September 3, 2016
The X-Files 3.18, Teso Dos Bichos: Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty
Summary: A team in the Ecuadorian highlands is participating in an archeological dig. A man alerts the rest of the group when he uncovers something described as “muy malo” (very bad). Dr. Roosevelt, who’s in charge of the dig, is summoned to the site as it starts snowing. They’ve found an amaru, the body of a female shaman, and Roosevelt is excited to take it. One of the diggers warns that it’s sacred, and they can’t disturb the burial site. Roosevelt says he’s “saving her.” A shaman in a red poncho watching from a hill seems to disagree.
That night, the diggers hold a Native ceremony around a fire. They all consume some sort of substance that appears to have hallucinogenic properties. The one English-speaker among them isn’t thrilled by the taste. In his tent, Dr. Roosevelt is mauled by something that looks like a large cat. And that’s why you always listen to warnings from indigenous people.
Three weeks later, a security guard checks out the Hall of Indigenous Peoples at the Boston Museum of Natural History. He’s looking for someone who may be working there late, but instead he finds a lot of blood. Nearby is the amaru from Ecuador. Mulder and Scully come in the next morning to investigate the death of Craig Horning, who may have been killed because of his connection to the dig in Ecuador. The Secona people demanded the return of amaru, but the people in charge of the dig refused.
Scully talks to Dr. Lewton, who tells her that he and Roosevelt organized the dig when an Ecuadorian company wanted to place a gas pipeline in the Secona burial grounds. While authorities said Roosevelt was killed by a wild animal, Bilac disagrees. So does Mulder, who thinks they’re dealing with a Secona curse – anyone who disturbs an amaru will be killed by a jaguar. Lewton thinks someone’s just exploiting the curse to pressure the museum to return the remains.
Mulder wants to see the remains, so an assistant named Mona shows them to him and Scully. Mona wishes they’d never been unearthed. She also doesn’t think Roosevelt had any feelings either way about the ethics of removing them; he was just following his superior’s orders. Scully asks about protests and letters from the Secona, including one from Alonso Bilac, the English-speaker in Ecuador. The agents would like to talk to him next.
Bilac’s back at home now, but he’s not looking so great. Scully wonders when Bilac, a liaison between Roosevelt and the Secona, first protested about Roosevelt taking the amaru. Bilac says he spent months living with the Secona, learning about their culture. He in turn taught them about “the joys of American bureaucracy,” and they’ve used that knowledge to write letters to the State Department demanding the return of the amaru. Bilac thinks that whatever happened to Horning will happen to others until the amaru is returned to the burial grounds.
Scully wonders if Bilac is behind Horning’s death. Bilac says no, but he doesn’t have an alibi, so Scully isn’t exactly swayed. Mulder notes that they don’t even have a body, so they have no way of knowing what happened to Horning. Scully’s like, “Oh, maybe the spirit of a jaguar ate him! Of course!” Meanwhile, Mona talks to someone on the phone, asking why he lied. Lewton catches her and asks if she was talking to Bilac. He reminds her that they have a responsibility as historians, and Roosevelt was only doing his job. Mona should be careful who she aligns herself with.
After Lewton leaves, Mona’s door opens, seemingly on its own. She’s spooked, but it’s just a dog. Lewton, however, encounters something much worse – a car that won’t start because there’s blood in the engine. Also, an attack from what’s probably the same thing that killed Roosevelt. Scully finds the remains of a rat in the engine, which would most likely explain why the car wouldn’t start. (A police officer wants to know how to label that as evidence. Scully’s like, “‘Partial rat body part,’ of course. Is this your first day or something?”
Mona tells Scully that Lewton seemed normal when she saw him the previous night. She also claims that he didn’t say anything about Bilac, so she can’t really be trusted. As the killer watches from a tree, Scully finds Mulder with a search team looking for Lewton’s body in the woods. Scully thinks the rat thing is inconsequential – the museum has had a rat problem for a long time – but that Mona knows more than she’s let on. She might be trying to protect Bilac. Mulder feels what he thinks is a raindrop, but it’s red. He and Scully see something wrapped around a tree branch, dripping blood.
Mona goes to Bilac’s house, letting herself in when he doesn’t answer the door. He’s in a dark room, looking even worse than he did when the agents visited him. She tells him Lewton’s dead, but he’s more concerned with the fact that she ignored his orders not to come see him. She thinks he knows something about the murders. Bilac has cooked up the same substance he took in Ecuador, which she realizes is yaje, a plant with psychotropic properties. Mona tells him he’s sick and needs help. He doesn’t want it from her.
Scully takes the thing from the branch to a test and identifies it as Lewton’s small intestine. She can’t figure out how his body was eviscerated, partly because some small animal chewed on it. Mona calls to tell her that Bilac is acting strange. She left him at his house and came back to the museum, but she feels like someone’s watching her.
While Scully sends Mulder over to get her, Mona decides to work on the amaru. Her dog thinks she should check out the bathroom. Something’s rattling in a toilet, and poor Mona is too curious to just run away without seeing what it is. She’s rewarded with the sight of dozens of rats. Scully goes back to Bilac’s house, where she finds the yaje but no Bilac.
Mulder arrives at the museum and runs into the security guard. Before they can look for Mona, Scully calls (“Mulder, it’s me”) and reads to her partner from one of Bilac’s journals. He wrote about seeing a creature with “the eyes of a scorpion and the jaws of a jaguar.” Mulder’s like, “Well, a jaguar attacking people from trees would explain how Lewton’s guts got up there.” Scully thinks Bilac has been using the yaje in a ceremony to pray to the amaru.
Mulder spots blood on the floor outside the bathroom, which contains even more of it. Mona’s not there, but Bilac is. He tells Mulder that Mona’s dead. Scully joins her partner to question Bilac, who says he came to the museum because “the amaru would not be appeased.” He tried to push Mona away to protect her because she was an innocent party. Scully thinks Bilac, not a jaguar, is the curse (and the drugs can’t be helping). Bilac tells her that the spirit of the amaru isn’t something she’ll be able to detain like him.
Back in the bathroom, Mulder notices water everywhere and wonders what happened. He finds now-dead rats in all of the toilets. Being an FBI agent is so glamorous, isn’t it? A security guard lets the agents know that a body has been found – not Mona’s but her dog’s. A vet determines that the dog died from ingesting rat poison. There’s also a feline intestine and rat fur in his stomach, making Mulder and Scully think that the rat ate poison, a cat ate the rat, and the dog ate the cat.
Mulder notes that rats have been associated with a number of deaths at the museum. Somehow he then jumps to transmigration of an animal soul. The rats were trying to escape from the jaguar, which must be in the sewers. “Have you been drinking yaje?” Scully asks. The two learn that Bilac has escaped the room he was being kept in, even though the officer outside his door didn’t leave or see him. Mulder finds a hidden passageway that leads to a steam tunnel and guesses that something dragged Bilac down there.
Field trip to the tunnel! The killer watches as the agents decide to follow a rat, because why not? It leads them to Lewton’s body. Mulder spots a cat and follows that, too, finding a bunch of cats. Suddenly the killer attacks Scully, clawing at her. All the cats escape as the agents run through the tunnels. Scully finds Bilac’s body in a vent, and even crawling up there is a better option for the agents than turning back to face a bunch of angry cats.
Once Mulder and Scully are back aboveground, Bilac, Mona, and Lewton’s bodies are pulled out, but Animal Control can’t find any cats. There are miles of tunnels, so it would take weeks to search them all. Mulder says it doesn’t matter – the Ecuadorian ambassador is finally paying attention to Bilac’s protest letter. The museum will close until the amaru is returned to the burial grounds.
In Mulder’s end-of-episode voiceover, he says that the curse or whatever hasn’t been explained. The museum wanted to preserve an artifact from a dying culture, not realizing how powerful it was. The Secona people rebury the amaru in Ecuador as Mulder says that some things shouldn’t be disturbed. The shaman in red looks on, his eyes becoming cat’s eyes, as the killer is laid back to rest.
Thoughts: “Teso dos bichos” is Portuguese for “animal burial ground,” even though…you know, Ecuador isn’t a Portuguese-speaking country. Apparently director Kim Manners hated this episode so much that he gave it exactly the nickname you would expect for something with the word “bichos” in it.
The clothes the Secona wear during the dig are the most South American clothes I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been to South America.
So Mona was allowed to bring her dog to work at the museum? Awesome. (Thanks a lot for killing him, writers. You suck.)
I’m disappointed that no one in this Boston-set episode has a Boston accent. Then again, I’m disappointed by a lot in this episode. Like that it exists at all.