June 17, 2017

The X-Files 5.11, Kill Switch: Going Viral

Posted in TV tagged , at 1:19 pm by Jenn

Right back at ya, episode

Summary: A man is working on a laptop at a diner, trying to hack something. In Logan Circle in D.C., a drug dealer named Jackson gets a call from a man who wants to offer him some help. Jackson’s former partner, Kenny, stole his money, and the man on the phone wants Jackson to know he can find him at the diner. As Jackson heads over with a gun, the man on the phone places more calls, sending all sorts of criminal types to the diner to get revenge on various people who have wronged them. Men start arriving at the diner as the hacker finally succeeds at his hack. As he puts a CD in the computer, U.S. Marshals burst in and a gunfight takes place.

Mulder and Scully come in to find out what happened to the Marshals. They got a tip telling them a fugitive cartel leader was at the diner, though Mulder thinks it was a lie. All the other criminals in the diner were local drug dealers, not the types who would be in the company of a major cartel boss. Mulder IDs the hacker as Donald Gelman, a Silicon Valley “folk hero” who practically invented the Internet. He disappeared years ago, before he could make a deal with Bill Gates. Mulder thinks the shootout was planned to kill Gelman.

He takes Gelman’s computer from the scene, putting the CD he was about to burn in the car’s CD player. It plays the Platters’ “Twilight Time.” The agents take the computer to the Lone Gunmen, who tell them more about Gelman – he was in on all of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and that other guy’s work, but he was also under investigation by the NSA. They’re not familiar with his computer, which Mulder thinks is the reason he was killed. While Scully reads one of the Lone Gunmen’s newsletters, the guys try to hack his system. Scully’s the one who suggests that they check his email.

Gelman has one message in his inbox, from someone named Invisigoth. It’s a warning that someone named David is missing, and “the hunted has become the hunter.” Mulder guesses that a string of digits in the message belongs to a shipping container, so he and Scully track it down. There, they find a woman who tazes Mulder and runs away. Scully tackles her and gets tazed as well, but she’s not incapacitated enough to keep her from firing a warning shot that makes the woman stop.

Mulder checks out the woman’s computer setup and guesses she’s Invisigoth. Invisigoth isn’t very helpful and won’t answer any questions. She gets distracted when her computer lets her know that they’re being targeted by a DOD satellite, and they need to get out of there. Scully finds this ridiculous, but Mulder listens and rushes her off. The three speed away just before a missile blows the shipping container to bits. To his credit, Mulder doesn’t say, “I told you so.”

Invisigoth is still hesitant to give the agents any identifying information, but she does confirm Mulder’s theory that Gelman wrote some sort of sentient AI program. She says that he created a sequence of viruses and released it on the Internet 15 years ago. She compares it to primordial ooze. Gelman found her while she was working in Tokyo and offered her a job. Scully is, as ever, skeptical, saying that Invisigoth could have rigged the container to explode. She doesn’t think the DOD has the kind of technology Invisigoth says they have, like an armed satellite that could be controlled by an evil AI program.

Invisigoth says they’re off the grid now, and her little hideout must have been targeted because someone used Gelman’s computer to try to contact her. Only Gelman and a guy named David Markham knew where she was. They were tending to the AI, which went rogue one day. They’ve been trying to find it, but it won’t reveal itself, so it’s “wildlife” now. When Mulder tells Invisigoth that Gelman is dead, she says the AI must have arranged a hit to kill off its creator and protect itself. Next, it’ll target her and David.

Gelman was working on more viruses to bind the AI; he called it the Kill Switch. Mulder says all they have is the CD, which Invisigoth says is exactly what they need. The agents take her to the Lone Gunmen’s lair, and they ID her as Esther Nairn, one of their tech heroes. Scully mocks her as she starts to employ the Kill Switch. They can’t use it over the Internet; they’ll have to find out where the AI’s hardware is and “feed it the poisoned apple.” David was looking for the hardware when he disappeared.

The Lone Gunmen have some suggestions to help, noting that they’ll need someone from the government to help them access what they need. Lucky for them, they have a couple buddies in the government. Mulder goes to Fairfax to trace a T3 connector while the Lone Gunmen take a nap together. Esther frees herself from Mulder’s handcuffs and kidnaps Scully at gunpoint. They’re on their way to find David. Scully’s so calm on the phone that Mulder doesn’t sense any danger, so he continues his search.

Esther is saddened to find David’s house obliterated like her shipping container. While she’s out of the car, Scully frees herself from the cuffs Esther used to chain her to the steering wheel. Esther’s upset about David’s apparent death, but not too upset to grab the gun before Scully can. However, Esther welcomes being killed. Mulder’s hunt for the hardware takes him to an RV that houses someone – or something – who’s very concerned about security.

Esther tells Scully that she stopped working for Gelman after he learned that she and David planned to inject memory and consciousness into the AI. They wanted to put their minds into the AI so they could live together forever. Gelman was worried that others would want to do the same, so he shut them down. Mulder breaks into the RV, which is full of computers, a robot, and David’s corpse, which is connected to the computers through virtual-reality-type goggles. Mulder is suddenly pulled into a piece of equipment and electrocuted.

Mulder’s taken to a hospital where a very old surgeon calls for him to be prepped even as he begs the staff to call Scully. The surgeon ignores him and starts up some sort of drill. Scully can’t call Mulder because, according to Esther, it recognized her voice when she spoke to Mulder. They decide to continue Mulder’s search and see if they can shut the AI down at the source. Mulder’s out of surgery, and a nurse named Nancy tells him they were “able to save the right one.” His left arm, however, is now gone. Nancytells “Fox” that “they’re evil” and want something from him. If he doesn’t tell them what they want, he’ll lose his other arm. He begs for help, but Nancy smothers him with a pillow.

Scully and Esther get stopped on a bridge, and Esther guesses that the AI has found them. This is the worst possible time, since there’s a tanker trunk nearby full of flammable materials. While Scully tries to get the driver to leave his truck, Esther tries to use Gelman’s computer, then decides Scully’s right and she needs to throw it off the bridge. Back in the hospital, three nurses do something under Mulder’s covers, which I don’t think is any kind of appropriate medical treatment. Nancy tells him again that he needs to tell the doctor what he knows, or next his legs will be gone – his right arm has already gone the way of his left.

Suddenly Scully arrives and beats up all the nurses. She tells Mulder that they want the Kill Switch virus – “do we have it?” He says they do, then kicks her across the room. The room starts to glitch, and we see that Mulder’s been using David’s virtual-reality goggles this whole time. The real Scully is still with Esther, just now arriving at the RV. Scully shoots out the security system, and the women can hear Mulder calling for help inside. Robot pinchers grab at him and he loses consciousness.

The robot heads toward Scully, who again uses bullets to solve her problems. She asks Esther what the AI is thinking, but she doesn’t know – it created the whole system they’re looking at. A CD drive opens, and Esther guesses that it wants the Kill Switch. She doesn’t want to hand it over, since the AI could figure out how to defeat it. When Esther hesitates, Scully inserts the CD, freeing Mulder. Esther starts typing something, telling the agents to leave without her. She’s ready to take Mulder’s place and join David’s consciousness forever in the AI.

Hooking herself into the system causes a fire, and the RV ends up in little bits like the shipping container and David’s house. When the agents return the next day, Mulder wonders if Esther was able to create artificial life that’s now evolving. The Lone Gunmen get a message that says “bite me,” so he’s probably right. In North Platte, Nebraska, two boys in a trailer park go around an RV to retrieve a football, not realizing that a security camera mounted on the vehicle is watching them.

Thoughts: This episode was written by sci-fi/cyberpunk novelists William Gibson and Tom Maddox.

Jackson is played by Peter Williams, brother of Steven Williams (Mr. X).

For a high-tech genius, Gelman’s email system is really outdated, even for 1998.

Of course all the Lone Gunmen are in love with Esther. OF COURSE.

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