November 7, 2017

SVT #111, Sisters at War: I’m Thankful I’m Not Part of This Crazy Family

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

This has to be Elizabeth. Jessica would never wear that dorky jumper

Summary: Alice’s sisters Nancy and Laura are coming to Sweet Valley with their families for Thanksgiving. We’ve read about Nancy’s daughters, Robin and Stacey, a few times, but Kelly has never appeared in SVT, only in SVH. The twins are excited to get to spend time with their cousins. Steven is much, much less excited, since there are no boys in the family. I wouldn’t want to spend that much time with four 12-year-old girls either, so Steven actually has some of my sympathy for once.

The kids have to give the house a massive cleaning to prepare for their guests. Everyone will be staying at the house, which sounds like a recipe for disaster. Even before that, the twins are starting to get on each other’s nerves. Alice claims that she and her sisters never fought as kids, which is either a) the biggest lie she’s ever told, b) means she’s in incredible denial, or c) indicates that at some point, Alice suffered a head injury or some sort of trauma that wiped out part of her memory.

We know from Kelly’s previous appearance in the Sweet Valley-verse that her parents are no longer together. At 12, the twins don’t know why, and are especially confused about why Laura and her husband Greg would split up since he’s so likable. Alice mentions that he’s “unreliable,” which is PG code for “deadbeat.” Alice also mentions that she thinks Laura should have married another guy. Steven’s interested in learning more about this family dirt, since he has to write about family stories for a school project.

Jessica overhears Alice on the phone, talking about arranging a surprise for someone at Thanksgiving. She’s pretty sure she hears Aaron’s name in the conversation, which means Alice must have invited Aaron over for dinner. I’d make fun of Jess for believing this, but it’s a pretty 12-year-old thing to think, and very keeping with Jessica’s character (mainly, her belief that the world revolves around her).

The relatives all arrive, and Kelly soon proves to be a quiet, shy, delicate flower. The twins aren’t as close to her as they are Robin, so they don’t know her very well. Kelly is clearly depressed, and hasn’t made any friends since she and Laura moved to Tucson, even though it was four years ago. Jessica wants to help Robin and Kelly become close, so she makes up some things they might have in common. Robin quickly discovers that they’re not true, but fortunately, the two have enough real things in common that they’re able to connect anyway. For the first time in four years, Kelly’s happy.

Steven tries to glean some interesting information from Alice’s conversations with her sisters. All he learns is that Kelly is boring, and Nancy shares Alice’s opinion that Laura shouldn’t have married Greg. She thinks Laura should have ended up with her high school boyfriend, Darren Caruso. In fact, they were supposed to go to college together and would probably have gotten married eventually, if not for Darren’s sudden disappearance. Laura never found out why he ditched her and joined the Marines with no notice. He sent her a couple letters a few months later, but she never read them.

It isn’t long before the Robertson sisters’ supposedly solid relationship starts to crack. Nancy criticizes Laura for not being a stricter parent. Alice has fonder memories of a childhood trip to the Grand Canyon than her sisters do. Elizabeth is like, “So you guys never fight, huh?” The tension isn’t helped by the fact that the younger pairs of sisters are bickering, especially the twins. They fight through most of the book, ignoring the fact that there are guests in the house. If I were Ned or Alice, I would pull them aside, threaten to never give them allowance again if they kept fighting, and mean it. But of course, Ned and Alice have no parenting skills, so the girls just keep fighting.

By the time Thanksgiving dinner rolls around, everyone seems to be ready to calm down and enjoy the holiday. Then they realize that there are 12 places set at the table instead of 11. Alice reveals that she ran into Darren, exchanged a few letters with him, and invited him to dinner. Jessica’s embarrassed that she misheard “Darren” as “Aaron” and isn’t getting a surprise visit from her sort-of boyfriend after all.

Laura goes nuclear. She tells Kelly they’re leaving immediately and refuses to stay long enough to see Darren. Kelly’s upset, since she’s been enjoying the time with her cousins and was just starting to feel happy. Both of Alice’s sisters are mad at her. Surprisingly, we don’t get a moment where Steven’s like, “Can I eat while everyone’s fighting?” Because honestly, that would be me.

In the midst of the chaos, Darren arrives, deeply apologetic for the way things went down with Laura. He explains that he was too embarrassed to tell her when he didn’t get into college, thanks to some learning disabilities. He joined the Marines and wrote a letter to ask her to wait. But his dyslexia made him transpose the numbers in her address, so she didn’t get the letter. By the time Darren figured that out, a few months had gone by. He sent more letters, but as we know, Laura didn’t read them. He asks her forgiveness, and amazingly, she quickly grants it.

But not everything is peachy: Kelly’s now missing. Her cousins find her at her old house, and she admits that she hates living in Tucson. Her only friend is her mom. She’s worried that, now that Laura and Darren have reconnected, Kelly and her mother won’t have as much time together anymore. Okay, girlfriend, they’ve talked for five minutes after 20 years apart. They don’t even live in the same state. It’s not like they’re going to get married tomorrow and ship you off to boarding school.

Stacey, who at eight years old is an Elizabeth in training, tells Kelly a story she wants to turn into a play. It’s about a girl who makes a ragdoll that comes to life and becomes her friend. Somehow, this makes Kelly feel better, like, is she going to go back to Tucson and build herself a friend? Is there a Build-a-Friend Workshop at the mall? The cousins try to cheer her up by pointing out that, if Laura and Darren do get back together, Laura could decide to move back to Sweet Valley to be closer to him. Then Kelly would be around the twins all the time.

Back at the house, Kelly tells everyone that they’re lucky to have sisters, and she wishes she had one. I think Steven just wishes he had something juicy to include in his family-stories project. How about a story about a disastrous Thanksgiving? No, wait, every family has one of those stories. Eh, just borrow one of Stacey’s.

Thoughts: I’d love to know the odds of three sisters all having children in the same year, especially when there’s an eight-year age difference between two of them.

Way to be on time for dinner at someone else’s house, Darren.

…And then Kelly got therapy, right? Her mother realized she’d been depressed for years and did something about it?

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November 4, 2017

The X-Files 6.10, Tithonus: What’s Black and White and Dead All Over?

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

Fellig looks like a woman who just had a man tell her to smile

Summary: A woman delivers mail in an office building in New York City, quickly realizing that a man is following her. She speeds up, rushing to get on an elevator so she can get away from her stalker. But he follows her, seeing the reflections of everyone else in the elevator in black and white, while he remains in color. He gets off, and the woman relaxes. The man runs down the stairs as the elevator starts to shake and the power goes out. The elevator plummets, and the man is there to take a picture of the aftermath.

In D.C., Mulder and Scully are still conducting background checks, and still bored with their new roles. Mulder won’t quit, though, since he knows that’s what the agency wants. Scully gets a call summoning her to Kersh’s office – just her, not Mulder. He thinks she’s going to be punished even further.

Instead, Kersh introduces Scully to Agent Peyton Ritter, who’s from the New York office. He was scanning old crime-scene photos when he found one of Margereta Stoller, a woman who overdosed on nitrous oxide. She supposedly died at 11:14, though the clock in the photo states an earlier time. Another photo states a later time. Both photos were taken by Alfred Fellig, a photographer often used by the NYPD. He’s the man from the elevator.

Ritter suspects that Fellig killed Margereta, then came back an hour later to take photos for his job. Thanks to shadows, Ritter has discovered the same weirdness at three other crime scenes. Scully points out that the victims all died by different methods, so if they were killed by the same person, he doesn’t have a consistent M.O. Ritter hopes that Scully can help him unravel what’s happening. Kersh dismisses him from the room, then tells Scully he wants her to work the case with Ritter. Mulder isn’t invited.

In New York, Fellig watches a man get off a bus, seeing him in black and white. The man goes to his apartment building and promptly has a heart attack. Fellig spies on him through the window and takes pictures of the man’s dying moments instead of calling for help.

Back in D.C., Mulder looks into the Fellig case himself, giving Scully some suggestions of what might be going on. She denies that this will be a permanent arrangement; they won’t be split up permanently. Mulder knows that if she does a good job on this case, she won’t be doing any more background checks. Mulder meets Ritter and manages not to get territorial over his partner.

Scully and Ritter head to New York to talk to an NYPD officer about Fellig. Ironically, Scully has to look through Fellig’s background check for more information. In all the photos of Fellig through the years, since 1964, he looks exactly the same. Ritter calls him “a regular Dick Clark.” (Unlike Fellig, that joke didn’t age well.) He’s starting to think this approach is a dead end.

In the Bronx, a man runs down a street, yelling for someone to call the police. He ends up in an alley, struggling with a man who robs him at knifepoint. The robber hears the sound of a camera, sees Fellig, and runs off. Fellig approaches the robbery victim and snaps a photo of his body. Behind him, the robber is ready to claim another victim. He stabs Fellig and takes his camera. But Fellig just pulls the knife out of his back and walks away, leaving it behind in a pool of his blood.

Scully and Ritter wind up with the knife and tie it to Fellig via his fingerprints. They guess that he killed the robbery victim, as well as another person whose body isn’t there. Another officer tells the agents that Fellig has been found. He’s brought to the police station for questioning, specifically about how he’s always on the scene when someone dies. “I have a nose for news,” Fellig quips. He claims that the robber chased him but ran off. He must have touched the knife after the robber dropped it.

Scully notices that Fellig seems to be in pain; she guesses the blood from the second victim was his. He admits that he was cut and shows the agents his wounds. Ritter sends Fellig to get his blood drawn and have his wounds photographed (presumably by someone other than Fellig). Ritter wonders why Scully seems to be trying to get Fellig cleared. She replies that she thought they were looking for the truth.

Mulder calls Scully and says in a goofy voice that they used to sit next to each other at the FBI. She tells him the Fellig case isn’t an X-File, but they haven’t made much progress. They had to let Fellig go. Mulder looks up the robber, Wiggins, and confesses that he’s been keeping an eye on the case via the progress reports Ritter’s been sending Kersh, which Mulder’s computer happens to be “intercepting.” The good news is that Ritter has been saying nice things about Scully. Mulder offers to run a background check on Fellig, since that’s his job now.

That night, Scully takes over Ritter’s spot in a stakeout of Fellig’s apartment building. She looks at the crime-scene photos again and notices something that piques her interest. She then hears the sound of a camera coming from Fellig’s apartment. She goes up to ask about the photo from the scene of Margereta’s death and asks flat-out why he keeps showing up at crime scenes early, then coming back to take photos. Fellig offers to show her what’s going on if she’ll go for a drive with him.

He takes her to a street corner and tells Scully that the prostitute hanging out there is going to die. He takes out his camera, ready to capture it on film. Scully thinks Fellig is saying that the prostitute is going to be murdered. Fellig says he doesn’t know how people will die, just when. As usual, Scully’s skeptical, but a man approaches the prostitute and starts hassling her, making it look like she will, in fact, be murdered. Scully jumps out of the car to arrest the man and save his potential victim. But as the prostitute is walking away, she gets hit by a truck. Nice try, though, Scully.

The next morning, Scully brings the man in for possession of an unlicensed gun. Ritter blasts her for talking to Fellig instead of continuing the stakeout. She passes on his claim that he knows when people are going to die, though that’s not something they can arrest him for. Ritter disagrees – he questioned Wiggins, who says that Fellig killed the robbery victim. Scully doesn’t think they can take the word of a man who’s already a convicted felon, but Ritter doesn’t care. They can still arrest Fellig.

Ritter tells Scully that Kersh warned him about her. If she screws up his case, Kersh will hear about it. He asks “Dana” if they’re clear. Scully icily makes it clear that that’s not the name she prefers. Her real partner calls, and she tells him that it turns out the case is an X-File after all. Mulder isn’t surprised, since Fellig appears to be 149 years old. Alfred Fellig doesn’t exist before 1964, but his fingerprints match those of a Henry Strand, who applied for a press pass in 1939, at the age of 53. And before that, another man with the same fingerprints was born in 1849.

Scully knows that Fellig can’t be more than 65. Mulder says that that’s just what he wants her to think. He points out that, for someone like Fellig, “life in prison” means something more significant than it would for another criminal. He thinks Scully should track him down before he changes his identity again and disappears.

Scully does exactly that, going to Fellig’s apartment to warn that he’ll be arrested and charged with murder in a couple of hours. He tells her that all he does is take pictures; he doesn’t kill people. Scully’s disgusted that he profits off of people’s deaths and doesn’t try to help them. Fellig admits that he doesn’t feel sorry for them – in fact, he’s jealous of them. Fellig doesn’t take their lives; “he does.” Scully asks who “he” is, but Fellig doesn’t explain.

Scully follows Fellig into his darkroom, seeing a picture from the elevator. He points out a lens flare and tells her that it’s a photo of Death himself. He takes pictures to try to get a better glimpse. Scully doesn’t buy it, but she wonders why Fellig wants a picture of Death. He says that he wants to look into Death’s face so he can die. No other method of trying to end his life has worked. “I got left behind,” he says. He can’t remember a time when he wanted to be alive. “This is all I know to do.”

Despite Scully’s assertion that she doesn’t believe him, Fellig thinks she does – that’s why she’s there. She looks at some of his other photos, including one from 1928, and asks how he knows when people are about to die. He says it’s something he’s picked up over the years. Scully gets overwhelmed and leaves to call Mulder (“Mulder, it’s me”). She gives him the name of the photographer who took the 1928 picture, Louis Brady, so he can find out if it’s one of Fellig’s former identities. Fellig overhears the conversation, and when Scully returns to the darkroom, he bumps into her and steals her cell phone.

Mulder looks up Louis Brady and confirms that he’s Fellig. He also committed two homicides in 1929. Unable to reach Scully, since Fellig turned off her phone, Mulder calls Ritter and tells him that Fellig is a murderer. He killed two people, hoping to “catch up with death,” and served a year in prison before simply walking off a work detail. Mulder tells Ritter not to worry about the math, but just go save Scully from Fellig.

Scully wonders how Fellig can feel like he’s lived enough. There’s so much for him to learn. Fellig, however, feels like he’s missing out on something that everyone else gets to experience. Scully asks about love, but Fellig notes that that doesn’t necessarily last forever. He was married once, but it was so long ago that he’s forgotten her name. He doesn’t like that he’s still around after someone he loved has left him. Suddenly, he sees Scully in black and white and tells her to count her blessings.

Scully asks Fellig why, if all he says is true, he is this way. She needs science to explain this. Fellig says that he had yellow fever decades ago, and survived when so many didn’t. He saw Death in a contagion ward, taking people all around him. Fellig worried that, if he saw Death’s face, Death would take him, too. When Death came, Fellig turned away, and Death killed a nurse instead. Fellig feels like the nurse took his place. Now he knows that you have to be careful what you wish for. He missed his chance to die, but Scully’s lucky.

She realizes that Fellig took her picture from his apartment the night before – does that mean she’s going to die. Fellig starts to take another photo, but Scully handcuffs him so he can’t. She looks for her phone, asking why Fellig took it. What doesn’t he want her to know? He calmly tells her that Death is coming and Scully should make her peace with it.

The curtain to the darkroom is pulled aside, and Fennig raises his camera to capture a picture of Death. Instead, Ritter’s there. He shoots Fellig, hitting him through his camera and shattering the lens. He realizes too late that the bullet has also passed into Scully. Ritter runs off to get help.

Fellig’s blood pours out of him, through his camera. He picks up another one and starts to take Scully’s picture, seeing her in black and white. “Did you see him?” he asks her. “Don’t look. Close your eyes.” She does, and as Fellig takes her hand, he turns black and white as well, taking Scully’s place.

A week later, Scully’s recovering at NYU’s hospital, with Mulder nearby. He tells Ritter he was lucky, I guess since he didn’t accidentally kill a fellow FBI agent. Fellig’s coroner’s report just says that he died of a gunshot wound. Scully, on the other hand, is recovering quickly. She murmurs that people don’t live forever, but Mulder isn’t sure. Maybe “Death only looks for you once you seek its opposite.”

Thoughts: Ritter is played by a pre-Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place Richard Ruccolo.

I wish they’d written Fellig less two-dimensionally, but I guess he’s supposed to be depressed. Still, Ritter’s the more interesting character. It’s hard to feel sympathy for Fellig. Like, do something meaningful with your 149 years.

So after this episode and “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” the question is: Is Scully immortal? Discuss.

October 31, 2017

SVT #110, Pumpkin Fever: This Halloween, Jessica’s Masquerading as a Good Person

Posted in books tagged , at 5:00 pm by Jenn

Do it! Do it! Do it!

Summary: A week before Halloween, Mr. Clark tells the students at SVMS about a local contest to find the school with the most “pumpkin fever.” If SVMS can get into the spirit of the season better than any other school in the area, they’ll win money they can use for a big school trip. The kids immediately start brainstorming, and Elizabeth comes up with the winning idea: elect a King and Queen of Halloween, with votes cast via jack-o’-lanterns. Aaron volunteers the soccer team to carve jack-o’-lanterns in each contestant’s likeness.

The Unicorns figure that since they’re the prettiest, most popular, bestest girls in the school, they’ll lead the votes. But Liz accidentally puts herself ahead in the running by arranging for a local newspaper reporter to cover SVMS’s participation in the competition. Everyone repays Liz’s favor by voting for her. And since the carvers put each contestant’s initials on the pumpkin, there’s no way Jessica can pretend those votes are really for her.

Jessica has to do a fall-themed art project, but she has no ideas. She sees some jack-o’-lantern earrings Elizabeth made out of acorns and decides to pass them off as her project, after telling Liz that they’re dumb and a big fashion don’t. This is exactly the opposite of the truth, as everyone at school loves the earrings. Janet decides that the Unicorns should make and sell them to make more money for the school trip. Since Jessica would rather die than lose the approval of Queen Janet, she agrees.

Elizabeth catches Jessica gathering acorns for the earrings, so Jess lies that she’s been taking care of a poor, orphaned baby squirrel. Liz buys this, even though Jess isn’t usually the type of person to do something like this. Elizabeth even decides to write an article about her heroic sister for The Sixers. And no, she doesn’t do any fact-checking.

The Unicorns’ earrings are a huge hit, and Elizabeth quickly realizes that a) Jessica stole her design and b) the acorns weren’t for a squirrel. She tries to stop the paper from going to press with her story, but it’s too late. Now Jessica is both an artistic visionary and the next Dr. Doolittle. Everyone votes for her for Queen of Halloween, and the reporter who comes to cover the contest gets interested in doing a piece on Jess and the squirrel, too.

Liz is fed up with her sister and tries to out her as a liar by telling the reporter to get a picture of the squirrel. Jess lies that the squirrel died, and she’s really emotional about it and would rather not talk about it right now, okay? Elizabeth’s plan completely backfires, as Jessica’s popularity only increases, and people commission pumpkins for her in the squirrel’s memory. Jess, sociopath that she is, has no remorse.

Apparently the acorn earrings are so fashionable and creative that a woman from a local boutique wants to buy two dozen pairs. Jessica enlists the Unicorns to make them, though they’re growing tired of all the attention she’s getting. California Girl magazine, which declined to feature Jessica back in Breakfast of Enemies, now wants to include her in a fall fashion article. Somewhere, Claudia Kishi is incredibly jealous.

Elizabeth is even more tired of Jessica’s sudden popularity than the Unicorns are, and she tells Amy and Maria that the first earrings were actually hers. They agree to help her get revenge on her twin. At first they want to just pelt her with water balloons, but Liz chooses to inflict some psychological damage instead. She writes a Telltale Heart-ish story called The Telltale Jack-o’-Lantern (I guess Elizabeth’s creativity was all tapped out by the earrings) about a girl who steals and buries her twin’s jack-o’-lantern so she won’t win a contest. The jack-o’-lantern digs itself out of the ground, driving the thief crazy with the sound. The girls also play a tape of digging noises to drive Jessica crazy.

It works, and when Jessica is inevitably crowned Queen of Halloween, she reveals that Elizabeth deserves the honor. However, everyone wants to reward Jessica’s honesty by letting her keep the title. Ultimately, though, Liz gets the last laugh, as she’d arranged for a big pumpkin-guts fight without telling Jess. Yeah, getting slimed with pumpkin guts totally makes up for all the lying. Also, California Girl no longer wants to feature Jessica in the fashion section, but they do want her to write about everything that happened for a piece about embarrassing experiences. She makes up with Liz by asking her to co-write the article. So, as usual, Jessica gets away with her scheming. Sigh.

Thoughts: I can’t believe this came up on the schedule the week of Halloween. What are the odds?

Also, what are the odds that the soccer players are also accomplished enough carvers that the faces on their jack-o’-lanterns turn out recognizable?

I guess we should be grateful that Jessica doesn’t try to catch a squirrel just to back up her story.

This book proves that Elizabeth can be almost as devious as her twin, just in a different way. Fortunately, she normally chooses to ignore her evil inclinations.

October 28, 2017

The X-Files 6.9, S.R. 819: Like “The Ring,” But With a Tighter Deadline

Posted in TV tagged , , at 1:10 pm by Jenn

Make up your mind – are you supposed to be homeless or Jesus?

Summary: At D.C. General Hospital, a doctor named Cabrera consults with an intern about a patient who has just been transferred to her care. She tells the intern to contact Scully because the patient is going to die. It’s Skinner, and he looks pretty bad, all veiny and weak. He tells Cabrera a name, then flatlines. The intern wants to shock him and revive him, but Cabrera tells him to let Skinner die. Skinner voices over about making choices, or, in his case, not making choices, which is how he’s ended up dead.

24 hours earlier, Skinner’s at a boxing gym, sparring with a guy named Dre, when his vision starts to blur. Dre’s able to get the upper hand (or upper fist, in this case) and win the bout. Skinner loses consciousness, then wakes up in the hospital just after 9:30. He gets a phone call from a robotic voice that informs him, “It’s in you.” He has 24 hours left, and is already dead. Ooh, it’s like The Ring!

A doctor named Plant comes in as the phone call ends, and Skinner tries to shake off the weird call. Plant tells him he’s fine and can leave, though he has a nasty bruise over his ribs. The doctor assures him he’ll live. Instead of going home or going out to live up what may be the last 24 hours of his life, Skinner goes to work, where Mulder’s amusing himself with his favorite office activity, throwing pencils at the ceiling. Skinner decides to lie down to get some rest.

Scully shows up and examines her former boss. Mulder tells her about the phone call, which Skinner thinks was just a prank. Scully guesses that he was poisoned, and whatever he was given didn’t show up on the doctor’s blood tests. Mulder thinks whoever drugged him wanted to see who he would turn to for help. This must have to do with the X-Files. Skinner calls him paranoid.

The agents ask Skinner to walk them through his day. At first he doesn’t remember anything out of the ordinary happening, but then he recalls a man stopping him in the hallway to ask the time. The man grabbed his wrist, which may have allowed him to transfer poison. The agents look at surveillance footage and Scully recognizes the man as Kenneth Orgel, an advisor to a Senate subcommittee on ethics in technology. When he signed in, he stated he was going to see Skinner.

Scully recommends that Skinner go back to the hospital for observation, but Skinner wants to find the man who poisoned him. He and Mulder track Orgel down in Chevy Chase, Maryland, but Orgel claims not to know who Skinner is. He’s acting weird, and Mulder catches on that he’s not home alone. He sends Skinner to the back of the house while he tries to get in the door. Skinner gets in but is overpowered by two armed men who then takes off with Orgel.

Mulder chases them, capturing one while the other gets Orgel into a car and speeds off. Skinner’s still in the house, his health quickly worsening. Mulder’s captive will only speak Arabic, and he has diplomatic papers, so Skinner has to let him go. He decides he needs to stay out of whatever’s going on while Mulder goes to look into the man they just released, Alexander Lazreg, a cultural attaché with the Tunisian mission in D.C.

Scully goes to the hospital to talk to Plant about Skinner. She invites herself to examine his blood samples, which supposedly haven’t been processed, though Scully disagrees. Mulder looks through Orgel’s things and finds a picture of him with Mulder’s senator friend, Matheson. At the hospital, Scully finds carbon in Skinner’s blood, though she and Plant have no idea how that could act as a poison. It’s also multiplying at a fast rate.

Mulder goes to Matheson’s house and shows him the picture. In it, Matheson and Orgel are holding a copy of a Senate resolution, S.R. 819. Matheson says it’s a health-funding bill. Mulder knows it’s connected to Skinner’s approaching death, and he wants to piece together how Orgel and the Tunisian mission are involved. Matheson tells him that the bill provides supplies to the World Health Organization, allowing third-world countries to access medical technology. He doesn’t want to be involved in whatever’s going on, even if someone might be dying. He kicks “Fox” out.

Skinner follows someone to an Embassy Row parking garage as the blood in his veins darkens. The man he followed spots him and fires his gun at him. Skinner’s barely well enough to shoot back, but he loses the shooter in rows of cars that are starting to look blurry to him. The shooter is about to sneak up on Skinner and finish him off when a speeding car plows into the shooter, then drives off. Skinner collapses, unable to see who just saved him from the shooter.

Scully realizes that the carbon is creating a matrix stimulated by blood flow and movement. It’s building valves and dams in the vascular system. Plant says that means it’s building up to a heart attack. The two learn that Skinner was found in the parking garage and is being taken to D.C. General Hospital. He’s send straight to surgery, where Cabrera plans to remove his arms to save his life. Scully and Plant interrupt the procedure and announce that Skinner needs to have a scope inserted instead.

Still in possession of his arms, Skinner is transferred to another room while Scully promises that they’ll help him. The events of the day flash through Skinner’s memory, but he still can’t remember everything that happened to him. At FBI headquarters, Skinner’s secretary catches Mulder searching his office for anything about S.R. 819. There’s a locked drawer, and when Mulder goes to get a letter opener to force it open, he finds a confidential letter that piques his interest.

Mulder joins Scully and Skinner at the hospital, where Scully admits that they still don’t know what’s going on. They can keep lasering Skinner’s arteries open so his blood can circulate, but sooner or later, they’re going to run out of time. They don’t have the technology to fight the toxin. Mulder disagrees, showing her the confidential letter. It’s from Matheson, who was doing a security check for the bill. Skinner was supposed to review it and Orgel’s analysis of the bill.

Scully guesses that this means Orgel poisoned Skinner to cover up his analysis. Mulder tells her that Orgel actually came to tell Skinner about a violation of laws involving the exportation of medical technology. Skinner’s phone rings, and Mulder answers a call from the same robotic voice that spoke to Skinner before. It’s been transmitted via some sort of ’90s text-to-voice technology being used by someone in the hospital hallway.

Mulder spots the messager and chases him to the parking garage, but loses him. He follows a speeding car, but the driver crashes into someone else and runs off. The messager then calls Matheson to warn that there’s a new threat to the bill. Matheson claims not to buy the messager’s threats, but the messager says that Orgel does. He offers to tell Matheson how to find Orgel.

The messager’s crashed car is taken to a garage, and Mulder has things inside it analyzed. The analyst finds hairs from a wig and ’70s-era chemicals on the tires, indicating that it was parked somewhere like a chemical plant. That’s where Matheson goes next, and it’s where Orgel has been strapped to a table to face the same veiny fate as Skinner. The messager looks on as Orgel promises not to expose anyone to the FBI, then starts writhing and yelling in pain. The messager appears to be using his messaging technology to dial up the torture.

Back at the hospital, Scully tells Skinner she has a treatment that might cure him, though it’s pretty radical and might send his body into shock. Skinner apologizes for not joining her and Mulder on their quest for the truth. If he dies now, it’ll be in vain. Scully tries to assure him that his life won’t have amounted to nothing. He regrets playing it safe and never choosing sides or letting Scully and Mulder pull them into their craziness. Scully says he’s been their ally plenty of times, but Skinner wishes he’d been better at it.

Skinner remembers his encounter with Orgel again, then recalls that he saw the messager in the hallway when they met. He was also at the boxing gym and the hospital, and is the driver who ran down the man who was going to shoot Skinner in the garage. Skinner tells Scully to look for him on the surveillance tape.

Mulder gets to the plant and finds Matheson standing over the table Orgel was lying on. Matheson says that Orgel is dead, and he took whatever he knew with him. Mulder demands to know what Skinner was given, but Matheson says he already knows that it’s the same technology S.R. 819 will export. It’s technology the world only thinks is hypothetical – nanotechnology. Mulder says technology can be stopped, but Matheson warns that if the truth is exposed, everyone who knows about it will be killed. He claims he’s a victim fighting for his life, and it’s too late to stop what’s been put into motion.

We’re back to the opening scene of the episode, when Skinner is allowed to flatline and is declared dead at 9:33. But the messager uses his technology to restore Skinner’s heartbeat and revive him. Skinner is briefly able to see his bearded, bewigged savior through the window before he disappears.

Three weeks later, Skinner’s pretty much recovered and is back at work. Mulder and Scully shows him pictures of the messager, but Skinner says he doesn’t recognize him. S.R. 819 has been withdrawn, making Skinner think that the messager got what he wanted. Mulder doesn’t understand why the messager would call to tell him he was being poisoned if he was trying to kill him to keep him from investigating S.R. 819. He even used his own government’s resources and killed one of his own to save Skinner.

Skinner asks if Mulder still thinks this was about the X-Files. Mulder does, and he has an idea who was behind it, but he’ll need Skinner’s authorization to investigate. Skinner declines, reminding Mulder that he works for Kersh now. He declares the matter closed.

As Skinner leaves for the evening, he finds the messager in his car. He’s no longer wearing the wig, and he’s shaved his beard, which means we can all admire his pretty, pretty face: It’s Krycek. He reminds Skinner that he can use his technology anytime he wants to. Skinner asks what this is all about, but Krycek only replies, “All in good time,” then leaves him in peace.

Thoughts: “Guys, I’ve barely been in this season. Can I have my own episode?” “Okay, Mitch, but we’re going to make you look gross.” “I’ll take it.”

Plant and a nurse both make a joke to Skinner about how at least no one bit off his ear. The ’90s were a weird time.

As we learned from Alias, nothing good happens in parking garages.

Having your arteries lasered sounds like such a fun time, doesn’t it?

Krycek saying he can kill Skinner whenever he wants made me think of CSM saying, “I can kill you whenever I please.”

October 24, 2017

SVT #109, Don’t Go in the Basement: The Principal of the Matter

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:10 pm by Jenn

Yeah, they never actually went in the basement, but nice try, cover artist

Summary: As periodically happens in this series, the twins want money. Elizabeth wants an Amanda Howard computer game, and Jessica wants a $75 blouse. For $75, that blouse better also paint my garage and cook me dinner. (In this scenario, in which I can afford a $75 blouse, I also have a house with a garage that needs painting.) The girls know their parents won’t give them a raise in their allowance, so they’ll need to find a way to earn money. Their past experiences with babysitting and dog-walking don’t sound appealing, but they figure house-sitting might be both easy and lucrative.

Wakefield and Wakefield post fliers advertising their new “company,” but no one seems to need their services. They’re losing hope when their principal, Mr. Clark, tells Elizabeth that he has to leave town for a little while and needs the twins to feed his fish and collect his mail while he’s gone. He’s nervous about leaving Jessica in charge of such important tasks, but I think with Liz around, he can rest easy. Mr. Clark is in a rush to leave town and doesn’t have many options anyway. He gives Liz a key to the house and a few instructions, including the order not to go in the basement.

When the twins go over to take care of the house the first time, a neighbor tells them that Mrs. Clark has been gone for three weeks. Then, when the girls are looking for a net to rescue the fish after they accidentally break the fishbowl, they find a knife with some blood on it. They try to convince themselves that it’s a fishing knife, and the blood isn’t human. But then they find a few drops of blood on the floor and some hair in a door hinge right near the basement. Jessica’s conclusion: Mrs. Clark was murdered.

The next day, Elizabeth learns from Mr. Clark’s secretary that he didn’t leave a number where he could be reached. No one knows where he went or when he’ll be back. The secretary later tells Maria Slater that Mrs. Clark hasn’t been to her job in three weeks, ever since Mr. Clark called to say that she would be taking a leave of absence. The twins encounter the Clarks’ paperboy, who tells them he heard yelling the last time he was at the house, just about three weeks ago.

Jessica thinks her murder theory is just gathering more and more evidence. She snoops through the Clarks’ things, surprised to see that Mr. Clark’s side of the closet is empty, while all of his wife’s clothes are still there. She suspects that he doesn’t plan to come back from wherever he is. Then a guy named Hank calls to announce that he’s coming over later in the week to do some work Mr. Clark needed done in the basement.

Jessica’s more convinced than ever that Mr. Clark killed his wife, and the proof is in the basement. She tells all her friends her suspicions, and word gets around school. However, Jess can’t find a basement key, so she can’t go down and confirm her theory. Elizabeth tells her to leave it alone and stop spreading rumors, but she can’t help thinking that Jess might be right. She goes to Maria’s house in the middle of the night and convinces her to go to the Clarks’ house with her to see if Jessica’s right.

The girls check out the whole house, finding a room where sheets have been placed over the furniture. For some reason, they think this is an indication that no one’s coming back to the house. They’re spooked when they realize someone else is in the house with them, but it turns out to be Jessica and Mandy Miller, who are there on the same mission to find clues about the possible murder. They learn from an answering-machine message that Mr. Clark is in China, so if he did kill his wife and flee the country, he went pretty far away.

With no other way to get into the basement, the girls agree that they need to take the door off its hinges. Since it’s dark out and they don’t want to turn on any lights, they decide they’ll need to come back during the daytime. Elizabeth has convinced herself that they may find Mrs. Clark’s body in the basement. If she was killed three weeks ago, I’m guessing they would be able to tell there was a rotting corpse in the basement without even having to go down there, but okay.

At school the next day, Jessica invites the Unicorns to come to the Clarks’ for a door-removal party. The other girls are too freaked out to want to be a part of the investigation. It’s just the twins, Maria, and Mandy back at the house when Harry shows up. He has a key to the basement but tells the girls not to follow him down. They wait around while he does something for a few hours, then leaves with a large metal box, telling them t won’t be safe to go downstairs for 24 hours.

The girls follow Harry to see what he does with what they think is Mrs. Clark’s body. It’s about here that I realize this is really twisted for a book aimed at preteens. Harry goes to a hazardous-waste dump, then calls out the girls for stalking him. They worry that he’s going to hurt them, so they split up and run away. They head to the police station and report a murder.

The police accompany the girls back to the house, where they’re surprised to see that Mr. Clark has come home. They’re even more surprised to see Mrs. Clark there, alive and well. She also has a little girl with her. The girls pretend that they called the police because they thought Harry was robbing the house. The Clarks are a little confused but not that worried. They’re probably jetlagged and distracted anyway, since they just got back from China with the little girl they were there adopting.

The story: The Clarks have been trying to adopt for years, and they finally heard about an organization that could help them get a slightly older child from China. When they called to say there was a child available, Mrs. Clark had to fly over immediately. She was there for three weeks before the adoption became a sure thing and she summoned Mr. Clark to join her. They decided not to tell anyone what was going on in case the adoption fell through, like one they hoped for a few years ago.

As for the basement and other weird stuff in the house, there’s lead paint downstairs, and Mr. Clark hired Harry to remove it. Mr. Clark’s clothes were missing from the closet because he and his wife are moving to a different bedroom to give their new daughter their old room. The blood on the knife was from a fish, and the blood on the floor was Mrs. Clark’s, but only because she accidentally cut herself with a pair of scissors. Her hair got caught in the door frame when she excitedly ran to tell Mr. Clark about the phone call from China (which I guess was the yelling the paperboy heard).

Jessica thinks the girls are in the clear for their crazy theory, but Elizabeth reminds her that everyone at school still thinks Mr. Clark killed his wife. They manage to distract everyone from mentioning the accusations, then divert everyone’s attention entirely by coming up with the idea to throw a shower/welcome to America party for little Janelle. So at least something nice comes out of it what could have been a disastrous situation. I assume Mr. Clark never finds out that so many of his students – including logical Elizabeth Wakefield – were willing to believe that he’s capable of murder.

Thoughts: Someone please teach these girls about Occam’s Razor.

Mandy at the police station, accusing Mr. Clark of murder: “We have proof.” Unseen narrator Ron Howard: “They did not have proof.”

Since the girls only tell the Clarks that they thought they’d been robbed, it’s pretty nice of the police not to mention that they came out to investigate a possible murder.

Lila: “I like kids! As long as they keep their dirty fingers off me.” Amen to that.

So the lesson here is, if you have to admit to your friends that you were wrong about something, just distract them with a party.

October 21, 2017

The X-Files 6.8, The Rain King: “You’re Not Just a Weatherman, You’re THE Weatherman”

Posted in TV tagged at 1:21 pm by Jenn

Look how concerned he is that Scully’s seeing this

Summary: A woman named Sheila signs a valentine, leaving a lipstick print on it. It’s Valentine’s Day, and Sheila’s in Kroner, Kansas, eating candy and watching TV. She tunes in for Holman Hardt’s weather forecast, turning it off when her fiancé, Daryl, comes home. He’s upset that she put a marriage announcement in the newspaper, since he thought they were going to keep it quiet until business picked up. Since it hasn’t rained in a while, and there’s no rain in the forecast, he’s not optimistic.

Daryl slams Sheila for eating candy, since her butt is already getting big. He goes out to his car, mocking Sheila’s assurance that it’ll rain soon. Sheila puts on the radio, which is playing “Rainy Days and Mondays.” Daryl listens to the same song in his car, drinking a beer as he drives away. As Sheila cries into her candy, it starts raining outside. Daryl’s happy at first, but the rain turns to hail and breaks his windshield. He crashes his car as heart-shaped hailstones continue to fall from the sky.

Six months later, Mulder and Scully arrive in Kroner via a prop plane. They’re greeted by the town’s mayor, Jim Gilmore, and a young baton twirler. Gilmore apologizes for not arranging better accommodations, but he didn’t realize Mulder would be bringing his wife with him. He also apologizes for the poor welcoming committee. Gilmore tells the agents that drought has devastated the town, and Daryl is profiting by charging people for rain. You can hire him to come to your farm and do his “dog and pony show,” and it’ll rain. Gilmore thinks he’s causing the drought so he can make money.

Scully’s starting to get why Mulder didn’t tell her the reason they were coming to Kroner. He denies that he “intentionally misled” her. Kroner seems to be “ground zero for extreme weather,” and if Daryl is controlling it for profit, he’s a criminal, so they’re right to investigate. Scully thinks the people of Kroner are just frustrated and looking for a scapegoat. Mulder asks how many scapegoats turn that into a business – specifically, Rain King, Inc.

They go to Daryl’s office, where Mulder asks to see “the king,” putting an Elvis-ish spin on the word. Daryl’s receptionist tells them he’s out of town, and she’s unwilling to give them any information without a warrant or subpoena. Besides, he’s a hero to Kroner, so the FBI shouldn’t be accusing him of anything nefarious. Holman’s giving a forecast on TV, and the receptionist credits Daryl with the rain Holman says is coming. Scully won’t give up, so the receptionist hands over a client list.

Mulder gets the idea to visit the TV station where Holman does his forecast. Sheila works there and greets them enthusiastically, saying she couldn’t be happier for them. It turns out she’s mistaken them for a couple named the Gundersons who won a contest. Holman takes the agents to his office and raves about how awesome it is to be a meteorologist in a place with so much interesting weather. He doubts that Daryl can control the weather, which is all Scully needs to hear.

Mulder asks about the rain, which Holman puns is “a more clouded issue.” Mulder brings out Daryl’s client list – dozens of people are claiming that he made it rain for their farms. Holman says he went to high school with Daryl, and though he’s not very accomplished, it’s true that it rains wherever he goes.

The agents head to a farm, where some people are having a picnic and waiting for Daryl. Scully feels bad for these people who are putting their trust in someone who could be scamming them. Daryl arrives on crutches and chastises his receptionist for bringing him the wrong boot for his prosthetic leg. Mulder asks him to explain his “unique ability,” but Daryl says it’s just a gift. He comes from a line of healers, and his spirituality allows him to connect with the “unseen real.”

The receptionist puts on some music, and Daryl dances around, saying he communicates with his ancestors (he’s 1/64th Cherokee) to bring rain. Scully walks away, done with this craziness. Mulder notes that plenty of Native Americans in the past performed rain dances; Daryl’s just doing the same thing. Scully doubts that the rain dancers in the past looked quite this stupid. She doesn’t think that Daryl looks like a man who can control the weather. She has to stop talking when it suddenly starts raining.

At the TV station, Sheila chats with Holman about their upcoming 20th high school reunion. She wishes the agents would leave Daryl alone. It turns out that she and Daryl have broken up; he was only with her for her money. Holman can’t believe that she still loves him after that. It looks like he wishes she would love him instead.

Scully has trouble sleeping, thanks to the noise caused by the rainstorm outside. Mulder’s still awake by choice, eating sunflower seeds and reading up on tornadoes in Kroner. He gets up to close a window and sees a cow being pulled into the air by one of those tornadoes. It comes crashing back down right through the roof over his motel room. R.I.P., Bessie or Elsie or whoever you were.

The next morning, Mulder’s things are moved into Scully’s room, since the rest of the rooms in the motel are booked for the high school reunion, and the people working there think Mulder and Scully are dating anyway. Mulder thinks Daryl tried to kill him with the cow on purpose, to try to scare off the FBI. Scully asks if he was checked for head trauma. Holman shows up and blames the cow incident on a regular old tornado. Sheila arrives next and announces that she’s to blame for Mulder’s near death by bovine.

Scully tries to ease Sheila’s guilt, but she says this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. The high school was destroyed by a tornado the night of the senior prom. On her wedding day, it snowed, even though it was July. Three years later, the day her divorce was finalized, the clouds in the sky looked like they were laughing at her. In the ten years since, nothing has happened until last night. The agents learn that Sheila and Daryl were engaged until six months ago, when he crashed during the hail storm and lost his leg.

Mulder promises Sheila that none of the weird weather is her fault. She says she wants to believe him. A medic who heard the whole conversation tells Mulder that the hail didn’t cause Daryl’s accident – he was drunk. No one said anything because he’d already been punished enough by losing his leg. Holman is shocked to hear this. Out at a farm, Daryl brags to his receptionist about his powers of concentration and his ability to make it rain. Then the rain stops.

At their motel, Mulder shows Scully an old newspaper article about a time it rained rose petals. Scully tells him there’s no case, and he himself told Sheila she wasn’t controlling the weather. Mulder continues that Holman’s mother died the day of the flower shower. Every time there’s a big meteorological event, he’s hospitalized for exhaustion. He thinks Holman is controlling the weather. If people with seasonal affective disorder can be drastically by the weather, why can’t the opposite be true? Maybe he has feelings that he’s not expressing, and they come out in the weather.

Holman wants to get those feelings out the right way, telling Sheila that he’s in love with her. He practices making his declaration, getting interrupted when Sheila calls to tell him that she’s decided she’s over Daryl. She wants someone who makes her feel safe, someone she can talk to. Then she confides that she’s decided to pursue Mulder. Holman responds with a lightning storm.

Mulder goes to see Holman the next day, asking him to get help for his problems: “You’re not just a weatherman, you’re the weatherman,” Mulder says. Holman says that if he could control the weather, he would end the drought. Mulder doesn’t think he can control his abilities, and in fact, his emotions make the weather go out of control. He needs to express his feelings for Sheila. Holman confirms Mulder’s theory, confiding that he accidentally destroyed the school when he found Sheila getting it on with her boyfriend. But how can he, a frog, telling Sheila, a swan, he wants to be with her?

Scully calls her partner (“Mulder, it’s me”) to tell him they’re not going to be able to leave Kroner as planned, thanks to thick fog. “Holman!” Mulder chastises. He tells Scully that Holman wants his dating advice. Scully’s speechless, then asks the last time Mulder went on a date. “I will talk to you later,” Mulder replies, hanging up on her. (If you can find this scene, please watch it, because I can’t do it justice here. Duchovny and Anderson’s delivery makes it gold.)

Daryl learns from his receptionist that his business isn’t doing well. She tells him he’s like Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain, who “shined too bright for too short a time.” But she’ll still tell their future kids how awesome he was. Daryl’s distressed about his money woes, but the receptionist isn’t worried – she can always go back to Dairy Queen, where she was making almost $6 an hour. Daryl has another idea, knowing that Sheila has money. He decides it’s time to break up with the receptionist and go back to his former fiancée.

At the TV station, Holman tells Mulder that he’s always been envious of men like him who have so much experience. After all, Mulder gets to spend all day with the “beautiful, enchanting” Scully. He’s surprised that the partners have never hooked up, especially since they seem to gaze at each other. Mulder claims he’s happy enough just being friends with Scully. He takes Holman to Sheila in hopes that the drought will end if Holman tells her how he feels. As a P.S., Mulder says he doesn’t gaze at Scully.

Holman starts to bare his soul to Sheila, declaring his love, but she thinks he just means as a friend. It starts raining, and Mulder thinks Holman succeeded, but Holman tells him that Sheila said she’s in love with Mulder. She tells Daryl the same thing when he comes by to try to get her back. Daryl doesn’t get the appeal and takes a swing at Mulder. Sheila yells at him to avoid Mulder’s face, which is a good priority. Since Daryl’s drunk, Mulder doesn’t have much trouble ducking his punches and subduing him. Scully and Holman come around the corner just in time to see Sheila thanking Mulder with a kiss.

The fog has lifted, so now Mulder and Scully can go home. Mulder, who’s covered in Sheila’s lipstick, sees on Holman’s weather radar that thunderstorms are moving in, so their flight is probably canceled. The reunion is still on, with a Wizard of Oz theme, though people have to avoid the buckets placed around the high school gym to catch leaks. The agents show up looking for Holman, who says the thunderstorms aren’t his fault.

Sheila asks Mulder to dance, but the agents get her to dance with Holman instead. He finally tells Sheila that he’s been in love with her since high school. Mulder and Scully watch them from a distance, swaying back and forth, either to get a better view of them or because they like the song. When Sheila runs off, Mulder jokes that he’ll build an ark if Scully gathers the animals.

Scully follows Sheila to the bathroom and tells her Mulder’s theory about Holman and the weather. Sheila thinks Scully’s just jealous because Sheila and Mulder have a “special connection.” Daryl shows up to the reunion, looking for Sheila. Scully tells her that she and Mulder aren’t involved, and Holman really does want to be with her. Sheila’s surprised, since she and Holman have only ever been friends. Scully thinks that the best relationships are ones that start out as friendships. One day, you see something new in your friend, and the friend becomes the only person you want to be with.

The storm drains are filling up from all the rain, and the bathroom sinks back up and start to flood. The women leave the bathroom as Mulder and Daryl fight in the gym. The power goes out as Daryl passes out, claiming he could take on Mulder if he had two legs. Sheila comes back to the gym and confirms that Holman can affect the weather. She kisses him and tells him that’s the most romantic thing she’s ever heard. As they kiss again, sparks fly and the rain stops.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” comes over the sound system and everyone starts dancing. The receptionist comes to bring Daryl his leg back, and the two of them make up. Mulder asks Holman how it went, and Holman replies, “You should try it sometime.” A year later, Holman and Sheila have a baby, and the skies over Kroner are beautiful, with a rainbow right outside the family’s window.

Thoughts: Gilmore is played by Dirk Blocker (Hitchcock on Brooklyn Nine-Nine).

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I love the running joke of everyone thinking Mulder and Scully are a couple. I also love that, while Scully corrects everyone, Mulder says nothing until he’s talking to Holman.

Mulder: “I do not gaze at Scully.” Everyone who’s ever seen an episode of the show: “Uh-huh.”

Having a Wizard of Oz-themed reunion right after a tornado was a rough coincidence, but it’s Kansas, so that probably happens a lot.

October 17, 2017

SVT Super Edition #9, The Twins Go to College: This Isn’t the Kind of Pot I Expected Jessica to Do

Posted in books tagged , at 5:01 pm by Jenn

BURN THOSE OVERALLS

Summary: Jessica’s ready for a mindless summer of shopping and tanning, but when she and Elizabeth get accepted into a two-week study program at SVU, Ned and Alice tell her she’s going. They’ll be vacationing in Grand Canyon, no kids allowed, and Steven will be at basketball camp, so Jess has no choice. She’s devastated, and it doesn’t help when the Unicorns amusingly throw her a mini-funeral to mourn the loss of her summer. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is excited to take one class for two weeks, live in the dorms, and basically get a taste of what college will be like (minus the love triangles and attempted murder).

Ned and Alice take the girls to SVU and proceed to talk nonstop about their time there. The twins try to rush them along so they can sign up for their classes before all the slots fill up. Elizabeth will be taking a course on Romantic poetry (that’s Romantic with a capital R, as in odes and nature and stuff, not love), while Jessica has settled on ceramics, since she thinks it’ll be easy. Thanks to a broken clock tower, the girls are able to get rid of their parents an hour ahead of schedule.

They get the classes they want, then meet their roommates. Elizabeth’s is a girl named Marion whose parents are both detectives. She’s learned her parents’ tricks and become a master of disguise and observation. I kind of love her. She’s taking a criminology course, which I think I would choose if I were in this program. Jessica’s roommate, Susan, is AWFUL. She’s a snob from L.A. who thinks Jessica’s beneath her because she wears jeans and T-shirts. She’s Lila cranked up to 11, without the class.

The girls meet a guy named Mike who’s at SVU for a few days before he and his fellow Nature Scouts go on a canoe trip. Jessica likes him, but Susan quickly steals him, so now Jess hates her even more. Elizabeth is next to meet a guy, encountering a kid on a bridge and quoting poetry with him. She doesn’t get his name, but she’s in luuuuuuuuuuuv.

Jessica’s hopeful about her ceramics class, thanks to all the cute guys there, but when she starts actually working, she realizes it won’t be as easy as she’d hoped. Just making a clay pot takes a lot of concentration and control. She ends up covered in clay and embarrassed in front of her new classmates. Liz, meanwhile, gets a shock in her poetry class – it’s taught by her poetry buddy. His name is Ethan, and he’s a student and TA at SVU, which means he’s too old for Elizabeth.

Jessica comes across a gallery on campus and chats with an old woman who tells her about a curse pot. To mess with someone you hate, you can make an imperfect pot with the face of your enemy etched into it, along with some symbols. Firing the pot will trap the person’s spirit inside it. As she’s leaving, Jess runs into a guy transporting her classmates’ work and accidentally breaks some of it. So far, this summer isn’t going great for Jessica.

Inspired by Marion’s skill with disguises, Elizabeth decides to try to land Ethan by pretending to be someone else – specifically, someone older. She calls her new alter ego Geraldine and decides she talks like a southern belle from a few decades ago. She’s supposed to be 18, by the way. I would love to know how the characters in Elizabeth’s stories talk.

Jess decides she’s done with the study program (wow, she almost lasted an entire day!), so she packs a bag and heads for the bus stop. She’s missed the last bus home for the day, but it’s not a complete bust: She sees Elizabeth leaving a boutique in her new Geraldine clothes and decides to follow her. Liz goes to SVU’s snack bar and chats with Ethan, pretending to be her own older sister. They arrange to hang out later in the week and discuss poetry.

Jess gives ceramics another try, this time making a pretty decent-looking pot. She etches Susan’s face in it and turns it into a curse pot. She fires it with Bernard, the guy she ran into who was transporting the other pots. Meanwhile, Ethan tells Liz that he met Geraldine, then asks her to come along when the two of them hang out. Liz says she can’t go. Marion figures out what she’s up to and seems amused by the whole thing. Susan doesn’t come back to her and Jessica’s room that night, and she’s not around the next morning. Jessica is a little confused but doesn’t give it much thought.

Ethan and Elizabeth chat after a class, and he tells her that he thinks she’s more suited to Romantic poetry than Geraldine is, just from the way Geraldine talks. Way to insult your student’s sister, dude. Liz realizes she needs to quit it with always saying “my, my!” and “indeed” as Geraldine. Yeah, I’d say so. Jess has lunch with Bernard and later finds a poem in her pocket called Ode to Blue-Green Eyes. She figures it’s from Bernard, since she was just with him, but it’s obvious to the reader that it’s from Ethan, and he mistook Jess for Liz.

Susan is still MIA, and Jess starts to wonder if her curse pot actually did the job what it was supposed to. She goes looking for Elizabeth to fill her in, and finds her hanging out with Ethan, as Geraldine. Liz quickly pretends that Jessica is her. Jess plays along, hoping that in exchange, she’ll get a favor in the future. She mentions the poem she found in her pocket, and again, it’s clear to the reader that Ethan wrote it, but the twins don’t catch on.

Jessica pressures/threatens Elizabeth into helping her find the woman from the gallery so she can learn more about curse pots. Marion helps them get into the gallery after hours, but they have to hide from a guard and can’t get to the curse pot. The next day, Bernard tells Jessica that someone broke into the gallery and stole the pot. Jess is shocked, since it was there when she, Liz, and Marion broke in, and she knows none of them took it. She asks about the old woman, and Bernard offers to try to get contact information for her.

Ethan mentions Ode to Blue-Green Eyes to Liz, who has no idea what he’s talking about. He invites her and Geraldine to a concert on campus that night. Liz tries to bow out so only Geraldine will go, but Ethan insists. Elizabeth gets Jess to agree to play her again, and Jess gets Liz to agree to go with her to see the old woman, Hatta. The mystery of the missing curse pot is quickly solved, as Hatta took it. She made it, so she figures she can do what she wants with it. Jessica tells her that she made her own curse pot but now wants to reverse the curse. Hatta isn’t sure she can.

When the girls are back at their dorm, Ethan calls to tell Elizabeth that he got a fourth ticket to the concert, so she should bring Jessica along. Of course, Jess is already planning to play Liz while Liz plays Geraldine, so they’re all out of twins. But Marion looks enough like the twins and can mimic Jessica’s characteristics well enough to pass herself off as Jess. It seems like a foolproof plan until Bernard joins them and easily IDs “Elizabeth” as Jessica, and Marion as an imposter. All three girls fake stomachaches and flee.

Jess finds another poem in her pocket, and Liz starts figuring out that Ethan is writing the poetry. Good job, Nancy Drew! However, she thinks Ethan likes Jessica. She’s surprised when Marion tells her that obviously Ethan likes Elizabeth – the real Elizabeth, not Geraldine. This is gross, because he knows Liz is 12, but I think it’s supposed to seem sweet.

Ethan confirms his crush after the next class. He also reveals that he’s 16, and the Doogie Howser of SVU’s English department. So there’s only a four-year age difference between him and Liz, which is less gross than when she thought he was at least 18, but still gross enough. Fortunately, both realize that their difference in ages means they shouldn’t date. They agree to just be friends.

The twins, Ethan, and Bernard go back to Hatta’s house, but she’s still not sure how Jess can break the pot’s curse. Her only idea is for Jess to break the pot and leave the pieces in the mud on her riverbank, which is where the clay came from. Maybe if it’s returned to its origins, the curse will be ended. Jessica reluctantly breaks the pot, and the clay seems to pull the pieces into the ground. Moments later, the Nature Scouts appear in canoes, on their way back from their trip. Among them is Susan.

The official story is that Susan decided to ditch the study program after she met Mike. She didn’t bother to tell anyone she was going on the trip with the Nature Scouts, and I guess the school didn’t call her parents when they couldn’t find her, since no one went looking for her. This would have been a better plot if Jessica had said her roommate was missing and everyone else denied that Susan ever existed. Also, Susan doesn’t strike me as the sort of girl who would enjoy a nature trip, so she must have really liked Mike. I wish Jess had just enjoyed that she was gone – she got to have a dorm room all to herself.

Thoughts: Some of the courses offered: Cooking for Fun and Profit, Cruising the Internet, What Really Happened to the Titanic?

This program has no curfew or chaperones, and I really can’t believe so many parents would allow their kids to participate. I suspect they just wanted them out of the house for two weeks.

I’d rather read a series about Marion than the twins.

October 14, 2017

The X-Files 6.7, Terms of Endearment: Definitive Proof That Children Are Little Demons

Posted in TV tagged , at 1:15 pm by Jenn

Hee hee hee

Summary: A couple has just had a sonogram, and their doctor is breaking the news that that the baby seems to have an abnormal skeletal formation. The husband, Wayne, walks out, upset, and his wife, Laura, tries to tell him it might be nothing. They’ll have to wait and see. The two go home to Hollins, Virginia, and Laura takes a pill and drinks some milk before going to sleep.

A devilish-looking creature suddenly appears, surrounded by flames, and attacks Laura. Wayne has disappeared, and Laura can’t fight off the creature, so she bites it (A for effort, Laura). The creature reaches in and takes the baby, which has horns. It’s a nightmare, and when Laura wakes up, Wayne is next to her in bed again. However, the baby is no longer inside her.

A Hollins deputy, Stevens, gives the case to Spender, having heard that he specializes in weird stuff like this. Stevens happens to be Laura’s brother. Spender promises to make the case a priority, and Stevens is grateful that Laura will have someone who will listen to her. As soon as Stevens leaves the office, Spender shreds the paperwork.

Mulder retrieves the shredded pieces and puts them together, taking the case from Spender and pretending it was assigned to him. Stevens drops him off at Wayne and Laura’s house, thanking the FBI again for looking into things. Laura tells Mulder that the baby had horns and a tail; it was “some kind of monster.” She gets emotional and leaves the room. Wayne tells Mulder that she’s been struggling ever since the doctor told them there were complications. Mulder asks Wayne if he was really in bed with Laura the whole time, since she said he wasn’t. Wayne says that was just in her dream.

Scully’s interviewing a potential FBI agent, Ginsberg, but she doesn’t seem to buy his claim that he’s never smoked pot or spent time with people who have. Mulder calls her (“Scully, it’s me”) to explain why he’s not at work with her. He wants her to look at Laura’s medical charts. Scully thinks Mulder’s act of taking a discarded case out of Spender’s trash isn’t any better than Spender’s decision to get rid of it in the first place. She’s annoyed that he’s off chasing an X-File while she’s stuck doing background checks.

Mulder says this is “a classic case of demon fetal harvest.” Scully tease that she saw Rosemary’s Baby, too. Wayne listens in on their phone conversation via a baby monitor. That night, as a fire burns in an outdoor stove, Wayne digs around in the leaves in the yard. Laura comes out, seeing the fire, and he tells her he was just burning leaves. He was just doing his chores and trying to make things look nice. Yeah, I’ve never seen someone do chores while looking so squirrelly or crying.

The next day, Mulder, who spent the night in his car outside Wayne and Laura’s house, is woken by a call from Scully. She looked at the baby’s medical charts and saw the birth defects, which could have involved horns. Mulder draws horns on a picture of Wayne and asks if he might have passed the defects on to the baby. Scully blames Laura instead – she had an herb called mandrake in her system, and may have tried to self-abort. Thanks to Virginia laws about third-trimester abortion, Mulder can arrest her.

Mulder watches Wayne drive off somewhere while Scully tells him that the couple’s doctor said Laura took the news of the baby’s defects very calmly. Mulder clearly still thinks Wayne had something to do with what happened. Scully warns him to proceed carefully, since this could be an emotional situation. Mulder goes up to the house as Wayne goes to see…his other baby mama! Wayne’s a two-timer!

Stevens and some other deputies come to Laura and Wayne’s, where Mulder has accused Laura of trying to abort her baby. Stevens objects, saying that Laura wouldn’t even have access to mandrake. She says she only took herbal sleep aids. Wayne comes home, and Stevens yells at him for not being there when Laura was being interrogated. Mulder promises Wayne that he’s not trying to hurt Laura – and he knows Wayne would “hate like the devil for that to happen as well.”

Wayne allows the deputies to search the house, which contains a number of health supplements. He decides it’s time to tell Laura that he got out of bed the night the baby was taken, and when he came back to the bedroom, he saw her chanting over their just-born baby. Wayne took the baby from her and burned its body in the outdoor stove to protect her. He knew he couldn’t bring back Wayne Jr., and he didn’t want to lose Laura as well. Just then, the deputies find the baby’s body.

Laura tells the deputies that when she heard about the baby’s defects, she thought she had done something wrong, and that the baby was evil. But she didn’t mean to hurt him; the herbal medication must have been to blame. Mulder eyes Wayne suspiciously as Stevens arrests his sister. “I know what you are,” Mulder tells Wayne as he leaves the house.

Wayne rushes to see his other baby mama, Betsy, who’s about to leave for a sonogram. Oh, and she thinks they’re married. Mulder follows Wayne, who claims he’s on his way to an appointment with a client (he’s in medical insurance and travels a lot for work). Mulder invites himself along on the appointment, so Wayne changes course and goes to a client’s house. He takes some of her blood so he can make sure the woman, Kim, isn’t a “policy risk.”

They chat about kids, and Wayne says he feels like he’s been trying for a baby forever. Kim, however, has been blessed with three perfect boys, even though she calls them monsters. When Wayne leans over, Kim sees little nubs on his neck, like the ones the doctor saw on the baby’s sonogram. He hears a horn honking and looks outside to see Mulder letting Kim’s sons play in Wayne’s convertible.

Wayne comes out and orders the kids out of the car, not acting like someone who loves children as much as he claims. Scully calls Mulder to tell him that Wayne called Kersh to complain that Mulder’s been harassing him. Mulder tells her to tell Kersh that he’s in Hollins doing a background check.

Wayne visits Laura in lockup and tells her that the lawyers he’s been talking to think they can get her acquitted. Laura has found a hole in his story – the baby was found wrapped in her nightgown, but she was still wearing it when she woke up from her nightmare. Also, she remembered something about the creature. Wayne stops her, promising that he just wants to protect her. As he hugs her, she sees wounds in his neck. He grabs her wrists and tells her he wishes she could have been the one. Then he sucks something out of her.

Medics are called to Laura’s cell, where Wayne says she just collapsed. Mulder’s face: “Sure she did, buddy.” The medics revive Laura and rush her to the hospital. Wayne goes to Betsy’s, and she tells him that the doctor found growths on the baby. Like Laura, Betsy isn’t too concerned. And like with Laura, Wayne promises that he loves Betsy no matter what. Why doesn’t he get her some milk before bed?

Scully meets Mulder at the hospital where a comatose Laura has been taken, and she reveals that there’s no medical evidence that Wayne did anything to her. Mulder’s pleased by that – he was hoping the result would be “not a shred of evidence.” He actually did what he said he would, performing a background check on Wayne. He’s actually a Czech national who came to the U.S. in 1984 and was acquitted of the murders of his two previous wives.

In Slavic societies, Wayne’s original name is synonymous with the devil – specifically, a demon that sucks the souls of its victims. Scully admits that men can be demonic, but why would a real demon pretend to be a normal husband and father, just to suck some souls? Mulder doesn’t know, but this makes more sense than any other theory he can come up with.

Wayne fixes up some demon brew for Betsy as a team searches his and Laura’s property for more dead demon babies. Mulder and Scully arrive just as they find a skeleton. Mulder tells Stevens to put out an APB for Wayne, knowing he won’t come back to the house. He tells Scully that Wayne’s trying to breed, and will do or say anything to succeed. He’s killing the demonic babies because he wants a normal child.

Betsy has the same demonic encounter that Laura did, only she knows right away that the demon trying to take her child is really Wayne. Mulder gets a second address for Wayne from his office and guesses that he has a second wife. He probably uses his job to screen potential wives, then “plants as many seeds as he can.” A car almost runs the agents off the road, and they pull over to see Betsy getting out of Wayne’s convertible. She tells them that her husband took her baby.

The three of them meet up with some deputies and head back to Betsy’s house. Wayne’s digging in the backyard, and when the agents confront him, he laments that he just wanted a normal life and a normal family. He tells them that Betsy took the baby. He starts to say something about his second wife, but Stevens shoots him before he can finish. “I just wanted what everyone wants,” Wayne says.

At the hospital, Stevens tries to keep his sister and brother-in-law separated, but Mulder tells him to calm down, since he’s already in enough trouble. He takes Stevens to see Betsy so they can get some answers. Wayne wakes up from surgery, then starts spasming. The soul he sucked from Laura goes back to her body and she wakes up from her coma as Wayne flatlines.

Mulder meets Scully back at the house, where Scully is still excavating demon skeletons. None of these has any defects, and Betsy’s baby isn’t there. Mulder isn’t surprised – he thinks the baby’s were Betsy’s, not Wayne’s. He believes that Betsy killed normal babies to keep Wayne from having what he wanted. Wayne realized that he’d met someone even more evil than he was. Indeed, Betsy heads out of town in Wayne’s car with her newborn demon, pleased that she kept Wayne from getting the one thing he wanted.

Thoughts: Wayne is played by Bruce Campbell.

’90s music alert: Garbage’s “Only Happy When It Rains,” which should have been saved for the next episode.

What a weird, dumb episode sandwiched between two fun ones. We all deserved better, but especially Bruce Campbell.

Thanks for showing up for no reason, Spender!

October 10, 2017

SVT #108, Cammi’s Crush: The Three Matchketeers

Posted in books tagged at 5:06 pm by Jenn

The phones! Hee hee hee!

Summary: Principal Clark announces that the school district wants to honor a Scholar of the Semester, a student from any school in the area who has the highest GPA for the semester. There are three finalists, and two are from SVMS – Cammi Adams and Randy Mason. (Elizabeth is out of the running thanks to a B she was given after a fight with a home-ec teacher over the proper consistency of brownies.) If Cammi or Randy wins, Mr. Clark will give the entire sixth grade a picnic and an entire day off from anything school-related, including homework.

Jessica is desperate for that day off, and she takes it upon herself to ensure that one of her classmates wins the competition. After Elizabeth talks her out of getting the unknown third student eliminated (and Jessica figures she couldn’t pull that off anyway), Jess approaches Cammi with an offer to sabotage Randy. Cammi notes that the third student could still beat her, so that’s no guarantee. Jess advises her to suck up to her teachers, but Cammi wants to win fair and square. Jessica next approaches Randy about sabotaging Cammi, but he has the same attitude Cammi does, wanting to rely on his intelligence to win, since that’s what’s gotten him this far.

Both Cammi and Randy start getting paranoid that the other has agreed to work with Jessica to sabotage him or her. They decide to worker harder than ever to take their grades from straight A’s to straight A+s. But one morning, Cammi oversleeps, misses a quiz, and has to hand in crumpled homework, earning herself two F’s from a cranky substitute, Ms. Sherman. Later in the day, Randy accidentally rips a project he spent extra time on and earning himself a 0 from another cranky sub, Mr. Jules.

Thanks to one teacher out on paternity leave and another out with a broken ankle, the SVMS students are stuck with Ms. Sherman and Mr. Jules for a while, and no one’s happy about it. They’re tough graders, taking off points for poor penmanship, and they have no sympathy over the amount of work the kids have to do for other classes. Randy and Cammi realize that they won’t be getting a break from these two, so they both turn to Jessica for help getting their grades back up. Because…that’s exactly who anyone would think of for that?

Jessica’s first instinct is to find a way to get rid of Ms. Sherman and Mr. Jules. Her plan involves playing pranks until the teachers get so fed up that they quit. When Cammi and Randy veto this idea, Jessica says they should instead try to make the two teachers happy so they’ll be nicer to everyone. Cammi comes up with a plan that all three agree to: Play matchmaker for the teachers, a la Clueless. Love conquers all!

The Three Matchketeers start by finding out the teachers’ favorite colors, flowers, and food. They leave Ms. Sherman a bouquet of her favorite flowers, pretending they’re from a secret admirer. Then they arrange for Mr. Jules to find out about a new Mexican restaurant in town so he’ll ask Ms. Sherman to go there with him. It works, and Jessica tells the Unicorns that she’s ensured the sixth grade’s day off. What she doesn’t realize is that Cammi and Randy have started to develop feelings for each other as well.

Now that the subs are mellower, Cammi is able to get one of her bad grades changed, since Ms. Sherman realizes she graded her unfairly. Mr. Jules decides not to give Randy’s class a quiz, which means one less potential bad grade for Randy. Everything seems to be going great, but then Janet notes to Jessica that Mr. Jules and Ms. Sherman’s blossoming relationship might not work out. If they break up, they’ll be crankier than ever, and the students will suffer. Jessica realizes that she, Randy, and Cammi need to make sure the two teachers stay happy.

Cammi tries to get closer to Randy by asking him the same questions they asked the teachers. He doesn’t seem interested in her, so Cammi asks Jessica for more matchmaking help. Jessica turns to her go-to plan for helping her female classmates: a makeover. Cammi thinks that Randy doesn’t care about her new look, but the truth is that Randy doesn’t think Cammi has the same feelings for him that he does for her. He thinks she got a makeover because she’s trying to get the attention of another guy. He decides to try to drop his crush on her and focus on his grades.

Cammi tells Jessica that Randy acted kind of weird with her, so Jess encourages her to talk to him about it. Just as Cammi finds him, they hear Ms. Sherman and Mr. Jules fighting – he found Jessica’s notebook with notes about his favorite things, and he thinks Ms. Sherman was coming up with ways to woo him. They break up, and they’re back to being cranky with their students. Randy and Cammi take out their anger on Jessica for not keeping a better eye on her notebook.

Jessica goes back to brainstorming and comes up with a variation on the get-Mr.-Jules-to-ask-Ms.-Sherman-out-on-a-date plan. While looking for a calculator so she can make sure she can pay for their next date, Jessica comes across some of Ned’s client files and discovers that Ms. Sherman and Mr. Jules knew each other before they started subbing at SVMS – they’re currently going through a divorce.

She tells Ned, who breaks attorney-client privilege to tell her that the two teachers probably shouldn’t get a divorce. They fight because they’re competitive with each other, but they don’t have any issues that they couldn’t resolve. The fact that their last straw was a fight over a bowling match makes me think that they’re not mature enough for this kind of committed relationship, but what do I know?

Jessica takes this new information to Cammi and Randy, getting them to agree that they need to use the teachers’ competitive nature to their advantage. If they each think the other is beloved by the students, they’ll try harder to be nicer. This actually makes so much sense that I’m surprised Jessica came up with it. Unfortunately, the Matchketeers don’t get to put their new plan into action. Mr. Jules and Ms. Sherman hear them plotting and call them out.

The good news is that the teachers admit that they’ve been letting their personal problems affect their teaching, and they need to stop. They punish Jessica by making her write a 10- to 12-page paper about why you shouldn’t meddle in people’s lives (which is way over the top), but they allow Cammi and Randy to make up the assignments they got bad grades on.

All of the Matchketeers’ work amounts to nothing, however: The third student, who goes to a school in Big Mesa, wins Scholar of the Semester. Fortunately, Mr. Clark decides to reward Randy and Cammi’s hard work by giving the sixth grade a day off anyway. And at the picnic, the two nerds admit their feelings to each other, wrapping up that barely-there subplot. They give Jessica a Certificate of Excellence to thank her for helping them out. So Jessica will mostly likely take that as a sign that she needs to meddle in people’s lives more often.

Thoughts: No one mentions that if Cammi and Randy’s poor grades would knock them out of the running for Scholar of the Semester, someone else from SVMS would move into the running. The competition isn’t for students with perfect GPAs, just the students with the highest averages. If Elizabeth was taken out by one B, Cammi and Randy’s F’s should bump her up to the top. Eh, whatever.

Randy: “If I don’t get my average back above a C soon, I can forget about being valedictorian of Sweet Valley High.” Jessica: “Randy, that’s like five years from now. At least.” Maybe a few more for you, Jess.

Jessica: “Randy won’t even know what hit him when you show up at school tomorrow, looking gorgeous.” Cammi: “I don’t want to hit him.” Seriously, Cammi?

Not only does Ned break attorney-client privilege, but he also thinks Jessica will keep what he told her secret. In related news, Ned is new here.

“She’d been making notes for over two hours, but so far she hadn’t come up with a good reason not to interfere in other people’s lives.” It’s official: Jessica never learns anything.

October 7, 2017

The X-Files 6.6, How the Ghosts Stole Christmas: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Posted in TV tagged , at 1:00 pm by Jenn

Fantastic casting right here

Summary: It’s Christmas Eve, “somewhere in Maryland.” Mulder’s waiting for Scully outside a spooky old house so they can do a stakeout. She’s late because she left her holiday shopping until the last minute. She complains about the number of times she’s heard “Silent Night” (if she heard it one more time in the store, she was going to take hostages) and how she needs to wrap her presents, so this is a waste of her time. But she’s willing to listen to Mulder’s explanation for why they’re there.

Mulder tells her that no one lives in the house; they’re staking out the former occupants, who have supposedly come back. Scully details the horror-movie clichés present and correctly guesses that her partner wants to do some “ghostbusting.” She starts to leave, but Mulder tells her that back in 1917, amid a time of “dark, dark despair,” a pair of “star-crossed lovers” died in the house.

The man was Maurice, the woman Lyda. They thought they were going to be separated, so they made a suicide pact so they could be together forever. Every Christmas Eve, their ghosts return to the house. Scully praises Mulder’s storytelling skills, but of course she doesn’t believe in ghosts, so she’s going home.

As Scully starts to leave, Mulder goes up to the house to check things out. Scully decides to start putting her New Year’s resolution into practice early and not follow him. But suddenly she can’t find her keys. Mulder goes in the abandoned house alone, and thunder crashes just as Scully joins him to ask if he took her keys. Mulder suggests that a ghost snagged them. They hear footsteps above them, then the chime of a grandfather clock. Scully tries to explain the sound of wind upstairs. Suddenly the front door slams shut, and Scully can’t get it open.

Mulder tries to convince Scully that ghosts are usually friendly, so there’s nothing to be afraid of. He heads upstairs to check things out, while Scully sees that it’s less than an hour to midnight, so she only has 55 minutes to do her pre-Christmas preparation before it’s no longer pre-Christmas. Even though she sees what looks like a spirit, she thinks Mulder’s let horror movies go to his head when there’s nothing out of the ordinary going on. Besides, why would a ghost show up for no apparent reason? Humans just made up ghost stories to explain human feelings and desires.

Mulder tries multiple doors, all unlocked, but finally one opens…on its own. Scully admits to being afraid, but she knows there’s no reason to be scared. She checks out the room with the open door and realizes that there’s a light on, though it wasn’t on when she and Mulder were outside. The room is a big library, and all of its lights are working. That combined with the clock downstairs keeping time and a dying fire in the fireplace make Scully think that someone’s living in the house.

Since every couple who’s ever lived in the house has died tragically – in the last 80 years, three double murders have occurred in the house, all on Christmas Eve – Mulder thinks the house is cursed. So why would anyone want to live there? The door slams shut and the lights go out, so that doesn’t help ease his fears. The agents hear something under the floorboards, and Mulder bends down to listen while Scully looks for a way out of the library. She sees something that catches her attention, but when she tries to alert Mulder, he comes up behind her and scares her, just for kicks.

Mulder thinks there’s a hiding place under the floorboards so he grabs a fireplace poker to pull them up. Scully’s scared, but Mulder reminds her that she’s been in scarier situations. Plus, she has a gun. Mulder finds two corpses under the floorboards…two corpses who look an awful lot like a decaying Mulder and Scully. In fact, they’re wearing the same clothes the agents currently have on.

Quickly realizing that they’re looking at their own dead bodies, the agents run to another room, but mysteriously find themselves in the same room they just left. They keep moving back and forth between the rooms, but when each is in a different room, the doors between them close. “SCULLAY!” Mulder yells, unable to hear his partner.

Because he’s Mulder, he uses his gun to shoot off the lock, but now there’s a brick wall on the other side. Suddenly, a man appears in the room to ask why Mulder’s in his house. The electricity is working again, and the man doesn’t seem to see the brick wall keeping Mulder from leaving. Mulder thinks this whole experience has been a trick, and the man is a ghost. The man cracks up, guessing that Mulder’s a ghost hunter. He’s not the first to show up.

Mulder asks if the people under the floorboards were also ghost hunters, but the floorboards are back in their rightful place. Now Mulder’s not sure what’s going on. The man asks if he’s drunk, high, or “overcome by the impulse to make everyone believe [him].” He’s a mental-health professional, specializing in disorders involving pathological behavior involving the paranormal. He’s made up the term “soul prospectors” to describe ghost hunters who are narcissistic, self-righteous, antisocial workaholics.

The man continues that Mulder has probably convinced himself he’s seen aliens because he’s lonely. He’s just chasing “paramasturbatory illusions” that he thinks will give his life meaning. He probably thinks he’s passionate and misunderstood, and people probably don’t want to spend time with him. The man guesses that Mulder spends every Christmas alone, and he doesn’t believe Mulder when he says his partner is also there. How did he get her to stick around – steal her car keys?

The man thinks that Mulder’s afraid of his loneliness, so he gets Scully to accompany him on crazy treks. The brick wall is gone, so the man encourages Mulder to leave the room and change his life. But as he’s trying to leave, the brick wall reappears, and Mulder’s stuck.

In the next room, Scully gets frightened by a woman who thought Mulder and Scully were ghosts. Like Mulder, Scully notices that the floorboards are back in place. The woman tells her that there are ghosts in the house – her house – and she laughs off Scully’s claims about the corpses.

Scully keeps her gun trained on the woman while she explains that she came to the house with her partner. The woman feels bad that Scully runs around with a partner who believes in things she doesn’t. She’s trying to find fulfillment with someone else – “intimacy through codependency.” The woman continues psychoanalyzing Scully, saying her only joy in life is trying to prove Mulder wrong.

Scully asks why everything in the house is covered, if the woman actually lives there. The woman says they’re having the house painted. Why is there no Christmas tree, then? Well, because they’re Jewish. The man comes into the room, telling Scully that her partner will be in soon. Scully makes the two put their hands up, and for the first time she notices a giant hole in the woman’s stomach. When she takes off the man’s hat, she sees a hole in his head. It’s enough to make Scully pass out.

The man and woman – Maurice and Lyda from Mulder’s story – complain that they only get one night a year to drive people crazy, and they have to use cheap tricks to do it. He thinks their pop psychology just annoys people. Lydasays they can’t let their reputations slip; otherwise, they’ll be taken off the tour literature. Maurice doesn’t get why Lyda wants to scare people on Christmas Eve. She says it’s more fun to torture them when they’re filled with the hope of the season. Maurice decides it’s time to show these two miserable people “just how lonely Christmas can be.”

Lyda finds Mulder searching the library for a way out. She bars him from leaving, but when realizes that he can touch her, he just moves her away from the door. Too bad he can’t do that with the brick wall that’s appeared there. Lyda, now behind Mulder, doesn’t appreciate being called a frump or a ghost. Mulder figures out who the man and woman are; he’s confused because they were young when they died, and now they’re not.

Lyda looks through some books, amusing Mulder with her psychokinetic skills, until she finds one called <i>How the Ghosts Stole Christmas </i>by R. Grimes. She starts a fire in the fireplace without touching it, then shows Mulder a picture in the book of Maurice as a young man. She thinks Mulder and Scully came there to do the same thing she and Maurice did there 80 years ago. Mulder says they didn’t, but Lyda notes that he knew the house was haunted. They should have discussed their feelings for each other before they got there.

Mulder learns that the story of the suicide pact is false – according to Lyda, she and Maurice died in a murder-suicide. Mulder thinks that Lyda’s trying to say that Scully’s going to shoot him. Lyda notes that Mulder might shoot her first, but he says that would never happen. He also wouldn’t let Scully shoot herself. Lyda reminds him of the bodies under the floor, then hands him his own gun, which is missing from his holster. She tells him this is the last Christmas he’ll ever spend alone.

Next door, Scully regains consciousness and finds that Maurice has locked her in the library. She warns that she’ll shoot him if she needs to, but Maurice thinks it’s more likely that she’ll need to use her gun to protect herself from her partner. Scully can now hear Mulder yelling for her, but Maurice says he’s capable of some very dangerous things. He offers her back her car keys as he says that Mulder’s acting out his fear of being alone. Scully ignores him and tells him to open the door.

Maurice goes to the door, giving Scully one last warning that he’s seen a number of murders in the house. Scully says she doesn’t believe him. Maurice finally lets Mulder in, and he immediately shoots at his partner. He tells her there’s no way out of the house, and one of them has to murder the other. Even if they get out, they’ll just go back to their lonely lives. Scully says she doesn’t believe him, but Mulder doesn’t listen. This time, his bullet hits her in the stomach.

As Scully collapses, Mulder approaches, wishes her a Merry Christmas, and puts the gun to his head. But he’s really Lyda, just making herself look like Mulder. Maurice grabs her to stop her from shooting herself and pulls her out of the room. The real Mulder makes it in and finds Scully, who says she didn’t believe that he would hurt her…but she would. She still has her own gun, and she uses it to shoot her partner. Again, it’s Lyda playing a trick, and she’s pretty pleased with herself.

The ghosts put “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on the record player as Scully wakes up alone. Mulder finds her and they struggle to point their guns at each other, weak from blood loss. They both admit to being afraid. Mulder wishes he’d thought of this possibility before. They each accuse the other of shooting first, which makes Mulder realize that it’s just a trick. Neither of them is hurt. They open the front door, and the second they step outside, their wounds and blood are gone.

The couple runs to the car as the song says that “through the years, we all will be together.” Maurice and Lyda are proud of themselves, thinking they almost succeeded. They wonder what Mulder and Scully were really looking for at the house. Maurice says that for some people, Christmas is “just another joyless day of the year.” But Maurice and Lyda haven’t forgotten the meaning of the holiday.

Mulder watches the end of A Christmas Carol alone at home, unmoved by Scrooge’s happiness, which Scrooge doesn’t think he deserves. Scully comes by to confirm that everything that happened at the house was just in their heads. Mulder says it must have been. Scully wants to make sure that Lyda wasn’t right about her only joy in life coming from disproving Mulder. Mulder wonders when she’s ever actually disproven him.

Now Mulder isn’t sure Scully really wants to be out in the field with him. Scully says maybe she does. The agents had agreed not to get each other presents, but they both did, so they exchange gifts side by side on the couch, unlonely for at least a few minutes.

Thoughts: Maurice and Lyda are played by two Hollywood legends, Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin. Apparently Tomlin had approached the show seasons before, wanting to do an episode, so they wrote this role for her. They wanted Bob Newhart for Maurice, but he turned them down, so they got Asner instead. (I think Asner was better for this role, so that worked out great.)

With only four people in the episode, this is the smallest cast to ever appear in The X-Files. It’s something you don’t really notice when you’re watching, though; it doesn’t feel like anyone’s missing.

I wish this episode had come up closer to Halloween. The atmosphere and plot are perfect for it.

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