March 11, 2017
The X-Files 4.21, Zero Sum: “A Man Digs a Hole, He Risks Falling Into It”
Summary: The Transcontinental Express Routing Center in Desmond, Virginia, is a busy place, but one of its workers, Jane, wants a break to go smoke. She goes to the bathroom and lights up in a stall as dozens of bees crawl out of a sink. Soon the bathroom is covered in bees, but Jane takes a while to notice. They swarm her, and when a co-worker finds her minutes later, she’s dead from their stings.
In D.C., Skinner reviews info about the incident, then deletes it, all from Mulder’s computer. Wearing black to indicate that he wants to be stealthy, Skinner then goes to the scene of the incident and examines Jane’s cigarette butt (bet it was a Morley) before flushing it. He cleans up the ashes and the floor underneath them, then examines a yellow substance on the ceiling.
Next Skinner goes to the morgue, where an attendant hears him moving around in the room with the bodies. So much for being stealthy. Skinner hides from the attendant, who doesn’t catch him leaving with Jane’s body slung over his shoulder. This morgue should probably up its security. Skinner takes the body to a furnace somewhere and gives it a free cremation.
Using Mulder’s badge, Skinner goes to Desmond’s police station and gets access to all the various fluids taken from Jane’s body for testing. He swaps out a vial of blood and wipes his fingerprints off the pen he used to sign in. He tosses it in a Dumpster just before an officer named Ray Thomas finds him and asks him what he thinks happened to Jane. “Mulder” surprises Thomas by not showing any interest in what’s clearing an X-file. Skinner leaves, passing a man sitting in his car, watching.
Once home, Skinner bags up all the clothes he was wearing, and thanks for the shot of Mitch Pileggi in his underwear, Kim Manners. That was really necessary, I’m sure. As he’s about to get rid of the bag, Mulder shows up to report that someone’s trying to cover up what happened to Jane. A detective sent Mulder emails about her case, but when he went to open them, they were gone. That detective, Thomas, is now dead. Mulder suspects the person who used his ID to get into Desmond’s forensics lab.
Skinner thinks Mulder should work with Scully on this, but Scully’s out of commission this week, undergoing tests at a hospital, because the show realized they hadn’t mentioned her cancer for a few episodes. Her tumor may be metastasizing. Skinner tries to hide how upsetting that news is. After Mulder leaves, he goes to his building’s parking garage for a secret meeting with CSM, who’s being driven around by the man who was watching Skinner at the police station.
Skinner is sure that CSM had Thomas murdered, and he’s no longer willing to participate in the cover-up. (He seems a little surprised that CSM would go so far as to have a police officer murdered, like that’s the worst thing he’s ever done.) CSM says it’s Skinner’s fault anyway, since he didn’t follow orders and “neutralize a potentially compromising situation.” CSM doesn’t think Skinner’s in any position to question their arrangement: “A man digs a hole, he risks falling into it.”
In the morning, Skinner is awoken by a call from Mulder, who’s at the morgue, having just discovered that Jane’s body is missing. He also knows that the blood sample was replaced, since it didn’t show a folic acid deficiency Jane had. Mulder knows that the gun used to kill Thomas is one often used by police and federal agents. Skinner’s one of the officers who uses it, and his own gun is gone.
He calls CSM to ask if his gun was used to kill Thomas, like, of course! Catch up, Skinner! He threatens to call the authorities, but CSM knows he won’t, since he would have to admit to his crimes. Plus, it would be pretty hard to convince the authorities that he didn’t kill Thomas.
Skinner wants to know why Thomas had to die. CSM replies that he’s giving Skinner what he wants: a cure for Scully. Skinner orders CSM to do whatever he’s planning to do to heal Scully immediately. If necessary, Skinner will turn CSM in, no matter the risk to himself. CSM dangles the idea of Scully’s recovery in front of Skinner, warning that his fate might not be as positive.
Skinner goes back to the routing center (where Jane’s co-worker, Misty, is suspicious) and studies the ceiling, which is seeping that yellow substance again. He tears a hole in the wall and finds a huge honeycomb. He takes a sample to an entomologist, wanting to know if the bees that made the honeycomb are lethal. The tech finds a larva, which could give him some info when it hatches. The tech asks if this case is related to one Mulder called him about six months ago, involving killer bees.
Returning to Mulder’s office, Skinner reads up on his own bee case, finding Marita’s name in the file. Mulder finds him there and shows him surveillance photos from a bank that show Thomas talking to Skinner outside the police station. The officer who helped Skinner at the forensics lab has ID’d the man as the fake Mulder, though the surveillance photo is too grainy for Mulder to see who he is.
Skinner calls Marita to ask about what she and Mulder talked about regarding the bees. She tells him that there was no evidence of beehives or bee husbandry. Skinner tells her that he may soon have the evidence Skinner didn’t. Chances of that are unlikely, as the larva at the entomologist’s house has now developed, and it’s brought a bunch of its friends over for a party. Since the entomologist didn’t get an invitation, the bees attack him.
Mulder has Skinner meet him at a lab to examine the entomologist’s body. He thinks the bee stings on his body and Jane’s aren’t bee stings – they’re smallpox blisters. Somehow, the two contracted an especially bad strain of a disease that supposedly doesn’t exist anymore. Mulder isn’t that surprised, since he contacted the entomologist months ago about bees that might be carrying smallpox; now he has the evidence he was looking for, in the stingers removed from the man’s body. He thinks someone’s developing a method of delivery for a deadly disease.
Skinner asks if they can stop whoever’s using these killer bees. Well, Skinner, I don’t think Mulder was just going to go off on vacation and act like there was nothing left to do. He’s on his way to the photo lab to see if the photo of the fake Mulder could be enhanced. Meanwhile, Skinner meets with Misty, sensing that there’s something she didn’t tell the police earlier. He admits that Jane’s death might not have been an accident. Misty admits that men came to the center and warned her to keep her mouth shut. They were looking for a package kept in a room next to the bathroom.
Mulder’s photo tech has trouble enhancing the photo of Skinner, but his work is good enough for Mulder to recognize his boss. In New York, the Syndicate meets to confirm that all evidence of the killer bees has been taken care of or is in the process of being taken care of. CSM is sure that Skinner will succeed, since he has no other choice. If he tries to expose them, he’ll expose “his own duplicity.” The Syndicate’s “trial run” is already happening.
The problem with killer bees is that they’re not picky about who they sting, so when some find their way to a playground in Payson, South Carolina, kids are their next victims. One boy, David, loses his glasses in the ensuing chaos and doesn’t make it inside with the rest of the kids. When his teacher goes back to help him, she’s swarmed.
Skinner goes to the hospital to let a doctor know that the stung kids need to be treated for smallpox. All the kids in town who haven’t been stung need to be vaccinated immediately. The doctor points out that kids aren’t vaccinated for smallpox anymore; besides, smallpox has an eight-day incubation period, and the kids were only stung a few hours ago.
Marita shows up, since she was already in the area – some packages were sent to Payson from Canada, and she wants to know what they contained. My guess is…smallpox. Marita demands to know what Skinner knows about the situation. He tells her he thinks someone’s experimenting with using bees as carriers. When she learns that Skinner hasn’t shared his findings with Mulder, Marita guesses that he’s involved.
Skinner heads home to Virginia, finding his gun back in its rightful place. But Mulder’s also there, and he accuses Skinner of a) killing Thomas, b) working with CSM all along, c) knowing when Mulder’s father was killed, and d) knowing when Scully was taken. Skinner says he was set up, and the police are probably on their way to arrest him. He admits that he’s lied to Mulder, but he had a reason, and he’s sure Mulder will be understanding.
Skinner reminds Mulder that he once warned him not to pursue what happened to Scully. He should have followed his own advice. Mulder asks for the gun, which he takes to a lab so they can find out if it was used to kill Thomas. Long story short: It was. He tells a ballistics tech that he found it in a sewer near the place where Thomas was killed. The tech notes that the serial number was filed off, and unless there are fingerprints on the gun, it’s untraceable. Skinner’s off the hook.
Skinner takes the gun with him when he ambushes CSM, though CSM doesn’t think Skinner will kill him and risk Scully’s life. Skinner doesn’t think CSM ever planned to cure her. CSM says he saved her when he “had her returned” to Mulder, so he could save her again. He doesn’t think Skinner will take the chance and pull the trigger. He does anyway, but doesn’t shoot CSM.
As Skinner leaves, CSM gets a phone call and tells the person on the other end that Skinner was just there to kill him. He’s sure Mulder will soon contact the caller to find out if there’s more that Skinner doesn’t know. The caller is Marita, and she promises to tell Mulder whatever CSM wants her to say. “Tell him what he wants to hear,” CSM replies.
Thoughts: Usually I find Skinner pretty pointless, but I like this episode. It’s a nice change to see things from someone else’s perspective.
The morgue attendant (who looks like Milo Ventimiglia) is a lot less freaked out than he should be about hearing noises from a room full of dead bodies.
Anyone else wondering what honey from smallpox-carrying bees tastes like? Probably not great.