr. Mason films as Jessica hams it up, then tells her parents that, for real, something’s wrong. They all head over to the hotel and free Elizabeth. There’s a kind of funny bit where Mr. Mason narrates what’s going on (I don’t think his documentary is going to be Oscar-caliber) but gets annoyed when Jessica tries to direct things. Once Elizabeth has been rescued, she admits to Jess that she tried to send a psychic message. Jess is thrilled to play this up for the camera. The story makes it onto the local news broadcast, so even if the twins aren’t featured in the documentary, at least they got to be on TV. They decide their days of being “psychic” are over. I’m sure it won’t be long before Jess comes up with a new wacky scheme to get some more attention.

Thoughts: Jessica: “I’m not sure I have enough clothes to be famous.” Heh.

The fact that Jessica has learned to cry on cue is really scary.

Suddenly Amy’s an excellent gymnast. Who knew?

When Ellen loses her voice, she blames Jessica, accusing her of being a witch. That would have been a much more interesting book.

November 5, 2016

The X-Files 4.3, Teliko: Deceive, Inveigle, Obfuscate

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

This episode is slightly more palatable if you pretend Duff is really Dixon undercover

This episode is slightly more palatable if you pretend Duff is really Dixon undercover

Summary: It’s May 17th, 1996, and a man on an airplane is being watched by someone wearing horrible white makeup. The man goes to wash his face in the bathroom and screams at something on the ceiling. When the plane lands in New York, another man is just regaining consciousness in the bathroom. His eyes are pale but the color soon fills in. A flight attendant checks in on the first man, who’s dead, and also now wearing the horrible white makeup.

Scully’s called in to work very early in the morning to meet with a Dr. Simon Bruin from the CDC. (Skinner’s also there, but no one cares.) Four young African-American men have recently disappeared in Philadelphia, and last night one of them, Owen Sanders, was found dead. His cause of death hasn’t been determined yet. He’s wearing the horrible white makeup, which we’re calling “depigmentation.” Bruin thinks they’re dealing with a disease rather than abductions and/or murders.

Mulder joins Scully as she starts a medical exam on Owen’s body. “There’s a Michael Jackson joke in here but I can’t quite find it,” Mulder quips. He doesn’t get why the CDC has been called in for cases that seem to be abductions. Scully explains that the missing men may have been exposed to a pathogen or disease. Mulder notes that that doesn’t explain why they all disappeared. He wonders if they’re looking at a “PR exercise” – someone wants to cover up the murders of young black men. Scully sighs that not everything is a conspiracy designed to “deceive, inveigle, and obfuscate.”

The man from the plane, Samuel Aboah, has a patch of lighter skin on his back but so far shows no signs of being attacked by the horrible white makeup. He gets a visit from Marcus Duff, his immigration counselor, who’s helping him with his naturalization petition. He asks if Samuel’s sick, since he’s looking a little sweaty. Duff can empathize over Samuel being in a new country without his family, but once Samuel’s a citizen, Duff can help him bring his family to the U.S.

Mulder gets Pendrell to analyze samples from Owen’s body, which include asbestos and a seed called adenia volkensii. It’s from a plant that only grows in West Africa. Mulder’s new mystery is finding out how the seed wound up on Owen in the U.S. He calls Scully, who tells him that a substance in the seed acts as a cortical depressant that could be lethal in huge quantities. None was found in Owen’ body, so Mulder wonders if he could have metabolized it. Scully says no, since he died too quickly for that to happen. She’s more interested in the fact that Owen’s pituitary gland was necrotized. That explains Owen’s lack of pigmentation.

Mulder’s on his way to New York to see Marita again, thinking she might know something about the men’s disappearances. She tells him she knows nothing, and there’s no way to guess how the seed wound up on Owen’s body. Mulder would like to know if Marita has any information whatsoever that will ever be useful to him in any way, at any time. He’s not asking for much, you know!

A teenager at a bus stop feels a sharp pain in his neck and finds a seed there. His vision gets wonky, as if he’s been drugged. He’s so weak that when the bus arrives, he can’t get on it, and the driver’s voice sounds distorted to him. When the bus leaves, the teen sees Samuel across the street. His eyes are pale again, and the light patches on his skin seem to be spreading. Also, African music is playing, because this episode is awful.

Scully’s called to the bus stop the next morning and interviews the bus driver, who tries to justify leaving the teen behind because he had a schedule to stick to. Mulder arrives, and Scully explains that the teen, Alfred, didn’t come home from his job at a fast-food restaurant the night before. Scully thinks he was suffering from dementia, but Mulder thinks they’re looking at the same thing that killed Owen. He’s gotten hold of a file from the FAA about the death of the man on the plane. He was flying to New York from Burkina Faso, and the embassy took the body before it could be autopsied.

Police canvas the area, looking for Alfred, and one of them knocks on Samuel’s door. (He scoffs at Samuel’s last name, but the cop is African-American, so see, the episode isn’t totally racist!) Samuel’s lucky that the police don’t come inside, since Alfred is there. He doesn’t look so great, but who would after being drugged and kidnapped by a guy who then pulls a thing out of his throat that looks like a giant asparagus spear?

Mulder and Scully meet with Duff, knowing that many of his cases deal with “aliens” from Africa and the Caribbean. (You just had to say “aliens,” didn’t you, Mulder?) Mulder asks him to cross-reference the names of people on the flight from Burkina Faso with people who have applied for work or residence visas in the past few months. Duff points out that he’s a social worker; he doesn’t help the police find people in the country illegally. Scully gets him to help by telling him they may be dealing with a health crisis.

The agents then stake out Samuel’s apartment, debating whether they’re really dealing with a pathogen. They don’t know what they’re looking for, but since it leads to death, it’s definitely a problem. Scully says that sometimes you have to start at the end (with death) and work your way back to the beginning.

Samuel arrives home from work as a day laborer and runs as soon as Mulder tries to talk to him. Not suspicious at all! The agents chase him into an alley, where he sees to disappear. Scully sees a hole in a fence and thinks Samuel was able to squeeze through it. Mulder spots a drain pipe in the side of the building and discovers Samuel’s hiding spot.

A doctor examines Samuel and declares him asymptomatic, but Scully thinks he could still be a carrier. Duff arrives to argue for his client’s release; he shouldn’t have been arrested since the agents said his health was just in danger. Since Samuel’s English isn’t that great, Scully asks Duff to serve as a translator. She and Mulder want to know why he ran when they tried to talk to him. Duff says that in Samuel’s home country, police weren’t exactly champions of human rights. Mulder disagrees, saying Samuel has to be hiding something. He’s going to see someone who’s been deceiving, inveigling, and obfuscating all along.

Mulder next goes to the Burkina Faso embassy, getting himself a meeting with a diplomat named Diabria thanks to some help from the UN. He thinks Diabria knows exactly what’s happening. Diabria says that his people are farmers, and he grew up hearing stories about the Teliko, “spirits of the air” that spend their days in small, dark places like holes in the ground (or like the medical cart Samuel has just hidden inside). At night, they come out to…scare children, apparently. Diabria saw one as a child, and his cousin was found dead the next day, looking just like the man who died on the plane.

As an orderly unwittingly lets Samuel out of his room, Scully shows a doctor X-rays of Samuel’s throat, which show something inside it. He also has no pituitary gland. Mulder arrives to tell his partner that Samuel has disappeared. Samuel stalks Duff at his office, getting himself a ride home and planning something dastardly with the asparagus stalk. Later, Duff’s car turns up abandoned. That’s the least of his problems, though – Samuel’s sticking something sharp from the asparagus stalk up Duff’s nose. A cop finds Duff half alive with the sharp thing still in his nose.

Samuel escapes through the drain pipe again as Duff is taken to the hospital and the agents are summoned. Mulder thinks that Samuel’s lack of pituitary gland indicates that he’s from a lost tribe of sub-Saharan albinos who have, for evolutionary purposes, had to steal hormones from other people’s pituitaries. I mean, of course. Mulder thinks it’s totally reasonable to base his logic on an old folktale. Scully wonders why Samuel would come to the U.S. Mulder’s like, “Because freedom, duh.”

Remembering that asbestos was found on Owen’s body, Mulder thinks they should check out a construction site where Samuel has done some work. He’s there, all right, and he’s become the latest victim of the white makeup. He shoots Mulder with a seed, so that’s one less FBI agent Samuel will have to overpower. Scully keeps looking around on her own, crawling through a duct while Samuel watches her through a vent. This goes on forever.

Eventually Scully finds Alfred’s body, then a drugged Mulder. She finally comes across Samuel and tries to shoot him, but he’s too fast for her. Scully finds more bodies and has to stash Mulder with them while she calls for help. Mulder sees Samuel approaching and, unable to speak, tries to alert Scully with his eyes. Proving that the partners can communicate even without words, Scully catches on and shoots Samuel before he can attack her.

Scully’s end-of-episode case report/wrap-up says that Duff is fine and will testify against Samuel in his capital murder case. However, Samuel’s health isn’t great, since he hasn’t been able to access any delicious pituitary glands. Scully thinks this is all science stuff, and she’s not sure science will ever have an explanation for Samuel’s condition. She thinks the case has really highlighted how we’re afraid of the “alien” among us. It makes us “deceive, inveigle, and obfuscate,” hiding the truth both from others and from ourselves.

Thoughts: Duff is played by Carl Lumbly, Dixon from Alias.

Mulder, if you want to talk to your informant who knows highly classified things that she could probably be killed for knowing, maybe don’t stalk her at night. Women don’t really appreciate that.

Can we all just pretend this episode never happened? Great, thanks.

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