August 5, 2017

The X-Files 5.18, The Pine Bluff Variant: Lies Within Lies

Posted in TV tagged , at 1:30 pm by Jenn

It’s weird watching a monster have a moral crisis

Summary: Mulder’s out for a run in Folger Park in D.C., as part of some sort of surveillance operation. Scully and Skinner are among the agents keeping their eyes on a man named Jacob Haley, who’s there to meet with someone. Scully sees Haley notice Mulder and warns her partner. Haley then hands an envelope to the person he’s meeting with, who suddenly collapses. Haley calls out for help, then takes off. Mulder runs after him as other agents go to the man who collapsed. Something is eating away his flesh.

The others lose track of Mulder, who doesn’t respond when Scully warns him through an earpiece that Haley is armed. She decides to chase him herself, but when she finds Mulder, she sees him chatting with someone who then drives off. Mulder tells her he lost Haley.

Back at FBI headquarters, Scully watches footage of the surveillance, which seems to show Mulder making contact with Haley. She asks Mulder what really happened. How did 12 agents with eyes on everyone lose Haley?
If Mulder helped him, he was aiding a terrorist. Skinner addresses a joint FBI/CIA taskforce formed to capture Haley, who wants to overthrow the government. His contact from the park, an arms dealer named Cadre, received bearer bonds from Haley, who know has a bunch of weapons.

An agent named Leamus discusses Cadre’s death with Scully – he was killed by a bioweapon that originated in the former Soviet Union. Leamus wonders if this means there’s a toxin in the air at the park. Scully says it’s probably not a problem, and Mulder points out that everyone else at the park is still alive, so Scully must be right.

The agents wonder how Haley was able to escape all the agents watching him. Mulder notes that he has a lot of training. Skinner thinks their next threat is August Bremer, who’s just as dangerous as Haley. Leamus warns everyone to keep the information confidential so the media doesn’t find out about the terrorists they’re pursuing. As the meeting breaks up, Scully tries to approach Mulder, but he ignores her.

In Gables Corner, Ohio, Bremer goes to a small movie theater and buys a ticket for Die Hard With a Vengeance. He asks for fresh popcorn, sending the woman who serves him to a machine in the back. As she works, Bremer puts on gloves and pulls out an aerosol container.

Meanwhile, Scully tails Mulder to the Aaron Burr Motor Court in Angola, Delaware, where he gets a room and accepts a phone call from Haley. Haley accuses Mulder of setting him up, but Mulder claims he was trying to warn Haley about an anonymous tip. Mulder continues that he believes in Haley’s ideals; they’re not as bad as the government’s. He’s risking his job to help Haley, so Haley needs to trust him.

Back in Gables Corner, two teenagers sneak into the movie theater via the back door. They see a gross corpse sitting in one of the seats. In Delaware, Scully demands Mulder’s room number and the name he’s using. “Are you the wife?” the desk clerk asks. “Not even close,” she replies. She heads for Mulder’s room, where he’s getting another call from Haley telling him they’re moving forward as planned. Before Scully can reach him, Mulder leaves in the same car he stopped by at the park.

Scully follows Mulder and his mystery driver, keeping her headlights off so they don’t see her. Another car swerves into her path and cuts her off, making her lose the tail. The car that stopped her is full of men who take her to an office where Skinner and Leamus are waiting to speak to her. They apologize for the way they stopped her, but they think their actions may have saved Mulder’s life.

The men know that Scully’s suspicious that Mulder is betraying his country, but he’s actually on a deep-cover assignment. After he spoke at a UFO conference about his skepticism toward the U.S. government, Haley contacted him, thinking he could be used as a mole. Scully accuses Leamus and Skinner of putting Mulder’s life in danger by not telling her about the assignment. She reminds them that they don’t know anything about the bioweapon. Just then, a man tells the agents that the bioweapon has been used at the Ohio movie theater.

Mulder is taken to a storeroom to meet with Haley. Haley accuses Mulder of setting up surveillance in the park, and has a goon break Mulder’s little finger for not telling the truth. Mulder reminds Haley that he let him go. If he were setting Haley up, he wouldn’t have gotten in the car with his goons, and there would already be agents swarming the storeroom. Haley says there’s a war going on, and Mulder is either on the right side or the wrong side. He holds up an aerosol container and threatens to use it, but Mulder sticks to his claims: He didn’t set Haley up. It must have been one of his own people.

Scully and Skinner go to Ohio to check out the movie theater, which is declared safe. In total, 14 people are dead, and the two teens who snuck in the back are the only survivors. The site is pretty gruesome. Scully notes that, since there were survivors, the toxin probably isn’t airborne, which means everyone who died must have touched something that was infected. She gets an idea when she spots a ticket stub on the floor.

Mulder goes home, where Scully’s waiting for him in the dark. She tells him she knows about his assignment, then takes care of his broken finger. He wonders why the people at the movie theater were killed. Scully thinks he’s being tested. Mulder tells her that Haley let him live because he still needs him. Plus, Haley trusts Bremer even less than he trusts Mulder. The agents don’t realize that Bremer is listening in on their conversation from his car.

Even though it’s the middle of the night, Mulder goes to FBI headquarters, his finger splinted, and meets with Skinner and Leamus. He relays the information that Haley’s group seems to be targeting a bank or armored car next. Leamus is ready with redacted surveillance files to make Haley think Mulder’s telling the truth. Skinner wants to put a tail on Mulder for his next meeting, but Leamus says it’s a bad idea. This means Mulder goes to his next meeting with Haley all alone. “If you don’t hear from me by midnight, feed my fish,” Mulder tells his boss.

Scully meets with a CDC scientist who tells her they found bacteria on Cadre’s bearer bonds, but not on the ticket stub. They still haven’t figured out how the biotoxin was spread at the theater. The bacteria is a strain of especially lethal strep, genetically engineered to survive outside a body. The scientist compares it to scratch-and-sniff technology. He doesn’t think it’s from Russia, since they don’t have this kind of technology.

Mulder takes the redacted surveillance files to Haley, who mutters, “Lies within lies.” He tells Mulder he’s accompanying the group on their next mission. Mulder refuses to put on the hood Haley gives him, but Haley won’t accept that answer. (Mulder, you need to pick your battles with the terrorist, mmkay?)

Scully calls Skinner to fill him in on the bacteria, asking to speak to only him, since Leamus is in the room. She thinks the toxin was created domestically; the Army had a Pine Bluff facility in the ’60s that was working on something similar. She thinks the bioweapons program continued in secret. Mulder could be on a suicide mission. When Skinner gets off the phone, he just tells Leamus that Scully’s concerned for Mulder.

Haley and Mulder join Bremer and the rest of Haley’s group to prepare for whatever terrorist version of Ocean’s 11 they have planned. Bremer asks Mulder if he’s a believer. “I have my beliefs,” Mulder replies. Bremer asks if he’s willing to die for them, and Mulder says he hopes it doesn’t come to that. Bremer gives him a monster mask.

Scully realizes that the bacteria must have been spread through the money at the movie theater. Meanwhile, the terrorists head to a bank in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, disguising themselves with monster masks. They gain entry by hiding out in an armored car, pretending to make a delivery. They give themselves three minutes to get access to the vault. One of the tellers moves to hit a panic button, so Mulder offers to keep an eye on him. One of the terrorists shoots the teller, and Mulder is ordered to finish him off.

Mulder hesitates, but Haley keeps pushing him to act even as the others lose interest when the vault is opened. The terrorists gather a few bags of money and spray the rest with aerosol canisters. Just as Mulder has to make a decision whether or not to shoot an innocent man, a terrorist stops him, saying his weapon is traceable. He shoots the teller himself, then ushers all the terrorists out of the bank.

The terrorists burn their masks, and Bremer adds the stolen money to the fire. Mulder realizes that the heist was just a decoy so they could contaminate the rest of the money in the vault. Bremer says they’re done testing Mulder, and he’s been very helpful, but it’s time for him to die. Haley stops Bremer, saying it’s too late to try to protect his secret, since Haley already knows it: Thanks to an alias used in the surveillance files, Haley knows that Bremer’s the mole. In response, Bremer exposes Mulder as a double agent, playing a recording of his conversation with Scully.

Scully finds Skinner and Leamus to tell them they need to get Mulder out of there ASAP. She knows the money is contaminated. Unfortunately, there were a bunch of bank robberies that morning, and the agents don’t know which one Mulder was part of. Scully looks at a few surveillance screens, trying to recognize her disguised partner.

Bremer has Haley and Mulder lined up for execution, but he gives Haley his keys and allows him to leave. Mulder quips his way to the site of his potential death, because he’s certainly not going to start being serious now. He kneels and waits for a bullet to end his life, but when the shot comes, it’s a goon who’s killed. Bremer sends Mulder away, knowing that “they” will kill both of them if he doesn’t leave.

Mulder goes back to the bank, where Scully tells him they’ve already taken care of things. She was able to figure out which bank he went to from the surveillance footage – she saw the splint on his finger. Mulder tells Skinner that Bremer is on their side. But Scully tells him that the biotoxin may have been created by the U.S. government, so the whole operation could have been a setup.

Leamus joins the group to deny that the government would use its own citizens for something like this. Scully thinks he knew what was really going on the whole time. Mulder wants the money to be rechecked – it’s as dirty as Leamus is. Leamus asks what Mulder would want to see happen if he blew the whistle. Wouldn’t he do the same thing Haley’s group wants to do? Mulder says he just wants people to know the truth. Leamus replies that sometimes the government’s job is the keep people from learning the truth.

Meanwhile, Haley’s getaway car doesn’t take him very far – at some point, it pulls off a quiet, secluded road, the horn blaring. Haley’s dead, his head pressed to the horn, his skin being eaten away by the biotoxin. He probably should have made sure he was wearing gloves when he took his keys back from Bremer.

Thoughts: Leamus is played by Sam Anderson, who I’ve seen in a bunch of things but will always think of as Bernard from Lost. Haley is played by the late Daniel von Bargen. The movie theater employee is played by Kate Braidwood, daughter of Tom Braidwood, AKA Frohike.

Angry, broken-fingered, death-threat-shouting Mulder is kind of hot. Okay, I’ll see myself out.

Oh, the Russians don’t have the technology for this kind of biotoxin? Are you sure they’d tell you if they did?

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