November 8, 2015
The X-Files 1.24, The Erlenmeyer Flask: Opening Pandora’s Box
Summary: A man leads police on a car chase that ends at a waterfront warehouse. The man gets out to run, fighting off the police with their own batons. One officer tases him, then shoots him, but that doesn’t slow him down. The man jumps in the water and disappears, leaving behind some sort of green liquid instead of blood.
It’s Sunday, May 8th, 1994, and Mulder’s awakened by a phone call from Deep Throat. He alerts Mulder to a news report about the car chase and the chasee’s disappearance in Ardis, Maryland. Mulder tapes the report and watches it over and over at FBI headquarters. Scully doesn’t get what he’s looking for. Mulder knows that Deep Throat wouldn’t tell him to watch the news unless there were something important there, though Scully notes that Deep Throat has lied before.
The agents go to the scene to ask about someone from the tape who doesn’t appear to be law enforcement (he doesn’t have a badge). A police officer questions their involvement, since the identity of the fugitive hasn’t been released. They head to an impound lot to check out the fugitive’s car, which was stolen from a rental lot in Gaithersburg. Mulder notices that the car in the lot isn’t the same as the one from the news, which has a caduceus on it. They may be dealing with a doctor.
The agents run the real car’s license plates, wondering why someone led them to the wrong car. The license plate takes them to Dr. Berube at Emgen Corporation in Gaithersburg. Berube’s surprised to learn that his car was ever missing, let alone used for a crime. Scully tries to greet a lab monkey but gets screamed at (both by the monkey and Berube). She decides they don’t have enough to go on, so they should stop working off of anything Deep Throat leads them to. He’s probably just messing with Mulder.
Mulder heads home, but Deep Throat’s waiting there for him, urging him to keep working. Mulder’s on Scully’s side now, announcing that he’s done following Deep Throat’s false leads. Deep Throat says Mulder has become dependent on him, but Mulder thinks it’s the other way around. “You’ve never been closer,” Deep Throat tells him.
At Emgen, the badgeless man visits Berube to ask who he’s been in contact with recently. The man asks about Dr. Secare, but Berube claims not to know who he’s talking about. The man decides to put an end to Berube’s work…and Berube. Meanwhile, the search for the fugitive ends when the rescue crew decides they’re not going to find him. The man is still in the water, and still alive.
The next day, Mulder and Scully are called to Amgen, where Berube’s death has been labeled a suicide. Mulder’s suspicious, of course. Scully reads that Berube was mapping human genes, which makes Mulder even more suspicious. He picks up a flask labeled “purity control” and asks Scully to find out what it contains. Scully hopes it’s not monkey pee.
Mulder goes to Berube’s house, and when no one answers the door, he goes through a window. Scully has the flask tested and learns that it contains a weird type of bacteria. In Berube’s home office, Mulder finds a phone bill showing that Berube made a call to the same person in Ardis every day. He also finds a set of keys that he pockets. As the badgeless man pulls up to the house, preparing to shoot Mulder, Mulder intercepts a phone call meant for Berube. It’s the fugitive, and he needs medical attention from Berube.
Mulder tries to get the fugitive’s location, but a passerby hangs up the phone to call an ambulance. Seconds later, Mulder gets a call from a tech telling him that the number Berube called is for Zeus Storage at 1616 Pandora Street. The fugitive is taken away in an ambulance, but when a paramedic inserts a needle in his chest to release air, something toxic is released instead. The ambulance driver pulls over and the fugitive jumps out.
Mulder lets Scully know that the fugitive is still alive, but his location is unknown. Scully tells him that the bacteria in the flask contain a virus, and it looks like Berube was cloning them. The cells are from a plant, and Scully thinks they were being prepared to be injected in someone. The bacteria date back to a time before humans even existed. At Zeus Storage, Mulder finds a bunch of tanks containing what appear to be humans, or at least creatures that look human.
Scully learns that the bacteria contain base pairs, genes containing nucleotides. There are four building blocks that make up every living thing, but these bacteria have a new base pair. There are fifth and sixth nucleotides that don’t exist anywhere else in nature. In other words, they’re extraterrestrial. Men approach Mulder outside Zeus Storage, so he runs through some alleys to escape them. Scully calls him at home and he tells her to come to Zeus.
When the agents meet up, Scully announces that she was wrong, and Mulder was right to keep investigating. She should know by now that she should trust his instincts. “Why? Nobody else does,” he teases. Scully isn’t sure what to believe, and Mulder warns that it doesn’t matter, because what she’s about to see will blow up her belief system. Except, of course, now there’s nothing there.
Deep Throat joins the agents, telling them that the tanks were probably destroyed. He can’t get any information because there are black organizations within the intelligence community that even he can’t touch. Scully wonders why Berube was killed, like, hello, Scully, he was experimenting with extraterrestrial organisms! Keep up! Deep Throat says Berube was too successful – his work led to the creation of a human/alien hybrid.
Secare was an old friend of Berube’s who was dying of cancer. Thanks to Berube’s work, he recovered, but also developed super-strength and the ability to breathe underwater. Having a hybrid out in the world was a liability, so the government went after him. Scully asks why Deep Throat always gives them so little information but is now telling them a lot. Deep Throat notes that it doesn’t matter – no one will believe them without Secare. Also, he’s done contacting them.
Scully goes to Georgetown to see the scientist who tested the bacteria for her, but the doctor has been killed in a horrible “car accident.” Meanwhile, Mulder goes back to Berube’s house and follows a thumping noise to the attic. Secare is there, but before he can have a chat with Mulder, a gas-mask-clad badgeless man shoots him. Toxic air is released, knocking out Mulder. When he comes to, his phone is ringing, but I don’t think the badgeless man is going to let him answer.
Scully goes to Mulder’s place, where Deep Throat tells her that he’s been gone all night. He doesn’t think Mulder will be killed; he’s too high-profile now. Deep Throat thinks he can get Scully access to a containment facility housing the “original tissue.” The people Mulder’s with may be willing to trade him for it. Scully does get access to the facility, and though she doesn’t have a password, she successfully guesses that it’s “purity control.”
From a container of liquid nitrogen in a cabinet marked “purity control,” Scully retrieves a little alien…thing. It’s half gross, half cute. She takes it to a meeting spot, where Deep Throat tells her the exchange is a go. He made the deal, so he wants to go, but Scully refuses to trust him. Deep Throat tells her that in 1987, a bunch of children were injected with clone DNA from the alien thing. “That’s the kind of people you’re dealing with,” he notes.
Scully wonders why those people are willing to trade the alien for Mulder. Deep Throat says that they have to keep it under wraps; the agents are the only people who can expose it. Scully reluctantly hands over the alien, seeing the badgeless man drive by as she goes back to her car. Deep Throat and the badgeless man get out of their cars to make the exchange, but the only thing the badgeless man gives Deep Throat is a bullet in the chest. Mulder’s dumped out the back of the badgeless man’s van as he drives off. After briefly checking on Mulder (priorities), Scully goes to Deep Throat, who tells her with his dying breath, “Trust no one.”
13 days later, Mulder calls Scully in the middle of the night to tell her that the X-Files section is being shut down on orders from the executive branch. They’re being reassigned to other sections. Mulder won’t give up, though – he can’t, “not as long as the truth is out there.” In a scene similar to the one at the end of the pilot, CSM places the alien in a box in a Pentagon storeroom.
Thoughts: Done with season 1! On to the really weird stuff.
Zeus Storage on Pandora Street? Clever. And a better idea than Pandora Storage, which doesn’t sound very secure.
I believe this is the first episode where Mulder answers a phone call from Scully and she greets him with, “It’s me.”