April 29, 2017

The X-Files 5.4, Detour: Ad Noctum

Posted in TV tagged at 1:34 pm by Jenn

At least she’s not wearing that coat from “Darkness Falls”

Summary: Two men are in the woods in Leon County, Florida, doing some sort of surveying…thing before the forest is destroyed. They hate each other – one cares about the environment and the other doesn’t. The forest-hater gets his equipment stuck in the dirt, and when he tries to dig it out, he gets blood on his fingers and sees what looks like red eyes in the ground. His partner hears him yelling from a distance before the forest-hater seems to get attacked and disappear. Something chases the other guy through the woods, but as he’s hiding, he also sees the eyes in the ground. Something attacks him as well.

The next morning, a man and his preteen son, Louis, are hunting in the same woods. They see the surveyors’ equipment but no people. Their dog finds a bloody jacket, and before they can figure out what’s going on, they hear a noise like someone’s out there with him. Louis’ father tells him to run home with the dog while he confronts whatever’s out there with his hunting rifle. Louis obeys, running even after he hears a gunshot.

Mulder and Scully are just driving into Leon County, but not to investigate. They’re with two other FBI agents, Kinsley and Stonecypher, who are accompanying them to a team-building seminar. Mulder is in Hell. I don’t think Scully is enjoying herself either, but she’s at least amused by her partner. The agents come upon a police roadblock, and Mulder is thrilled to have an excuse to get out of the car. A woman approaches him, desperate to find out what’s going on. She’s Louis’ mother, Mrs. Asekoff, and though Louis made it home, Mr. Asekoff didn’t.

Scully follows Mulder to go get information while Kinsley shows Stonecypher a plaque stating that the forest predates the time of Ponce de Leon. Stonecypher doesn’t care – she just wants to make sure they’re at the seminar in time for the wine and cheese reception. (This is a fair concern; girlfriend could use some wine.) Mulder meets the officer in charge, Michele Fazekas, who says there’s no evidence that anyone was shot. Yeah, some surveyors disappeared and Mr. Asekoff may have been attacked by an animal, but that doesn’t mean something weird is going on.

Scully wants to get Mulder back on track to the seminar, but Mulder isn’t about to leave a case where something strange may have happened. Fazekas says there are a couple of animals in the woods, but the tracks they’ve found don’t match them. Mulder asks for the name of a motel he can check into, but Fazekas isn’t interested in his help. Mulder ignores her, telling Scully he’s skipping the seminar and sticking around.

That night, Louis falls asleep watching The Invisible Man, then wakes up to get his mother to confirm that his father is probably never coming home. She tells him they both need to be brave. Bo the dog keeps vigil at the backdoor, waiting for his owner. Mulder and Scully have checked into a motel, where Scully uses minibar resources to make them a wine and cheese reception, even though they’re not supposed to be “consorting” in the same motel room. (Oh, just wait a couple years. You’ll be doing more than “consorting” with him.)

Mulder tells her that there’s no way Mr. Asekoff was attacked by an animal he didn’t provoke, especially when Louis, who was weaker, was also there. Scully’s surprised that Mulder has found something legitimate about this case, rather than just using it as an excuse to get out of the seminar. She doesn’t think there are any major predators around. Mulder heads out without telling Scully where he’s going, making her comment that a seminar to improve communication might be good for him.

Over at the Asekoffs’, Bo runs out to the backyard, barking at something. Mrs. Asekoff can’t get him to come back inside, so she decides to leave him out for the night. When she tries to get back into the house, the door is locked and there’s something banging around inside. Louis hears his mother yelling for him, hears something eerie in another room, and runs downstairs. As he’s running outside to escape whatever’s in his house, he runs right into Mulder.

Scully joins her partner at the Asekoffs’, where police are searching the house for anything predatory. She finds a VHS of The Invisible Man in Louis’ VCR and guesses that he was just spooked by the movie. “The invisible man was invisible,” Mulder reminds her. Scully’s face: “I can’t believe I have to work under these conditions.” Mulder says that Louis claims the creature chasing him had glowing red eyes. Plus, the door was locked when Mrs. Asekoff tried to get back in, and there are muddy tracks by the door from whatever locked it.

The tracks don’t belong to a human, but they also don’t belong to any kind of animal Mulder’s familiar with. Fazekas backs this up, adding that she saw the same tracks in the woods. Mulder sums up that they’re dealing with a predator with low visibility and a lot of desire to attack. It also has the whole forest to hang out in, which puts it at an advantage over the humans.

Fazekas and the agents try to even up their odds with a guy named Jeff who has an infrared camera that detects body heat. Fazekas gives instruction: Stay close, and if you get in trouble, yell and stay put. Scully tells Mulder that the local police are busy looking for a murderer, but Mulder doesn’t think he’s connected to this case. He believes the creature they’re dealing with locked Mrs. Asekoff out to separate her from Louis and make him an easier target. He thinks something in the woods is pushing back because civilization is encroaching on its territory.

Mulder, Scully, and Jeff follow Fazekas through the woods as she marks their path with white stones. Jeff is surprised that he hasn’t detected any animals anywhere in the forest. Since nature is full of creatures either hunting prey or trying to avoid becoming prey, people who get distracted can end up as a meal. We get blinded by the beauty of nature and forget how cruel it is. Scully wonders if he’s quoting Walt Whitman, but he’s citing Fox’s When Animals Attack. An invisible creature with a human arm that seems camouflaged in its surroundings is watching them.

Jeff finally spots something, and the four of them give chase. Another creature appears on Jeff’s screen, so the humans split up, which is exactly what Fazekas said not to do, morons. The creature Jeff and Mulder are following disappears from Jeff’s screen, and Scully and Fazekas lose the trail of theirs as well. Scully thinks that the creature is doing what it did with Louis and his mother, trying to separate its prey. As the women pass a tree, red eyes start to glow from the bark.

Fazekas suddenly falls on the ground, and Scully hears rustling in the trees. She yells for Mulder, who gives a patented “SCULLAY!” yell back. The men find her, but Fazekas has disappeared. Mulder agrees with Scully’s guess that they were separated on purpose – Fazekas was in charge, and now the group is without their strongest member. Scully tries to use her cell phone to call for help, but Jeff tells her she won’t get a signal. He insists that they get out of the woods before the sun goes down. Mulder refuses to leave Fazekas behind, even if it means risking all of their lives.

Scully sides with Jeff, reminding Mulder that they don’t have supplies to sustain them overnight. Mulder gives in, putting Jeff and his camera in charge of getting them to safety. The agents discuss creatures that can regulate their temperatures, and therefore stay off of Jeff’s infrared. Scully mentions ticks, which remind Mulder of a 30-year-old case involving primitive-looking men with red eyes, known as Mothmen. Scully wonders if that case is filed next to “the cockroach that ate Cincinnati.”

Jeff thinks they’re going the wrong way, since he’s lost sight of Fazekas’ stones. “This is not happening,” says Jeff, who must have seen “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space.'” Scully spots something moving, but it doesn’t show up on Jeff’s infrared. The woods are silent, making Scully think any potential prey in the area is trying to stay hidden. There’s rustling nearby, so Mulder goes after whatever could be making noise. Jeff catches sight of something on his screen, but it disappears.

Mulder sees the camouflaged creature and chases it, firing his gun, but he loses it pretty quickly. Scully picks up the creature’s path and also fires, but since it’s invisible, she can’t tell if she hit it. As Jeff takes off running, falling to the ground like Fazekas did, the agents try to keep their guns trained on a creature they can’t see. Something attacks Mulder, who vanishes. Scully follows his yells of “SCULLAY!” and finds him nearby, having been dragged by something invisible.

Without Jeff, and with the sun long gone, the agents are stuck in the woods for the night. Scully thinks she can use gunpowder from her weapon to start a fire. Mulder hopes it’ll start raining marshmallows after that. He needs to warm up, since his body is in shock. He notes that the best way to warm up is to crawl into a sleeping bag with another person. Scully remarks that maybe it’ll start raining sleeping bags. She asks if Mulder has ever thought seriously about dying. “Once, when I was at the ice capades,” he replies.

Scully admits that when she was fighting cancer, she was angry at the injustice of her situation, but she realized that the point was to find meaning. Mulder says that humans are lucky to get more than a few decades of life. Scully compares it to Vegas – “the house always wins.” Mulder asks who Scully who she related to more as a kid, Wilma Flintstone or Betty Rubble. She almost gets a fire started but it goes out. She asks Mulder if the Mothmen case was for real, then cuddles up with him and tells him to sleep while she keeps watch. Mulder asks her to sing so he knows she’s awake, so she serenades him with Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World.”

In the morning, Mulder wakes up alone, since Scully’s scavenging for food nearby. She suddenly vanishes, and Mulder finds her in a big hole. Fazekas is also down there, unconscious. Scully sees a network of tunnels and quickly realizes that she’s not the only conscious creature down there. Mulder drops his gun down to her, then follows it himself. He spots the creature and Scully fires at it, hitting it this time. It looks like a big tree man. Scully figures there’s a scientific explanation.

We see “ad noctum” carved in the wall as Mulder and Scully gather all the missing people from the episode stuck in the cave with them. Stonecypher and Kinsley finally prove their worth, coming to the scene to rescue the agents and the injured victims. Mrs. Asekoff happily thanks all the authorities as Mulder looks at the plaque Kinsley showed Stonecypher earlier. He tells Kinsley that Scully found “ad noctum” (“into darkness”) on the wall of the cave; Spanish conquistadors carved it on the posts they lashed the natives to before killing them. Maybe they adapted to their environment and have remained alive for all these centuries.

Kinsley laughs off Mulder’s theory – he just wants there to be a case so he can write off the cost of his motel. Stonecypher joins the men to report that Jeff remains missing, and the second predator hasn’t been found either. She wonders why the creatures went after Louis in the house. Mulder thinks they were fighting against any encroachment of civilization. Stonecypher notes that that means anyone who’s gone into the woods is at risk. Mulder suddenly realizes that Scully, who’s gone back to the motel alone, is in danger. He takes off in Kinsley’s car, annoying Kinsley, who left his jacket in there. Mulder races to the motel, but Scully’s fine. They leave unharmed, so the creature hiding under the bed will have to find a different source for its next meal.

Thoughts: Jeff is played by Anthony Rupp, Mark from the original cast of Rent. Too bad he wasn’t with Mulder and Scully when the singing started.

Show, stop making me have to type names like Fazekas and Stonecypher over and over.

So why did the creatures gather all those people and leave them alive? What’s the point? Wouldn’t it make more sense to scare them off and hope they never come back?

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