November 1, 2015

The X-Files 1.23, Roland: For an Episode About Rocket Science, This Is Pretty Dumb

Posted in TV tagged at 2:24 pm by Jenn

"...And so you see, I have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt why I need sunflower seeds to solve cases"

“…And so you see, I have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Donald Trump is an alien here to suck out our brains”

Summary: At Mahan Propulsion Laboratory at the Washington Institute of Technology in Colson, Washington, a janitor tries to access a lab. A man named Dr. Keats helps him, but the janitor, Roland, who appears to have some mental delays, is spooked by him.

In the lab, Keats comes across two men fighting about the testing of an engine. One of them, Dr. Surnow, doesn’t want to push for implementation just to get money. Roland enters to clean as Surnow goes into the next room to make adjustments to the engine. The door closes behind him, and Roland turns on the engine. He alters Surnow’s calculations as the engine sucks Surnow in. Roland then goes right back to cleaning.

Mulder meets with Scully, asking her about a wedding she attended before telling her about the project the scientists were working on. It’s called Icarus, and the scientists were attempting to increase the speed of engines while using less fuel. Surnow is the second scientist on the team to die in the past six months.

The agents talk to Keats, who found Surnow’s body that morning. He tells them that the lab can only be opened and closed via computer. Another scientist, Dr. Nollette, confirms that Arthur Grable, who was also on the Icarus project, died a few months earlier (but in a car accident). Scully wonders if the scientists are victims of industrial espionage.

Mulder sees the calculations on a whiteboard, noticing that the notes Roland made don’t match anyone else’s handwriting. Roland was the only other person present the night before, but Keats is sure he couldn’t have written the notes – he’s “not exactly a rocket scientist.” Ha…ha?

Over at a halfway house, Roland makes a picture for a woman named Tracy, putting star stickers on it. An employee, Mrs. Stodie, brings in the agents, who ask Roland some simple questions about the previous night. Roland says nothing strange happened. He puts more star stickers on a piece of paper with 15626 all over it. Scully notes that he must like stars, and he sees that she has them on her shirt.

As Mulder asks about the numbers, Roland has a flash of a frozen Keats being pulled out of something. He gets agitated and breaks the dish holding his stickers. He counts them as he picks them up. Mulder decides to steal the paper he’s written on. The agents have someone confirm that the writing from the whiteboard doesn’t match any of the scientists’ handwriting. Mulder gives the tech the sheet of numbers to see if it matches the handwriting.

Scully notes that Roland’s IQ is barely 70; there’s no way he could have written such a complex equation. Mulder points out that some people with autism have “unusual abilities.” Scully says that they can perform calculations but not understand them. The tech settles the matter: The writing doesn’t match.

At the halfway house, Roland awakens from a nightmare similar to the flash he had about Keats. At the lab, Keats works alone, listening to music. That means he doesn’t hear Roland sneaking up on him to hit him over the head and knock him out. Roland then takes Keats to a vat of liquid nitrogen and forces his head inside.

The next day, the agents have a new death to investigate. Scully tells Mulder a little about what liquid nitrogen does to the body, and how something (or someone) that’s been liquid nitrogened can then be smashed. Mulder checks out a computer and sees that the night before, Keats turned over a file that was then worked on by someone named Arthur. Mulder guesses that the password is 15626.

The file contains the equations the scientists were working on, and it looks like someone has been continuing Grable’s work after his death. Mulder shows Scully the paper Roland wrote 15626 all over. Meanwhile, Roland has a dream about a boy being driven away from another boy. When he wakes up, Mrs. Stodie notices that he slept in his clothes.

Mulder and Scully are back, but Roland tells Mrs. Stodie that he’s not supposed to talk to them. She encourages him not to be shy because the agents are nice. He tells Mulder that Grable helped him get hired. Roland continues that Grable died; sometimes people go away and they’re not supposed to talk about it. Meanwhile, Scully asks Mrs. Stodie for Roland’s files.

The agents reconvene at a library, where Mulder expresses uncertainty that Grable’s really dead. Maybe he faked his death to kill Keats, Surnow, and Nollette. Scully shows him a picture from the scene of Grable’s death, which shows pretty definitively that he didn’t survive. Mulder thinks he could have staged it.

The two read Grable and Roland’s files, which say they’re both from Seattle. There’s little information about Roland’s life before he was three, when he was sent to the halfway house. Scully realizes that Grable and Roland have the same birthday.

At the halfway house, Roland and Tracy talk about flying. She says she can fly in her dreams, then asks if he ever dreams. He doesn’t want to talk about it. Tracy asks who Arthur is. Roland has a flash of himself strangling Tracy, then pushes her aside and runs upstairs, locking himself in a bathroom. She tries to talk to him, but he yells that he doesn’t want to hurt her.

The agents visit Nollette, asking about a picture he took with some classmates at Harvard. They took a professor’s car apart and put it back together in his office, still running. Nollette credits Grable with the idea, saying he loved a good scheme. The agents wonder if faking his death and using Roland to help him get access to files falls into the category of something Grable would do.

Nollette objects to the idea that Grable’s alive, killed their team, and might now be eyeing Nollette. That’s because Grable’s head was recovered from the accident site and is being preserved in a lab. I mean, of course. A lab employee dismisses any significance of changes in temperature in the capsule, though Mulder’s suspicious.

Scully sees that Grable’s file has Roland listed as a possible organ and tissue donor. Mulder says that makes sense – he thinks they were twins. A computer tech uses the picture from Nollette’s office to determine that, minus a beard and lots of hair, Grable looked just like Roland.

Mulder returns to the halfway house and asks Roland about his dreams. Roland says he can’t talk about them, but they’re bad. Mulder assures Roland that he’s a good person, even though he hurt Tracy. Mulder wonders if his dreams cause his behavior. He notices a remote-controlled UFO toy and asks Roland to show him how to use it. Mulder says that just as Roland controls the toy, his dreams are controlling him. “Who runs the controls?” Roland wonders.

Mulder shows him a picture of Grable and asks if Roland has seen him recently. Roland flashes on the boys he saw in his dream, and hearing a woman telling one to say goodbye to Roland. Then he sees himself killing Surnow and attacking Tracy. He runs off, locking himself in the bathroom again. He flashes on a broken window, then breaks it himself to escape.

The agents head back to Mahan, unable to find Nollette. Scully points out that no one’s going to buy his theory that Roland’s capable of these murders. Mulder asks if Scully has brothers. She says he has two, one older and one younger. (Interesting that neither seemed to be at her father’s funeral. Though her sister wasn’t either, so never mind.)

Mulder asks if she’s ever thought about one of her brothers all day, only to have him call. “Does this pitch end with a way for me to somehow lower my long-distance charges?” Scully asks. Mulder thinks Roland and Grable have a psychic connection. Grable, who’s still conscience through his preservation, is using Roland to commit crimes, taking advantage of Roland’s inability to use his whole brain.

Scully doesn’t get Grable’s motivation. Mulder thinks Nollette can answer that question. Scully says they need go to so she can call her brother. Heh. Nollette, meanwhile, watches them on a security monitor, then goes to the lab where Grable’s head is being kept and raises the temperature on the capsule. Elsewhere, Roland writes equations with both hands at the same time.

The agents get information on Grable and Roland’s background, confirming that they’re identical wins. They wonder if their development as twins was the result of a damaged chromosome being rejected by one of Grable’s cells. Scully gets a call about a break-in and the temperature changes in Grable’s capsule.

At Mahan, Roland turns on the engine, flashing on the temperature of Grable’s capsule. As it rises, Roland finds it more difficult to keep working. The engine reaches a mach speed of 15. Nollette arrives, having figured out that Grable is controlling Roland’s body. Grable/Roland accuses Nollette of stealing his work. Nollette doesn’t see any problem with that, since Grable was dead.

Nollette’s pleased that mach 15 was reached; it means the future is guaranteed. Grable did the world, but Nollette gets the credit. He pulls a gun and does that thing that stupid villains do, outlining his plan to pretend Roland attacked him. He finishes the necessary work, but Roland grabs a keyboard and uses it to knock him out.

The agents head to Mahan as Grable/Roland prepares to kill Nollette the same way he killed Surnow. They try to get through to him and convince him to turn off the engine. Roland has memories of being separated from Grable, but struggles to remember how to turn off the engine. He finally does, and Nollette is spared. Meanwhile, Grable’s head flatlines. (Okay, that was a weird sentence.)

The agents go to the halfway house to tell Mrs. Stodie that Roland is in custody right now, but they’ll recommend that he be returned to her care. Mrs. Stodie doesn’t get how someone so nonviolent could commit such crimes. The agents just tell her that Roland was somehow able to finish Grable’s research. Roland returns home and packs up to leave. He gives Tracy his jar of stars, brushes his hair, looks at himself in the mirror, and leaves.

Thoughts: Roland is played by Željko Ivanek. Mrs. Stodie is played by Micole Mercurio, who was in one of my favorite movies, While You Were Sleeping.

WHY WOULD YOU CALL A PROJECT ICARUS? That’s just asking for disaster!

Hey, writers, thanks for an episode that contains actual rocket science. That was fun to recap.

So no one (and by “no one” I mean Scully) suspected that Grable just switched places with Roland, and that Roland was dead? And no one knew they were brothers? What’s the point of having a story about identical twins if you’re not going to take advantage of the fact that they look alike?

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