May 25, 2019

The X-Files 10.5, Babylon: The One Where Mulder Tries to Fight Terrorism With Drugs

Posted in TV tagged , , at 1:23 pm by Jenn

I have no words

Summary: A Muslim man named Shiraz prays at his home in Texas, then fixes himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He drives somewhere, stopping at a stoplight while two women in cowgirl clothes cross the road. The people in the pickup next to Shiraz’s car make racist comments about him. Shiraz picks up a friend at a motel, and they park outside a place called Ziggurat and say a brief prayer together. They go inside, and moments later, the building explodes. Oh, they were terrorists! And Muslims! That’s totally new for American TV!

In D.C., Mulder plays Scully a video of what sounds like trumpets playing in the sky over various cities. Mulder says it was like the sound was coming from the heavens, as if God Himself was playing music. Scully notes that he doesn’t believe in God. Mulder says his beliefs don’t matter right now; the “earwitnesses” believe they heard something. It could be a sign of the end times.

After some discussion of whether Adam and Eve really ate an apple in the Garden of Eden, the agents get a knock on their office door. The knocker asks if anyone’s there, and Scully gets the chance to repeat what Mulder said to her the first time they met 23 years ago: “Nobody down here except the FBI’s most unwanted.” (She feels good about it.)

Mulder and Scully meet Agents Miller and Einstein, their mini-mes. Blah blah blah, Scully wrote a dissertation on Einstein’s twin paradox, she’s also a medical doctor, let’s get on with this mess. Einstein is also a medical doctor. No one cares. The younger agents are there to discuss Shiraz and his friend’s suicide bombing. Shiraz survived, barely, so Mulder guesses that the younger agents (well, mostly Miller) want to find a way to communicate with him. He may have information on sleeper cells.

Mulder and Miller both think that stories of other conversations with the dead mean they can communicate with the vegetative Shiraz. Scully and Einstein think it’s a waste of time. The women win the debate, so Einstein drags Miller away to go to Texas. After the younger duo leaves, Scully notes that Einstein calls Miller by his last name.

While waiting for a flight at the airport, Miller and Einstein watch a news segment about the suicide bombing. You may be surprised that the white man in the segment is anti-Islam, while the black woman in the segment says not all Muslims are terrorists. Miller comments that it must be weird putting on a bomb vest, knowing you’re about to die. Einstein thinks it was worse for the victims. Miller wonders who taught Shiraz this kind of hate. Einstein points out that Shiraz isn’t going to tell him.

Miller argues that it’s worth a shot to try to communicate with him. Einstein scoffs that no one takes the X-Files seriously; that’s why their basement is in the office. Miller says they have his dream assignment. Scully must have some reason for doing it, despite being a skeptic. “She’s clearly in love with him,” Einstein says, figuring it out after spending just three minutes with them.

Scully calls Miller to tell him she may have a way for him to communicate with Shiraz. She’s holding her mother’s quarter necklace. They agree to meet up in Texas. Meanwhile, Mulder calls Einstein to say the same thing Scully said to Miller. Einstein wonders why he’s calling her instead of Miller. Mulder says that Skinner has wonderful things to say about Einstein. “Yes, I helped him with his migraines, which he claims are due to you,” Einstein replies. Mulder asks her to stay in D.C. instead of going to Texas.

Somewhere, a Muslim man builds a bomb vest while listening to the people on the news fighting. Einstein goes back to the X-Files office, worried that there will be another act of terrorism while she’s there. Mulder talks about thoughts having mass, and faith and forgiveness having weight. Einstein says no. Mulder points out that words have the weight to inspire people to do things like kill. Einstein corrects that the words merely incite actions; they’re not dangerous by themselves.

Mulder asks if Einstein’s ever sucked on a lemon. “I am getting a taste of what Agent Scully must suffer,” she says. He continues that there’s a school of thought that every thought, word, and perception is a step in evolution. If Shiraz knows something that Einstein wants to know, she may need to expand her thinking about the material world.

Scully meets Miller in Texas, where Miller says he wants to believe (ding!) that there’s a way to reach Shiraz. Scully mentions that Maggie was recently in a coma, and Scully wasn’t able to communicate with her. If she’d come up with this idea then, she might have been able to get answers to some questions she’ll never be able to get now.

Back in D.C., Mulder calls Einstein a wugwump, then tells her to sit down and shut up. He really knows how to win over an adversary, doesn’t he? She doesn’t really want to talk about the “woo woo paranormal,” but she’ll give him two minutes to talk before she’s “due back on Earth.” Mulder’s big idea: magic mushrooms. They could allow a transcendent experience and expose a user to truths without altering his or her brain chemistry. Specifically, his – Mulder wants to be the test subject.

As a medical professional, Einstein can administer the mushrooms to Mulder. He claims he doesn’t want to “bother” Scully with this, because of Maggie’s recent coma. Einstein calls Mulder crazy and tells him that once she leaves the office, he’ll never see her again. “So that’s a maybe?” he calls after her.

Scully and Miller go to the hospital where Shiraz is barely alive. Doctors recently used an MRI to trigger electric activity in the brain of a man named Patient 23. She wants to use an EEG to do the same with Shiraz. Scully warns that, even if it works, it might be hard to get the answers Miller wants. Even harder now, since the Department of Homeland Security wants to take over the case.

Scully refuses to leave, so one DHS agent speaks to the other in Arabic. Miller kicks the DHS agents out, taking their picture so he can ID them later. Einstein arrives as they leave and sees that Scully has taken over her role as Miller’s partner. She calls Mulder and invites him to join the group in Texas.

She meets him at the airport and gives him two capsules containing magic mushroom…dust, I guess. She tells him Scully’s working with Miller, but she’ll deal with that later. Mulder asks how to say “howdy, pardner” in Arabic. At the hospital, an FBI agent named Brem tells Scully and Miller that the building is under a terror threat. He figures there’s a radical Muslim community in the area that wants to kill all Americans. Miller notes that other people want Shiraz to die, too.

Brem says the last thing he wants is for Shiraz to die and go to his paradise. Miller chastises him for being Islamaphobic when he and Scully are focusing on gaining Shiraz’s trust. Brem heads off to evacuate the floor in case of a terrorist attack. A nurse stays behind, and when she’s alone with Shiraz, she turns off his life support. She almost gets caught when Mulder and Einstein show up.

The nurse turns the machine back on and comments that Shiraz is receiving a lot of attention, despite not being worthy of it. Surprise – she’s racist! She hates refugees and brown people! While Einstein gets rid of the nurse, Mulder takes the mushrooms and sits by Shiraz’s bed. He then slips out while Einstein’s back is turned.

What happens next is…I don’t have a word for it. Mulder goes on an extended drug trip that takes him to a country-western bar. There is line dancing. David Duchovny’s children hide their faces in shame. There is a backflip. Women scream and swarm Mulder. He changes clothes and gets bling that says “MUSH” and “ROOM.” Some women do an impromptu dance routine that’s more suited to a dance squad, and that makes the more conservative patrons shake their heads. Skinner and the Lone Gunmen show up in cowboy gear.

Finally, Mulder ends up on his back somewhere, with Einstein, wearing dominatrix gear, over him. She makes him say “woo woo” and whips him. Next, Mulder is in the middle of a group of cloaked men who are praying in Arabic. CSM whips him and tells him he’s come to the right place for the truth. He sees Shiraz lying across a woman’s lap, like they’re the Pieta. They’re in boat, being rowed somewhere, while the soundtrack growls, “Misery’s the river of the world.” Mulder leans over Shiraz, who says something to him that we can’t hear.

The vest builder has finished his work, which includes matching vests for his buddies. So that can’t be good. Scully and Miller return to Shiraz’s room, and Miller, who worked in Iraq for a bit, asks in Arabic if Shiraz can hear them. Shiraz’s brain waves show that he might be able to, but Scully can’t tell for sure.

Mulder’s also in the hospital, waking up with Skinner by his bed. He tells Mulder that his actions were an embarrassment to Skinner and the FBI. (I think if Mulder saw footage of what happened, he’d be embarrassed, too.) Einstein arrives and reveals that she didn’t give him mushrooms – she gave him a placebo. Whatever Mulder thinks he was under the influence of, it was nothing more than the power of suggestion.

Mulder’s all, “But you were there!” like this is the end of “Triangle.” Skinner says he was in D.C. the whole time. Mulder insists that he talked to Shiraz, but he doesn’t know what he said, since Mulder doesn’t speak Arabic. Skinner leaves to get Mulder released, and Mulder tells Einstein that she was there, too – and she was “50 shades of bad.” Just like this episode! She does confirm that he danced. She figures that she’ll be punished with her own basement office.

As they’re leaving the hospital, Mulder recognizes the woman he saw holding Shiraz in his dream or drug trip or whatever. He takes her to Shiraz’s room and introduces her to the others as Noora, Shiraz’s mother. When she speaks to her son, his brain waves again indicate that he can hear. Noora chastises Shiraz for becoming a terrorist and killing innocent people. She thinks he lost his nerve when the time came to detonate his bomb. He’s told her that in her dreams and her prayers.

Miller asks for information on the terrorist cell Shiraz could have been working with, but Noora doesn’t know any names. Shiraz flatlines and dies before any more communication can take place. Mulder says again that Shiraz spoke to him. He remembers some of what was said and tells Miller, who translates it as “Babylon the hotel.” The terrorists are there now, praying in preparation for their next attack. FBI agents ambush them and capture them all.

Miller and Einstein head back to the airport, this time really done with the case. He’s humble about his role in taking down a terror cell and preventing any more deaths. Einstein feels like Miller also kept Shiraz safe. She, however, did nothing – but it worked. Miller says some things are just unexplainable. Einstein quotes the other Einstein, who said that there’s beauty in the mysterious. She promises she’ll never again abandon Miller for the paranormal. But now she’s convinced that words and ideas do have weight. Sometimes they just lead people to do crazy things.

Mulder is relaxing on his front porch when Scully comes to visit him. She’s amused by the whole drug trip and Mulder’s lack of understanding of what happened. But he thinks he saw powerful things, like unconditional love. Scully says she saw hate that seems endless. There are extremes in human nature, and the trick is reconciling the two.

They go for a walk together, holding hands, as Mulder says he’s been thinking about God. In the Bible, He punished people at the Tower of Babel and scattered them, making them different from each other. Does God want to be worshiped for His anger? What makes people want to murder for Him? Mulder thinks terrorists swallow a pill that uses the power of suggestion to make them violent. But a mother’s love can overcome that.

Scully says maybe the hatred ends in finding a common language – maybe that’s God’s will. But Mulder wonders how we can know, since God is “absent from the stage.” Scully suggests that it’s beyond words. We have to open our hearts and really listen. Mulder hears a noise like the trumpets heard all over the world, but Scully doesn’t. We end by panning out to the cosmos, for some reason.

Thoughts: Einstein is played by Lauren Ambrose. Miller is played by Robbie Amell (and named for Duchovny’s son).

Einstein may be the most quotable guest star to ever appear on this show. She’s like Scully without the affection for Mulder that makes her soften her words toward him. I love her.

I was going to refer to the person grumbling “misery’s the river of the world” as a Tom Waits wannabe, but I looked it up and, uh, it’s him. Tom Waits does a very good Tom Waits impression.

’90s/’00s/’10s music alert:

  • Carrie Underwood’s “Somethin’ Bad” at the beginning of the drug trip (so appropriate)
  • Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart” and Trace Adkins’ “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” at the country-western bar
  • The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” in the final scene

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