September 13, 2015
The X-Files 1.16, Young at Heart: Mulder vs. the One-Armed Man
Summary: At Tashmoo Federal Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania, it’s 1989. Ooh, we’ve gone back in time! How exciting! A man in a wheelchair in the infirmary hears screaming from down the hall and goes to investigate. He comes across a doctor operating on a prisoner named John Barnett. The doctor insists that Barnett, who’s recently had a hand amputated, is dead, so the other prisoner couldn’t have heard him screaming. Barnett certainly looks dead, at least until he blinks his eyes.
In present-day D.C., Mulder and Scully are called to a department store. They meet up with Agent Reggie Purdue, who explains that someone killed a saleswoman. The part of the crime that makes it an X-file is that Mulder and Purdue think the killer is Barnett. Mulder tells Scully that Barnett was his first case at the FBI. Mulder figured out that Barnett had an inside man at an armored car company helping him pull off robberies. Barnett found out that Mulder was on to him and started leaving him notes. Notes like the one left at this crime scene: “Fox can’t guard the chicken coop.”
Mulder continues that he screwed something up and an agent died. Barnett was sent to prison on multiple life sentences and was believed to have died four years ago. Mulder takes the note to an analyst, Henderson, who can confirm that the note was written in the past 48 hours. She can only be 95% sure that it matches Barnett’s handwriting. Meanwhile, Purdue shows Scully footage of Mulder’s capture of Barnett four years earlier. Mulder had the opportunity to kill Barnett but didn’t. As a result, Barnett shot and killed another agent. After Mulder testified, Barnett vowed revenge.
Scully and Mulder reconvene to take a look at Barnett’s death certificate. Scully wonders if Barnett planned something with another prisoner who’s now committing copycat crimes. She tells Mulder that she saw the footage of the arrest, and he did the right thing. Mulder disagreed – he’s the reason a fellow agent died.
Mulder then goes to watch the son of the dead agent play football, because why not make himself feel worse? When he returns to his car, there’s an envelope inside containing surveillance photos of him and Scully, and a note: “A hunted Fox eventually dies.” Mulder yells out that he’ll get Barnett. The football-game attendees are confused. One of them is totally Barnett, by the way.
Mulder takes the photos to Purdue, who of course insists that Barnett is dead. Mulder says he can just feel that Barnett’s still alive. Purdue’s always tried to ignore the talk about Mulder being weird, since he’s so good at his job. He warns that other agents see Mulder as an embarrassment and a liability. Mulder wonders if this means someone at the FBI is messing with him.
Scully arrives with a copy of Barnett’s will, which leaves all of his possessions to Crandall, the man in the wheelchair. He was also supposedly cremated. This makes Purdue even surer that someone’s messing with Mulder. Mulder thinks that killing a saleswoman is a pretty big move to make for someone who just wants to mess with him.
While someone works on an age-progression photo of Barnett, Mulder flashes back to testifying at Barnett’s trial. Barnett used his accomplice as a hostage, and though Mulder had the chance to shoot Barnett, he didn’t. He was afraid of hurting the hostage, and he thought they’d cornered the Barnett, leaving him no way to escape. Mulder announces that Barnett killed the FBI agent for spite, and Barnett deserves to die like an animal. “I’ll get you,” Barnett whispers, giving Mulder an air kiss.
In the present, Scully tells Mulder that the prison sent over Barnett’s medical records. He supposedly died from heart problems, but he was admitted to the infirmary with an infection in his hand. He was never diagnosed with heart issues. The agents head to the prison and chat with Crandall, who denies that he knew Barnett very well. He also denies that Barnett had heard problems. He reveals that he saw Barnett with his hand removed, and Crandall knew he wasn’t dead.
The agents return to D.C., where Mulder gets a call from Barnett. Barnett reveals that he’s in the area, and in fact stood next to Mulder in line for coffee that morning. “I own you,” Barnett taunts. Mulder asks for confirmation that he’s talking to the real Barnett, so Barnett gives him an air kiss. Mulder then calls Purdue to fill him in. He mentions that the note at the store was written by a right-hander, but Crandall says Barnett’s right hand was amputated. Actually, Barnett’s right hand is now around Purdue’s neck, killing him.
The agents head to Purdue’s place, where Mulder laments the loss of his friend. He wishes he’d shot Barnett when he had the chance. Barnett has left another note: “Funeral for Fox’s friends – then for Fox.” Henderson says the note was definitely written by a right-hander, and probably not someone using a prosthesis. She points out that Mulder hasn’t run any fingerprints, and it doesn’t look like the note-writer wore gloves.
Scully tells Mulder that Ridley, the doctor who operated on Barnett, doesn’t have a current medical license. In fact, his license was revoked because he was doing unauthorized experiments on children with progeria. Mulder and Scully visit the National Institutes of Health, where a doctor tells them about the disease. Most patients die of heart problems associated with old age. Ridley wanted to find a way to slow down the accelerated aging process, but his methods were dangerous. Now he’s disappeared, but may be experimenting in South America.
Scully argues that aging can’t be reversed, but Mulder says it’s not any crazier than anything else they’ve looked into. Barnett may be hiding himself in plain sight, as a younger person. He has Barnett’s age-progressed photo regressed. Scully types up a report about how Ridley worked to reverse aging at the genetic level. She hears a noise in her apartment but doesn’t seem worried that she could meet the same fate as Purdue.
When Scully does get appropriately concerned, she grabs her gun and looks around her apartment for any intruders. Before she can find anyone, Ridley shows up. Barnett retreats. Scully calls Mulder over, and Ridley tells the agents that he only has a month or so left to live. He’s dying of the same heart problems that kill progeria patients. Barnett’s healthy, except for his eyes, which didn’t respond to the gene therapy.
Ridley discovered strange properties in Barnett’s genes, which allowed him to regrow Barnett’s hand, though not a completely human one. Barnett appears to be part salamander now. Ridley ignored all the insults hurled at him because he knew he’d made a huge medical breakthrough. After Ridley’s medical license was revoked, sponsors emerged to fund his research – high-ranking sponsors.
Mulder meets with Deep Throat, who confirms Ridley’s claims. Barnett stole Ridley’s research, and the government is working on buying it from him. He wants a lot in return, and Mulder’s worried that he’ll get it. Deep Throat points out that the research “could change the course of mankind.” At Scully’s apartment, she hears someone dialing in to her answering machine to play her messages. She takes the machine to Mulder and tells him she thinks someone was in her apartment. She found one of Barnett’s fingerprints on the machine.
Just then, Barnett calls to warn Mulder that Ridley’s going to die soon, “like the rest of [Mulder’s] friends.” Then it’ll be Mulder’s turn. Mulder vows to stop him, but Barnett says they’re in the land of the free, so he’s free to kill people and get away with it. Mulder decides to use what Barnett knows of Scully’s movements from her message to set up an ambush. Scully will be the bait at a cello concert. What could possibly go wrong?
As a man with a salamander hand tunes a piano, Mulder and Scully exchange “everything’s cool, nothing bad will happen” glances in the lobby. They are dumb, because Barnett walks right by Mulder and focuses on Scully, firing a gun at her. Mulder has her taken from the lobby as he runs after Barnett, who takes the cellist hostage. So now Mulder’s facing a hostage situation with Barnett just like he did four years earlier.
Barnett taunts that Mulder can’t kill him because he has all of Ridley’s research. Barnett can shoot the cellist, and Mulder can’t do anything about it. Mulder lets him blather for a while before shooting him between the eyes. Meanwhile, Scully regains consciousness and looks at the bullet holes in her clothes. She’s fine, thanks to her bulletproof vest. Doctors tend to Barnett, who refuses to talk to the CIA agent asking for his help. Scully praises Mulder for doing the right thing.
Barnett flatlines, looking at Mulder as he dies. All of Ridley’s research is out in the world somewhere, and the agents have no way of knowing how to find it. As we get a close-up of a locker at a train station, Mulder says that he doesn’t think we’ve seen the last of Barnett.
Thoughts: Barnett: “It’s illegal to tape another’s phone call without their express permission.” It’s also illegal to kill people, so…call it even?
Mulder doesn’t look for fingerprints until halfway through the episode, and even then it’s only because Henderson mentions it. I can buy Mulder doing that, since he gets so focused that he forgets things like that, but Scully never noticed?
Okay, time for Scully to get an alarm system and a better lock for her door.