January 21, 2017
The X-Files 4.14, Memento Mori: How to Save a Life
Summary: Scully gives us a voiceover about “[feeling] time like a heartbeat” and sharing a burden through words. She wants the person reading her words to know that she feels comfort because she’s receiving understanding. She’s standing in a hospital gown, looking at a scan of her head, which shows a mass right between her eyes. Scully finishes her voiceover by asking forgiveness for not finishing the journey with her audience.
Mulder joins Scully at Holy Cross Memorial Hospital in D.C., where Scully has just received her medical news. She tells him she feels fine, despite the tumor in her brain. He’s the only person she’s called. The tumor is inoperable, and its size and placement make it hard to treat. Mulder refuses to believe that. Scully’s amused that, for once, she believes something he doesn’t – she’s certain that the cancer isn’t going anywhere and will most likely kill her. Mulder still won’t accept this, saying that there have to be people out there who’ve received treatment.
Scully gives the news to Skinner, asking him to keep it quiet. She plans to delay treatment until she and Mulder meet with the MUFON women in Pennsylvania, as Betsy was being treated for the same type of cancer. Scully wants to pursue this as a case rather than a personal matter. But when the agents arrive at Betsy’s house, they learn that she died a few weeks earlier. They’re just in time to see files from Betsy’s computer being downloaded by someone.
The agents trace the hack to a man named Kurt Crawford and go to his apartment. Mulder heads to the back of the building just as someone tries to sneak out. The agents capture Kurt, but the exertion of the chase gives Scully a nosebleed. She tells Mulder again that she’s fine. Kurt tells the agents he was in Betsy’s MUFON group and downloaded her files at her request. He ran because he believes his life is in danger.
Scully wants to question the other MUFON members, but Mulder says they can’t. Kurt confirms that all of the other members have died of brain cancer except one, Penny Northern. Kurt believes the women’s stories about being abducted and developing tumors as a result. Mulder thinks Scully’s in denial about her illness coming from the same circumstances. Scully notes that Penny’s still alive, so there’s nothing definitive about the situation.
Mulder suggests that Scully talk to Penny, but Scully doesn’t see the point. What would they talk about, knowing what it’s like to be dying of cancer? Mulder puts it in FBI terms, pointing out that she’s a witness they need to talk to. So Scully visits Penny in the hospital, surprised that Penny seemed to expect her. Her doctor, Scanlon, thinks he’s found the cause of the cancer, though it’s probably too late to do anything. Scully seems to grasp that it might not be too late for her.
Scully calls Mulder (“Mulder, it’s me”), who’s at Betsy’s with Kurt, looking through her files. Penny and Betsy were both treated for infertility at the same clinic. Scully asks him to come to the hospital with her overnight bag and call her mother. Whatever Mulder found isn’t important right now. “The truth is in me,” she says, and she needs to suspend the investigation and look into what’s happening to her. Mulder immediately heads off, leaving Kurt in Betsy’s apartment. Seconds later, a man enters the apartment with an icepick, and someone ends up as green acid.
Scully spends the night at the hospital, waking to meet Dr. Scanlon, who she first sees as an alien-like being. She’s bracing herself for chemo and radiation, which Scanlon says will make her “feel like dying.” Maggie arrives, and Scully repeats her new mantra, that she’s fine. Maggie’s upset that Scully didn’t tell her about her diagnosis right away. Scully says that she wanted all the answers first, and though she hasn’t found any yet, she has some clarity, as well as a possible way to fight back.
Maggie makes it clear that she doesn’t want to be left out of whatever happens. She cries as she says that Scully was always the strong one. Having lost Melissa, Maggie only has one daughter left. Scully remains stoic as her mother breaks down. She undergoes some scans, voicing over about how cancer “starts as an invader, but soon becomes one with the invaded,” turning a person’s body against itself. You can destroy it, but you risk destroying yourself in the process.
The voiceover is a letter written to Mulder in case Scully doesn’t survive. She wants him to know that he should never feel like there was something more he could have done. Though they’ve been working together, “this last distance must necessarily be traveled alone.”
Mulder, having not read the letter yet, is still determined to do something. He goes to the clinic where Betsy and Penny were treated and tries to access some files, but has to hide when he hears someone approaching. It’s Kurt, who survived the icepick assassin after all. Kurt and Mulder are looking for the same thing, so Kurt gets to work hacking the computer with the files they need. Mulder notices a snowglobe of a place called Vegreville, which turns out to be the password.
Back at the hospital, Scully has a nightmare about her head being drilled while she was abducted. Penny comforts her when she wakes up, feeling sick for the first time. Scully remembers hearing Penny’s voice in her dream. Penny says “they” let her sit with Scully during the procedures, though she’s not sure why. Scully doesn’t want to hear about this right now, but Penny thinks it’s important for her to understand what’s happening to her.
Mulder returns to D.C. and asks Skinner to get him a meeting. He has a disk containing a file from the clinic; it has Scully’s name, even though he’s pretty sure Scully’s never undergone treatment for infertility. Since the file is a directory for a mainframe at the Lombard Research Facility, Mulder doesn’t know what it’s about. That’s why he wants to meet with CSM. Skinner warns that if Mulder offers up anything, CSM will “own” him. But Mulder thinks CSM knows what happened to Scully and may know how to save her. “You can’t ask the truth of a man who trades in lies,” Skinner says, refusing the request.
Fortunately, Mulder has the Lone Gunmen to turn to. They decrypt the file, which contains a gene code from her blood post-abduction. The branching in the code can lead to mutation. The Gunmen think someone was doing research to find the cause of the mutation, though Mulder notes that someone could instead be looking for a cure. He invites the Gunmen to come to Lombard with him: “Pick out something black and sexy, and prepare to do some funky poaching.”
Skinner goes to Mulder’s office and finds CSM, who’s surprised that Mulder’s been relegated to the basement. Skinner spits that at least Mulder doesn’t have to “take an elevator up to get to work,” which I think is his way of saying that CSM is from Hell, but…try harder, Skinner. Despite Mulder and Skinner’s agreement to keep Scully’s illness confidential, CSM knows she’s sick. He notes that modern medicine can lead to miracles. Skinner would like for one, so he asks what he needs to do to save Scully. CSM will get back to him. “Which way is the elevator?” he asks pointedly as he leaves.
Mulder and Byers stake out Lombard while Frohike and Langly sneak inside and patch into the facility’s security cameras. Mulder and Byers head in next but immediately hit a roadblock with a security code. While Langly figures it out, Mulder looks at a directory of doctors and sees that Scanlon is on staff there. Langly gets the code, but Mulder sends Byers off on another mission, telling him to contact Scully and get her to stop treatment.
Scully writes to Mulder again, now feeling the effects of her treatment. Penny’s condition has worsened, and Scully dreads going down the same road. She can feel Mulder close, even though he’s not with her. She’s grateful for his work and needs to know he’s out there if she has any hopes of beating the cancer.
The security feed and comms get fuzzy, and Langly and Byers lose contact with Mulder just as Byers sees security guards arriving at the facility. Mulder makes it to a lab, where he’s greeted by a bunch of clones of Kurt. The lab is full of tanks containing more clones. Mulder thinks Kurt was using him, but the clones really want him to help them end the project that created them. Mulder recognizes a clone in a tank as the boy from the farm. Kurt confirms that the adult clones are the end result of the experiment.
Mulder thinks the clones want the developing clones to be destroyed. They say they actually want what Mulder wants. One shows him a storeroom full of ova harvested from abducted women, including Scully. The ova are then used to create clones. Unfortunately, the procedure leaves them barren and gives them cancer. The Kurt clones want to save them, since they’re technically the clones’ mothers.
When Mulder’s comms return, Langly warns that there’s a security breach. In another part of the building, Byers hides from guards. Langly gives Mulder directions to get out of the building, but the Gunmen can’t get the doors open fast enough for him to leave. A guard finds Mulder and fires at him, trying to break through bulletproof glass. The Gunmen manage to get Mulder out just as the shooter breaches the glass.
Mulder goes straight to Scully’s room, which is empty except for her journal. Byers meets up with him and assures him that he reached Scully. She’s sitting with Penny, who’s barely holding on. Scully confirms that Scanlon probably isn’t coming back. Penny tells her to keep looking for answers, and Scully promises not to give up hope. Her stoicism is beginning to falter.
Penny dies, and Scully can no longer keep her emotions hidden. Mulder tells her he read a little of what she wrote to him, but Scully now wants to throw it away. She’s decided not to let the cancer beat her. She’s going to work as long as she can. Mulder is determined to find Scanlon and figure out exactly what happened to Scully and the other women. He knows that Scully will find a way to save herself.
Scully notes that many people live with cancer, and she will, too. She has things to prove to herself and her family, and things to finish. Mulder hugs her, happy to be able to keep working with her. “The truth will save you, Scully,” he tells her. “I think it’ll save both of us.” He kisses her forehead, but only her forehead, because they cut the version where they kiss on the lips. As she goes back to her room, Mulder hides a vial of ova in his pocket.
Mulder calls Skinner to let him know that Scully’s going to keep working. He thanks Skinner for talking him out of meeting with CSM; he’ll just find another way to get the truth. “There’s always another way,” Skinner says. “Yes, I believe there is,” CSM agrees from the other side of Skinner’s desk. “If you’re willing to pay the price.”
Thoughts: Gillian Anderson won an Emmy for this episode.
Way to protect your witness who thinks his life is in danger, guys.
And way to keep your shady doctor’s identity secret, Lombard. Also, did Scully do ANY research before she started treatment with Scanlon?
I finally feel like Skinner is really part of this show. He was pretty ineffectual in the past, but in this episode, we see that he knows exactly what’s going on and is willing to go to great (possibly dangerous) lengths for his agents.