July 13, 2019

The X-Files 11.6, Kitten: The Monsters Are Here

Posted in TV tagged , at 1:21 pm by Jenn

That’s right, kids, it’s a Skinner episode!

Summary: Somewhere near Khe Sanh, Vietnam, in 1969, a nervous Marine named John says a prayer in a helicopter. He and his platoon are told to protect and deliver a crate marked “MK Naomi.” As the helicopter is landing, shots are fired, and the Marines run into the jungle with the crate. One of the other Marines notices how scared John is and promises to have his back if John has his.

They take the crate to a hut, but one of the three men is injured and gets left behind. The helpful Marine goes out to help him, leaving John in the hut with the crate and some scared villagers. Yellow smoke comes out of the crate, and by the time the helpful marine gets back to the hut, he can barely see anything, though he is able to see what looks like John turning into a monster. He becomes human again and approaches the helpful Marine with a knife. The helpful Marine reminds John that John knows him: He’s his buddy Skinner.

In the present, Mulder and Scully go in to see Kersh, who’s on a day pass from Shondaland. He wants to know where Skinner is. He asks if the agents have ever wondered why Skinner hasn’t been put in charge of the FBI after all his years of service. It’s because of his loyalty to Mulder, Scully, and the X-Files. Now, Skinner’s AWOL, and Kersh is sure that the agents know why.

Kersh continues that Skinner hasn’t been himself since Mulder and Scully came back to the FBI. The director is asking questions that Kersh can’t answer, and it looks like Skinner’s been investigating things he shouldn’t. If Mulder and Scully care about Skinner’s future at the FBI, they need to bring him back.

The agents break into Skinner’s apartment, wondering if his recent strange behavior has to do with them. Mulder says he’ll keep a look out for CSM’s cigarette butts. The apartment is sterile and impersonal, reminding Scully that, even after all their time working together, they don’t know much about Skinner. She sees an envelope addressed to him, using his military title. Inside is a human ear. Mulder immediately regrets opening someone else’s mail. The ear comes with a note: “The monsters are here.”

The wrapping around the ear is from a newspaper, the Mud Lick Messenger, so the agents drive to Mud Lick, Kentucky. Scully has asked for some info on Skinner’s platoon, but it’s classified. Mulder thinks they’ll get some answers when they go to the morgue and look at a body there that’s probably missing an ear. The agents pass a homeless veteran on their way to the morgue; he tells them they won’t find a kitten in there.

The body belongs to Dr. Wegweiser, the town’s only physician. He disappeared during a hike and was found snared in a hunting trap. He’s missing some teeth along with his ear, which a local cop finds interesting, as he and his wife have both had teeth fall out recently. (The cop never gets a name, but I’ll call him Jones, the actor’s last name.) There are wood splinters in the wounds Wegweiser sustained from the trap, and Jones confirms that it included a tripwire and bamboo. Mulder recognizes this as a trap used in Vietnam and wonders if Wegweiser was a veteran.

Jones says there’s an institution nearby, Glazebrook, where lots of vets were treated in the ’70s. Some of them stuck around Mud Lick after that. Mulder mentions seeing one outside the morgue. Jones IDs him as a “harmless” vet named Davis. Scully asks for a list of past and current patients from Glazebrook. Jones doesn’t think the institution will be very helpful, but he’ll do what he can. He’s eager to help ease the fears of the people of Mud Lick, who’ve been talking about a monster in the woods.

A hunter currently in the woods may be about to see that monster for himself. As he’s approaching his dog, who’s definitely seen something, he falls into a hole. He’s found there sometime later, dead from a spike he landed on, but Skinner. The next morning, the hunter’s friend alerts the police to the hunter’s death. He was also out in the woods, and the hunter, nicknamed Banjo, was a Vietnam vet. His friend confirms that both of them had been losing teeth.

Scully spots a deer cam, and Jones tells her they can look at the footage back at the station. Banjo’s friend is confused – this is Banjo’s property, and he’s never put up deer cams before. At the station, the agents and Jones look at the footage, which clearly shows Skinner above the hole Banjo fell into. The agents are unable to keep poker faces, and Jones quickly catches on that they know him. He thinks Skinner is the monster everyone’s been talking about.

Scully tells Jones that Skinner is their FBI boss and couldn’t be a killer. Well, he’s capable of it, but if he were killing people, he wouldn’t get caught on tape. Jones asks some reasonable questions about why Skinner didn’t call any authorities when he found a dead body. Mulder doesn’t know, but he’s sure Skinner’s innocent. Jones will decide that for himself once he brings Skinner in for questioning.

As soon as Jones leave to send out an APB for Skinner, Mulder and Scully go back to the footage. It also shows a monster like the one Skinner saw in Vietnam. For once, Mulder doesn’t think it’s an actual monster, just a man in a mask. Still, it must have a connection to Skinner. Scully wonders if Skinner’s experiencing delayed PTSD 50 years after Vietnam. The ear could have triggered it. This makes Mulder do some word association, from trigger to Banjo.

He approaches Davis and asks if the kitten he mentioned before is actually someone’s nickname. Davis says he told Eagle where to find Kitten’s kitten. Mulder jumps from “eagle” to “bald,” guessing that’s Skinner. Meanwhile, Skinner’s at a trailer in the woods, where cats and rabbits are being kept in cages, and a deer carcass is hanging. He lets himself in and finds a picture of John with his wife and child (though the wife’s face has been cut out). He looks through a photo album, smiling at pictures of himself and John from Vietnam.

Flashback! John has become a confident, brutal killer, taking ears from his victims. A platoonmate (that’s what they’re called, right? Don’t email me) notices that John’s mouth is bleeding, thanks to a tooth that’s falling out. It’s the third one he’s lost this week. A young Vietnamese man enters their…camp (again, don’t email me) with grenades hung around his neck. Skinner tells his platoonmates to get down, then shoots the man dead. John is proud, and Skinner can’t help smiling to himself.

In the present, Skinner gets caught in the trailer by someone who looks exactly like John did in the ’60s. He introduces himself as Davey, whom Skinner realizes is John’s son. Davey knows who Skinner is, since John talks about him a lot. Not positively, though, since he calls Skinner “Baby-Killer.” He blames Skinner for how the family’s life has turned out. Skinner testified against John when they got back from Vietnam, and John spent almost 40 years in Glazebrook as a result.

Skinner says that until he got the package from John, he didn’t even know John was still alive. He basically vanished after Vietnam. Skinner blames the government, who also turned John into a killer. Davey says John doesn’t want Skinner’s help. He’s heard John’s stories about monsters in the jungle, and his exposure to experimental weaponized gas. He wasn’t crazy, like Skinner said he was when John was court martialed, but no one believed him, even his wife. Davey, however, does believe his father.

Skinner insists that the gas used John’s fears against him. The exposure changed him. Davey points out that Skinner didn’t mention the gas at the trial. He spent his childhood visiting John at Glazebrook, separated by glass and unable to touch his own father. How could Skinner let that happen to someone he considered a friend? Skinner says he was commanded to keep quiet about the gas. He’s felt guilty ever since, and thinks about John every day. But gas or no gas, John killed innocent people and was dangerous. Now people are getting hurt again, and Skinner really does want to help. Davey agrees to take him to see John.

Scully confirms that Kitten is John’s nickname, but she can’t get any other information from his military files. Mulder wonders if Skinner’s stalled career really is because of them. Scully thinks he made a choice to stay loyal to them. His moral compass has always directed his life. Though he’s been acting strange, they need to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially now that they’re starting to see what he’s sacrificed for them.

Instead of Glazebrook, Davey takes Skinner into the woods, where John’s body is hanging from a tree. Davey says that’s what the government drove him to. As Skinner approaches the body, he falls into a hole like the one Banjo fell into. “Now who sees monsters?” Davey asks. He cuts down the body so it lands on Skinner, then covers the hole.

Mulder and Scully visit Davey sometime later, but he claims not to know who Skinner is. He also says that John’s been gone for weeks. Skinner doesn’t have cell service in the hole, but his phone still works, so he’s able to use the light from it to look around. Mostly, that just lets him see that he’s been impaled by a spike and has no way of escaping.

Davey keeps an eye on the woods in the backyard as he puts on some music for the agents and acts like a model host. Scully asks him questions about John as Mulder snoops around the trailer. Davey says that John was released from Glazebrook just a month ago, after the doctors decided he was no longer a threat to himself. Davey doesn’t think he was ever a threat to anyone. Well, maybe one person.

Mulder sees the photo with John’s wife’s face cut out, and Davey says she died years ago. He won’t talk about how. Scully asks what Davey meant when he said John was a threat to someone. Davey says he had secrets about the government. While at Glazebrook, he was the subject of tests and experiments. The doctors wanted to learn to harness people’s fears to manipulate them into violence. Davey thinks they’re still working on perfecting the MK Naomi gas. They could use it to influence everyone’s minds and actions.

Scully thinks Davey’s describing a dystopian novel. Mulder agrees with Davey that the government has been working on projects like this since the ’50s, such as MK Ultra, and they’re not just going to stop without being successful. Mulder looks through the photo album, seeing pictures of John and Skinner together, and decides he and Scully need to leave. For once, he tells her to drive. Davey waves goodbye while holding a knife behind his back.

Mulder tells Scully that there were a bunch of photos of Skinner and John in the album, so Davey had to have been lying when he said he’d never heard Skinner’s name before. He also saw an SUV on the property, which must have been Skinner’s. He sends Scully off to find a place with cell reception so she can call Jones. Meanwhile, Mulder will go back to the property and try to find Skinner.

He lets himself back into the trailer, where the chorus of a John Cale song is playing on the record player, repeating the line, “Say fear is a man’s best friend.” As the record stops, Mulder finds a monster costume in the closet. After he leaves, Davey, wearing the costume without Mulder realizing he was there, lifts his head. Mulder runs into the woods and hears Skinner yelling for help. He’s somehow managed to get himself off the spike he was impaled on, so Mulder moves to help him out of the hole. That’s when Davey rushes him and pushes him into the hole.

Davey pours gas in the hole and is about to light a match and burn the two agents alive. Skinner raises his gun, ready to once again kill someone to save himself, but Scully returns and beats him to it. Somehow, during the rescue mission, Davey disappears. Mulder and Scully leave Skinner behind and search the woods, where Davey’s waiting for them with another spikey trap. Skinner finds him first, beats him up, releases the trap, and kills Davey.

The agents go back to the trailer, deciding this is the right time to have a conversation about Skinner’s stalled career. Skinner doesn’t care if the other two have held him back – he wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them, and he doesn’t just mean their rescue from the hole. He enlisted in the Marines on his 18th birthday. He was naïve and thought he was doing the right thing. John was drafted, and it changed his entire life. He was too young to even understand what the war was about.

Skinner always felt like he had to protect John, but he didn’t and couldn’t. The experiences Skinner had in Vietnam dented his blind trust in the government. He’s never been able to fix that. When Mulder and Scully came along, he learned to have the guts to expose what was in the shadows. If it was between advancing his career and working with people pulling puppet strings, or working on the X-Files, he’d choose Mulder and Scully every time.

Skinner will continue his work, but he’ll also try to expose the truth of the MK Naomi experiments. He owes it to himself and John. Mulder promises that he and Scully will be with him all the way. As Skinner leaves the trailer, he pulls out a loose tooth. Meanwhile, a crate leaves Mud Lick and is put on a plane, which flies over fields, dusting crops. Maybe Davey was right about people having their minds and actions manipulated by chemicals.

Thoughts: John and Davey are played by Haley Joel Osment. You’re welcome for not making any “I see dead people” jokes. Cory Rempel, who plays the younger version of Skinner, is Mitch Pileggi’s nephew.

Who names a town Mud Lick?

Imagine being a Marine and getting the nickname Kitten. It might make me homicidal, too.

If John was in Glazebrook for almost 40 years (1979 to 2017, and why didn’t he go in until four years after the war ended?), and Davey was born, say, nine years after he went in (just going off of Haley Joel Osment’s birth year, 1988), when was Davey conceived? They should have just said Davey was really John, and one of the side effects of the gas was a halt to aging.

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