May 20, 2017

The X-Files 5.7, Emily: Merry Christmas! Your Kid’s Dying!

Posted in TV tagged , , at 1:16 pm by Jenn

The only light moment in this horribly depressing episode

Summary: Scully voices over something about nothingness as we see her walk through a windy desert to retrieve her cross necklace from the sand. She believes that she will eventually end up alone, as she always is. Mulder is now in San Diego, meeting up with Scully and Emily at the children’s center where Emily’s staying. Emily’s not that interested in chatting with him (she’d rather color a potato), but he gets her to warm up to him with an impression of Mr. Potato Head. He notices that she’s wearing her mother’s necklace.

Mulder tells Scully that Frohike hacked into a database to get the name of Emily’s surrogate mother, Anna Fugazzi. Fugazzi means “fake,” so that’s a dead end. Scully can’t figure out how Emily was created. She insists that she can protect her, even though it’s obvious someone is targeting her. Mulder asks why she didn’t call him sooner. He’s hesitant to testify on Scully’s behalf at a hearing to decide whether she can have custody of Emily. “She’s a miracle that was never meant to be,” he says.

He goes to the hearing anyway, sharing a brief moment with Scully’s family before he’s questioned about his theory that the government abducted Scully and extracted her ova. The hearing judge doesn’t know how to understand “this Michael Crichton bit” that makes the case so strange. Why would someone kidnap Scully, take her ova, create a baby, and then place the baby for adoption? Mulder doesn’t think it matters – Emily is Scully’s daughter, so she should get custody. No one should question the circumstances or stand in the way of her chance to be with her child.

The agents head to Bill Jr.’s house, where Scully asks why Mulder never told her that her ova were all removed during her abduction. He admits that he knew children were being created, but not why or by whom. The phone rings, but no one speaks when Scully answers. Mulder has the call traced to the children’s center where Emily’s staying. The agents rush over and find Emily feverish. Mulder discovers a gross-looking blotch on the back of her neck.

The agents take Emily to the hospital, where a doctor orders a biopsy of the blotch, calling it a cyst. While Scully tries to relay Emily’s medical history to the doctor, Mulder watches the biopsy, suddenly calling for the doctor performing it to stop. She doesn’t listen, and when she punctures the cyst, green stuff gushes out. The doctor passes out from the toxins in the goo, but Emily is unaffected.

Emily is quarantined and sleeps while Scully asks Mulder why he wanted the procedure stopped. He says he realized that Emily could have the same chemistry as beings they’ve encountered before. He had the doctor placed in a cooling bath, as Scully did for him when he was exposed. Scully worries that this will be the way the rest of Emily’s life goes. The other doctor, Vinet, tells the agents that he contacted Calderon, but he refused to release Emily’s records from his medical trial. Calderon also insists that Scully has no authority over Emily.

Mulder goes to see Calderon himself but gets the same resistance Vinet did. Calderon says it has to do with the company’s legal liability. Mulder pounds on the guy a little, demanding to know what the pharmaceutical company really does. He angrily asks if Calderon’s life is worth saving more than Emily’s. Calderon won’t answer, but Mulder promises he’ll be back for answers. When Calderon leaves the office in a hurry, Mulder follows him.

Scully chats with Emily before she’s taken to undergo some tests. Emily says her mom told her she wouldn’t have to have any more tests. Scully tells her they just want her to get better. Meanwhile, Mulder follows Calderon to a house where he meets with the two suited men Marshall Sim met with in the previous episode. He warns them that Mulder is on to them, but they’re not concerned. One of them sticks Calderon with an alien ice pick, so now he’s out of the equation. Both suited men then make themselves look like Calderon. Mulder follows one of them as he leaves the house.

Vinet tells Scully that Emily has some sort of infection that’s growing rapidly, cycling through her central nervous system. One of the fake Calderons passes by in the hallway, unnoticed, as Vinet tells Scully that they don’t have many options for treatment. The fake Calderon gets access to Emily’s room, leaving just as Scully returns. She chases the fake doctor, pulling her gun when he ignores her. When she reaches him, he’s become someone else.

Mulder follows the other fake Calderon to the pharmaceutical company, getting confused when Scully calls to tell him Calderon was at the hospital and may have injected Emily with something. Mulder thinks the doctor was there to treat her. He believes the pharmaceutical company wants to protect her, but for reasons different from their own. Krisge arrives at the hospital, and Scully fills him in, theorizing that the pharmaceutical company wants to keep performing tests on Emily. Meanwhile, Mulder follows Calderon to a retirement home, where he finds a resident named Anna Fugazzi.

Back at the hospital, Vinet tells Scully that Emily’s condition seems to be improving, but her tests show more problems. Basically, she’s doomed. Susan, the social worker, tells Scully that the court doesn’t think Scully’s decisions are helping Emily. They think Calderon’s treatments were helping her, and she’s getting worse because they ceased. Scully’s upset that people think she’s not trying to save her daughter’s life. Susan points out that she doesn’t have any rights to make decisions for Emily. Scully makes it clear that if the court removes Emily from the hospital, she’ll get worse.

Mulder calls Frohike, who looks up the names of other residents at the retirement home. All of the women had babies in the past few years, despite being in their ’70s or older. They’re also receiving hormones that pregnant women wouldn’t need to be given. Mulder asks Anna about Calderon, who she says is supposed to be there – she was supposed to start her “beauty sleep.” At the hospital, Emily is placed in a hyperbaric chamber, so she’s just having the worst Christmas ever. She gets upset, and Scully notices something wriggling under her skin.

Mulder finds a room in the retirement home where patients sleep while receiving IVs full of something prescribed by Calderon. He also finds something that looks like a little alien baby, labeled with Scully’s name. If that’s not creepy enough, its legs are moving. He steals some capsules, then tries to flee before one of the fake Calderons can see him. Krisge catches him, and once he realizes who Mulder is, he turns his attention to the approaching fake Calderon. Calderon throws him aside and starts to walk away, but Krisge shoots him, even after Mulder warns him not to.

Mulder leaves Krisge behind with Calderon’s toxic green blood so he can call for backup. Krisge makes it out okay…or so Mulder believes. He heads back to the hospital, where Emily is now comatose. Scully says she’s okay – this is what’s meant to be. Even if she could treat Emily, she wouldn’t. Emily wasn’t created to be loved, but to serve someone’s agenda. By letting her die, Scully puts a wrench in someone’s plans. Mulder offers to stay with Scully while she watches her daughter die, but Scully wants to be alone.

After some amount of time, Emily’s gone, and the family holds a funeral. Tara and Bill Jr. have now had their baby, a boy named Matthew. After everyone else leaves, Scully asks Mulder why people would create a person who was only meant to die. Mulder thinks there was a purpose in Scully finding Emily and trying to save her. He tells her the retirement home has been shut down, and Calderon’s work has all disappeared, so all the answers they could look for are gone.

Scully knows Emily is the only remaining evidence of Calderon’s project, and she’s not about to forget. She opens to Emily’s casket and sees her necklace on a blanket that looks like sand, just like her dream or vision or whatever at the beginning of the episode. It’s a miracle! Or something!

Thoughts: Did everyone get all the Christ imagery? The cross necklace? A child created just to die? Are we all on the same page? Good.

Way to leave a horribly sick three-year-old completely unattended, you terrible San Diego hospital.

If they hadn’t already figured out that Emily was an alien, it would have been clear once they put her in the hyperbaric chamber. No kid would be the calm about getting in there.

Imagine being the kid playing Emily and having this on your résumé. “Oh, you were a child actor? What were you in?” “Two episodes of The X-Files, as Scully’s dying alien child.” “…I don’t know how to respond to that.”

May 16, 2017

SVT Super Chiller #9, Evil Elizabeth: Can’t Fight the Moonlight

Posted in books tagged , , , at 4:56 pm by Jenn

So no one finds it weird that Elizabeth is just walking around with this on her face all the time? Really?

Summary: Elizabeth is really excited about Halloween, and wants to do a paired costume with her twin. Jessica thinks that’s immature, when everyone knows Halloween is the chance to dress up fancy and be really sophisticated. Whatever you say, Jess. Fortunately for Liz, Amy and Maria are up for figuring out a three-part costume. Jessica decides to go as a figure skater but has to reconsider when Lila announces that as her costume – and she’s even going to wear an outfit worn by an actual famous skater.

On the way to the Wakefields’ for a big sleepover, the twins and some of their friends pass a rundown house everyone calls the “Luna place.” Jess makes up a story about a witch who lives there, which annoys Liz. She sees a full moon over the house and points it out to her friends, but Amy and Maria don’t see it as full.

The girls have a séance at their sleepover, and Mandy seems to channel someone who speaks through her. The channeled voice warns the “sisters” (and Liz and Jess are the only sisters present) to “watch the rising of the moon, and watch your sister.” If they’re not careful, someone tragic will happen. Jessica sees the shape of a full moon in a candle flame, but no one else notices it.

Liz learns that “luna” means moon, and that there will be a full moon on Halloween. Those two things combined with the full moon she thought she saw make her a little creeped out. She comes across a black dog with an orange face carrying a grotesque mask in its mouth. When Liz takes the mask, she sees another moon. She puts on the mask and starts taunting Jessica. Jess tries to brush off her nastiness, thinking Elizabeth is just messing with her.

Elizabeth starts wearing the mask more and more often, acting meaner and meaner every time, both to Jessica and to Amy and Maria. When she’s not wearing the mask, she claims not to have any idea that she acted out of character. Jess is worried that the warning from the séance is the real deal, and that something horrible is happening. When she and Steven both see the moon turn red one night, Jess gets even more spooked.

Jessica tries to get Elizabeth interested in sisterly bonding by carving pumpkins together. Liz is back in the mask, though, and thinks carving pumpkins is immature. Later, maskless, Elizabeth is really hurt that Jess carved a pumpkin without her. Jess realizes that the mask is causing Liz’s strange behavior, so she steals it, but Liz easily finds it again and puts it back on.

Jess runs into the dog Liz got the mask from and follows it to the Luna place. There, she meets Corinna Black, the alleged witch who lives there. Jess tells her about the mask, which Corinna says was buried for decades. I guess the dog dug it up? She warns that the mask will make Elizabeth worse the more she wears it, and eventually Liz will be a horrible person even without it. Jess needs to make sure Liz doesn’t wear it when the moon rises, or the process will speed up.

Jessica tries to steal the mask again, but Elizabeth is obsessed with it and won’t let it go. She has a nightmare about feeling like everything is changing. Is this all just a metaphor for puberty? I guess it’s possible. Liz’s behavior keeps getting worse, and she’s reached the point where she doesn’t have to wear the mask to be awful. She starts hanging out with the SVH series’ reformed bad girl Betsy Martin, and everyone at school wonders why she’s suddenly changed so much.

When Jess tries to go back to the Luna place to talk to Corinna, there’s no door to the house. Jess doesn’t seem as freaked out by this as she should be. Elizabeth and Betsy get ready for Halloween mischief by egging houses, including the Luna place. Ned and Alice are their usual clueless selves about Elizabeth’s sudden shift – they think she’s just moody, and they don’t see anything wrong with her hanging out with different people.

Steven asks his astronomy teacher if the moon could appear red, but she says no. Again, mass hallucinations should be freaking these people out. Jess finally reconnects with Corinna, who insists that she make Elizabeth destroy the mask during the lunar eclipse that is conveniently happening on Halloween. Corinna reveals that the last person who wore the mask burned down her house, killing her entire family…except Corinna. So…maybe she should have done a better job of getting rid of the mask, eh?

Once Jess has filled Steven in on everything going on, the two of them come up with a plan. They know they need to stick close to Elizabeth on Halloween, but they also know she’s not going to let them. So Jessica dresses as Liz and tells Betsy that they should crash a Halloween party on Courage Mountain. She leaves Liz a note about the party, pretending it’s from Betsy. They plan to meet up with Liz on the mountain and force her to destroy the mask.

Jess goes out trick-or-treating with the Unicorns (she ran out of time to come up with a costume, so she goes with the classic sheet-ghost look) while Elizabeth and Betsy terrorize little kids by stealing their candy. An hour before midnight, Jessica pretends to go to bed while Steven tells their parents he’s going to a party. Jess sneaks out and the two ride their bikes up Courage Mountain. Jessica has a vision of the moon on fire, dropping flames onto the Wakefields’ house.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth and Betsy aren’t on their way up the mountain – they’re at the Wakefields’, where Betsy wants Liz to smash the pumpkin Jessica carved. Liz hesitates, because even in her possessed state, she doesn’t want to hurt Jess. But she gives in to peer pressure and chucks the pumpkin on the ground, accidentally lighting some leaves on fire with the candle inside.

As the eclipse begins, Jessica has a bad feeling and tells Steven she needs to go back home. Elizabeth is unable to break her trance as she watches the leaves catch fire, putting the house at risk. Jess arrives pretty quickly and starts to put on the fire before anyone even notices it. Liz throws the mask in, finally destroying it. The twins are extremely grateful to Corinna for helping them out, though Jess can’t help but wonder if Corinna was an innocent victim when someone else was cursed by the mask, or if she was the one who burned down her own house and killed her family. That’s…messed up for a book for preteens.

Thoughts: Clearly, the ghostwriter saw The Mask and wanted to adapt it for middle-schoolers.

I actually feel bad for Jessica in this book. No one wants a mean sibling.

Looks like Jess learned nothing from the Nora situation about not assuming people are witches. Why am I not surprised?

Ned, parent of the year, re: Elizabeth’s behavioral changes and horrible new friends: “She’s just going through a phase. It’s nothing to worry about.” Again, why am I not surprised?

What DOES surprise me is that Janet and Lila don’t consider themselves too told to go trick-or-treating.

May 13, 2017

The X-Files 5.6, Christmas Carol: Only This Show Could Make Christmas Depressing

Posted in TV tagged , , , at 1:03 pm by Jenn

She’s so cute! (Don’t get too attached)

Summary: A pregnant woman on a Naval base in San Diego is decorating her house for Christmas. She’s Tara, wife of Scully’s brother Bill Jr. Scully and Maggie arrive for a visit, and Scully realizes that the house has the exact same layout as one her family lived in when they were in San Diego. As the family starts to get settled in, Scully answers a phone call from a woman calling her Dana. “She needs your help. Go to her,” she says. Scully immediately calls the FBI to get the call traced.

Bill Jr. drives Scully to the location where the call was placed, but local law enforcement has beaten them there. An officer refutes Scully’s claim that she got a call for help 20 minutes ago, since he’s been there 30 minutes and is sure no one made a phone call from the house – the only adult woman in the house is Roberta Sim, who committed suicide around three hours ago. As the officers on the scene start talking about how Scully’s crazy for thinking a dead woman called her, Scully tells her brother that the caller sounded like a different dead woman: Melissa.

The phone is off the hook, and the police confirm that phone records show a call made from the house to Bill Jr.’s, but it had to have been a mistake. Other than the mysterious phone call, the cop doesn’t think this case involve anything other than a suicide. Now he just needs to talk to Roberta’s husband and daughter. Merry Christmas, Sims!

Scully heads back to Bill Jr.’s for dinner, but she can’t get in the holiday spirit. She calls Mulder (for his ten seconds of screentime in this episode) but can’t bring herself to say anything. Talk at dinner turns to babies, and how having a child makes Tara feel like life really means something now. While they’re washing dishes, Maggie notices that something’s off with Scully; she doesn’t seem as happy for her brother and sister-in-law as she claims to be. Scully admits that, as a result of her abduction, she can’t have a baby. She’s just now realizing how much she wanted a child.

That night, Scully dreams of herself as a child, fighting with her brother. She’s hidden a rabbit from him, but when she goes to see it, she finds it dead, crawling with maggots. (Thanks, show.) Melissa is watching from the staircase, and she looks just like Roberta’s daughter. Scully wakes up to another phone call, this time on her cell phone. The caller again says, “She needs your help. Go to her.”

Scully goes back to the Sims’ house and tells Roberta’s husband, Marshall, that she got another call from the house. He tells her that’s not possible and he’d really like her to leave him alone. There are two men there wearing suits, and they’re having a “meeting.” As Scully leaves, the Sims’ daughter watches from her bedroom window.

Scully goes to the police station to talk to the officer, Kresge, who reluctantly agrees to let her look at the information collected about Roberta’s case. She learns that the police were called to the house two weeks earlier for a domestic dispute. Roberta’s bloodwork shows high levels of a migraine medication in her system; Kresge thinks she took a bunch to anesthetize herself before she committed suicide. Scully finds a picture of Roberta’s daughter in her purse and asks to borrow it.

Back at Bill Jr.’s, Scully looks through a photo album and compares the picture of Roberta’s daughter to one of Melissa as a child. They look exactly alike. Scully looks up the girl’s birth records and learns that her name is Emily, and the Sims are her adoptive parents. She calls the FBI again, asking a buddy to pull Melissa’s case files. She falls asleep at the desk and has another dream: She’s approaching the front of a church to see a body at a funeral. Inside the coffin, which is filled with water and blood, is a dead woman who opens her eyes.

Scully skips family time in the morning and heads back to the police station to ask Kresge to have Roberta’s body autopsied. She thinks Roberta was murdered by her husband. Kresge says Marshall has an alibi; he was at a doctor’s office with Emily. Scully finds it strange that the cuts on Roberta’s wrist don’t show any hesitation, a rarity for a person who kills herself. Also, how did Marshall call for help if the phone was off the hook for hours before he came home?

The autopsy is approved, and Scully performs it herself. She doesn’t find any of the migraine pills in Roberta’s stomach, so she figures the teeny needle puncture on her foot was an injection site for the medication found in her system. She thinks Roberta’s killer used the medication to anesthetize her so she wouldn’t fight back when she was murdered. This should be enough to open an investigation.

Marshall isn’t happy that the police are back to interfere in his life. When an officer finds a syringe in the trash, Marshall says it’s Emily’s; she has a severe form of anemia and needs regular injections. When Scully gets back to Bill Jr.’s, Melissa’s files are there, and she’s able to compare Melissa and Emily’s DNA. Maggie chastises her daughter for staying out all day and only getting home at 2:00 in the morning. Scully informs her that Emily’s DNA shows that she’s Melissa’s daughter.

Maggie denies that Melissa had a child and didn’t say anything. Scully reminds her that Melissa took off four years ago and wasn’t seen for months. She could have easily had a child and given her for adoption without anyone knowing. Maggie says that she had the experiences Scully’s going through now after her father died. She thinks Scully’s just struggling with her grief over her sister.

Scully has a dream about sneaking down early on Christmas morning to look at her presents with Melissa when they were preteens. Maggie catches them but lets Scully open a present – the cross necklace she still wears. Maggie says it’s a reminder that God will always be with Scully and always watch over her. When Scully looks up at her mother, she sees her own adult face instead.

Kresge stops by in the morning to tell Scully that Marshall has made a number of $30,000 bank deposits in the past 18 months. They were made out to Roberta, and the last one was deposited yesterday. They’re from a pharmaceutical firm in Chula Vista. Scully and Kresge head over there and speak to a doctor named Calderon, who says that Emily is a subject in one of the facility’s drug trials. The money is compensation for her participation, as well as a kind of peace offering to Roberta, who was never convinced that the drug trials were the right thing for her daughter.

Calderon reveals that he prescribed the migraine medication found in Roberta’s system, but it was for Marshall. The police quickly arrest Marshall for killing his wife. Scully makes arrangements for Emily to be taken by Social Services, and as she’s saying goodbye, Emily takes a liking to Scully’s cross necklace. Scully takes it off and puts it around the girl’s neck.

Scully goes home for a family gathering, but she’s still not in the mood for holiday cheer. Bill Jr. thinks her theory that Melissa called her from beyond the grave to send her in their niece’s direction sounds like something Mulder would come up with. Scully says it doesn’t matter where the call came from – Emily needs her help. Bill Jr. thinks she’s trying to fill some sort of void inside herself.

Scully gets another phone call, but this one is from Kresge, telling her that Marshall confessed to killing Roberta. Scully wonders why the witnesses at the doctor’s office said he was there the whole time. Scully goes to the county lockup, arriving just as the two men in suits from the Sims’ house are leaving. She’s told that they’re Marshall’s lawyers. Unfortunately, Marshall won’t be able to confirm or deny that, as he’s dead, having hanged himself in his cell.

Back at Bill Jr.’s, Scully tells her brother about the new developments in the case. He wonders if Emily’s parents were murdered because of something that has to do with her. He shows her a picture of Melissa from a few weeks before Emily was born, and Melissa definitely doesn’t look pregnant. Scully is still sure that Emily is Melissa’s daughter. Bill Jr. thinks she’s coming up with a wacky scenario to deal with her disappointment that she can’t have a baby of her own.

A woman named Susan arrives to talk to Scully about her desire to adopt Emily. Her application has been rejected, since she’s single and has never been married or had a long-term relationship. Plus, she’s in a high-stress job and doesn’t seem willing to make sacrifices there to become a parent. Scully admits that, since her cancer diagnosis, she’s been questioning her priorities.

Scully continues that she’s always kept a distance from people, even as a child, and now regrets not making more emotional attachments because she was afraid to lose people to death. Susan reminds her that Emily has major health problems; her illness is incurable and requires constant care. Adopting Emily would mean Scully has to relive her own health struggles, only this time through a small child. Susan agrees to review Scully’s application again, though.

That night, Scully dreams of herself and Melissa as adults, talking on a Christmas just before Scully went to Quantico. Scully’s worried that their father thinks she’s making a mistake leaving med school for the FBI. Melissa advises Scully to follow her heart and let it take her where she’s supposed to go. Scully doesn’t believe in fate; she thinks people have to choose their own paths. Melissa says that Scully doesn’t know how her life will change once she meets people in the FBI. She also doesn’t know how she’ll change other people’s lives.

Tara wakes Scully up on Christmas morning so the family can open presents together. They’re interrupted by an FBI courier who I hope got triple overtime for having to work on a holiday. His package contains more of Emily’s tests, and though they show that Melissa wasn’t her mother, Emily’s DNA showed similarities with someone else in their system. Merry Christmas, Scully: You’re Emily’s mother. To be continued!

Thoughts: The preteen version of Scully is played by Gillian Anderson’s sister, Zoe.

I assume they named the family Sim after Alastair Sim, who starred in A Christmas Carol?

Scully, trying to find support for her theory, says that Melissa could have used a surrogate to have Emily. And then…placed her for adoption? Come, on Scully.

What do you think Mulder did while Scully was out of town? He can barely function on his own even when she’s around to keep an eye on him. It must have been a disaster.

May 9, 2017

SVT #90, The Cousin War: Blockin’ Robin

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 5:11 pm by Jenn

No one wears her hair like that

Summary: Cousin Robin is coming to visit for two weeks while her parents are on a trip for their anniversary. (No mention of Robin’s younger sister Stacey, so I guess she’s Home Alone-ing it.) Jessica’s top priority while Robin is in town is to find her cousin a “vacation boyfriend.” There’s a Sadie Hawkins dance coming, and she wants to get Robin hooked up with someone. Jessica herself is interested in a guy named Juan, an exchange student from Argentina. She has no problem ditching Aaron…even though, awkwardly, Aaron’s family is Juan’s host family.

A bunch of sixth-graders go bowling together one afternoon, though Elizabeth has to skip the fun to work on a special issue of The Sixers. She asks Todd to be nice to Robin, since she doesn’t know anyone except Jessica. Robin and Todd hit it off, while Jessica tries to get to know Juan better. Robin quickly falls in luv with Todd, telling Elizabeth all about her new crush without mentioning his name. Liz has no idea that her cousin is interested in her sort-of boyfriend. And Jessica has no idea that her new crush, Juan, is interested in Robin.

Robin gets a note and some candy from a secret admirer and figures that Todd is trying to express his interest. Jessica thinks Robin is interested in Juan, so she wants to make a move before her cousin does. When she learns that Robin actually likes Todd, she decides to use this to her advantage – she’ll send Robin after Todd to keep her away from Juan. She doesn’t care that this might hurt Liz. She just wants Juan all to herself.

When Robin gets another secret-admirer note, Jessica eggs her on to go ask Todd to the dance already. But when Robin goes to Casey’s to talk to him, she sees him with Elizabeth. Robin is immediately furious with her cousin, thinking Liz is trying to steal her man. Because she’s 12, she doesn’t stop to think about how Elizabeth and Todd might have already had something going, or that Elizabeth couldn’t steal Todd from Robin when she didn’t know Robin liked him, or that you can’t steal a guy from someone he’s not actually dating. All Robin knows is that her cousin betrayed her.

Jessica sees this is a great time to ask Juan to the dance, but first she needs to make sure Robin doesn’t find out that Liz and Todd are together. She pretends to be Elizabeth and asks Todd to accept when Robin inevitably asks him to the dance. Liz won’t be attending herself since she’s so busy with the Sixers issue. Robin asks Todd to the dance, and he says yes, so he’s really surprised when the real Elizabeth is upset with him for agreeing to go on a date with another girl.

Jess asks Juan to the dance, and he admits that he was hoping Robin would ask him. She tells him Robin’s going with someone else, so Juan accepts her invitation. Meanwhile, Todd feels bad about accidentally hurting Elizabeth, so he backs out of the date with Robin. Robin is stunned to learn that Todd and Liz are sort of dating. Also, now she knows that Juan is her secret admirer, not Todd, and she’s lost her chance to go to the dance with him. To her credit, she feels bad about the way she treated Liz.

To make amends, Robin invites Todd over the night of the dance so she can smooth things over with Liz. The three of them figure out that Jess masqueraded as her twin to get Todd to accept the date with Robin. As retaliation, Elizabeth pretends to be Jessica and tells Juan that Robin wants to be with him. Then Liz gets to go to the dance with Todd, while Robin gets to hang out with her secret admirer, and Jess is alone. Well, at least until she learns that Aaron was helping Juan win over Robin, in part because he didn’t want Juan to be with Jessica. Jess thinks jealousy is hot, so she’s back to liking Aaron. Ick.

Thoughts: Robin knows her way around Sweet Valley pretty well for someone who’s only visited a few times.

“What was the big deal about Robin, anyway?” So Jessica throws over Elizabeth and helps Robin steal Todd, and then wonders what’s so great about her. JESSICA, YOU ARE A HORRIBLE PERSON.

“Then it hit her. The only reason Elizabeth would dress just like Jessica was if she wanted everyone to think she was Jessica.” Check out the big brain on Jess!

May 6, 2017

The X-Files 5.5, The Post-Modern Prometheus: Monster’s Ball

Posted in TV tagged at 1:07 pm by Jenn

One of my favorite moments from the whole series

Summary: A comic book about a creature named the Great Mutato leads us to a group of teens heading to a comic-book convention. One, Izzy, has to remind his mom that he’s 18 and can do what he wants, since she doesn’t want him to go. His mother, Mrs. Berkowitz, passes the time by watching an episode of The Jerry Springer Show about a woman with a “wolf baby.” Mrs. Berkowitz is so interested in the show that she doesn’t notice a tent being lowered over the house. She finally turns away from the show when a creature enters the house amid smoke and Cher’s version of the song “When You’re Without Love.”

Mulder and Scully drive to their next case as Scully reads a letter from Mrs. Berkowitz talking about the strange circumstances of Izzy’s conception 18 years ago. She felt like something had taken control of her body, and when she woke up three days later, she was pregnant. Now she’s had another strange experience, hearing Cher and seeing a lumpy-headed creature. She’s again missing three days and again woke up pregnant. She got Mulder’s name from the mom of the “wolf baby.” Mulder thinks he should get his own 1-900 number.

When the agents arrive at the Berkowitz house, Mulder tells Mrs. Berkowitz that the “wolf baby” just has a condition that makes him really hairy. Scully asks about Izzy’s conception, which the police didn’t look into, since there wasn’t exactly a crime. Now, things are even stranger, since Mrs. Berkowitz shouldn’t be able to conceive another child. In the three days she was gone, someone cooked something in her kitchen and ate a bunch of peanut butter. Scully thinks they’re just dealing with an alcoholic who blacked out.

Scully checks out Izzy’s room while Mrs. Berkowitz asks Mulder if she might have been abducted by aliens. Mulder isn’t sure, and admits he’s not sure he still believes in those. Scully finds a comic book in Izzy’s room and shows Mrs. Berkowitz the cover, which portrays a Frankenstein’s monster-like creature Izzy created called the Great Mutato. It looks exactly like the creature Mrs. Berkowitz says she saw in her house. Mrs. Berkowitz doesn’t get the connection.

Izzy arrives home and tells the agents he based Mutato off of a creature a lot of people in town have seen. Mrs. Berkowitz points out that just because the creature looks like a comic-book character doesn’t mean her experience didn’t happen. Izzy shows the agents how he uses peanut butter sandwiches to lure Mutato. Scully thinks the town is so obsessed with the media that they want a chance in the spotlight. Mulder chastises her, saying that not everyone wants to be on Jerry Springer. Scully says they’re just blaming human actions on a non-human creature.

Mulder argues that since the creature hasn’t been verified, it could still exist, at least in the sense that people believe in it. They hear moaning and see a creature approaching the sandwiches left for it. As Mulder chases it, Scully sees that bites have been taken out of the sandwich. Mulder loses the creature’s trail but comes across an old man who wants the agents, Izzy, and Izzy’s friends to get off his property. He denies the existence of a monster and sends the agents to talk to the responsible party.

Said party is the man’s son, Dr. Pollidori, who is rumored to be a Frankenstein-like mad scientist. He calls himself a scientist studying a gene that affects growth and development. He shows the agents a video of a fruit-fly gene he’s been able to alter to create whatever he wants. For example, he’s made a fly with legs growing out of its mouth. Mulder asks why Pollidori would do something like this. “Because I can,” he replies. Performing these sorts of experiments on humans would be unethical, but Pollidori admits that they’re possible.

After leaving the doctor’s lab, Scully denies that it would be able to make these kinds of alterations on human genes. Mulder wonders who would be able to resist the power of creating something in his or her own image. Scully points out that that already exists – it’s called having a baby. She doesn’t think there’s anything out of the ordinary about Mrs. Berkowitz’s pregnancy. At Pollidori’s house, he’s getting ready to go out of town; when he comes back, his wife, Elizabeth, wants to revisit their discussion about having children. He’s against it, and would prefer winning a Nobel Prize.

The next day, the agents go to J.J.’s Country Diner for breakfast, getting a look at all the jolly townspeople. “FBI Hunt Hometown Monster!” a newspaper headline declares. A twitchy reporter studies Mulder, then leaves. The townspeople think Jerry Springer is coming to town to feature Mrs. Berkowitz. Scully tells Mulder about the newspaper article, which includes their entire conversation word for word. The agents suspect that Izzy or one of his friends recorded them and gave the recording to a reporter in hopes of drumming up publicity for Izzy’s comic book.

At the Berkowitzes’, the agents get confirmation that Izzy recorded them. The recording also plays “When You’re Without Love” and Mutato’s moans. Elsewhere in town, Mutato dances around and sings along with Cher. Scully thinks this is all a hoax, but Mulder wants to go back to see Pollidori. He quotes Frankenstein, saying that the titular doctor “prefigures the post-modern prometheus,” reanimating matter. Scully thinks Mulder’s applying a literary stereotype to Pollidori, but Mulder doesn’t know who else would be capable of impregnating Mrs. Berkowitz.

On the way to Pollidori’s house, Mulder remembers that Mrs. Berkowitz saw mist or smoke in the house the night she was supposedly impregnated. He pulls over, having spotted a house that’s been tented for fumigation. “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” plays as the agents check out the house, which is where Mutato had his little one-man (one-creature?) dance party. They both pass out just before the elder Pollidori approaches, saying he told them there were no monsters. When the agents wake up, they discover that they’re in Dr. Pollidori’s house.

Elizabeth now says she had the same experiences as Mrs. Berkowitz. Mulder announces that Elizabeth could have been impregnated, which thrills her. The twitchy reporter is present and very interested in this story. Mulder sees that a frying pan has been used, just like in the Berkowitzes’ house, and finds an empty jar of peanut butter. Elsewhere in town, Mutato watches Mask, which is a) about a boy with facial deformities and b) stars Cher. His caretaker, Mr. Pollidori, gets a visit from his doctor son, who wants to know if his theory is true. Why would he do this? “Because I can,” Mr. Pollidori replies. The doctor attacks him.

The next time Mulder goes to J.J.’s Diner for breakfast, their welcome isn’t as warm. Spitting and spilled coffee are involved. The townspeople are mad that the agents now think Mrs. Berkowitz’s claims are a hoax. Izzy is found wearing a mask, so everyone thinks he was just pulling a prank. Mrs. Berkowitz defends her son to an angry crowd while Scully tells Mulder that she founds an anesthetic used by farmers in the Pollidoris’ frying pain. They have to register to use it. The only person who’s registered locally is Mr. Pollidori, who is now dead. The Great Mutato cries over his body, then buries him in his barn.

When the agents arrive at the farm, they find the freshly dug grave and realize they’re probably too late to talk to Mr. Pollidori. They hear someone in the loft, but it’s just the twitchy reporter. She knows Mr. Pollidori was murdered, and she saw Mutato burying him. She shows the agents pictures of him. Just then, a crowd of angry townspeople arrives with torches and lanterns. (Possibly pitchforks, too, but I didn’t see them.) They’re led by Dr. Pollidori, who wants the townspeople to find and kill the monster.

The twitchy reporter takes notes as the townspeople swarm the property, hunting for Mutato. Scully knows the only way Dr. Pollidori could have ever seen the creature is if he was on the property himself. The agents find Mutato’s basement dwelling, which is basically a shrine to Cher. They find the creature himself and see how scared he is. Meanwhile, the barn is set on fire and the animals all escape, so it’s pandemonium outside. The twitchy reporter spots the agents trying to sneak off with Mutato, so everyone heads to the basement for a confrontation.

Dr. Pollidori demands that the agents hand over the monster. Mrs. Berkowitz wants to see his face (faces, really, since he has two). Dr. Pollidori says his father created Mutato, who then killed him. Mutato suddenly speaks, shocking everyone. He knows he looks monstrous, but he doesn’t act that way. When Mr. Pollidori learned that the doctor was conducting horrifying experiments, he rescued Mutato from the lab. Mr. Pollidori hid him while he studied his son’s science, hoping to create a mate for Mutato. The science was too advanced, but at least he wound up with some cool animals.

Mutato still wants a mate, but if one can’t be created, he’ll take the blame for his father’s murder. Dr. Pollidori calls his brother a mistake. Mutato knows that what he and his father did was wrong, but going into people’s houses allowed him to learn more about humanity. A townsperson speaks up, saying Mutato isn’t a monster. He just wants love, guys! Your prejudices are the real monsters!

Dr. Pollidori lets Mutato take the fall for their father’s murder, but Mulder doesn’t like the ending to this story. Dr. Frankenstein is supposed to take the fall for his crimes. He wants to speak to “the writer.” As Cher sings “Walking in Memphis,” the townspeople take a road trip to Vegas to see Cher. Mutato gets to ride with the agents, and he enjoys Cher’s concert more than anyone. Mrs. Berkowitz and Elizabeth end up on The Jerry Springer Show, declaring their love for their baby Mutatos. Cher pulls Mutato on stage, Courteney Cox-style, and the agents celebrate solving the case with a dance.

Thoughts: Dr. Pollidori is played by John O’Hurley, who’s really good in this role. Mutato is played by Chris Owens, AKA the younger CSM, AKA the future Jeffrey Spender. Jerry Springer is played by himself.

Cher, however, is not played by herself. The story is that the show approached her about appearing, but she turned them down, even though she was a fan. After watching the episode, she wished she’d accepted.

The gimmick of the episode being in black and white doesn’t really work for me, but I also didn’t find it as distracting as I’d expected. There are a lot of fun little moments that make up for it, specifically:

  • Mutato dancing around the house by himself
  • Mulder trying to stand up and be assertive after being exposed to the chemicals, but falling over and ruining the moment
  • Mulder and Scully being all happy and cute together at the end

“Hey, Scully, let’s go into that house where toxic chemicals are in use, but let’s not bother to take any precautions.” “Okay, Mulder.”

May 2, 2017

SVT #89, Jessica’s Cookie Disaster: Sweet Misery

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:02 pm by Jenn

If that blonde is supposed to be Jessica, the artist drew her wrong

Summary: Thanks to a recent unexpected A on a test, Jessica is close to making the honor roll. She suddenly starts caring about her grades and being smart. She gets the chance to earn some extra credit in home ec, which will give her a needed boost – all she has to do is make the best cookies in the class. But a fight with Elizabeth leaves Jess baking on her own, and she barely has enough time to finish her cookies (and make them properly). She basically throws a bunch of stuff together and hopes for the best. She fights with Liz again and, distracted, spills some flavors into her batter, making Jess think she’s sunk. She adds some purple food coloring to try to salvage the day.

Surprisingly, the cookies turn out terrific, and Jessica easily gets the extra-credit points. Her teacher, Mrs. Gerhart, knows someone who works on a cooking show, and she wants to send her Jessica’s cookies to see if she’ll get booked as a guest. Jess is ecstatic because the show, Lifestyles of the French and Famous, is her new obsession, and a few simple minutes of work could land her in the spotlight. The twins make up, but when Ned and Alice reward Jessica for her good grades, Liz starts to get a little jealous.

Mrs. Gerhart’s friend books Jessica on Lifestyles of the French and Famous, asking her to bring 400 cookies for the audience. Jess enlists the Unicorns to help her bake, agreeing to call the treats Unicookies, even though this will take away some of her spotlight. The girls seem to think that having a signature cookie will make them even more popular.

The problem is that Jessica doesn’t remember all the ingredients that went into her batter. She makes herself out to be a genius in a Sixers interview with Liz, though she secretly had nothing to do with how well the cookies turned out. The Unicorns keep asking for her “secret ingredient,” and Jessica keeps playing up the “secret” angle, like she doesn’t want to share what made the first batch such a success.

Eventually, she has to confess, so the Unicorns decide to try a bunch of different things to figure out the secret ingredient. When this goes poorly, Lila comes up with the idea to hypnotize Jessica into remembering her baking process from class. This also fails, though Tamara accidentally gets hypnotized instead of Jess. It’s the most interesting thing Tamara has ever done or will ever do in this series.

In one last attempt at replicating the cookies, the Unicorns use the home-ec room in hopes that being in the same location as her triumph will help Jessica recreate it. This soon devolves into a big food fight, and the girls all get in trouble. They have to clean up the room and each write a two-page essay explaining why their behavior was inappropriate. The best essay will be published in the Sixers as an example to the rest of the school (and to embarrass the writer).

The Unicorns are done baking cookies and won’t be putting their name on Jessica’s failures anymore. She’s on her own to come up with 400 cookies for the show. Lila secretly orders some cookies from a Swiss bakery, hoping to swoop in and save the day, plus steal the spotlight from Jessica. I can’t wait until Mr. Fowler gets that credit card bill and wonders why his daughter placed a rush order for 400 cookies.

Elizabeth has been working overtime to try to make the principal’s list (the honor roll for straight-A-plus students, AKA super-nerds), wanting to regain some of the glory she feels she’s lost to Jess. She eventually puts her brains to good use, setting up the Wakefields’ kitchen with the same supplies and circumstances as the setting of Jessica’s success. She even picks a fight to make Jess mad so she’ll spill her flavors again. Of course, this works perfectly, and the girls determine that the secret ingredients are almond powder, almond extract, and extra vanilla.

With one problem solved, the girls face a much more daunting one: They still have to bake 400 cookies for the show. Fortunately, Ned, Alice, and a reluctant Steven are available to help. The family stays up half the night working together to produce 400 delicious cookies (which none of them wants to taste, since they’re sick of baking). Jessica dubs them JEM cookies; the J and E are for the twins, and the M is because Jess thought JEM sounded good. (Maybe it’s for her musical alter-ego. Also, if she’d called them JEW cookies for Jessica-Elizabeth-Wakefield, Brian couldn’t eat them.)

Since the Unicorns abandoned her at her time of need, Jessica lets them think she’s going to make a fool of herself by showing up to Lifestyles of the French and Famous without any cookies. Lila believes she’s still going to be the one to save the day. Instead, the twins make a splash on the show, while Lila drops all of her boxes of expensive Swiss cookies on the way to the studio and ruins her outfit. Womp womp. Sadly, despite making the best cookies people have ever tasted, Jessica gets a D+ on another home-ec assignment and loses her shot at the honor roll. Double womp womp.

Thoughts: This book is basically that Friends episode where Monica tries to recreate Phoebe’s grandmother’s cookie recipe, only that episode had a punchline.

I find it hard to believe that out of all the people who tried the cookies, not one person recognized the almond flavor.

Jessica combines pineapple and licorice flavors. The thought of that makes me feel like I need to lie down.

The punishment of possibly having your essay on your bad behavior published for everyone to read is clever, but what’s to stop you from just writing bad essay to avoid having yours chosen?

Elizabeth: “Just an A. Not an A+. Dang.” Urge to kill, rising…

April 29, 2017

The X-Files 5.4, Detour: Ad Noctum

Posted in TV tagged at 1:34 pm by Jenn

At least she’s not wearing that coat from “Darkness Falls”

Summary: Two men are in the woods in Leon County, Florida, doing some sort of surveying…thing before the forest is destroyed. They hate each other – one cares about the environment and the other doesn’t. The forest-hater gets his equipment stuck in the dirt, and when he tries to dig it out, he gets blood on his fingers and sees what looks like red eyes in the ground. His partner hears him yelling from a distance before the forest-hater seems to get attacked and disappear. Something chases the other guy through the woods, but as he’s hiding, he also sees the eyes in the ground. Something attacks him as well.

The next morning, a man and his preteen son, Louis, are hunting in the same woods. They see the surveyors’ equipment but no people. Their dog finds a bloody jacket, and before they can figure out what’s going on, they hear a noise like someone’s out there with him. Louis’ father tells him to run home with the dog while he confronts whatever’s out there with his hunting rifle. Louis obeys, running even after he hears a gunshot.

Mulder and Scully are just driving into Leon County, but not to investigate. They’re with two other FBI agents, Kinsley and Stonecypher, who are accompanying them to a team-building seminar. Mulder is in Hell. I don’t think Scully is enjoying herself either, but she’s at least amused by her partner. The agents come upon a police roadblock, and Mulder is thrilled to have an excuse to get out of the car. A woman approaches him, desperate to find out what’s going on. She’s Louis’ mother, Mrs. Asekoff, and though Louis made it home, Mr. Asekoff didn’t.

Scully follows Mulder to go get information while Kinsley shows Stonecypher a plaque stating that the forest predates the time of Ponce de Leon. Stonecypher doesn’t care – she just wants to make sure they’re at the seminar in time for the wine and cheese reception. (This is a fair concern; girlfriend could use some wine.) Mulder meets the officer in charge, Michele Fazekas, who says there’s no evidence that anyone was shot. Yeah, some surveyors disappeared and Mr. Asekoff may have been attacked by an animal, but that doesn’t mean something weird is going on.

Scully wants to get Mulder back on track to the seminar, but Mulder isn’t about to leave a case where something strange may have happened. Fazekas says there are a couple of animals in the woods, but the tracks they’ve found don’t match them. Mulder asks for the name of a motel he can check into, but Fazekas isn’t interested in his help. Mulder ignores her, telling Scully he’s skipping the seminar and sticking around.

That night, Louis falls asleep watching The Invisible Man, then wakes up to get his mother to confirm that his father is probably never coming home. She tells him they both need to be brave. Bo the dog keeps vigil at the backdoor, waiting for his owner. Mulder and Scully have checked into a motel, where Scully uses minibar resources to make them a wine and cheese reception, even though they’re not supposed to be “consorting” in the same motel room. (Oh, just wait a couple years. You’ll be doing more than “consorting” with him.)

Mulder tells her that there’s no way Mr. Asekoff was attacked by an animal he didn’t provoke, especially when Louis, who was weaker, was also there. Scully’s surprised that Mulder has found something legitimate about this case, rather than just using it as an excuse to get out of the seminar. She doesn’t think there are any major predators around. Mulder heads out without telling Scully where he’s going, making her comment that a seminar to improve communication might be good for him.

Over at the Asekoffs’, Bo runs out to the backyard, barking at something. Mrs. Asekoff can’t get him to come back inside, so she decides to leave him out for the night. When she tries to get back into the house, the door is locked and there’s something banging around inside. Louis hears his mother yelling for him, hears something eerie in another room, and runs downstairs. As he’s running outside to escape whatever’s in his house, he runs right into Mulder.

Scully joins her partner at the Asekoffs’, where police are searching the house for anything predatory. She finds a VHS of The Invisible Man in Louis’ VCR and guesses that he was just spooked by the movie. “The invisible man was invisible,” Mulder reminds her. Scully’s face: “I can’t believe I have to work under these conditions.” Mulder says that Louis claims the creature chasing him had glowing red eyes. Plus, the door was locked when Mrs. Asekoff tried to get back in, and there are muddy tracks by the door from whatever locked it.

The tracks don’t belong to a human, but they also don’t belong to any kind of animal Mulder’s familiar with. Fazekas backs this up, adding that she saw the same tracks in the woods. Mulder sums up that they’re dealing with a predator with low visibility and a lot of desire to attack. It also has the whole forest to hang out in, which puts it at an advantage over the humans.

Fazekas and the agents try to even up their odds with a guy named Jeff who has an infrared camera that detects body heat. Fazekas gives instruction: Stay close, and if you get in trouble, yell and stay put. Scully tells Mulder that the local police are busy looking for a murderer, but Mulder doesn’t think he’s connected to this case. He believes the creature they’re dealing with locked Mrs. Asekoff out to separate her from Louis and make him an easier target. He thinks something in the woods is pushing back because civilization is encroaching on its territory.

Mulder, Scully, and Jeff follow Fazekas through the woods as she marks their path with white stones. Jeff is surprised that he hasn’t detected any animals anywhere in the forest. Since nature is full of creatures either hunting prey or trying to avoid becoming prey, people who get distracted can end up as a meal. We get blinded by the beauty of nature and forget how cruel it is. Scully wonders if he’s quoting Walt Whitman, but he’s citing Fox’s When Animals Attack. An invisible creature with a human arm that seems camouflaged in its surroundings is watching them.

Jeff finally spots something, and the four of them give chase. Another creature appears on Jeff’s screen, so the humans split up, which is exactly what Fazekas said not to do, morons. The creature Jeff and Mulder are following disappears from Jeff’s screen, and Scully and Fazekas lose the trail of theirs as well. Scully thinks that the creature is doing what it did with Louis and his mother, trying to separate its prey. As the women pass a tree, red eyes start to glow from the bark.

Fazekas suddenly falls on the ground, and Scully hears rustling in the trees. She yells for Mulder, who gives a patented “SCULLAY!” yell back. The men find her, but Fazekas has disappeared. Mulder agrees with Scully’s guess that they were separated on purpose – Fazekas was in charge, and now the group is without their strongest member. Scully tries to use her cell phone to call for help, but Jeff tells her she won’t get a signal. He insists that they get out of the woods before the sun goes down. Mulder refuses to leave Fazekas behind, even if it means risking all of their lives.

Scully sides with Jeff, reminding Mulder that they don’t have supplies to sustain them overnight. Mulder gives in, putting Jeff and his camera in charge of getting them to safety. The agents discuss creatures that can regulate their temperatures, and therefore stay off of Jeff’s infrared. Scully mentions ticks, which remind Mulder of a 30-year-old case involving primitive-looking men with red eyes, known as Mothmen. Scully wonders if that case is filed next to “the cockroach that ate Cincinnati.”

Jeff thinks they’re going the wrong way, since he’s lost sight of Fazekas’ stones. “This is not happening,” says Jeff, who must have seen “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space.'” Scully spots something moving, but it doesn’t show up on Jeff’s infrared. The woods are silent, making Scully think any potential prey in the area is trying to stay hidden. There’s rustling nearby, so Mulder goes after whatever could be making noise. Jeff catches sight of something on his screen, but it disappears.

Mulder sees the camouflaged creature and chases it, firing his gun, but he loses it pretty quickly. Scully picks up the creature’s path and also fires, but since it’s invisible, she can’t tell if she hit it. As Jeff takes off running, falling to the ground like Fazekas did, the agents try to keep their guns trained on a creature they can’t see. Something attacks Mulder, who vanishes. Scully follows his yells of “SCULLAY!” and finds him nearby, having been dragged by something invisible.

Without Jeff, and with the sun long gone, the agents are stuck in the woods for the night. Scully thinks she can use gunpowder from her weapon to start a fire. Mulder hopes it’ll start raining marshmallows after that. He needs to warm up, since his body is in shock. He notes that the best way to warm up is to crawl into a sleeping bag with another person. Scully remarks that maybe it’ll start raining sleeping bags. She asks if Mulder has ever thought seriously about dying. “Once, when I was at the ice capades,” he replies.

Scully admits that when she was fighting cancer, she was angry at the injustice of her situation, but she realized that the point was to find meaning. Mulder says that humans are lucky to get more than a few decades of life. Scully compares it to Vegas – “the house always wins.” Mulder asks who Scully who she related to more as a kid, Wilma Flintstone or Betty Rubble. She almost gets a fire started but it goes out. She asks Mulder if the Mothmen case was for real, then cuddles up with him and tells him to sleep while she keeps watch. Mulder asks her to sing so he knows she’s awake, so she serenades him with Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World.”

In the morning, Mulder wakes up alone, since Scully’s scavenging for food nearby. She suddenly vanishes, and Mulder finds her in a big hole. Fazekas is also down there, unconscious. Scully sees a network of tunnels and quickly realizes that she’s not the only conscious creature down there. Mulder drops his gun down to her, then follows it himself. He spots the creature and Scully fires at it, hitting it this time. It looks like a big tree man. Scully figures there’s a scientific explanation.

We see “ad noctum” carved in the wall as Mulder and Scully gather all the missing people from the episode stuck in the cave with them. Stonecypher and Kinsley finally prove their worth, coming to the scene to rescue the agents and the injured victims. Mrs. Asekoff happily thanks all the authorities as Mulder looks at the plaque Kinsley showed Stonecypher earlier. He tells Kinsley that Scully found “ad noctum” (“into darkness”) on the wall of the cave; Spanish conquistadors carved it on the posts they lashed the natives to before killing them. Maybe they adapted to their environment and have remained alive for all these centuries.

Kinsley laughs off Mulder’s theory – he just wants there to be a case so he can write off the cost of his motel. Stonecypher joins the men to report that Jeff remains missing, and the second predator hasn’t been found either. She wonders why the creatures went after Louis in the house. Mulder thinks they were fighting against any encroachment of civilization. Stonecypher notes that that means anyone who’s gone into the woods is at risk. Mulder suddenly realizes that Scully, who’s gone back to the motel alone, is in danger. He takes off in Kinsley’s car, annoying Kinsley, who left his jacket in there. Mulder races to the motel, but Scully’s fine. They leave unharmed, so the creature hiding under the bed will have to find a different source for its next meal.

Thoughts: Jeff is played by Anthony Rupp, Mark from the original cast of Rent. Too bad he wasn’t with Mulder and Scully when the singing started.

Show, stop making me have to type names like Fazekas and Stonecypher over and over.

So why did the creatures gather all those people and leave them alive? What’s the point? Wouldn’t it make more sense to scare them off and hope they never come back?

April 25, 2017

SVT #88, Steven Gets Even: Pranks a Lot

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:53 pm by Jenn

I’m so glad I don’t have to live next door to these people

Summary: Even though it’s not Halloween, Mr. Bowman wants his class to study scary books, starting with Frankenstein. Each student also has to pick a scary story that’s at least 20 years old and write a report about it. All the kids think this will be a piece of cake – nothing more than 20 years old is going to scare them. These kids are the reason slasher movies have gotten so grotesque. Mr. Bowman suggests that Elizabeth read The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is dumb – it’s not a horror story.

The kids slowly realize that the stories Mr. Bowman wants them to read are scarier than they expected. Jessica gets spooked when he reads Dracula in class, and afterward, none of the girls wants to go to the bathroom alone. I’d make fun of them but I’ve been watching The Vampire Diaries, and there’s definitely safety in numbers where vampires are concerned. Some spooky stuff happens in the bathroom, and Jessica hears glass breaking and sees a hand turning off the lights. It turns out Bruce, Aaron, Brian, and Charlie Cashman were just pulling a prank. Now Jess wants revenge.

Inspired by a trick Steven pulls with a knife, pretending he cut off his finger (and he probably shouldn’t pull that with his parents around, because Ned practically has a heart attack), Jessica pulls the old gross-finger-in-the-candy-box prank on Charlie while Mr. Bowman is reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the class. Elizabeth finds a Barbie hanging in her locker, dripping with fake blood, and the kids officially kick off a “scare war,” boys vs. girls. It’s mainly the twins, Lila, Janet, Amy, Maria, and Mandy against the four boys.

Since the girls are unsure what will actually scare the boys, they decide to use Steven to test out some pranks. Steven is a lot more gullible and prankable than you’d expect, considering he’s the one who’s usually pulling tricks. The girls become savvier and less scareable, to the boys’ dismay. However, they’re also getting spooked by Edgar Allan Poe stories and other stuff they said wouldn’t frighten them.

By the end of the week, Steven is scared to be in his own house because his sisters have been pulling so many pranks on him. They’re having a sleepover on Friday, and Ned and Alice will be out for a while, so he figures this is a good time to get revenge. The four boys show up to scare the girls, who quickly come up with a plan to spook them back, using glow-in-the-dark paint and sleeping bags to fool them into thinking there are weird floating faces outside the house. When Elizabeth realizes Charlie is dressed as a mummy, she drenches him with the hose. The boys admit defeat in the scare war, so the girls make them cluck like chickens and call the girls “Your Awesomeness” for a week.

Steven gets his revenge by making scary noises in the basement, where he’s been hiding the whole night, having made the girls think he was out somewhere. Jessica hides in the pantry, thinking there’s some sort of monster in the basement. The other girls have to face off with the “monster,” but Steven can’t keep from laughing, so he gets busted pretty easily. He tells the younger kids that they’re all wimps, so the girls’ win in the scare war doesn’t really mean anything. Then Ned and Alice scare everyone with masks. I don’t know. This book was probably fun to read when I was younger, but now it’s pretty weak.

Thoughts: “Kids today are too sophisticated to be frightened by a story like Frankenstein.” Are you sure, Amy? Are you sure you’re sophisticated? (I hope Mr. Bowman heard about all the scaring afterward and teased the kids about thinking they were unscareable.)

Why is Aaron still hanging out with Brian?

Here it is, the greatest sentence to appear in any Sweet Valley book: “‘I want to go home!’ Bruce sobbed.”

April 22, 2017

The X-Files 5.3, Unusual Suspects: How I Met Your Mulder

Posted in TV tagged , , at 1:25 pm by Jenn

Yeah, I would totally ask these guys for help uncovering a government conspiracy

Summary: It’s 1989, and the police are about to raid a warehouse in Baltimore. Whoever they’re looking for has disappeared, leaving behind a groaning, half-naked man. Finally the police find their men – specifically, the Lone Gunmen. “They’re here!” the half-naked man yells over and over. It’s Mulder, and he’s a little upset.

Also a little upset: the Lone Gunmen, who are fingerprinted and locked up in a cell. Baltimore Homicide Detective John Munch wants to question Byers first, but Byers has his own questions: Where is “she”? Munch says “she” is nowhere to be found. Byers asks about Mulder, who’s still babbling. There was a break-in and shoot-out, though there are no bodies and nothing was taken. Munch would like Byers to start talking.

He does, revealing that his full name is John Fitzgerald Byers, and he was born on 11/22/63, the day JFK was killed. (Before the assassination, his parents planned to name him Burt.) Byers works for the government “for the moment,” and recently attended an electronics show as his job for the FCC. Cut to the convention, where Byers has trouble getting people interested in his booth. A woman approaches and he nervously offers her a button, but she just walks away.

For some reason he can’t understand, Byers tells his colleague he’s going on a break so he can follow the woman. She next goes to Frohike’s booth, which offers a gadget that provides premium cable without a cable box. Langly is in the next booth over and thinks his converter is better. While the two of them bicker, the woman leaves, and Byers continues following her. She comes back toward him and he bumps into her, causing her to drop a picture of a little girl. Byers thinks the woman needs help, so he offers it to her.

The woman tells Byers that the girl in the picture is her daughter, who was kidnapped by her mother’s ex. She first liked him because he was “dark and mysterious,” but that darkness and mysteriousness got more pronounced over time. No one will help the woman find her daughter, so she came to Baltimore to look for the ex. Unfortunately, he found out she’s looking for him, so she could be in danger. She shares that the only other lead she has is “Arpanet/Whtcorps,” making her think her daughter’s disappearance has something to do with computers. Byers knows Arpanet is the government’s Internet, though, since it’s 1989, that word probably means nothing to her.

Byers is eager to help this sad, pretty lady, and since he has computer knowledge, he offers to go online for her. She introduces herself as Holly, just like the brand of sugar Byers has put in his coffee. (Since it’s 1989, he hasn’t seen The Usual Suspects yet.) Byers returns to his booth with Holly and accesses Arpanet to look up Whtcorps. It’s a project on the Defense Data Network, and Byers can’t get any further without DOD clearance. Holly starts to leave, since Byers can’t offer her any more help, but Byers has a little knowledge of government computer systems, and he’s able to hack in.

Holly gives him her daughter’s name, Susanne Modeski, and Byers accesses an encrypted file with her name. He’s shocked that a preschooler has an encrypted file in a secret DOD database. Holly isn’t, and she just asks Byers to decrypt the file and print it out. As soon as she has the print-out, she tells Byers they have to hide – her ex has arrived. They peek out from behind some curtains to see a man in a trench coat looking around the room. It’s Mulder. He passes Frohike’s booth, then Langly’s now-unmanned booth, looking for something in particular.

Byers takes Holly to Frohike for help with decrypting the Susanne Modeski file. Frohike thinks they should just beat up Mulder and get him to tell them where Susanne is. Holly tells the guys to stay away from him, but they won’t listen. “This dude doesn’t look so tough,” Frohike says as Mulder pauses at a booth educating the public about alien invaders. Byers and Frohike follow Mulder into a dark hallway, where Mulder calls them out, introduces himself as an FBI agent, and asks for help finding Holly. They claim ignorance. As they head off, Mulder takes a call from someone named Reggie on a cell phone even Zack Morris thought was too big.

Now that the guys know Holly’s ex is with the FBI, things are more complicated. Then things get worse when Byers’ co-worker is hauled off for using the booth’s computer to hack into a government system. Byers wants to turn himself in, but Frohike points out that they’ve gotten themselves involved in something huge and need to find out what’s going on. He wants Byers to hack into the FBI mainframe.

The guys find Langly, who’s playing in some sort of backroom Dungeons and Dragons game, and Frohike asks him for help. First, he has to admit that Langly’s “kung fu is the best.” The three men hole up in a hotel room, where Langly hacks into the FBI mainframe and looks up Mulder. He’s currently working for the violent crimes unit. Also, there’s nothing in his bio about him being crazy or having a daughter.

Byers has Langly look up “Holly Modeski” under “active cases,” then, when that turns up nothing, “Susanne Modeski.” That gets a hit, but not the way Byers expected. Susanne is actually Holly, an employee at an Army weapons facility in Whitestone, New Mexico. Byers realizes that’s what “Whtcorps” refers to. Susanne is also a wanted fugitive, accused of bombing a lab and killing four employees, then killing an MP who tried to detain her. She’s psychotic, paranoid, armed, and dangerous.

The guys notice the doorknob turning and back up to the other side of the room as Susanne enters. She sees that they looked her up, so she admits that her name is Susanne, not Holly. She used to be a chemist for the weapons facility, but she wasn’t responsible for the bomb. She also doesn’t have a daughter. She knew Byers wouldn’t believe her if she told him why she really needed help decrypting the file. Susanne believes it contains proof that the government is using an aerosolized gas that causes paranoia and anxiety. She thinks it’s going to be tested on people in Baltimore.

Susanne tries to convince the guys that the government wants to control every piece of people’s lives from birth to death. She’s also sure that they were behind JFK’s assassination. She finds a Bible in a drawer and tells the guys that the government puts them in hotel rooms as a front for surveillance. The guys are all skeptical, since the government is normally so helpful and provides good things for people. Plus, Byers works for the government, so they can’t all be bad people. Susanne just wants help deciphering the file, and if they won’t do it willingly, she’ll let her gun convince them.

Forced into action, the guys put the file through a decryption program and confirm Susanne’s theory. The file gives the location of the gas, but it also reveals that Susanne is under around-the-clock surveillance by a Dr. Michael Kilbourne – Susanne’s dentist. She heads to the bathroom with some sort of tool, and instead of just pulling out an implant, she just yanks out her whole tooth. Drama queen. Byers tells Munch that they flushed it so the implant couldn’t transmit their location.

Susanne and the guys head to the warehouse from the beginning of the episode and find boxes of asthma inhalers that Susanne is sure contain the gas. Mulder catches them and tries to arrest everyone. The guys argue that Susanne didn’t kill anyone, but Mulder shuts them up. Suddenly a couple of other men arrive and grab Susanne, shooting at Mulder. Despite having dozens of bullets fired at him, Mulder is uninjured…but the bullets hit the boxes, puncturing the inhalers and releasing the gas.

Mulder takes off his shirt, for some reason, and the mystery men approach to finish him off. Susanne shoots them, then leaves Mulder behind in the warehouse, shirtless and flailing. The Lone Gunmen are in shock when another group enters the warehouse. Their leader (our old buddy Mr. X) ignores them, instead approaching Mulder and telling his men to “sanitize it.” A semi-conscious Mulder watches as some men – who look to him like aliens – come in and take over the scene. They put the dead men in body bags as Mulder mumbles that he’s still alive.

A forklift removes all the boxes of inhalers as Mr. X considers Mulder. He tells a colleague to leave Mulder alone. Byers wants to know what’s going on, and why the government wants to test the gas on the public. Mr. X lines the men up like he’s going to execute them, but when he pulls his trigger, no bullet comes out. He tells the guys to behave themselves, then leaves. Byers protests over being intimidated into being quiet. This makes him think Susanne was right about the government being responsible for JFK’s assassination. “I heard it was a lone gunman,” Mr. X replies as he leaves.

Byers tells Munch that the police arrived next, and Munch knows the rest of the story. Munch asks if he looks like Geraldo to Byers. Byers is sent back to a holding cell, where the other guys complain about how Susanne got them in trouble. Byers is still interested in learning the truth, and still thinks Susanne needs help, though he now knows he can’t provide it.

The guys are soon released, since Mulder verified their statements. Munch advises the guys to start wearing tinfoil hats. They gather their belongings, but Langly has his cable converter confiscated. They overhear a cop telling Munch that Mulder’s stolen car was found at a train station, making Byers think that Susanne took the car and left it there to throw off the cops. The Baltimore Guardian‘s offices are nearby, and Byers thinks Susanne went there so she can go public.

That’s exactly where the guys find Susanne, but she tells them the paper didn’t believe her story. She’ll try talking to other papers and TV stations until someone finally listens. She appreciates what the guys did for her, and she kisses Byers to thank him for wanting to offer more help. A nearby payphone rings and the guys suddenly get tense. Susanne tells them that no matter how paranoid they are, it’s not enough. They need to use truth as a weapon and reach as many people as possible. A car screeches up and some men grab Susanne and pull her inside. As it drives off, the guys see Mr. X in the backseat.

The guys head back to the electronics show to clean up and mope together. Mulder finds them there and tells them that Susanne is no longer wanted by the FBI. He wants the guys to tell him what really happened the night before, since he has some weird memories. They confirm that he wants the truth, then invite him to sit down with them, since this could take a while. Byers starts off, telling Mulder that the government is involved in everyone’s lives, and we’re all under surveillance. “What?” Mulder exclaims in disbelief.

Thoughts: Shout out to the person on Tumblr with the How I Met Your Mother URL. It was too good not to borrow.

Munch is played by Richard Belzer in some sort of weird Homicide: Life on the Street/Law and Order cross-over.

I love that Byers spells Susanne with two S’s without being told, and it turns out to be the correct spelling. Whatever, show.

How paranoid were asthmatics after this episode?

April 18, 2017

SVT Super Chiller #8, The Secret of the Magic Pen: Ghostwriter

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:11 pm by Jenn

Oh, come on, this didn’t happen

Summary: You’d think that after so many summers, the twins would have found a number of ways to entertain themselves, but no, they’re already bored. Fortunately, their parents don’t want to have to put up with them, so they’re being sent to Camp Faraway for two weeks. Come on, Ned and Alice, shell out for the whole summer! Imagine how quiet the house will be! Elizabeth has decided that this is the summer she’ll write a novel, and she thinks that Faraway, which offers writing classes, will be the perfect setting. Someone needs to talk to Liz about her writing process, though, since she wants to write a mystery but has no actual plot in mind and no idea what she’s doing.

Other than Mandy Miller, the twins don’t know anyone at camp. Of course, since they’re such wonderful people, they immediately make friends. Jessica hits it off with a girl named Miranda, who’ also an actress, and Liz connects with Starr, who is obsessed with Shakespeare and gets on my nerves within two pages of her introduction. There’s also an annoying girl named Priscilla who I think is supposed to be a southern belle, but she’s a southern belle as written by a ghostwriter who doesn’t know anyone about southern belles. I guess she’s the antagonist of the book, but she’s not very good at it.

The camp owner, Gunnie (…what is that even a nickname for?), tells everyone that some famous people were campers there as kids. One is Roland Barge, who gained fame writing thrillers before he disappeared. Also, there were murders on the property decades ago. Raise your hand if you would send your daughter to camp at a place where people were once murdered. Now go sit in the corner and think about your parenting decisions, you monsters.

The girls’ awesome counselor, Heather, takes them to Hangman’s Cave for a little expedition. Yes, sign me right up for a trip to Hangman’s Cave on the property of Camp Murder. Elizabeth finds a glowing pen stuck near the wall and decides to use it to write her book. I’m sure one pen – which is very old, so the ink has probably dried up – is all she’ll need for an entire manuscript. She figures she’ll get some inspiration from the research she does while writing an article about Barge.

While Jessica gets into her acting classes (and dreads having to go up against Priscilla in an audition for a play called The Royal Switch), Elizabeth starts working on her article. Only she finds herself writing a story, unclear on where the idea or words came from. Her handwriting even looks different. The story is about a servant named Amelia Champlain who works at a manor 70 years ago. She wants to be a writer, but a fellow servant named Richard Bittle thinks she should keep that to herself, since servants aren’t allowed to have dreams or aspirations. Amelia writes a story, but after she has Richard read it, she sees the title page in the fireplace. She figures the wind blew the whole manuscript into the fire. There goes Amelia’s dream!

Jessica gets her script for The Royal Switch, but when she gets up from the table where she’s reading, it disappears. She finds the title page in the fireplace, just like Amelia did in Elizabeth’s story. This combined with Elizabeth’s story that came out of nowhere make Liz think something eerie is going on. Jessica thinks she’s nuts for believing there could be something supernatural going on with the pen. Strange, since Liz is usually the skeptic, while Jess once thought she was psychic and could predict earthquakes.

Elizabeth does more research on Barge, learning that his earlier novels were well-liked, but his last one was a critical disaster. Meanwhile, Jessica lands the lead in the play, of course. Priscilla gives a horrible audition and then basically disappears from the story. Even with the dumbness of the main plot (I mean, a supernatural pen?), it’s still more interesting than Priscilla, the weakest “villain” this series has ever produced.

Liz’s article gets pushed aside when more of the story comes to her. Richard asks Amelia to meet him on the lake, but when she goes out in a boat, it sinks and she almost drowns. The fisherman who saves her tells her that someone stabbed holes in the boat to make it sink. In the present, Jessica goes out on the lake in a boat and also almost drowns. Elizabeth saves her and freaks out about Jess’s life paralleling Amelia’s.

Gunnie provides some information on Barge, whose real name was…drumroll…Richard Bittle. He was in love with a servant named Amelia, who disappeared one day, leaving behind a note saying she’d run off with another man. Elizabeth finds this suspicious, though not as suspicious as the fact that she’s been writing about things that actually happened. For once in her life, Elizabeth makes a smart decision: She tells Jess they need to call their parents and get the frick away from Camp Murder. Jessica refuses, because she needs to have her big stage debut. The show must go on, even if your life is in danger.

Elizabeth backs down and goes back to her article on Barge. She reads his first novel, Death of a Hangman, which takes place in Hangman’s Cave and involves a murderer being killed by the ghosts of his victims. She continues writing her story, which features Richard luring Amelia to Hangman’s Cave and strangling her. Scared that Jessica will face the same fate, Elizabeth grabs Gunnie and takes her to the cave, where they find Jess about to be strangled by…a ghost, I guess.

Elizabeth writes the rest of the story on the wall of the cave, and it’s now clear that Amelia has been telling her story through the pen and Liz. Richard strangled Amelia and drowned her in a pool in the cave so he could steal all the books she somehow had time to write. The one she had him read wasn’t burned after all; Richard just got rid of the title page to fool her. They find the rest of Amelia’s manuscripts under the stables, along with Richard’s last novel. He wrote that one himself because he had no more of Amelia’s to publish under his own name.

Gunnie and the twins then find Richard’s journal, in which he confesses his crimes. He regrets murdering the woman he loved just so he could get a little fame. Everyone wondered where he disappeared to after his disastrous last novel was published, but the journal gives the explanation: He killed himself. How cheery in a book for preteens.

Elizabeth writes a big article about Barge, which gets published both in the camp newspaper and in a local paper. Everyone thinks it’s quality work and Liz has a great career ahead of her. Jessica also gets rave reviews for the play. I’m so sure a paper is reviewing a camp performance. Liz’s story being published outside of the camp paper at least makes sense, since Barge was a famous writer. But I wonder if she included the part about the magic pen channeling a woman who’s been dead for 70 years.

Thoughts: “There’s nothing else to do this summer. I might as well accomplish something.” That’s probably not as funny as I thought it was.

Jessica’s “always dreamed about going away to camp,” so I guess The Big Camp Secret never happened.

The Unicorns have really screwed with Jessica. When Miranda gives her a compliment after an acting exercise, Jess is “a little surprised. Whenever she competed with Lila or the other Unicorns, they never admitted that she’d done a good job. Is it because Miranda’s super confident?” Oh, sweetie, no. It’s because she’s a nice person, unlike your so-called friends.

Miranda calls Jessica’s purple walking shorts “dramatic.” Okay, Miranda.

Starr: “‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.’ That’s from Hamlet.” Me: “Shut up, Starr. That’s from me.”

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