February 11, 2017
The X-Files 4.17, Tempus Fugit: Next Time, Take the Bus
Summary: “Somewhere over upstate New York,” a man named Rebhun talks to his seatmate about how he no longer gets nervous about flying, since statistically, it’s safe. His seatmate happens to be Max Fenig, and he seems more nervous about another man on the plane than he is about flying. He watches the man head to the bathroom, where he takes apart a pen and uses something inside to load a weapon. Turbulence hits the plane as the man emerges from the bathroom, and lights shine through the windows. A panel near Max starts to get pulled outside.
Things are much calmer at a restaurant where Mulder surprises Scully’s with a birthday dessert. She points out that this is the first time in four years he’s remembered her birthday. He gives her an Apollo 11 keychain. A woman named Sharon approaches the agents to tell them that her brother told her to find them if he didn’t make it. Her brother is Max, and he was supposed to be delivering something to D.C., something the government might kill him for. His plane went down on the way to D.C.
The agents head to New York and interrupt a meeting with a taskforce discussing the crash. All 134 passengers and crew members have been declared dead. The plane’s last recording before the crash is of the pilot calling mayday before the feed goes to static. Mulder asks if the plane was forced down, since the pilot said there was something approaching. A man from the NTSB is very interested in this conversation but stays quiet.
Mulder says a passenger on the plane was abducted by aliens multiple times and predicted the crash, so it’s reasonable that another aircraft caused it. A member of the taskforce says no one named Max Fenig was on the passenger manifest. The taskforce leader, Millar, slams Mulder for bringing his craziness to the situation. Scully’s like, “Thanks for this awesome birthday present, partner.”
The agents and the taskforce go to the crash site, where only pieces of the plane have been found. The official story is that the crash was caused by either a lightning strike or some other weather phenomenon. Of course, Mulder won’t buy that. Scully wants to know what it means if it turns out Max really was on the plane. Mulder says that whoever (or whatever) went after Max thought his death was important enough to sacrifice 133 other lives.
The man from the NTSB steals the weapon from the body of the man from the bathroom, and another man sprays him with something. Elsewhere, Scully finds another victim whose watch stopped at the same time as another watch Mulder finds. The crash took place at 7:52 p.m., and the watches stopped at 8:01. Scully dismisses the time of the crash as just an estimate. Mulder thinks they won’t find Max after all – he probably wasn’t on the plane when it crashed. Just then, someone finds a survivor.
Scully has Sharon brought to New York with Max’s things so the agents can figure out what he had with him on the plane. The survivor was exposed to high levels of radiation, and if Max was carrying whatever caused his burns, people could still be in danger. Scully then meets back up with Mulder, who tells her that the survivor is Rebhun (first name: Larold. Yes, really); he was sitting next to someone named Paul Gidney, an alias Max has used in the past. Scully has learned that Max used another alias to get a job at an energy site that stores uranium and weapons-grade plutonium.
Max wrote letters mentioning a theft, so he may have come across a dangerous situation. If he was carrying dangerous chemicals with him, their instability could have caused the crash. Mulder thinks Max was abducted from the plane, causing the crash; the burns came from the abduction, not chemicals. He thinks the crash will be declared unsolved unless the agents find out what really happened. He’s sure that when Max is returned, he’ll confirm Mulder’s suspicions. Scully tells Mulder that Max was already “returned” – they found his body.
Sharon is looking through Max’s letters in a motel when the room starts to shake and lights shine through the windows. Back at the crash site, Mulder finds one of his business cards on Max’s body. He checks out a couple more bodies but doesn’t seem to find what he’s looking for. In fact, that’s the point – he tells Scully that none of the bodies has a watch on. Mulder thinks someone stole them to keep people from finding out that they all lost nine minutes.
The agents meet with Sergeant Louis Frisch, who was working in an air-traffic control tower the night of the plane crash. He tells them that the crash began at 7:52, and there was radar confirmation about 45 seconds later. As the agents leave, Mulder mentions to Scully that the story has been that there was no radar confirmation. Scully figures the news about the confirmation just came after their initial briefing.
But as the agents leave, Frisch lets his partner know that he said what he was supposed to say. He doesn’t know the truth, and he doesn’t want to know. His partner, Gonzales, vows to tell the truth if the agents ever question him. Frisch doesn’t like that, since that would let the authorities know that he lied. He heads off on his own.
Sharon’s motel room has been trashed, and she’s missing. Mulder notices warping on the door, which is off its hinges. He thinks Sharon was abducted. Millar arrives to tell the agents that they may have found the cause of the crash, but it’s a pretty crazy theory. There are some cracks on the plane that make it look like it was shaken. Mulder thinks his abduction theory is looking more and more like a reality.
Frisch heads back to work and apologizes to Gonzales, but it’s too late – Gonzales is dead, seemingly having shot himself. Frisch sees a convoy of cars approaching the building. They’re led by the NTSB guy, and they’re looking for Frisch. Mulder listens to the mayday recording from the plane, then calls Scully (“Scully, it’s me”) to tell her that the air-traffic controller’s voice sounds familiar. He asks her to come to his motel room to listen to it. On her way over, Frisch grabs her and tells her he was responsible for the crash.
The agents take Frisch to the crash site to introduce him to Millar. Millar was told that the controller was a civilian, not an Army sergeant. Frisch says his commanding officer told him to lie about what happened. He saw another aircraft intercept and shadow the plane for ten minutes before the crash. There was an explosion, and the plane disappeared from his screen.
Millar denies that the evidence lines up with Frisch’s story. Mulder says the military is trying to cover up something, possibly that there was a third aircraft that Frisch didn’t see, which was shot down by the second aircraft. The plane Max was on might have just been collateral damage. That means there could be a second crash site. That also means that Frisch’s life could be in danger, since he’s put together what the military wants to keep hidden.
Now Millar is willing to consider Mulder’s theory, so he and the agents head out to look for the second crash site. But the agents spot NTSB guy’s convoy heading toward them and have to do some fancy driving to get away from them. (Well, Mulder does the driving. Scully’s contribution is just saying his name in a warning tone over and over. Thanks for your help, Scully.) Mulder has to fly under a plane that’s landing, causing the cars chasing him to spin off on other directions.
Millar goes to the first crash site and sees what looks like a UFO searching the wreckage. Its searchlight goes out and it seems to disappear, then suddenly reappear right over Millar. The light goes out again and it seems to drop out of the sky. Millar hears a woman calling for help nearby and finds Sharon, who begs him not to let them take her again.
Mulder is starting to wonder if there’s no second crash site after all – maybe the second crash happened in a lake instead of on land. He sends Scully and Frisch to D.C. while he looks into the descent of the second aircraft. Or maybe the third. I really don’t know at this point. Anyway, he goes to rent a boat and learns that there’s already a search underway.
Scully takes Frisch to her place, where he worries that he’ll be prosecuted for lying about the crash. It wasn’t his fault, but he watched the plane fall and will have to live with trying to cover up what really happened. He’s mad at himself for treating the passengers and crew like numbers and dots instead of real people. Scully promises to do whatever she can to ensure Frisch can tell his story to someone who will do the right thing. He asks if he can call his girlfriend to let her know he’s okay.
Back in New York, Mulder goes diving in the lake, thinking that the time he “got a quarter off the deep end at the Y pool” is enough experience. Scully and Frisch head to a bar to meet with a federal marshal; Pendrell is there, a little drunk, and thinks the two of them are on a date. Scully spots NTSB guy entering and realizes something’s off. He fires at Frisch but hits Pendrell instead. In the lake, Mulder finds wreckage of an aircraft, along with what looks like an alien. He starts to flee but is stopped by a bright light. To be continued!
Thoughts: I feel bad for the actor playing Max. He gets invited back to the show three years after his episode, but he doesn’t get any lines, he has two minutes of screen time, and they kill him.
Someone actually named a character Larold. I hope that person was never given the responsibility of naming a child.
I really need this show to tell us people’s names so I don’t have to figure them out from IMDb.
I can’t believe Scully thought letting Frisch use her home phone was a good idea. Come on!