July 27, 2019

The X-Files 11.8, Familiar: Witch Hunt

Posted in TV tagged at 1:30 pm by Jenn

Sorry for the nightmares. Be glad you don’t have to hear the song

Summary: In a park in Eastwood, Connecticut, a kid named Andrew is singing a song about Mr. Chuckleteeth, his incredibly creepy doll. His mother, Diane, takes a phone call from someone she tells not to call her anymore. Andrew spots a life-size Mr. Chuckleteeth in the woods surrounding the park and somehow doesn’t start screaming in terror, which is what I would do. He tries to alert his mother, but she’s busy trying to get off the phone. The other woman and child nearby don’t say anything.

When Diane turns back to her son, he’s gone. He’s in the woods, looking for Mr. Chuckleteeth and humming the song, which will be stuck in everyone’s heads for eternity. Andrew follows him deeper into the woods, where something rushes at him. That night, a search party looks for Andrew, finding his doll destroyed and spotted with blood. Andrew’s body is nearby.

Mulder and Scully join police in the woods to check out the crime scene. The police chief, Strong, thinks that Andrew was killed by one of the coyotes often seen in town. More specifically, he blames a new animal called a coywolf, a hybrid of a coyote and a wolf. He’s not sure why the FBI has sent agents to investigate. Mulder explains that they have jurisdiction because Andrew’s father is a police officer. They can’t rule out that this was a murder.

Scully says that if Andrew was killed by a human, the killer would feel emboldened because he’s not being suspected. Andrew was strangled and bitten, but the bite marks could be from animals after his death, so they can’t officially list them as contributing to it. Strong thinks the agents are making assumptions. Mulder backs up his partner/girlfriend, saying she’s a medical doctor and knows what she’s doing.

Scully profiles the possible killer: a man between the agents of 19 and 42 who has a criminal record. He probably lives near the park, or at least goes there a lot, and knows Andrew’s play schedule. He probably also gets aroused by his victims’ suffering. As the agents leave to go to the morgue, Scully thanks Mulder for having her back. “You’re my homie,” he says whitely.

Mulder presents his theory: A hellhound killed Andrew. In this area in 1658, a woman accused of witchcraft supposedly spontaneously combusted. Scully accuses him of only reading the tourist literature and not remembering his history lessons about witch hunts. Mulder points out that just because people were falsely accused of witchcraft doesn’t mean there were no real witches. People who practice the black arts are more likely to be in the area than coywolves are. Scully doesn’t think witchcraft is real, and even if it is, Andrew was probably killed by a human.

The two go to the morgue for Andrew’s autopsy, which Scully knows will be difficult because of his age. Despite all the marks seemingly left on the body by animals, Scully still thinks Andrew was shaken to death. His parents are the most likely suspects. Diane has been cleared, but Andrew’s father, Rick, could have killed his son, and his fellow officers could be protecting him.

Mulder finds salt on Andrew’s foot, which isn’t in the police report. Also missing from the report: the eyewitness testimony of the girl who was at the park with her mother while Diane and Andrew were there. Coincidentally, her father is Chief Strong. Scully reminds Mulder that the girl, Emily, is only five, and her mother was with her, so there’s nothing they could get from her testimony. Mulder disagrees.

There’s a big turnout for Andrew’s funeral, where the reverend leading it encourages the community to support each other through this horrible time. Andrew is now in Heaven, free from human failures and sins. Chief Strong and his wife, Anna, are seated right across the aisle from Andrew’s parents, and after the service, Strong approaches Diane to offer his condolences. She doesn’t want to talk to him.

Rick asks another officer, Wentworth, why the FBI won’t release Andrew’s body. Wentworth says that the agents think Andrew was killed by a person, not an animal. That means the killer is at large and most likely lives in Eastwood. Anna asks Strong why the agents want to talk to Emily. Strong says they need to cooperate and play nice with the FBI. Anna insists that they didn’t see anything in the park, but Strong orders her to let the agents talk to their daughter.

Mulder tries to interview Emily, but she’s distracted by the Teletubbies-like TV show she’s watching. She just says that she saw Andrew going into the woods. The show is called The Bibbletiggles, and I don’t know how it doesn’t give kids nightmares. Anna tells Mulder that all she can think about is how her family could be in Andrew’s family’s position right now. It only took one moment for a tragedy to happen. She asks Mulder if he has kids, and he says that he has one son who’s grown now.

Anna admits that her husband feels guilty that this happened on his watch. He’s very protective of the town, where they’ve both lived their whole lives. When Anna leaves the room to get Emily some juice, Mulder takes a look around and spots books on the history of the area. They include a bunch of books on witchcraft and the grimoire (basically a spellbook) of the Eastwood Witch. Anna says they’re Strong’s books. Mr. Chuckleteeth appears on the show, and Emily tells Anna that he was in the woods.

At the police station, Rick searches a sex-offender database and finds one hit for Eastwood, a man named Melvin Peter. Elsewhere in the building, Scully tells Strong that she still thinks Andrew was murdered. He guesses that she’s going to accuse Rick, so he preemptively insists that Rick is innocent. Plus, Rick was working when Andrew went missing, so even if he were the sort of person to kill his own son, he couldn’t have done it.

They go looking for Rick, who has just run out of the station to track down Peter. Scully and Strong follow him on possibly the first-ever police chase involving only the police. It’s not that fast; for a small town, Eastwood has plenty of traffic. Rick bursts into Peter’s house with his gun drawn, and Strong tells Scully to put her own weapon away when they arrive. Peter isn’t home anyway, so there’s no one for Rick to shoot.

Mulder has returned to the crime scene, and he calls Scully, who tells him that Rick’s father is having a breakdown. Just then, Mulder comes across a coyote, or a wolf, or possibly a coywolf. I don’t know; I’m not a zoologist. The animal just looks at Mulder, then turns around and walks away.

Mulder joins Scully at Peter’s house, where a crowd has gathered, and makes a dumb “who let the dogs out?” joke. The house is just two blocks from the park, and Peter never registered as a sex offender when he moved in last year. Rick used Scully’s profile to find him. Mulder isn’t sure they have the right person, but a judge has issued a search warrant, so the police go into the house. They find tons of pictures of Peter with kids; it looks like he was a birthday-party entertainer.

Hearing a clanging noise, Mulder checks out a closet, which contains a very angry monkey in a cage. The closet also contains a Mr. Chuckleteeth costume. Still, Mulder isn’t convinced that Peter is Andrew’s killer. Scully doesn’t get why not – “he’s potentially John Wayne Gacy with a monkey.” Mulder thinks it’s too perfect, which makes him uncomfortable. Scully thinks that makes it right.

Mulder somehow feels bad for Peter, since the public has already painted him the killer. They’re basically reenacting the witch trials. Mulder blah blahs about the presumption of innocence until Scully tells him that a convicted felon is a good place to start with their investigation. Mulder complains that Peter is being reconvicted by an angry mob. Mulder, he’s a child molester. Stop it.

Emily’s watching The Bibbletiggles again, which means her parents have much more patience for the show than I would. She sees a Bibbletiggle staring at her creepily from outside the house and goes out to greet it. Sometime later, Emily’s body is found in the woods, looking like Andrew’s did when he was found. Mulder can’t believe she’s dead when he just talked to her that morning.

Strong is at the scene and tries to stop Anna from seeing their daughter’s body. “You did this to her,” she accuses. Strong just tells Wentworth to take his wife home. Mulder finds salt on the ground, spread in a circle. He tells Scully that salt is used in witchcraft for protection. In the past, witches often conjured familiars, which usually took the shape of animals, but sometimes were objects of desire. Mulder starts to put together that someone conjured a familiar that looked like Mr. Chuckleteeth and used it to lure Andrew to his death.

Mulder spots a marking on the ground and realizes they’re in a Puritan graveyard. Demons and spirits have been unleashed there. Mulder thinks someone is keeping some important answers from them. Outside the woods, Peter drives by the park and is spotted by Rick, who attacks him. Mulder accuses Strong of closing the case because he saw the salt at the crime scene and knew Andrew was a victim of witchcraft. Strong admits that Mulder’s right.

Scully asks Strong straight out if he killed Andrew and Emily. Strong says he let the Devil into his soul, and he sinned and broke a commandment, but he didn’t kill anyone. His sin: adultery. His partner in sin: Diane. They were having an affair, and Diane wanted to break things off. Strong was on the phone with her when Andrew went missing. He thinks Emily’s death is his punishment. “I…did not see that coming,” Mulder admits.

He tells Scully that he saw books on witchcraft in the Strongs’ house, so he knew Strong knew about hellhounds and salt circles and familiars. Strong may be innocent here, but Mulder thinks someone in town did something to open the gates of Hell. The officers learn of Rick’s attack on Peter and rush out of the woods to stop it. Wentworth breaks up the fight as Peter defends himself, saying his crime was just statutory. (Sounds like it was consensual sex with a younger teen when he was a teenager.) The townspeople don’t care, and they move in to finish Peter off.

Mulder and Scully finally end the riot for good by firing shots in the air (him) and threatening attempted-murder charges for anyone who commits further violence (her). Peter insists that he never hurt anyone. Rick starts to use his radio to call an ambulance for the man he just beat up, but then he changes his mind. He draws his gun and shoots Peter in the head before Mulder can stop him.

When Rick is arraigned for the murder, Mulder predicts that he’ll be set free, declared innocent of killing an actual innocent person. The town will use Peter as their scapegoat and declare the situation closed. Scully isn’t sure that Peter was really innocent, but Mulder thinks they’re still dealing with a witch hunt. He thinks the real killer is in the courtroom: Strong.

Scully says that Mulder hasn’t explained how a wolf could have grabbed Andrew when Diane was so close by. Mulder says the wolf was just guarding the entrance to Hell. Scully notes that he still hasn’t answered her question. They get interrupted when the judge allows Rick to be released on bail. For only $5,000, he can leave.

Outside the courthouse, Wentworth is waiting for the agents with a folder. Like Mulder, he feels horrible that Peter was killed without due process. He found pictures taken the day Andrew disappeared – Peter was performing at a birthday party at the same time the boy went missing. Strong told Wentworth to keep it quiet and “let sleeping dogs lie.” (Or sleeping hellhounds?)

The agents assure Wentworth that he did the right thing coming to them. Scully thinks the truth will come out eventually, as injustices are usually exposed, “especially in this part of the country.” I don’t know what that means, but let’s just say that, since Wentworth is black, he probably doesn’t agree. He hopes the real killer is found and gets what’s coming to him.

Rick goes home to his wife, fully aware that she was having an affair. She tells him she ended things and regrets her mistake. She wants forgiveness, but Rick isn’t sure if it’s for sleeping with Strong or for Andrew’s death. He gets aggressive, and Diane asks if he’s going to kill her, too. He calls her a witch and says he’s leaving her. She says he can’t, since she’s leaving him. Uh, good one?

Diane drives off, and Rick follows after getting his gun from a closet. She thinks she sees Andrew in the road, and when she swerves to avoid hitting him, her car flips and rolls off the road. The wolf/coyote/coywolf/hellhound/whatever it is approaches the car. Rick goes to the Strongs’ house, where he hears Andrew singing the Mr. Chuckleteeth song. He sees the creature itself and follows it through the house, shooting at it, which has no effect.

The TV turns itself on, showing The Bibbletiggles. Mr. Chuckleteeth comes onscreen and his theme song changes from happy and playful (“Mr. Chuckleteeth, won’t you play with me?”) to demonic: “Mr. Chuckleteeth, it’s time to say farewell / If you try to run and hide, we’ll send you straight to Hell.”

Rick turns and sees the now-demonic Mr. Chuckleteeth standing behind him. Rick chases him but comes across Strong instead. The two officers fire their guns at the same time. Mulder and Scully arrive soon after and find Rick dead. There’s a salt circle in the yard. Mulder goes in looking for Strong; the show is still on. The grimoire is missing.

Scully wants to forget about the witchcraft stuff – obviously Strong killed Rick because of the affair. Mulder thinks they should return to the scene of the crime. Strong’s already there, trying to call Diane. He comes across her wrecked car and sees her in the woods…or really, her familiar. The real Diane is dead, her body in the woods.

Mulder and Scully arrive as Strong follows the Diane familiar to a circle of candles where Anna is chanting something. She tells him she has to end what she started. She wanted to curse Diane and Strong for the affair, but she must have released something she lost control of. She insists that she can end it, too.

The wolf/coyote/coywolf/hellhound/whatever attacks Strong, and Mulder and Scully follow the sound of his yelling and Anna’s screaming. Mulder tells Anna to drop the book, because she’s clearly tapped into something she can’t control. Anna ignores him and keeps reciting from the book. She catches on fire, though the book is left unharmed. It’s turned to a page about hellhounds.

So to sum up, all six members of the two families involved here are dead. Scully gives Wentworth the grimoire, hoping it’ll serve as evidence of the madness that gripped the town. Mulder says it could be evidence of a curse placed by a modern-day witch. She tells him to leave that for the tourist literature. No matter what happened, a woman spontaneously combusted, which Scully said wasn’t possible. Mulder allows that it could have been the candles. They’re ready to leave town, though Mulder says that’s not possible these days. Huh? The carousel Andrew once played on turns by itself as they drive away.

Thoughts: So did Anna really not see when Andrew went into the woods? Discuss.

If my child brought that Mr. Chuckleteeth doll into my house, I would burn it.

Mulder, please don’t compare the logical assumption that a convicted sex offender hurt a child with the Salem witch trials.

Also, dude, you gotta stop tasting stuff at crime scenes.

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