April 23, 2016

The X-Files 2.24, Our Town: Tastes Like Chicken

Posted in TV tagged at 1:36 pm by Jenn

"You said we were going for a bite to eat! ...Oh, I get it now"

“You said we were going for a bite to eat! …Oh, I get it now”

Summary: A man and woman pull over to neck on the side of a county road in Dudley, Arkansas. They’re a little too old for parking, but the woman doesn’t want to go to a motel; someone might see them. The woman gets out of the car, but the man, George, doesn’t follow for a minute. First, he has to have some sort of spasm and take a pill. Then the woman, Paula, wants to be chased before they hook up. George loses track of her in the woods, which aren’t so much romantic as creepy. He sees lights approaching, then gets hit with an axe wielded by someone wearing a mask. Night-night, George.

Ten weeks later, Scully tells Mulder that the case of George’s disappearance is just a wild goose chase. Mulder corrects that it’s a “chicken case,” since George is a federal poultry inspector for Chaco Chicken. Scully argues that the bureau is trying to undermine Mulder’s work. But Mulder’s intrigued by a witness’ story about seeing “strange fire” in the field where George disappeared. Scully mocks the woman’s claim of seeing a “foxfire spirit.” Mulder elaborates on the legend of people being taken away by foxfire. This time, there’s a huge burn mark the agents can check out.

In college, Mulder saw a 1960s documentary about an asylum, featuring a patient who says fire demons abducted him. He refused to be taken or killed, because that would prevent him from getting into Heaven. Mulder says the patient, Creighton, disappeared for a few days and was so shaken when he returned that he had to be committed. Police found his car in Dudley. So the agents head down to Arkansas to check out the field, finding a fork and something called a witch’s peg, which is supposed to keep evil spirits away.

Sheriff Tom Arens meets the agents, and though he’s willing to help, he doesn’t think there’s anything special about the circumstances of George’s disappearance. No one mentioned the witch’s peg to the FBI because there are tons of them in the town, placed there by superstitious “hill people.” Arens thinks the scorch mark comes from illegal trash burning. Foxfire doesn’t exist; it’s just swamp gas. Scully likes this guy. Arens continues that George arrived in town a few months ago and never connected with anyone, except the women he cheated on his wife with. He probably followed one of those women out of town.

The agents and Arens interview George’s wife, Doris, who also believed that her husband just took off with another woman. She’s not too broken up about it. Mulder thinks it’s suspicious that George disappeared the day before he was going to recommend that Chaco’s plant be shut down. Doris reports that he got some suspicious hang-up phone calls, but she figured they were from girlfriends. The agents and Arens then go to the Chaco plant, where a shaken Paula is employed. She takes some sort of pill before starting her shift.

Arens introduces the agents to the floor manager, Jess Harold, who says George had been trying to shut down the plant since he came to town. Paula eavesdrops, and when the agents leave the floor, she starts exhibiting behavior similar to the spasms George had. She pauses, watching chickens go by on an assembly line. She sees one of them as George’s head and throws it to the ground. Elsewhere, Harold shows the agents to George’s area, saying he was the only person who ever had a problem with the plant. Then again, George had a problem with everything. He claimed the job was giving him headaches and even filed a lawsuit with the government, which was dismissed).

Harold lets the agents see what the chickens are fed – an unappetizing mixture of grains and other chickens. Aww, poor little cannibal chickens. Scully still thinks this is a dumb case – whether George left town or was killed, there was no need to call in the FBI. But as they’re leaving, Paula takes Harold hostage, holding a knife to his throat. Scully attempts to talk her down, but when Paula doesn’t let Harold go, Arens shoots her. Her body falls into the chicken/grain mixture. Tonight, the chickens will dine on soylent green!

Harold’s fine, and he has no idea why Paula snapped like she did. The plant’s doctor, Randolph, tells the agents that Paula told him the week before that she was having headaches. She had some tests done but nothing came up, so Randolph thought she was just under stress. He admits that Paula and George exhibited similar symptoms, possibly due to the repetitive nature of their jobs. They were both given codeine, which explains why they both popped pills. Scully wants to do an autopsy on Paula, but Randolph says she’ll have to talk to the man in charge, Chaco – who happens to be Paula’s grandfather and legal guardian.

The agents go to Chaco’s mansion, which has some chickens on the premises. Chaco waxes poetic about how awesome and “useful” chickens are, since they provide both food and feathers for humans. He questions Scully’s desire to perform an autopsy on Paula; didn’t the agents come to town to look into George’s disappearance? Chaco had no patience for George, since he was trying to tear down what Chaco worked so hard to create. But his interest in what happened to Paula wins out, and he okays the autopsy.

Scully does her work and discovers that Paula had Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare degenerative disorder that causes dementia and seizures. She only had a few months left to live. Mulder reveals that Paula wasn’t as young as they thought (and definitely not as young as she looked) – she was 47. They decide to look for her birth certificate at the county courthouse to confirm. Mulder notes that the case is turning into something much more interesting than foxfire.

On the way to the courthouse, Scully says that there’s an extremely low chance that Paula and George both had Creutzfeldt-Jakob (which can be inherited but isn’t communicable). But Mulder thinks it’s more likely than Paula being 47, so there’s that. They almost crash into a truck that’s serving all over the road. Mulder’s able to pull to the side, but the truck goes into a river, spilling crates of chickens. When the driver is ID’d, Scully learns from Randolph that he had the same symptoms Paula and George displayed. Scully worries that someone killed George, put his body in the chickens’ feed, and spread Creutzfeldt-Jakob to anyone who ate Chaco chickens.

When Arens arrives, Mulder asks him why the water in the river is brown. Arens blames run-off from the Chaco plant. Well, great, that probably has Creutzfeldt-Jakob in it, too! Mulder asks to have the river dragged for George’s body, though he doesn’t want to say specifically that that’s what he’s looking for. The river is searched, and a bunch of bones are found – a lot more bones than just the ones from George’s body. Scully thinks some could be as much as 20-30 years old. No skulls were found, and all the bones look buffed. Since the river was pretty calm, it’s weird that they look almost polished.

Arens calls in Doris to tell her that George’s remains were found. She gets upset and runs off. At the Chaco plant, Randolph pulls Harold aside to tell him that a man named Clayton Walsh is showing Creutzfeldt-Jakob symptoms. Chaco knows what’s going on but won’t do anything. Harold decides to try to talk to him. Scully meets up with Mulder (bringing him a bucket of chicken) to look into missing people from the area. Over the past 50 years, 87 people have disappeared. Mulder thinks the poor, innocent people of Dudley, Arkansas, “have been eating more than just chicken.”

The missing people’s bones were boiled, a practice familiar to the cannibalistic Anasazi tribe of New Mexico. Since some cannibalistic rituals are performed to extend people’s lives, Paula may look younger than 47 because she eats people. Mulder decides they should look into the ages of other people in Dudley. Scully tags along, since it’s not like she can sit down and enjoy her chicken dinner.

Over at Chaco’s mansion, Chaco tells Harold he’ll take care of things. Doris arrives, distressed over having to lie about what’s going on. She’s afraid the agents will discover that she helped kill her husband. Chaco reminds her that that was the price she had to pay. He promises that everything will be fine, and they’ll take care of her. After she leaves, Harold worries about Doris’ mental stability, but Chaco says she’s part of their town now. They can’t turn on each other – that would make them no better than animals. The FBI is the real problem.

At the courthouse, Mulder and Scully find that the birth records have been torched recently. Doris calls Mulder, telling him she’s worried Chaco is going to kill her. Mulder sends Scully over while he finds and arrests Chaco. But it’s too late – the masked guy who killed George is in Doris’ house with a knife. While Scully searches the house for her, Mulder sees photos and artifacts of the Anasazi tribe in Chaco’s house. He asks a maid to open a cabinet so he can see inside, but she doesn’t have a key. Mulder smashes the lock and finds the heads of the missing people inside.

Mulder calls Scully to tell her that Chaco’s not at home. He thinks Chaco kidnapped Doris, but he’s in Doris’ house. Chaco knocks out Scully, who’s probably going to end up on the menu at some sort of gathering Harold and Randolph are overseeing in the field where George was killed. Chaco’s upset that the men took Doris after he told them not to turn on their own. Harold reminds him that he brought in an outsider who made everyone sick. Chaco notes that once they turn on their own, everyone’s vulnerable.

Harold tells Chaco he won’t need to worry about that – the masked man is going to kill him next. Scully’s appropriately freaked out about what this means for her. She watches helplessly as the masked man decapitates Chaco with his trusty axe. At least the group’s fire (most likely responsible for the scorch mark in the field) makes it easy for Mulder to figure out where his partner’s being held. She’s next up on the chopping block (sorry), and of course, he’s able to stop the masked man before he can kill Scully. Everyone else at the ritual runs away, accidentally trampling Harold before he can get his gun and shoot Mulder.

Mulder checks on Scully before pulling off the masked man’s disguise to reveal…Arens. Well, of course. The agents see what people probably think is foxfire, but it looks more like people running away with torches. The next day, the Chaco plant is closed down by the USDA. While no tainted chickens have been found, 27 people from the ceremony have Creutzfeldt-Jakob. In 1944, Chaco’s plane was shot down in New Guinea, and he spent some time with a cannibalistic tribe. He was in his 90s when he died (and didn’t look a day over 70). As someone feeds the chickens at the plant, Scully reports that Chaco’s remains haven’t been found.

Thoughts: Arens is played by Gary Grubbs.

I wonder if Doris Kearns was named after the writer Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Well, crap. I love chicken. How can I ever eat it again?

Mulder, in a nutshell: “Did anyone search the river after George disappeared?” Arens: “No.” Mulder: “Well, let’s search it now.” Arens: “Why?” WHY DO YOU THINK?

This episode is a good (though extreme) example of why white people shouldn’t appropriate other cultures.

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