May 19, 2018

The X-Files 7.16, Chimera: Quoth the Raven: “Don’t Drag Me Into Your Bizarre Revenge Scheme”

Posted in TV tagged at 1:23 pm by Jenn

Hee, he looks so out of place

Summary: It’s Easter, and Martha Crittendon of Bethany, Vermont, is hosting a big party. She’s not pleased to see one of the guests, Jenny, but a friend named Ellen tells Martha to be nice. As the kids search for Easter eggs, Martha’s daughter Michelle comes across a raven that spooks her. Jenny watches her run away. That night, Michelle’s still shaken up and wants to see her father, Howard, who’s on a business trip. Martha calls him, but he can’t come home early. After she hangs up the phone, she sees that a window in the house is open and a raven has invited itself in. Martha realizes that something human-like has also come in.

Mulder and Scully is staking out a seedy area of D.C., waiting for a woman Mulder thinks is killing prostitutes. The police have raided a club called Dirty Dames twice to arrest her, but she hasn’t been found. She’s been seen going in but never coming out. Scully’s less than enamored of the stakeout, though Mulder finds it “ennobling.” He gets a call calling him away and leaves Scully to complete the stakeout on her own.

Mulder goes to meet with Skinner, who tells him that Martha disappeared two weeks ago. The ravens make Skinner think this is an X-File. Mulder confirms that ravens are symbolic in some cultures; Native Americans them as deceptive and Christians think of them as signs of evil. Michelle’s raven encounter and the bird found in the house make Skinner think this is an angle that should be explored, especially since the authorities haven’t come up with anything else. (Also, Martha’s father is a federal judge, so the FBI needs to look good here.)

In Bethany, Mulder meets Sheriff Phil Adderly, Ellen’s husband. Phil says that Martha was beloved, and there’s no evidence that she was kidnapped, so the investigation has hit a dead end. Phil is also certain that Howard had nothing to do with his wife’s disappearance. The house is very well decorated, such that Mulder asks if Martha’s last name isn’t really Stewart. He notices some scratch marks on the mantle and thinks they’re from the raven. The only sign of a struggle is a broken mirror.

Howard comes in and shows the men a pack of birth-control pills he found in Martha’s things. He suspects that she was having an affair. He had a vasectomy after Michelle was born, when the couple decided not to have more children, so why would Martha need birth control? (Well, doofus, because birth-control pills can be useful for some medical conditions, but whatever.) Howard also found a key he’s not familiar with. He thinks Martha just ran off with some guy and doesn’t want to be found.

Ellen helps pass out fliers about Martha’s disappearance as a raven watches her. Jenny surprises her, and Ellen offers her some fliers to put up on her side of town. Jenny takes offense and accuses Ellen and Martha of thinking they’re better than everyone else. Jenny says they have more in common than Ellen realizes. As she leaves, Ellen sees the human-like figure from Martha’s house reflected in a car window, which then breaks.

Phil can’t find any record of phone calls between Martha and a mystery boyfriend. Mulder wants to look at the raven angle, telling Phil that in folklore, ravens are companions to evil people. Phil points out that he’s going off of something said by a seven-year-old. But Mulder thinks the broken mirror has meaning, too; mirrors can be items of enchantment, so a broken one may be a clue.

Mulder meets Ellen, who offers to let him stay with her and Phil while he’s in town. They also invite him to dinner, probably the first home-cooked meal Mulder’s had in months, if not years. Scully calls to ask when she can leave the stakeout; the furnace broke, so now she’s freezing on top of having to spy on prostitutes all day and subsist on gross pizza. Mulder reminds her that what doesn’t kill her makes her stronger, then requests no capers with his dinner.

Michelle’s also having a disappointing dinner; her father’s mac and cheese doesn’t taste as good as her mother’s. Howard suggests that they go get fast food instead. Michelle sees a raven in the backyard, so Howard goes out to see what’s happening. He finds a bunch of them digging at something buried in the backyard – a woman’s hand. It looks like Martha has been located.

Mulder comes over to oversee the medical examination and sees claw marks on Martha’s hand. The examiner thinks the body has been there since Martha disappeared, and the ravens have been feeding on her. Phil still thinks Howard is innocent, and Mulder agrees. Ellen comes by to be traumatized at the sight of her best friend’s body. She tells Phil and Mulder about the creature she saw reflected in the window – she thinks that’s what killed Martha.

Phil is skeptical, but Ellen’s news fits Mulder’s theory, so he believes her. He tells her and Phil that Victorians thought mirrors could summon spirits. Maybe the creature was brought forth to attack Martha. Of course, this means they need to figure out who would want to hurt Martha.

Ellen points Mulder and Phil toward Jenny, who should probably speak less ill of the dead when the dead was murdered and they’re looking for a suspect. Jenny thinks they should spend more time looking into Martha’s rumored boyfriend. Mulder brings up a past assault in Jenny’s history, but she says that was a long time ago. She claims she was home all night when Martha disappeared. Phil thinks Jenny’s innocent, but Mulder thinks she’s lying about her alibi.

Scully calls again, telling Mulder that when he finds her dead in her hideout, he should remember that her last thoughts were of him, and how she wants to kill him. “I’m sorry, who is this?” he teases. He tries to convince her that the location of his case is just as horrible as hers. Then he asks her to come to Bethany to do Martha’s autopsy. Just then, Scully notices a van outside, which she’s seen a couple times before. Suddenly, her horrible case just got interesting.

Ellen’s doing some housecleaning when she finds a key like the one Howard showed Mulder. She hears ravens and finds one in her daughter’s bedroom. She sees the creature in the mirror again and runs. It follows her as another mirror breaks. Ellen hides in a closet with her baby, crying out when the door opens, but it’s just Phil.

Phil thinks Ellen is just having emotional issues because her best friend just died. There’s no sign that anyone else was in the house, even with the two broken mirrors. Phil thinks Ellen broke them herself. Mulder sees the key on the carpet, and Ellen says she found it just before she saw the raven arrived. That night, Phil sneaks out to a motel and uses the key to open a room. He’s there for a fling with Jenny. He insists that they have to stop doing this, but she’s not ready to call it quits.

Mulder wakes up to find his shirt recently ironed. Ellen tells him that she does housework when she feels like her life is out of control. Phil’s still out; Ellen says he must have gone on a call. She’s happy to tend to Mulder, sensing that he doesn’t get that kind of treatment a lot. She notices his lack of a wedding ring and asks if he has a significant other. “Not in the widely understood definition of that term,” Mulder says, because he won’t admit that he and Scully are basically married. Ellen reminds him not to focus so much on work that he neglects a social life. A marriage and family could be a refuge for him.

Phil comes home, saying he was doing paperwork. After Ellen leaves the kitchen, Mulder mentions that he heard Phil leave during the night. Phil sticks to the story that he was working. Mulder tells him that Martha’s autopsy showed that, despite her birth-control pills, she was four weeks pregnant when she died. Howard’s vasectomy means he wasn’t the father. Does Phil know who it might have been? Phil’s smart enough to get that Mulder already knows the answer to that question. Mulder also knows that Phil has the key, though Phil won’t say what it unlocks.

Jenny calls her son from the motel, lying that she had to work a double shift. There are ravens outside her window, and the creature is suddenly in her room, accompanied by the breaking of the mirrors over the bed. (Nothing but the classiest rooms for Phil’s conquests.) The creature attacks Jenny, who ends up dead. At least now Mulder knows exactly what Phil’s key was for.

Phil insists that Jenny was alive when he left her in the motel. He admits to having affairs with Martha and Jenny, who apparently knew about each other. “You put the ‘service’ back in ‘to protect and serve,'” Mulder cracks. Phil cared about both women, and says that Ellen won’t let him leave. He thinks she got pregnant with their daughter to lock him up. Phil wants Mulder to go back to his theory about an evil entity, since that will take the heat off of him. But Mulder notes that the entity had to have been summoned by someone – possibly someone who didn’t even know he or she was summoning something.

Phil calls home and leaves Ellen a message letting her know that Mulder’s on his way to talk to her. Ellen misses the call because she’s busy with the baby. Ellen also has a gash on the back of her neck, which she only notices when she’s getting ready to take a bath. It’s from her fight with Jenny in the motel room.

Mulder arrives at the house as Scully calls to report that the stakeout is over. It wasn’t an X-File and there was no serial killer. The missing prostitutes are all in a halfway house, having been rescued by a Mr. Egbert, who was posing as a woman to get access to them. He wants them to become Christians and leave their jobs. Mulder and Scully thought they were searching for a woman who could disappear; instead, Mr. Egbert went into the club dressed as a woman and left dressed as a man. He was walking away under their noses the whole time.

This gives Mulder an idea. He tells Ellen that Jenny’s dead and Phil has been arrested for her murder, but Mulder thinks he’s innocent. He believes that Ellen is in denial about who she really is – hence the broken mirrors. Ellen doesn’t want to admit who she really is, because it’ll mean her marriage and life are lies. Her eyes black, she wishes that Mulder had never come to Bethany.

Mulder draws his gun, but Ellen, back to looking like the creature, attacks him and tries to drown him in the bathtub. Then she stops herself, turning back into Ellen. She ends up in a psychiatric hospital, where she’s diagnosed with multiple personalities. Mulder can accept this, since medical science isn’t going to figure out the truth. Ellen wanted a perfect life, and when she found out about Phil’s affairs, she bottled up her anger to keep her perfect façade. She thought she was protecting her family. Outside Ellen’s room, a raven comes by see her.

Thoughts: Fun fact: A group of ravens is called a conspiracy or an unkindness. Not as cool as a group of crows being called a murder, but still creepy.

I kind of want to use “paperwork” as a euphemism for sex, but I think that’ll get confusing.

I like Jenny’s son’s logic that he should be allowed to have oatmeal cookies for breakfast because oatmeal is a breakfast food.

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May 12, 2018

The X-Files 7.15, En Ami: The Worst Road Trip Since “Drive”

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

Same

Summary: In Goochland, Virginia, a couple is driving home with their son, Jason, reminding him that people’s words can’t hurt him. He’s still not prepared when they’re accosted by protesters carrying signs talking about the family’s faith. They have to be escorted into their house by a police officer.

Jason’s father, Cameron, tells him that the protesters think they should take him to the hospital to have his cancer treated. But his parents believe that since God gave him cancer, God is the one who has to heal him. That night, Jason wakes up to a huge storm outside his window. A bright light appears, and he stands in front of his window with his arms open. A group of men in suits approach the house.

Scully is leaving for work when she finds a copy of the Goochland Guardian outside her door. There’s a note attached with a verse from Psalms: “You are the God who performs miracles. You display your power among the peoples.” The front-page article is about a miracle. Scully takes the paper with her to the office, where Mulder tells her that Jason McPeck woke up completely cured of cancer. The McPecks’ religion forbids medical treatment, and they believe their son was cured by angels.

Scully knows that spontaneous remission has happened before, so this isn’t really a miracle. But Mulder thinks something else is going on, since he got word of Jason’s recovery from an anonymous email from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He thinks that plus the paper at Scully’s door means this is an X-File someone wants them to investigate. Even if it’s not, Mulder’s curious to get answers.

So Scully goes to the McPecks’ and sees for herself that Jason is back to his normal self. He tells her that the angels came from the sky in a ball of light and looked like human men. Like the angels in the Bible, they told him not to be afraid. Unlike the angels in the Bible, they pinched the back of his neck – the same place Scully had her chip removed years ago.

When she goes back to her car, she finds an unwelcome guest: CSM. He tells her he’s doing God’s work and claims he saved Jason. Scully kicks him out of the car but finds it hard to ignore him when he asks if she’s not curious about his claims, since she’s a doctor. He’s the one who sent her the newspaper and sent Mulder the email. CSM announces that he’s dying and wants to make things right. He has a cure for cancer and wants to give it to Scully.

Scully won’t take the bait, and CSM tells her she’s the only person he’ll give it to. If Mulder hears anything about his claims, CSM will take the secret to his grave. Scully sees that he’s left something on the seat, but she drives off without looking at it. She heads back to her office and studies the card CSM left her, blank except for a phone number. She dials the number, hangs up, then has the number traced so she can get the address associated with it.

This leads her to an office building where security guards give her a visitor’s pass and send her to the third floor. She ends up in CSM’s office, where he tells her that he’s looking back on his life and has realized he has no legacy to leave behind. He’s dying of some complication from the procedure he underwent back at the beginning of the season. Scully thinks he wants to use her to make himself look respectable.

CSM says they’re wasting time with the past while millions are dying of cancer. Scully’s game to go along with his plan, but it’ll involve a road trip. CSM is taking a huge chance by offering her access to this huge secret. He’s destroyed a lot of people, including those closest to him. Now he wants to do something good before he dies.

Mulder gets a message from Scully (“Mulder, it’s me”) telling him she’s going out of town for a family emergency. He leaves her a message in return (“Scully, it’s me”) saying he hopes everything’s okay. She’s getting ready to go off on her road trip, and has stuck a microphone in her bra so she can record whatever CSM says to her.

Scully drives, and objects when CSM tries to light up in the car. He throws out his cigarette and says he’ll just quit. He wants to earn her trust, knowing that she thinks he’s heartless. He admits that he’s always felt affection toward her, and his intentions are honorable. After all, he could have let her die when she had cancer, but he saved her. Now, CSM wants to give Scully the same power to save lives.

In the morning, Mulder goes to Scully’s apartment building to find out if she left under suspicious circumstances. The landlord tells him that she went with a driver he’s seen before – a driver with a fondness for smoking. Scully has been driving all right, but CSM hasn’t told her where they’re going. He notes that she still doesn’t trust him. How long did it take her to trust Mulder? CSM knows they didn’t immediately click. He psychoanalyzes that Scully is drawn to powerful men but fears their power. She’s devoted to Mulder, to the point where she would die for him, but she won’t let herself love him.

The two are finally at their destination, where CSM plans to show Scully that he’s capable of more than destruction. They’re being followed by someone. Scully and CSM are at a house to see a woman named Marjorie who can back up CSM’s claims. He tells Scully that the woman, who looks to be in her 70s, is actually 118. Scully sees a scar on the back of her neck. CSM thinks that being able to save lives and see people’s joy after their recovery is why Scully became a doctor.

Mulder has checked with Maggie, who doesn’t know anything about a family emergency, and is now in Skinner’s office to get help finding out why Scully disappeared. Skinner thinks she left willingly, so they shouldn’t worry about her. Scully calls just then to tell both men that everything’s fine. Mulder doesn’t believe her.

Scully and CSM stop at a gas station, and Scully goes to use the bathroom while CSM fills up the car. She leaves a message for Mulder through her hidden microphone, telling him she weighed the risks before agreeing to the road trip. She gives her location and puts the tape in an envelope to mail to Mulder, planning to send more along the way. When Scully leaves the bathroom, CSM’s ready to drive. He offers her a Lifesaver, which I guess is his version of a joke. A man back at the gas station steals Scully’s tape from the mailbox.

Scully and CSM reach their next destination in the middle of the night. Scully’s asleep, and CSM puts on gloves to do who knows what. The Lone Gunmen are also awake in the middle of the night, having spent some time looking into Scully’s disappearance. They show up at Mulder’s apartment in disguise and tell him they found a series of communications between Scully and someone named Cobra. They think she’s gone to great lengths to keep her location hidden. Mulder says she knows he’ll find her no matter what.

Scully wakes up in a fishing cabin, wearing pajamas she definitely wasn’t wearing in the car. She accuses CSM of drugging her, which he denies. She was tired, and he wanted to make her comfortable. They’re in Milford, Pennsylvania, but Scully thinks this is outside of their deal, so she’s done with the trip. CSM tells her she’s free to go, but Scully knows she won’t get any answers if she leaves, so she decides to stick around. They’re still being watched.

Mulder takes the Lone Gunmen to Skinner’s office to tell his boss that Scully’s been communicating with someone who works on a Department of Defense shadow project. Except the Scully sending the emails to Cobra is an impostor, someone who hacked her email and intercepted the messages from Cobra. They’re supposed to meet so Cobra can hand over information on his project. But the Gunmen can’t figure out where the meeting is supposed to take place. Mulder thinks CSM is the impostor, and they need to stop him before something horrible happens to Scully.

In Milford, CSM tells Scully that his contact has invited them to dinner. He’s bought her a dress, and it’s low-cut, so I don’t think Scully will be able to wear her microphone. At dinner, CSM tells her that his contact “is to human genetic science what Oppenheimer and Fermi were to the advent of nuclear warfare.” Cobra wants assurances from Scully that his research will be used by the good guys. The two toast to the future.

CSM has another revelation for Scully: The cancer cure isn’t just for cancer – it can cure all human disease. It’s mostly extraterrestrial. Scully knows that this cure can make CSM well. He tells her that the power in something like this can be used for both good and evil. People will be able to choose who lives and who dies. CSM doesn’t seem sure that he actually wants to be cured. Maybe dying is the last good thing he can do.

As a man watches Scully from a nearby table, CSM goes outside for a cigarette and tells another man that Cobra hasn’t shown up. The man warns that Scully won’t wait forever. CSM tells him to just do his job. As a waiter clears her plate, Scully notices a note giving her a location, Calico Cove. She and CSM head to a dock on a lake, and she heads off by herself in a boat.

The man who was watching Scully at the restaurant comes to meet her; he’s clearly Cobra, and he thinks Scully is the person he’s been communicating with. Someone watches through a sniper scope as Cobra hands over his work on a CD. Scully asks where the science came from, revealing that they’ve never spoken before. Before Cobra can respond, someone starts shooting. Cobra’s dead, and Scully’s next in the shooter’s sights. But before the sniper – the man CSM spoke to outside the restaurant – can kill Scully, CSM takes him out.

Scully returns to the cabin, where CSM pretends he’s been waiting for her the whole time. She blasts him for claiming that no one else knew what was going on. He tells her to keep Cobra’s research. She takes it home with her and gives it to the Lone Gunmen, but the CD is blank. All of Scully’s work was for nothing.

Scully takes Mulder to CSM’s office building, but it’s empty. Mulder says that CSM used her, and told her things that would make her believe him, like about Marjorie’s age (he showed Scully her birth certificate). Scully thinks Jason’s recovery is undeniable proof that there’s a cure for cancer. But Mulder knows that sooner or later, the chip in his neck will disappear, and they still won’t have any proof. CSM conned Scully, and Mulder’s surprised that he left her alive.

Scully insists that CSM was sincere, but Mulder disagrees. As he voices over that CSM did everything to get the cure for himself, even if it means sacrificing the rest of the human race, CSM enjoys a glass of wine, the CD by his side. Scully thinks CSM’s longing for something more than power was genuine. At the cabin, CSM tosses the CD in the lake and lights up a cigarette.

Thoughts: This episode was written by William B. Davis (CSM), probably just as an excuse for him to work with Gillian Anderson.

Goochland is a real place, and I bet everyone who lives there hates that name.

In season 11, CSM claims that in this episode, he drugs Scully so he can impregnate her. But as of the end of season 11, that wasn’t verified, and I choose to remain in denial. I’ll buy that he gave her the ability to conceive, which leads to William, but I’m in denial that CSM is his father.

May 5, 2018

The X-Files 7.14, Theef: The Hex Files

Posted in TV tagged at 1:28 pm by Jenn

Mulder checks out a new art installation, unsure of what this piece is trying to convey

Summary: A family comes home to their mansion in Marin County, California, having attended an event where one of their members, Robert, won an award calling him physician of the year. His father-in-law, Irving, makes them take a picture together. In bed that night, Robert tells his wife, Nan, how lucky he is. Irving gets ready for bed as well, finding a small body-shaped figure made out of dirt on his bed. A man appears behind him. The house’s security alarm goes off, and when Robert goes to check it out, he finds Irving hanging from the ceiling, bleeding. “Theef” is written on the wall in blood.

When Mulder and Scully arrive to investigate, they focus on the misspelled word on the wall. Scully doesn’t know why the case is considered an X-File. Mulder gives the exposition that Irving was hanged and had his throat cut; the other family members had no motive, and the blood pattern shows that Irving didn’t kill himself. Plus, the dirt on his bed may have been used in an act of hexcraft. Scully’s willing to buy that someone included hexcraft in Irving’s murder. Mulder’s surprised that she’s keeping an open mind, and she teases that she likes to keep him guessing.

The agents talk to the family, but they can’t think of any enemies Irving might have had. Mulder then asks if Robert has any enemies. Robert’s daughter, Lucy, defends her father, reminding the agents that, as a doctor, he saves people’s lives. Robert says if he has any enemies, he doesn’t know of them.

In Foster City, California, a landlady does some housework in a big house with rooms for rent. She smells something and follows the odor to the room of one of the tenants, Orel Peattie – the man from Irving’s room. He tells her the scent is medicine, then offers her something for her back pain. Then he goes back to his room to finish sewing some voodoo dolls. One of his finished dolls is hanging from a hook.

Mulder learns that the dirt from Irving’s bed was graveyard dirt, a compound often used in hexcraft. Meanwhile, Scully has autopsied Irving’s body and discovered that he had kuru – a disease cannibals used to get from eating brains. Because the disease causes its victims to be “stark-raving crazy” (Scully says this, so it must be the medical term), Irving may have killed himself after all. Mulder thinks the hex put on him gave him kuru so he would kill himself.

That night, Nan sees that a picture in the hallway is missing, leaving just an empty frame behind. What she doesn’t see is that Peattie is in the house. Robert thinks the police just took the picture from the frame, for some kind of evidence. As Peattie attaches a picture of Nan’s face to one of his dolls, Nan tells Robert that she doesn’t feel comfortable staying in the house. Nothing that’s happened makes sense to her.

Robert disagrees – he’s heard about the kuru and thinks that Irving committed suicide. There’s nothing for them to worry about. He changes his mind when he finds dirt in the bed just before Nan collapses, her face starting to pulse. Outside the house, Peattie is murmuring something to his doll.

Nan is taken to a hospital in San Francisco, now looking like she has burns all over her face. The agents come to see Robert, who has diagnosed his wife with diffuse cutaneous leishmaniasis, a rare disease usually found in Africa. Mulder brings up his theory that someone made Nan sick. Robert tells Scully to explain to her partner that no one can direct an illness at someone. Mulder thinks they’re dealing with folk magic, probably something Celtic or Scottish, or possibly Appalachian. Scully would rather discuss the more pressing matter of the family being in danger and needing the FBI’s protection.

Robert wants to focus on treating Nan, but Mulder points out that if the hexcraft continues, the treatments won’t matter. Robert can’t believe that some dirt is going to win out against everything he has in his arsenal as a doctor. He goes off to do his job while Mulder decides that he wants a second opinion. Robert looks at MRIs of Nan’s brain, finding that they all read “theef.”

Peattie appears and mocks that the truth always hurts. Robert asks what he wants, but Peattie says everything’s going great and he’s getting his money’s worth. He mentions the name Lynette Peattie, but Robert doesn’t seem to find it familiar. He demands to know what makes him a thief, according to Peattie. Peattie tells him to give it some thought and he’ll figure it out. He leaves, and when Robert goes after him, Peattie has disappeared.

Robert has a hospital employee look up Lynette’s name, but there’s no record of anyone by her name being treated at the hospital. Robert asks him to pull the files of Jane Does he’s treated. In one file, he finds a piece of woven fabric that reads “flax-haired lamb – theef of mine heart.” Back in his room, Peattie prepares his next doll, this one with Robert’s face. He talks to the unseen Lynette, telling her she shouldn’t have left. The landlady comes by the thank him for the medicine he gave her for her back. Peattie gives her some more as she comments on the odor of whatever he’s working on. He tells her that’s good.

Mulder and Scully go to a magic shop (not one where you’d get magic tricks; one where you’d buy supplies for spells) to ask the owner about the graveyard dirt. She calls it goofer dust and wants them to put it away. Hypothetically, you’d put it on a victim to “direct misfortune.” But you would also need a voodoo doll, or what the owner calls a poppet. You have to insert some thorns and something from your victim for it to work.

Mulder asks how they can counteract this kind of hexcraft. The owner says that if someone’s using it for murder, he’s probably charmed, drawing on the energy of some source of magic power. It would have to be something important to him. They would need to separate him from the charm to defeat him.

Back at the hospital, Peattie checks out the options in a vending machine, unclear on the concept of inserting money before being able to retrieve what he wants. He’s also confused about how microwave popcorn works. He talks to a medical student about radiation, then sees Robert and Lucy walking down the hall. Lucy has come to visit her mother, who’s doing much better thanks to Robert’s treatments.

Nan needs another MRI and is nervous about the radiation. Robert assures her that it’s no more than she would get from a dental x-ray. Peattie gets his popcorn, then puts Nan’s voodoo doll in the microwave. As he cooks it, the radiation in the MRI gets way too strong, burning Nan alive. (Thanks, makeup department, for your extremely gross work here.)

Now in protective custody, Robert believes that Nan was murdered. “Theef” was branded into her chest, and the agents think Robert knows why. He tells them about Peattie’s visit and what he found in the Jane Doe’s file. She was badly injured in a bus accident, and Robert knew there was no way he could save her, so he gave her an overdose of morphine to put her out of her misery. Mulder has guessed that Peattie is Lynette’s father and wants to take Robert’s family like Robert took his.

Mulder has an idea of how to protect the family, and it starts with exhuming Lynette’s body from her pauper’s grave. Scully manages to find one record from Lynette’s entire life, a medical file from an inoculation program in West Virginia. Her father refused to let her receive a polio vaccine. Mulder realizes he was right about Appalachian folk magic. He thinks Peattie’s getting his graveyard dirt from Lynette’s grave. Her body may be his charm. If they send it to Quantico, they’ll break his power. Except the grave is empty.

The landlady goes back to Peattie’s room, letting herself in when he doesn’t answer his door. She sees someone in the bed and thinks he’s home after all, but it’s what’s left of Lynette’s corpse. (Think Psycho.) Peattie comes home in time to find her discovering his secret. But he’s also there to see Mulder and Scully send Robert and Lucy away, thinking that they’ll catch Peattie at the family’s house when he inevitably comes after Lucy.

Mulder stakes out the family’s home, listening to a news report about the landlady’s sudden illness – she has a flesh-eating virus. Mulder puts 2 and 2 together and leads a raid of Peattie’s room, discovering Lynette’s now-headless skeleton. He calls Scully, who’s taken Robert and Lucy to Sequoia National Forest, and warns that Peattie is probably on to them. He has a piece of his charm and is on the move. Scully doesn’t think anyone followed them, but Peattie has found them anyway.

He breaks a window of Scully’s car, alerting her to his presence outside their hideout. He takes her badge and one of her hairs from the car so he can make a Scully voodoo doll. He puts nails in its eyes, causing the real Scully to suddenly go blind. Peattie bursts into the hideout, easily dodging Scully’s bullets. Robert threatens to hurt him, but Peattie says there’s nothing that can hurt him since he has nothing to lose. Robert says he’s sorry for Peattie’s loss, but he did everything he could to help Lynette. When he couldn’t do anything else, he eased her suffering.

Peattie thinks he could have saved her if he’d been there, but Robert points out that he wasn’t there. Peattie’s upset that Lynette was buried in an unmarked grave away from her family. Now he wants to enact an eye for an eye. Robert says he’s not going to hurt Lucy, and he’s right – Peattie wants to hurt him. He uses a knife to pierce the chest of Robert’s voodoo doll, causing the real Robert chest pain.

Of course, Mulder arrives at the hideout to save the day. A blind Scully is a useless Scully, so there’s nothing she can do to save Robert and stop Peattie. Mulder, however, has a gun and is able to take care of things. Peattie’s control of Scully and Robert immediately ends, as Mulder has removed the nails from the Scully doll’s eyes.

Later, in Peattie’s hospital room, Mulder tells Scully that Lynette’s body is being sent to West Virginia so she can be reburied with her family. Scully admits that if she’d been in Robert’s position, she would have done the same thing he did for Lynette. But she can’t help wondering if Peattie really could have saved her. “You do keep me guessing,” Mulder murmurs after she leaves.

Thoughts: Lucy’s hair is so ’90s. At one point it looks like she had a bunch of butterfly clips in it, took them out, and just left her hair how it was without brushing it out.

I feel like putting microwave popcorn in a hospital vending machine is just asking for trouble. I wouldn’t trust a sleep-deprived intern to get his out before it burned.

Another reference to John Gillnitz – he’s the news anchor who reports on the landlady’s illness.

April 28, 2018

The X-Files 7.13, First Person Shooter: Ready Player One

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

Just…whatever

Summary: Three guys are gearing up for some sort of battle that looks like it’s taking place in a science fiction movie. They’re actually playing a game, being observed by a couple of techs. It’s like a virtual-reality simulation, but without the virtual-reality gear. Their opposition arrives on motorcycles, and the three guys are greatly outnumbered but still able to defeat them, thanks to their weapons. The techs are impressed.

The guys get to move to phase two of the game, which involves shooting at people who also have guns. There is…a lot of shooting. It goes on for a while. One of the three guys, Lo-Fat, takes a hit and “bleeds” yellow blood. The other two guys, Moxie and Retro, continue the battle on their own. They get separated, and Retro encounters a scantily clad woman who introduces herself as Maitreya. She tells him it’s her game, then shoots him.

Mulder and Scully go to the corporate offices of FPS in Inland Empire, California, to investigate. They have their badges and their retinas scanned, then have to sign nondisclosure agreements. Mulder explains that FPS stands for First Person Shooter; they make “digital entertainment,” or what most people would call video games. The Lone Gunmen are there, thrilled to be part of the “new American Gold Rush.” They tell the agents that there was an accident.

The Gunmen are consultants, and Langly even worked on a game, creating some of the villains. The game goes out in a few days, and the IPO is coming shortly after. But now someone’s dead, so the Gunmen would like the agents to figure out what happened before word gets out and the game gets bad publicity.

One of the techs, Ivan, tells the agents that there’s no way Maitreya could have actually killed Retro. The guns used in the simulation feed off a mainframe, and though the effects feel real, they’re not. Scully sees gunshot wounds and blood on Retro’s body, despite Ivan’s insistence that the vest he was wearing should have only “bled” paint. All the villains in the game are fake; nothing could have hurt Retro. The other tech, Phoebe, confirms that everything in the game is digital and virtual.

No one saw what happened, and the techs’ monitoring of Retro was all normal, so no one knows what really happened. Scully says Retro was murdered, so they need to call the police. Mulder asks Phoebe exactly what she saw from her control booth. She shows him recordings confirming that Retro was fine until he suddenly wasn’t. There’s no way to know what happened. Phoebe does something computery to look at the wireframe, though Retro was in an unmapped part of the building. The wireframe shows Maitreya standing over Retro’s body.

Phoebe does more computery stuff and is able to show what Maitreya looked like when Retro saw her. As Maitreya leaves the scene of her crime, she looks straight at the camera Phoebe’s watching her through. A detective named Lacoer has arrived, but he’s disappointed that there’s no suspect or motive for Retro’s murder. He also scoffs at the picture of Maitreya, who looks like…well, like a video game character, not someone he can actually go looking for in the real world. Mulder announces that no one programmed her into the game. Scully says that it doesn’t matter – Maitreya is just some “immature, hormonal fantasy.”

A man named Darryl Musashi comes in, surprising the Gunmen. They tell the agents that he’s a game designer who also does some work for the CIA. They think Ivan called him in to beat Maitreya in the game. Scully complains that the men are all acting like teenagers. Mulder seems to have fallen into that behavior as well.

Mulder, Ivan, Phoebe, and the Gunmen watch as Darryl enters the game. He waits fearlessly for the motorcycle guys and quickly wins phase one. He then skips phase two and goes straight to the place where Retro met Maitreya. She arrives in samurai gear and cuts off his hands as the audience watches on a screen, unable to do anything. Maitreya says something in Japanese before finishing Darryl off.

Scully autopsies Retro but doesn’t get any answers – whatever killed him didn’t leave any evidence behind. Mulder arrives and she tells him that the suits players wear monitor their vital signs. When they’re shot, they get jolted with electricity to keep them from rejoining the game. Scully thought Retro’s suit might have malfunctioned, but she was wrong. She wonders what kind of person likes dressing up to play what’s basically “high-tech cowboys and Indians.” Of course, Mulder is exactly that kind of person.

Scully continues that the game just makes the country even more violent than it already is. There’s no redeeming value in the game in causing mayhem and cranking up your testosterone. Mulder says that’s a sexist view and argues that the game could be an outlet for certain impulses. Scully just doesn’t get why men like to blast stuff. Mulder reminds her that their suspect is a woman, albeit a digital woman. She reminds him that digital images can’t kill people.

Mulder finally gets around to telling her that they have a second victim, so she’ll need to perform another autopsy. His head his no longer attached to his body, so I’m guessing his cause of death is pretty apparent. Mulder gets a call from the sheriff’s department telling him that a woman has been picked up to be questioned about the murders.

The woman was picked up at a strip club, so the male officers at the station are having a great night. Scully is not. The woman, Jade Blue Afterglow (she claims that’s her real name), says she knows nothing about FPS but doesn’t seem too worried that she’s a murder suspect. Mostly, she thinks the situation is ridiculous. When Mulder shows her a picture of Maitreya, she explains that she underwent a body scan at a medical-imaging place; they must have given her image to FPS to use for their game. Mulder lets her leave, then tells Scully he feels the need to blast something.

The agents return to FPS and find Phoebe napping in the tech office. Scully tells her that it looks like Ivan scanned Jade and put her in the game. The Gunmen are getting ready to go into the game and troubleshoot some things. But the game starts up by itself, and Phoebe can’t make it stop. Only the background was supposed to run, not the real gameplay, yet the Gunmen are being shot at. Mulder gets suited up and goes into the game after them.

Byers has already been shot, but isn’t seriously hurt. Mulder provides cover fire while the Gunmen head for a module. Mulder sees Maitreya and goes after her, annoying Scully. Maitreya greets him with a sword, dressed as…I don’t know, sexy Joan of Arc? She vanishes right before his eyes, then reappears behind them. The Gunmen hear gunfire and run after Mulder, but accidentally exit the game. Mulder’s now in it by himself.

Scully joins the Gunmen and demands to know where Mulder is. They can’t explain it – he should be with them. Phoebe can determine that Mulder’s still alive, since she can still monitor his vitals, but they don’t know exactly where he is…or where the game is. Wherever it is, Maitreya has now left Mulder in it alone. Mulder wanders around a little until he finds her. She does a bunch of gymnastics, then disappears again.

The Gunmen want to build a kill switch to shut down the game, but Phoebe tells them it won’t work. Ivan joins the group and thanks Scully for inadvertently saving the game. When the authorities saw that an FBI agent performed Retro’s autopsy and couldn’t determine a cause of death, they decided not to shut down the game. Scully, of course, doesn’t care, since Mulder and the game are missing. She brings up Jade, but Ivan doesn’t seem familiar with her name.

Phoebe suddenly runs out, and Scully follows her, realizing that Phoebe was the one who scanned Jade. Phoebe says Scully wouldn’t understand what it’s like “choking in a haze of rampant testosterone” every day. Scully manages not to roll her eyes. Phoebe explains that she was using Jade for her own game, not this one. Somehow, Jade fed off of male aggression (uh, okay) and jumped into this game. Scully tells her she’ll have to find a weakness and destroy Jade. Phoebe says she has no weaknesses.

Mulder’s out of ammo, but he’s still ready to fight Maitreya hand-to-hand. Well, more specifically, he’s ready to take a beating from her. As the others discuss how Maitreya put herself in the game and hijacked it, Frohike sees that Mulder’s vitals are going nuts. Ivan turns on Phoebe, but Scully tells him it’s “no fair picking on a girl.” Oh, come on.

Mulder manages to defeat Maitreya, and when he goes to get her sword, the game glitches and puts him in a Wild West ghost town. The others can now see what’s happening, but are unable to turn off the game. Maitreya finds Mulder again, and her combination of a halter top and chaps is certainly a look. She duplicates herself, and Mulder complains that she’s cheating.

Inevitably, Scully joins the game and shoots at the multiple Maitreyas. The Gunmen are thrilled. Phoebe and Ivan warn that the game gets harder from here – in fact, no one’s ever beaten this level. Scully has become the first, but her reward is more Maitreyas to shoot. Langly wonders how the agents are supposed to kill something that won’t die.

Phoebe knows of a kill coming in that can destroy the game. Ivan tries to stop her, not wanting to kill his baby, but Phoebe won’t put it ahead of human lives. Once the Maitreyas have been defeated, a tank appears, because why wouldn’t there be a tank in the Wild West? That tank explodes and another appears in its place. Scully just keeps shooting while Mulder tries to use the sword to wedge open the door Scully came through.

Ivan and Phoebe face off as the Gunmen try to get Phoebe to give them the command that will shut down the game. She finally sides with the Gunmen, and the game is no more. The agents don’t reappear, and the Gunmen worry that they’ve killed them. Phoebe finds one of their guns near the door, which the group opens to rescue the agents. Mulder is possibly having the best day of his life.

Mulder voices over something dumb about victory and whether it’s real when the game is virtual. There are no laws or rules in the virtual world, so anything could come out of the darkness. Back the tech room, the computers start up again, and Ivan is pleased to see a new player on his screens – one who looks like Scully.

Thoughts: This episode was written by William Gibson and Tom Maddox.

Phoebe is played by Constance Zimmer.

Imagine Scully on Westworld. Just imagine it.

I’m definitely not the target audience for this episode. I played laser tag once, though.

April 21, 2018

The X-Files 7.12, X-Cops: Fear Itself

Posted in TV tagged at 1:18 pm by Jenn

I bet Scully swears a lot and we just don’t get to see it

Summary: Instead of an episode of The X-Files, we get an episode of Cops. We follow L.A. Deputy Keith Wetzel, who warns that the full moon will make things crazier than usual. He thinks people feel safer just seeing a police officer around. He gets a report of a monster lurking around a neighborhood but figures someone’s imagination has exaggerated a human’s behavior. Wetzel checks out the area and sees claw marks on a door. He figures they’re from a dog.

The woman who called in the report is very agitated and insists that she saw a monster. Wetzel keeps looking around and comes across a man who tries to hide in the backyard. Off-camera, Wetzel sees something that makes him tell the camera crew to run back to the car. He calls for backup as something makes his car turn over.

Everyone in the car manages to escape mostly unharmed. Backup arrives, and Sergeant Paula Duthie tries to find out what happened. Wetzel tells her that gangbangers attacked them. Before he has to make up more lies, a call comes in about an armed suspect. A bunch of officers run down the block to the supposed criminal, instead finding Mulder and Scully. They’re there investigating the clawed monster, and didn’t expect to land in the middle of a TV show.

Mulder questions Wetzel, who says he didn’t really see anything. Mulder says he must have seen something that spooked him enough to run. Duthie tells him that the woman who placed the call isn’t mentally stable. Mulder says that a bunch of people have placed similar calls about a monster recently, and always on the night of a full moon. He knows Wetzel saw the monster – an eight-foot-tall creature with huge claws and teeth. He guesses correctly that it bit Wetzel on the arm.

Wetzel denies that he saw what Mulder thinks was a werewolf. The last person who was attacked died of his wounds after giving a detailed description of the creature. Mulder predicts that Wetzel will also turn into a werewolf, and will need to be quarantined to protect him and others. Duthie asks what he’s talking about, dropping a swear word that has to be censored. She asks to see Mulder’s badge again.

Scully pulls her partner aside to point out that they’re on a TV show. Mulder isn’t sure, since Duthie just swore. Scully’s like, “What do you think this camera is for?” She wants him to remember that everything he says is being recorded. Mulder thinks that’s awesome – they could capture proof of the paranormal in front of a national audience. Scully thinks he could be risking his career. Mulder appreciates that she’s concerned about him looking foolish, but she’s really more worried about looking foolish herself.

Mulder sends Scully to the hospital with Wetzel, in case Mulder’s right about his imminent transformation. Scully pauses to call Skinner, telling the camera guy to leave her alone. Mulder goes to the woman’s house with another deputy, Juan Molina, who translates the woman’s frantic Spanish. A sketch artist, Ricky, takes a description while Mulder shows the claw marks to Duthie, saying they match marks that another victim saw. Ricky works fast, drawing Freddy Krueger. Everyone thinks the woman is nuts.

Outside, Mulder reunites with Scully, who’s brought Wetzel back with her. His bite marks were actually insect bites. As for Skinner, he’s okay with his agents appearing on the show, since the FBI has nothing to hide. Mulder tells Scully that he doesn’t think they’re looking for a werewolf after all. Something else is going on. The agents jump in a car to go to another crime scene, but Scully won’t let the camera guy ride with them. They find Ricky dead, having been attacked by something with claws.

Wetzel tells the camera how difficult it is to lose a co-worker in the line of duty. But they’ll have to “cowboy up” and work harder. Mulder notes that the slash marks on Ricky’s body match what Freddy Krueger would leave on a victim. Scully has a different idea after she finds a fake fingernail on the ground. They find out who placed the call about Ricky’s attack and wind up at the house of a couple named Steve and Edy. (That makes Mulder grin.) Duthie says they’re good people who often call in trouble in the neighborhood.

While Edy runs off to get camera-ready, Steve tells the police that they heard screaming outside. They didn’t see Ricky until after he’d been attacked, and they definitely didn’t see a werewolf. They do, however, know the owner of the fake nail, a prostitute named Chantara. Edy sings a little, trying to get her own TV show. Her long-suffering partner drags her back into the house.

Speaking of long-suffering partners, Scully reluctantly lets a camera guy in the car with her and Mulder as they look for Chantara. Because they’ve gotten so many conflicting reports, they don’t know what they’re looking for, but Mulder’s positive that there’s something paranormal going on. He tries to make himself look less crazy by saying that Scully’s scientific mind backs up his theories.

They find Chantara, who tries to flee and didn’t sign a release to have her face shown on TV. Once they confirm that she’s the owner of the fake nail, they ask her about the scene of Ricky’s death. Chantara says she tried to help him, then ran when she heard the police approaching. Mulder asks what she saw, assuring her that whatever she says won’t surprise him. She asks for protection from her pimp, Chuco, saying that he killed Ricky.

The police take Chantara into custody, partly because they’re not sure if she’s committed any crimes and partly to protect her. Duthie assigns Wetzel to keep an eye on her while they go find Chuco. Mulder doubts that Chuco could flip over a police car, but he goes along with the group of officers who raid Chuco’s house. It’s a drug den, full of people and stuff, including a dead Chuco. He died of an overdose at least a couple days ago, so he couldn’t have killed Ricky.

Shots are fired outside, so the police and agents run out to the street. Wetzel is firing his gun at nothing, and Chantara is dead. Wetzel insists that the creature that attacked him came back. Duthie tells the agents that Wetzel is young but good at his job; he wouldn’t have let anything happen to Chantara. Another officer finds a single bullet in the street, making Mulder wonder if Wetzel really did hit his target.

The agents ask Wetzel if he’s finally ready to tell them what he saw. He calls it the Wasp Man, a creature from the scary stories his brother told him as a kid. The insect bites on his arms might actually be stings. Wetzel knows he sounds crazy, but Mulder’s heard crazier, of course.

He pulls Scully aside to present his theory: Victims were attacked by a creature that appears as your worst nightmare. Maybe it feeds on fear. Scully wonders how they’re supposed to catch a creature like that. Instead of suggesting that they learn the Riddikulus spell to make it go away, Mulder says they need to figure out how it picks its prey. It went from the woman to Wetzel to Ricky to Chantara, then back to Wetzel. Scully points out that it also went to Steve and Edy.

The agents go back to the couple’s house to find out if they were attacked. Mulder narrates, and Scully asks if he’s talking to her. They hear screaming in the house and run in to find the couple fighting with each other. Scully, who really doesn’t want to have to deal with a domestic dispute right now, tells the couple that they may have witnessed something that can help the police. Mulder decides that they need to stay for a little while, so the couple doesn’t go after each other again.

After a while, Edy admits to Mulder that she’s scared that Steve will leave her. Steve softens and promises that everything’s okay. Scully suggests sending them to a hotel for the night, but Steve says nothing’s going to chase them out of their home, no matter how scared they are.

The agents leave, unsure of what to do next. The moon will be out for four or five more hours, so they only have that amount of time to find the creature, since it only attacks during a full moon. They split up, Scully going to the morgue to examine Chantara’s body while Mulder goes on patrol with Wetzel. Wetzel wonders why Mulder believes his story without proof. The camera crew didn’t even get the creature on tape. Mulder says the camera doesn’t always capture the truth.

Wetzel asks if Scully thinks he’s crazy. Mulder carefully says that he doesn’t think she believes Wetzel is lying. Wetzel is worried that he’s going to get a reputation as being unstable. He already has a hard job. He just wants to help people, but some of them hate him. Every night when he goes on patrol, he wonders if that’ll be the shift where someone takes him out. It’s hard being in law enforcement when people think you’re nuts. Mulder can relate.

Scully examines Chantara with help from an assistant who says word on the street is that Chuco killed her from beyond the grave. She’s also heard a story about a contagion. Scully corrects that there might be a chain of victims, but not due to a virus. The assistant can’t move on from the possibility of a contagion, though, and she’s interested in why they’re doing an autopsy at 3 in the morning, in front of a camera crew. Scully smiles and repeats what Skinner said about the FBI having nothing to hide.

The assistant suddenly sneezes blood and starts seizing. When Mulder and some officers arrive, Scully assures them that, despite the assistant’s symptoms, she doesn’t have a virus. Nothing could kill that fast. Mulder realizes that a contagion was the assistant’s worst fear, and it killed her. It must have moved from Chantara to her. Scully notes that she was standing right there and didn’t see anything. Mulder says it’s because she wasn’t in fear for her life. Steve and Edy weren’t either, so they were also immune.

Duthie’s skeptical, but Mulder says it makes sense. The creature or entity or whatever hangs out in a high-crime neighborhood, where people are constantly afraid. He thinks Wetzel is in danger again; he wasn’t afraid for his life when he had Mulder backing him up, but now he’s out on patrol alone.

Wetzel responds to a call at a house that’s been condemned. After just a few moments inside, he decides he needs to call for backup. When he and the camera crew try to leave, they find that they’re locked in. Mulder and Scully track down Wetzel’s car and enter the house with their guns out, even knowing they won’t do any good. The cops who came along with them have a battering ram but still can’t get through the front door.

The agents find the camera crew hiding in a closet; everyone spooks each other when the agents open the door. “I hate you guys!” Scully exclaims. They see blood on the floor and walls, and hear Wetzel screaming from behind the locked door. Mulder tells him not to be afraid; the creature can’t hurt him. Also, he’s a deputy and is on national TV, so he needs to cowboy up.

Mulder finally opens the door and finds Wetzel injured but alive. The other cops make it into the house as well. Mulder realizes that, since the sun is coming up, the creature has fled. There’s enough fear in the world that if it hadn’t come there, it would have just gone somewhere else. Scully thinks he’s disappointed that he didn’t get proof of the creature on tape. Mulder says it’ll all depend on how the show is edited. Scully thinks this will be a tough case to write up, like it’s somehow any harder than the dozens of other cases she’s worked.

Thoughts: The real mystery of this episode is how Ricky was able to draw so fast.

I would absolutely watch The Steve and Edy Show (though I feel like she would insist on calling it The Edy and Steve Show).

Maybe Wetzel actually saw the WASP Man, a privileged white Protestant whose method of attack is beating people with a squash racquet. He fled not because the sun was rising but because he had to make his tee time.

For more fun with fear (and the inspiration for my recap title), see the Buffy episode “Fear, Itself.”

April 14, 2018

The X-Files 7.11, Closure: In Starlight

Posted in TV tagged , , , at 1:13 pm by Jenn

Shouldn’t these kids have adult supervision?

Summary: The bodies of Ed’s victims are exhumed and taken away for examination as Mulder voices over something poetic about their deaths. That night, visions of the children crawl out of their now-empty graves and form a circle before vanishing. Mulder voices over that he wants to believe that they’ll one day be reborn.

At the Sacramento police station, officers review Ed’s tapes while Mulder looks at his pictures. Scully tells him that Ed committed his first murder when he was 19, after he was asked to play Santa at a school. He’s made a full confession, but he won’t admit to killing Amber Lynn, and her body wasn’t in any of the graves. Neither was Samantha’s. Mulder says he just wants this to be over.

A man named Harold Piller comes to the station to offer his services as a police psychic. He’s intuited that they’re still looking for a girl who isn’t among Ed’s victims. He thinks he can find her. Scully sees that Piller has worked in many different countries, and hasn’t always succeeded at finding missing people. He explains that in one instance, he determined that the kids were walk-ins, transported from the sites of their supposed deaths “in starlight.”

Scully pulls Mulder aside to warn him that he’s vulnerable and shouldn’t believe that Piller can help them. He reminds her that Kathy Lee also mentioned walk-ins, so there may be something there. Scully argues that it’s just an explanation to offer comfort when people can’t explain what really happened. Mulder thinks the bodies really are somewhere else. Maybe Samantha’s is, too. Scully says that she’s going back to D.C.; there’s nothing more for them to do in Sacramento.

Mulder and Piller go to the mass grave site as Piller explains that his son disappeared under “strange circumstances” and was never found. One day, Piller started to see him. Mulder asks why walk-ins take children. Piller tells him that in most cases, the parents have a vision of the kids being dead. He thinks good spirits are responsible for those; they’re showing the fates the kids were going to meet. The spirits intervene and transform their fates into starlight, saving the kids.

In this instance, though, Piller knows that Ed’s victims all died horribly, pleading for their lives. He can see them. Mulder asks about Amber Lynn, but Piller says she was never there. However, he can sense a connection between her and Mulder. He can sense that Mulder lost a young girl close to him a long time ago. He guesses it was Mulder’s sister. He thinks Samantha and Amber Lynn also have a connection of some kind. Piller’s sure they’ll find them.

In a video from 1989, Mulder undergoes hypnosis to try to remember what happened the night of Samantha’s disappearance. Scully watches the tape with an agent named Schoniger, who says that Mulder seemed to really be in a hypnotic state. However, he thinks his guilt and fear are preventing him from remembering what really happened to Samantha. His delusion of abduction is playing into his hope that Samantha’s still alive.

Scully asks why Mulder has picked alien abduction as his theory for what happened. Schoniger thinks that in the 16 years between Samantha’s disappearance and Mulder’s first regression hypnotherapy in 1989, he saw a lot of imagery that he made fit. Schoniger guesses that Samantha was just kidnapped (by a human) and murdered. He wonders why Scully’s digging into the case. Scully says that someone owes it to Mulder. Schoniger thinks she should leave the past in the past, but Scully wants Mulder to get closure.

Mulder checks into a motel and falls asleep watching Planet of the Apes. Piller comes by to tell him he’s sensed a visitor who wants to tell them something. He tells Mulder to grab a pen and paper, then relays a message from Teena. It’s about Samantha. A vision of Teena appears behind Mulder, trying to say something to Piller, but she disappears before Piller can get anything from her. Mulder decides Piller is a fraud and kicks him out. But Piller sees that Mulder has written “April Base” without realizing it.

Scully goes back to Teena’s house and finds a scrap of paper that came from something she burned along with her pictures. The only thing she can make out are the letters CGBS. She calls Mulder (“Mulder, it’s me”) and tells him there was a Treasury Department investigation into Samantha’s disappearance. She’s matched the scrap of paper to a copy of the document in the investigation file that calls off the search for Samantha. CGBS are the initials of the person who ended the search – C.G.B. Spender, AKA CSM.

Mulder isn’t surprised that CSM was involved in the investigation, since he was a friend of Bill Mulder’s. He doesn’t think there’s any reason to try to contact him and ask questions. Besides, Mulder’s busy checking out April Air Force Base with Piller. It’s decommissioned, so Mulder doesn’t think it hold any answers for them. Piller accuses him of being afraid of finding out the truth. The base must be important, since Mulder wrote the name down himself. Mulder wonders why it’s so important to Piller.

Scully arrives home to find CSM waiting for her. She thinks he’s sick, since he doesn’t look well, and he tells her he had an operation. She confronts him over ending the search for Samantha. CSM says he did it because he knew no one would find her – she’s dead. Scully asks why he didn’t say anything earlier. Why let Mulder keep believing she’s alive. CSM insists that he was just being kind. Otherwise, Mulder wouldn’t have had any hope.

Mulder and Piller return to the base after dark and climb the fence that’s there to keep people out. Piller senses that Samantha was there, but he can’t determine which house she was in. As they’re hiding from an officer driving around the base, Mulder finds handprints in some cement, with Samantha’s name written next to them. There’s also a set of handprints labeled “Jeffrey.”

Scully comes to Sacramento and gets filled in. Mulder believes that Samantha was abducted and returned, then lived with the Spenders. Scully tells him that CSM said Samantha is dead. Of course, Mulder thinks he lied, but Scully doesn’t think he has a reason to lie. She believes that Piller has been lying to Mulder this whole time.

The agents confront Piller with information he didn’t provide before: He’s the main suspect in his son’s murder, and he’s been institutionalized for schizophrenia. Piller thinks Mulder should believe him anyway, considering what he’s shown Mulder. He has no reason to mislead Mulder. They have the same goal, and Piller thinks his gift is meant to help people. He wants to prove that Samantha is really out there.

The three go back to the base and enter the Spenders’ empty house. Piller tells them to hold hands while he tries to summon the family’s presences. Scully is adequately sarcastic, while Mulder hopes they play spin the bottle afterward. Visions appear, and a boy takes Mulder to one of the bedrooms. He finds a diary that Piller tells him was Samantha’s.

Mulder and Scully read the diary in a diner, learning that Samantha underwent tests as late as 1979. She only has a few memories of her past, but is able to remember Mulder. She hopes someday he reads her diary. The last passage is about how Samantha wants to run away. As they leave the diner, Mulder looks up at the stars and talks about how old the light is by the time we see it. It starts at the beginning of time and will continue to the future. Maybe they’re souls looking for homes. Mulder wonders what Teena was trying to tell him.

The agents split up to get some sleep, and a vision of Teena visits her son to whisper something in his ear. The next morning, Scully brings Mulder a page from a 1979 police department blotter about a runaway matching Samantha’s description. They look through hospital records to find out if Samantha was a patient under a fake name. Mulder finds a file on a Jane Doe who was paranoid and had been abused. He thinks CSM lied about Samantha being dead because she’s still alive.

Scully points out that 1979 was 21 years ago, and they have no idea where Samantha could be now. They don’t know who released her from the hospital, but they do have the name of the nurse who signed her into the ER. When the two of them and Piller go to the nurse’s house, Mulder gets the feeling that this is the end of the road, and he’s finally about to learn the truth.

Scully and Piller go up to the house first and speak to the nurse, Arbutus (…what?) Ray. She had a vision of the girl, dead, but no one believed her. Somehow, it made sense to her. Some men came to get the girl, and the one Arbutus thought was her father glared when she asked him to put out his cigarette. She took the men to the girl’s room, which was locked, but she had vanished.

The boy from the Spenders’ apartment leads Mulder to a clearing where a bunch of ghostly children are playing. Mulder recognizes Amber Lynn, who gives him a smile. Samantha runs up to her brother and hugs him, appearing almost real for a moment. When Mulder rejoins Scully and Piller, he repeats that this is the end of the road. He saw Piller’s son and knows that all the missing kids are dead, but they’re okay. Piller needs to let go. Now Piller’s the skeptic, refusing to believe Mulder. Mulder can’t explain what happened, but he tells Scully he’s fine: “I’m free.”

Thoughts: Piller calling himself a police psychic makes me want an X-Files/Psych crossover so badly.

Who’s responsible for letting Mulder wear his hair the way he did in 1989?

I’m not saying a so-called psychic is reliable, but if my choices are believe him or believe CSM, I’m siding with the psychic.

But seriously: Arbutus?

April 7, 2018

The X-Files 7.10, Sein und Zeit: No One Shoots at Santa Claus

Posted in TV tagged , , at 1:14 pm by Jenn

If I were Skinner and didn’t know that Mulder’s mom had just died, I would totally think they’d hooked up

Summary: A little girl named Amber Lynn LaPierre is praying before bed as her parents look on proudly but slightly impatiently. Her father, Bud, then goes to watch crime show on TV while her mother, Billie, gets ready for bed herself. She suddenly stops and goes to her closet, pulling out a dress. Bud hears her rifling through drawers, finding a pen so she can write a note stating that she’s kidnapped Amber Lynn.

Bud checks on his daughter and first thinks she’s dead, but she’s okay. In her bedroom, Billie keeps writing, ending her note with, “No one shoots at Santa Claus!” As Bud is leaving Amber Lynn’s room, he hears a bang and sees blood seeping under Amber Lynn’s bedroom door. He has to break down the door, and when he finally makes it in, Amber Lynn is gone.

FBI agents convene in the middle of the night to start searching for the apparent kidnapping victim. Mulder comes in, despite not being summoned; Skinner doesn’t see a point in involving him since it doesn’t appear to be an X-File. Mulder thinks the case will turn into a circus, and the right questions won’t get asked. Skinner gives in, giving him until noon to question Bud and Billie. He adds that the other agents have a pool going and believe that Amber Lynn is dead.

Mulder heads to Sacramento, where police and reporters are outside the LaPierres’ house, looking for answers. The couple has already called in a lawyer, Harry Bring, though his specialty is real estate law. Mulder asks if he’s ever handled a murder case – even though Amber Lynn hasn’t been declared dead, Mulder thinks that’s how this case will end. He tells Bring that if he really wants to help the LaPierres, he’ll get them a real lawyer.

Bud tells Mulder they’ll talk to him, since they have nothing to hide. Mulder asks about the note found in Amber Lynn’s bedroom around the time of her disappearance. He wants details, like what Bud was watching on TV. Bud says he’d never heard of it, but he liked it. Billie says she was asleep when Amber Lynn vanished.

The couple says they always lock their doors at night, and don’t know of anyone who would want to hurt their daughter. Billie’s getting upset, so Bring tries to end the conversation. Mulder tells the LaPierres that no matter what the FBI says or does, they’ll do everything they can to try to find Amber Lynn. Billie asks if they’ll succeed, but all Mulder can say is that he hopes so.

Scully arrives in Sacramento and finds Mulder lying awake in his motel room. He’s watching TV in the dark and doesn’t want her to turn on the light. She warns that Skinner’s mad at him, since Mulder missed his noon deadline. He’s sent Scully to get Mulder’s report. The media found out what the FBI is investigating, and the LaPierres are being held for questioning. Mulder says they didn’t hurt Amber Lynn, despite what the facts say: He knows they lied about where they found the note.

Mulder’s watching the news, and the story of Amber Lynn’s disappearance is drawing parallels to the story of Susan Smith’s crimes and JonBenet Ramsey’s murder. Scully notes that people have a “morbid fascination with the killing of an innocent.” Mulder announces that Amber Lynn isn’t dead. He answers a call from his mother, who has guessed that he’s working on Amber Lynn’s case. She asks him to call her when he gets home from Sacramento.

Back in D.C., the FBI examines the note, which doesn’t demand a ransom. The note was written on the kind of paper used by dry cleaners to protect clothes, and the page it was torn from was found in the LaPierres’ trash. The pen it was written with was also in the trash, and only has Billie’s fingerprints on it. However, they haven’t been able to determine definitively if the handwriting is Billie’s.

Mulder tells the task force that there are pieces of the story that don’t make sense. Bud was watching TV when he went to check on Amber Lynn; he turned it off when he went to her room, but it was on when the police first arrived. Mulder also finds it strange that no one noticed any strangers sneaking around the property, even though it wasn’t that late at night. Someone suggests that Bud is lying for Billie, but Mulder says that doesn’t explain what happened to Amber Lynn.

He leaves the meeting and searches a file cabinet in his office, trying to figure out why “no one shoots at Santa Claus” seems familiar. Scully follows him and tells him he’s personalizing the case because he’s connecting it to Samantha’s disappearance. Mulder points out that he’s never suggested that aliens had anything to do with Amber Lynn’s disappearance. Scully warns that the other agents on the task force don’t have the patience for Mulder to question their work. Mulder thinks he’s right, though: He’s found a note just like the one at the LaPierres’, from a case in 1987.

As a creeper in a van videotapes kids in California, Mulder and Scully go to a women’s prison to speak to a prisoner named Kathy Lee. In 1987, her six-year-old son Dean was taken from his bedroom, and the note left behind was found to be written by Kathy Lee. She was convicted, and Dean’s body has never been found. She testified that she had a vision of her son being dead the night he disappeared. Three years later, she changed her story and confessed to killing him during a psychotic break. Kathy Lee says she was “full of rage.”

Mulder shows her the note she supposedly wrote and asks what the phrase about Santa means. She says that no one would hurt a person like Santa, who brings you gifts, since that would compromise your chances of receiving those gifts. Mulder tells her about Amber Lynn’s disappearance and the note left behind. He tells Kathy Lee that both disappearances are similar, and, like Dean, Amber Lynn’s body hasn’t been found. Kathy Lee notes that she told the police where Dean’s body was, but it wasn’t really there.

Mulder presses Kathy Lee to explain what really happened to Dean, but she can’t. He knows it’s because she didn’t kill him. She only changed her story because she thought pleading insanity could get her paroled. Mulder needs her to assure the LaPierres that things will be okay. Kathy Lee she’s not the person to do that. As they leave, Scully blasts Mulder for acting unprofessionally. She can’t explain the matching notes, but she’s sure that Mulder’s personalizing the case. He says he’s not, and he’s going to find the missing kids. Scully warns him not to go in search of something he doesn’t want to find.

Back in her cell, Kathy Lee sees a ghostly vision of a little boy. She asks a guard to bring the agents back. Meanwhile, Teena calls Mulder again, leaving a message on his answering machine as she burns pictures of her children. She tells him there are a lot of things she hasn’t told him, and she hopes that one day, he’ll understand.

Mulder shows the LaPierres a tape of Kathy Lee telling them that Amber Lynn is okay. She knows they’re afraid of the truth because they’ve seen scary things, like she did. She doesn’t remember writing the note; it was like they wrote themselves. Kathy Lee knows in her heart that Dean is safe and in a better place.

The LaPierres are released, due to lack of evidence. The creeper from the van watches Mulder give a press conference while also watching multiple TVs showing footage he’s recorded of children playing, including Amber. There’s also a screen showing a man dressed as Santa. Mulder says that the LaPierres are no longer the main suspects in the investigation, and the FBI is hopeful that they’ll find Amber Lynn.

Skinner slams Mulder for making a connection between Amber Lynn and Dean’s disappearances when there’s no evidence that they’re connected. Mulder says that nothing else makes sense in the real world. Skinner points out that he has to live in the real world. He’s upset that Mulder talked his way onto the case, then gave the main suspects a defense. Scully interrupts to tell Mulder that Teena is dead.

The two of them go to Teena’s house in Connecticut, where it appears that she killed herself with both an overdose and gas from her oven. Mulder insists that she wouldn’t, and questions the missing pictures of him and Samantha. He thinks Teena wanted to tell him something about Amber Lynn, but couldn’t do it over the phone, in case the people who took Samantha overheard and went after her. Everything in the house seems staged, like someone murdered Teena and then arranged the scene to look like a suicide.

Mulder wants Scully to perform the autopsy and look for a needle puncture. Scully resists, since they’re friends, but Mulder knows that this is the only way he can learn the truth. He goes back to see Kathy Lee, wanting to understand the things she’s seen. He thinks she knows why Teena’s dead. Mulder offers to talk to the parole board on Kathy Lee’s behalf if she helps him. He tells her about Samantha, which makes Kathy Lee think that Teena wanted to tell him that she’d seen “the walk-ins.” They’re “old souls looking for new homes,” and Kathy Lee thinks Samantha is among them.

She continues that it’s hard to see them because they “live in the starlight.” Mulder asks if this means Samantha’s dead, but Kathy Lee just says that she was taken. She suffered harm in her life, like Dean, and now they’re being protected. Kathy Lee doesn’t know where they are, but they’re okay. At Santa’s North Pole Village, a kind of rundown play place, some kids are ready to see Santa. The creeper from the van goes to his workshop to get ready. This is where all his screens are, and where he keeps his Santa suit.

In D.C., Mulder listens to Teena’s message on his machine over and over, trying to figure out what she wanted to tell him. Scully arrives, and Mulder tells her that he thinks Teena wanted to talk about Samantha. She somehow knew that Samantha and Amber Lynn’s disappearances are connected. Mulder thinks Teena wrote a note like Kathy Lee and Billie did. If Kathy Lee’s right about walk-ins, Samantha was never abducted by aliens. Mulder’s been looking for her in the wrong place this whole time.

Scully has done the autopsy, and she can confirm that Teena killed herself. She had Paget’s carcinoma, an untreatable disease that would have eventually left her disfigured. Mulder tries to process this, then starts crying and insists that Teena was trying to tell him something. Scully thinks she was trying to tell him to stop looking for Samantha. She wanted to take away his pain.

That night, as Billie and Bud go to bed, Billie sees a ghostly vision of Amber Lynn. The next day, Skinner goes to Mulder’s apartment, where Scully has spent the night tending to her partner. He tells the agents that Billie wants to talk to Mulder, so they all need to go back to Sacramento. There, Billie tells the agents about her vision of Amber Lynn; she thinks her daughter was trying to say something to her. Billie isn’t sure, but she thinks it was the number 74.

Mulder thinks there’s no point in investigating, since they’re not going to find Amber Lynn. If Billie saw her as a ghost, they won’t find her alive and should stop hoping they will. The agents still can’t explain the note, though. Mulder finally acknowledges that he’s too close to the case, and since he’s just suffered a personal loss, he’d like to take some time off.

As the agents head to the airport, Scully sees a road sign for highway 74. She checks a map and sees that the highway goes to Santa’s North Pole Village. Remembering the reference to Santa in the notes, she tells Skinner to take them there. They search the place and find the creeper’s collection of videotapes, which go back to the ’60s. Mulder worries that Samantha will be on one of the tapes. Instead, Scully finds the one of Amber, dated two days before she disappeared.

The creeper arrives and locks the agents in his workroom, but Skinner’s still outside and catches him trying to run. There’s a chase, but when Skinner fires his gun in the air (so he’s shooting near Santa, but not at him), the creeper decides to just give up and let himself be arrested. While Scully reads the creeper his rights, Mulder looks around the property and finds a bunch of unmarked graves. To be continued…

Thoughts: The episode title is confusing, since it means “signs and wonders” but has nothing to do with that episode.

Mark Rolston (Bud) also played Odin in “Red Museum,” so I can’t blame the FBI for being suspicious of him here.

This episode may have the creepiest opening of any episode in the whole series.

Santa’s North Pole Village just makes me think of Nos4A2, which makes it even spookier.

 

March 31, 2018

The X-Files 7.9, Signs and Wonders: This Case Has Mulder and Scully Rattled

Posted in TV tagged at 1:22 pm by Jenn

Not once in this episode does Mulder say, “Why did it have to be snakes?” I’m disappointed

Summary: In Blessing, Tennessee, a man gets upset about some medical test results and tears them up. He starts praying for protection as he packs a suitcase. Someone’s in his yard, but he doesn’t see who it is. As the man loads a gun, he hears the rattle of a rattlesnake. He hurries outside to his car, locks the door, and prepares to rive off into the night. He drops his keys, and when he goes to pick them up, a snake slithers out. Suddenly there are snakes everywhere, and the man can’t get out of the car. He tries shooting the snakes, but it’s not enough.

In his office, Mulder studies up on snakes before presenting the case to Scully. He explains that the man, Jared, died from more than a hundred snake bites from 50 different snakes. No snakes were found in the still-locked car when Jared’s body was discovered. The mystery deepens because the kinds of snakes that supposedly killed Jared usually hibernate in the winter. There was no sign of any humans other than Jared being at the scene of his death. Mulder’s stumped.

Scully suggests that the snakes were symbolic, since they’ve long been tied to religion, seen as serving evil. Mulder wonders if these snakes actually did serve evil. “Are you going to type that into our travel request?” Scully asks. Mulder agrees that the case involves religion, and says Scully isn’t the first person to suggest that.

At Jared’s funeral, Blessing Community Church’s Reverend Samuel Mackey tries to assure Jared’s pregnant girlfriend, Gracie, that Jared is in a better place now. The agents arrive just after the service and ask to speak to Mackey. He says he’s already spoken to the authorities, as he had questions about how Jared died. He doesn’t want to cast aspersions on anyone’s beliefs, but he knows that before Jared came to Blessing Community Church, he worshiped at the Church of God with Signs and Wonders. They handle snakes, believing God protects them from harm.

Mulder asks why Jared left his previous church. Mackey says he and Gracie both agreed it was too dangerous, and were both persecuted by the other parishioners. Mackey blames the church’s leader, Enoch O’Connor. Scully wonders if that’s enough of a motive for O’Connor to murder Jared.

The agents go to the Church of God with Signs and Wonders, and Mulder makes a requisite snake-handling/male anatomy joke. The church doesn’t have electricity, so the agents have to turn on their trust flashlights to search the building. Scully scoffs at snake handling, but Mulder doesn’t think it’s any stranger to believe in than communion wafers or transubstantiation. Scully adds UFOs to the list. Mulder reminds her that her Catholicism and O’Connor’s religion are based on the same book.

A snake watches as the agents find a box that they think might contain more slithery friends. It’s empty, which Scully finds more disturbing than the idea of it containing snakes. Suddenly snakes fill the room, and the agents pull their guns. O’Connor arrives and tells them that if they’re righteous, they don’t need to be afraid. Mulder would like more assistance, just on the off chance that he’s not righteous enough to be protected from a rattlesnake bite.

O’Connor tells the agents that Jared “strayed from the path,” and O’Connor’s sorry for his death but has nothing else to say. Mulder asks about Jared’s cause of death. O’Connor says it was “a test of faith, a test of righteousness.” The devil tested Jared, and obviously he was on the wrong side. Scully asks if he’s really talking about his own test. O’Connor says he doesn’t think the agents know which side they’re on, but he does.

Mulder and Scully leave as she complains that he dragged her to Tennessee and landed her in room with a bunch of deadly snakes. Mulder says that O’Connor was in Kentucky the night Jared died, so he couldn’t be the killer. But since Jared had packed to go somewhere, someone must know where he was headed.

At the funeral reception, Iris, a woman from the church, tends to Gracie, then tells Mackey that Jared called her boardinghouse the night he died, wanting to talk to Gracie. She was asleep, so Iris didn’t bring her to the phone. She thinks Jared was drunk; he was ranting about the devil and paying for his sins. Iris feels horrible that she didn’t let Gracie talk to Jared on his last night alive (not that she knew at the time that it would be his last night).

Back at Signs and Wonders, there’s a revival-type service going on. O’Connor tells his congregation that they must be either hot or cold, because God hates people who are lukewarm. At the community church, Mackey leads a Bible study on the same scripture passage, though much more calmly. Mackey lays hands on a parishioner and tells everyone that God wants them to be on fire. He brings out some snakes and starts spasming, I guess because he’s so on fire with the Holy Spirit.

At the community church, Iris puts together bulletins for Sunday’s service. Her staple remover turns into a snake’s head and bites her. The snake handling continues at Signs and Wonders, as Mackey says that God is blessing His people and destroying His enemies. Iris is washing her wound in the bathroom sink when snakes crawl out of the drain and attack her.

The agents return to the church as Iris’ body is taken away. Mackey tells Mulder about Jared calling Gracie the night he died. Mackey and Iris didn’t finish their conversation, but Mulder thinks that’s the point. He joins Scully as she tells Gracie that they think O’Connor may be connected to Jared and Iris’ deaths. Gracie disagrees – this is the work of Satan, not anyone human. Scully notes that that sounds like something O’Connor would say.

The agents encourage her to keep an open mind, but she still insists that O’Connor didn’t have anything to do with the two deaths. She would know better than anyone. Mackey notes that she might be biased, and Mulder puts it together – Gracie is O’Connor’s daughter. When Gracie got pregnant out of wedlock, her father barred her and Jared from the church, and Gracie from the family’s home.

Mulder and Scully go back to Signs and Wonders, though Scully doesn’t want to go back inside. Mulder sees a wall of pictures reminding parishioners of the lost souls they need to pray for. Jared and Gracie’s pictures are there, as is one of Gracie’s mother, Alice. Scully finds a shed full of snake boxes, and as she turns to leave, she runs into O’Connor. He tells her she must be judged and opens a box. He forces her hand near a snake, ordering her to repent. Mulder arrives and gets O’Connor to let Scully go.

They take O’Connor to the local sheriff’s station, though O’Connor thinks Scully would have learned something about herself if Mulder had let them continue. It would have been good news. Mulder asks if O’Connor did the same thing to Alice as he did to Scully – Alice died of multiple snake bites during a church service six years ago. Well, according to O’Connor, that’s what happened, but Mulder thinks he killed her. Was she unrighteous, like Jared and Iris?

O’Connor mocks Mulder for being educated but “too smart to know any better.” He doesn’t realize that Satan is close by. He’s too proud. Mulder asks if O’Connor is enacting Old Testament-style revenge. What does he have planned for Gracie? O’Connor says he prays for his daughter because she’s lost. He tells Mulder he’s not as smart as he thinks. He has to be a different kind of smart down here; otherwise the devil will make a fool of him.

Gracie tells Scully that she changed her mind and doesn’t want to see her father. Scully asks if she still believes O’Connor is innocent. Gracie says it doesn’t matter – “he’ll be judged as he deserves.” O’Connor spends the night alone in lockup, getting up in the middle of the night to pray. His snake friends come to visit, filling his cell.

Multiple bites land O’Connor in the hospital, and though Scully thinks this means he’s innocent, Mulder thinks he did this to himself. Gracie was contacted, and she refuses to let the doctors give her father the antivenom he needs. She’s citing religious grounds, saying that God gets to decide what happens to O’Connor. Scully thinks this makes Gracie look like a new suspect. Mulder agrees that she could be angry enough with her father to attack him, but not Jared and Iris.

The agents to go Jared’s house, where Mulder walks through what he thinks happened: Jared was scared and wanted to leave town with Gracie. They talk about religious tolerance, and how it could be powerful to have someone offer you what you thought were all the answers. They find the medical results Jared threw out and see that he learned the day he died that he was infertile. That means he’s not the father of Gracie’s baby. Scully wonders if someone killed him to keep that information secret.

Mackey joins Gracie at the hospital, where she’s watching her father sleep. Mackey asks her to reconsider approving his treatment, but Gracie knows that O’Connor would want to let God decide what happens to him. He’s recovered from bites before. Mackey wonders if Gracie doesn’t want her father to get better. Gracie says the decision isn’t for her; she can’t risk O’Connor’s soul. Mackey reminds her that when she first came to his church, she said she wanted to live her own life and make her own decisions. If she lets God make the call here, is she making her own decisions, or living O’Connor’s beliefs?

Gracie agrees to the treatment, but when Mackey goes to tell the doctors, O’Connor’s heart rate speeds up and his wounds start oozing…something really gross. He wakes up and grabs Gracie’s hand. By the time the agents arrive, O’Connor and Gracie have both fled. Mulder thinks O’Connor took his daughter somewhere, though Scully finds that ridiculous, since he was just on his deathbed. Plus, what would be his motive? Mackey thinks he knows, and tells them that Jared wasn’t the baby’s father. Scully guesses that it’s actually O’Connor.

O’Connor takes Gracie to Signs and Wonders, telling her he’s bringing her home. The parishioners are all there, ready for a special service. O’Connor dunks Gracie in water, praying for healing as she worries that something’s wrong with the baby. She’s right, since the baby is actually a bunch of snakes.

The agents get there too late again, though at least Gracie’s still alive. There’s no baby, and the parishioners won’t talk. Mulder realizes that Gracie gave birth to snakes, though a parishioner prefers to think of the delivery as the devil being cast out. Mulder heads off to find O’Connor, leaving Scully with Gracie.

O’Connor turns up at Mackey’s church, accusing Mackey of stealing what was most important to him. Mackey argues that Gracie fled Signs and Wonders on her own, simultaneously fleeing a vengeful God and a horrible father. O’Connor starts to attack Mackey with a knife, but Mulder finally makes it somewhere on time and shoots O’Connor before he can do any harm.

Gracie wakes up in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and asks Scully where her father is. She tells Scully that O’Connor didn’t hurt her – he saved her. Mulder tells O’Connor that help is coming, in the form of an ambulance, but O’Connor says it’s not. He reminds Mulder that he doesn’t know which side he’s on. He repeats what he said before about having to be smart “down here.”

Mulder somehow figures out that Mackey is the real killer. Jared realized that he wasn’t the baby’s father, and that O’Connor was. Mackey killed him to keep him quiet, then killed Iris because she was getting closer to the truth. Mulder thinks all of this has been part of a plan to destroy O’Connor. Mackey asks if Mulder’s a righteous man. “Most people believe that they’re on the side of angels, but are they?” he asks. The doors to the room they’re in close on their own, and snakes appear. Mackey asks what Mulder would do if he were put to the test.

Scully gets to the church and finds O’Connor bleeding but mostly okay. He tells her she can’t help Mulder; “this is his alone.” She hears her partner yelling and finds him on the floor, bleeding from a snake bite but not horribly injured. Mackey is gone.

Recovering in the hospital, Mulder tells Scully that Mackey will probably never be found. People think the devil has a tail and horns, and would never expect him to be a human who tells you things you want to hear. Scully says Mackey’s just a man, like O’Connor. Mulder disagrees, saying that if this was a test, he failed. Scully thinks he passed just by not dying. In Hamden, Connecticut, Mackey is now going by Wells, and has taken over as the reverend at a church there. He chats with a parishioner, then lets the snake that lives inside him snack on a live mouse.

Thoughts: Gracie is played by Tracy Middendorf. Iris is played by Beth Grant, who continues to doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion.

For the last time, show: The book is Revelation, not Revelations. Though my guess is that O’Connor didn’t go to divinity school, so he probably wouldn’t know.

Shouldn’t Mulder and Scully have searched Jared’s house right away? Wouldn’t that be the first place to search, especially since he died on the property?

March 24, 2018

The X-Files 7.8, The Amazing Maleeni: Do You Believe in Magic?

Posted in TV tagged at 1:28 pm by Jenn

Now imagine an episode where Scully has to go undercover as a magician’s assistant

Summary: The Amazing Maleeni has come to the Santa Monica Pier to put on a magic show – in fact, he declares that it will be his greatest show ever. He attracts a modest crowd, then performs a trick with disappearing balls that reappear under cups. A heckler in the crowd isn’t impressed by his old tricks. Maleeni asks if he should come heckle the heckler at his job counting nuggets at McDonald’s.

For his last trick, Maleeni announces that he’ll reattach a severed head, a feat that has never been performed successfully. He then rotates his head all the way around. The crowd is thrilled, but the heckler won’t give a reaction. The show coordinator walks Maleeni to his van, then goes to get his money. When he returns, Maleeni is dead, having been decapitated.

Mulder and Scully head to Santa Monica to figure out what happened. Scully doesn’t think Maleeni’s magic show had anything to do with his murder. Mulder points out that there are no fingerprints or blood in the van; no one saw the murderer fleeing the scene or heard Maleeni cry out. He thinks they’re dealing with a magic trick that went wrong.

A tourist videotaped the magic show, so the agents are able to see it for themselves. They focus on the heckler, who Scully thinks could be the killer. They can’t see his face on the tape, but he threw out a soda cup, which has his fingerprints on it. Sadly, we are spared a scene of Mulder and Scully Dumpster-diving.

The agents easily find the heckler, Billy LaBonge, who’s a magician himself. He was once convicted for pickpocketing, which he calls “performance art.” Billy tells the agents that Maleeni named himself after a turn-of-the-century magician named Max Malini, but he didn’t live up to his namesake’s skill. Mulder asks about the head-rotating trick. Billy demonstrates that he can do the same thing with his wrist, so it’s not exactly magic.

He does a coin trick and tells the agents that he and Maleeni are like Mozart and Salieri. They sound similar to a layman, but they’re not. It’s all about originality, style, and soul. Maleeni was a hack, but Billy’s a great magician because of his soul. Energies beyond our mortal understanding are involved here. Mulder wonders if those energies could have led to Maleeni’s decapitation.

Billy says Maleeni had some huge debts that could have gotten him murdered. As the agents turn to leave, Billy reveals that he stole their badges without them noticing. Mulder wonders which magician is Mozart and which is Salieri. Scully doesn’t think it matters – Billy’s professional jealousy is enough of a motive to suspect him of murder. Mulder isn’t convinced that Maleeni was murdered, though.

Scully thinks his autopsy will back up her theory, but she’s wrong. Maleeni’s head appears to have been sawed off slowly, so it couldn’t have happened in that brief time the show coordinator was gone. There’s spirit gum on his neck, indicating that it held his head onto his body. Also, he died of a heart attack more than a month ago. Scully suspects that the magician who performed at the pier wasn’t the same man whose body they’re looking at.

Billy goes to a bar to meet up with a heavily tattooed man named Cissy Alvarez. They did time together, but Cissy doesn’t remember Billy. Billy knows that Cissy won a ton of money from Maleeni (real name: Herman Pinchbeck) in a poker game, and since Billy claims he’s the one who made Maleeni’s head fall off, he wants Maleeni’s marker. He promises to repay Maleeni’s debt times 10, but he’ll need Cissy’s help with some magic. To prove his skills, Billy lights his own hand on fire, then produces Cissy’s wallet.

The agents go to a branch of Cradock Marine Bank to meet with Albert Pinchbeck, Herman’s brother. When they see that the brothers were identical twins, the case gets even more intriguing. Albert, who thinks the agents are married (aren’t they, though?), is wearing a neck brace and says he was in a car accident in Mexico. He and Herman performed together in the ’70s, as Albert proves with a card trick, but Herman had bigger ambitions. The brothers weren’t close after Albert left their act.

Mulder spells out what he thinks happened: Herman died of a heart attack, and Albert felt bad that he didn’t accomplish his goals, so he performed Herman’s final show for him. He wanted to end with a shock that would make him memorable. Albert wishes that were true, but it would have been physically impossible: The car accident that left him with a neck injury also led to him losing both of his legs.

As the agents leave, Mulder wonders why Maleeni did the head-rotating trick in the first place. Did he just want attention? Scully suggests that they consult Mozart. They go back to Billy, who asks what he gets in exchange for helping the agents. Mulder notes that he would get the chance to dig into Maleeni’s secrets. They give him access to Maleeni’s van, where he finds a hat with a dove in it, and a gun that shoots out a banner that reads “BANG!”

Billy thinks that someone just impersonated Maleeni, then switched out the body using misdirection, the magician’s most trusty trick. He guesses that the van has a false floor, but he’s wrong. He realizes Maleeni was a better magician than he thought. Mulder finds Herman’s marker from Cissy in the van.

Back at the bank, Albert signs for a transfer of money and chats with one of the armed guards in charge of it. He asks to see the guard’s gun, saying he’s been thinking of buying one. When Albert goes back to his office, Cissy joins him and demands that Albert pay Herman’s debts. Meanwhile, the armed guards hear a noise from the back of their truck and pull over. A man with tattooed hands emerges from the piles of bag. One of the guards shoots him four times, then goes to get his partner. When they return, the man is gone. Moments later, so are his tattoos – he’s Billy, and he inked on the tattoos to look like Cissy.

The agents visit Cissy at the bar to find out if Cissy killed Herman over his $20,000 debt. Cissy has an alibi for the time of the murder and doesn’t think he had a motive anyway. After all, if Herman was dead, he couldn’t pay his debts. Mulder asks why Cissy would play poker with someone who does card tricks. Cissy says Maleeni was a horrible poker player, which Mulder finds very interesting. Scully thinks he wasn’t as good a magician as Mulder thinks. Mulder does a coin trick to demonstrate the important of misdirection. He thinks someone’s currently misdirecting them.

Billy watches from across the street as the agents leave, then uses a payphone to call 911 and report that a man with a gun is threatening to kill someone. He leaves the phone off the hook and goes to the bar. Cissy discovers that Herman’s marker is missing from his book and accuses Billy of trying to frame him. Before Cissy can attack him, Billy pulls out a gun. He runs out just as the police arrive and arrest him. He drops the gun, which was the fake “BANG!” pistol from Maleeni’s van.

The agents return to the bank, where Mulder dumps Albert from his wheelchair to prove that he’s not really an amputee. He’s also not really Albert – he’s Herman. He admits that he faked his death because he couldn’t pay his debts and was afraid for his life. Scully wonders why he didn’t manipulate the cards. Herman says he couldn’t live with himself if he cheated.

Scully asks what all this has to do with Albert’s decapitation. Herman explains that he found Albert dead when he went to ask for a loan. He felt down about never accomplishing anything, and he quickly put together a plan to take his brother’s identity. Scully asks why he left Albert’s body at the pier, or why he decapitated him. Herman confirms Mulder’s theory that he just wanted to end the show with a big shock. Mulder reaffirms that that was his last show – he’s going to jail.

Mulder searches the office, looking for the real reason Herman impersonated Albert. He thinks it’s about money. There’s no proof that Herman oversaw any unauthorized electronic fund transfers, so Herman removes his own handcuffs. Scully sees that there was an attempted robbery the day before, though Herman’s boss says that was on the armored truck, not the bank itself.

Since Herman signed out the truck and knew the schedule, the agents have reason to keep him in custody. The agents have no way of knowing that this is exactly what Herman wants. He’s taken to lockup and put in a cell right next to the one where Billy’s being held. The two men have been working together and are pleased that things are going just as they’d planned.

The next morning, the guards check out the bank vault, which is now empty. Herman’s been in lockup all night, so he’s not a suspect. Security footage from two days ago shows Cissy at the bank, and one of the guards recognizes his tattoos. Since Cissy was previously convicted of bank robbery, it’s not too much of a stretch to think he robbed again. The agents easily find the missing money at his bar. Cissy accuses Billy of setting him up. Mulder and Scully quickly realize that Billy and Maleeni are working together.

The magicians are released on bail, but the agents stop them before they can leave the police station. Mulder’s theory: Billy is Herman’s protégé and the two worked together to get revenge on Cissy for horrible things he did to Billy in prison. Herman lost on purpose at the poker game, and Billy planted the marker in the van so the agents would find it. They orchestrated the fake robbery to frame Cissy. When Herman checked out the guard’s gun, he loaded it with blanks, ensuring Billy’s safety.

The magicians used their pickpocketing skills to steal a key from a guard in lockup, then robbed the bank and planted the money in the bar. Herman notes that that would definitely be a memorable trick for him to go out on. Billy asks what happens next. Since there’s no evidence against the magicians, they get to go free, but Mulder tells them the magic needs to end. Herman says a great magician always knows when to leave the stage.

Mulder thinks he and Scully are actually the world’s greatest, since they saw through the magicians’ tricks. Mulder also stole Herman’s wallet from the evidence room, which means Herman and Billy can’t finish their plan. Framing Cissy was another act of misdirection. The plan was always about the electronic transfers. Herman didn’t have clearance, so he stole Mulder’s badge to get his number, then got his fingerprint during the card trick. But Herman kept the card with the fingerprint on it in his wallet, which Mulder now has. The magicians won’t be able to pull off their final trick.

Scully asks how Herman was able to do the head-rotating trick. Mulder admits that that’s one question he doesn’t have an answer to. Scully does Billy’s version of the trick with her wrist and calls it magic. Mulder wants a real explanation, since it’s not the same as doing the trick with your neck, but Scully won’t reveal her secrets.

Thoughts: Like “The Goldberg Variation,” this is a fun, underrated episode. It’s just not as memorable as “The Goldberg Variation.”

Ricky Jay and Jonathan Levit, who play Maleeni and Billy, are both magicians, which is smart casting. I hate when there’s a TV show or movie with a character who’s a magician, and they cut to someone else’s hands doing the tricks. Here, we get to see the characters doing what they’re supposed to be able to do.

I guess when a guy has that many tattoos and looks that menacing, you don’t make fun of him for being called Cissy.

March 17, 2018

The X-Files 7.7, Orison: Don’t Look Any Further

Posted in TV tagged at 1:18 pm by Jenn

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the bathtub…

Summary: A chaplain named Orison is talking to a group of prisoners about God’s love and how it can change them if they want it to. One of the prisoners is Donnie Pfaster, but he doesn’t seemed moved by the sermon. The other prisoners do, stomping their feet and chanting, “Glory! Amen!” with Orison as he sprinkles holy water on them.

They take their religious awakening with them when they go to work in a prison garment shop. A guard tells Donnie that he doesn’t think God could love a murderer. Donnie keeps his eyes on a prisoner’s feet as he uses the step pedal on a sewing machine. The prisoner suddenly cries out, having cut off his fingers. The other prisoners and guards gather around him, allowing Donnie the distraction he needs to walk out of the workroom.

Scully is woken by wind blowing through her open bedroom window. She checks her alarm clock, which reads 6:66. The power goes out, and when it comes back on, the clock reads 6:06. She then goes to Marion, Illinois, with Mulder to investigate Donnie’s escape from prison. The authorities in Illinois would like the agents’ help understanding Donnie, since they were the ones who captured him. The Marshal assigned to the case, Daddo, knows that the agents have experience with supernatural cases, but Scully tells him there’s nothing supernatural about Donnie – he’s just evil.

She goes to the room where Orison met with the prisoners and hears singing through a ceiling vent. Mulder finds her there and encourages her to come home, since her last encounter with Donnie did such a number on her. Scully feels like she doesn’t have a choice – she needs to find Donnie before he hurts anyone else.

Mulder tells Scully that Donnie is the third prisoner to escape a maximum-security facility in the area in the past few months. He left at exactly 6:06 that morning. Scully reacts to the time but asks what makes this case supernatural. Mulder says it’s strange enough that no one noticed Donnie leaving.

The agents question the man who cut himself in the garment shop. His hands are intact, and he doesn’t understand how, since he and everyone else in the room saw that his fingers had been cut off. The prisoner can’t explain it; he just says that God works in mysterious ways. Mulder raises his hand, and the prisoner says, “Glory. Amen,” tapping his foot.

Mulder thinks this is indicative of post-hypnotic suggestion. Scully doubts that Donnie used a “Vegas lounge act” to hypnotize everyone in the room so he could escape without them seeing. For starters, where did he learn that technique? Mulder thinks they should look at Orison, who served as chaplain at all the prisons people have escaped from. Scully hears music through the vent again and recognizes the song, “Don’t Look Any Further,” from her childhood.

Donnie has made it to Harrisburg, Illinois, where he goes to a diner and watches a waitress’ hands as she flips through order tickets. A woman sits down with him and he offers to give her a manicure. The waitress tries to kick her out, since she’s just looking for money and/or drugs. Orison arrives and chastises Donnie for wasting his freedom like this.

Daddo and some other Marshals pull up outside, and Donnie accuses Orison of calling them. Orison says it’s “within his power” to help them escape. He swings his car keys and says, “Glory. Amen.” The waitress suddenly screams – she’s being attacked by another patron. She swings a coffee pot at him in defense. The Marshals are distracted long enough to allow Donnie and Orison to flee.

Somehow, Donnie makes it to Orison’s car with the woman from the diner, but Orison is left on his own. Donnie runs him down with the car as he drives off. When Mulder and Scully arrive sometime later, Daddo tells them that the tip about Donnie being there must have been wrong, but Orison was there. Scully hears “Don’t Look Any Further” on the diner’s radio and asks the waitress to turn it up.

The agents then go to the hospital where Orison is being treated. He tells Scully not to worry about the escaped prisoners – “God has them.” She says the case has nothing to do with her, but Orison disagrees. He knows that Scully has faith in God, and she hears Him calling to her, but she isn’t sure what to do. Scully figures he’s just making educated guesses because he noticed her cross necklace.

Orison continues that Scully is “longing but afraid, waiting for a sign.” There are signs everywhere, and there are reasons for everything. He calls her Scout, which makes her freeze. Orison says that the devil is always waiting “for but an instant.” But “the devil’s instant is our eternity.”

Mulder joins them and asks how Orison does his hypnosis trick. He says he’s just a messenger. Mulder shows him a picture of the woman from the diner, dead in a blood-filled bathtub, Donnie’s signature crime scene. He thinks Orison freed Donnie so he could kill him. He’s discovered that Orison was convicted of murder in 1959 and spent 22 years in solitary confinement. Orison says that God spoke to him and told him to “look after” the escaped prisoners. Mulder asks if God mentioned Donnie’s plans during that conversation.

Mulder wants to prove that Orison’s lying, but Scully doesn’t think he can prove that someone isn’t being directed by God. Mulder argues that God is just a spectator who “reads the box scores.” He doesn’t think God would tell someone to commit murder. Scully argues that the escaped prisoners might not be dead. She thinks Orison truly believes that God is working through him. Mulder asks if Scully thinks God has ever spoken to her. She’s offended but admits that she finds it meaningful that she keeps hearing the same song.

Scully reveals that when she was 13, she was listening to “Don’t Look Any Further” when her mother told her that her Sunday School teacher had been murdered. It was the first time she realized there’s true evil in the world. Orison called her Scout, which is what her Sunday School teacher called her. Scully mentions the time on the clock as well. Mulder thinks he can prove that God isn’t really trying to say something to her.

Donnie listens to a news report about himself on the radio, then looks through the supplies in Orison’s car. He’s left his driver’s license and house key, so Donnie now has a place to hide out. Back at the hospital, Mulder shows Scully a scan of Orison’s brain, which shows swelling – not from being hit by a car, but because Orison did some sort of procedure to himself to increase blood flow. Mulder thinks this is how Orison developed his powers of hypnosis, allowing him to alter reality.

Scully asks why he would do this. Mulder thinks that Orison believes that Donnie should have died instead of being sentenced to life in prison. Maybe he thought he was “opening the doors of perception,” but instead he accidentally opened the gates of Hell. At the hospital, Orison lies awake in bed under the watchful eye of a Marshal. “Glory. Amen,” Orison says a few times, slowing his heart rate. He makes the Marshal freeze, allowing Orison to steal his gun.

Donnie holes up in Orison’s apartment and orders up an escort. He likes her manicure and red hair. He does his typical thing with her, having her get in the bath and then offering her hair products. She thinks he’s being weird and decides to leave. As she’s getting out of the tub, he realizes her hair is a wig and accuses her and “they” of lying to him. Donnie hits her, but she hits back, knocking him out.

In the morning, the agents go to Orison’s room and find the Marshal still in his hypnotic state. Orison is long gone, and the Marshal has no idea what happened. Scully finds a note Orison left: “Don’t look any further.” Mulder guesses that he overheard them talking in the hallway the day before, but Scully’s sure that she didn’t mention the name of the song she’s been hearing.

Donnie regains consciousness to find Orison in the bathroom with him, ready to take him “home.” Orison recites scripture about the wicked being punished. He digs a grave and tells Donnie to pray for God’s love. If he believes, he’ll repent, and God will show him the way to Heaven. Donnie cries, and Orison urges him to beg forgiveness for his crimes. He asks if Donnie’s crying for his sins or for himself. Donnie says he’s crying for Orison because Orison can’t kill him. He turns into a demon.

Orison’s body is found the next day, buried in the grave he was digging for Donnie. Scully tells Mulder he was right about her looking for connections that weren’t there. Orison was just a murderer who wanted to pass judgment on other killers. Mulder thinks the case is over and the Marshals should take over. Scully shouldn’t look any further.

Of course, it’s not that simple (and there are still ten minutes left in the episode). Donnie goes to D.C. and lets himself into Scully’s apartment, finding her Bible by her bed. He puts it in a drawer. Scully comes home and gets ready to take a shower, but her clock is reading 6:66 again. The power goes out, and Scully quickly realizes that she’s not alone in the apartment.

The escort has called the proper authorities, and someone leaves a message on Mulder’s machine letting him know that she had a run-in with Donnie. He wonders if it’s significant that Donnie was upset that the escort wasn’t a natural redhead. Meanwhile, Donnie wrestles with his favorite redhead, trying to choke her. She gouges his eyes and grabs her gun, but he throws her into a mirror and she drops it. She hits him with anything she can reach, fighting relentlessly, and finally gets away.

Donnie chases her and stops her from calling for help. Scully tells him to go back to Hell as he overpowers her. He asks who does her nails. She tells him he’s only alive because they didn’t kill him when they had the chance. Donnie calls her the one who got away. She’s all he thinks about. Scully warns that, since she’s a federal agent, he’ll get the death penalty if he kills her. Donnie responds that he’s going to run her a bath.

Mulder’s getting ready for bed at his own place, setting his alarm for the morning. “Don’t Look Any Further” comes on the radio. Donnie drags a bound and gagged Scully to her hallway and leaves her tied up while he runs the bath. She can hear her phone ringing, but she can’t answer it. Donnie turns on the radio; of course, “Don’t Look Any Further” plays.

Mulder gives up on trying to call as Scully checks out her surroundings to weigh her options. She’s able to roll through her apartment while Donnie gathers supplies, including candles and a pair of scissors. Scully manages to get her bound wrists in front of her, but before she can do anything else, Mulder arrives. Scully joins them as lights pop and a bullet casing falls to the floor. Mulder was ready to arrest Donnie, but Scully has shot him.

Once the police have come to secure the crime scene, Scully finds her Bible in a drawer. Mulder tells her not to judge herself for shooting Donnie. After all, the Bible permits vengeance. Scully says the law doesn’t. Mulder thinks she made the right decision; Donnie would have kept killing if she hadn’t stopped him. Scully has no doubt that Donnie was evil, but she’s not sure about who was at work in her. What made her pull the trigger – God…or something else?

Thoughts: This episode feels like they combined “Irresistible” and “Pusher.” It also feels unnecessary.

Speaking of “Pusher” (and “Kitsunegari”), didn’t the agents learn anything about leaving someone alone with a supernatural persuader? As soon as they figured out what was going on with Orison, they should have put the Marshal outside his room instead of in it.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Scully either needs a security alarm or a building with a doorman. (At least she’s learned this by season 11.)

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