March 10, 2018

The X-Files 7.6, The Goldberg Variation: Not-So-Dumb Luck

Posted in TV tagged at 1:24 pm by Jenn

Amazingly, Mulder doesn’t make any pirate jokes

Summary: Some shady-looking men are playing poker in Chicago, and one manages to get four kings. A not-nearly-as-shady-looking-as-the-others man asks for five cards, even though four is the limit. The man with four kings approves the request, since he figures it won’t make a difference. Henry, the man who drew five, sees 4 Kings’ $4,000 bet and raises him $4,000 more.

4 Kings decides to go up to $15,000, but Henry says there’s no point; the money on the table is all he needs. Henry clearly isn’t very experienced with poker, since he asks if this is when they show their cards. 4 Kings proudly puts down his cards, but Henry beats him with a straight flush. He chalks it up to beginner’s luck.

Henry starts gathering his winnings, but 4 Kings wants the chance to win back his money. Henry points out that he just won more than $100,000. He says again that that’s all he needs. Some thugs accompany him out, but take him up to the roof instead of down to the street. They throw him off the roof, and he falls through an open sidewalk grate…then climbs out, unharmed, and walks away.

Scully comes to Chicago the next day, having been instructed by Mulder to meet him on the street Henry walked away from the night before. She calls him (“Mulder, it’s me”) since he’s not there. He somehow arranged to make an entrance by rising out of the grate Henry fell through. He tells her that the building where the poker game took place leases space to a mobster named Joey Cutrona (AKA 4 Kings). Two FBI agents were parked outside, surveilling the building, when they saw Henry’s descent and departure.

Mulder takes Scully underground as he tells her that Henry hasn’t been ID’d. No one’s searched underground since Henry didn’t commit a crime. Mulder thinks he has some sort of genetic predisposition to heal rapidly. “So basically, what if we were looking for Wile E. Coyote?” Scully asks. She notes that a British parachuter fell the same distance as Henry and only broke a rib. There are completely normal reasons a man could plummet that far and walk away. Maybe he just got really lucky. “That’s your big scientific explanation?” Mulder asks.

Scully finds a laundry cart with broken wheels and guesses that Henry fell in it. Since it’s full of soft sheets, it could have easily broken his fall. The agents find a glass eye in the cart and realize they have something to go on to find their mystery man. After making some calls and learning that Henry made an appointment that morning to get a new eye, they go to his building and buzz apartment 313.

Henry doesn’t answer the buzzer, but a woman is leaving the building, so Mulder and Scully are able to get in. Mulder says he’s feeling lucky. A woman finds them in the hallway and asks them to come help her with a plumbing emergency. The agents aren’t plumbers, obviously, but the woman, Maggie, thinks that Mulder can at least turn the proper valve to shut off the water. Mulder knows Henry is the building super, so he wonders why Maggie didn’t call him. Maggie says he’s not dependable.

Maggie’s son Richie comes in and tells Mulder he’s turning the valve the wrong way. Maggie sends him back to bed, since he’s sick. Mulder keeps turning the valve, which breaks off, spraying water everywhere. Then the wooden floor gives out and Mulder falls through to the apartment building. He assures Scully that he’s okay – “my a$& broke the fall.” Also, Mulder may be lucky after all, since Henry’s in the apartment below.

The agents join him in his home and give him back his eye. He admits that he was hiding out in a vacant apartment to avoid the FBI. He thinks they’re there to compel him to testify against Cutrona, then put him in witness protection. The agents are more interested in how he survived the fall. Henry says he just got lucky. He’s mostly upset that he didn’t get to keep his winnings. He insists that he didn’t cheat.

Mulder sees a bunch of gadgets around the apartment and realizes that Henry has a Rube Goldberg device. He sets it off, watching it like a kid in a candy store. The sequence ends with a little figure being hanged, and Mulder asks what it means. Henry says it doesn’t mean anything; he just likes to build them. Mulder says it’s about cause and effect.

Henry’s ready to end the conversation, telling the agents he’d rather take his chances with Cutrona than go into protection. Scully’s fine with leaving the case in the hands of the local office and going home. Luck doesn’t constitute an X-File. Mulder disagrees – “maybe his luck is the X-File.” The elevator they’re waiting for is taking too long, so they decide to take the stairs. As they leave, one of Cutrona’s thugs comes out of the elevator.

Mulder realizes he lost his car keys when he fell, so he and Scully have to go back inside. The thug tries to kill Henry, who hides. When the agents arrive, they find the thug dead, hanging upside down from the ceiling fan, suspended by his own shoelace.

Henry has fled the building, and the agents figure that, with his lack of muscles and depth perception, he couldn’t have killed the thug. Plus, it looks like he had a heart attack. Mulder thinks this is another case of cause and effect. The thug kicked down the door but got startled by the buzzer Mulder rang to be let back into the building. His bullet went wild and hit a lamp, which in turn knocked over an ironing board. The thug tripped over the board and tumbled end over end, getting his shoelace caught in the ceiling fan.

Scully laughs, but Mulder’s serious about the possibility that seemingly unrelated events could form a chain reaction that just led to dumb luck for Henry. In fact, he thinks Henry has tapped into that luck. Richie comes in, and Scully escorts him back to his apartment so he doesn’t have to look at the thug’s dead body. She admires the sports stuff in Richie’s room, telling him she likes baseball.

Richie has his own Rube Goldberg device, made by Henry. It launches a little ball in a little basket. Richie says Henry made it while Richie was in the hospital. He told Richie that everything happens for a reason; we just can’t always see why or how. Scully has already figured out that Richie has a liver disorder, which is why his mom wants him to stay in bed. She asks if he knows where Henry might have gone. Richie says Henry hasn’t gone out much since Richie got sick.

Scully goes back to Mulder and asks why a man who’s supernaturally lucky would work as a building super. He could go play the lottery and win millions of dollars. Henry eavesdrops from a crawlspace, then goes to Richie’s room to check on him. Richie asks why the FBI is looking for him. Henry downplays the whole thing, then says he needs to go do something he’s been putting off.

Since Henry doesn’t make enough to file taxes, and he doesn’t have any insurance or bank accounts, the agents have no way to look into his past. Scully thinks he’s intentionally staying off the radar. Mulder has found a newspaper article pinpointing the last time Henry was known to the public: He was the only survivor in a plane crash (which is how he lost his eye). He was bumped from three flights before getting seat 13 on flight 7.

Mulder wonders if that incident led to a new life. Scully thinks it’s more likely that Henry changed his life because of survivor’s guilt. Why would he go off the radar because he was lucky? Mulder wants to know why he would suddenly resurface and try to use his luck to his advantage.

Henry goes to a corner store to get a lottery ticket. The pot is up to $28 million, but Henry says he doesn’t need that much. “How much do you need, Rockefeller?” the cashier asks dryly. Henry says $100,000, so the cashier gives him a dollar scratcher. As he scratches, a news report comes on the store’s TV stating that the police are looking for Henry so they can question him about the thug’s death.

Henry’s scratcher yields him $100,000, but he doesn’t want to wait and get a check for four figures every month for years. He throws away the scratcher, which another customer plucks out of the trash. Henry warns him not to take it, but the guy doesn’t listen. He runs out to the street to celebrate and is promptly hit by a truck with a four-leaf clover on its side.

As the man is taken away by paramedics, Scully confirms with the cashier that Henry was the original winner, then left once he was sure the scratcher-stealer was okay. The cashier claims that the stealer gave him the ticket while they were waiting for the ambulance. Scully remarks to Mulder that, for such a lucky guy, a lot of unlucky things happen around Henry. Mulder thinks that’s part of the deal.

Scully asks why Henry would come buy a lottery ticket. Mulder remembers that she said just an hour ago that it would make sense for him to do that. He figures out that Henry overheard them, then easily finds his hiding spot in the crawlspace. It leads all over the building, so the agents will have to search every floor. Another thug arrives just as they leave.

Henry’s in another abandoned apartment, whittling something. Mulder picks the lock and lets himself in, then finds Henry in the crawlspace. As he calls Scully, Henry spots Thug #2 outside the door. He comes in and fires a bullet at Henry, which ricochets and grazes Mulder. The bullet then pinballs off of a few things in the room before boomeranging back at the shooter. Scully arrives in time to see Henry pull out his whittling knife, the thing the bullet first ricocheted off.

Thug #2 is taken to the hospital, where Mulder gets bandaged up. He wants to test his theory about Henry with a deck of cards. No matter which card Mulder draws, Henry draws a higher one. Mulder sums it up: “He’s incapable of losing.” But Henry hates being the luckiest man in the universe. There’s some sort of balance thing going on, which means everyone else around him is unlucky. Henry’s tried to contain the damage by sticking close to home, but now he needs money – hence the poker game and the lottery. Scully guesses that the money is for Richie.

Henry confirms that Richie has hepatitis, and complications have led to him needing a liver transplant. He has a rare blood type, B negative, and other factors that make it hard to find a donor. There’s an experimental treatment program in England, and Henry can get him in with $100,000. Scully tells Henry he really needs protection from Cutrona and his thugs. Henry draws a king and says the thugs need protection from him.

As Henry leaves, Scully chastises Mulder for feeding into Henry’s delusions instead of convincing him to submit to their protection. Mulder disagrees – Henry’s doing a great job taking care of himself. Scully thinks he’s placing too much faith in luck. In fact, he’s betting Henry’s life on it. Plus, won’t his luck eventually end? That end may come now, as Cutrona arrives at the hospital to see Thug #2 and spots Henry leaving.

Scully draws an ace from Mulder’s deck of cards and scoffs that Henry’s the luckiest man in the world, since she just beat him. Mulder gets an idea and runs outside, where another of Cutrona’s thugs is approaching Henry with a knife. Henry tries to flee and ends up getting hit by a truck (possibly the same truck that hit the scratcher-stealer, which means that driver is having a REALLY bad day).

Back at their building, Maggie finds Richie playing with his Rube Goldberg device and tells him not to believe everything Henry says. She asks if Richie saw him, then stops short. Thanks to his liver problems, Richie’s skin is now yellow. Henry, however, has very minor injuries, and has realized that Scully’s right about his luck possibly running out. He’s agreed to testify against Cutrona.

Cutrona gets the news from Thug #3, who subscribes to Mulder’s theory that Henry’s impervious. They can’t get to Henry, who’s now in protective custody, but Cutrona thinks they can get to someone else. Maggie calls an ambulance for Richie, who asks her to bring his Rube Goldberg device to the hospital. She sends Richie on ahead and goes back to his room, where Thug #3 grabs her.

Mulder and Scully find Henry in Richie’s room at R.I. Childes Pediatric Care, having learned that Maggie’s missing. Henry knows that Cutrona took her to keep him from testifying. He doesn’t want to sit around and wait; he wants to go do something. Mulder reminds Henry that his luck could run out at any time. He adds that, as Henry once told Richie, they may not be able to see why something bad is happening. They need to look at the big picture. Henry ignores him and starts to leave, ripping his sleeve as he puts on his jacket.

Scully tells Mulder that Richie’s condition is poor, and he’ll die if they don’t find a donor in the next few hours. Mulder wonders if everyone who becomes a part of Henry’s life gets caught up in his web of bad luck. Scully says he sounds like they’re caught in a Rube Goldberg device. He wants to look for Maggie, but without any leads, he thinks luck is their only option. He opens a phone book to a random page, but lands on an ad for Muhaymin Daycare. “Let’s call that a dry run,” he says. The next ad is for Grayson’s Laundry Service.

Henry’s at Cutrona’s, offering to refuse to testify if Cutrona lets Maggie go. Cutrona won’t take the deal even when Henry says he doesn’t care what happens to him. Cutrona and Thug #3 take Henry to the basement of their building, where they’re keeping Maggie. There’s a Grayson’s cart nearby. Thug #3 shoves Henry under an open ladder (bad luck!), causing him to accidentally knock an iron into a mop bucket. Thug #3 attaches Henry to a cable so Cutrona can raise him in the air.

Maggie’s yelling at the men, so Cutrona tells Thug #3 to shut her up. But when Thug #3 goes to open the cage door keeping Maggie contained, the iron in the bucket short-circuits, electrifying the metal cage. When he falls backward, he knocks into Henry, who falls off the hook he’s attached to. The hook then swings down right at Cutrona’s face. The lights all over the city flicker, and some of the bulbs in the sign at R.I. Childes go out. Scully gasps when she sees that they now spell “RICHIE.”

Henry and Maggie are unharmed, and find Cutrona dead in a Grayson’s cart. Mulder and some FBI agents arrive moments later. All of them see from Cutrona’s medical alert bracelet that someone close to Henry has finally gotten some good luck: Cutrona’s blood type is B negative.

Everyone gathers at the hospital, where Scully admits that maybe things do happen for a reason, whether or not we can see it. Mulder tells Henry that maybe his luck is changing. Henry goes in to see Richie, setting off the Rube Goldberg device, which again works perfectly.

Thoughts: Weems is played by Willie Garson, who was also Roach in “The Walk.” Richie is played by Shia LaBeouf.

Mulder has a lot of fun moments in this episode, but my favorite is when he asks the crime-scene photographer, who’s taking pictures of the thug hanging from the ceiling fan, “So, you get many of these?”

Welcome back, plain-white-T-shirt Mulder. I missed you.

My only regrets about this episode: 1) We don’t find out if the cashier who wound up with the scratcher also had back luck, and 2) the daycare didn’t come into play.

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