February 14, 2016

The X-Files 2.14, Die Hand Die Verletzt: Did the Devil Make Them Do It?

Posted in TV tagged at 2:17 pm by Jenn

I'm sure we all had at least one teacher like this

I’m sure we all had at least one teacher like this

Summary: In Milford Haven, New Hampshire, a high school parent-teacher conference ends with a prayer…to Satan. Oh, America. In the woods, four teenagers prepare to spend the night making out and drinking beer. The guys, Jerry and Dave, light candles and position the girls, Kate and Andrea, then start their own Satanic ritual. Suddenly rats appear, scaring off Andrea, who switches to a Catholic prayer. As the flames from the candles get out of control, a hand grabs Jerry by the neck.

The next day, Mulder and Scully arrive to look into how Jerry died. The sheriff suspects witchcraft, since the area is known for that sort of activity, and all the kids listen to “devil music.” “‘The Night Chicago Died’?” Mulder asks. He determines that no one has ever actually seen Jerry or his friends practicing witchcraft. Their “altar” isn’t indicative of Satanic behavior. Scully sees the beer the teens left behind and notes that Jerry probably wasn’t in the woods alone. She also finds the paper Dave read his prayer from, which seems to be from a library book.

Mulder tells Scully that Jerry’s death does have a “ceremonial presentation,” and he agrees with the sheriff that the place has a weird feel. Scully believes they’re just dealing with local folklore. Suddenly a bunch of frogs fall out of the trees onto their umbrellas. “I guess their parachutes didn’t open,” Mulder remarks. “You were saying something about this place not feeling odd?”

The agents head to the school library, where Mulder looks for the book the page came from. Scully reports that there were tornados in the area, so the heavy winds probably just picked up some froggy friends and gave them a lift to the woods. Mulder finds the book, Witch Hunt: A History of the Occult In America, which was checked out to Dave.

Dave’s currently in his biology class with Andrea, who doesn’t want to make eye contact. They have a sub, Mrs. Paddock. As soon as Dave spots the agents, he tries to escape through a window. Of course, that doesn’t work. Dave tells the agents that he didn’t hurt Jerry and has never done anything occult-related before. The guys just wanted to spook the girls and get laid. Dave didn’t even think the prayer would work. He ran from the agents because he’s afraid it did.

The teachers from the conference wonder which one of them killed Jerry. His body was displayed in accordance with the rites of Azazel. One of the teachers admits that there was going to be a mass, but no one showed. He thinks there’s a presence among them. With no evidence that the teens were involved in Jerry’s death, the agents release them. The teachers object, insisting that the teens are “under occult influence” from pop culture. Scully says that’s bull. If occultists were really murdering as many people as suspected, it would be a huge conspiracy.

Mulder removes Scully from the conversation, then notices that the water in a water fountain is swirling counterclockwise. That’s supposed to be impossible, due to the Coriolis effect. He’s convinced that there really is some strange presence in Milford Haven. Meanwhile, Mrs. Paddock tells Andrea and Kate that they can talk to her if they want to speak to an adult. Then she puts away her papers in a drawer containing human organs.

Mulder interviews the school counselor, Mr. Calcagni, who happens to be one of the people from the conference. He can’t say he’s ever found any history of past ritual abuse in any of the students. Mulder asks to speak to any students who have made multiple complaints, but Mr. Calcagni won’t violate confidentiality.

Scully finds a story about a death similar to Jerry’s, though it took place in Germany in the 1940s. She thinks the same situation repeats itself, just with the details changed to fit whatever or whoever is currently being feared. (Sounds like the Buffy episode “Gingerbread.”) Mulder says that Wiccans don’t worship Satan or harm people, and even Satanists don’t murder, so the townspeople’s insistence on occult murders doesn’t make sense.

Mrs. Paddock hands out pig embryos for the students to dissect. A student named Shannon is really, really not into this. She imagines that the pig’s heart is beating, and that the animal is still alive. She starts screaming, worrying the other students, but not Mrs. Paddock. She pulls Shannon out of the room and says she’s seen this happen before. Mr. Calcagni says he’ll call Shannon’s father, but that makes her even more agitated.

Shannon runs out of the office, and Mulder chases after her, telling her she’s remembering something. She tells him and Scully that her stepfather is Jim Ausbury, one of the teachers at the conference. Her real father ran off, and her mother remarried when she and her younger sister were very young. A few weeks ago, Shannon went on a field trip to the “American Stonehenge,” and she had a memory of Jim molesting her when she was a child. She remembers pretending that she was in the ocean instead of in her body.

Lately everything Shannon suppressed has been resurfacing. She’s also remembered adults coming to the house while her mother was out; they would chant, then tie up Shannon and her sister and make them “do things.” They would rape and impregnate Shannon, then kill the baby. She says that she’s had three babies, all buried in the cellar. Jim then sacrificed Shannon’s eight-year-old sister. Everyone thinks she died in an accident, but she was murdered.

The agents go straight to Shannon’s house and question her mother and Jim. Jim is adamant that someone or something has implanted false memories in Shannon’s mind. The agents separate the parents, and Scully tells Mrs. Ausbury that she’s not being accused of anything. Mrs. Ausbury thinks her daughter is acting out because she’s not getting enough attention. Scully asks about Shannon’s sister, Teresa, who Mrs. Ausbury says died of SIDS when she was eight weeks old, not eight years old.

Mulder just asks Jim straight out if he did it. Jim claims that he would kill anyone who hurt Shannon the way she says she was hurt. Mulder says that’s not very Christian of him, so Jim quotes scripture about God being vengeful. Mulder notes that even Satan quotes scripture. That gets him kicked out of the house and accused of planting the ideas in Shannon’s head.

Shannon wants to give the pig dissection another try, so Mrs. Paddock leaves her in the lab alone. She offers to hold on to Shannon’s bracelet so she doesn’t lose it or get it messed up with pig guts. While Shannon dissects, Mrs. Paddock lights a candle and uses the bracelet in some sort of ritual. She gestures for Shannon to slice her wrists, which is exactly what Shannon uses her scalpel to do. When questioned by Mulder and Scully, Mrs. Paddock claims that she was alone in her office and had locked the doors. Mulder finds the bracelet on her desk.

The teachers from the conference think that a “dark angel” among them wants a sacrifice. Jim asks if any of them were responsible for Shannon’s death. Mr. Calcagni says they all were – she was a sacrifice that allows them to use her as a scapegoat. Another teacher suggests that they say Shannon killed Jerry because she was in love with him and didn’t want him to be with another girl. They need to rekindle their faith.

Back at the school, Mrs. Paddock pretends she’s distraught by the horrible things teenagers can do to themselves. She says Shannon asked her to hold on to the bracelet. Mulder tells Scully that Mrs. Paddock’s office smells a little like incense, though Mrs. Paddock said she lights it to block out the smell of formaldehyde in the lab. Scully admits that there’s a little weirdness going on. For one, the teacher Mrs. Paddock is subbing for developed flesh-eating bacteria just around the same time Jerry died. No one recalls hiring her.

Mrs. Paddock eyes a pen as Scully tries to convince herself that nothing strange is going on. Mulder, however, thinks they should investigate further. As the lights go out, possibly due to a thunderstorm, Mrs. Paddock nabs the pen. Mulder checks out the Ausburys’ cellar while Scully searches for information on Mrs. Paddock.

Jim catches Mulder and tells him that his family has always fought religious persecution. He was raised to believe that Christianity is hypocritical and people are just animals. But now he knows that all people are hypocrites. He outs his colleagues for trying to get him to blame Shannon for Jerry’s death. He wants to be better than an animal and take responsibility for his beliefs. Meanwhile, Mrs. Paddock uses the pen in a ritual, and Scully’s research turns up a clean record for her.

Jim admits to using children in ceremonies, but just for their precious, precious innocent blood. He swears that the group never abused any children. They’d repress the children’s memories, then were brought into the religion when they came of age. Shannon must have mixed up her memories with the stuff she sees on TV. Jim promises that the others didn’t kill Jerry or Shannon, though Mulder says his Satanic rituals are still to blame: “Did you really think you could call up the devil and ask him to behave?”

Mrs. Paddock makes a phone call, and moments later, Mulder gets a call, supposedly from Scully. She says she’s in trouble at the school. Mulder handcuffs Jim and leaves him in the cellar while he rushes to meet his partner. The basement door opens and a snake slithers down the steps. Aww, now Jim has someone to keep him company while he cries over all the bad things he’s done. No, wait. He has a snake to strangle and eat him.

Mulder arrives at the school to find absolutely nothing wrong with Scully. Mrs. Paddock is pleased that her snake ritual was successful. When the agents return to the Ausburys’ house, they find empty handcuffs, a pile of bones, and tracks in the dirt that may have been made by a snake. Scully argues that it would take a python weeks to eat and digest a human. But there’s a large snakeskin in the basement, and Scully remembers that Mrs. Paddock has a python.

The surviving teachers reconvene to discuss Jim’s death. They think he was punished for not being faithful. They need to act quickly before they face the same fate. Jim most likely told the agents who they are, so they need to sacrifice Mulder and Scully. They start to lock the office before the agents return, but they don’t have the keys. The agents find a supposedly injured Mrs. Paddock in the lab, and she tells them that “they” took the snake.

The agents go to the conference room, finding a jar containing eyes, but no teachers. The teachers ambush them and drag them to the locker room to kill them in the showers. As they’re about to be stabbed and shot, Mrs. Paddock starts a new ritual with the keys. “You’re right. It is already too late,” she says, blowing out her candle. The teachers flee, and Mulder thinks Mrs. Paddock took control of them. They go looking for Mrs. Paddock, finding broken beakers and what looks like skin. There’s a message on the chalkboard: “Goodbye. It’s been nice working with you.”

Thoughts: Shannon is played by Heather McComb, Maggie on Party of Five. Jim is played by Dan Butler.

The plot of this episode (teenagers accused of witchcraft) is similar to the West Memphis Three debacle. (Warning: That whole situation is infuriating.)

Azazel is also featured in early Supernatural episodes. Not a nice guy.

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