February 25, 2017
The X-Files 4.19, Synchrony: The Iceman Cometh
Summary: An old man runs to MIT around 11:40 at night as two 20-something men fight about one of them going to someone behind the other’s back. The old man warns one of the younger men that he’s heading toward a dangerous street. The younger men try to get him to back off, but when a security officer arrives, the old man announces that one of them, Lucas, is going to get hit by a bus and be killed at 11:46. He warns the other man, Jason, to protect him. Jason is surprised that the man knows his name.
As the security officer takes the old man away, Jason tries again to work things out with Lucas, but Lucas is done talking. The two students split up, but when Jason sees a bus coming, he decides he should listen to the old man. Just as predicted, Lucas is struggling with his books and doesn’t see the bus. Jason runs to warn him, but it’s too late. It’s 11:46 and Lucas is dead. Also, the driver thinks Jason pushed Lucas in front of the bus, so this is really not Jason’s day. (Well…not Lucas’ either.)
Mulder presents the situation to Scully, explaining that just before his death, Lucas was arguing with Jason, his academic advisor. Jason has been arrested for murder and won’t tell the police what they were fighting about. Mulder shows Scully a taped interrogation where Jason claims that an old man warned that Lucas was going to be hit by a bus. No one has been able to talk to the old man, or to the security officer, since he’s dead.
The agents go to Massachusetts and discover that the security officer’s body is frozen. In normal circumstances, it would look like he’d passed out after drinking and froze to death, but it only got down to 28 degrees the previous night, and the body is 15 degrees. Or at least it was – now it’s 8. Scully thinks a chemical like liquid nitrogen is to blame, and she’s curious as to how this is connected to Lucas’ death.
Mulder goes to the police station to meet Jason, who’s chatting with his girlfriend, Lisa. After she leaves, Jason asks if the police are going to blame him for the security officer’s death as well as Lucas’. Mulder tells him about the body being frozen, and Jason thinks he’s playing mind games. He finally reveals the reason for his and Lucas’ fight: Lucas was going to rat on Jason for falsifying data in a paper. Jason says he didn’t, though he did interpret data in a not-completely-sound way.
Mulder guesses that the two men were competing for the same grant. Jason explains that they study cryobiology, the effects of freezing temperatures on biological systems. Scully calls (no “Mulder, it’s me,” sadly) to tell her partner that she found Jason’s fingerprints on the security officer and his car, so Jason is looking at a second murder charge.
A man named Dr. Yonechi tries to check into a hotel, but his name isn’t on the list of reservations. The old man approaches him, claiming he was sent to pick up Yonechi and take him to a different hotel. Once they’re at the new hotel, the old man thanks Yonechi for his contribution to the old man’s work on vitrification. Yonechi is confused – no one’s solved vitrification yet. The old man says that Yonechi found a way to substitute sugar for water. He pulls out a blade and stabs Yonechi in the hand, then apologizes, saying, “This is the only way.”
Yonechi becomes frozen corpse #2, and the agents learn that an old man was seen with him before his death. They think the man is Jason’s accomplice, and they’re using Jason’s cryobiology research to kill his competition. Scully shows Mulder an analysis of the chemical found in the wound the old man made in Yonechi’s hand; the security officer had one, too. Mulder thinks he knows someone who can enlighten them.
The agents visit Lisa, who’s also a cryobiologist, and show her the analysis. She tells them Jason was working on a rapid-freezing agent that allow a cell to be thawed so it can survive the freezing process. But Jason is nowhere near developing the agent; so far it’s just theoretical. They’re still at least ten years away from having the right technology. Scully and Mulder disagree. When Lisa learns that Yonechi was only frozen a couple hours ago, she announces that he might not really be dead.
Lisa has Yonechi brought to the lab and submerges him in some gross-looking yellow liquid. Once his temperature reaches 97 degrees, she pulls him out. Scully doubts that this will work – no way can a person survive after his body was as cold as Yonechi’s was. Mulder’s like, “Well, if he’s still dead, they can’t kill him more, so…” Lisa then proves Scully wrong by reviving Yonechi, but his temperature climbs so quickly that he starts seizing. Eventually he catches on fire, and the burns he suffers are definitely not survivable.
Scully asks Lisa what could be to blame for this kind of cellular reaction. Lisa thinks that the chemical that froze Yonechi was unstable, so they accidentally caused an opposite reaction by raising his temperature. She thinks he could have survived if he’d stayed in the yellow liquid. Mulder’s more interested in finding out where the freezing compound came from, since it’s not supposed to exist.
Lisa runs off to talk to Jason, with the old man right on her trail. She finally confronts him for following her, but he plays innocent. She guesses that he’s the man Jason saw the night of Lucas’ death, and he killed both Lucas and Yonechi. The old man warns that he can kill her, too. In fact, that’s why he’s there. He pulls out his blade but doesn’t use it on her.
Lisa gives the agents a sketch of the man and tells them about the encounter. Scully encourages her to be completely honest; otherwise she could be considered responsible for any crimes Jason committed. Lisa reveals that she, not Jason, falsified the data in Jason’s research so he could get the grant. Scully thinks she knows who the old man is, but Lisa insists that she doesn’t. She also thinks her secret is safe with him, though Scully wonders if a man who lied for her wouldn’t also lie to her.
Mulder pulls Scully aside to ask why the old man would keep Lisa’s secret. Scully thinks he wants to protect Jason as well. Mulder wonders if the medical tool the old man keeps using on people was originally designed for another purpose. A police officer approaches to tell the agents that there’s a lead on the old man’s location.
Mulder and Scully let themselves into the old man’s hotel room when he doesn’t answer the door. Scully finds Yonechi’s flight information, and Mulder finds a picture of Yonechi, Lisa, and Jason toasting something together. Mulder thinks they’re celebrating “something that never happened.” He believes someone’s trying to alter the future.
He elaborates: If Lucas hadn’t been hit by a bus, he would have gone before the grant committee and revealed Jason and Lisa’s lie. Jason wouldn’t be able to work with Yonechi, and the celebration in the photo never happens. Since the old man couldn’t save Lucas, he had to kill Yonechi to try to get to the same outcome. Scully wonders when the photo was taken (or “never taken”). Mulder guesses it’s at least five years from now, after the freezing compound is developed.
Mulder believes that the old man brought the compound with him to the present. Oh, and he thinks the old man is Jason. He reminds Scully that her graduate thesis was on quantum physics, so she can’t rule out the possibility of time travel. She doesn’t think humans could survive time travel, though. Mulder comes up with one way of getting to the next step: ask Lisa if the photo was ever taken.
Old Jason comes home, not looking so great, and uses his blade on himself to feel better. Lisa finds him there, having guessed who he really is. He tells her she’s the one who made this all possible. 30 years ago, or ten years from Lisa’s present time, she’ll meet someone who tells her about subatomic particles that can go back in time at the temperature absolute zero. She’ll use this development to further her research and “change the course of history.”
Lisa asks why Old Jason said he came back to kill her. He says he couldn’t go through with it. She realizes he’s cold, like, what didn’t you get about absolute zero? Suddenly Old Jason decides he can go through with it after all, and he stabs Lisa, freezing her. Young Jason gets the news just as Mulder bails him out of lockup. He also gets the news that the old man they’re looking for is him, and Mulder thinks he’s going to go after his younger self next. “Puts a whole new spin on being your own worst enemy, huh?” Mulder quips, because there’s never a wrong time for death-related humor.
Young Jason’s confused – he and Lisa have never met Yonechi. Mulder says that a photo analyst confirmed that the photo of the three of them together is real. Young Jason doesn’t think any of this is possible; it’s just science fiction. Mulder’s like, “Well, so is a rapid-freezing compound, yeah?” He thinks there’s some application of the compound for time travel. Now he’d like to know why Old Jason wants to stop time travel.
Mulder and Young Jason head to the cryolab, but when Jason uses a biometric scanner to gain entry, a security officer says that according to the computer, he’s already there. Mulder sends Jason to meet Scully and Lisa while he looks for Old Jason. Lisa’s team is trying to revive her like they revived Yonechi, though they’re not sure what to do when they get her heart beating again. Scully tells them to put her back in the yellow liquid.
Mulder gets access to Jason’s research files from an assistant. Scully calls (still no “Mulder, it’s me”) to tell him that Lisa’s doing much better than Yoneshi was when he was in her condition. Mulder asks about Young Jason, but he hasn’t come to the lab yet. The assistant tells Mulder that Jason’s files are all empty, and his data’s gone.
Young Jason has figured out where his old self would go to stop himself, the mainframe where his files are held. Old Jason wants his research to be destroyed. Young Jason just wants Lisa to be okay. Old Jason says that they helped create a world “without history, without hope. A world where anyone can know everything that will ever happen.” As Mulder tracks the Jasons down, Young Jason demands that Old Jason help him save Lisa.
Mulder gets Young Jason to leave Old Jason alone, promising that Lisa’s alive. If Young Jason hurts his older self, they’ll never know the truth. But Old Jason isn’t about letting any truth get out – he thinks the world would be better off if he never existed. As Mulder uses a fire extinguisher to try to break down the door to the lab they’re in, Old Jason holds on to Young Jason until they both burst into flames.
The good news is that Lisa’s survived her ordeal, thanks to her own research. She’s sure that Old Jason was telling the truth when he said who he was. Scully gently tells her that there was a fire in the mainframe and her boyfriend’s dead.
Old Jason, meanwhile, has disappeared. Mulder plans to believe in what he saw forever, quoting Scully’s thesis to her about the universe only producing one outcome. Does this mean the future can’t be altered, and Old Jason won’t be able to prevent time travel from being discovered? This is one question Scully can’t answer. And as soon as Lisa has recovered, she’s right back in her lab, working on research that could lead to who knows what.
Thoughts: Cryogenic freezing AND time travel? They couldn’t just pick one weird scenario for this episode?
Mulder: “Although common sense may rule out the possibility of time travel…” Right, like common sense has ever had a place on this show.
That guy Lisa’s supposed to meet in ten years should probably watch his back.