December 9, 2017

The X-Files 6.15, Arcadia: It’s Mulder’s Worst Nightmare: Rules

Posted in TV tagged at 1:41 pm by Jenn

Everything about this is perfect

Summary: In San Diego County, a man named Kline is arriving home at his gated community, the Falls at Arcadia. Everything in the neighborhood is idyllic and well-maintained. One of Kline’s neighbors, Win Shroeder, has just painted Kline’s mailbox so it’s up to code. Kline complains to his wife about the strict regulations in the community, and how Win painted their mailbox because it was a slightly different shade from all the other mailboxes. The Klines receive a package containing a tacky roof accessory that Mrs. Kline knows the neighbors would hate.

This is just what Kline wants, so he puts the accessory (which features a man chopping wood when the wind blows a propeller on the side) on a gutter. That night, the Klines hear a noise in the house, and Kline goes to check it out, taking a trophy with him as a weapon. He finds huge, bloody footprints leading into the living room. Something attacks him from behind, then moves upstairs toward Mrs. Kline, making the water in her bedside glass shake like this is Jurassic Park.

A few months later, a new family, the Petries, moves into the Klines’ house. Neighbor Pat Verlander is there to welcome them with a gift basket. Mr. Petrie is excited to live in such a great place, though this wife is much more reserved. This makes perfect sense, since the Petries (“Rob” and “Laura”) are really Mulder and Scully. Pat warns that they might not make the 6:00 p.m. cutoff for moving in that day. It’s just one of the community’s many rules.

The house shows no traces of the Klines’ inevitably gory deaths, and Scully wants to send the previous owners a thank-you note expressing her appreciation for how well they maintained their home. Pat just says that’s sweet. Other neighbors, including Win and a guy named Gordy, gather outside to help with the move-in and greet the Petries. Scully rushes to stop a guy named Mike from damaging the contents of a box labeled “china.” Win’s wife Cami helps her carry it inside.

Win anxiously tells Mulder that he can’t put up a basketball hoop without special permission from the president of their homeowners association, Mr. Gogolak. For now, it needs to stay in the garage. Everything else gets moved into the house by the cutoff, and everyone rushes off to do their no-doubt Stepford Wife-like evening activities. The Petries are alone in their new home, and Mulder wants to carry his “bride” over the threshold. Scully most likely wants to shoot him with a crossbow, which is probably against community regulations.

The agents get to work examining the house for forensic evidence. By dropping the “china” box, Mike accidentally damaged a piece of equipment that would have allowed them to look for bloodstains, but Mulder doesn’t think that’ll matter; the house is immaculate.

Scully videotapes their process, mentioning that the Klines were the third couple to disappear since the neighborhood was built eight years earlier. All of the couples were seemingly stable with no signs of domestic issues or mental illnesses. In each case, the couples’ personal items and cars also disappeared, and police found no clues as to what happened. All the neighbors were unaware that the couples were gone, despite, as Mulder points out, their apparent closeness to everyone in the community.

The police have now turned to the FBI, and Skinner has sent Mulder and Scully to the community undercover to investigate a “possibly murderous conspiracy of silence.” Mulder courts a sexual-harassment lawsuit by asking if Scully wants to make a honeymoon video. She slams him for their aliases, saying she’s choosing the names if they ever go undercover again.

Mulder promises that he’s taking the case seriously, though he doesn’t know why they’re on it. Scully notes that it involves something unexplained; just because it doesn’t involve aliens doesn’t mean it’s not an X-File. He teases that she just wants to play house. He demands that she make him a sandwich. Instead, she throws her gloves at him and goes to answer the doorbell.

Mike has come over to give the Petries some dishes to replace the china he broke. Scully admires his caduceus necklace, and he tells her he’s a veterinarian. If the Petries want to get a dog, he’ll check it out for them for free, but they can’t get one over 16 pounds, as per the community’s rules. Scully wonders why the Klines left, since everyone in the neighborhood is so nice. Mike runs away before he has to answer any questions. Back inside, Mulder finds something on a ceiling fan that must have been overlooked when the house was cleaned. It looks like blood.

The other neighbors have dinner together and talk about the Petries. Mr. Gogolak dismisses the women from the table, then asks Win, Mike, and Gordy if they think the Petries will “play ball.” Mike suggests that they tell the couple what’s really going on. They might be able to keep up with all the rules better if they knew what would happen if they didn’t. It would be neighborly to tell them the truth. Gogolak gives Mike his blessing, but as soon as Mike leaves the table to use the bathroom, Gogolak sends Gordy after him, then tells Win that Mike is a weak link. They can’t be a strong chain with him hanging on.

Later that night, Mike watches a TV show about a tribe that performs a ritual to expose nonconformity that they think comes from evil. Mike notices that the bulb in the streetlight outside his house has burned out, and he rushes out to change it. A pair of eyes watches from the darkness as he anxiously ensures he’s conforming. Even though he fixes the bulb, a muddy creature attacks him, spraying Mike’s blood all over his doorstep.

The next morning, Mulder and Scully find Win spraying the blood off the doorstep. He asks how their first night was in the new house. Mulder tells him they “spooned up and then fell asleep like little baby cats.” He calls Scully “honeybunch”; Scully, who both hates him right now and has never used a term of endearment toward anyone she’s not related to, calls him “poopyhead.” Win tells them that Mike had to leave town on business, as he often does. Sometimes he’s gone for weeks at a time.

Win invites the Petries to join him and Cami for dinner that night. Mulder asks who he needs to talk to about putting up his basketball hoop. He and Scully meet Mr. Gogolak, who looks through the community’s rulebook and announces that the basketball hoop isn’t allowed. Why, if they allowed such a thing, soon the neighborhood would collapse under the weight of tacky lawn decorations and boats in the driveways! “In other words, anarchy,” says Mulder, who has his arm around his fake wife’s shoulders.

Gogolak says that the Falls is one of the top-ranked planned communities in the state. Many of the families there have been there since it was built. Mulder admires Gogolak’s decorating scheme, which Gogolak says is mostly Tibetan. He runs an importing company and can get them some rattan furniture, if they’d like. (Indoor furniture only, of course.)

The Petries have dinner with the Shroeders, who promise that their tuna is dolphin-safe. Mulder says that he and Scully met at a UFO conference. Win’s surprised that they’re into that stuff. Mulder says that Scully’s the real believer; she’s a sucker for things like crystals and magnetic bracelets. He then reveals that they called Mike’s office to talk about pets, and they said they didn’t know where he was. Win plays innocent as Cami tries not to stare daggers at her husband. He says very seriously that there’s nothing shady going on at the Falls. They’re living the American dream.

Cami needs to walk the dog, so Scully invites herself along. She and Mulder give each other air kisses before the women leave. Scully takes the opportunity to ask Cami if she really thinks the community is the American dream. Cami says it’s full of people who want the best for their families. Scully interprets that as Cami’s admission that she doesn’t hold their values.

She notes that they keep walking past Mike’s house, but Cami plays dumb. Suddenly, the dog, Scruffy, takes off down a sewer. Scully has a flashlight with her, and though she can’t see the dog in the sewer, she does see a caduceus necklace. Scruffy pops back up, and Scully wipes something off of his face. As the group heads back home, something lifts a nearby manhole cover.

Back at home, Scully makes a call and learns that the local police don’t have any leads on Mike’s disappearance. Mulder has retrieved the necklace from the storm drain, and since it’s bloody, he thinks Mike is dead. They figure that Win must have been cleaning up the crime scene that morning. Scully plans to drive to a lab in San Diego the next day to have the necklace analyzed. But tonight, she’s going to criticize her new roommate’s habits (strike two is the way he squeezes a tube of toothpaste, and strike three is leaving the toilet seat up. No word on what the first strike was).

Mulder reacts to the sight of Scully in a green face mask the way he might react to seeing an actual alien right in front of him. She wonders what a murderer’s motive would be for doing away with Mike. Mulder notes that everyone’s obsessed with the neighborhood’s rules; Scully fits in very well. He has a theory he wants to test out the next day. He invites his fake wife to join him in bed, but Scully isn’t taking the role-playing that far. (Not yet, at least. In season 7, who knows?)

While Scully does some actual work the next day, Mulder puts a plastic flamingo in the yard and drinks straight from a carton of orange juice (that has to be strike four). Seconds later, the flamingo is gone. Next, Mulder kicks the mailbox post until it’s tilted, opens the box, and splashes juice on it.

He watches the yard from the window, but after a few hours, all that orange juice catches up to him and he has to go use the bathroom. (He decides against using the juice carton, which would have been strikes five, six, and seven). When he gets back to the window, the mailbox has been fixed. Inside is a note: “Be like the others…before it gets dark.”

Instead of listening, Mulder wakes up his neighbors by playing basketball with his new hoop after dark. Win runs over and tries to move the hoop inside, but Mulder won’t let him. As something pushes through the Shroeders’ yard, Win tells Mulder that he was warned. The men hear Cami screaming, but when Mulder runs over to check on her, he doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Win and Cami do, though – their streetlight has burned out.

Scully comes home from San Diego and hears a noise in the house. Mulder’s still checking out the Shroeders’ yard, where he finds a hole under the grass. Scully searches the house with a fireplace poker as a weapon, spotting something moving behind her out of the corner of her eye. Before she can find it, Mulder comes home. The basketball hoop has been removed from the yard, and Mulder thinks someone – or something – is cleaning up after them. This is probably a good thing, as Mulder caught a glimpse of the creature and now thinks they’re dealing with an X-File.

Win visits Gogolak to ask what he and Cami did wrong. Does he disapprove of their welcome mat or the way Win coils the garden hose? He knows they’re at risk from whatever killed Mike. Gogolak tells him that Mulder is causing trouble, and he’s a rotten apple that will spoil the whole neighborhood.

Mulder and Scully find a hole in their yard, making Mulder think that the thing after them travels in the ground. Scully, as usual, has her own theory, as well as lab results. The blood they found on the ceiling fan is actually ketchup and brake fluid. The things they thought were hairs stuck to it are really bristles from a scrub brush. The stuff she wiped off of Scruffy was just the kind of thing you’d find in the garbage. The neighborhood was built on a landfill, so the holes in the yards may have come from the venting of methane gas.

Scully can’t find a connection to the disappearances, but Mulder thinks the couples are still in the neighborhood – they’re buried in people’s yards. Starting an excavation could mean breaking their covers, but Mulder has a better idea: Dig a big hole in the front yard and pretend they’re putting in a pool, which, amazingly, isn’t against the rules. As the neighbors watch the construction, Gogolak tells Win, “Let him dig his own grave.”

Mulder searches the hole that night but doesn’t find any bodies. He does, however, find their roof accessory. A sticker on it shows that it came from Pier 9 Imports, Gogolak’s company. Mulder tells Scully to get an excavation team out there to dig deeper. He’s going to see Gogolak to “price some rattan furniture.” As they split up, the creature surfaces from the hole.

Scully’s calling in a forensic team when she hears noises downstairs and realizes she’s in danger. As the creature thuds up the stairs, a bloody, grimy, not-dead Mike suddenly appears and tells Laura that she needs to get out of the house. He tells her he was attacked by “the ubermenscher,” and the community brought their problems on themselves. They have to deal with something the original homeowners wanted for themselves.

Mike explains that he tried to offer up Win, the way Win offered him up, but it didn’t work. Now the ubermenscher wants Scully, since Mulder broke the rules. He barricades her in a closet and faces the creature with a gun. A fight ensues, but Mike’s bullets don’t seem to be a match for the creature, which starts tearing at the slats in Scully’s closet door.

Mulder is having better luck, as he’s cornered Gogolak and tied him up for an interrogation. He accuses Gogolak of giving the Klines the “whirligig” that got them killed. He’s figured out that Gogolak learned some tricks in Tibet and was able to create a tulpa. It’s a thought-form he willed into existence to commit acts of violence for him. Is it really that important for everyone to have the same mailbox? Goglak says it’s important for everyone to fit in. Mulder knows that the tulpa is now out of Gogolak’s control; all he can do is stay out of its way.

Gogolak taunts that Mulder will never be able to get the authorities to believe this theory or arrest Gogolak. Mulder responds by taking Gogolak to his house and handcuffing him to the mailbox while he goes inside to check on things. Win arrives, and Gogolak tells him that his new neighbors are FBI agents – but they won’t be Win’s neighbors for long.

Mulder finds the bedroom destroyed and Scully still in the closet, unharmed. Gogolak asks Win to free him from the mailbox, but Cami tells her husband that Gogolak deserves whatever happens to him. Mulder hears yelling from the yard and rushes down in time to see the creature attacking Gogolak. As it approaches Mulder, it suddenly disintegrates, turning back into the mud it came out of.

As the case gets wrapped up and the Petries move out (Mulder tries in vain to straighten the mailbox post), Scully voices over her report. A number of neighbors have pinned the murders in the community on Gogolak, though they won’t take any responsibility for Gogolak’s death, and they all say they don’t know what killed him. Scully notes that the community’s code of silence, which “hid the sins” around them, is still intact, and has now claimed a final victim: the person who created it. The Falls is still one of the top planned communities in California.

Thoughts: Mike is played by Abraham Benrubi. Win and Gordy are both played by recurring Will and Grace actors, Tom Gallop (Rob on W&G) and Tim Bagley (Larry).

For more fun with pretend marriages in seemingly idyllic communities, see the Alias episode “Welcome to Liberty Village.” For more fun with tulpas, see the Supernatural episode “Fan Fiction.”

Heh, right after the Jurassic Park tribute scene, my recording of this episode showed an ad starring Jeff Goldblum.

For some reason, one of my most vivid memories from the first run of the series is Mulder kicking the mailbox.

I love all dogs, but Scruffy, who’s aptly named, doesn’t exactly fit the community’s aesthetic standards.

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