October 8, 2016

The X-Files 3.23, Wetwired: Let’s Go to the Videotape

Posted in TV tagged , , , , at 1:21 pm by Jenn

I had roughly this many videotapes in the '90s, too

I had roughly this many videotapes in the ’90s, too

Summary: It’s after 10 at night in Braddock Heights, Maryland, and a man is digging a big hole to bury another man’s body. You know, just typical springtime fun. Though the digger says the other man’s killing days are over, so I guess he thinks he’s done something good. The digger washes up back at home, but his victim shows up in his house. The digger uses his shovel to kill the victim again, and is dragging his body outside when the police arrive. Both cops look like his victim. The digger attacks one and gets tased in return. There’s a glitch like the diggers watching a faulty TV, and he sees the cops’ real faces. They find a body in the digger’s trunk – it’s his wife, Sarah.

Mulder’s in downtown D.C., meeting with a man who contacted him wanting to talk. He suggests that Mulder look into the five murders the digger (Joseph Patnik) committed. The man denies that he’s one of Mulder’s “sources,” but he won’t clarify who, exactly, he is. He does warn that if Mulder doesn’t look into the crimes, more will die. So Mulder looks into them, visiting Patnik at a psychiatric hospital. He tells Scully that Patnik says he killed the same man over and over, but he wouldn’t die. A babysitter in Patnik’s neighborhood recently attacked the children she was watching, saying she thought they were wolves.

Patnik’s doctor, Stroman, tells the agents that Patnik has been having outbursts, though he’s calm now. They found amphetamines in his system. Suddenly Patnik starts screaming and has to be sedated again. The agents see that Patnik was watching TV when a news story came on about murderous Bosnian dictator Lladoslav Miriskovic (not to be confused with Slobodan Milosevic, I imagine). The agents head to Patnik’s house, wondering why Mulder’s source pointed them toward the case. Scully wonders if they’re being used. Mulder doesn’t think it matters, since they need some answers anyway.

The agents hear screaming from upstairs, but it’s just the movie a couple of preteen boys are watching. As the boys leave, the TV goes snowy – a cable guy appears to be working on the lines. Scully notices the Patniks’ extensive videotape collection, which seems to consists mostly of recorded news broadcasts. Scully wonders if there’s a connection between them and Patnik’s crimes. The agents review some of the tapes their motel rooms that night, and Scully discovers that pieces on Miriskovic aired on each night Patnik committed a murder.

Mulder dismisses the theory that violence on TV leads to violence in real life; it’s pseudoscience. Scully thinks that Patnik’s drug use combined with the violent imagery made him kill. Mulder argues that that’s not enough to make a previously stable person violent – “not even must-see TV can do that.” He heads off to bed while Scully keeps watching the tapes. She passes the time by crunching ice, eventually going outside to get more. She sees Mulder in his car in the parking lot, having a chat with CSM. She sees Mulder hand CSM a videotape and then drive off with him.

The next morning, a woman is washing dishes and watching a game show when her kitchen starts to glitch. She looks in the backyard and sees her husband fooling around with a woman in their hammock. She responds by grabbing a gun. Mulder tells Scully about the latest murder, and she meets him in the car, checking the ashtray first (it’s empty). She asks if he took the car out last night, since it’s parked in a different spot now. Mulder says he got a newspaper that morning.

At the latest crime scene, the agents learn that the killer, Helene, said she saw her husband in the hammock with a blonde. Apparently the blonde was really the couple’s golden retriever. (Thankfully, the dog is unharmed.) Oh, and the man in the hammock isn’t even Helene’s husband; he was a neighbor. Helene was in the wrong backyard. The agents check out the house, which is full of items purchased from home-shopping channels. There are also a bunch of videotapes, which Scully starts watching.

Mulder spots the same cable guy from the Patniks’ house outside. He goes to talk to the guy, who drives off. Mulder then climbs the utility pole himself (seems about right for him) and sees that the worker installed something in a box, possibly a scrambler. Scully suggests that they hand it over to Pendrell for analysis, and Mulder says he’ll take care of it. Instead, he takes the device to the Lone Gunmen, who tell him it adds something between the still pictures transmitted in a normal TV broadcast. It’s emitting some sort of signal.

Scully calls Mulder (no “Mulder, it’s me,” unfortunately), who tells him that someone may be conducting a test. She tells him she talked to Pendrell, who said Mulder never brought him the device. Mulder says he took it somewhere else and tries to explain the device to her. Scully hears clicks on the line, though Mulder doesn’t hear them. She hangs up on her partner and doesn’t answer when he calls back. She unplugs the phone and pulls apart the receiver. Next, she checks a lamp, the underside of the couch, the backs of paintings, and a light socket. As she’s trashing the room, the walls start to glitch.

Seeing headlights outside makes Scully panic, and she goes for her gun when someone knocks at her door. It’s a good thing her shots miss because Mulder’s there with a motel clerk. Scully runs off and still hasn’t turned up in the morning. Mulder calls Maggie, trying to downplay the seriousness of the situation. Skinner arrives and Mulder tells him to keep the investigating officers from treating this like a manhunt for an escaped criminal. He thinks Scully’s suffering from the same psychosis as Patnik and Helene. She’s not responsible for her violent actions. Skinner suggests that it might be a good idea to find her before she hurts anyone.

Mulder puts an X on his window, even though the last time he spoke to Mr. X, he was told there would be no more communication. The Lone Gunmen call to tell Mulder they found something interesting on a tape from Scully’s room. Mulder joins them to learn that there were red and green lights being transmitted between frames in a home-shopping segment. The signal triggers something in the brain, similar to subliminal messages used in movie theaters in the past to make people buy popcorn.

Byers says that American and Russian scientists have been working on this technology for a long time. The guys just don’t know why Mulder wasn’t affected. Mulder asks if color could be a factor – he’s red-green colorblind, so he may not see the signal like others do. As the guys discuss the possibility, Mulder gets a call from the police reporting that Scully may have been found…or rather, her body may have been found. He heads to the morgue, taking a moment to steady himself. Before he can go inside, his source arrives and demands a conversation. He tells Mulder to keep following the evidence before “they” can destroy it.

The body in the morgue is, of course, not Scully’s, and Mulder wants someone to let Maggie know. Maggie hasn’t been answering her phone, so Mulder pays her a visit. She doesn’t want to let him in the house, which makes him realize that Scully’s there. Scully greets her partner with a gun, thinking he’s there to kill her. Mulder explains to her that she’s sick, but Scully thinks he’s been working against her from the beginning. He was one of the people behind her abduction, he put the chip in her neck, and he killed Melissa. Maggie moves in front of Scully, reminding her daughter that she’d never let anyone hurt her. Scully calms and cries in her mother’s arm.

Scully’s admitted to Georgetown Hospital, embarrassed that she believed the things the signal made her think were real. Mulder tells her that the other killers were also affected by events they thought were playing into their worst fears. Patnik, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, wanted to kill Miriskovic because he saw him as a modern-day Hitler. Helene was scared that her husband would cheat on her. Mulder thinks the TV signal turns people’s fears into reality. Scully admits that she thought she saw Mulder talking to CSM as if Mulder were reporting to him. Mulder thinks it’s reasonable that CSM could be behind all of this.

On his way out, Mulder chats with Scully’s doctor, who hasn’t found anything medically wrong with her patient. The only abnormal thing she’s found is high levels of serotonin, which has in the past been linked to mania. Now they’re back to normal. Mulder wonders if the doctor might have suspected that Scully was on amphetamines, but the doctor says that doesn’t fit with the high serotonin levels. Mulder calls Patnik’s psych hospital to talk to Stroman, who’s no longer working there. For some reason, Mulder guesses that his new phone number is the one for the motel where he and Scully were staying.

Mulder returns to the hotel (where the clerk makes him go into the room first this time), but Stroman’s already checked out. While the clerk gets Stroman’s phone records, Mulder finds the butt of a Morley cigarette in an ashtray. He traces a number on the phone records to a house, arriving just before the cable guy shows up and lets himself in. Mulder watches through a window as the cable guy and Stroman wonder where the person they’re supposed to meet is. When Mulder starts to break in, he hears gunshots. Both men are now dead, thanks to Mr. X. Mulder’s unknowingly been working off of his tip the whole time.

Mulder complains that he doesn’t have evidence now, but Mr. X reminds him that he was warned about this happening. Mr. X says he had to move quickly because he was being watched. His orders were always to kill the cable guy and Stroman; he just hoped Mulder would finish his investigation first. Mulder wants to know why the signal was being used in the first place – sales? Voting? Mr. X says “they” won’t stop there.

Mulder calls him a coward for putting Mulder and Scully in danger without risking his own life. Mr. X just smirks and starts to leave. Mulder pulls his gun, but Mr. X isn’t intimidated. He tells Mulder he’s putting his life in danger right now. He knows Mulder won’t kill him – Mulder needs him. Mulder has no choice but to let him go.

A few weeks later, Mulder turns in a report on the case, though he doesn’t have much information to provide. Scully tells him and Skinner that the cable guy didn’t have any record of shady behavior, and the only doctor with a medical license in Stroman’s name was a guy from Falls Church (hometown shout-out!) who died in 1978. Mulder says the killer remains unknown. Said killer sneaks down an alley one night and gets in a car with…CSM. Mr. X assures him that all the tech from the case has been removed, though Mulder still has a transmitter. The man who originally contacted Mulder has been eliminated. And his source, like Mulder said, is still unknown.

Thoughts: I assume the author of Channel X watched this episode.

I was under the impression that you couldn’t by an FBI agent if you were red-green colorblind, but it looks like there’s a special test that they’ll give colorblind applicants, and if you pass it, you’re in. Not that this is the most ridiculous thing to happen on the series anyway.

Scully, it’s okay to change out of your work clothes once you’re back in your motel room.

Helene’s victim’s name is John Gillnitz, a name used multiple times over the course of the series. It’s a combination of the names of three show writers: John Shiban, Vince Gilligan, and Frank Spotnitz.

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