December 16, 2017

The X-Files 6.16, Alpha: Doggone

Posted in TV tagged at 1:19 pm by Jenn

Yes. Good

Summary: A freighter in the Pacific Ocean is carrying something angry from Hong Kong. A couple of men take a peek inside and see the creature’s red eyes. It starts rattling its crate, then falls silent, making the men wonder if they’ve somehow killed it. They open the crate, which is probably a mistake, because when the freighter arrives at its destination, the police are called.

The crate is still locked, but the men are missing. The cargo’s owner, Detweiler, is annoyed that no one called him the second it arrived, so he could care for the creature inside. When the crate is opened, the men’s bodies are found inside.

Mulder starts in on the case that night, telling Scully that they seem to be dealing with a case of death by…dog. The real mystery is how the men got inside the crate when it was found locked. In addition, the dog is gone – or, as Mulder says multiple times, trying to make his joke stick, “doggone.” No one’s examined the victims, so Scully gets volunteered.

She tells Mulder that bite wounds don’t kill, so the men must have bled to death. She can’t believe Mulder really wants her to believe that a dog pulled them inside his locked crate and killed them. “A bad dog,” Mulder replies.

In Bellflower, California, a good dog named Jojo barks at another dog just outside its fence. The owner goes to check out the other dog, but there’s nothing there. When the owner goes inside, he finds Jojo bleeding. A wolf-like dog with red eyes is now in the house, ready to take another victim.

Mulder and Scully go to San Pedro the next morning to look at the crate. They meet up with an officer named Jeffrey Cahn who tells them the dog doesn’t seem to be on the freighter, judging by a lack of waste. He adds that Detweiler is a cryptozoologist, something Mulder is very familiar with. Why would someone who studies Sasquatch and the Abominable Snowman be interested in a dog?

Detweiler joins the group and presents his theory that someone stole his dog – it’s a valuable wanshang dhole. Mulder knows that it’s supposed to be extinct. Detweiler claims he caught one on an expedition. He denies that the dog could have killed anyone; yes, it has mythical qualities, but it’s not a predator. The news out of Bellflower seems to contradict that.

The agents head to the house where Jojo and his owner, Jake, were attacked. Scully learns that Jake was a customs agent and may have been involved in stealing the wanshang dhole. (Look, I’m not going to type that over and over; we’ll call the dog Fang.) Mulder makes a quip about biting the hand that feeds you, which makes no sense, but it’s Mulder.

Scully notes that since all the doors to the house were shut, Jake must have been keeping Fang inside. Mulder asks how Fang got out if all the doors were closed. He doesn’t think Fang is a dog at all. He rewards Scully a biscuit for saying that Fang is able to cover up human crime scenes. Now they need to look for a dog that thinks like a human. Mulder thinks the best person to turn to is a human who thinks like an animal.

The agents go to meet a woman named Karin Berquist, who seems to be the Jane Goodall of canines. Mulder reveals that Karin’s the one who told him about the case. He’s interested in her field of study and has read one of her books. Karin happens to have an “I want to believe” poster.

Karin comes in with her dogs and closes all the blinds. She tells the agents that dogs are smarter than people. She talks about coyotes hunting in packs, and murder being a human thing. She also believes that the wanshang dhole is extinct. The agents don’t find her helpful, and Scully wonders how she and Mulder met in the first place. He admits that they’ve only chatted online.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife officer named Fiedler goes to an alley to check out a possible scavenging. He finds a hand in a Dumpster, most likely Jake’s hand, which Fang tore off. Fiedler goes into a nearby building, followed by a shadow that first looks human but then turns into Fang. RIP, Fiedler.

The agents and Cahn check out the scene the next morning, and Cahn tells the agents to do everything they can to find Fang. Karin arrives, having heard the story on the news: “Dog eats dogcatcher.” Mulder asks her why an animal that supposedly only kills when it needs to eat has now killed four people for apparently no reason. All of the victims may have come into contact with Fang before the attacks.

Karin thinks Fang is displaying regular alpha behavior. Mulder tells her that Fang is traveling a number of miles between killings, and seems to be tricking his victims. Karin says that canines are pretty direct and have simple motives. Most don’t kill for sport. However, she figures they’ll never know why Fang’s been acting the way he has, since someone will kill him before they can find out.

Mulder points out Detweiler, and though Karin isn’t familiar with him, she dislikes him on sight. Detweiler tells the two of them that his team tracked Fang for two weeks, then tranquilized him to catch him. Karin thinks that Detweiler admires Fang. He says he admires Fang’s ability to survive.

As Cahn talks to someone about getting together a group to kill Fang, something that seems to be low to the ground watches him. But it’s Detweiler who approaches Cahn. He has a warning: If Cahn kills Fang, Detweiler will kill Cahn.

Karin finds tracks in the building where Fiedler died, and is able to tell that Fang is highly evolved. Unlike other dogs, Fang has an extra toe pad. Scully notices Mulder’s hand on Karin’s while moving around a computer mouse, and because this show is run by men, of course she’s jealous. Scully notes that Karin said yesterday that a dog couldn’t act like Fang is; now she’s saying it’s practically Jack the Ripper. Karin says that in myth, the wanshang dhole can manipulate doors and exhibit other trickster behavior. Maybe there’s some basis in fact.

Alone in their car, Scully tells Mulder that she’s not sure about Karin’s motives. Maybe she’s arranged things so she could meet Mulder. Mulder denies that Karin killed four people just to meet him. Scully warns him, “Don’t underestimate a woman. They can be tricksters, too.”

Detweiler goes to an animal clinic, where a Saint Bernard named Duke barks at him. Detweiler’s there to get a tranquilizer. As the vet locks up for the night, saying good night to some of the dogs, they start getting agitated. Fang is there, and he wants to play! Or maybe kill. Yeah, probably kill. The vet is able to get away and trap Fang in a kennel. The police arrive and shoot, but they accidentally shoot Duke instead of Fang. Noooooooooo! (Fortunately, he’s not dead.)

The agents come in as the vet finishes patching up Duke. He wonders how Duke got back into the kennel, since the door was chained. Scully takes a look around and sees that the vet has a signed photo of Karin. She hears someone yelling and finds the vet bleeding next to Duke’s exam table. As the agents go off to call paramedics, Duke turns into Fang.

Scully visits Karin, having figured out why she likes her office dark and why she always wearings long sleeves: She’s sensitive to light and wants to cover up skin lesions caused by lupus. Karin finds it ironic that she studies dogs and has a disease named for wolves. She says she’s always felt more like a wolf than a person anyway. Scully thinks Karin lured Mulder out to California. “I lack your feminine wiles,” Karin snarks.

She’s not sure the wanshang dhole has survived all these years after supposedly going extinct, but if it did, it’s too smart to have been captured by someone liked Detweiler. It’s too cunning. Scully wonders if it’s more cunning than Karin. Scully’s been watching her. Karin says she’s been watching, but not seeing.

Mulder looks through the vet’s drawers, then calls Cahn to tell him that Detweiler was there to get tranquilizers. He asks Cahn to go to the lab and check something out. But Cahn won’t be going anywhere except the hospital – Fang is in his backseat, waiting for him.

Cahn survives the attack, and when Mulder goes to see him in the hospital, he finds Detweiler already there. He wants to know what Cahn’s attacker looked like. Mulder asks if Detweiler’s scared about Fang possibly being killed. He seems to know that it can’t be caught. In fact, Fang caught Detweiler. Now, at night, Detweiler becomes a trickster – a man who turns into an animal.

Mulder knows that Detweiler is the real killer, and murders just because he can. He got the tranquilizer for himself, hoping to stop the killer. Mulder figured it out when he found traces of the tranq in blood found at the clinic. Instead of, like, arresting Detweiler or trying to detain him in any way so he can’t hurt anyone else, Mulder lets him walk out. Detweiler runs into Karin, who says she won’t protect him any longer.

Mulder goes to see Karin at her office, where she says that she can get a sense of people right away from her dogs’ behavior – they’re excellent judges of character. At least one of her dogs likes Mulder, so that’s a plus. He’s guessed that Karin knows more about Fang than she’s said. She admits that she knew Detweiler was the real killer, but she only confirmed it when she saw him.

Karin thought she was protecting an animal, but now she knows that he has to be put down. She guesses that Detweiler will go back to finish off Cahn. Mulder calls Scully (“Scully, it’s me”) to send her over to protect Cahn. He meets her there, and she complains that he’s wasting her time, since she hasn’t “seen hide nor hair” of Detweiler. Mulder praises her choice of words.

Scully scoffs at Mulder’s theory that Detweiler is going to turn into a dog, then come back to finish off Cahn out of a territoriality. She thinks Karin has manipulated the whole situation for her own purposes. Mulder is sure that Karin’s right and Detweiler will come back.

Karin kennels her dogs for the night, looking out into the conveniently atmospheric fog rolling in around her house. It’s 2 in the morning, and Scully has fallen asleep during her and Mulder’s stakeout. Mulder realizes that Karin lied to him, so they don’t need to stay.

In reality, it seems that Karin may have wanted to keep the agents out of the way so they’d be safe. She loads up a gun as Detweiler/Fang comes to her house. Mulder calls to say he and Scully are on their way and she needs to lock her doors. Fang comes into the house silently and faces off with Karin. She puts down her gun and lets Fang do what he wants – in this case, jumping on her so hard that he pushes her out a window. By the time the agents arrive, Karin’s dead – but Detweiler is, too, having accidentally impaled himself on a fence.

Back in D.C., Mulder’s blaming himself for the way things turned out. He beats himself up for believing Karin’s story so quickly. Scully asks why he wouldn’t believe her. Karin lived by her instincts and judged them pretty quickly; she saw Mulder as a kindred spirit. In a way, bringing him into the case was a way of demonstrating that she thought he was a good person. Scully gives Mulder a package that arrived from Karin’s kennels: her “I want to believe” poster. He immediately puts it on his wall.

Thoughts: How do I get Karin’s job, hanging out with dogs all day?

Please, show, I beg of you: Enough with Scully’s jealousy.

Karin calls Mulder by his first name at one point, but no one makes a “fox and hound” joke. What a waste.


December 12, 2017

SVT Super Edition #11, Jessica’s No Angel: Truth and Consequences

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

This makes you think the book is very different from how it really is

Summary: Janet Howell is mad. (Janet seems to spend most of her life mad, yeah?) She was supposed to hang out with her boyfriend Denny, but he had to bail because he was studying for a science test. Then Janet caught him playing basketball with some friends. She wants to start a petition banning lying from SVMS. Anyone who lies has to wear an ugly shirt that reads “I am a liar.” All the Unicorns are offended on Janet’s behalf and quickly sign the petition.

The school year is winding down, and the kids will soon be rewarded with a school-wide picnic. For some reason, everyone thinks this is the sort of event they should attend with dates. Everyone quickly pairs up (including Elizabeth and Todd, of course), but Jessica, Lila, and Janet are the only Unicorns who don’t get invited. Lila wants to go with Bruce, despite never having expressed interest in him before. Jess wants to go with Aaron, and Janet has no potential suitors since she just broke up with Denny.

Janet tells Jess and Lila that the three of them can just go to the picnic together. Jess and Lila hate this idea, knowing how high-maintenance Janet is. They don’t want to spend the whole day consoling her or listening to her complain about how boys are scum. They make a deal that whoever gets a date to the picnic first gets to bow out of babysitting duty; the other girl will have to look after Janet.

Even without a date, Jessica wants a new outfit for the picnic. Her math grade has been falling, so Ned and Alice, in a rare moment of being actual parents, tell her that she’ll need to get at least a B on her next test in order to earn a reward. Suddenly, Lila shows up at the Wakefields’ house with a shocking surprise: She got a perm. It looks horrible, but Jessica doesn’t want to hurt her feelings (that must be a first), so she lies that it looks great. She secretly hopes that this will help keep boys away from Lila, which will give Jess a better chance of getting a date first.

Everyone at school makes fun of Lila, though Jess keeps up the charade that her new hairstyle looks awesome. She learns that she only got a C on her math test, so now she has bigger problems to deal with. Her math teacher, Mr. Glennon, offers her extra credit: If she walks his dog while doing some measurements (the test was on converting to the metric system), she’ll earn a B. Even Jessica, who canonically hates dogs, can’t say no to that deal.

Jessica walks the dog, Sparky, downtown, running into Denny at the bakery where he was supposed to meet Janet the day he supposedly lied about his activities. He confides that he really did have a science test to study for, but his tutor canceled the session. He tried to call Janet to meet up, but he couldn’t reach her, so he went to hang out with his friends instead. Jess encourages him to tell Janet what happened so they can make up, but Denny’s stubborn and mad that Janet thought he lied, so he doesn’t feel like making the first move.

Jess has earned her B, so Ned and Alice give her money for a new outfit. She goes to Casey’s to celebrate and runs into Bruce. As Jess hoped, Bruce thinks Lila’s hair is hideous and doesn’t want to take her to the picnic. Instead, he wants to go with Jess. Even though she still wants to go with Aaron, she doesn’t want that as badly as she doesn’t want to spend the day with Janet, so she accepts. Minutes later, Aaron asks Jessica to the picnic. She accepts that date as well, planning to set up two different blankets and go back and forth between the guys without telling them.

But Lila has also accepted a date, and hers was arranged earlier in the day, so Jess still has to hang out with Janet. Jess goes from two dates to zero in a matter of minutes. She realizes that she just has to get Janet and Denny back together so Janet will be off her hands. She tells both of them some lies about the situation, expecting them to make up without going into too many details. Elizabeth lectures her sister about lying, ticking her off so much that Jessica wishes on a shooting star that Liz will learn a lesson about why being 100% honest all the time isn’t as great as it sounds.

The results start manifesting almost immediately. Elizabeth tells Mr. Bowman that she didn’t write an essay for some competition because the topic is boring. She tells Lila that her hair looks awful and everyone has been making fun of her behind her back. She adds that even Jess thinks it’s horrible and has been lying to her about it. Liz then overhears Bruce telling Aaron that, like Jessica, he has two dates to the picnic and is even going to do the same back-and-forth thing she’d planned. Liz tells Aaron that Jessica had the same idea.

Jessica confronts Elizabeth for her overeager truth-telling just as Liz is on her way to tell Janet and Denny about how Jess lied to get them back together. Jess is able to stop her, but Elizabeth then tells Bruce that Jessica has two dates to the picnic. Bruce dumps Jess, and Aaron was already ticked at her, so she’s back to having no date to the picnic. Also, Denny and Janet have broken up again, since a simple conversation about their reunion makes them realize that Jess lied to both of them.

Elizabeth further ruins her sister’s life by telling their parents that she only got a B on her test after she did extra credit. I’m not sure why this matters, since the deal didn’t say anything about how or when the B had to be earned, and at least Jessica did the work, unlike Cher, who just talked her way into higher grades. Anyway, Ned and Alice are mad that Jess misled them about her grade, and they ground her. Jessica tries to undo her earlier wish by wishing on another shooting star that Elizabeth will stop being so honest.

This means that Liz starts lying all the time. She uses the “my dog ate my homework” story on Mr. Bowman. She tells Aaron that Jessica actually turned down Bruce’s invitation to the picnic, but he pretended she’d accepted. She tells Janet that Jess only lied because she wanted to get her and Denny back together. Suddenly everyone’s happy, and Aaron even asks Jess to the picnic again.

Lila tells Liz that she wants payback, but it’ll only work if Jessica is ungrounded. Elizabeth helps out by smoothing things over with Ned and Alice. Lila takes Jess to a salon for a makeover, secretly making sure she gets a perm so she looks as hideous as Lila does. Well, as Lila did – she gets her hair straightened at the same time, so now Jess is the only one with the outdated hairstyle.

That night, Jessica spots Sparky outside her house during a big thunderstorm. She goes to rescue him, in the process getting in a big fight with Liz about how Liz’s recent actions have affected her. Jess just wishes that things would go back to normal. She trails Sparky to Denny’s house, where the poor dog hides from the storm under a car in the garage. Jess and Denny need a way to coax the dog out, so they go to the bakery to get a piece of the cake Sparky liked the last time Jess took him there.

Janet’s at the bakery, buying the last piece of the same cake Jess needs. At first Janet thinks the two of them are dating now, but Denny explains what’s going on. They convince Janet to hand over the cake, then realize that she was buying it as a peace offering for Denny. Jess and Denny successfully get the dog out of hiding and return him to Mr. Glennon. Unfortunately, Ned and Alice are furious when Jess gets home and has a seemingly dumb explanation for why she was running around in a thunderstorm.

The good news is that getting rained on all night has ruined Jessica’s perm (a lesson we all learned from Legally Blonde), so her hair is back to normal. Jess explains to Aaron why she accepted Bruce’s invitation to the picnic, even though she didn’t want to go with him. Janet and Denny have made up, which means Jess can go to the picnic with Aaron. Or at least she could, if Ned and Alice hadn’t told her she can’t go.

Mr. Glennon to the rescue! He calls them in for a parent-teacher conference and tells them how grateful he is that Jessica saved Sparky. He then reveals that he graded her test wrong; she had a B even before the extra credit. In fact, her grade is improving, and she’s on track to get an A in the class. Ned and Alice reward Jess by allowing her to go to the picnic. Elizabeth uses the experience to write an essay for the competition about truth and consequences. She doesn’t know what happened to make her behave so strangely, but it seems to be over. P.S. No one picked up the “I am a liar” shirts Janet ordered, so the store put them on clearance, and Mr. Clark bought one. It’s orange with pink lettering. Oh, Mr. Clark. Why?

Thoughts: It’s 1998 and only one computer in the middle school’s lab is connected to the Internet. Aww.

Also, it’s 1998 and people are still getting perms. Though, according to Legally Blonde, they were still getting them through at least 2001.

“So now that you look good again, and I’m free, I was thinking this works out sort of perfectly.” Even if I didn’t tell you Bruce was the one who said this, you would know it was him, wouldn’t you?

December 9, 2017

The X-Files 6.15, Arcadia: It’s Mulder’s Worst Nightmare: Rules

Posted in TV tagged at 1:41 pm by Jenn

Everything about this is perfect

Summary: In San Diego County, a man named Kline is arriving home at his gated community, the Falls at Arcadia. Everything in the neighborhood is idyllic and well-maintained. One of Kline’s neighbors, Win Shroeder, has just painted Kline’s mailbox so it’s up to code. Kline complains to his wife about the strict regulations in the community, and how Win painted their mailbox because it was a slightly different shade from all the other mailboxes. The Klines receive a package containing a tacky roof accessory that Mrs. Kline knows the neighbors would hate.

This is just what Kline wants, so he puts the accessory (which features a man chopping wood when the wind blows a propeller on the side) on a gutter. That night, the Klines hear a noise in the house, and Kline goes to check it out, taking a trophy with him as a weapon. He finds huge, bloody footprints leading into the living room. Something attacks him from behind, then moves upstairs toward Mrs. Kline, making the water in her bedside glass shake like this is Jurassic Park.

A few months later, a new family, the Petries, moves into the Klines’ house. Neighbor Pat Verlander is there to welcome them with a gift basket. Mr. Petrie is excited to live in such a great place, though this wife is much more reserved. This makes perfect sense, since the Petries (“Rob” and “Laura”) are really Mulder and Scully. Pat warns that they might not make the 6:00 p.m. cutoff for moving in that day. It’s just one of the community’s many rules.

The house shows no traces of the Klines’ inevitably gory deaths, and Scully wants to send the previous owners a thank-you note expressing her appreciation for how well they maintained their home. Pat just says that’s sweet. Other neighbors, including Win and a guy named Gordy, gather outside to help with the move-in and greet the Petries. Scully rushes to stop a guy named Mike from damaging the contents of a box labeled “china.” Win’s wife Cami helps her carry it inside.

Win anxiously tells Mulder that he can’t put up a basketball hoop without special permission from the president of their homeowners association, Mr. Gogolak. For now, it needs to stay in the garage. Everything else gets moved into the house by the cutoff, and everyone rushes off to do their no-doubt Stepford Wife-like evening activities. The Petries are alone in their new home, and Mulder wants to carry his “bride” over the threshold. Scully most likely wants to shoot him with a crossbow, which is probably against community regulations.

The agents get to work examining the house for forensic evidence. By dropping the “china” box, Mike accidentally damaged a piece of equipment that would have allowed them to look for bloodstains, but Mulder doesn’t think that’ll matter; the house is immaculate.

Scully videotapes their process, mentioning that the Klines were the third couple to disappear since the neighborhood was built eight years earlier. All of the couples were seemingly stable with no signs of domestic issues or mental illnesses. In each case, the couples’ personal items and cars also disappeared, and police found no clues as to what happened. All the neighbors were unaware that the couples were gone, despite, as Mulder points out, their apparent closeness to everyone in the community.

The police have now turned to the FBI, and Skinner has sent Mulder and Scully to the community undercover to investigate a “possibly murderous conspiracy of silence.” Mulder courts a sexual-harassment lawsuit by asking if Scully wants to make a honeymoon video. She slams him for their aliases, saying she’s choosing the names if they ever go undercover again.

Mulder promises that he’s taking the case seriously, though he doesn’t know why they’re on it. Scully notes that it involves something unexplained; just because it doesn’t involve aliens doesn’t mean it’s not an X-File. He teases that she just wants to play house. He demands that she make him a sandwich. Instead, she throws her gloves at him and goes to answer the doorbell.

Mike has come over to give the Petries some dishes to replace the china he broke. Scully admires his caduceus necklace, and he tells her he’s a veterinarian. If the Petries want to get a dog, he’ll check it out for them for free, but they can’t get one over 16 pounds, as per the community’s rules. Scully wonders why the Klines left, since everyone in the neighborhood is so nice. Mike runs away before he has to answer any questions. Back inside, Mulder finds something on a ceiling fan that must have been overlooked when the house was cleaned. It looks like blood.

The other neighbors have dinner together and talk about the Petries. Mr. Gogolak dismisses the women from the table, then asks Win, Mike, and Gordy if they think the Petries will “play ball.” Mike suggests that they tell the couple what’s really going on. They might be able to keep up with all the rules better if they knew what would happen if they didn’t. It would be neighborly to tell them the truth. Gogolak gives Mike his blessing, but as soon as Mike leaves the table to use the bathroom, Gogolak sends Gordy after him, then tells Win that Mike is a weak link. They can’t be a strong chain with him hanging on.

Later that night, Mike watches a TV show about a tribe that performs a ritual to expose nonconformity that they think comes from evil. Mike notices that the bulb in the streetlight outside his house has burned out, and he rushes out to change it. A pair of eyes watches from the darkness as he anxiously ensures he’s conforming. Even though he fixes the bulb, a muddy creature attacks him, spraying Mike’s blood all over his doorstep.

The next morning, Mulder and Scully find Win spraying the blood off the doorstep. He asks how their first night was in the new house. Mulder tells him they “spooned up and then fell asleep like little baby cats.” He calls Scully “honeybunch”; Scully, who both hates him right now and has never used a term of endearment toward anyone she’s not related to, calls him “poopyhead.” Win tells them that Mike had to leave town on business, as he often does. Sometimes he’s gone for weeks at a time.

Win invites the Petries to join him and Cami for dinner that night. Mulder asks who he needs to talk to about putting up his basketball hoop. He and Scully meet Mr. Gogolak, who looks through the community’s rulebook and announces that the basketball hoop isn’t allowed. Why, if they allowed such a thing, soon the neighborhood would collapse under the weight of tacky lawn decorations and boats in the driveways! “In other words, anarchy,” says Mulder, who has his arm around his fake wife’s shoulders.

Gogolak says that the Falls is one of the top-ranked planned communities in the state. Many of the families there have been there since it was built. Mulder admires Gogolak’s decorating scheme, which Gogolak says is mostly Tibetan. He runs an importing company and can get them some rattan furniture, if they’d like. (Indoor furniture only, of course.)

The Petries have dinner with the Shroeders, who promise that their tuna is dolphin-safe. Mulder says that he and Scully met at a UFO conference. Win’s surprised that they’re into that stuff. Mulder says that Scully’s the real believer; she’s a sucker for things like crystals and magnetic bracelets. He then reveals that they called Mike’s office to talk about pets, and they said they didn’t know where he was. Win plays innocent as Cami tries not to stare daggers at her husband. He says very seriously that there’s nothing shady going on at the Falls. They’re living the American dream.

Cami needs to walk the dog, so Scully invites herself along. She and Mulder give each other air kisses before the women leave. Scully takes the opportunity to ask Cami if she really thinks the community is the American dream. Cami says it’s full of people who want the best for their families. Scully interprets that as Cami’s admission that she doesn’t hold their values.

She notes that they keep walking past Mike’s house, but Cami plays dumb. Suddenly, the dog, Scruffy, takes off down a sewer. Scully has a flashlight with her, and though she can’t see the dog in the sewer, she does see a caduceus necklace. Scruffy pops back up, and Scully wipes something off of his face. As the group heads back home, something lifts a nearby manhole cover.

Back at home, Scully makes a call and learns that the local police don’t have any leads on Mike’s disappearance. Mulder has retrieved the necklace from the storm drain, and since it’s bloody, he thinks Mike is dead. They figure that Win must have been cleaning up the crime scene that morning. Scully plans to drive to a lab in San Diego the next day to have the necklace analyzed. But tonight, she’s going to criticize her new roommate’s habits (strike two is the way he squeezes a tube of toothpaste, and strike three is leaving the toilet seat up. No word on what the first strike was).

Mulder reacts to the sight of Scully in a green face mask the way he might react to seeing an actual alien right in front of him. She wonders what a murderer’s motive would be for doing away with Mike. Mulder notes that everyone’s obsessed with the neighborhood’s rules; Scully fits in very well. He has a theory he wants to test out the next day. He invites his fake wife to join him in bed, but Scully isn’t taking the role-playing that far. (Not yet, at least. In season 7, who knows?)

While Scully does some actual work the next day, Mulder puts a plastic flamingo in the yard and drinks straight from a carton of orange juice (that has to be strike four). Seconds later, the flamingo is gone. Next, Mulder kicks the mailbox post until it’s tilted, opens the box, and splashes juice on it.

He watches the yard from the window, but after a few hours, all that orange juice catches up to him and he has to go use the bathroom. (He decides against using the juice carton, which would have been strikes five, six, and seven). When he gets back to the window, the mailbox has been fixed. Inside is a note: “Be like the others…before it gets dark.”

Instead of listening, Mulder wakes up his neighbors by playing basketball with his new hoop after dark. Win runs over and tries to move the hoop inside, but Mulder won’t let him. As something pushes through the Shroeders’ yard, Win tells Mulder that he was warned. The men hear Cami screaming, but when Mulder runs over to check on her, he doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Win and Cami do, though – their streetlight has burned out.

Scully comes home from San Diego and hears a noise in the house. Mulder’s still checking out the Shroeders’ yard, where he finds a hole under the grass. Scully searches the house with a fireplace poker as a weapon, spotting something moving behind her out of the corner of her eye. Before she can find it, Mulder comes home. The basketball hoop has been removed from the yard, and Mulder thinks someone – or something – is cleaning up after them. This is probably a good thing, as Mulder caught a glimpse of the creature and now thinks they’re dealing with an X-File.

Win visits Gogolak to ask what he and Cami did wrong. Does he disapprove of their welcome mat or the way Win coils the garden hose? He knows they’re at risk from whatever killed Mike. Gogolak tells him that Mulder is causing trouble, and he’s a rotten apple that will spoil the whole neighborhood.

Mulder and Scully find a hole in their yard, making Mulder think that the thing after them travels in the ground. Scully, as usual, has her own theory, as well as lab results. The blood they found on the ceiling fan is actually ketchup and brake fluid. The things they thought were hairs stuck to it are really bristles from a scrub brush. The stuff she wiped off of Scruffy was just the kind of thing you’d find in the garbage. The neighborhood was built on a landfill, so the holes in the yards may have come from the venting of methane gas.

Scully can’t find a connection to the disappearances, but Mulder thinks the couples are still in the neighborhood – they’re buried in people’s yards. Starting an excavation could mean breaking their covers, but Mulder has a better idea: Dig a big hole in the front yard and pretend they’re putting in a pool, which, amazingly, isn’t against the rules. As the neighbors watch the construction, Gogolak tells Win, “Let him dig his own grave.”

Mulder searches the hole that night but doesn’t find any bodies. He does, however, find their roof accessory. A sticker on it shows that it came from Pier 9 Imports, Gogolak’s company. Mulder tells Scully to get an excavation team out there to dig deeper. He’s going to see Gogolak to “price some rattan furniture.” As they split up, the creature surfaces from the hole.

Scully’s calling in a forensic team when she hears noises downstairs and realizes she’s in danger. As the creature thuds up the stairs, a bloody, grimy, not-dead Mike suddenly appears and tells Laura that she needs to get out of the house. He tells her he was attacked by “the ubermenscher,” and the community brought their problems on themselves. They have to deal with something the original homeowners wanted for themselves.

Mike explains that he tried to offer up Win, the way Win offered him up, but it didn’t work. Now the ubermenscher wants Scully, since Mulder broke the rules. He barricades her in a closet and faces the creature with a gun. A fight ensues, but Mike’s bullets don’t seem to be a match for the creature, which starts tearing at the slats in Scully’s closet door.

Mulder is having better luck, as he’s cornered Gogolak and tied him up for an interrogation. He accuses Gogolak of giving the Klines the “whirligig” that got them killed. He’s figured out that Gogolak learned some tricks in Tibet and was able to create a tulpa. It’s a thought-form he willed into existence to commit acts of violence for him. Is it really that important for everyone to have the same mailbox? Goglak says it’s important for everyone to fit in. Mulder knows that the tulpa is now out of Gogolak’s control; all he can do is stay out of its way.

Gogolak taunts that Mulder will never be able to get the authorities to believe this theory or arrest Gogolak. Mulder responds by taking Gogolak to his house and handcuffing him to the mailbox while he goes inside to check on things. Win arrives, and Gogolak tells him that his new neighbors are FBI agents – but they won’t be Win’s neighbors for long.

Mulder finds the bedroom destroyed and Scully still in the closet, unharmed. Gogolak asks Win to free him from the mailbox, but Cami tells her husband that Gogolak deserves whatever happens to him. Mulder hears yelling from the yard and rushes down in time to see the creature attacking Gogolak. As it approaches Mulder, it suddenly disintegrates, turning back into the mud it came out of.

As the case gets wrapped up and the Petries move out (Mulder tries in vain to straighten the mailbox post), Scully voices over her report. A number of neighbors have pinned the murders in the community on Gogolak, though they won’t take any responsibility for Gogolak’s death, and they all say they don’t know what killed him. Scully notes that the community’s code of silence, which “hid the sins” around them, is still intact, and has now claimed a final victim: the person who created it. The Falls is still one of the top planned communities in California.

Thoughts: Mike is played by Abraham Benrubi. Win and Gordy are both played by recurring Will and Grace actors, Tom Gallop (Rob on W&G) and Tim Bagley (Larry).

For more fun with pretend marriages in seemingly idyllic communities, see the Alias episode “Welcome to Liberty Village.” For more fun with tulpas, see the Supernatural episode “Fan Fiction.”

Heh, right after the Jurassic Park tribute scene, my recording of this episode showed an ad starring Jeff Goldblum.

For some reason, one of my most vivid memories from the first run of the series is Mulder kicking the mailbox.

I love all dogs, but Scruffy, who’s aptly named, doesn’t exactly fit the community’s aesthetic standards.

December 5, 2017

SVT #114, The Boyfriend Mess: You’re 12! Stop Worrying About Love!

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

Scrunchie sighting!

Summary: The couples from Young Love have gathered for their prize trip to Dizzy Planet. No one’s happy (except for totally-in-the-dark Todd, who thinks he’s going with Elizabeth, and Maria, who doesn’t mind spending the day with Patrick), since no one has matched with the person they wanted to be with. But if they want their Valentine’s Day dance, they have to fulfill their contractual obligations. No one seems to remember that they’ve all been wanting to go to Dizzy Planet, so hanging out with people they may not like is a small price to pay.

Jessica wants to get Todd carsick so she can ditch him and hang out with Byron. The plan backfires, and instead Byron ends up carsick. Byron’s cousin Marshall (well, he says he’s Byron’s cousin, but he sounds kind of uncertain) is tagging along, and he and Maria hit it off right away. Now she’s not quite as thrilled about having to spend the day with Patrick when she could be spending it with Marshall.

Sophia learns that the show is trying to catch “cheaters,” and she worries that she and Patrick will get busted for trying to rig their match. She takes a bus to Dizzy Planet but can’t afford the entrance fee. She manages to sneak in with a group of kids from a daycare by pretending to be a chaperone. Elizabeth also learns about the hunt for cheaters and accidentally stumbles into a way to enter the park without paying – Byron mistakes her for Jessica and brings her in. He also gives her a shirt from the show, so now the twins are accidentally dressed alike.

While the girls search the park for Patrick and Jessica, Maria tries to get some alone time with Marshall. For some reason, these 12-year-olds are willing to admit that they want to ride a carousel. Todd wants to win Elizabeth (really Jessica) a teddy bear by playing some sort of bowling game, but the bear costs 100 tickets and Todd isn’t very good at the game. Jessica’s getting more and more bored by the second.

Liz finds her sister and asks to undo their twin switch so she can hang out with Todd. Jessica jumps at the chance to go find Byron and spend the day with him instead. But she also has to make sure he doesn’t see Todd with Elizabeth and bust the twins for their scheme. The twins and their guys end up on the same water ride, and Jess has to fall overboard to distract Byron from seeing Liz and Todd together. Meanwhile, Liz herself is so distracted by the scheme that Todd thinks she’s lost interest in him and takes off alone.

Sophia finds Patrick and shares her theory that Marshall was sent to spy on him. She thinks Patrick can fool him by pretending he really wants to be with Maria. Patrick takes it too far, though, and Maria blasts him for showering her with affection right in front of Sophia. Good for Maria for being all sisters before misters here. Patrick explains what’s going on to Maria, but now she thinks Marshall was just being nice to her because he was sent to spy on her. Her and Sophia’s day have been ruined.

When it’s time for everyone to leave the park, Maria doesn’t get on the van with everyone else. Apparently this is a violation of the contract, and if she doesn’t come home with everyone else, they have to forfeit the dance. The people there with the show find this amusing, apparently forgetting that they’ll have to tell Maria’s parents that they lost her.

Amy tracks down Maria, who’s moping because she thinks everyone in Sweet Valley is awful. Amy reminds her that she has friends, then encourages her to get in the van because if she loses the dance for everyone, they’ll be even more awful to her. So Maria secures the dance for her classmates, but then Byron, who says he’s suspected the twin switch all day, tricks “Elizabeth” into outing herself as Jessica. He doesn’t care, though, since the same twin who came in the morning is going home with the group. And at least now Todd knows why “Elizabeth” was acting so weird all day.

Everyone goes to the dance, where Byron reveals that he’s been filming them all day for a new show about the negative side of dating. They were only looking for “cheaters” so they could feature them on the new show. Byron waxes poetic about love, and how it can be tough, and blah blah blah, they’re 12, dude. They’re all going to break up next week for stupid reasons.

Elizabeth and Sophia are busted for their scheming, but they don’t get in trouble, so it doesn’t matter. Everyone ends up with his or her preferred partner, including Maria, who learns that Marshall, while not a spy, is really Byron’s nephew. (His sister is a lot older and had a child just a few years after Byron was born. They find it easier to say they’re cousins than to explain their real relationship. No one cares.)

In other news, Janet and Donald wound up having a great day together and are now practically BFFs. Who knew?

Thoughts: The kids seem to think that enjoying their time together is part of the deal for the party, but there’s no way that’s enforceable. Plus, the odds are pretty low that all those couples who were paired off because one of them liked three answers the other gave to random questions would be 100% compatible.

One of the women from the show, when Maria doesn’t show up to the van: “You don’t like it, blame her. Tear her apart Monday morning when she gets to school. Or poison her milk.” LADY. You should not be allowed around children.

Maria is suddenly insecure about what people think of her. It’s really out of character for her.

Marshall calls the SVMS kids “the losingest bunch of stuck-up dorks I’ve ever met.” He’s not wrong.

December 2, 2017

The X-Files 6.14, Monday: Yesterday Was Monday, But Today Is Monday, Too!

Posted in TV tagged at 1:12 pm by Jenn

Sadly, this can’t play “I Got You, Babe”

Summary: Police are gathering outside Cradock Marine Bank when Skinner arrives to speak with a police lieutenant named Kraskow. A man inside has taken hostages, and two of Skinner’s agents are among them. Though he doesn’t name them, who else could it be but Mulder and Scully? A woman in the crowd yells at Skinner not to let this happen. He just wonders how she knows his name.

Inside the bank, Scully is trying to help Mulder, who’s bleeding from a gunshot wound and doesn’t look good. The other hostages are quiet. The gunman has a bunch of explosives strapped to his body, and Scully tells him things don’t have to end like this. As a SWAT team moves in, he says it does. Scully yells, “NO!” as the explosives detonate, filling the bank with fire and smoke.

Mulder wakes up in his waterbed, which has sprung a leak during the night. The water shorted out his electricity, so his alarm clock didn’t go off. His cell phone is also out of commission from the water, but his watch tells him it’s 7:15 on Monday morning. Mulder goes to get a pot to catch the water from the leak, but trips on a shoe on his way back to the bedroom to answer the ringing phone. His downstairs neighbor is also getting wet from the leak. Mulder isn’t even sure why he has the waterbed he’s not supposed to have; he thinks it was a gift.

At work, Scully finds Mulder in his office instead of in the meeting they’re supposed to be in together. He tells her he’s having a horrible morning and needs to go to the bank before he can do any work. If he doesn’t deposit his paycheck right now, the check he wrote his landlord to cover the damages from the waterbed will bounce. Scully remarks that she’s had a lot of horrible mornings, too, since she started working with him. She’s also surprised that he has a waterbed.

Mulder heads to the bank, where the gunman and the woman from the crowd (Pam) have just pulled up. The gunman, Bernard, says he’ll only be inside for ten minutes. When Mulder arrives, Pam comments to herself, “Right on schedule. Poor guy.” They look at each other before he crosses the street to the bank, which she says he’s never done before. Mulder gets in a long line to make his deposit, frustrated that he has to wait. Across the lobby, Bernard writes a note: “This is a robbery.”

At FBI headquarters, Scully’s back in the meeting, which is dragging along without Mulder’s report. At the bank, Bernard writes, “This is a robbery” over and over, then pulls out his gun and tells everyone to get down on the floor. He methodically robs each teller, not noticing when one presses a silent alarm. Mulder’s like, “My day somehow managed to get even worse.” And then things continue to go bad when Scully arrives to look for her partner.

Mulder tells Bernard that he forgot to lock the front door. Bernard rushes to do so, but Scully has already seen what’s going on. While Bernard is distracted by her arrival, Mulder goes for his weapon, but Bernard is faster and shoots him. Scully has no choice but to drop her own gun. Back at FBI headquarters, news of the hostage situation comes in. Pam waits until the SWAT team has moved in, then gets out of the car, almost as if she’s following a script. Just like we saw before, Pam addresses Skinner, this time telling him not to let the SWAT team go inside.

Scully tends to Mulder’s wound, telling Bernard that the authorities won’t call like he thinks they will. He won’t tell Scully his name, so she considers calling him Steve until he tells her he’s Bernard. She begs him to let her get Mulder out so he can get medical attention. Since the authorities can’t see Bernard, they don’t know about the explosives. If he just walks in front of the door and shows them the explosives, everyone will stay safe.

Bernard accuses her of wanting to get him killed. She says she just wants everyone to live. “You have control over everything that happens here, and it doesn’t have to end this way,” she says. As before, the SWAT team moves in, and Bernard says it does have to end this way. Scully yells, the bombs go off, and…

Mulder wakes up again in his flooded waterbed. That’s right, woodchuck chuckers: It’s Groundhog Day! Mulder’s morning proceeds the same way it did previously, only this time he doesn’t trip over his shoe until after he gets the call about his neighbor’s apartment. The phone rings again, but Mulder ignores it, missing a call from Pam.

Bernard catches her on the phone, but she won’t tell him who she was calling. He demands that Pam come with him to the bank. She encourages him to just go to work instead; he won’t get fired. Bernard doesn’t care, since he just mops floors anyway, so it’s not like he’d be making a big career misstep. He has a plan, and thinks by this time tomorrow… “Everything will be roses,” Pam finishes for him.

Mulder and Scully’s conversation proceeds differently from before; this time he asks if she’s ever wanted to rewind and start a day over. She says yes, but restarting a day doesn’t mean it’ll end up differently. He asks if that means everything is left to fate, and people have no free will. Scully says that our decisions and character have an effect on what happens. Mulder says that every decision changes your fate – not getting the waterbed might have meant he was on time to work, but Scully staying in medicine probably would have meant they’d never meet.

Scully says Mulder can change his fate by letting her deposit his check while he goes to the meeting. So Scully’s the one at the bank when Bernard writes his note, which this time says, “This is a holdup.” Mulder realizes he gave Scully the pay stub, not the check, so he has to go to the bank after all. Pam sees him walk by her car and addresses him by name, telling him not to go in the bank, since Bernard’s inside. He doesn’t know who she is, but she tells him that every day, he goes in the bank, and every day, everyone inside dies.

Mulder keeps a poker face as he repeats that he passes Pam every day. She tells him that the last time, he seemed to look at her like he knew her or remembered her. “Please remember me,” she says. They hear a gunshot from the bank, and Mulder runs across the street, finding Scully and Bernard in a standoff. When Mulder won’t drop his weapon, Bernard threatens to shoot Scully. Mulder asks what Bernard thinks Mulder will do then.

Bernard shows off his explosives to let everyone know he’s serious. Mulder uses his name, realizing what Pam was trying to warn him about. A woman has been shot, but she’s still alive; Scully tells Bernard that means he’s not a murderer yet, so he can still end this without too much damage. A teller warns that the police are coming since she tripped the silent alarm. Bernard drops his gun, then moves to detonate his explosives. This time it’s Mulder who yells, “NO!” Outside, Pam sees the blast and cries.

Mulder’s in bed again, and soaked again, and this time knows what his first phone call is about. Scully calls his cell phone but gets a recording telling her the customer can’t be reached. Pam shows up to tell Scully not to go to Cradock Marine today, and not let Mulder go either. If they go in, they’ll die. Pam gets escorted out as Scully wonders what that was all about.

She goes to Mulder’s office to wait for him, telling him his cell phone isn’t working. Mulder gets a sense of déjà vu, as he did when he woke up in the leaky bed. He talks about the Freudian theory that déjà vu is the opportunity to “have a second chance to set things right.” Scully wonders what he’d be setting right. “Whatever’s wrong,” he replies. Scully asks if he really thinks he’s lived this moment before. Mulder says maybe he’s meant to do something different and change fate. But first he needs to go to the bank.

Scully tells Mulder about Pam’s warning that they shouldn’t go to Cradock Marine this morning. She describes Pam for Mulder, who doesn’t find her familiar. Scully decides that it could have been a prank. Mulder says he’ll use the ATM so he doesn’t tempt fate. Scully goes back to the meeting and worries about her partner while he tries to use the ATM but finds that it’s out of order.

He sees Pam across the street and recognizes her from Scully’s description. He asks her if they’ve met, and she says they have, more times than she can count. Their encounters are always different but end the same way – with his death. “Don’t you see?” she says. “We’re all in Hell. I’m the only one who knows it.” The first time around, things didn’t end the way they were supposed to, and now they’re stuck reliving the same experience over and over.

Mulder finally grasps that Pam is saying they relive the same day over and over. She says she’s tried everything to keep Bernard from robbing the bank, even going so far as to call the police on him, but it’s like he’s meant to come there. And Mulder and Scully always come as well, throw things into chaos, and get everyone killed. Mulder wonders why he doesn’t remember any of this but Pam does. She says he’s asked that at least 50 times, and she still doesn’t know.

After so many dozens of attempts to change things, Pam has realized that Mulder is the variable that makes everything end badly. That means he’s the only one who can make things end well. He just needs to walk away. So Mulder goes back to work…but Scully has left the meeting to find him at the bank. Moments after she arrives, Bernard kicks off his holdup.

Mulder shows up as Scully is reaching for her gun. Bernard sees her, and Mulder is able to get off a shot and take Bernard down. But Bernard still has the explosives, and the agents are no match for them. “He’s got a bomb,” Mulder says to himself over and over, trying to make himself remember when he relives the day again.

Waterbed, alarm clock, 7:15 on Monday. Mulder goes to the bank as Pam prepares for another cycle. Bernard asks why she’s always in a bad mood. “‘Cause nothing ever changes,” she replies. She and Mulder look at each other as he arrives at the bank, and he asks if he knows her, since she looks familiar. She doesn’t tell him anything. Inside, he sees Bernard writing his note and starts murmuring to himself, “He’s got a bomb,” remembering exactly what he wanted to.

Scully gets pulled out of the meeting when Mulder calls from the bank. He sends her to talk to Pam, telling her that Pam will know what they need to discuss. As Bernard writes, “This is a robbery” over and over, Mulder hands over his gun. He knows why Bernard is there, that he’s with Pam, and that he has explosives. Mulder doesn’t want anyone to die. He knows something bad is supposed to happen, and he’s going to prevent it.

Mulder tells Bernard that he can walk out the door and change his fate. Instead, Bernard uses Mulder’s gun to start the holdup. Scully enters with Pam, and Mulder tells Bernard that somehow, he’s making Pam live the same horrible day over and over. All of them are resigned to the same fate. Pam’s in Hell, and Bernard can’t want that for her. Bernard argues that he’s doing this all for her.

Mulder tells Scully to put down her gun, since Bernard has a bomb. She does, and Pam tries to convince Bernard to walk out with her. But the police are arriving, and Bernard thinks the agents have tricked him. He tries to shoot Mulder, but Pam jumps in front of him and takes the bullet instead. Devastated, Bernard drops to his knees, making it easy for Mulder to arrest him. “This never happened before,” Pam tells Mulder.

The next morning, Mulder wakes up on his couch. Scully calls from the office (“Mulder, it’s me,”), and Mulder checks the time, seeing that it’s now Tuesday. Scully and Skinner both want answers about the robbery, specifically how Mulder know about Pam and the explosives. They think Pam was an accomplice, but Mulder thinks “she was just trying to get away.” He sees in the paper that Pam died, making her the variable that changed fate and finally stopped the endless cycle.

Thoughts: I really love this episode. I wish it got more attention, but I think it gets overlooked because it’s buried between two more memorable episodes.

The late Carrie Hamilton is so good as Pam. The first time I watched, I didn’t know who she was; watching again, knowing she was Carol Burnett’s daughter, I could see the resemblance.

My recap title comes from the Supernatural episode “Mystery Spot,” in which Sam has the Pam role and Dean has the Mulder role. It’s funnier than this episode, but also has some very emotional elements.

If we take away anything from “Monday,” it’s that direct deposit could save your life.

November 28, 2017

SVT #113, The Boyfriend Game: Let’s Make a Date

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

The guy on the far left is very, very ’90s. Like, every guy in my school dressed like that

Summary: The hottest show in Sweet Valley right now is Young Love, a dating show where middle-schoolers get to question three unseen potential suitors and then go out with them. Ahh, yes, the ever-elusive preteen-matchmaking market has finally been targeted. The show is holding a contest for local schools who want to send students on the show; all couples matched on the show get a trip to Dizzy Planet, a new theme park everyone wants to go to. To enter the running to be chosen, SVMS has to submit a group photo and an essay on why they should be considered.

A bunch of different clubs write essays, and Elizabeth is one of the students put in charge of choosing which should be submitted to the show. Since each essay does such a good job of highlighting a portion of the student body, Liz decides that all the essays should be submitted so the show’s producers can see how eclectic the school is. They have to take the group photo multiple times, since the Unicorns keep ruining it, but ultimately, SVMS sends in their essays and photo, and they’re chosen to be on Young Love.

Now the kids at SVMS get to sign up to be contestants or candidates (the potential dates the contestants can choose from). They’re sworn to secrecy so no one can make any arrangements to choose/be chosen by someone they want to go out with. Liz is chosen as a contestant, while Jess is picked to be a candidate, though she’d rather just go out with the show’s host, Byron Miller. Sophia Rizzo is also a candidate, and her boyfriend Patrick is a contestant, which they tell each other even under threat of disqualification for violating the secrecy agreement. They want to come up with a way to ensure they end up together.

Jess watches the show to figure out which candidates are more likely to be chosen for dates. She realizes that honesty and sincerity are big pluses, but being Jess, she has no idea how to be either of those things, so she goes to Liz for help. Liz is like, “Tell…the truth? Maybe?” Jess: “That sounds difficult, but maybe I can fake it.” Also, this is ironic considering what Liz pulls next.

Elizabeth isn’t that familiar with the show, so she’s worried when she learns from Amy that Byron sometimes teases the contestants. (They’re children, Byron. Take it easy.) Liz doesn’t want to be embarrassed on TV, but she still wants to go to Dizzy Planet, so she asks Jess to pull a twin switch with her. So much for honesty. Jessica doesn’t really care how she gets to Dizzy Planet, so she easily agrees to pretend to be Liz.

Patrick and Sophia start sneaking around to try to meet up to discuss how they’re going to rig the show. Guys, you’re dating. No one would find it suspicious if you were seen hanging out. They’ve heard about the game-show scandals of the ’50s and are worried that they’ll get busted and investigated by the FBI. Patrick’s really paranoid and barely listens when Sophia tries to tell him what their secret signal will be. Contestants get to pick the questions they ask the candidates, so Patrick will need to ask his three potential dates about their favorite foods. Sophia will answer, “Poetry, for woman does not live by bread alone.”

The twins pull their switch the day of the taping, and no one notices. Jessica is up first, and her three potential suitors are Todd, Bruce, and Winston (though she doesn’t know this, as they’re separated by a divider and the guys are using voice-changing mics). Even though Jess makes a fool of herself in front of Byron, she accidentally makes Liz and Todd look like they’re meant to be, or something, by picking Todd as her date. She’s disappointed that she won’t get to go to Dizzy Planet as Bruce’s date, but at least she won’t have to hang out with Winston.

Liz’s fellow candidates are Amy and Ellen, and their contestant is Aaron. Liz realizes that if she and Jess hadn’t pulled their switch, they could have a chance at being with their preferred guys. But Aaron ends up picking Amy, since Liz was too preoccupied by the switch to give good answers, and Ellen probably doesn’t even know where she is. Now the twins can’t even undo their switch and go to Dizzy Planet with the guys they like.

After Janet takes her turn as a contestant and unwittingly picks nerdy Donald Zwerdling as her date, Patrick is up. His choices are Sophia, Maria, and some other girl who’s not important. Patrick forgets the signal question and instead asks what the girls think of poetry. Each gives an answer that includes the word “bread,” so Patrick has no idea which one is Sophia. He accidentally chooses Maria as his date. Sophia’s so annoyed with him that Patrick is probably glad he gets to spend the trip to Dizzy Planet with someone other than her.

Everyone’s upset with the way things turned out, but they learn that they have to go on their dates to Dizzy Planet or the show won’t put on the Valentine’s Day dance that serves as part of their prize. The ones who pulled twin switches or rigged the game also can’t say anything, for fear of having the whole school punished. Basically, the only person who’s happy at the end of the book is Maria, who has no idea why everyone else is mad at each other. This will, I’m sure, all get worked out in the next book.

Thoughts: “Honest and sincere. Jessica thought about that for a moment. It was definitely an approach she wouldn’t have come up with on her own.” Yeah, that’s a shocker.

When asked which Johnny Buck song best describes what he’s looking for in romance, Bruce picks “Forever Fever,” “because that’s what any girl gets when she’s with me.” From an STD, right?

Todd wants to be a dolphin, because “they’re so beautiful and smart.” Oh, Todd. You’re beautiful on the inside.

I’m so disappointed that we barely get to witness the moment Janet discovers she matched with Donald. I bet you could hear her scream from two counties away.

Aaron’s a jerk. Jessica can do better.

November 25, 2017

The X-Files 6.13, Agua Mala: There Must Be Something in the Water

Posted in TV tagged at 1:19 pm by Jenn

“Hi. This says I just owned you”

Summary: Goodland, Florida, is in the midst of a hurricane, and it’s causing flooding in someone’s trailer home. A woman tries to board up the windows and doors while yelling for her son, Evan. Evan’s more worried about his father, but his mother needs his help dumping the water out of their washing machine. Evan goes behind the machine, where some sort of tentacle tries to strangle him. As Evan’s mother frees him, the tentacle pulls her underwater.

Arthur Dales leaves Mulder a message on his answering machine telling him that he’s gotten a distress call from a neighbor, and Mulder needs to come to Florida and look into it. Hurricane Leroy is still approaching, and will make landfill in the next three or four hours. Evan’s family, the Shipleys, have disappeared, but they don’t appear to have evacuated.

Despite the pounding rain, Mulder and Scully make it to Dales’ trailer in Goodland. Dales has told Mulder that he thinks a sea monster is responsible for the Shipleys’ disappearance, and though Scully doesn’t buy this, she still came all the way down there. She sees a bunch of empty bottles and notes that Dales likes to drink.

Dales ignores her and tells the agents that Sara Shipley called to tell him that something with tentacles grabbed her husband, Jack, in their bathroom. Sara and Jack are both marine biologists, so Dales figures they would know what they’re talking about. But now the whole family’s missing, and Dales couldn’t get any help from local authorities, so he wants Mulder and Scully to investigate.

Scully wonders why Dales moved to Goodland in the first place. He tells her he came for the weather. He adds that she shouldn’t turn up her nose at mysteries: “The bottom of the ocean is as deep and dark as the imagination.”

Mulder and Scully go over to the Shipleys’ trailer, which is boarded up from the inside, making their exit even more mysterious. Mulder finds a gooey substance on a drain pipe and, of course, touches it. The washing machine lid starts opening and closing on its own, so Mulder uses a broom handle to open it. Inside is the Shipleys’ unharmed but annoyed cat.

The agents find the boarded-up bathroom door, and as they’re trying to get it open, a sheriff’s deputy named Greer interrupts them. He wants to arrest them for breaking and entering, ignoring them when they say they’re looking for the Shipleys, and that they’re FBI agents (“don’t all the nuts roll downhill to Florida”). He also doesn’t care that they know Dales, a known drunk. For all he knows, the agents are looters or part of the Manson family.

Thanks to a distraction from the cat, Mulder’s able to nab Greer’s gun. Scully finally flashes her badge, proving that she and Mulder are FBI agents. Greer backs down, though he still needs to file a report. Mulder says that first he needs to help get into the bathroom. Meanwhile, Scully goes to the car to make a phone call. Mulder joins her and tells her that the bathroom was empty except for more goo and water on the floor. It was as if someone left the tap running before boarding up the door.

Scully tells her partner that the airport is closing, so if they want to get out before the hurricane hits, they need to go now. Mulder still wants to know what happened to the Shipleys, but Scully doesn’t think Dales’ suspicions are unfounded. There’s no sea monster here. Mulder says something that sounds like narration from a documentary about the ocean. Scully replies that maybe he is a member of the Manson family.

She continues that the local authorities are handling the search, so there’s nothing for the agents to do in Goodland. As far as she’s concerned, they’ve fulfilled their duties. Mulder thinks they should at least update Dales, so they go back to his trailer. As they leave, Dales finishes his search of the trailer, seeing water come up through a drain in the floor. He unscrews the drain and makes the stupid mistake of reaching inside, but all he encounters is a sports jersey.

The road Mulder and Scully need to take to the airport is closed, so they’re stuck in Goodland for the night. The deputy who sends them away makes the same comment Greer did about nuts rolling downhill to Florida. Mulder decides to end the argument, since Scully’s never going to convince the deputy to let them through.

Greer goes to a condo complex to check on some residents who are stranded without power. He doesn’t realize that the Shipleys’ cat has hitched a ride on the underside of his car. Greer knocks on some doors to see who’s home, but no one answers. A door creaks open, and when Greer goes inside to investigate, he finds someone on the toilet, covered in goo. A tentacle reaches out from the goo and grabs him.

Scully calls the sheriff’s department to get directions to an emergency shelter. She and Mulder happen to be on the same road as the condo complex. Scully loses the phone connection, and Mulder predicts that one day, they’ll look back on this experience and laugh. Since debris is starting to fall on them, Scully thinks they should pull over. Mulder believes they’d be smarter to keep driving, since they’ll be a moving target and harder to hit.

Fortunately, Mulder wises up and pulls over at the condo complex when he sees Greer’s car. They head inside winding up in the same condo Greer investigated. He’s alive but having trouble breathing. While Scully prepares to use her medical skills to get him an airway, Mulder checks out the goo on the toilet. He finds a watch in the bowl and makes a dumb-even-for-him remark about “passing the time.”

Mulder assists Scully as she cuts a hole in Greer’s throat to help him breathe. There are welts on his neck that make Mulder think he was stung. He believes the attacker came up through the plumbing, which means it could reach other people in the building. Mulder goes off to check on the other residents as Scully calls paramedics for Greer. Dales hears the call on his radio, laughing when Scully says Greer was attacked by something unidentified.

Mulder continues Greer’s work of knocking on doors, coming across a guy who may be looting. Another man, Walter, is relieved to see Mulder, since he and his pregnant wife have been waiting for help. Walter doesn’t recognize the looter, who promises to put back what he tried to steal. Mulder goes to check on Walter’s wife, Angela, who reveals that she’s not actually his wife, since he’s apparently not man enough to earn her commitment. Also, she’s not in labor, so she doesn’t need immediate help.

Walter tells Mulder that everyone in the complex seems to be gone except for a man named George. Walter offered to help George, but George told him to go away. Mulder checks on him and gets the same response. George promises that he’s armed and ready for whatever comes his way – Cuba, Castro, revolutionaries, etc. “All the nuts roll down to Florida,” Mulder murmurs.

Walter and Angela join Greer and Scully, who thinks Greer is suffering from an infection by a foreign organism, possible a waterborne parasite. Angela blames the horrible living conditions. She and Walter wonder where Harry, the landlord, is; he needs crutches to walk, and the crutches are still there, so he couldn’t have left. The looter joins the group and becomes Angela’s next target of criticism.

Mulder pulls Scully away from the others and tells her they need to leave ASAP. Scully tells him the roads aren’t passable, and she’s hesitant to move Greer anyway. George hears them talking and realizes they’re federal agents. His own condo is leaking from the ceiling, and there’s a tentacle in his light fixture.

Scully checks on Greer, seeing something under his skin. His temperature is 106, so Scully tells someone to get ice from the freezer and fill a bathtub with cold water. The looter is reluctant, since Mulder thinks whatever they’re dealing with is in the plumbing, but Scully doesn’t care. She pulls a small tentacle from Greer’s skin as the looter follows her orders.

As the men in the group tend to Greer in the tub, everyone hears gunfire from down the hall. Mulder runs to George’s condo, where he’s shooting at the ceiling. He tells Mulder that it’ll take more than his weapons to kill the thing in the ceiling. Scully thinks he just mistook a burst sewage pipe for a sea creature. Mulder thinks the thing burst through the pipe and is now somewhere else in the building. Scully argues that they don’t know that they’re in danger; they just need to stay calm.

Back with Greer, the looter tries to use soap to get the deputy’s wedding ring off his finger. He slips and knocks some things into the tub. Mulder and Scully catch him leaving, and he pretends everything’s fine. Angela needs to use the bathroom, but Walter reminds her that the sea creature is in the plumbing. Angela will take the chance. Mulder realizes that the hurricane is how the creature got access to the plumbing in the first place. As Angela uses the toilet, a tentacle prepares to grab Greer again.

Mulder and Scully continue arguing about whether they’re dealing with something from Jules Verne. They’re interrupted when Angela comes out of the bathroom screaming. She says she saw the creature, and that it has “giant arms like an octopus.” Mulder checks it out but only finds Greer’s clothes and the things the looter knocked into the tub, including a box of Epsom salt. Greer is gone. “I think the deputy went out with the bathwater,” he says.

Mulder decides that no one has seen the sea creature because it doesn’t just live in the water – it is water. It only takes the shape of a creature when it attacks. Scully points out that in that case, the tentacle she pulled out of Greer wouldn’t be visible. She thinks water attempts to kill the creature. Mulder says that maybe the creature uses people’s bodies to reproduce, and the tentacle is in a stage of the process where it hasn’t fully developed. This means the creature turns people into more creatures.

Realizing that they definitely need to leave, Mulder takes a head count and sees that the looter is missing. Mulder can’t find him, but he does see something wriggling around in a ceiling light. It breaks through, and when Mulder returns to the group, he’s covered in welts and having trouble breathing. George locks him out, refusing to let in someone who’s been infected.

Scully argues that she should be allowed to try to save her partner, especially since she’s a doctor. Angela speaks up that she also needs medical attention, as her water just broke. As Mulder runs around in the condo, Scully calls on the rest of the group to help her deliver Angela’s baby. She admits to George that she’s never delivered a baby before, but hey, she’s calm and at least has medical knowledge, so I’d say Angela’s luckier than she could be.

The group tries not to focus on all the water filling the light fixtures as they deliver the baby. Meanwhile, Mulder, who’s collapsed in a hallway, hears the Shipleys’ cat outside, seemingly unbothered by the rain. As Scully prepares to deliver the baby, she realizes something about the water. But she doesn’t have time to think about it, as the baby comes out just as a tentacle bursts through a light fixture and grabs George around the neck. Scully tells Walter to grab George’s gun and shoot at the sprinkler in the ceiling.

The next morning, the hurricane has passed and everything’s peaceful in Goodland. Mulder shows Dales his welts, which don’t seem to be causing him any trouble. Scully reports to the men that the baby has been named after his father. Dales thinks it’s great that they came to hunt a sea creature and instead delivered a baby. Also, Scully got to save her partner’s life.

The three discuss how Scully realized that fresh water killed the sea creature. Mulder says that the cat gave him the idea, since it was saved by hiding in the washing machine. The Shipleys were taken because the creature came up through the plumbing, and Greer was taken because there was salt in his bathwater. Dales praises Scully for saving Mulder and says he wishes he’d had a partner like her when he worked on the X-Files. If he had, he might not have retired. He wants to toast the agents, but they refuse to drink his water. Womp womp.

Thoughts: Greer is played by Joel McKinnon Miller, doing more police work here than he’s done in five seasons of Brooklyn Nine-Nine…where his character’s name is Scully. (Cue X-Files theme music.)

This episode often makes people’s lists of the worst from the series, but I didn’t think it was that bad. It’s no “Shapes” or “Teso Dos Bichos.”

I like that an episode called “Bad Water” takes place in a town called the opposite – Goodland.

Someone should check on that cat. It was way too calm about all that water.

November 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 14, 2017

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

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

Oh, if only this had happened

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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