March 12, 2016
The X-Files 2.18, Fearful Symmetry: The Elephant in the Room
Summary: A member of the night cleaning crew at Idaho Mutual Insurance Trust in Fairfield, Idaho, is trying to make is job more fun by using his broom as a dance partner. His co-worker doesn’t think he should dance on the clock, since they’re being monitored by a surveillance camera. Well, I don’t think he should smoke on the job, but I guess my opinion doesn’t matter. Suddenly the building begins to shake and a window shatters.
There’s similar destruction on the street, as if an invisible stampede is passing through. A road crew on the highway notices the same phenomenon, this time accompanied by the sound of an elephant trumpeting. One of the crew members is killed. In the morning, a truck driver comes across an elephant and narrowly avoids hitting it. Sometime later, the police are summoned to the now-ailing elephant, which has collapsed in the middle of the road.
Our favorite FBI agents are called to Fairfield to talk to the cleaning crew, who say they didn’t see anything. The security monitors didn’t pick up anything either. Mulder says the road crew smelled an animal, and he thinks a large one could have easily caused the damage on the streets. Scully merely has to say “an invisible elephant?” to drive home how crazy that sounds. “I saw David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear once,” Mulder tells her.
Ed Meecham from the local zoo joins the agents, reporting that the elephant, Ganesha, has died, apparently of exhaustion. He’s not sure how she escaped from her cage. Mulder notes that elephants across the country have turned on their keepers, but Ed doesn’t think Ganesha has ever behaved like that. He advises the agents to talk to Willa Ambrose, the zoo’s naturalist. He does confirm that the damage on the street could have been due to an elephant.
The agents go to the zoo so I can squeal over the penguins (and also so they can talk to Willa, but…penguins! Yay!). Willa doesn’t seem on board with the elephant theory, mostly since she doesn’t see how Ganesha could have left her cage. She’s unhappy with the treatment and keeping of the animals at the zoo before she was brought in. Ed, however, is unhappy with the changes Willa’s trying to make.
Willa’s worried about how a radical pro-animal organization, the WAO, will respond to what happened to Ganesha. So that’s where the agents turn next, talking to one of their members, Kyle Lang, who’s helped “liberate” (in other words, kidnap) zoo animals in the past. He won’t admit to freeing Ganesha, knowing that that would make him an accessory to murder. He talks about how elephants have graveyards and long memories and blah blah, I read the Jodi Picoult elephant book and hated it, so can we move on?
The agents see a video of how elephants are treated at the zoo, because I guess this episode was sponsored by PETA. Kyle doesn’t think Willa is doing enough for the animals; she’s too caught up in a lawsuit from the Malawian government asking for her to return a gorilla she rescued. He thinks the gorilla should be returned to the wild; all animals should be able to run free, even ones that turn invisible and trample innocent road crew guys.
Scully’s pretty sure WAO is responsible for Ganesha’s escape, and argues that there are various reasons no one saw her. She thinks they might free another animal in an attempt to get the zoo shut down. Mulder tells her to keep an eye on WAO while he goes to “talk to the animals.” But not zoo animals – just Frohike and Byers. He uses a ’90s version of Skype to videochat with the guys (Langly refuses to appear on video), learning that Fairfield’s near an air base. No animals at the zoo have ever successfully carried offspring to term.
Scully calls (“Mulder, it’s me”) to report that another guy from the WAO is sneaking into the zoo. She follows him, scaling a fence in heels and a skirt because she’s awesome. Ed catches her and tells her to come with him when he learns what’s going on. Mulder arrives and also climbs the fence, but it’s not as awesome because he gets to wear pants and sensible shoes. The WAO guy heads to the tiger cage, but he can’t stay stealthy for very long, because the animals all start screeching.
As the WAO guy uses a night-vision camera to look at the tiger, there’s a bright flash of light. When it’s gone, the tiger is, too. Or it just seems to be, as the guy is suddenly attacked by something invisible that sure sounds like a tiger. Upon his death, Scully interrogates Kyle, who denies any knowledge of his cohort’s activities. He says the other guy (who never gets a name; R.I.P. No-Name WAO Guy) was the unfortunate victim of an animal’s natural behavior.
Mulder pulls Scully out of the room to calm down and tell her that the guy wasn’t killed by a tiger – nothing showed up on the footage from his night-vision camera. Scully finds this really hard to believe. The two go see Willa, who doesn’t think she has anything helpful to add to what she already told the police. Mulder asks to see her gorilla, Sophie, who’s been depressed recently. She knows sign language, and when Willa asks what’s wrong, Sophie just replies, “Light afraid.”
Mulder considers Sophie a witness, so he wants to communicate with her. Willa thinks she’s afraid of being taken back to Malawi. Mulder admires some of Sophie’s drawings, which Willa interprets as showing her despair over not being able to have a child. Mulder thinks Willa and Scully should team up to perform a necropsy on Ganesha. He brings up what the Lone Gunmen said about the animals in Fairfield never successfully breeding, but Willa says that’s not a big deal – it’s hard for animals in captivity to carry a pregnancy to term. Also, they never tried to mate Ganesha.
Scully checks out Ganesha’s uterine tissue anyway and determines that she was once pregnant. Willa says that’s impossible. Mulder notes that invisible elephants aren’t possible either. He thinks the tiger will show a similar condition, but first they’ll have to capture it. Ed and Willa disagree over how to accomplish that – he wants to use a gun; she doesn’t – but since she outranks him, she wins. The two of them and the agents stalk the tiger, which is now visible but still able to try to jump at Willa. Fortunately, Ed’s gun saves her.
The zoo loses its funding, which means Willa loses her job and the animals will be sent to other zoos. Sophie’s fate is uncertain. Mulder tells Willa that Scully studied the tiger and discovered that she, too, had once been pregnant. Willa still says that’s impossible, though she can’t be sure they weren’t artificially inseminated. Mulder suggests that alien abduction was involved, because of course he does. They get taken from locked cages, but problems with the space-time continuum mean they’re returned to the wrong place.
Mulder continues that the aliens might be trying to preserve animals that are going extinct. He suggests that Willa talk to Sophie about it. He thinks she’s pregnant and is worried that the aliens will come take her baby. Willa’s very skeptical but talks to Sophie anyway. Mulder asks if Sophie wants to leave the zoo, but Sophie just responds, “Light afraid.” Willa asks why she’s scared, and Sophie replies, “Baby go flying light.”
Scully joins them to report that the sheriff’s deputy wants to serve Willa papers about Sophie. Willa doesn’t have another place to take the gorilla, so she has to turn over the gorilla into protective custody. Willa then reluctantly goes to Kyle to ask for help putting Sophie in a preserve. Kyle refuses, not wanting a wild animal to be anywhere but the wild. Willa announces that Sophie’s pregnant, but Kyle won’t budge – gorillas belong with other gorillas.
Scully turns up a news article about Kyle and Willa, who used to work together. Willa visits Sophie as Kyle searches the zoo for her. The animals are agitated again, and this time, the one that goes invisible is Sophie. Kyle is thrown against a wall and crates are dropped on his head, so goodbye, Kyle. Scully questions Willa, who lies that she visited Kyle the day before to tell him he’d won and the zoo was being closed. Scully knows that Kyle and Willa worked together in the past and that Willa turned to him for help. She gives Willa a note that Kyle left, asking her to talk. (Psst, Kyle: It’s “let’s talk,” not “lets talk.”)
Willa tries to take the heat off of herself by bringing up Mulder’s abduction theory. Mulder pulls Scully aside to tell her that he thinks Willa knows where the now-missing Sophie is. He also thinks Willa killed Kyle to keep him from warning anyone about her possible plans. Mulder checks out Sophie’s cage, then follows Ed to a warehouse. Meanwhile, Scully learns that Kyle was killed by a cattle prod. She goes to arrest Willa, who says Kyle’s death was an accident – he surprised Ed. By the way, Ed also has Sophie.
Mulder corners Ed in the warehouse, where he claims he’s acting on Willa’s orders (and taking payments from her). Sophie’s agitated, so Mulder sends Ed into her cage to tranquilize her. The lights are off, so Ed tells Mulder to get Sophie into the light where he can see to shoot her with his tranquilizer gun. This is just a ruse to get Mulder and Sophie in the cage together so Ed can let the gorilla take out the FBI agent.
This backfires, though, probably because Willa told Sophie earlier that Mulder and Scully wouldn’t hurt her. Sophie signs something to Mulder, then disappears in a flash of light. Mulder ends up unconscious, missing the part of the episode where Ed gets busted. Scully and Willa find Mulder, who needs Willa to interpret something Sophie signed: “Man save man.” They hear a police report of an animal on the interstate and realize that Sophie’s going back to the zoo. But the agents and Willa are too late to get to Sophie before she’s hit by a car.
End-of-episode voiceover wrap-up, Mulder edition: Willa and Ed have been charged with manslaughter for Kyle’s death. Mulder wonders if aliens are trying to help conserve animals to fight extinction. Does this mean we should work with the aliens to save our race? Or “will man save man” again?
Thoughts: This episode just makes me want to chill with some penguins. This show needs more cute animals.
Scully: “How’d the tiger get all the way across town without being spotted?” Me: “Because tigers aren’t spotted – they’re striped! …Oh, I thought we were telling jokes. Sorry.”
Speaking of jokes, no comments from Mulder about how he feels at home with the animals because his name is Fox? Come on.