November 5, 2016
The X-Files 4.3, Teliko: Deceive, Inveigle, Obfuscate
Summary: It’s May 17th, 1996, and a man on an airplane is being watched by someone wearing horrible white makeup. The man goes to wash his face in the bathroom and screams at something on the ceiling. When the plane lands in New York, another man is just regaining consciousness in the bathroom. His eyes are pale but the color soon fills in. A flight attendant checks in on the first man, who’s dead, and also now wearing the horrible white makeup.
Scully’s called in to work very early in the morning to meet with a Dr. Simon Bruin from the CDC. (Skinner’s also there, but no one cares.) Four young African-American men have recently disappeared in Philadelphia, and last night one of them, Owen Sanders, was found dead. His cause of death hasn’t been determined yet. He’s wearing the horrible white makeup, which we’re calling “depigmentation.” Bruin thinks they’re dealing with a disease rather than abductions and/or murders.
Mulder joins Scully as she starts a medical exam on Owen’s body. “There’s a Michael Jackson joke in here but I can’t quite find it,” Mulder quips. He doesn’t get why the CDC has been called in for cases that seem to be abductions. Scully explains that the missing men may have been exposed to a pathogen or disease. Mulder notes that that doesn’t explain why they all disappeared. He wonders if they’re looking at a “PR exercise” – someone wants to cover up the murders of young black men. Scully sighs that not everything is a conspiracy designed to “deceive, inveigle, and obfuscate.”
The man from the plane, Samuel Aboah, has a patch of lighter skin on his back but so far shows no signs of being attacked by the horrible white makeup. He gets a visit from Marcus Duff, his immigration counselor, who’s helping him with his naturalization petition. He asks if Samuel’s sick, since he’s looking a little sweaty. Duff can empathize over Samuel being in a new country without his family, but once Samuel’s a citizen, Duff can help him bring his family to the U.S.
Mulder gets Pendrell to analyze samples from Owen’s body, which include asbestos and a seed called adenia volkensii. It’s from a plant that only grows in West Africa. Mulder’s new mystery is finding out how the seed wound up on Owen in the U.S. He calls Scully, who tells him that a substance in the seed acts as a cortical depressant that could be lethal in huge quantities. None was found in Owen’ body, so Mulder wonders if he could have metabolized it. Scully says no, since he died too quickly for that to happen. She’s more interested in the fact that Owen’s pituitary gland was necrotized. That explains Owen’s lack of pigmentation.
Mulder’s on his way to New York to see Marita again, thinking she might know something about the men’s disappearances. She tells him she knows nothing, and there’s no way to guess how the seed wound up on Owen’s body. Mulder would like to know if Marita has any information whatsoever that will ever be useful to him in any way, at any time. He’s not asking for much, you know!
A teenager at a bus stop feels a sharp pain in his neck and finds a seed there. His vision gets wonky, as if he’s been drugged. He’s so weak that when the bus arrives, he can’t get on it, and the driver’s voice sounds distorted to him. When the bus leaves, the teen sees Samuel across the street. His eyes are pale again, and the light patches on his skin seem to be spreading. Also, African music is playing, because this episode is awful.
Scully’s called to the bus stop the next morning and interviews the bus driver, who tries to justify leaving the teen behind because he had a schedule to stick to. Mulder arrives, and Scully explains that the teen, Alfred, didn’t come home from his job at a fast-food restaurant the night before. Scully thinks he was suffering from dementia, but Mulder thinks they’re looking at the same thing that killed Owen. He’s gotten hold of a file from the FAA about the death of the man on the plane. He was flying to New York from Burkina Faso, and the embassy took the body before it could be autopsied.
Police canvas the area, looking for Alfred, and one of them knocks on Samuel’s door. (He scoffs at Samuel’s last name, but the cop is African-American, so see, the episode isn’t totally racist!) Samuel’s lucky that the police don’t come inside, since Alfred is there. He doesn’t look so great, but who would after being drugged and kidnapped by a guy who then pulls a thing out of his throat that looks like a giant asparagus spear?
Mulder and Scully meet with Duff, knowing that many of his cases deal with “aliens” from Africa and the Caribbean. (You just had to say “aliens,” didn’t you, Mulder?) Mulder asks him to cross-reference the names of people on the flight from Burkina Faso with people who have applied for work or residence visas in the past few months. Duff points out that he’s a social worker; he doesn’t help the police find people in the country illegally. Scully gets him to help by telling him they may be dealing with a health crisis.
The agents then stake out Samuel’s apartment, debating whether they’re really dealing with a pathogen. They don’t know what they’re looking for, but since it leads to death, it’s definitely a problem. Scully says that sometimes you have to start at the end (with death) and work your way back to the beginning.
Samuel arrives home from work as a day laborer and runs as soon as Mulder tries to talk to him. Not suspicious at all! The agents chase him into an alley, where he sees to disappear. Scully sees a hole in a fence and thinks Samuel was able to squeeze through it. Mulder spots a drain pipe in the side of the building and discovers Samuel’s hiding spot.
A doctor examines Samuel and declares him asymptomatic, but Scully thinks he could still be a carrier. Duff arrives to argue for his client’s release; he shouldn’t have been arrested since the agents said his health was just in danger. Since Samuel’s English isn’t that great, Scully asks Duff to serve as a translator. She and Mulder want to know why he ran when they tried to talk to him. Duff says that in Samuel’s home country, police weren’t exactly champions of human rights. Mulder disagrees, saying Samuel has to be hiding something. He’s going to see someone who’s been deceiving, inveigling, and obfuscating all along.
Mulder next goes to the Burkina Faso embassy, getting himself a meeting with a diplomat named Diabria thanks to some help from the UN. He thinks Diabria knows exactly what’s happening. Diabria says that his people are farmers, and he grew up hearing stories about the Teliko, “spirits of the air” that spend their days in small, dark places like holes in the ground (or like the medical cart Samuel has just hidden inside). At night, they come out to…scare children, apparently. Diabria saw one as a child, and his cousin was found dead the next day, looking just like the man who died on the plane.
As an orderly unwittingly lets Samuel out of his room, Scully shows a doctor X-rays of Samuel’s throat, which show something inside it. He also has no pituitary gland. Mulder arrives to tell his partner that Samuel has disappeared. Samuel stalks Duff at his office, getting himself a ride home and planning something dastardly with the asparagus stalk. Later, Duff’s car turns up abandoned. That’s the least of his problems, though – Samuel’s sticking something sharp from the asparagus stalk up Duff’s nose. A cop finds Duff half alive with the sharp thing still in his nose.
Samuel escapes through the drain pipe again as Duff is taken to the hospital and the agents are summoned. Mulder thinks that Samuel’s lack of pituitary gland indicates that he’s from a lost tribe of sub-Saharan albinos who have, for evolutionary purposes, had to steal hormones from other people’s pituitaries. I mean, of course. Mulder thinks it’s totally reasonable to base his logic on an old folktale. Scully wonders why Samuel would come to the U.S. Mulder’s like, “Because freedom, duh.”
Remembering that asbestos was found on Owen’s body, Mulder thinks they should check out a construction site where Samuel has done some work. He’s there, all right, and he’s become the latest victim of the white makeup. He shoots Mulder with a seed, so that’s one less FBI agent Samuel will have to overpower. Scully keeps looking around on her own, crawling through a duct while Samuel watches her through a vent. This goes on forever.
Eventually Scully finds Alfred’s body, then a drugged Mulder. She finally comes across Samuel and tries to shoot him, but he’s too fast for her. Scully finds more bodies and has to stash Mulder with them while she calls for help. Mulder sees Samuel approaching and, unable to speak, tries to alert Scully with his eyes. Proving that the partners can communicate even without words, Scully catches on and shoots Samuel before he can attack her.
Scully’s end-of-episode case report/wrap-up says that Duff is fine and will testify against Samuel in his capital murder case. However, Samuel’s health isn’t great, since he hasn’t been able to access any delicious pituitary glands. Scully thinks this is all science stuff, and she’s not sure science will ever have an explanation for Samuel’s condition. She thinks the case has really highlighted how we’re afraid of the “alien” among us. It makes us “deceive, inveigle, and obfuscate,” hiding the truth both from others and from ourselves.
Thoughts: Duff is played by Carl Lumbly, Dixon from Alias.
Mulder, if you want to talk to your informant who knows highly classified things that she could probably be killed for knowing, maybe don’t stalk her at night. Women don’t really appreciate that.
Can we all just pretend this episode never happened? Great, thanks.