July 23, 2016

The X-Files 3.12, War of the Coprophages: La Cucaracha

Posted in TV tagged at 1:35 pm by Jenn

I love this shot

I love this shot

Summary: In Miller’s Grove, Massachusetts, a man is waxing poetic about cockroaches. To sum up, there are a bunch of them in the world, and spectacular as far as evolution is concerned. They only respond to environmental stimuli and are incapable of thinking. The man is an exterminator, which means he only deals with cockroaches at the end of their evolutionary cycle. He tells a homeowner that he uses a new pesticide that works like a fungus, infecting other cockroaches to kill more than just the ones that ingest it. One roach proves hard to kill, and the exterminator’s the one who ends up dead, covered in roaches.

Mulder’s out gazing at the stars from his car when Scully calls him. He’s in Massachusetts for the weekend while his apartment is fumigated. Scully cleans her gun while Mulder talks about looking up at the sky and feeling like you’re being watched by something up there. Scully finds it hard to believe in intelligent alien life; it’s anti-Darwinian. “Scully, what are you wearing?” Mulder asks so she’ll lighten up. She advises him not to look too hard at the universe – he might not like what he finds. He notes that Charlton Heston said that in Planet of the Apes.

Mulder gets off the phone when a sheriff approaches, wondering if Mulder was on the phone with his drug dealer. Mulder asks about UFO sightings in the area, but the sheriff hasn’t heard anything. When he learns that Mulder’s been trying to get rid of bugs, he gets concerned. He leaves when a call comes in about “another roach attack.”

Mulder calls Scully to tell her that people are being killed by cockroaches; the exterminator is just one of three found that day. The witnesses are respectable people – a biologist, an astrophysicist, and the alternative fuel research who owns the home where the exterminator died. Scully asks if the bodies were found with insect bites. She thinks the victims could have died of anaphylactic shock after suffering allergic reactions to the roaches. Mulder considers this a reasonable explanation, so Scully doesn’t need to come up and help him investigate. Case closed!

Across town, some stoners in a lab are talking about seeing true reality, and other druggy stuff. One of them sees a cockroach burrowing into his arm. It’s gross. At home, Scully’s giving her dog a flea bath when Mulder calls back to report that the stoner is dead. He has wounds all over his body, though they might be from the razor blade he used to try to cut out the roach. Scully teaches him about Ekbom’s Syndrome, a drug-induced psychosis that explains the stoner’s behavior. Mulder again decides this makes sense.

After hanging up, Mulder spots a roach in the lab and tries to capture it. He accidentally kills it, turning it to dust. He’s pretty sure the roach’s exoskeleton was made of metal. He sees a doctor about a cut caused by the metal, and though the doctor doesn’t think it’s serious, he’s worried that the roach killings are a threat to the community. He’s not happy that Mulder can’t provide any information. The doctor heads to the bathroom, where he’s joined by some roaches.

The sheriff wonders if the roach attacks are connected to experiments conducted in the town recently by someone claiming to be from the Department of Agriculture. He thinks they’re dealing with the aftermath of some failure in an experiment with killer bees. The two hear yelling from down the hall and head to the bathroom to find the doctor dead. A co-worker who found him says he was covered in roaches, but they disappeared when he went to look for help. Mulder sees one and tries to capture it, but it falls down a drain.

Mulder calls Scully again; she answers the phone, “Who died now?” Since the doctor was found on the toilet, she thinks he died of a brain aneurysm caused by straining too forcefully. She teases that Mulder thinks he’s dealing with killer cockroaches. They hang up, but sometime later, Scully calls back to share some research. The town might be infested by a new breed of cockroach that behaves differently from other breeds. Specifically, they may be attracted to people instead of scared by them.

Mulder’s currently sneaking into the lab where killer bees may or may not have been subject to experiments. It’s set up like a normal house, except for the rippling walls. Mulder pulls back a bit of wallpaper to find tons of cockroaches. He hangs up on Scully when a woman arrives to confront him for trespassing. She’s Dr. Berenbaum with the USDA, and she’s been studying the roaches to figure out how to eradicate them more effectively. She claims that the roaches are a common species, no more attracted to people than others, though they sometimes burrow into people.

Dr. Berenbaum shows Mulder a contraption she’s working on that basically looks like a high-tech bug-zapper. She has a theory that UFOs are just swarms of insects. “I don’t know if you know anything about UFOs,” she begins, saying that the noises and lights seen during their sightings could be made by bugs interfering with TV and radio signals. Dr. Berenbaum is fascinated by everything related to insects, especially how they only function on a basic level. Mulder’s basically ready to propose. When Scully calls back, he answers the phone with, “Not now.”

A man spending the night at a nearby motel watches a news report about the roach attacks. One theory is that the bugs are spreading Ebola. People are advised to evacuate and call the authorities if they see roaches. The man is too distracted by the TV to see roaches in his own bed. Mulder’s also spending the night in the motel, and since he can’t sleep, he calls a worried Scully. She’s annoyed that he’s been working with another woman, one named Bambi.

He tells her the UFO/insect theory, then admits that he despises insects. As a kid, he had a run-in with a praying mantis he thought was a leaf. As a result, he screamed like he’d seen a monster from a horror movie (but it wasn’t a girlie scream). He was confronted by the wonders of the natural world, but they repulsed him. Scully asks if he’s sure it wasn’t a girlie scream. Suddenly there’s a different kind of scream, one from the room of the man with the roaches in his bed. One of the men who finds him dead is the exterminator’s homeowner.

Scully’s packing to leave town when Mulder calls to tell her about the latest death. However, he thinks the man suffered a heart attack, and that everyone is town has gotten too anxious from all the news reports. He confirms that the exterminator died of anaphylactic shock, the stoner died of self-inflected wounds (and was most likely hallucinating, since he was cooking meth), and the doctor died of an aneurysm. So there’s nothing weird going on here, other than the roaches having metal exoskeletons.

Scully still wants to come up, and Mulder’s so distracted by a roach in his room that he doesn’t tell her not to come. He takes the roach to Bambi, who’s impressed with the bug’s genitalia. Well, with the metal comprising the bug’s genitalia. She’s heard about someone who can create robots with this much detail, and lucky for Mulder, he happens to be nearby, at the Massachusetts Institute of Robotics.

There, Mulder’s greeted by a robot that looks kind of like a giant bug. The robot’s creator, Dr. Ivanov, accuses him of scaring the robots. Ivanov, who seems to be the show’s version of Stephen Hawking, talks to Mulder about brains and insect reactions and other sciencey stuff. The robot that greeted Mulder keeps following him, and Ivanov says it likes him.

Ivanov has a contract with NASA, who hope to send his robots to other planets for better research than humans can conduct. They’ll just need a renewable energy source. If Ivanov’s theories are correct, there are aliens out there, and they’re technologically and mechanically advanced. They’re not the little green (or gray) men Mulder thinks they are. Ivanov looks at the bug robot’s legs under a microscope, but can’t comprehend their makeup.

The citizens of Miller’s Grove are stocking up on supplies to ride out the possible insect Armageddon. This means lots of food, toilet paper, and pesticide. Scully arrives in town in the middle of the chaos and gets to hear some theories from the townspeople. She tries to calm people in a convenience store, but when two women realize they’re down to only one can of roach killer, things turn messy. Their fight knocks over a candy display, and someone mistakes spilled chocolate for roaches. Suddenly the store is empty and Scully can find a roadmap in peace.

Mulder leaves Ivanov to drink alone in his lab, picking up a real roach on his way out. “Greetings from planet Earth,” he says to it. He takes it to Bambi, who confirms that it’s a real bug. Scully calls from the convenience store “on the outskirts of… civilization” to tell him that Dr. Eckerle, the fuel researcher who found the exterminator, has been studying methane gas derived from manure. He’s been bringing it into the town, and if the roaches were accidentally shipped in with it and have been eating with, Eckerle’s research facility might be their ground zero. Mulder: “But… aliens?” Scully thinks he’s been there too long.

Mulder takes Bambi with him to the research facility, where Eckerle has holed up with roach killer. He shoots at Mulder, saying he’s being followed. Mulder tells him the roaches weren’t responsible for the deaths in town. Also, since there’s a ton of methane gas around, Eckerle really needs to put his gun down. Scully arrives and gets an eyeful of Bambi, who calls Mulder “Fox.” Bambi wonders if she should go inside with Scully, but Scully tells her, “This is no place for an entomologist.”

Mulder tries to convince Eckerle to stop killing the roaches so they can be studied. But Eckerle’s already on his way off the deep end, even wondering if Mulder’s not just a giant roach. When Scully calls him and his cell phone rings, Eckerle thinks he’s buzzing like a real roach. He shoots a few more bullets, which sets off a couple fires, which lead to explosions in the facility. “Crap,” Mulder says, which is exactly what he and Scully are covered in thanks to the facility being full of manure.

The sheriff comes by along with firefighters and tells the agents that there were a bunch of assaults, lootings, and other riotous acts the night before. However, no one’s called in about seeing roaches for a few hours. He tells the agents to go get some rest – they “look pooped.” Ivanov joins them and asks to look at the robot bug again. Bambi thinks the insects have just moved on to another place.

Mulder wonders what Ivanov’s looking for now. “His destiny,” Bambi replies. Ivanov recognizes this as a line from Planet of the Apes, one of his and Bambi’s favorite movies. Looks like Bambi has a new love interest now. “Smart is sexy,” Scully notes. She thinks that by the time they have to deal with another robotic bug invasion, Bambi and Ivanov will have had super-intelligent children who can save the planet. Mulder can’t think of anything smart to say, so he tells Scully she smells.

Back at home, Mulder types up his case report. It’s about brains and reactions and instincts. Maybe humans have come as far as possible, and the next beings will continue our work with their own technology. Or maybe other creatures have already surpassed us. Would they be horrified by us and consider us mindless? Suddenly Mulder spots a big bug in his food and uses a case file to kill it. So when the robot bugs eventually rise up, they’ll probably go after him first.

Thoughts: Miller’s Grove is a takeoff of Grover’s Mill from The War of the Worlds.

The two surviving stoners appear again in “Quagmire” and “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.”

Scully’s reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a jab at David Duchovny, who missed a question about the book on Celebrity Jeopardy.

Mulder: “I see the correlation, but just because I work for the federal government doesn’t mean I’m an expert on cockroaches.” Heh.

Heeeeey, shirtless Duchovny. You can stop by anytime.

1 Comment »

  1. Shirtless Mulder was probably to make up for all the cockroaches. 😉

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