February 23, 2019

The X-Files 9.13, Improbable: The Theory of Everything

Posted in TV tagged , , at 1:12 pm by Jenn

I have no words

Summary: A man playing poker in a casino is very bad about keeping a poker face when he’s dealt a 2 and a 3. He folds and moves on to the slot machines, where he stares creepily at a woman. Then he joins Burt Reynolds (yes, the real Burt Reynolds) at the bar and orders the exact thing Burt predicted he would, a 7 and 7 and a pack of Morleys. The player, Wayne, wonders if Burt knows him. Burt says he’s “part of the regular game.”

Burt continues that Wayne’s problem isn’t the cards, but playing the hand he’s dealt. When he gets bad cards, he needs to know what to do with them. Cards can’t think, so Wayne needs to make them work for him. There are millions of possible hands, but “the game can’t beat the man.” Burt tells Wayne that the woman he was watching comes to the casino every weekend and never wins, but she keeps coming, hoping her luck will change.

Wayne starts to follow the woman into the bathroom, but Burt stops him, asking if Wayne is bluffing. He wants Wayne to surprise him by leaving the casino. Instead, Wayne goes after the woman. As Burt finishes his game of solitaire with the same 2 and 3 Wayne was dealt, the woman’s slot machine pays off for another player. A woman then emerges from the bathroom, screaming about a murder. Burt draws the ace of spades.

In D.C., Reyes reads about the woman’s murder in the paper. She’s very talented, as she’s able to walk through the halls of the FBI building without running into anyone while she looks down at the paper. Scully joins her in her office, where Reyes is doing math. She asks if Scully thinks the universe is knowable in math, and can be reduced to a simple equation. Scully recognizes this idea as the Theory of Everything, but she doesn’t believe in it. She isn’t sure an equation that complex is even possible.

Reyes presents some unsolved cases of murder victims from the past few years. The woman from the casino, Amy, is the latest victim, having been killed two weeks ago. Reyes thinks that by assigning numbers to the letters of the victims’ names – numerology – she can figure out who killed them. It’s something she’s been doing for years. Reyes has also calculated karmic numbers for the victims.

Scully notes that she has no other evidence connecting the victims, so she doesn’t have much of a case. But Scully sees something in a picture from Amy’s murder scene that piques her interest. There’s a pattern in the bruising on the body that the other victims have. It could be from the killer’s ring. Reyes realizes that she might not have such a crazy theory after all. Scully says maybe Reyes and the killer are both crazy.

Wayne gets ready for another day of killing, or whatever, and sees Burt playing Three-Card Monte on the street outside his apartment. Burt lip-synchs to a French song, and the other people on the street start moving with the rhythm of the song. Triplets and three pigeons are nearby. Wayne approaches and tells Burt to stop following him or he’ll end up dead, too. Burt knows Wayne won’t hurt him; it doesn’t fit his pattern. He does another round of Three-Card Monte, which Wayne loses. Burt lets him in on the game’s secret: “Choose better.”

Wayne leaves angrily, almost bumping into Reyes, who’s in the neighborhood to see Vicki Burdick in room 333 of the Hotel Knickerbocker. Vicki’s a numerologist, but she doesn’t think she can be much help, since she deals with living people, not the dead. Her specialty is using numbers to provide guidance. Reyes insists that there’s a connection among the four murder victims, and if Vicki can help her figure out who the killer is, they can prevent more murders.

Too late – Doggett calls to tell Reyes that two more bodies have been found. On the plus side, he thinks Reyes’ discoveries could launch her career. You hear that, murder victims? Your deaths are not in vain! An FBI agent will benefit! Reyes goes back to the office, where her colleagues great her with applause. This is somehow not a dream sequence.

An agent named Fordyce tells Reyes that they’ve dubbed the murderer the Triple Zero Killer because of the pattern he leaves on his victims’ bodies. Three women were killed in 1999, and three recently, so the killer seems to like 3s. They just need to figure out three things: how the killer chooses his victims, how he kills them, and whether he’s planning more murders soon or if he’ll go into hiding for two years again.

Doggett wonders if the killer disappeared for two years because he was in prison. Scully profiles the killer as angry and strong. Reyes’ contributions to the brainstorming session are all about numbers. She thinks the killer’s using vibrational disharmonies to pick his victims. There’s practically a record scratch. Seriously, how is this not a dream sequence? Vicki calls to give Reyes some information, but she’s interrupted when Wayne stops by.

The agents go over to check out what’s now their seventh murder scene. Fordyce wants to know how the killer knew to come after Vicki, since no one else knew about Reyes’ theory. Is it just a coincidence? Fordyce notes that the FBI has a reputation to uphold, so agents can’t be going to numerologists or psychics for help. I guess he doesn’t know about how helpful Clyde Bruckman was all those years ago.

Fordyce isn’t interested in numbers; killers work on impulses, even if they don’t understand them, and that’s how they’ll catch this one. Reyes points out that if the killer acts on impulses he can’t understand, the agents might not be able to understand them either. Killers may have different impulses, and not all of them will lead to murder. Fordyce won’t accept that idea.

Doggett notes that if Reyes didn’t tell anyone else she had come to see Vicki, the only people who would know work for the FBI. Fordyce doesn’t think they need to worry about an inside job – it’s improbable. Doggett says that doesn’t make it impossible. Fordyce tells them he doesn’t care how they solve the case, as long as they find the killer.

Reyes tells Doggett that Vicki had information for her from the victims’ numerological charts. She tells Doggett his karmic number is 6, which aligns with his personality. Doggett says the same traits outlined in his karmic number are shared by lots of people. They’re people, not numbers. Reyes still thinks Vicki had a reason to call her. Doggett decides to do some actual FBI work while Reyes figures that out.

Wayne runs into Burt again; this time he’s playing with dominoes. He’s arranged them in a spiral and knocks them down as Doggett passes by. Wayne thinks Burt is trying to draw attention to him so he’ll get caught. Burt invites him to play a game, but Wayne says he doesn’t play Wayne’s games. Burt knows that’s true. As Wayne leaves, Burt studies a domino with three dots.

Scully starts Vicki’s autopsy at 6:06 p.m. She finds patterns of six dots on Vicki’s skin, then sees that her tape recorder is at minute 666. She joins Reyes at Vicki’s office with the revelation that the triple zeroes on the victims’ bodies aren’t actually zeroes – they’re 666, just worn away. She thinks 666 is on the killer’s ring. Reyes also has a revelation: Vicki did her own chart and realized her numbers matched the other victims’. That must be why the killer targeted her.

“Her Number Was Up” is the headline of the newspaper article about Vicki’s murder. Doggett has posted it on a board next to a map of all the victims’ locations, which form the number 6. Fordyce announces that he thinks they’ve come up with a profile of the killer. It’s basically the same profile of every serial killer ever. Fordyce doesn’t see why that’s a problem. Doggett thinks Reyes could be on to something, and the number 6 could be significant to the murders. Fordyce reminds him that they have seven victims now.

Reyes and Scully leave Vicki’s office, encountering Wayne on the elevator. Scully looks at his ring as he holds the door while the women get off. She forces him out of the elevator at gunpoint, but he ducks back in just as the doors close. That seems like a really dumb error for a seasoned FBI agent to let happen. Anyway, the women head to the stairs and chase Wayne in the parking garage, but he drives off and leaves them trapped by a gate.

There’s no cell reception in the garage, and neither agent saw the car’s license plate, so even if they could call for help, they couldn’t tell anyone to put out an APB on Wayne’s car. The closest door has a numerical keypad on it, so the women can’t open it. They’ll just have to wait until someone finds them. Reyes points out that they can’t be sure Wayne was in the car; he could still be in the garage with them.

They search the garage, but the only person they find is Burt. He tells him he’s waiting for a friend so they can play checkers. He invites the women to play with him, but they’re a little busy. After Reyes frisks Burt (probably the highlight of Annabeth Gish’s career), the women tell him to open his car trunk, where he said he kept his checkerboard. It’s full of classical CDs.

Scully tells Burt that they’re looking for a serial killer. Burt asks if there’s anything he can do, but without a working phone or the combination to the door, he’s as useless as the women are right now. They pass the time playing checkers, which Burt is really, really good at. Scully tries to shoot off the doorknob on the door with the keypad, with no luck. More checkers, this time with the women playing each other while Burt dances.

Reyes is playing with red pieces while Scully plays with black, but Reyes suddenly realizes something and turns the board. She thinks hair color is a factor. The killer murders a blonde, a redhead, and a brunette, in that order. Since Vicki was blonde, the next victim will have red hair, and the ninth will have brown hair. You know, like Scully and Reyes.

Burt casually says it’s remarkable that Reyes got that from a game of checkers. Now Scully thinks he’s somehow connected to the murders. Reyes thinks it’s all in the numbers, and Scully decides Burt isn’t a threat after all. The women tell him the numbers theory, and he asks if the numbers are helping the agents catch the killer, or if he’s using them to stay ahead of the authorities. It’s like a game.

Scully tells Reyes they can’t reduce this whole case to a game. Reyes reminds her that Scully, as a scientist, is ruled by numbers. So doesn’t it make sense that everything made from those numbers is also ruled by numbers? Scully says that makes everyone checkers on a checkerboard, being moved by some higher being. Reyes quotes Einstein: “God does not play dice with the universe.” Scully thinks that covers checkers, too. All of creation and life can’t be reduced to a win/lose game.

Reyes disagrees – maybe the people who win just see patterns better than others. Maybe they’re not the next victims, but are going to stop the killer. Wayne could still be in the garage with them. Suddenly the lights go out. Burt puts away his checkerboard as the women search the garage again. Reyes finds Wayne first, and he overpowers her before she can alert Scully. But ONCE A-FREAKING-GAIN, Doggett shows up in time to shoot the killer and save his partner.

The agents try to get Wayne to tell them why he killed people before he dies. He shakes his head but doesn’t tell them anything. Doggett tells the women that he saw the same pattern of victims that they did and thought Scully and Reyes would be Wayne’s next targets. The women run back to talk to Burt, but he’s already gone.

At the FBI building, Fordyce and some other agents turn their heads to make the 6 on the map of victims become a 9. Scully puts William to bed, but she can’t sleep herself until she talks to Reyes. She wants to know her own numerology. Reyes reports that she’s a 9, a number of completion. She has come to understand that “this life is only part of a whole.” One more thing bugging Scully: Who was the man in the garage? “God knows,” Reyes says. Then there’s a lip-synching/dance sequence in Wayne’s neighborhood, because this show is weird. When the camera pans out to show the city, we can see Burt’s face.

Thoughts: Vicki is played by Ellen Greene.

I’m so mad I already used the title “Murder by Numbers.”

I’m very grateful for this light, fun episode in the middle of a season full of baby angst and trauma.

Wayne: “Go to Hell.” Burt: “Are the reservations in your name?” Heh.

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