May 5, 2018

The X-Files 7.14, Theef: The Hex Files

Posted in TV tagged at 1:28 pm by Jenn

Mulder checks out a new art installation, unsure of what this piece is trying to convey

Summary: A family comes home to their mansion in Marin County, California, having attended an event where one of their members, Robert, won an award calling him physician of the year. His father-in-law, Irving, makes them take a picture together. In bed that night, Robert tells his wife, Nan, how lucky he is. Irving gets ready for bed as well, finding a small body-shaped figure made out of dirt on his bed. A man appears behind him. The house’s security alarm goes off, and when Robert goes to check it out, he finds Irving hanging from the ceiling, bleeding. “Theef” is written on the wall in blood.

When Mulder and Scully arrive to investigate, they focus on the misspelled word on the wall. Scully doesn’t know why the case is considered an X-File. Mulder gives the exposition that Irving was hanged and had his throat cut; the other family members had no motive, and the blood pattern shows that Irving didn’t kill himself. Plus, the dirt on his bed may have been used in an act of hexcraft. Scully’s willing to buy that someone included hexcraft in Irving’s murder. Mulder’s surprised that she’s keeping an open mind, and she teases that she likes to keep him guessing.

The agents talk to the family, but they can’t think of any enemies Irving might have had. Mulder then asks if Robert has any enemies. Robert’s daughter, Lucy, defends her father, reminding the agents that, as a doctor, he saves people’s lives. Robert says if he has any enemies, he doesn’t know of them.

In Foster City, California, a landlady does some housework in a big house with rooms for rent. She smells something and follows the odor to the room of one of the tenants, Orel Peattie – the man from Irving’s room. He tells her the scent is medicine, then offers her something for her back pain. Then he goes back to his room to finish sewing some voodoo dolls. One of his finished dolls is hanging from a hook.

Mulder learns that the dirt from Irving’s bed was graveyard dirt, a compound often used in hexcraft. Meanwhile, Scully has autopsied Irving’s body and discovered that he had kuru – a disease cannibals used to get from eating brains. Because the disease causes its victims to be “stark-raving crazy” (Scully says this, so it must be the medical term), Irving may have killed himself after all. Mulder thinks the hex put on him gave him kuru so he would kill himself.

That night, Nan sees that a picture in the hallway is missing, leaving just an empty frame behind. What she doesn’t see is that Peattie is in the house. Robert thinks the police just took the picture from the frame, for some kind of evidence. As Peattie attaches a picture of Nan’s face to one of his dolls, Nan tells Robert that she doesn’t feel comfortable staying in the house. Nothing that’s happened makes sense to her.

Robert disagrees – he’s heard about the kuru and thinks that Irving committed suicide. There’s nothing for them to worry about. He changes his mind when he finds dirt in the bed just before Nan collapses, her face starting to pulse. Outside the house, Peattie is murmuring something to his doll.

Nan is taken to a hospital in San Francisco, now looking like she has burns all over her face. The agents come to see Robert, who has diagnosed his wife with diffuse cutaneous leishmaniasis, a rare disease usually found in Africa. Mulder brings up his theory that someone made Nan sick. Robert tells Scully to explain to her partner that no one can direct an illness at someone. Mulder thinks they’re dealing with folk magic, probably something Celtic or Scottish, or possibly Appalachian. Scully would rather discuss the more pressing matter of the family being in danger and needing the FBI’s protection.

Robert wants to focus on treating Nan, but Mulder points out that if the hexcraft continues, the treatments won’t matter. Robert can’t believe that some dirt is going to win out against everything he has in his arsenal as a doctor. He goes off to do his job while Mulder decides that he wants a second opinion. Robert looks at MRIs of Nan’s brain, finding that they all read “theef.”

Peattie appears and mocks that the truth always hurts. Robert asks what he wants, but Peattie says everything’s going great and he’s getting his money’s worth. He mentions the name Lynette Peattie, but Robert doesn’t seem to find it familiar. He demands to know what makes him a thief, according to Peattie. Peattie tells him to give it some thought and he’ll figure it out. He leaves, and when Robert goes after him, Peattie has disappeared.

Robert has a hospital employee look up Lynette’s name, but there’s no record of anyone by her name being treated at the hospital. Robert asks him to pull the files of Jane Does he’s treated. In one file, he finds a piece of woven fabric that reads “flax-haired lamb – theef of mine heart.” Back in his room, Peattie prepares his next doll, this one with Robert’s face. He talks to the unseen Lynette, telling her she shouldn’t have left. The landlady comes by the thank him for the medicine he gave her for her back. Peattie gives her some more as she comments on the odor of whatever he’s working on. He tells her that’s good.

Mulder and Scully go to a magic shop (not one where you’d get magic tricks; one where you’d buy supplies for spells) to ask the owner about the graveyard dirt. She calls it goofer dust and wants them to put it away. Hypothetically, you’d put it on a victim to “direct misfortune.” But you would also need a voodoo doll, or what the owner calls a poppet. You have to insert some thorns and something from your victim for it to work.

Mulder asks how they can counteract this kind of hexcraft. The owner says that if someone’s using it for murder, he’s probably charmed, drawing on the energy of some source of magic power. It would have to be something important to him. They would need to separate him from the charm to defeat him.

Back at the hospital, Peattie checks out the options in a vending machine, unclear on the concept of inserting money before being able to retrieve what he wants. He’s also confused about how microwave popcorn works. He talks to a medical student about radiation, then sees Robert and Lucy walking down the hall. Lucy has come to visit her mother, who’s doing much better thanks to Robert’s treatments.

Nan needs another MRI and is nervous about the radiation. Robert assures her that it’s no more than she would get from a dental x-ray. Peattie gets his popcorn, then puts Nan’s voodoo doll in the microwave. As he cooks it, the radiation in the MRI gets way too strong, burning Nan alive. (Thanks, makeup department, for your extremely gross work here.)

Now in protective custody, Robert believes that Nan was murdered. “Theef” was branded into her chest, and the agents think Robert knows why. He tells them about Peattie’s visit and what he found in the Jane Doe’s file. She was badly injured in a bus accident, and Robert knew there was no way he could save her, so he gave her an overdose of morphine to put her out of her misery. Mulder has guessed that Peattie is Lynette’s father and wants to take Robert’s family like Robert took his.

Mulder has an idea of how to protect the family, and it starts with exhuming Lynette’s body from her pauper’s grave. Scully manages to find one record from Lynette’s entire life, a medical file from an inoculation program in West Virginia. Her father refused to let her receive a polio vaccine. Mulder realizes he was right about Appalachian folk magic. He thinks Peattie’s getting his graveyard dirt from Lynette’s grave. Her body may be his charm. If they send it to Quantico, they’ll break his power. Except the grave is empty.

The landlady goes back to Peattie’s room, letting herself in when he doesn’t answer his door. She sees someone in the bed and thinks he’s home after all, but it’s what’s left of Lynette’s corpse. (Think Psycho.) Peattie comes home in time to find her discovering his secret. But he’s also there to see Mulder and Scully send Robert and Lucy away, thinking that they’ll catch Peattie at the family’s house when he inevitably comes after Lucy.

Mulder stakes out the family’s home, listening to a news report about the landlady’s sudden illness – she has a flesh-eating virus. Mulder puts 2 and 2 together and leads a raid of Peattie’s room, discovering Lynette’s now-headless skeleton. He calls Scully, who’s taken Robert and Lucy to Sequoia National Forest, and warns that Peattie is probably on to them. He has a piece of his charm and is on the move. Scully doesn’t think anyone followed them, but Peattie has found them anyway.

He breaks a window of Scully’s car, alerting her to his presence outside their hideout. He takes her badge and one of her hairs from the car so he can make a Scully voodoo doll. He puts nails in its eyes, causing the real Scully to suddenly go blind. Peattie bursts into the hideout, easily dodging Scully’s bullets. Robert threatens to hurt him, but Peattie says there’s nothing that can hurt him since he has nothing to lose. Robert says he’s sorry for Peattie’s loss, but he did everything he could to help Lynette. When he couldn’t do anything else, he eased her suffering.

Peattie thinks he could have saved her if he’d been there, but Robert points out that he wasn’t there. Peattie’s upset that Lynette was buried in an unmarked grave away from her family. Now he wants to enact an eye for an eye. Robert says he’s not going to hurt Lucy, and he’s right – Peattie wants to hurt him. He uses a knife to pierce the chest of Robert’s voodoo doll, causing the real Robert chest pain.

Of course, Mulder arrives at the hideout to save the day. A blind Scully is a useless Scully, so there’s nothing she can do to save Robert and stop Peattie. Mulder, however, has a gun and is able to take care of things. Peattie’s control of Scully and Robert immediately ends, as Mulder has removed the nails from the Scully doll’s eyes.

Later, in Peattie’s hospital room, Mulder tells Scully that Lynette’s body is being sent to West Virginia so she can be reburied with her family. Scully admits that if she’d been in Robert’s position, she would have done the same thing he did for Lynette. But she can’t help wondering if Peattie really could have saved her. “You do keep me guessing,” Mulder murmurs after she leaves.

Thoughts: Lucy’s hair is so ’90s. At one point it looks like she had a bunch of butterfly clips in it, took them out, and just left her hair how it was without brushing it out.

I feel like putting microwave popcorn in a hospital vending machine is just asking for trouble. I wouldn’t trust a sleep-deprived intern to get his out before it burned.

Another reference to John Gillnitz – he’s the news anchor who reports on the landlady’s illness.

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2 Comments »

  1. Ciara said,

    Referring to graveyard dirt as a “compound” really makes me laugh. Did the show actually use that word (please yes) or was that you?

    • Jenn said,

      I think they meant the chemical compound of the dirt.


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