August 30, 2015
The X-Files 1.12, Fire: Sideshow Cecil
Summary: In Bosham, England – 70 miles from London – a dignified man kisses his wife goodbye, then greats his gardeners. One, Cecil, glares at him. The man, Charles, suddenly catches on fire. Everyone else around jumps to help him, but Cecil just watches his boss burn. In D.C., Mulder and Scully leave a courthouse, surprised to find his car unlocked. “I’m sure I locked it,” he says. “Must be an X-file,” she teases. They find a cassette tape on the dashboard, which explains the unlocked doors.
They play the tape, hearing a woman’s voice telling them about a British Minister of Parliament who received a similar tape six months earlier. When he played it, he armed a device that rigged the car to explode. If only he hadn’t opened the door to try to escape. As Mulder and Scully start to panic, a woman opens the door and taunts Mulder. He tells Scully she’s an old friend. The woman kisses Mulder, so I don’t think “old friend” is the right term.
The woman, Phoebe Green, wants the agents to look into a killer who’s burning his victims alive. Mulder immediately suspects the IRA. Phoebe says that the killer sends love letters to his victims’ wives. He seems to be targeting Sir Malcolm Marsden, and Phoebe would like the FBI’s help. As she leaves, Phoebe addresses Scully for the first time. Scully’s interested to know how close Mulder and Phoebe were in the past. He says that they knew each other in school, and when they got close, he paid the price. “You keep unfolding like a flower,” Scully comments.
Mulder and Phoebe present the case to see an agent named Beatty, who specializes in fire-related cases. He suspects spontaneous combustion. Phoebe tells him that no accelerants or ignition devices have been found. Beatty mentions some arson cases similar to these; rocket fuel may have been involved. Mulder would like to talk about pyrokenetics, but Beatty says that fire usually has a mind of its own.
Marsden’s family is hiding out in Cape Cod, but Cecil’s there, too, so that’s not going to go well. Also, Cecil smokes, so of course he’s a bad guy. Now, though, he’s going by the name Bob and passing himself off as the caretaker. Marsden and his wife are surprised to see a portrait on the staircase of a woman who looks like her. Outside, Cecil is mean to the family’s dog, which has started to dig up the body of the real caretaker.
Mulder tells Scully that he’s dismissing her from the case so she doesn’t have to deal with Phoebe. He admits that he has a fire phobia, stemming from having to spend the night in the rubble of a friend’s burned-down house. He and Scully both know that Phoebe’s using this case to mess with him. But he’s willing to face his demons now.
In Cape Cod, Mrs. Marsden makes tea while Cecil spies on her creepily (okay, “creepily” was a given). He chats with the family’s driver, offering to buy him cough syrup on a trip to town. While in town, Cecil goes to a bar and impresses a woman by using his finger as a lighter. Then he lets his arm catch fire and burns down the bar. Dude, that’s no way to get a date.
Mulder and Phoebe go to the hospital, talking about the as-yet-undiscovered customer who caught fire and burned down the bar. They’re at the hospital to visit the woman Cecil was talking to. She’s not very helpful, partly because she doesn’t want her live-in boyfriend to know she was at a bar. Phoebe tries to compliment Mulder’s interviewing skills, but he’s not in the mood for her niceties. She’s upset that he hasn’t forgiven her after ten years (sounds like she cheated on him).
After giving the woman from the bar a little time to think, Mulder asks if she’ll give them some information. All she remembers is that Cecil had an English accent. While the driver struggles with his worsening cough – probably made worse by whatever Cecil gave him in the guise of cough syrup – Scully types up a profile of the killer. She thinks his behavior is compensating for poor social skills.
Cecil shows Marsden’s sons a “magic trick,” making a cigarette disappear and reappear. Scully goes back to Beatty, wondering if the killer could have put rocket fuel into another substance, such as hand cream, to disguise it as an accelerant. Beatty says that even a small amount of rocket fuel would cause temperatures of thousands of degrees, and would still need to be ignited.
Cecil tries (but fails, fortunately) to get Marsden’s sons to smoke. As the family’s driver is sick, Mrs. Marsden asks Cecil to take over his job temporarily. Scully’s profile describes an arsonist who’s obsessed with someone he can’t have. The fires are his way of acting out cowardice or inability to develop a normal relationship. Scully thinks the killer has followed Marsden to the U.S., so she’s checking immigration records.
Mulder tells Phoebe that he feels like the killer is sending a message that he’s “more exotic” than most arsonists. Mulder thinks Marsden should bring in more bodyguards. Phoebe suggests that they cancel their appearance at the party Cecil will be driving them to. Mulder thinks they should use the event as a trap instead. Phoebe tells him that she’s booked a room for him at a hotel, in case he wants to hook up. I mean spend the night! Spend the night! Not necessarily with her, of course.
Scully calls Mulder to pass on information about her profiled suspect, but he’s not interested in her bringing it to Boston in person. He and Phoebe head to the Marsdens’ party, admiring each other in their formalwear. Later, Phoebe flirts her way into a dance with Mulder. Scully arrives a moment later and rolls her eyes. She also notices Cecil watching. Mulder and Phoebe kiss and Scully rolls her eyes again. Fortunately, she has a good excuse to interrupt them: There’s a fire upstairs, where the kids are.
Mulder runs up to face his demons and save the Marsdens’ children. He does neither, instead almost passing out from smoke inhalation and having to be rescued by firefighters. Cecil pulls the kids out and is hailed as a hero. At least Mulder has Scully to tend to him, since Phoebe doesn’t seem to care. Scully takes her partner back to his hotel, where he laments that he panicked and froze when he tried to get to the kids.
Scully’s suspicious of Cecil, but Phoebe arrives to report that he has a clean record. He was supposedly with the kids the whole time. Scully’s surprised to hear that, since she thought she saw him downstairs. Phoebe announces that the Marsdens are returning to England in a few days, and she’ll be heading across the pond, too. So much for a possible Mulder/Phoebe hookup.
Scully tells Mulder that she still suspects Cecil, since he worked as a gardener for two of the murder victims. He was questioned and released by Scotland Yard, but Scully discovered that he actually died in a fire in 1971. Another man with a similar name died in a ritual cult sacrifice in the 1960s. Most recently, Cecil’s name came up on a list of recent immigrants – he arrived in the States two weeks ago. While Mulder runs after Phoebe to warn her, Scully gets a composite sketch and realizes that Cecil is “Bob.”
The Marsdens rush to leave Cape Cod, amusing Cecil. Scully heads to the house, where Mulder, who’s found an accelerant in the garage, tells her that the driver has disappeared. When Scully shows the Marsdens the composite sketch, they tell her the killer isn’t the driver, it’s the caretaker, “Bob” – and he’s upstairs with the children. The agents go looking for the kids but only find the missing driver, who’s been burned beyond recognition. There’s a bottle of cough syrup nearby.
The other adults alert Mulder to a fire in the bedroom, and they stand around like morons while Mulder tries to put it out. But hey, at least he got to face his demons. He thinks the whole house has been rigged to go up. Everyone runs outside, and Mulder goes to look for the kids. He runs into Cecil, who lights a hallway on fire with a snap of his fingers.
Mulder’s trapped by flames as Cecil saunters downstairs, encountering Scully. He taunts that she won’t shoot him, since the spark from her gun firing will blow up the house. Good thing Phoebe’s there to throw accelerant on Cecil. Upstairs, Mulder musters up his courage and rescues the kids. Cecil sets himself ablaze, cackling that they can’t kills him – “you can’t fight fire with fire!” Uh…good one?
Back in D.C. sometime later, Scully asks after Phoebe, but Mulder hasn’t been in touch. She sent another tape, but Mulder isn’t curious enough to listen to this one. Scully writes her report, stating that Cecil is in the hospital, having his massive burns studied because he’s expected to make a full recovery thanks to rapid cell regeneration. Once he’s recovered, he’ll be tried for the death of the real caretaker. In his hyperbaric chamber, Cecil tells a nurse that he’s dying for a cigarette.
Thoughts: Cecil is played by Mark Sheppard, who Supernatural fans would know as Crowley. In this episode, he uses British, Irish, and American accents in this episode; shaves his beard; and wears a jean jacket. It’s supremely weird.
Who makes a kid spend the night in a burned-down houses to scare off looters? If that’s the kind of childhood the Mulders let their kids have, Samantha was the lucky one.
I assume that, when she was tending to Mulder after the fire, Scully found it a medical necessity to take his shirt off? I mean, I would never question her course of treatment. She’s a doctor, after all.