June 3, 2017

The X-Files 5.9, Schizogeny: Acts of Nature

Posted in TV tagged at 1:23 pm by Jenn

He’s a hero and he never even gets a name. Sad

Summary: A teen boy is playing a video game in his room in Coats Grove, Michigan, when his father gets home from work. The father, Phil Rich, is annoyed to see a shovel in the yard and calls out for his son, Bobby. Bobby’s mother, Patti, tries to calm Phil, but he’s fed up with their son’s irresponsibility. He makes Bobby finish whatever he was supposed to do in the yard, even though it’s after 10:00 at night. Bobby lashes out and threatens his father with the shovel, then drops it and runs off.

Phil chases him into an orchard as it starts storming. Bobby pauses when he sees a man watching him, then takes off again. Phil trips on a root and falls in the mud. Bobby watches as Phil struggles, but when Patti finds them, Phil is sinking in the mud, as if it’s quicksand. Bobby is unable to pull his father to the surface.

Scully pulls more than 12 pounds of mud out of Phil’s stomach when she performs his autopsy. She’s surprised that he seems to have been murdered – held down in the mud until he suffocated – since he’s supposedly well-liked in town. Well, with the exception of Bobby, who’s actually his stepson, even though they have the same last name. Mulder says that they had to use a backhoe to excavate Phil’s body, which was found upright. Scully has logical explanations for how Bobby could have buried his father alive while he was vertical, even though Bobby is barely 110 pounds. Scully suspects an accomplice.

Mulder visits Bobby in his room, noticing a poster that says “ich bin ein auslander” – “I am an outsider.” Mulder shares the anecdote that when Kennedy said “ich bin ein berliner,” he was calling himself a cocktail sausage. “Who’s Kennedy?” Bobby asks. Mulder asks him what happened to Phil, but Bobby isn’t too concerned about being a murder suspect. Downstairs, Patti tells Scully that Bobby and Phil were close when Bobby was younger, but Bobby’s now a typical teenager who clashes with his parents. Plus, Phil’s been stressed out because of his nut trees, which are all diseased. Scully wonders if Phil instigated things.

Bobby tells Mulder that he kind of thought that Phil might pull him down into the mud. Phil shoved him around in the past, but Bobby wasn’t big enough to fight back. Mulder says people believe Bobby dug the hole to trap Phil and get the upper hand. Bobby admits that when he found Phil, he felt like his stepfather “had it coming.” Patti tells Scully that when she found the two, she thought Bobby was trying to help Phil. Scully warns that if Patti’s hiding anything about past abuse, Bobby could look really bad in front of a judge.

The agents check out the dying trees in Phil’s hazelnut orchard as they discuss whether or not Bobby’s a murderer. Scully thinks the disease affecting the trees created a huge sinkhole that trapped Phil. Mulder laughs off her excuses for how Phil then ingested all that mud. Scully mentions that Bobby doesn’t have friends and has been in therapy for his anger for years. She sees the man Bobby saw the night Phil died and tries to approach him. Mulder doesn’t see him since he’s held back when his foot gets caught on a root.

At school, Bobby tells a girl named Lisa that he finally stood up to Phil. A boy attacks Bobby, calling him a psycho, so Bobby says maybe he’ll kill the boy, too. The boy walks away, and Bobby tells Lisa that you just have to stand up to bullies. Meanwhile, the agents go see Bobby’s therapist, Karin Matthews, who relays stories Bobby told her of Phil’s abuse. Mulder notices some mud on her shoes. He thinks Karin is trying to paint Bobby as Phil’s killer, but Mulder thinks he’s innocent.

Bobby tracks down Lisa on her way home, annoyed that she won’t talk to him. She tells him he scared her when he got violent with his bully. Bobby encourages her to stand up to her father the way he stood up to Phil. After all, her problems could disappear forever like his did. Lisa’s father is angry when he sees his daughter talking to Bobby, then stunned into silence when Lisa screams at him to shut up, then runs off. Suddenly someone flies in through the window and attacks Lisa’s father, who ends up dead in the front yard.

Mulder and Scully check out the second crime scene, though Mr. Baiocchi’s body has already been removed. They rightfully assume that Lisa shoved her father out the window during a fight about Bobby. Karin comes over to counsel Lisa, but Mulder takes her out of the room so Scully can talk to the teen. Karin tells Mulder that Lisa’s been under her treatment for four years for an eating disorder. She’s not surprised that Lisa and her father may have fought about Bobby; he was disapproving of their friendship. Karin tells Mulder that she advises her patients to break the cycle of abuse by standing up to their abusers.

Scully tells Mulder that Bobby was outside the house just before Mr. Baiocchi died, so he could have committed another murder. But Mulder has figured out from the way the window was broken that Mr. Baiocchi was pulled, not pushed, out the window. Plus, there’s no way a scrawny kid like Bobby could have had the muscle to pull him out. Scully goes to the school to question Bobby while Mulder meets with the doctor who performed Mr. Baiocchi’s autopsy. He died of a broken neck, but Mulder finds a splinter on his body.

Scully doesn’t find any wounds on Bobby’s arms, indicating that he couldn’t have broken a window and pulled someone through it. Mulder brings Scully the splinter, which he finds significant. Lisa’s staying with Karin until her aunt can come get her, and as she’s trying to fall asleep, she relives arguments between herself and her father. Then she hears what sounds like her father’s voice in the hallway. When she takes a peek, she only sees Karin at the closed basement door.

Mulder takes Scully to the Baiocchis’ house and climbs the tree outside Lisa’s window to match the splinter to the wood of the tree. “Is this demonstration of boyish agility turning you on at all?” he asks his partner. (She doesn’t answer, but…probably.) Suddenly the man from the orchard shows up, telling Scully he takes care of the trees. She asks him to identify the splinter, which he says is from the tree Mulder’s currently in. The agents are confused, since the splinter is live wood, and the trees are all supposedly dying. The man chops the tree with his axe and shows what looks like blood running out. Mulder asks what could cause that. “A very bad man,” Mr. Orchard says.

At Karin’s, Lisa cautiously approaches the basement door, then goes downstairs. The floor is covered in dirt, and Lisa sees…something I can’t because the lighting in this scene is too dark. The light goes on and a voice calls Lisa a snoop, “just like you.” When the agents come by the next morning, they have questions for Karin, not Lisa. Her father died 20 years ago in an orchard. Mr. Orchard worked for Karin’s father, and he claims that Mr. Matthews’ death led to the death of all the trees. Karin dismisses this idea, then tells the agents that Lisa’s left town to live with her aunt. Lisa is actually trapped in the basement, and Karin tells her that she needs to be quiet or “he” will hurt her.

Mulder digs up Mr. Matthews’ grave, because of course. Instead of a body, there are only tree roots in the coffin. Back at Karin’s, Lisa’s aunt Linda arrives to get her niece, and Karin tells her that Lisa left town. Linda hears Lisa breaking a basement window and yelling for help. Before Linda can call the police, someone (or something – it’s this show, after all) attacks and kills her.

At the cemetery, Mulder tells Scully that he thinks they’re dealing with an “act of nature.” He believes that the livelihood of the people in the area are tied to the trees. Mr. Matthews, Phil, and Mr. Baiocchi all worked in the orchard. Phil tripped on a root, and Mr. Matthews’ body appears to have been pushed out of his grave by a root system. The men’s lives and deaths seem to be tied to the trees. Scully notes the more obvious connection: all the men were abusing their children. Is Mulder suggesting that nature stood up to the fathers on behalf of their children?

The agents return to Bobby’s house, offering him the chance to tell them what happened the night Phil died, no matter how weird it sounds. Mulder thinks Bobby really did try to save Phil; he didn’t want his stepfather to die. Bobby confides that he couldn’t stand up to Phil, but Karin made him. We see flashes of a session between Bobby and Karin, in which Bobby had to pretend to be Phil, and see himself as a victim. Karin told Bobby that he had the power to end things. Bobby cries as he says that he didn’t mean for Phil to die.

In the basement, Lisa hears her father’s voice yelling, but it’s Karin messing with her. When the agents arrive, they find the front door open and muddy footprints leading to the basement. Linda’s dead body is still right outside, and she’s not the only formerly living being there: There’s a skeleton in the room, surrounded by tree roots. “Talk about putting down roots,” Mulder quips. He guesses the skeleton was Mr. Matthews’, and the roots pulled him into the basement like Phil was pulled into the mud. He pegs Karin as both the killer and a victim.

The agents find Lisa, and Scully stays with her while Mulder engages in a car chase with Karin. A tree branch falls as he’s driving past, and he barely manages to duck out of the way before he’s impaled. Karin goes to Bobby’s house, insisting that he’s in danger, but Patti says he’s not there. Bobby flees into the orchard, where Karin appears to use her mind to make the mud pull him down. Mulder arrives and tries to pull Bobby out, telling Karin to stand up to the abusive father she seems to be channeling. Karin, however, says that Karin’s death. And then she really is, thanks to Mr. Orchard and his axe. He says it’s all done, then leaves as Karin’s body sinks into the mud.

Mulder voices over his case report, saying that authorities couldn’t figure out what caused the mud to pull people under, or how Mr. Matthews’ body ended up in her root cellar. “Rage unconfronted takes its own path,” he says. He believes Karin tried to help abused teens find the strength to stand up to their abusers since she wasn’t able to stand up to her father. What happened in the orchard was release. Well, thanks for waiting 20 years to figure it all out, Mr. Orchard!

Thoughts: Lisa is played by Katharine Isabelle, who later did Hannibal with Gillian Anderson. Her father was The X-Files‘ art director.

Karin has been telling her teen patients to stand up to abusers, and none of THEM has died? I mean…that doesn’t exactly sound like an effective technique. “Dad, stop hitting me! I mean it!” “Sorry, son. I didn’t realize you didn’t like that.”

Mulder’s one-liners are always dumb (“putting down roots” – feh), but I do kind of love that he keeps saying them even though Scully has never laughed at them and at this point just ignores them. It’s like he thinks that maybe some day, he’ll get her to crack.

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