December 6, 2015
The X-Files 2.4, Sleepless: Wide Awake
Summary: It’s almost 11:30 at night in New York City, and a man is dozing on the couch. He notices smoke and opens a door to see a fire blazing. The man, Dr. Saul Grissom, calls the fire department, then grabs a fire extinguisher. It’s not strong enough, and the apartment is engulfed in flames. When firefighters arrive, they pass the rest of the apartment’s residents on their way out. A man with a horizontal scar on his neck pauses on the stairs, smirking. The firefighters enter the apartment, where Grissom’s dead, but there’s no fire and nothing has been burned.
In D.C., Mulder finds a story about Grissom’s death circled in his morning paper. Also inside the paper is a cassette with a recording of Grissom’s 911 call. Mulder plays the recording for Skinner and notes that the article doesn’t mention a fire. Since Grissom worked for a company with federal contracts, the case falls under the FBI’s jurisdiction, and Mulder wants to take it. Skinner asks where the tape came from, but Mulder won’t tell him. His only trusted source is now dead. Skinner says he’ll look into it.
Mulder goes back to his wiretap assignment until he’s approached by a young agent named Alex Krycek. Though Mulder appreciates getting the case he wanted, he doesn’t appreciate getting a new partner. But Krycek has already gotten started, talking to an NYPD detective and learning that Grissom used a fire extinguisher in his apartment. Mulder still doesn’t want to work with him, but Krycek isn’t about to give up his case. Mulder has no choice but to give in.
At Quantico, Scully does her teaching thing, pausing her lesson when she gets a call from “George Hale.” Mulder wants her to tag along to New York, but she can’t go, so he offers to send her Grissom’s body. In Stamford, Connecticut, Mulder talks with a doctor at the Grissom Sleep Disorder Center, where Grissom treated people with almost 40 different conditions. Grissom himself sometimes experienced insomnia, but never hallucinations. The doctor tells Mulder about a treatment that involves altering a patient’s dreams.
Krycek tracks down Mulder, having been ditched by the senior agent so he could work alone. Krycek’s upset that he’s not allowed to hang out with the cool kids. Scully calls to tell Mulder that Grissom’s autopsy shows that he didn’t die of cardiac arrest. She wants Mulder to come meet her for further conversation. Krycek has the car keys, so Mulder can’t ditch him this time.
The two men meet with Scully, but Krycek isn’t quite ready to look at a dead body. Scully reports that Grissom appears to have died in a fire, despite no signs of fire in the apartment. He suffered all the secondary responses to death by fire, but none of the primary responses. It’s like his body thought it was burning when it wasn’t.
In Brooklyn, a man with a horizontal scar on his neck watches TV. The scarred man from the stairs lets himself in. The apartment’s resident, Willig, recognizes him, calling him Preacher. Willig admits that he can’t get a long-age shared experience out of his head. But it doesn’t matter, since he’s going to Hell anyway. Preacher says they’ve been there for the past 24 years.
Willig guesses that Preacher killed Grissom. Preacher says that they all have to answer for something they did. Willig suddenly sees a bunch of Vietnamese people in his apartment. Preacher says something about compassion and mercy, telling Willig it’s all right. The Vietnamese people raise guns and shoot Willig.
Guess which two FBI agents are assigned to this new case? Willig’s cause of death is listed as a burst aneurysm, but it looks more like he experienced trauma – trauma that looks like multiple gunshot wounds. Mulder notices the scar on Willig’s neck, and Krycek wonders if it came from Willig’s time in Vietnam. Mulder realizes that Willig and Grissom were stationed at Parris Island at the same time 24 years ago.
Research tells the agents that the two men are two of only three surviving people from that time at Parris Island. The third is Augustus Cole, who’s been at a VA medical center in New Jersey for the past 12 years. His doctor, Pilsson, has kept him in isolation because of his inability to get along with others. Namely, Cole likes to mess with people’s sleep patterns. When Pilsson goes to let Mulder and Krycek into Cole’s room, he finds it empty. Oh, and Cole is Preacher.
Mulder gets a call from the man who told him he has a friend in the FBI; he wants to meet to pass along some information. Mulder goes alone to the meeting place for his first in-person encounter with his new Deep Throat, Mr. X. He passes along data from a military project that viewed sleep as “the soldier’s greatest enemy.” Mulder figures out that Grissom was conducting experiments on Parris Island to deprive soldiers of sleep. Mr. X clarifies that he was actually eradicating it. And it worked, because Cole hasn’t slept in 24 years.
Mr. X reports that Cole isn’t the last living member of the squadron. He passes along the name of the other soldier, then starts to leave. Mulder wants to know how to contact him, but Mr. X won’t tell him. “Closing the X-Files, separating you and Scully was only the beginning,” he says. “The truth is still out there, but it’s never been more dangerous.” He’s not willing to sacrifice his life for the cause like Deep Throat did.
Mulder picks up Krycek at their motel and learns that someone matching Cole’s description was arrested for robbing a convenience store. At the police station, they hear that he only stole pills. Before they can get to Cole, shots are fired and two officers are shot. Cole escapes through a window. As Mulder tries to see where he went, Krycek informs him that the officers shot each other.
Back in Virginia, Scully types up a report on Grissom’s experiments. The antidepressants Cole stole are consistent with supplements Grissom gave his lab rats to maintain their serotonin levels (since they weren’t getting serotonin from sleep). Mulder calls to discuss the possibility that Cole has figured out how to project telepathic images into people’s brains to make them hallucinate. He may be able to “externalize his dreams and effectively alter reality.” Scully thinks Mulder should focus on creating a profile of Cole to figure out his next move.
Scully notes that things seem to be working out with Krycek. Mulder says he could use some more experience (and better clothes). But at least he’s more open to weird stuff than Mulder expected (and more so than Scully was, of course). Scully teases that Mulder probably appreciates not having someone around who pokes holes in all his theories. Aww, they miss each other.
The new partners find the remaining soldier, Salvatore Matola, at a coffee shop, accidentally spooking him. He knows what happened to Grissom and Willig, and he knows he’s in danger. Mulder notices the scar on his neck. Matola tells them about the experiments, which at first made the soldiers feel invincible. They could do 24-hour patrols and never got tired enough to feel like they needed to sleep. One day the entire squadron stopped taking orders and started killing anyone they wanted. This included a school full of kids.
Matola’s surprised to hear that the agents think Cole killed Willig and Grissom. They called him Preacher because he was always reading from his Bible and telling the squadron that one day they would have to pay for killing people. Matola reveals that another doctor, Girardi, was involved in the experiments. He performed the surgeries on the soldiers, and is the reason Matola hasn’t slept in 24 years.
Stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway, Mulder tells Krycek that Cole must see himself as an “avenging angel” who wants to punish anyone involved in the killings. The 24th anniversary of the slaughter at Phu Bai has just passed, and no U.S. soldiers were ever charged for the killings, which included the deaths of over 300 children. Scully calls to tell Mulder that Girardi is on his way to New York for Grissom’s funeral.
The agents head to the train station to find Girardi. Cole is also there. Mulder spots Girardi, but Cole comes up right behind him. Mulder orders Cole to drop his gun, but Cole shoots Girardi, then Mulder. When Krycek gets to Mulder, he’s uninjured. He insists that Cole and Girardi were both there, but Krycek says there were no signs of them. Mulder was just shouting and waving his gun around at no one.
Mulder and the police look over security footage from the train station, but Girardi and Cole don’t show up on it. Krycek wants to know what’s really going on. He insists that he wants to believe, but Mulder needs to help him. Mulder shares his theory about Cole being able to put hallucinations into people’s minds. Krycek admits that it could explain some things.
The police spot a car on the security footage that’s shown up in a restricted location in the past five minutes. Nearby, Cole has locked up Girardi to kill him for the experiments. Girardi argues that the soldiers all volunteered, so no one’s responsible for anything that happened to them. A squadron of soldiers approaches, picking up scalpels to enact the “an eye for an eye” part of Scripture on the man who used scalpels on them.
Mulder and Krycek arrive and hear Girardi screaming. They find his glasses on the ground, then a small pool of blood. Girardi has a wound on the back of his neck, but he’s still alive. Krycek runs off to get help while Mulder finds Cole, who’s standing on the edge of a boxcar, contemplating jumping off. Mulder puts down his gun and asks Cole to talk for a minute. Cole says he’s tired. Mulder urges him to testify against the military, but Cole’s ready to die, having given up enough of himself.
Krycek approaches, his gun drawn. Mulder tells him to put down his weapon, but Krycek won’t listen. Cole starts to fire his own weapon, so Krycek shoots him first. Mulder has to admit that Krycek did the right thing by protecting his partner. When he gets in his car to leave, he finds the reports Mr. X gave him missing.
Mulder and Scully secretly meet up in a storage area at FBI headquarters, sharing that both of their copies of the report are missing. Mulder tells Scully what Mr. X said about them still being in danger. He’s not sure whether he trusts Mr. X or not. Elsewhere, CSM and two cronies have the reports, which were given to them by Krycek. Krycek warns that Mulder and Scully’s forced separation hasn’t accomplished anything. Scully’s a much bigger problem than they thought. “Every problem has a solution,” CSM says.
Two minutes after meeting Krycek and Mulder already doesn’t trust him. Smart man.
Not that it’s really important, but Mulder’s hair is very fluffy in this episode.
For a much more light-hearted take on what happens when you have your sleep removed, see the Angel episode “Life of the Party.”