April 9, 2016
The X-Files 2.22, F. Emasculata: How to Expose an Exposure
Summary: In Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Rainforest, someone is collecting bugs. The birds don’t seem happy about this. Or maybe they’re just focused on picking at the remains of a dead animal. The collector shoos them off so he can look at a pulsating pustule (say that five times fast) on the animal. It bursts and he digs around inside it. That night, the collector, Torrence, tries to contact the field base for extraction. He’s now covered in his own pustules. In the morning, his remains are the birds’ new attraction.
At Cumberland State Correctional Facility in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, an inmate named Bobby receives mail from an unknown source. It looks like an animal’s leg, and Bobby thinks someone’s playing a joke on him. When he wakes up in the middle of the night, something on the leg is pulsating. 18 hours later, Bobby’s in the hospital, being treating for his own pustules. FYI, his last name is also Torrence. As Bobby undergoes surgery, two other inmates clear his cell without any kind of precautions, so I guess they’ll be the next to be infected.
Sometime later, Mulder and Scully arrive at the prison to work on finding two escaped death-row inmates. They wonder why there are people in biohazard suits there. A federal marshal, Tapia, tells them to play nice and stop asking questions. Mulder wonders why Skinner assigned them to this case – and why the FBI is involved at all, let alone why the National Guard has taken over the prison.
The escaped inmates (the two from Bobby’s cell) head to a rest stop and to steal a family’s RV. Scully talks to Bobby’s doctor, Osbourne, and learns that he’s from the Centers for Disease Control. She demands to know why people are quarantined at the prison. He admits that 14 people have been infected and ten are dead. It seems the odds that the two escaped inmates were infected are very good.
Scully calls Mulder (“Mulder, it’s me”), who’s at the rest stop, and warns that they’re dealing with a contagion that kills within 36 hours of exposure. The RV owner is now dead, so at least the inmates took him out before the contagion could. A doctor tries to kick Scully out of the prison, refusing to let her see any of the infected patients’ charts. As the inmates gas up the RV, one of them, Paul, calls his girlfriend to let her know he’s free and on his way home to her and their young son. A gas station attendant finds the other inmate in the bathroom, sick. Paul’s not pleased with his snooping.
Scully sneaks into the prison’s incinerator room, where the bodies are being stored. She starts to examine one, but Osbourne stops her, trying to keep her from being exposed. A pustule bursts, so Osbourne will probably be the next to die. But at least he tried to save Scully, so that was nice. Mulder and the marshals finally track down the stolen RV at the gas station, but only the attendant, Angelo, is there, having been knocked out by Paul. Mulder figures the inmates are on their way to see one of their loved ones, so he traces the last call made from the pay phone outside.
A helicopter arrives with men in biohazard suits there to extract Angelo. The men won’t tell Mulder who they are. Tapia’s as confused as Mulder about what’s going on. But Mulder has a lead on Paul’s destination, and Paul is dumb enough to go straight to his girlfriend’s house (with his dying, contagious friend in tow). Scully looks into the sender of Bobby’s package, which came from Wichita by Pinck, a huge pharmaceutical company. She and Mulder guess that that’s where the contagion originated.
Scully notices something in a pustule on one of the infected prisoners and extracts a bug from it. Ewwwwww. One of the escaped prisoner’s pustules bursts, so now Paul’s girlfriend, Elizabeth, has been exposed. Her day gets even worse when Mulder and the marshals burst in. They find the second inmate dead and no sign of Paul. So he exposed his girlfriend and son to a deadly illness and then ditched them? Jerk.
At the prison, Osbourne tells Scully that the whole prison has been quarantined, and he’s now infected. The CDC has nothing to do with the quarantine – Pinck is responsible. Also, Osbourne works for them. He explains that an etymologist (that would be Torrence) disappeared in Costa Rica while researching a new species with possible drug applications.
Torrence send back samples, including faciphaga emasculata, the bug Scully found. It carries a deadly parasite that causes pustules and attacks people’s immune systems. Scully realizes that the illness only spreads when pustules erupt and the bug burrows into a new host. Yay, now they can stop the spread! Everyone’s saved! Oh, except Scully could be infected, since she was nearby when Osbourne was exposed.
Mulder goes to see Skinner, reporting that the purpose of the investigation might not have been disclosed to the FBI. CSM is there, and Mulder announces that he and Scully weren’t told about a contagion. CSM says knowing the truth would have just slowed the agents down and caused a panic: “We control the disease by controlling information.” Mulder doesn’t want to play this game, but CSM notes that he’s already playing.
Scully calls Mulder to let him know that the prison is now under full quarantine. She’s sure that the government is helping Pinck cover up their mess. Mulder wants her to document everything so they can tell the public – after all, this is a health crisis. Scully, however, wants to prevent a panic. Mulder notes that someone could die because they covered up the truth. Scully counters that someone could die because they didn’t. They can expose the truth later.
Osbourne uses an uninfected insect to test whether Scully has been infected. Basically, she lets a bug bite her, and if she doesn’t get sick, they’ll know she wasn’t exposed to any larvae. Fun! Mulder visits a quarantined Elizabeth at the hospital to find out where her husband went, but she’s not helpful. He tries to guilt her by telling her that Paul could spread the contagion to other people.
Elizabeth doesn’t think she has anything to worry about; if there were a real threat, she would have heard something on the news. Why should she tell the truth if Mulder isn’t? Mulder eventually gets her to admit that Paul’s taking a bus to Toronto. Tapia wants to go to the bus station with guns a-blazing, but Mulder needs they need to be careful to control the spread. Good luck – Paul has a shiny new pustule on his face.
Osbourne collapses at the prison, so Scully will have to finish her exposure test on her own. She wonders why Osbourne decided to confide in her. He thinks people have the right to know when they’re in danger. Scully needs to expose the truth – she can’t believe this won’t happen again. Scully does the test, which comes back negative. When she goes to tell Osbourne, he’s missing.
Just in case we don’t feel enough fear and sympathy for the general population in this episode, they put a preteen boy on the bus to Toronto with Paul. The Pinck biohazard guys start incinerating bodies, including Osbourne’s. Scully threatens to reveal the truth, but with Osbourne dead, she’s going to have trouble finding someone to corroborate her story. A biohazard guy tells her she should be happy the contagion is under control.
Mulder and the marshals enter the bus station, all wearing normal clothes and acting like there’s no deadly contagion for anyone to worry about. Scully calls to tell Mulder that things are okay at the prison, so Paul should be the only person left to worry about. Scully warns that Paul is the only person left who can back up their story about the contagion. He’ll need to make a statement before he inevitably dies.
Marshals search the buses, quietly clearing everyone from the depot so they can swarm the Toronto bus. Mulder wants to handle things on his own, getting on the bus and calling for it to be cleared while he apprehends Paul. But when he gets on board, he doesn’t see Paul. Paul emerges from the bathroom, sees Mulder and the driver looking at him, and pulls a gun, taking the preteen boy hostage. Well, of course.
Paul and Mulder engage in a standoff, though Paul’s at a distinct disadvantage, what with a dozen marshals aiming guns at him. Mulder tells him he’s already exposed his loved ones, so he needs to end this before anyone else gets sick. Paul wonders if the illness originated from the package in Bobby’s cell. Mulder gets everyone else off the bus, then extracts the preteen. But before Paul can tell him what was in the package, a marshal takes a shot through the window and kills him.
Mulder’s taken off the bus by men in biohazard suits, but I guess he’s okay, because he’s able to tell Skinner everything that happened later. Pinck was trying to circumvent FDA trials, and Mulder wants the public to know so it doesn’t happen again. Skinner’s like, “You have an empty package and a dead bug. Pass.” Mulder says Skinner’s as guilty as everyone else if he keeps quiet. Skinner replies that Mulder doesn’t know who he’s dealing with.
Scully arrives and announces that the Costa Rican government sent her information on the missing scientist. Whoever’s really behind the whole cover-up chose a prisoner with the same name as the scientist so they could blame a postal error in case things went south. Mulder guesses that the case was made an X-File so that the FBI would be discredited even if they uncovered the truth. “You never had a chance,” Skinner confirms. He stands on the line Mulder keeps crossing. As Mulder storms out, Skinner warns him to watch his back: “This is just the beginning.”
Thoughts: Tapia is played by Dean Norris from Breaking Bad.
Mulder and the Marshals is the name of my new band. First single: “Pulsating Pustules.”
What’s with this show and bugs? I know they’re big on bees later, but right now it’s all gross insects.