February 21, 2017

SVT Super Chiller #7, The Haunted Burial Ground: The “Old Ones” Probably Don’t Approve of This Book Either

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

Yeah, that skeleton sure looks scary

Yeah, that skeleton sure looks scary

Summary: It’s almost Halloween, and Steven decides to pull a little prank on Jessica by making her think she’s being followed by a tall, headless man. Apparently there’s a local myth about two skeletons, one without a head, being seen on Sleepy Hollow Road. Jessica’s relieved that this one is actually Steven and his friend Scott, who managed to ride a bike with one on the other’s shoulders. Impressive! Jessica quickly forgets about the prank since she’s so excited to talk to Scott – he’s in a band called the Skeletons, and he’s hot. Scott thinks Jessica’s 13, which is apparently super-mature compared to 12.

Elizabeth also has a new friend, Kala, who’s only in town for about a month before her family moves somewhere else. She’s Native American, and her time at Sweet Valley Middle School gets off to a rough start when Bruce, Aaron, and Jake Hamilton pull a prank of their own. They use fake blood and a rubber axe to make Kala think Jake has been attacked.

Elizabeth rescues Kala from the ridiculous boys and tries to assure her that the boys didn’t target her for any personal reasons. She invites Kala to come with her to work with Houses for the Homeless, Sweet Valley’s versions of Habitat for Humanity. At the worksite, Liz introduces Kala to Jack Whitefeather, a project chairman who cheers Kala up partly just by being another Native American in a town that doesn’t have many.

Jessica runs into Scott again (with Steven and Joe), and they start talking about music. He’s learning “Monster Ball,” a new duet from Johnny Buck and Melody Powers. Jessica’s thrilled, as she loves the song, and she tries to get Scott to invite her to sing it with him. He humors her, but he’s not that interested in singing with a kid. Jess decides that the Unicorns should throw a Halloween party and invite the Skeletons to play – maybe then Scott will bring her on stage to sing with him. Not only would she get attention and sing with a hot guy, but all the Unicorns would be jealous.

Unfortunately for Jess, the Unicorns don’t want to throw a party, for possibly the first time ever. They think a Halloween party would be childish. Jess talks them into it by pointing out that they can dress up as celebrities instead of ghosts or witches. The girls want to have the party someplace distinctly Halloween-y, and they settle on an old house Lila’s father’s company is about to tear down. He vetoes the idea as too dangerous, but approves of a shack on Sleepy Hollow Road, as long as the girls fix it up (using their Houses for the Homeless skills) so it’s safe. They also have to be respectful of an elderly couple living next door.

The Unicorns celebrate with a sleepover at Jessica’s, the same night Elizabeth has invited Kala over. The girls try to use a Ouija board to find out of the shack is haunted, but Ellen messes up the session by making the board warn the girls to stay away. She doesn’t want to have the party at the shack because they’ll have to do so much work to get it ready. Fair enough. Elizabeth thinks they can donate the shack to the homeless shelter’s Nature Club Scouts after the party, which makes their work more worthy.

Since no one wants to bother with the Ouija board if Ellen’s just going to screw with them, the girls decide to have a séance. Jessica bumps the table to mess with everyone, leading to a fight. In the middle of everything, Kala seems to fall asleep. As the girls try to channel a spirit to ask about ghosts on Sleepy Hollow Road, Kala starts talking in a weird voice, telling the girls, “Do not disturb the old ones.” Alice interrupts the séance to send everyone to bed before the girls can figure out what’s going on. Kala wakes up but doesn’t remember the séance.

The girls see skeletons outside the house as they’re going to bed, but the ever-logical Liz quickly figures out that skeletons don’t wear sneakers. She busts them as Bruce and Jake. The girls invite them in, and as everyone’s chatting, Kala comes downstairs to tell them that the “old ones” are resting and shouldn’t be disturbed. The girls think she means Alice and Ned. Kala seems to be sleepwalking, though Janet, who already dislikes Kala because she had the nerve to talk to Denny Jacobson at school, thinks she’s faking. The next morning, Kala says she doesn’t remember much of what happened at the sleepover.

Jessica stalks Scott, Steven, and Joe so she can invite the Skeletons to play at the party, but she can’t get Scott alone. The Unicorns are starting to sour on the party, since it’ll require so much, so Jess gets them interested again by telling them the Skeletons are playing. Elizabeth and Kala check out the shack, and Kala mentions a dream she had about a bat telling her that they need to leave it alone. Minutes later, the Unicorns arrive, and Jessica stumbles into a cave and is swarmed by bats. One swoops down on Janet, which disturbs Kala, since she imagined that exact thing happening after her dream.

The girls start the clean-up process, but Elizabeth’s mood darkens when a man from Fowler Construction tells them the shack is scheduled to be demolished right after the party. I hope the Nature Scouts can afford the rent on a place in an office park, instead of the clubhouse Liz wanted for them.

The girls clean up a bunch of trash, which they bag up for a special pick-up by trash collectors. But Jake, Bruce, and Aaron pull yet another prank, hiding themselves in garbage bags to scare the girls. Jake gets busted and tells the girls that Bruce and Aaron are in other bags – bags the trash collectors have just picked up. The kids run after the garbagemen and rip open their bags, but the boys aren’t inside. When they return to the shack, there are two bags there, containing the boys. They say that someone moved them, telling them to let the “old ones” rest.

Elizabeth finds an arrowhead on the property, because every children’s book that has anything to do with Native Americans includes someone finding an arrowhead. Kala talks more about her dreams, which featured a bear and an eagle. As Jess continues trying to get Scott alone to ask him about the party, the other Unicorns work on reinforcing the shack so it’s safe. The girls ignore Mr. Fowler’s instructions to respect the elderly couple nearby, dumping trash bags in their yard so they don’t have to take them to the dump (since the trash collectors are mad at them and won’t come back). Despite the Unicorns’ attitudes, Liz still wants the party to go ahead, for Jess’s sake, so she tries to keep the peace.

Ellen thinks she sees a bear in the woods, and Elizabeth sees a bird she thinks is an eagle. She tells Kala, who’s had another dream about all those animals; they want her to tell the others again not to disturbed the “old ones.” Then Ellen finds a skull in a creek, which the Unicorns decide to turn into PR for the party.

Liz helps Jess get Steven away from Scott so Jess can finally ask him about playing at the party. She basically dares him to play in a creepy shack. Scott agrees, as long as Jessica sings with him…and as long as she spends a night in the shack before the party, to ensure no ghosts will come after him. Jessica easily agrees and enlists the Unicorns, Elizabeth, Amy, and Maria to spend the night as well. Kala can’t make it, since she hasn’t been feeling well. I guess channeling ancient Native American spirits or whatever takes a lot out of you. But Kala shows up in the middle of the night, warns the girls that the “old ones” don’t like having their rest disturbed, then leaves.

Liz goes to see Kala in the morning, but Kala doesn’t remember going to the shack. They go back to the property and find more arrowheads, as well as a vase depicting an eagle, a bat, and a bear. Elizabeth thinks this means the property is a Native American burial ground. Kala must be channeling the spirits of people buried there, who don’t want their resting place disturbed so an office park can be built. Sure.

The girls go to Fowler Construction to beg the crew to stop the construction, which goes over as well as you would expect. It turns out that people paid to do a job won’t listen to two 12-year-olds who want them to stop working because dead people said to. The girls then go to Mr. Fowler’s office to talk to the man in charge, but he doesn’t consider their argument strong enough to stop the construction.

On Halloween, everyone gathers for the party, which Kala decides to skip, since the “old ones” are so against any disturbances there. But she gives Elizabeth some Native American clothing in the hope that the “old ones” will see it as a peace offering. Everything at the party goes fine until it’s time for Jessica’s duet with Scott. Things get really loud, and the shack begins to shake. The vase Elizabeth found gets smashed. That can’t be good.

There’s so much noise and so many people dancing that the shack collapses. Somehow, no one’s hurt, despite beams falling all over the place. Everyone sees a couple of skeletons, one of them headless, leaving the debris. The headless one retrieves its head – the skull Ellen found – and the two of them head off together. Everyone thinks someone’s playing another prank, but all the usual suspects are present and accounted for.

Jack Whitefeather confirms that the shack is on a Native American burial ground, so Mr. Fowler wisely decides not to tear it up for an office park. His company is also going to build the Nature Scouts a clubhouse. Mr. Fowler is actually a pretty good guy. Kala thinks this will please the “old ones,” and the sighting of an eagle seems to confirm this. Okay, well, thanks for stopping by, Kala. No one will ever mention you again.

Thoughts: Kala: “It was my grandmother’s name. She was Native American.” Elizabeth: “Wow. That means you’re part Native American.” What would we do without Liz?

Ghostwriter, please do your homework. It’s Melody Powers, not Melodie.

Lila knows what “macabre” means. I’m impressed.

When Elizabeth and Kala are meeting with the jerky foreman: “He gave her braid a friendly tug.” I hope Kala gave his shin a friendly kick.

February 18, 2017

The X-Files 4.18, Max: Flight Risks

Posted in TV tagged , , at 1:17 pm by Jenn

I don't think Max had a future as an interior decorator

I don’t think Max had a future as an interior decorator

Summary: The lights Mulder has encountered underwater are from other divers, so he quickly surfaces and flees. Back on land, he tries to outrun a Jeep full of soldiers who capture him. Back in D.C., Scully tends to Pendrell, but it doesn’t look good. She goes after NTSB guy, who’s wounded but still able to run. When she returns to Pendrell, she orders him to stay alive so they can celebrate her birthday together. While paramedics tend to him, Scully realizes her nose is bleeding.

Frisch doesn’t think his phone call to his girlfriend tipped anyone off, since he didn’t say where he was, so Scully thinks someone on the inside has turned on them. Skinner arrives, having been told about Frisch’s transfer into protective custody; he’s now being arrested for providing false testimony. Scully argues that his life is in danger because he’s blowing the whistle on the military.

Skinner tells her that the Joint Chiefs of Staff are overruling that decision. They’re also on the hunt for Mulder for interfering with the investigation into the plane crash. The military admits they were responsible for the crash, but they don’t back up Frisch’s version of events. Skinner notices that something’s off with Scully and tells her he’s not going to let her stay in the field if it’s not safe. Scully insists, as always, that she’s fine.

Mulder’s taken to Von Drehle Air Force Reserve Installation, where Scully gets him released and tells him the military had no choice but to confess their part in the plane crash. They’re saying that the air-traffic controllers gave bad coordinates, which makes Scully think that Frisch and his partner didn’t see the second plane, a fighter jet, until it was too late to keep it from crashing into the first plane. The partner allegedly killed himself because he felt so guilty. The military claims that Frisch is trying to blame them for his mistake.

Scully admits that she’s not sure she believes that the second plane was a military jet. Mulder shows her some burns he got from the crash site in the lake, possibly the beginning stages of the burns suffered by some of the crash victims. Scully says that there’s no proof that the plane crashed into anything, at least according to Millar. She doesn’t think he’s lying, since he had no reason to volunteer anything – especially about how he found Sharon. And it turns out Sharon isn’t Max’s sister after all; she’s a former aeronautics engineer who met Max in a psychiatric facility.

It also turns out that Pendrell being loaded into an ambulance was the last glimpse we’ll get of him: He’s dead. Scully’s upset that innocent people are dying, and they’re not yet sure if it’s “for the truth or for the lies.” Mulder vows to find the truth, because why else would they be fighting?

The agents go to Max’s old trailer, which looks the same as it did the last time they were there. Scully compares him to Mulder, as they both led “Spartan lives” in order to leave room for their passions. Mulder’s interested in finding out why Max wanted to see him (which he figures is what Max was doing, since he had Mulder’s card on him). He was taking a big risk, so it had to have been for a major reason.

Mulder puts on a video of Max talking about his life. He always wanted to be left alone, but as an abductee, he’s never alone, since he’s always wondering if the aliens will come back for him. He wants to prove to the public that aliens exist, and that only a few members of the government, FBI, and military know about them. They’re using some of the aliens’ technology in U.S. military operations, and someone needs to confront them and make them admit it. Meanwhile, divers, one with radiation burns, pull aliens and their aircraft from the lake. NTSB guy arrives, pleased that their mission was successful.

The search for the crash victims is almost complete, and Millar thanks everyone involved for their work. Mulder can tell that he’s not convinced of what he’s been told about the crash. He shares his theory that Max knew about the crash ahead of time but got on the flight anyway. He was probably followed by someone who wanted the proof of alien life that he carried with him. This was the guy with the gun, who was unable to kill Max and take the proof before aliens intercepted the plane.

Max would have known what was happening, that he was going to be taken, but Mulder thinks the military plane got involved and screwed up the aliens’ plans. Frisch and his partner couldn’t see the alien craft on radar, so they couldn’t stop whatever happened. Mulder imagines Max being pulled outside the plane as the other passengers watch in awe. He thinks that if the military jet hadn’t been there, Max would have been abducted and returned without anyone knowing.

Next Mulder thinks that the jet intercepted the plane and the alien craft on orders of taking down the aliens. Max was returned to the plane, but the crash ensued and everyone was killed instead of just having their memories erased and losing nine minutes of their lives. Millar doesn’t exactly believe Mulder’s story, but even if he did, he can’t sell it to the government. Scully notes that the door and seats contain traces of radioactivity, which Mulder hasn’t been able to explain. Millar thinks he knows the reason, and it’s inside Max’s carry-on bag.

Millar promises to include the contents of the bag in his official report, though he can’t credit them with the cause of the crash. Scully tells Mulder that they might not ever get all the answers, which means Max and Pendrell’s deaths might never be explained. Mulder wants to go talk to Sharon, whether or not she’s mentally stable.

Well, really, he wants Scully to go talk to Sharon while he goes back to Max’s trailer, which is now trashed. He runs into the trailer park manager, who mentions that he has some of Max’s mail. While he gets it, Mulder pauses Max’s video, seeing Sharon in the background. He sees that the return address on one of Max’s letters is Paul Gidney, Max’s alias. Inside is a claim ticket.

Scully visits Sharon, who admits that she lied about being Max’s sister. Scully asks her to spill anything about what Max was up to. Sharon hesitates, worrying that it could get her into trouble. Scully sees blisters on Sharon’s face and asks what she was exposed to. Sharon says she stole something, and Scully realizes it was from whoever she worked for when she was in aeronautics. Max had her take something that he claimed was alien technology. It was in three parts, and each of them had one, but they were taken. Scully asks about the third part.

Mulder figures out that the claim ticket is for a piece of luggage at the Syracuse Hancock International Airport. Men in suits watch from a distance as he gets it, then asks for a security entrance to a tunnel. As he escapes, Scully calls (“Mulder, it’s me”) and tells him he has the third part, though she doesn’t know what it is. She warns him not to take it out of its container, but mid-’90s cell service was pretty bad, and static on the line keeps Mulder from hearing her.

Even without hearing Scully’s warning, Mulder doesn’t open the bag. Instead, he puts it through an x-ray machine. Scully thinks they’re dealing with some industrial espionage. Mulder gets on a flight to D.C., because that worked out so well for Max when he took his part on a plane. Apparently Mulder’s FBI skills are on the fritz because he doesn’t see that NTSB guy is on the same flight.

After some time in the air, NTSB guy sits down with Mulder and starts a conversation. But Mulder’s FBI skills are back in full force, and he warns that he has a gun on NTSB guy. NTSB guy doesn’t think Mulder will shoot, since he could cause a crash. NTSB guy has come prepared with a parachute and is sure he’ll be able to escape. He’s also willing to sacrifice himself to continue the cover-up. There are dozens of lights on outside, and no one would notice if one went out. Does Mulder think it’s worth it to sacrifice millions of lives just to keep some lights on?

Mulder asks what the thing in the bag is, guessing it’s an alien source of energy. NTSB guy sticks to the story that the plane crash was caused by human error. Mulder orders him to go to the bathroom so Mulder can keep him contained for the rest of the flight and ensure he pays for the crash. He then calls Scully (“Scully, it’s me”) to tell her he’s captured Pendrell’s killer. He checks the time and realizes his watch has stopped.

Mulder warns a flight attendant that the plane is going to be intercepted, so the pilot needs to be ready. NTSB guy emerges from the bathroom with a gun, because I guess Mulder didn’t consider checking him for weapons. Mulder gives up Max’s bag just moments before the plane begins to shape. Looks like it’s time for another abduction, y’all! NTSB guy keeps his eye and weapon on Mulder, who pulls out his own gun and demands the bag.

The emergency door gets suck out of the plane, and Mulder tells NTSB to let go of the bag so the aliens can have it. A light fills the plane, and we skip forward to it landing in D.C. Scully and Skinner are among the agents there to get NTSB guy, but he’s no longer on the flight. Everyone on the plane is fine, and no one seems to have gone through any trauma. Also, Mulder’s watch is nine minutes slow. Skinner asks after NTSB guy, and Mulder replies, “I think he got the connecting flight.”

Later, the agents and Sharon watches the rest of Max’s video, where he talks about alien technology that the U.S. could use for things like space travel. He doesn’t get why the government wants to keep them quiet. Sharon asks to keep Max’s things, which Mulder thinks could be very important one day. Scully thinks Max would want her to have them.

Scully steps outside the trailer to look up at the sky and think about Pendrell; she notes to Mulder that she didn’t even know his first name. She has Mulder’s birthday gift with her, and she thinks he gave it to her to help her remember that people can achieve anything they can imagine as long as they dream and work hard. They also need to work together “because no one gets there alone.” We can praise those who do the work, but we also need to remember those who sacrifice their lives in the process. “I just thought it was a pretty cool keychain,” Mulder quips.

Thoughts: Way to not do anything to try to help Pendrell, everyone else in the bar.

’90s music alert: “Unmarked Helicopters” by Soul Coughing. Wow, remember Soul Coughing? I barely do.

Farewell, Agent Pendrell. (Aw, that rhymes.) As the kids would say, you were a beautiful cinnamon roll, too pure for this world.

February 14, 2017

SVT #82, Steven’s Enemy: Oh, Brother

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

With his stance and the vibe he's giving off, it looks like Steven's upset because he wants Ben for himself

With his stance and the vibe he’s giving off, it looks like Steven’s upset because he wants Ben for himself

Summary: Having not learned her lesson from the last time she decided to trade in Denny for a better model, Janet has her eye on an SVH freshman named Doug. The other Unicorns decide to go to the next SVH JV basketball practice to check him out and let her know whether they approve. (I doubt any of them would say no. It’s not like Janet’s looking for an honest opinion here.)

Speaking of basketball players, Steven has recently been switched from starting center to guard in favor of a new kid named Ben Oliver. Steven hates Ben, even though he seems like a perfectly nice guy. But Steven isn’t going to be overshadowed by a kid who always knows the answer in class and probably thinks he’s smarter than everyone just because he’s a year younger than the other freshmen, having skipped seventh grade. To make matters worse, Ben is running against Steven for class treasurer.

Steven’s campaign goes negative against Ben, though Cathy objects, insisting that Ben is a great guy. Steven’s furious that she would find even one good thing about his arch-nemesis. He thinks he’s a shoo-in for treasurer. The Unicorns attend the next basketball practice, and Jessica immediately develops a crush on Ben. She has no idea that he’s her brother’s enemy, and he has no idea that getting involved with her would make Steven mad.

The vote for treasurer is too close to call, so the freshmen vote again. This time, Ben wins. Steven acts like a jerk about it even though Ben is gracious. His day gets worse when he comes home to find Ben there, about to take Jessica to Casey’s for ice cream. Steven goes all overprotective brother, refusing to let Jess leave with Ben. I can’t believe he thinks that’ll work. Jessica ignores him and goes off with Ben. Then Cathy and Joe are friendly toward Ben at school, just making Steven madder.

Jessica and Ben plan a double date with Janet and Doug, which Steven tries to get Ned and Alice to cancel. Even though their 12-year-old daughter will be going out with a high-schooler, Ned and Alice are fine with the situation (I think they made Ben 13 so the age gap wouldn’t be so big. But still, a sixth-grader and a ninth-grader?). Steven practically threatens to get violent with Ben, which gets him sent to his room. Hey, an attempt at effective Wakefield parenting for once!

Elizabeth has already started to suspect that Jess is only with Ben to bug Steven, and after the double date, it seems like Jess might only stick with the relationship for that reason. Ben and Doug are both kind of annoying, and Jessica and Janet are starting to realize that dating a high-schooler isn’t as glamorous as they’d expected. Still, Jess isn’t going to pass up the chance to talk up the date so Steven gets even madder. She plays it off like they’re just friends, so Ned and Alice can’t really object. After Steven overhears the Unicorns talking about Veronica, he decides to handle the Jess/Ben situation (JessBen is an awful couple name; let’s hope that, say, Jessica Chastain and Ben Affleck never get together) on his own.

Steven asks Veronica out, I guess not worrying about what Cathy will say if she finds out. Jess is as furious as Steven is every time he sees her with Ben. Though he’s pleased with his plan, Steven gets upset again when he hears a rumor that Cathy voted for Ben in the election. He immediately believes this, which is dumb, but that’s par for the course for Steven in this book. However, Cathy then confirms this, claiming she has a good reason. Steven’s too angry to listen to her.

Now at the side of a high-schooler, Veronica is suddenly popular. Even the Unicorns want to spend time with her, despite the tricks she’s pulled on Jessica in the past. Steven is happy with his revenge plot, but clearly still wants to be with Cathy, as he gets jealous when he hears that she’s been spending time with a guy named Howie. Later, Steven hears Ben telling Doug that Howie lost a bunch of the class’ money for a class trip while he was serving as treasurer. Ben has to do a lot of work to make it back. He knows Cathy voted for him, but only because she didn’t want Steven to have to be stuck with the debt (which she found out about while tutoring Howie in math). Okay, but couldn’t she have told him that?

Steven suddenly gets that Ben isn’t a bad guy after all, and his jealousy comes from…well, nowhere, really. He tries to make up with Cathy, but she’s understandably tired of dealing with him. Steven takes Veronica to Casey’s, and Cathy shows up with Howie. Jessica spots Steven and flings a cherry at him. Steven fires back, innocents are dragged into the fight, and the whole restaurant gets trashed in a food fight. Mr. Casey kicks everyone out, surprisingly not banning them all for life.

The tension has been cut, and all the people who have been fighting make up. Ben and Veronica end up together, because why not? Then Ben has to quit basketball because being treasurer requires too much work, so Steven gets his position back. Everything is awesome again! At least until Steven dumps Cathy for a dumb reason and this whole thing starts over again!

The B-plot is really just setting up a future book: Amy’s suspicious of her parents, who keep having secret conversations and arguing. She thinks they’re going to split up, possibly because of a woman named Jane, as Mr. Sutton wrote a letter to her but hasn’t sent it yet. Liz finds a picture of Mr. Sutton with his arm around a woman, and the words “love, Jane” on the back.

She keeps this from Amy for a while, and when she finally tells her what she saw, Amy blows up at her. She accuses Liz of not wanting Amy to have a family as perfect as the Wakefields. What? Okay, Amy. They make up later, but things between Mr. and Mrs. Sutton don’t get any better. We get a cliffhanger when Jane calls the house and the Suttons ask Elizabeth to leave so they can discuss something in private. If you know the title of book #83, you can guess what the discussion’s about.

There’s also a teeny C-plot where Elizabeth learns that Bruce is going to release a pig in Mrs. Arnette’s class, so she publishes a story about it in the Sixers ahead of time. She and her friends are amused by how angry Bruce gets. I wish they’d done more with this plot; I thought it was funny.

Thoughts: Normally I would call Elizabeth a killjoy for ruining someone’s prank, but doing it to mess with Bruce makes me root for her.

Jessica considers wearing leggings with an Oxford shirt. Ick.

If the freshmen elected someone who’s bad at math to be their treasurer, they kind of deserve whatever happens.

February 11, 2017

The X-Files 4.17, Tempus Fugit: Next Time, Take the Bus

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

It's a free dessert, Scully. Be happier

It’s a free dessert, Scully. Be happier

Summary: “Somewhere over upstate New York,” a man named Rebhun talks to his seatmate about how he no longer gets nervous about flying, since statistically, it’s safe. His seatmate happens to be Max Fenig, and he seems more nervous about another man on the plane than he is about flying. He watches the man head to the bathroom, where he takes apart a pen and uses something inside to load a weapon. Turbulence hits the plane as the man emerges from the bathroom, and lights shine through the windows. A panel near Max starts to get pulled outside.

Things are much calmer at a restaurant where Mulder surprises Scully’s with a birthday dessert. She points out that this is the first time in four years he’s remembered her birthday. He gives her an Apollo 11 keychain. A woman named Sharon approaches the agents to tell them that her brother told her to find them if he didn’t make it. Her brother is Max, and he was supposed to be delivering something to D.C., something the government might kill him for. His plane went down on the way to D.C.

The agents head to New York and interrupt a meeting with a taskforce discussing the crash. All 134 passengers and crew members have been declared dead. The plane’s last recording before the crash is of the pilot calling mayday before the feed goes to static. Mulder asks if the plane was forced down, since the pilot said there was something approaching. A man from the NTSB is very interested in this conversation but stays quiet.

Mulder says a passenger on the plane was abducted by aliens multiple times and predicted the crash, so it’s reasonable that another aircraft caused it. A member of the taskforce says no one named Max Fenig was on the passenger manifest. The taskforce leader, Millar, slams Mulder for bringing his craziness to the situation. Scully’s like, “Thanks for this awesome birthday present, partner.”

The agents and the taskforce go to the crash site, where only pieces of the plane have been found. The official story is that the crash was caused by either a lightning strike or some other weather phenomenon. Of course, Mulder won’t buy that. Scully wants to know what it means if it turns out Max really was on the plane. Mulder says that whoever (or whatever) went after Max thought his death was important enough to sacrifice 133 other lives.

The man from the NTSB steals the weapon from the body of the man from the bathroom, and another man sprays him with something. Elsewhere, Scully finds another victim whose watch stopped at the same time as another watch Mulder finds. The crash took place at 7:52 p.m., and the watches stopped at 8:01. Scully dismisses the time of the crash as just an estimate. Mulder thinks they won’t find Max after all – he probably wasn’t on the plane when it crashed. Just then, someone finds a survivor.

Scully has Sharon brought to New York with Max’s things so the agents can figure out what he had with him on the plane. The survivor was exposed to high levels of radiation, and if Max was carrying whatever caused his burns, people could still be in danger. Scully then meets back up with Mulder, who tells her that the survivor is Rebhun (first name: Larold. Yes, really); he was sitting next to someone named Paul Gidney, an alias Max has used in the past. Scully has learned that Max used another alias to get a job at an energy site that stores uranium and weapons-grade plutonium.

Max wrote letters mentioning a theft, so he may have come across a dangerous situation. If he was carrying dangerous chemicals with him, their instability could have caused the crash. Mulder thinks Max was abducted from the plane, causing the crash; the burns came from the abduction, not chemicals. He thinks the crash will be declared unsolved unless the agents find out what really happened. He’s sure that when Max is returned, he’ll confirm Mulder’s suspicions. Scully tells Mulder that Max was already “returned” – they found his body.

Sharon is looking through Max’s letters in a motel when the room starts to shake and lights shine through the windows. Back at the crash site, Mulder finds one of his business cards on Max’s body. He checks out a couple more bodies but doesn’t seem to find what he’s looking for. In fact, that’s the point – he tells Scully that none of the bodies has a watch on. Mulder thinks someone stole them to keep people from finding out that they all lost nine minutes.

The agents meet with Sergeant Louis Frisch, who was working in an air-traffic control tower the night of the plane crash. He tells them that the crash began at 7:52, and there was radar confirmation about 45 seconds later. As the agents leave, Mulder mentions to Scully that the story has been that there was no radar confirmation. Scully figures the news about the confirmation just came after their initial briefing.

But as the agents leave, Frisch lets his partner know that he said what he was supposed to say. He doesn’t know the truth, and he doesn’t want to know. His partner, Gonzales, vows to tell the truth if the agents ever question him. Frisch doesn’t like that, since that would let the authorities know that he lied. He heads off on his own.

Sharon’s motel room has been trashed, and she’s missing. Mulder notices warping on the door, which is off its hinges. He thinks Sharon was abducted. Millar arrives to tell the agents that they may have found the cause of the crash, but it’s a pretty crazy theory. There are some cracks on the plane that make it look like it was shaken. Mulder thinks his abduction theory is looking more and more like a reality.

Frisch heads back to work and apologizes to Gonzales, but it’s too late – Gonzales is dead, seemingly having shot himself. Frisch sees a convoy of cars approaching the building. They’re led by the NTSB guy, and they’re looking for Frisch. Mulder listens to the mayday recording from the plane, then calls Scully (“Scully, it’s me”) to tell her that the air-traffic controller’s voice sounds familiar. He asks her to come to his motel room to listen to it. On her way over, Frisch grabs her and tells her he was responsible for the crash.

The agents take Frisch to the crash site to introduce him to Millar. Millar was told that the controller was a civilian, not an Army sergeant. Frisch says his commanding officer told him to lie about what happened. He saw another aircraft intercept and shadow the plane for ten minutes before the crash. There was an explosion, and the plane disappeared from his screen.

Millar denies that the evidence lines up with Frisch’s story. Mulder says the military is trying to cover up something, possibly that there was a third aircraft that Frisch didn’t see, which was shot down by the second aircraft. The plane Max was on might have just been collateral damage. That means there could be a second crash site. That also means that Frisch’s life could be in danger, since he’s put together what the military wants to keep hidden.

Now Millar is willing to consider Mulder’s theory, so he and the agents head out to look for the second crash site. But the agents spot NTSB guy’s convoy heading toward them and have to do some fancy driving to get away from them. (Well, Mulder does the driving. Scully’s contribution is just saying his name in a warning tone over and over. Thanks for your help, Scully.) Mulder has to fly under a plane that’s landing, causing the cars chasing him to spin off on other directions.

Millar goes to the first crash site and sees what looks like a UFO searching the wreckage. Its searchlight goes out and it seems to disappear, then suddenly reappear right over Millar. The light goes out again and it seems to drop out of the sky. Millar hears a woman calling for help nearby and finds Sharon, who begs him not to let them take her again.

Mulder is starting to wonder if there’s no second crash site after all – maybe the second crash happened in a lake instead of on land. He sends Scully and Frisch to D.C. while he looks into the descent of the second aircraft. Or maybe the third. I really don’t know at this point. Anyway, he goes to rent a boat and learns that there’s already a search underway.

Scully takes Frisch to her place, where he worries that he’ll be prosecuted for lying about the crash. It wasn’t his fault, but he watched the plane fall and will have to live with trying to cover up what really happened. He’s mad at himself for treating the passengers and crew like numbers and dots instead of real people. Scully promises to do whatever she can to ensure Frisch can tell his story to someone who will do the right thing. He asks if he can call his girlfriend to let her know he’s okay.

Back in New York, Mulder goes diving in the lake, thinking that the time he “got a quarter off the deep end at the Y pool” is enough experience. Scully and Frisch head to a bar to meet with a federal marshal; Pendrell is there, a little drunk, and thinks the two of them are on a date. Scully spots NTSB guy entering and realizes something’s off. He fires at Frisch but hits Pendrell instead. In the lake, Mulder finds wreckage of an aircraft, along with what looks like an alien. He starts to flee but is stopped by a bright light. To be continued!

Thoughts: I feel bad for the actor playing Max. He gets invited back to the show three years after his episode, but he doesn’t get any lines, he has two minutes of screen time, and they kill him.

Someone actually named a character Larold. I hope that person was never given the responsibility of naming a child.

I really need this show to tell us people’s names so I don’t have to figure them out from IMDb.

I can’t believe Scully thought letting Frisch use her home phone was a good idea. Come on!

February 7, 2017

SVT #81, Robbery at the Mall: Once Again, Elizabeth Does What an Entire Police Department Can’t

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

Elizabeth looks...weird

Elizabeth looks…weird

Summary: Maria Slater has suddenly become interested in directing (in case her career as an actress never gets back off the ground), so she’s excited when her dad gets a new video camera and lets her have his old one. She’s going to film a performance the Boosters are doing at the mall the next day to generate press for the opening of a new food court. This is a Big Deal, because things in Sweet Valley aren’t exciting enough with random visits from celebrities and people almost dying all the time. I mean, it can’t be too important if the main entertainment is some 12-year-old cheerleaders.

Everything’s going fine at the press event until everyone hears glass being smashed and realizes there’s been a robbery at a jewelry store. Jessica, who was about to jump on top of the Boosters’ pyramid (whatever), gets distracted and crashes. Lila’s angry that Jess wasn’t more professional. She thinks she should have Jessica’s role in the Boosters, and she wants to prove that she’s the better cheerleader.

Elizabeth has more important things to worry about – there’s a mystery afoot. Her parents don’t want her to look into the robbery, since she put herself in danger when she was investigating the charm school. But no way will Elizabeth turn her back on an opportunity to be like Christine Davenport, the heroine of her beloved Amanda Howard mysteries. Why leave the police work to the police when this 12-year-old has everything it takes to catch a robber?

The Boosters gather to watch Maria’s video of their performance (after Lila wins a high-jump competition with Jessica in her bid to prove that she’s a better Booster). The video is a disaster as apparently Maria is incompetent and can’t even figure out where the camera lens is. Jessica and Lila try to brush it off with a fence-walking contest. What is this, Anne of Green Gables? Guys, don’t go on the roof, okay? Anyway, Lila wins again.

While the kids are at school, another store at the mall is robbed. A security guard, MacDuff, gives a TV interview, and since he was present during the first robbery, Amy wonders if he’s pulling an inside job. Meanwhile, Jessica and Lila compete to see who can hold the most grapes in her mouth. Jess wins, but really, aren’t they both losers for this sort of stuff?

Since Elizabeth is writing about the new mall restaurants for the Sixers, she and her friends have a good excuse to keep hanging out at the mall. She and Todd go to a record store and chat with an employee who has a scar on his hand. Liz realizes that he was working elsewhere in the mall the last time she was there. Back in Jess/Lila Land, Lila wins a swimming competition. Their friends are at least entertained by their rivalry.

There’s another robbery, and Todd encourages Liz to go to the mall and investigate. She talks to a cop, offering to give a witness statement since she was at the mall during a previous robbery. She’d love to read the police reports and give her input. Amazingly, the cop doesn’t laugh in her face, but he also doesn’t indulge her fantasy that she’ll write about the robberies for the Sixers and, I don’t know, win a Pulitzer. Elizabeth talks to the employee from the record store instead; he’s now working at a Chinese restaurant.

Lila and Jess’ next competition is hanging upside-down from monkey bars. Jess wins, so she’s only one point behind Lila. They’ll have one more contest, after which Lila thinks she’ll be declared the winner and will get to take Jessica’s place at the top of the pyramid. If Jess wins, there will be a tie-breaker, but Lila clearly doesn’t think that will happen. The girls decide that whoever is the overall winner gets to pick her costume for the food court’s official opening, where the Boosters will be serving hors d’oeuvres. The loser gets last pick.

In a break from all the stealing going on at the mall, Maria’s house is robbed. She’s confused because all the family’s valuables are left alone, but her videotapes are stolen. Liz thinks that someone got a hold of Maria’s address after she gave it to the cop she offered to help. Jessica is on board with Amy’s theory that MacDuff is the robber – since he works at the mall, he would have easy access to all the stores.

Elizabeth realizes that Maria’s tape from the Boosters’ performance might contain evidence. Yeah, everyone reading figured that out, like, 50 pages ago, Liz. Since Maria didn’t keep it with her other tapes, it wasn’t stolen. Liz, Maria, and Amy watch it, and though the quality is horrible, they’re able to make out what looks like a hand taking a necklace. Well, at least it’s more than the police have found. They stake out the mall for a little while and see MacDuff at the Chinese restaurant, off-duty. Not long after, the Chinese restaurant is the next place to be robbed.

Lila and Jessica’s last contest is a bike race through an obstacle course. Jess wins, so the girls need a tiebreaker. They agree to a hot dog-eating contest at the mall. Lila wins, which I find really hard to believe. I can’t see her eating even one hot dog, let alone more than Jessica. But whatever, this means Jess could get stuck with a horrible costume at the opening.

Elizabeth stalks MacDuff, overhearing him on the phone, sounding sketchy. He catches her and she gets in major trouble with her parents. She’s even grounded! Undeterred, she continues her investigation, watching Maria’s tape again. This time Liz is able to see that the hand stealing the necklace has a scar on it. She knows she’s seen that scar before, but because she’s actually a much, much worse detective than she thinks, she doesn’t remember where. She thinks it’s MacDuff’s.

There’s a big party for the food court opening, and Elizabeth convinces Amy and Maria to sneak in with her. They don’t have invitations, but they pretend they were invited to cover the story for the Sixers. The record store/Chinese restaurant/various other stores guy is now working as a coat check. Just seconds after arriving, Elizabeth sees the scar on his hand and realizes she’s been investigating the wrong suspect.

Ironically (I guess), Liz turns to the person she just stopped suspecting to help her capture her new suspect. MacDuff is displeased that she’s still investigating, but he listens when she tells him the guy with the scar is probably the robber. The robber sees them together and figures out he’s busted, so he takes off. Elizabeth chases him, and MacDuff chases her. Jessica sees her sister being pursued by the guy she still thinks is a robber and decides to stop him by jumping out in front of him. Oh, and by the way, she’s dressed as a giant hot dog. The visual from this scene is one of my favorite things from this whole series.

So of course the robber is caught, and Elizabeth is hailed a hero (though Jessica should get half the credit for risking her physical safety). The Wakefields are so proud of their little detective that they give her back some of the privileges they took away when they grounded her. Steven calls bull, as do I, but we shouldn’t expect anything less from Ned and Alice. Maria is still horrible with her video camera, but she’s happy that her video helped catch a criminal. Maybe someone will let her know that the director doesn’t have to handle the camera, so her cinematography skills probably won’t have an effect on her career goals.

Thoughts: “The Valley Mall: An International Dining Extravaganza.” You have seven restaurants, four are American, and the Mexican one is called the Taco Shack. Calm down, Valley Mall.

Elizabeth describes a coconut-orange smoothie as a “platonic experience.” What are you on, Liz?

Janet picks a costume that consists of “a pair of short denim overalls, a red-checked blouse, and a blond wig with two braids.” I call bull again.

Elizabeth has black velvet leggings. WHAT?

This week in Adventures in Out-of-Context Passages: “‘Stop!’ the hot dog shouted with Jessica’s voice.”

February 4, 2017

The X-Files 4.16, Unrequited: Oh, Good, Another Episode About Vietnam

Posted in TV tagged , at 1:08 pm by Jenn

"Is THIS your card? ...No? Wait, Scully, I can get this"

“Is THIS your card? …No? Wait, Scully, I can get this”

Summary: There’s a big gathering near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C., and a general named Bloch is giving a speech about the country’s armed forces. Mulder, Scully, and Skinner are there, trying to track a man in the crowd. Scully spots the man, who then sees her as well. The agents quietly close in on him, but they all lose sight of him. Skinner warns that he’s right in front of Mulder, but as Skinner moves to protect Bloch, the man vanishes.

12 hours earlier, a helicopter lands at Fort Evanston, Maryland, carrying a lieutenant general named MacDougal. He finds a playing card in his limo, the king of hearts, with a skull and crossed bloody bayonets on the back. Suddenly the man from the rally is in the limo. He shoots MacDougal dead, but when the driver pulls the car over to check on him, the shooter is gone.

Skinner tells a group of agents about the mysterious murder, which authorities suspect was the work of the driver, Private Burkholder. There may be an accomplice, and Burkholder could have ties to a paramilitary group called the Right Hand, which is known for leaving playing cards on their victims. Mulder and Scully enter as Skinner tells the agents to look into the Right Hand’s leader, an ex-Marine named Denny Markham. The agents only have 12 hours to prevent more murders before the rally.

Mulder and Scully have just come from interviewing Burkholder, who passed a polygraph. Mulder believes he’s innocent, but Skinner thinks someone involved is lying. Scully asks for permission for her and Mulder to serve a warrant on Markham. Skinner warns them to be extremely careful so no other soldiers are killed.

The agents head to Demeter, Virginia, driving past a sign with a handprint on it. The same handprint is on a locked gate Markham is hesitant to open for them. He lets them in, but dogs chase them back out. Markham comes out to speak to the agents through the gate, though it’s mostly to refuse to answer any questions. Scully points out that a new anti-terrorism law gives the agents the right to hold him for questioning. A team of snipers hiding in the nearby woods does, too.

Markham won’t break confidentiality with the people on the Right Hand’s mailing list, and adds that they’re willing to do pretty much everything to protect themselves from a corrupt government. Mulder shows Markham the king of hearts, leading Markham to warn that more men will be killed. The snipers clear a bunch of weapons from Markham’s house as Markham chats with Mulder, giving him a picture of the killer, Nathaniel Teager.

Teager was a Green Beret in Vietnam, left for dead after the rest of his squadron died. The Right Hand found him in a POW camp in 1995. Scully disagrees that there were still POWs in Vietnam after 1973. Markham tells her the government tried to kidnap Teager after the Right Hand found him, but he vanished before they could get him.

Mulder thinks “a phantom POW left for dead comes back to avenge injustices” is a reasonable explanation for this case. Scully figures it’s just a cover-up for a conspiracy. She suggests that they give Markham a polygraph; when he inevitably fails, they’ll have their answers. Meanwhile, Teager approaches a woman named Mrs. Davenport at the Vietnam Memorial, telling her that her husband, Gary, isn’t dead. He gives her Gary’s dog tags, then disappears.

Mulder and Scully head to the memorial next, confirming with Skinner that Mrs. Davenport IDed Teager. Skinner has also confirmed that Teager’s remains have been stored at a lab since he supposedly died in the 1970s. Scully thinks someone’s posing as Teager to mess with Mrs. Davenport and distract the agents. Poor Mrs. Davenport is now conflicted about whether her first husband is really dead or not. She starts crying blood, which can’t make her day any better. Mulder thinks there’s a connection to Teager’s ability to vanish into thin air.

While Scully takes Mrs. Davenport to get an eye exam, Mulder meets with a Dr. Keyser at the lab holding Teager’s remains. The remains include teeth with scoring on them, and since there’s no way to know if the scores were made before or after death, Mulder notes that they’re not exactly proof that Teager is dead. In fact, the official report says the results are “inconclusive,” so whoever declared Teager dead chose to ignore that.

Mulder calls a general named Steffan to warn that he may be in danger. Steffan signed Teager’s death certificate, and Mulder thinks Teager might go after him next. Steffan reluctantly agrees to listen to Mulder and follow his instructions to keep himself safe. Steffan goes to his office at the Pentagon, and Teager follows, unseen even as he passes through a metal detector. But there’s a king of diamonds on Steffan’s desk when he arrives.

Scully takes Mrs. Davenport to Georgetown Medical Center, where a doctor finds a retinal blind spot on her eye that could explain her inability to see Teager when he supposedly disappeared. Scully calls Mulder, who finds it odd that someone could have a blind spot she never noticed before. The doctor thought Scully was crazy for suggesting that the blind spot was responsible for Mrs. Davenport thinking a human being disappeared.

Steffan calls Mulder to tell him about the card, not realizing that Teager is also in his office. Mulder orders him to call in some officers to protect him, but it’s too late – Teager shoots Steffan while he’s still on the phone. An invisible Teager watches as Mulder picks up the card, then looks right where he’s standing without seeing him.

Scully examines Steffan’s body but can’t explain how he could be shot at such a highly guarded facility. Skinner shows her and Mulder surveillance footage from the entrance, and they clearly see Teager enter then Pentagon. Mulder tells Skinner his theory that Teager can turn invisible by manipulating a blind spot. He thinks Teager learned the trick from the guerrilla fighters who kept him as a POW for 25 years.

Skinner knows he can’t protect all the soldiers arriving for the upcoming rally and parade, so Scully suggests that he cancel the events. Mulder says it doesn’t matter – the only way to protect everyone is to catch Teager. To do that, they need to figure out who his next victim is and protect him. Well, that sounds reasonable. It’s not like there are thousands of military personnel in D.C.

Bloch visits Markham, who doesn’t share his concerns that soldiers are being killed. Markham may be charged with conspiracy and treason, along with possession of illegal arms, but Bloch can offer him a deal if he helps find Teager. Markham says that Bloch can’t give Teager what he wants, at least not without harming his reputation. Teager is sending a message.

As the parade begins, Mulder meets Marita at the Lincoln Memorial to get info on Teager. She tells him that MacDougal and Steffan are connected to a recent news story about the “disposing” of soldiers in South Vietnam. Mulder’s familiar with the scandal – commandos and spies were sent to Vietnam but weren’t protected, so they were captured and killed.

The operation was disavowed, and the three men responsible for their mission – who include Steffan and MacDougal – erased their lives from official records. Those men are now facing charges, and their testimonies could be used to calculate reparations for the soldiers who died. Mulder realizes that this means the U.S. government wants MacDougal, Steffan, and their third comrade dead. They only asked the FBI to protect the men because they know the agents can’t.

Mulder asks Marita for the name of the third man, which I’m sure everyone in the audience has already figured out. Scully and Skinner definitely have, as they run through the parade to grab Bloch. Scully sees Teager in the crowd and pulls a gun to stop him from shooting anyone. Of course, he disappears.

Scully and Mulder meet up later, and Mulder is sure that Scully was sure she saw Teager, though his disappearance makes her wonder. He tells her and Skinner what Marita said about the government wanting the FBI to fail in their investigation. Now they can continue denying that there were POWs left behind after 1973. Mulder thinks Markham is their most valuable ally right now.

Mulder challenges Bloch to come clean, but Bloch is giving a speech at the rally and isn’t going to let a pesky thing like his life being in danger keep him from his duty. So the agents’ 12 hours are up, and the rally begins. A rally attendee recognizes Teager and follows him behind some fences, where – you guessed it – Teager disappears. But this time he’s just hiding for dramatic purposes.

The attendee, Danzinger, is shocked to see his supposedly dead buddy alive and well. Teager tells him that “they” wanted him to believe Teager was dead. He promises that after tonight, Danzinger will believe. Teager says he waited for rescue, but no one came for him. He knows the people in charge thought it was easier to just let him die rather than have to admit the truth. Danzinger reminds Teager that the war has been over for 20 years, but Teager says for him – and the others – it’s still going on. He gives Danzinger a list of names, then disappears.

Bloch takes the stage and finds an ace of clubs on his podium. Now we’re back at the opening scene of the episode, with the agents scanning the crowd for Teager. Once he disappears, Mulder tells Scully that he thinks Teager can only hide himself in someone’s direct line of sight. They go to meet up with Skinner and Bloch, and Mulder figures out that Teager’s waiting in Bloch’s car.

There’s some gunfire, but an agent is able to shoot the invisible Teager and stop him from driving off. Teager’s vanishing trick is the next thing to vanish, and he appears to everyone as he’s dying. He recites his date of birth and service number to Scully over and over. There’s a close-up of an American flag, in case we’ve already forgotten that this is our country’s fault, or whatever.

Sometime later, Mulder and Skinner meet up at the Veterans Memorial, where Mulder brings the news that officials won’t admit that Teager was Teager. They claim he’s Thomas Lynch, a member of the Right Hand who spent time in psychiatric facilities. Markham is backing up that story. Mulder complains that the government is lying again, “trying to make him invisible.” Okay, we get it. Really.

Mulder wants to try to get Teager’s body released, but Skinner tells him the investigation has been sent to another agency. They found Teager, and now he’s dead, so their job is done. Mulder’s upset that the government denied Teager’s life, and now they’re denying his death. He points out that Skinner could have suffered the same fate. After Mulder leaves, Skinner studies the wall, finding Teager’s name.

Thoughts: It’s funny to watch an episode about the U.S. military full of actors with Canadian accents.

Teager must have also learned a trick to make himself look younger, because he doesn’t look old enough to have served in a war that occurred 20 years before the episode aired.

No way would Scully pull a weapon on someone standing with a bunch of civilians, especially when she didn’t see him holding a weapon. Nice try, show.

January 31, 2017

SVT #80, The Gossip War: Are You Now or Have You Ever Been a Member of the Unicorn Club?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 5:04 pm by Jenn

No, I don't know why Ellen's using a pay phone

No, I don’t know why Ellen’s using a pay phone

Summary: Janet’s birthday is coming up, and for the Unicorns, that’s basically on the same level as a national holiday. Ellen is determined to throw her birthday party and organize the planning and purchasing of her gift. Jessica’s mad because she wants that honor (not to mention the awesome hostess gift Janet will give her in return), but since Steven has been hogging the phone so much to talk to Cathy, it’s hard for her to call the other Unicorns or be let in on their plans. Ellen thinks they should get Janet a gift certificate for a psychic reading. Janet, Betsy, and Kimberly have recently become beatniks, so the girls’ usual ideas for gifts for Janet are things she’s no longer interested in.

Ellen gets right to the party planning by calling a bunch of the Unicorns and asking them to support her plan to have the party at her house. She’s very invested in this and works on it harder than probably anything else she’s ever worked on. Jessica tries to stage a coup and get the Unicorns to agree to have the party at her house instead, but even the Wakefields’ pool doesn’t sway them.

Jess sees an ad for three-way calling and gets excited about the possibility of having mini-conference calls with her friends. Ned won’t pay for it, so Jess recruits Elizabeth to help her stage a chaotic situation that would be eased with three-way calling. The girls are working on group projects for history, and they make Ned keep calling the houses where they’re working so he can arrange their rides home. After very little work, Ned cracks and gets the three-way calling. I don’t know why Jessica doesn’t ask for her own phone line instead. Then she wouldn’t have to deal with Steven hogging the phone all the time.

Ellen scores another win when Janet asks her to host and run a Unicorn meeting she can’t attend. I’m surprised they have meetings when Janet can’t come. Janet strikes me as the type who doesn’t want people hanging out without her. Jessica has to miss the meeting as well, which thrills Ellen, since they’re going to vote on where Janet’s party will be held. The meeting doesn’t go great, not least because Ellen’s father crashes it, wearing a hat with an octopus on it, and embarrasses his daughter. But the Unicorns vote to have the party at Ellen’s, so she’s happy.

Mandy calls Jessica that night to tell her about the vote. She admits that she wanted to have the party at the Wakefields’, since Ellen’s father will be grilling at Janet’s party, and he’s not great with barbecuing. The last time he did, Mandy almost choked on a dry hot dog. Since the three-way calling is up and running, Jess brings Ellen into the conversation to find out what to bring to the party. Ellen’s suddenly become disorganized again and can’t remember what Jess was supposed to be in charge of. The two of them fight and Mandy hangs up, not wanting to deal with their drama.

Jessica calls Lila, and once she’s clarified things, Jess hangs up on Ellen and complains to Lila about how annoying Ellen is, and how Mr. Riteman almost gave Mandy food poisoning. Except she’s still getting the hang of three-way calling and doesn’t hang up on Ellen properly, so Ellen hears her. Lila hangs up for real, so Jess and Ellen can fight in peace, but they easily make up. Lila doesn’t know this, though, and she tells Belinda about Jessica’s accusation about Mr. Riteman. The two of them wonder if they should still have Janet’s party at Ellen’s house.

Belinda then tells Grace that Mandy had food poisoning, and Grace tells Tamara that Ellen’s father poisoned Mandy. The whole thing turns into a big game of Telephone, with Mandy’s condition slowly growing worse. Kimberly mentions her aunt, a teacher, having food poisoning once, and Betsy misunderstands and tells Mary that Mr. Riteman poisoned a teacher. The tale gets back to Belinda, who now thinks Mr. Riteman poisoned both Mandy and the teacher. They tell Lila that Mr. Riteman was in jail for attempted murder.

Jessica’s oblivious to the whole thing until Kimberly and Betsy tell her. She realizes the rumor stems from her fight with Ellen, and she confronts Lila, who says she only told one person about it. Jess is ready to set the record straight when the other Unicorns decide to revote on the location of Janet’s party. They want it at the Wakefields’ instead. Jess thinks this is more important than clearing up a rumor, so she doesn’t say anything. Kimberly gives Ellen the news that the party is no longer at her house because of what her father did. Ellen thinks she means wearing the dorky octopus hat.

Janet’s the first person to mention to Ellen that everyone thinks her father’s a murderer (the rumor has now expanded so that Mr. Riteman is a serial killer). Ellen’s shocked at the accusation; her father has never even gotten a speeding ticket. She even calls her dad to get him to tell Janet that he’s not a killer. Janet realizes that someone has started a vicious rumor about Ellen, and she’s determined to get to the bottom of it.

The school projects the kids have been working on are about the Cold War era, and Elizabeth has been teamed with Lila and not-yet-dead Olivia. They get the idea to talk to Mrs. Harrington about her experiences in Hollywood during blacklisting. Liz realizes how much damage was done to people’s careers simply because others spread rumors about them. Jessica’s like, “Yeah, I get it, I get it.”

Janet believes that Mandy started the rumor about Mr. Riteman, so she kicks her out of the Unicorns. Poor Mandy. She just wanted an edible hot dog, that’s all! Grace, Mary, and Belinda are appalled at Janet’s actions and side with Mandy. The other Unicorns shun Mandy for being a traitor. Jessica tries to make peace between the two groups, but each side accuses her of being a spy for the other.

Elizabeth helps Jessica come up with a plan to work everything out. No, it doesn’t involve just confessing that she accidentally started a rumor. They use three-way calling to let Lila overhear Elizabeth telling Olivia that Johnny Buck is going to make a surprise appearance at Janet’s party. Then Jess has Mandy overhear the same thing. The rumor spreads through both groups, picking up more and more exaggerations as it moves. Eventually one side thinks Johnny Buck is going to play Janet a special song at the party, and the other thinks he’s moving to Sweet Valley.

Everyone shows up to the party excited for Johnny Buck but trying to act like they don’t know he’s coming, since it’s supposed to be a surprise. Jessica breaks the news that it was all a rumor they let get out of control. Everyone realizes how ridiculous they’ve been, and they all make up. (I guess Mandy’s let back in the club, too.) Jessica actually feels bad for Ellen and gives her Janet’s hostess gift, which is a book of poems neither of them wants anyway. Lila uses the experience in her, Liz, and Olivia’s presentation on McCarthyism and how rumors can ruin lives. I’m sure these girls will never gossip again…

There’s also a pointless not-even-good-enough-to-be-considered-a-B-plot where Alice has a difficult client. No one cares.

Thoughts: Ellen is more pathetic than she usually comes across. She’s desperate to be liked and prove her worth. I’d feel sorrier for her if she weren’t so annoying.

All of the Unicorns decided to wear gold and white to school one day (in honor of Johnny Buck’s new album, Gold Heart), but Jessica didn’t get the message. She wore purple as usual, so the other girls made her sit at the end of their lunch table “so she wouldn’t wreck the color scheme.” That is some Mean Girls craziness right there.

Janet: “When you think of the ocean, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?” Jessica: “Um, food?” Janet: “Food.” Jessica: “Yeah, everything makes me think of food.” I guess Jess and I aren’t so different after all.

The SVMS spring musical CANNOT be Hair. There’s no freaking way.

Ellen’s father is peak embarrassing dad and I love him.

January 28, 2017

The X-Files 4.15, Kaddish: The Emet Is Out There

Posted in TV tagged at 1:36 pm by Jenn

This is beautiful

This is beautiful

Summary: A Hasidic funeral is taking place at Ben Zion Cemetery in Brooklyn. As dirt is thrown on the coffin, a woman flashes on the last moments of the deceased, who it appears was shot during a convenience-store robbery. The woman puts dirt on the coffin, then lets an older man lead her away. There’s a thunderstorm that night, and someone uses mud in the cemetery to shape a man’s body. After the sculptor leaves, the mud body begins to breathe.

The dead man was Isaac Luria, as Scully tells Mulder. He was from Williamsburg, where a number of hate crimes have been committed against Jewish people. He was, indeed, killed in his store, and his murder was captured on surveillance cameras. However, the killer hasn’t been arrested…because he’s also dead. He was strangled while watching the footage of his crime. The fingerprints pulled from the killer’s body belong to Isaac.

Mulder, amused, wonders if they’re dealing with a zombie. Scully thinks this is a case of revenge “disguised as spectral justice.” Mulder clarifies that she means a “resurrection hoax.” Their job is the find out how the killer’s killer got Isaac’s fingerprints. The agents go to see Isaac’s widow, Ariel (the woman from the funeral), who’s with her father, Jacob (the older man who was with her in the cemetery). Jacob’s upset that the agents are interrupting their shiva to ask if they can look for evidence in Isaac’s grave.

Scully shows Ariel a picture of one of the killer, Tony, and tells her that there are two accomplices still at large. Ariel is surprised to see how young Tony is. Jacob’s furious that the police didn’t do anything when Isaac said he was in danger. Mulder asks if there was a specific threat against him. “The threat is always there,” Jacob replies. He shows Mulder a pamphlet slid under his door about how Jews are responsible for AIDS. He’s happy that someone took out the killer.

Scully points out that they’re investigating a homicide, so Jacob and Ariel have to cooperate. If they don’t, the agents can get a court order and go around them. Ariel tells them to do whatever they need, then leave her and her father in peace. In their car, Scully tells Mulder that she thinks Jacob knows who killed Tony, and he’s afraid they’ll figure it out if they dig up Isaac’s grave.

Mulder thinks it’s natural that Jacob would want to protect Tony’s killer, considering it justice after all the hatred he and his people have experienced. Scully notes that there’s a difference between justice and revenge. Mulder thinks the publisher of the pamphlet knows Tony’s accomplices and probably also knows who killed Tony. They head off on their next task as someone covered in mud watches Ariel’s apartment building.

The agents chat with the pamphlet publisher, Brunjes, who’s anti-Semitic and claims not to be familiar with the accomplices, Derek and Clinton. Mulder shows him the pamphlet, saying it could have encouraged the boys to kill Isaac. Brunjes accuses Mulder of working with “them,” remarking that Mulder looks like he could be one himself. (I wonder how David Duchovny liked that line, since he’s Jewish.) Brunjes insists that he’s not a “Zionist collaborator.”

Scully tries to impress upon Brunjes that Derek and Clinton could be in danger. In reality, Derek is currently in a backroom, watching the conversation on a surveillance monitor. He hears Scully say that there’s now a rumor that Isaac came back from the dead to get revenge. “What kind of Jew trick is this?” Brunjes asks. “A Jew pulled it off 2,000 years ago,” Mulder replies. (NICE!) Scully tells Brunjes to keep them in mind if he thinks of anything that will help them protect Derek and Clinton. “Bless you,” Mulder says to him as they leave.

Brunjes goes to the backroom to check on Derek, but he and Clinton are now at the cemetery, digging up Isaac’s grave as the muddy person watches. The coffin is nailed shut, and when Clinton goes to the car to get tools, he’s attacked. Derek uses his shovel to break into the coffin, which still contains Isaac’s body. He realizes Clinton has gone quiet, then sees his friend’s body nearby.

Like Tony, Clinton was strangled, and two sets of footprints have been found at the crime scene. Scully thinks Clinton and Derek came to desecrate Isaac’s corpse as revenge for Tony’s death. Mulder thinks they were afraid that Isaac was still alive. There are marks on Isaac’s body, but Scully can’t tell what they’re from. Mulder pulls a book from the coffin, and it immediately bursts into flames.

Derek goes to see Brunjes, who he blames for the idea of killing Isaac. Brunjes says they’re just spreading the truth about Jews, not actually killing them. Derek tells him that Clinton’s dead now, too, and he wants the money Brunjes owes him for his work.

Mulder and Scully take the remains of the book to a…book historian…guy, who tells them it’s the Book of Creation, a book about communion with the divine. He’s not familiar with the idea of a copy spontaneously combusting – it’s a book about mysticism, but that doesn’t mean it has mystical properties. Scully has a scientific explanation for the burning anyway (of course). The historian sees that a name was engraved on the cover, Jacob Weiss.

So the agents go back to Ariel and tell her that Clinton was killed right by Isaac’s grave. They have evidence placing Ariel’s father at the scene of the murder. If Ariel knows anything, she needs to help them stop it. She tells them that she and Isaac weren’t officially married yet; they had their wedding license, and the wedding itself was supposed to take place today.

She shows them their communal wedding ring made by a jeweler her father apprenticed for as a child in Prague. Her father survived the Holocaust because he was young and had small enough fingers to make bullets. He hit the ring for decades, even from his wife, because “it was a dead relic from a forgotten place.” When Ariel announced that she was getting married, Jacob “felt his village was born again.” Scully asks where Jacob is, but Ariel is certain that he would never kill anyone.

The agents want to talk to him anyway, so they go to Jacob’s synagogue. The rabbi stops the prayers and talks to the agents, giving Jacob a chance to slip away. The agents follow him to the attic, where they find a hanged body. Something (or someone) knocks them both down, but they’re finally able to nab Jacob. Someone with a muddy hand (and something written on it) is watching.

Ariel meets them at the police station and demands to talk to her father. Mulder questions Jacob, who says he was just checking out a noise in the attic, suspicious of vandals. He was attacked and fought back in self-defense. He doesn’t consider it strange that his method of defending himself was to hang his attacker. Mulder warns that his book was found in Isaac’s grave, which means he can be placed at two crime scenes. Mulder thinks there was someone else in the attic, but Jacob won’t say anything more.

Scully shares with Mulder the results of a background check on Jacob, who was once arrested for a bombing that killed seven innocent people. Since he basically confessed to the murder in the attic, Scully thinks the case is closed. Mulder disagrees, still sure there was someone else in the attic with them. Ariel asks why her father confessed, and he tells her they found his book in Isaac’s grave. Ariel finds that hard to believe.

Brunjes is printing out more pamphlets when he’s strangled by a muddy hand. Peace out, bigot. Meanwhile, Mulder goes back to the historian to ask questions about the myth of the golem. The historian explains the old belief that a man could be created out of mud or clay, using “the power of the word,” secret combinations of letters. There are actual instructions in the Book of Creation for “animating the inanimate.”

Whoever creates a golem writes the word emet on his hand, “truth.” A golem is a body without a soul, basically a monster that goes wild and has to be destroyed by the person who created it. This is accomplished by erasing the first letter of the word so that emet becomes met, “dead.” The historian notes that this demonstrates how powerful words can be – they both create and kill.

Scully calls (“Mulder, it’s me”) to tell her partner that Brunjes is dead. They meet at his shop and see his latest pamphlet, which talks about ridding the country of the “scourge” of Jews. Scully looks at a list of people who receive Brunjes’ mailings, including Tony, Derek, and Clinton. Surveillance footage shows Brunjes’ killer, who looks like Isaac. Mulder, however, has figured out the emet, if you will.

The agents confirm that the corpse in Isaac’s grave is Isaac’s, so he couldn’t have killed Brunjes. Mulder explains the idea of the golem to Scully, who has a hard time grasping that someone made a killer out of mud. Mulder, however, thinks the golem was created out of love, not hatred. They go to see Ariel, but she and her ring are both gone.

Jacob (who was…let out of jail? I guess?) finds Ariel at the synagogue, preparing for her wedding. He’s figured out that she made a golem in hopes of holding on to her husband. He reminds her that it’s not a real person, but an “abomination.” Ariel tells her father about the last conversation she had with Isaac, and how she knew right away something had happened even before she got the call telling her he was dead. She just wanted the chance to say goodbye to her fiancé.

Ariel says she just wished for Isaac to come back – “they were just words.” But now we know that words have the power to create beings. Jacob hears a noise and goes to intercept the golem as the agents arrive at the synagogue. They find him hanging from the ceiling but are able to cut him down before he’s strangled. Mulder goes looking for Ariel, but she doesn’t want to leave without the Isaac golem. Mulder has to shoot him so he won’t run off and harm anyone else.

The golem attacks Mulder, but Ariel stops him, offering him their ring. She recites her vows and the golem places the ring on her finger. She rubs the first letter of emet off of his hand and tells him she loves him. The golem disintegrates, and Ariel says a final prayer and goodbye to her fiancé.

Thoughts: I can’t believe this episode came up right after Holocaust Remembrance Day, and in the midst of the trash-fire hellscape that is the United States in 2017.

Jacob is played by David Groh, who’s probably best known as Joe on Rhoda. …Which was a spin-off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Mary Tyler Moore just died. THIS IS FREAKY.

For more fun with golems, watch the awesomely named Supernatural episode “Everybody Hates Hitler.” Also check out the sequel, “The One You’ve Been Waiting For,” in which Dean kills Hitler.

January 24, 2017

SVT Super Chiller #6, The Curse of the Golden Heart: Half-Hearted

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:20 pm by Jenn

This isn't in any way, shape, or form what happened, but okay

This isn’t in any way, shape, or form what happened, but okay

Summary: Once again, it’s spring break in Sweet Valley, so the twins, Steven, and a couple friends are spending time at the beach. The twins decide to go snorkeling, and Jessica suggests that they explore a part of the beach they’re supposed to stay away from. Elizabeth comes across what looks like a shipwreck and takes a couple of keepsakes from the bottom of the ocean. Back on land, they run into a man who’s staring out at the water and generally being a little creepy.

The twins want to keep up their ocean exploration, so they decide to take scuba lessons. They find a teacher and get Steven, Joe, Amy, Lila, and Janet interested in his class. The teacher happens to be the man the twins saw on the beach, Joshua Farrell. He’s Scottish and talks like a stereotypical Scotsman (“aye,” “lass,” etc.). Some of the kids who signed up for lessons are unsure about hanging out with Joshua, but Steven thinks his experience will give them a better…well, experience.

Liz throws away something she got from the ocean, unable to tell what it is, since it’s covered in barnacles. The next day, the twins get chain letters talking about a curse from someone named Carlotta. If they don’t forward letters to six people, they’ll be punished for taking half of something that’s not theirs. Any reader over the age of five can figure out what that means, but Liz doesn’t put 2 and 2 together that the thing she took from the ocean and then threw away is the “half of something.” Jess quickly writes the letters, but Elizabeth dismisses the threat of a “curse.”

Lila receives one of Jessica’s letters, but she can’t forward her own because her dad’s secretary is out of town, and she does all of Lila’s correspondence for her. Lila doesn’t even write her own thank-you notes. So Elizabeth and Lila are both facing a curse. Liz is rewarded with a nightmare about being on a pirate ship during a storm. Two men swordfight, and she realizes one of them looks like Joshua.

The kids head to the beach to meet Joshua for their first scuba lesson. At first they can’t find him, and Liz gets spooked by an empty wetsuit that seems to be moving on its own. But the lesson starts and everything goes fine, except for Lila, who loses a watch. Her day gets worse as she falls down the stairs at home, rips her robe, and breaks a nail. She figures she’s suffering from the curse and needs to get her letters written right away. She uses her father’s computer without his permission, but she’s so unfamiliar with modern (well, modern in the ’90s) technology that she basically breaks it.

At the next scuba lesson, it’s Elizabeth’s turn to have a bad day. When she looks at Joshua underwater, it seems like there’s no face behind his diving mask. Liz is so stunned that she passes out and almost drowns. Everyone tells Liz (very nicely) that she doesn’t have to continue the lessons if she doesn’t want to, and no one will think any less of her. Liz, to her credit, wants to keep going with them.

Lila’s still having a rough week, as she accidentally emailed her chain letter to everyone at her father’s company. I’m impressed that they all have email. On the bright side, she’s sent more than her requisite six letters, so she’s no longer in danger of being cursed. Liz, however, still is. She has another dream about the ship, this time featuring Joshua’s swordfighting opponent, a man with a red beard. He seems to be in love with a woman on the ship. Joshua’s supposed to be manning a post on deck, but he leaves it.

A scorpion winds up in Elizabeth’s lunch bag one day, so everyone thinks she’s cursed. She still won’t write the letters, because she’s Elizabeth. One of Lila’s letters was received by a man named John Filber, who tracks down the twins (totally not cool, guy), having gotten their address from the Fowlers’ cook (TOTALLY not cool, cook). He wants them to come to the beach with him so he can show them something. Surprisingly, Jessica’s the one who immediately says no, but the twins do agree to meet him there the next day.

John shows them something shiny caught in some coral under a pier, and tells them his father brought him to see it as a child. He was warned to never touch it or he’d be a victim of Carlotta’s curse. He’s had dreams just like the ones Liz has been having, where he’s on a sinking ship and sees a couple being separated. Okay, fine, but why are you getting 12-year-olds involved in your problems?

The scuba students have a cookout on the beach, and Joshua tells them a story about a pirate named Red Beard. He was in love with a woman named Carlotta, and they were going to travel to America together. Her uncle, a governor, gave them a gold heart-shaped locket, and they split it in half. Their ship wrecked, thanks to the bosun, who left his post to look for a treasure map Red Beard supposedly had. Joshua tells the kids that the bosun’s ghost is restless because he’s never been able to find the pieces of the heart and get the couple back together.

Elizabeth finally realizes that she might have half of the locket, but she can’t find it. She gets another chain letter, which offers her a reward. She just has to deposit $100,000 in a bank account so Carlotta can pay for her child’s medical treatments. It’s totally not a scam at all. Steven finds the thing Liz threw away, and yes, of course, it’s half of the locket. It has part of a treasure map on the back, which means the bosun wouldn’t have found it in Red Beard’s quarters, and he caused a shipwreck for nothing.

The twins and Steven figure out that the thing Filber showed them at the pier has to be the other half of the heart. Before they go confirm this, Liz does some library research and finds out that the bosun was…dun dun DUN…Joshua. That’s right, the kids have been taking scuba lessons from a ghost. She thinks Filber is one of his descendants. Liz soon has another dream, this one of Carlotta confirming that the bosun is still around – in fact, he sent the chain letter. Liz knows she needs to get the other half of the heart and put the pieces together to end the curse.

Steven accompanies the twins back to the beach, and they get the second half of the heart. Then Filber shows up, demanding the pieces so he can follow the treasure map. Liz puts the pieces together to end the curse, then hands the reunited locket over to Filber, not wanting to put herself or her siblings in danger over a piece of jewelry. Then, awesomely, Filber drops the locket in the water as he’s running off. Joshua’s watching from nearby, and Elizabeth sees him disappear. Way to get a 12-year-old to do all the work so you can be at peace, dude.

Elizabeth tells Jessica and Steven that Joshua was the bosun, and he sent the chain letter so Elizabeth would get the second half of the heart. Since they believe in curses but not ghosts, Jess and Steven decide that Elizabeth was behind the whole thing and doesn’t want to admit that she sent the letters. Liz just lets it go. That night, she dreams of Red Beard and Carlotta being reunited. Aww, some dead people got a happy ending. How sweet.

Thoughts: The story of Carlotta is supposed to be well-known, but none of the kids has heard it. And how has no one ever noticed the remains of the ship or searched them?

Why would Lila’s driver take the girls to a bus stop so they can catch a bus to the beach? He can’t just drive them to the beach? Because – and I know I’ve said this before – no way would Lila take public transportation if she didn’t have to.

The librarian at Sweet Valley’s public library is probably the only person in town who can tell the twins apart without thinking about it. Jessica’s probably never even been there.

Sweet Valley has no benches downtown. What’s up with that, S.V.?

Of course Elizabeth took a calligraphy course last summer. That’s one of the least surprising things I’ve ever read.

January 21, 2017

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

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

I love this

I love this

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts: Gillian Anderson won an Emmy for this episode.

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

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

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

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