January 24, 2016
The X-Files 2.11, Excelsis Dei: Magic Mushrooms, Indeed
Summary: At the Excelsis Dei Convalescent Home in Worcester, Massachusetts, two members of the night staff tell a nurse about a resident who died that afternoon. The nurse catches two residents watching a boxing match on TV and banters with them for a while. One of them is handsy, so she straps him to the bed. Then she knocks an orderly, Gung, for not enforcing the no-TV-after-9:00 rule. The orderly says that a doctor claimed the residents were getting better.
The nurse changes the dead resident’s bedding, getting spooked when the door suddenly closes. The door then locks itself, and the bed moves to block the door. The nurse is unable to move it back. Suddenly she’s thrown on the bed and an unseen force straps her down. She screams for help but no one hears her. So…this isn’t going to be a light, funny episode, then?
For once, Scully gets the case information first, viewing video footage of the nurse’s injuries. When Mulder finds her in front of a TV, he tells her that whatever tape she found in the VCR isn’t his. She replies that she put it in a drawer with a bunch of other tapes that probably aren’t his either. She explains the case to him: The nurse, Michelle Charters, says she was raped by an invisible spirit being. Shockingly, no one believes her.
Mulder says this isn’t the first time something like this has been described, but it’s possible Michelle just blocked out the identity of her attacker. Scully says that Michelle claims she knows who the spirit is, and she’s filing a lawsuit. The agents meet with her, and she tells them her attacker was the grabby resident, Hal Arden. From tending to him for years, she knows enough about his body to recognize it, even invisible. Scully notes that they’ll need physical evidence to build a case against Arden. Michelle doesn’t have any, and she’s sure she didn’t just repress her memories.
The agents talk to Arden, who laughs off the idea of someone his age raping someone. He’s annoyed that the “sex harassment fad” has prevented him from expressing his feelings about women. Would Scully be offended if he hit on her? After a pause, Arden apologizes to Mulder for moving in on his territory. He adds that he heard that Michelle was attacked by a ghost, and since he’s not a ghost, it couldn’t have been him.
Mulder thinks this case is going to turn out to be a waste of time. Scully, however, knows something happened to Michelle. Arden’s roommate seems to agree. The agents next talk to an administrative woman, Mrs. Dawson, who says Arden is well-liked at the facility. Arden’s roommate, Stan, warns Arden to be careful and not say anything or he’ll ruin things for everyone. He doesn’t want to have to die there. He takes a pill, saying he knows where “he” keeps them. Arden wants one, but Stan says he can’t handle another. Arden threatens to tattle on him.
Scully gets a look at Michelle’s file, which shows that she’s made requests for leave in the past, citing job-related stress. Mulder starts to ask Mrs. Dawson if she thinks Michelle staged her attack. Before Mrs. Dawson can answer, an orderly comes in to announce that Arden is choking. Stan is unsympathetic, saying he told Arden he couldn’t handle any more. Scully tends to Arden, determining that his problem is really heart-related.
Arden doesn’t make it, and his doctor, Grago, is sad – he was making progress on an experimental Alzheimer’s drug. In fact, many residents at the home have made progress. Gee, I wonder if that’s important? Scully asks to speak to other patients in the test group. Michelle’s back at work, and she’s outside watching as Arden’s body is taken away in an ambulance. Gung is also watching, and he tells Stan to stop taking Arden’s pills. Gung has already given him enough.
The agents observe another patient in the test group, Leo, who his friend Dorothy describes as a brilliant artist. She wants to stay with him instead of going to dinner, saying Leo hasn’t finished his drawing of a field yet. Scully thinks the Alzheimer’s drug could be a huge medical breakthrough, but Mulder doesn’t see the importance. Scully finally realizes that there could be a connection between the drugs and Michelle’s attack. One of the side effects could be schizophrenic-like behavior.
Scully’s next suggestion is an environmental cause. There could be a fungus or other contaminant that causes violent behavior. Maybe they just haven’t heard about that violence in other residents. Mulder thinks that Michelle made up the story so she could leave a job she hates. Scully points out that she was pretty seriously injured for an incident he thinks she made up.
Dorothy refuses to eat her dinner, and Leo is too worried about her to eat. He pleads with Gung to give them more of something. Gung says no, but Leo tells Dorothy that he thinks Stan has some hidden away. Stan’s daughter is there to help him move in with her, but a year after asking for this to happen, now he doesn’t want to leave.
Mulder and Scully talk to the daughter, Laura, who says she was told years ago that her father needed round-the-clock care. He used to suffer from dementia, but now he’s completely changed. Stan’s too angry to talk to his daughter about his treatment. Meanwhile, Stan runs away from his room. An orderly chases him to the roof, where an invisible force tries to shove him off. He manages to hold on to the edge, and Mulder hears him yelling for help and tries to save him. He doesn’t succeed.
Grago learns of the orderly’s death the next morning and rushes to the home. Mulder thinks Stan might have had something to do with both deaths. Grago says that he has a hip disorder that would have prevented him from going up to the roof. Mulder suggests that he had help. Gung is in the room, and he should really work on not drawing any attention to himself. Michelle reminds Mrs. Dawson that she warned that something weird was going on. Now two people are dead and an orderly is missing.
Scully and Mrs. Dawson hear Dorothy down the hall, telling someone to go away. When they get to her room, she tells them there are a bunch of people in her room and she can’t get rid of them. There’s no one there, at least that Scully and Mrs. Dawson can see. Mrs. Dawson says she’s just suffering from dementia. In fact, Dorothy is seeing ghosts, who follow Scully when she leaves.
Mulder gets Arden’s toxicology reports, which show that he may have been poisoned. Scully says that that could have caused hallucinations, which could be to blame for Dorothy’s recent panic. Michelle summons the agents and Grago to a room where Leo has painted a huge mural of spirits on the walls. Mulder quickly asks to speak to Gung. He searches the basement for Gung, finding a locked room full of mushrooms. They’re being fertilized by the body of the missing orderly.
Gung is questioned, and he swears that he didn’t kill the orderly. He was giving small amounts of the mushrooms to the residents to make them feel better. The mushrooms come from his home country, and have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. He felt that he needed to take care of the residents this way because, unlike in his country, the elderly in America are sent away. He also argues that the residents are mistreated by the orderlies.
Mulder asks straight out who killed the orderly and buried him under the mushrooms. Gung says that the spirits in the home are angry and have been awakened. They’re getting revenge for their mistreatment. He explains that he turns the mushrooms into a powder so the residents (so we can assume that the powder is then put into capsules). Mulder and Scully follow Gung to his room, where he discovers that all of his remaining pills have been taken.
Mulder thinks the mushrooms have been helping the patients improve, rather than Grago’s experimental drug. Scully doesn’t think they’re that powerful. Mulder points out that for centuries, shamans have used mushrooms to “gain interest to the spirit world.” Scully thinks the shamans were just dreaming and interpreted the dreams however they wanted. Mulder notes that, whatever the cause, something weird has been going on.
Laura catches Stan taking a pill, but before she can find out what it is, she’s distracted by Dorothy yelling at ghosts again. She tells Laura to run while she can. Dorothy hears Leo calling her from his room, but when she arrives, she finds Michelle being dragged off by the ghosts. Mulder and Scully hear Dorothy screaming and run to help Michelle. She and Mulder are locked in the bathroom together as the pipes all burst.
Mulder yells for Scully to get the water shut off in the building. She runs off to find Gung to do it while Mulder tries to keep a barely conscious Michelle from drowning. He’s unable to pull up a drain, and Gung is unable to turn the valve to shut off the water. Laura summons Scully to Stan’s room, where he’s about to face the same fate as Arden. Scully sends Grago to Stan with atropine, which makes the ghosts disappear.
The water in the bathroom eventually breaks the door down, so Mulder and Michelle are saved (but that’s going to be annoying to clean up). Stan’s alive, and Dorothy says the ghosts are gone. The next day, things at the home go back to normal, now under investigation by the Massachusetts Department of Health. Grago is replaced, and the experimental drug trials are ended. Gung is in danger of being deported back to Malaysia. Michelle’s lawsuit will be settled out of court. All the Alzheimer’s patients have deteriorated.
Thoughts: Dorothy is played by the late, great Frances Bay.
Yes, Mulder, a woman faked being raped so she could leave her job. Go sit in the corner and let Scully handle this. Though Scully thinks that “schizophrenic-like” behavior = violence, so maybe this is a case for people who have a better understanding of these kinds of situations.
I had to laugh at Arden saying that 74 is too old to be very active. 74 is the new 54, buddy.
Scully, re: mushrooms: “They taste good on hamburgers but they don’t raise the dead.” Then my love of mushrooms over all these years has been horribly misguided.