September 22, 2018

The X-Files 8.12, Medusa: As If Public Transportation Weren’t Awful Enough

Posted in TV tagged , at 1:29 pm by Jenn

I’m sure Sephora has something that will help that feel better

Summary: The Clay Street subway station in Boston is quiet and mostly empty, except for a couple of people waiting for a train. One of them, an undercover cop, reports a possible 1013 (thanks, Chris Carter), a man who might be about to jump on the platform. When the train (which is being called an M here instead of a T, so the show could use M trains in L.A. for filming) arrives, the reporter, Officer Philbrick, gets on. He thinks he’s alone, but his 1013 is following him.

As he approaches Philbrick, the train screeches to a stop. Philbrick drops his gun and tries to grab for it as the 1013 closes in. There’s screaming. Sometime later, the regular commuters get on the train, and a woman sees Philbrick’s dead body, the skin on his face half missing and showing his skeleton underneath. I hope her boss lets her take the day off to recover from this trauma.

Scully and Doggett go to the Transit Operations Center and meet Karras, the deputy chief of the transit police, and a lieutenant named Bianco. Scully wants to examine the body, but Karras is more interested in getting the trains back on schedule. They’ve had to shut down the system for hours, and Karras wants things back to normal by 4 p.m., four hours from now. Scully says their priority is finding out why Philbrick is dead.

Bianco has a theory: The train lost power, and someone killed Philbrick with acid or lye. Scully says his theory isn’t important; they need to find out exactly what the killer did and try to prevent him from hurting anyone else. Bianco says no biological or chemical agents were found. They’re dealing with one single suspect. Doggett points out that that’s just what they’re telling the press; who knows if it’s the truth? Karras repeats that he just wants the FBI to get things ready for reopening by 4 p.m.

Doggett and Scully meet Steven Melnick, the chief structural engineer, and Hellura Lyle, from the CDC. Melnick built the track and is familiar with every inch of the station. Scully’s confused about Lyle’s presence, though, since she was told there were no pathogens in the station. Lyle quips dryly that she must just be there for moral support. Karras says they’re just covering their bases. Scully is there because she’s an expert in “equivocal death.” Melnick laughs at that, since “you’re dead or you’re not, right?” Lyle asks about Doggett, who says he’s there because he’s a good shot.

The ragtag team of heroes suits up in tactical gear, though Scully doesn’t think she needs to venture into the tunnel with them. She wants Doggett to be her eyes and ears while she hangs back and focuses on Philbrick. Doggett agrees, though he’s not sure what he’s supposed to be looking for as Scully’s eyes.

Scully goes to the station’s control center and confirms for Doggett, Melnick, Lyle, and Bianco that the third rail has been shut down, so they can go wherever they need. Thanks to surveillance equipment she gave Doggett, she can see everything the team sees. It’s incredibly hot in the tunnel because the ventilation system has been shut down, so the heroes are immediately uncomfortable. Doggett wonders why the ventilation system was turned off if they’re looking for a person. Bianco asks why, if that’s the case, he brought a weapon along.

The heroes pass by a puddle that I’m sure would look kind of weird if this show used any kind of lighting. Suddenly, Melnick feels something on his neck. He ends up with a burn. He thinks it’s from landfill seepage, and Lyle guesses that the same stuff that dripped on Melnick is in the puddle they walked through. Doggett tells her to get a sample. He thinks Philbrick’s death was from a toxic leak, not homicide. But this means Karras’ insistence that there were no contaminants in the station might be a lie.

Lyle gets a sample from the puddle and somehow transmits it to Scully in the control center. It’s just sea water, though. Scully decides to contact someone to get a molecular analysis. Karras reminds her that she only has four hours. Dude, unless you want all those commuters to die, just let her work. In the tunnel, Bianco and Melnick see someone behind Doggett, but Doggett and Lyle don’t see him. The team keeps moving.

Bianco’s too hot to keep on his bulletproof vest; he figures if the killer wanted him dead, he would have shot already. The team comes across a tunnel from the old subway system, which means they’re now at a fork in the line. Karras says the old line is decommissioned, so there’s no point checking it out. It’ll take them a mile out of their way. The heroes take a quick look around, and though Bianco agrees that it’s a waste of time, Melnick notes that there are a lot of places to hide in there. In fact, someone’s hiding there right now.

Doggett gets knocked out by the unseen attacker, who’s now dead, looking much like Philbrick did. “Would you call that equivocal?” Melnick asks. Lyle takes some photos to send to Scully as Melnick sees something and tries to approach it. Bianco thinks the case is closed, though – the attacker fits the description of the 1013 who’s suspected of killing Philbrick. The 1013 is dead, so their work here is done. Doggett ignores him and approaches the thing Melnick saw. Well, things – three dead bodies.

Doggett examines the corpses, which he thinks were squatters. Scully sees that they have the same tissue degradation as Philbrick and the 1013. They may be dealing with a contagion after all. Doggett summons Lyle over to tell her the CDC may have been wrong, but she sees someone else running through the tunnel. No one else sees anything, and Bianco says again that they need to just leave already. Scully tells Doggett that he needs to keep searching.

Karras tells Scully he’ll get a crew in the tunnel after rush hour, but right now everyone needs to get out. Scully points out that a contagion might mean a spreading infection. Karras reminds her that the only thing they’ve sampled is sea water. The CDC says there’s no contaminant, and he believes them. The three men must have been killed by the 1013. Scully’s like, “So he killed four people, then killed himself the same way? Uh-uh.” She refuses to risk the contagion spreading before she can figure out what it is.

Doggett asks for a ruling, so Scully tells him to leave the bodies and go after the person Lyle saw. Whether he’s killing people or is infected, he’s a threat. Doggett tells the others that “the boss” has given orders, and they’re following them. As they continue their search, Bianco asks Doggett how well he knows Scully. Why send him down to the tunnel instead of going down herself? Doggett has no time for questioning Scully’s judgment, even if it means he and his team members are the ones putting themselves at risk. Who’s really in charge here?

Scully informs Doggett that the team is about 50 yards from where the train stopped. Melnick feels something electrical on his arm and starts yelling – his arm is now covered in wounds, all of them burning. All Scully can prescribe is water. She thinks they’re dealing with a biochemical weapon. “A lot of people might be taking cabs home,” Doggett tells the team.

Scully studies a map of the grid and finds the only place where the man they’re looking for could be hiding. Lyle says Melnick isn’t well enough to go anywhere, so Doggett and Bianco leave the two of them behind for a Hazmat team to come collect for quarantine. Doggett isn’t aware that Bianco has come in contact with the contaminant himself, and his arm is starting to glow.

The Hazmat team collects Melnick and Lyle; she’s fine but he’s getting worse. Scully promises that she’s working on figuring out a treatment. She follows the Hazmat team as they bring out the three dead bodies, but they won’t tell her where they’re going. Karras calmly says that they’ve arranged for whatever happens next. Scully accuses him of knowing the three bodies were down there earlier. She certainly hopes that he didn’t allow the heroes to go into the tunnel knowing they could be at risk for contamination. Karras gives in and lets Scully send the bodies to the CDC.

Doggett and Bianco come across an old stop in the abandoned tunnel but still don’t see whoever it is they’re looking for. Scully’s away from her post, so Doggett can’t get her input. Bianco thinks it’s time to make their own call and stop pretending that Scully knows what she’s doing. Doggett notices Bianco’s infection, which has started spreading to his face. He thinks this is a reason to keep searching the tunnel.

Bianco doesn’t want to stick around when he could be the next to die, but Doggett notes that he doesn’t seem to be reacting to the contaminant the way the others did. Bianco starts to leave, but Doggett and his gun force him to stay. Well, at least until Bianco can catch Doggett off-guard, kick him, and run off. (Doggett’s been knocked out twice now in this episode. I hope he also gets to take some time off of work.)

Scully’s now back on comms, too late to see what happened to Doggett or understand why he’s not answering her. A marine biologist named Kai Bowe arrives with the analysis of the water sample. It contains high levels of calcium, and appears to contain a medusa, a bioluminescent creature. Bowe’s like, “Wherever this thing came from, it’s pretty incredible.” Scully’s like, “It’s killing people, but okay, we’ll go with ‘incredible.’ I mean, sea water that eats off people’s flesh – that’s definitely incredible, in the sense that no one’s going to find it credible.”

Scully continues that something triggers the harmful nature of the creature, since it’s not just killing people on contact. And they’d better figure out that trigger soon, because Doggett, still unconscious from Bianco’s attack, has become infected. Scully’s finally able to rouse him and see that his hands are now glowing. Bianco, who was just there yelling for help, is gone now. Scully announces that she’s sending a Hazmat team for Doggett, but he wants to keep moving. He knows he has the best chance to stop Bianco from continuing the spread of the contagion.

As Bowe calls the CDC for backup in figuring out the medusa’s trigger, Scully tells Karras that they have to block all the exits to try to contain the potential outbreak. Karras says no – there are already passengers in the station, waiting for the trains to start back up. Scully relays this to Doggett, who now has only 20 minutes to find Bianco and/or the man he’s been looking for in the tunnels. Since he hasn’t triggered the medusa by moving around, he figures he can keep moving without doing any more damage.

Doggett comes across Bianco, who’s collapsed in the tunnel. Scully alerts Bowe to some glowing on the ground, and realizes that Karras has left the control center. She tells Doggett to leave, but Doggett won’t abandon Bianco. The two make their way out of the tunnel, which is glowing more and more as the contaminant progresses. They spot someone else – a boy who wants Doggett to follow him somewhere. The fact that he’s not infected makes Scully realize what triggers the infection: sweat.

Sweat acts as a conductive agent, like electricity, that makes the infection worsen. Since the boy is so young that his sweat glands haven’t full developed, he’s basically immune. Of course, since it’s super-hot in the tunnel and Doggett’s been running around down there for four hours, he’s pretty sweaty. The boy leads him to a spot where a big leak has caused all the walls to glow. Doggett thinks this is the source of the contagion, a leak from the bay. The boy can walk through it without being affected. Scully think he’s showing Doggett the way out.

Doggett goes back to get Bianco, and the two follow the boy to the main system, which is glowing from contagion. Even worse, the trains have started up. Like Mulder before him, Doggett has a stupid idea: Use the third rail, his gun, and the contaminant to create an explosive that burns up the organism. He almost gets hit by a train, but since he’s still in a season and a half of the show, he doesn’t. Scully’s worried when she loses communications with her partner, because she’s clearly started caring about him, but he’s okay.

Doggett ends up in the hospital, though the organism is gone, so it’s just a precaution. Scully lets him know he can leave. Melnick and Bianco need some plastic surgery to deal with their wounds, but everyone’s healthy. Doggett complains about Karras’s recklessness, which could have led to hundreds of people getting infected. Scully tells him that since he destroyed the organism, and they have no data on the pathogen, no criminal charges can be filed. Karras will just be credited for doing his job to keep the trains running. Scully, however, knows that Doggett was a hero. Doggett wants her to have the credit, since she figured out what was going on. He was just her eyes and ears. Scully, however, doesn’t seem comfortable letting herself claim the win here.

Thoughts: Karras is played by Ken Jenkins. Lyle is played by Penny Johnson. Melnick is played by Brent Sexton.

I like the concept of this episode, of Doggett teaming up with strangers to go on a hunt. I think it was a good choice to have Scully watching from afar, seeing things the people in the tunnel might not have. Plus, since she’s pregnant, she didn’t have to spend the episode worrying about getting sick.

I think it’s interesting that in earlier seasons, Mulder would have made the call about Scully’s role, but here, she decides where she’s the most useful. And I like that Doggett keeps letting her call the shots throughout the episode. Neither of them has a clue what’s going on, but she’s slightly less clueless, so he lets her take the lead.

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