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The X-Files Newbie Recap: “Apocrypha”, “Pusher”, & “Teso Dos Bichos”

"Please explain to me the scientific nature of the whammy"

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Ratboy’s buried alive in a missile silo. Awkward.

I feel like I should probably stop calling him Ratboy cos he’s really being shat on by life. Also, there were actual rats in one of these episodes and, like, gross.

Apocrypha

Part two of our cliffhanger from last week, and boy does it lay down a gauntlet on information. These alien subplots are spinning off into infinity.

First things first – we open with a flashback to a naval hospital in 1953. An injured sailor is speaking to two besuited men about what happened on his submarine. This is evidently one of the Zeus Faber crewmen, attempting to bring what happened to light. Unfortunately for him, the two suits are Bill Mulder (sad face) and a younger CSM, so all his testimony is about to be buried deep in a dark well and never heard from again. The sailor says whatever they were sent to find – or guard – at the bottom of the ocean exposed the crew to radiation before slithering back into the sea. He cries that “it” is still down there and implores them to ensure the truth gets out. The CSM, a relic even in those days, lights up a cigarette in a hospital (how times have changed) and assures him all will be well.

Bastard. I hope a tree falls on him someday. Preferably one dislodged by some conspicuous marauding UFO cos that could reasonably be termed both “irony” and “karma”.

Anyway, in the present day, Scully arrives at the hospital looking for Skinner. My beloved was in surgery, but is wheeled by just as she’s brought up to speed on what happened. I feel like it’s morally wrong to perve on a downed man’s chest and arms but I am trash and did indeed take this opportunity to squint a little and adjust my television set laptop screen. Scully squeezes his hand and he squeezes back, managing to choke out that he’s seen the guy who shot him before. She orders guards be placed outside Skinner’s door, declaring in no uncertain terms that “this man has to be protected.” Gosh, I adore you Dana. This is just like “The Blessing Way” when everyone else was in ribbons and/or useless and you basically just ran the entire show. There’s a remark to be made here about women getting stuff done and going unacknowledged for it and even being taken advantage of in the workplace but I’ll momentarily let that slide.

A downed warrior

A downed warrior

Elsewhere, Krycek and Mulder are in a rented car on their way from the airport. They’re rammed off the road by another car. The occupants of same drag Krycek out and demand to know where the tape is before a bright light goes off and presumably incinerates them. Ratboy escapes and Mulder, groggy from the crash, just about takes all this in before passing out again. Someone recovers these heavies later and presents them to the CSM. They’re not dead yet, but he orders that the bodies be destroyed whenever they do kick the bucket. The doctor on the case believes the radiation which caused their burns is the same as that which injured the French sailors. The CSM stops short of saying “no shit, Sherlock” and storms out.

Mulder wakes up in hospital to find Scully at his bedside. How many times has this happened now in this show? It never gets old. [wipes away shipper tear] He tells her what he remembers. She listens and then informs him that Skinner is also in hospital, but doctors think he’ll be fine. Much like Keith Richards, Skinner cannot be killed with conventional weapons. She also says that PCR results suggest the guy who shot Skinner is the same guy who shot Melissa. I guess Alex didn’t actually pull the trigger then? Wonders never cease.

The Well-Manicured Man and his old white guy crew are having an emergency meeting. They discuss the Piper Maru, wondering awkwardly how the French got the coordinates for the spot where they recovered a UFO. The CSM has apparently been looking into it but no one seems best pleased with him, as he’s been summoned to give an account of himself. These aul lads, I swear. It’s like watching surly headmasters discuss a controversial curriculum at a boys’ school in the 20s. Everyone should be kitted out with pipes and bowties, with at least one guttural utterance of “I say” per meeting.

Scully visits Skinner again once he wakes up. She tells him the guy who shot him also killed her sister. Skinner cautiously tells her he’d been threatened before the shooting, raising Scully’s heckles a touch. She shouts that that means the investigation into Missy’s murder was closed not cos they had no suspects but because “they” don’t want anyone finding out who the killer is. Skinner urges her to be careful with what she says, but reluctantly reveals where he’d seen the shooter before – he was one of the guys who attacked him in the stairwell, along with Krycek. Scully flips her lid, realising Mulder had Ratboy right where they needed him and now he’s vanished. Skinner once again urges caution, pleading with her to keep her head. He says it’s OK to step away if it’s too much. Dana defiantly cries that such is exactly what “they” want, and she won’t be having it. Oh, brother. This is gonna get worse before it gets better.

O...K.

Excellent ladies gettin’ stuff done

Back at HQ, Mulder’s back to the grind. He’s gotten his hands on the dive suit from the Piper Maru. He expounds a theory – the residue of black goo contains elements of diesel used in WW2 subs and planes. The composition has been slightly altered due to radiation exposure. He wonders if the substance is somehow a medium, enabling an alien creature to ~body jump into Gauthier and then his wife (Mulder’s since learned she was also in Hong Kong), and so on to Krycek. The entire world is after Ratboy, basically, and he’s been possessed. Mulder then teams up with the Lone Gunmen to recover the digital tape. He got the key off Krycek before they crashed. The Gunmen open the locker and bring out the package but it’s empty; the tape is missing. This is mainly because Ratboy’s already got a hold of it and is at that very moment dropping it on the CSM’s table. The chickens have come home to roost, friends. The CSM tells Krycek – whose eyes are still wonky – he has what he wants. Later, the CSM arrives for his PTA meeting with the Well-Manicured Man and his crew. There’s a heated exchange, the basic jist of which involves the crew being miffed over the Piper Maru and Skinner being shot and the fact the waitress was able to describe the shooter. If he’s caught and identified, their “well-placed” operatives won’t be able to intervene and their work will be compromised. The CSM, unflappable as a pre-Alaska Raleigh Becket, says it’ll be “handled.” His entire credo in life boils down to “ah sure, be grand, lads.” I wonder if he has Irish blood.

The apple never rots far from the tree

The apple never rots far from the tree

Scully meets up with wonderful boffin techie guy (also known as Pendrell) again and learns that they have a name for Skinner’s shooter – Luis Cardinal. He’s originally from Nicaragua and entered the US without a visa or papers, so they’ve no further info. Scully tells them to keep looking; the other agents seem stumped. They say at this point they’d need a “sign from God.” Dana raises an eyebrow and says she’s seen stranger things. I LOLed. Truly, I did.

Mulder has since been able to pull a number off the package from the locker and gets through to the Well-Manicured Man. The latter agrees to meet him in Central Park. They have a revealing chat, whereupon the WMM tells him the ~craft in the Pacific is a Foo Fighter downed during WW2. Salvage attempts have been hampered by “complications”. All of this, Mulder already knew. He asks where Krycek is. The WMM wonders why he didn’t kill Krycek when he had him. Mulder mentions the digital tape, and twigs from the way the WMM is talking that he doesn’t know where Ratboy is either. He goes to leave, but the WMM warns him that “anyone can be gotten to”.  Mulder immediately whips out his phone and calls Scully, asking her to check if the guards are still outside Skinner’s room. Spoiler: they’re not. She chases the ambulance transferring him to another hospital and gets in to accompany him. Good thing, too, as the ambulance is stopped en route and Cardinal almost finishes the job. Scully chases after him and manages to corner him in an alley after he’s hit by a car. All the emotion begins to spill over as she goes berserk, demanding to know if he shot her sister. Cardinal attempts to bargain with her, saying he can tell her what he knows if she lets him go. She visibly struggles with not pulling the trigger, but relents when the police roll up. Oh, darling. That must have taken all the restraint in the world.

Oh Dana

:(((

In questioning, Cardinal reveals that Krycek’s heading for an abandoned missile site in North Dakota. Scully updates Mulder, who says he believes that’s where the salvaged UFO is kept. They head to North Dakota and roll up at a silo in the middle of nowhere. Eight storeys belowground, they find a door with a radiation warning sign on it. There’s nothing in there, but there ARE only 199 more silos to check. Before they can do anything else, armed operatives arrive. Mulder and Scully run off, but stumble upon two burned bodies. Mulder realises Krycek must be there as well. They’re caught and bundled out by the operatives as the CSM rolls up. Mulder tackles him, demanding to know why Krycek’s there. The CSM claims he disappeared months ago and heads inside, ignoring Mulder’s ever-defiant cry that “you can’t bury the truth!” He heads downstairs, approaching a door marked “1013” and emblazoned with a radiation warning sign. Inside, Ratboy’s crouched over some kind of craft as the goo drips out of his eyes. It’s quite gross. It collects in a spiral-type pattern on the craft and disappears.

Back at HQ, Skinner – on a walking stick! – comes looking for Scully. Mulder thanks him for  putting his life on the line for her. Skinner dismisses this, saying he “mistakenly” believed he could bring Missy’s killer to justice. Mulder asks what he means and later delivers the bad news to Scully, who’s laying flowers at Missy’s grave. She says she expected to feel some sense of closure when Missy’s killer was brought to justice but she doesn’t. No court or punishment is enough. Mulder then drops the bad news – Cardinal’s been found dead in his cell, supposedly from suicide. There’s still no sign of Krycek. Scully barely reacts, clearly wearied already at the futility of it all. She mentions something Johansen said to her in the last episode – the idea that the dead speak to us, demanding justice, and in that sense we bury the dead alive. It’s a chilling and poignant reflection, not least cos back in North Dakota…

…Ratboy is locked in the silo with the craft. Shit one, lads. That is grim in the extreme. Have we seen the last of the much-maligned Alex Krycek? Only time will tell.

Right! That was massive. Gosh. Apologies for length, but it all needs to be included. My head’s reeling but I think I’m getting better at dealing with these. They seem to follow a pattern – awesomely catastrophic build up, tension, nail-biting, and then a slow soul-destroying comedown as someone is bumped off or something’s covered up or a gentle, casual conversation yields some of the heaviest information known to man. I can see why they got John Neville to play the WMM cos in his velvetine voice nothing could ever sound truly shocking, even if he’s talking about aliens or immoral experiments. I love the way Mulder’s sheer tenacity has somehow managed to secure him one constantly irritated, standoffish informant (Mr X) and one outwardly affable one (the WMM). It’s all part of his bizarre charm.

The real emotional gutpunch of this episode, however, is Scully and her fruitless quest for justice. Where Mulder has, I suspect, become at least partially resigned to the impregnability and unaccountability of government and all their shady dealings, Scully’s still very much a moral soul and one whose inability to attain justice for her sister will have very real, far-reaching emotional consequences. As the more grounded and rational of the two, facing up against such sheer impunity must be catastrophically difficult. Her lack of reaction when Mulder tells her that Cardinal’s dead speaks to this – there’s a kind of numbness, as if she has to steel herself inside so she doesn’t lose her cool completely. I feel so deeply for her, because for all his issues Mulder ultimately seems much more well-equipped to deal with these setbacks. I’m not sure he ever expected better than a long, damning, infurating slog. For a righteous warrior like Scully, it seems like death by a thousand cuts. I trust she’ll keep fighting, of course, but there’s a loss of innocence there which is tough to watch.

Thankfully, the next two are more easygoing on the emotions.

Pusher

How utterly amusing to come across this episode in Jessica Jones week. The killer, not unlike one Kilgrave, can compel people into doing whatever he wants regardless of whether that means harming themselves or others. He’s a bit more poetic about it, mind. In the opening scene, he’s captured at a supermarket and proceeds to go off on an elaborate soliloquy about cerulean blue – the colour of an approaching truck. This somehow convinces the agent taking him into custody to pull into the truck’s path. The killer, Modell, escapes while the agent is killed and another agent, Burst, is injured.

There's a Danish film series called Pusher, fact fans, made by Nicolas "Drive" Winding Refn

There’s a Danish film series called Pusher, fact fans, made by Nicolas “Drive” Winding Refn

Burst calls Mulder and Scully in for help. He brings them up to speed. For the past two years, Modell’s been acting as a contract killer. However, all his targets are made to look like they killed themselves, so no murder investigation was launched until Modell called Burst and essentially confessed to the crimes. Mulder notices the Japanese word “ronin” scrawled in blood at one of the crime scenes. Noting that a “ronin” in Japanese parlance is a Samurai without a master, he finds a recurring ad in a martial arts magazine dating back to the time the murders began. He suspects this is how Modell has been ~advertising his services.

Mulder and Scully call the numbers on the ads and eventually get a call back from Modell. They manage to trace him to a golf course in Virginia. A SWAT team swoops in but when one of the officers finds him, Modell convinces the obviously unwilling man to douse himself in gasoline and set it alight. Scully and Mulder arrive just as the officer, Collins, is fumbling with the lighter. He pleads with them for help, and while I strongly feel someone could have kicked the lighter out of his hand he ends up setting himself alight. Scully, at least, had the wherewithal to grab a fire extinguisher and they put him out quickly, though he’s badly hurt. A car horn erupts nearby and Mulder races over to find an exhausted Modell inside.

It took three or four attempts to light that thing and NO ONE made an effort to kick it out of his hand though

It took three or four attempts to light that thing and NO ONE made an effort to kick it out of his hand though

Mulder develops a theory that Modell can somehow “push” people to do what he wants – hence his self-coined nickname, Pusher. He’s also been signing his ads “osu”, a Japanese word which means “to push.” Like many Mulder theories however, this one’s difficult to prove. Modell uses his abilities to convince the judge at his hearing to let him go. Mulder does some research and learns that Modell applied to the Navy SEALs and army Green Berets, being rejected on both counts. Scully’s background check reveals that Modell also applied to the FBI, but failed the psych exam somewhat spectacularly. Mulder speculates that Modell must have developed the abilities only recently, as otherwise he would have been able to convince the various authorities to let him become a SEAL or agent.

An aside: Mulder describes Modell as “putting  the whammy” on the judge at his trial hearing. Scully replies “please explain to me the scientific nature of the whammy”, which is about as tattoo-worthy a quote as you’re ever going to get in this show. Lubs her.

Moving on.

Elsewhere, Modell works his magic on the guards at FBI HQ and rambles inside (passing one young, uncredited Dave Grohl). He convinces an assistant named Holly to open Mulder’s personnel file for him. Beloved Skinner happens to be roaming by and, noticing the closed blinds on the office windows, comes in to ask what new devilry is taking place. Modell disrespects him (at his peril) and Skinner promptly puts his own version of the whammy on him.

[thumps head from swooning]

[thumps head from swooning]

Unfortunately, Modell convinces Holly that Skinner is some guy who attacked her once, leading her to mace my favourite human and start kicking him in the face. I’m displeased. This man, beast though he may be, is JUST OUT OF HOSPITAL. Kindly refrain from kicking him in the face and ribs. Christ. (Hilariously, Skinner told Holly to call security while he was tackling Modell. As if that building needs any more security when Walter Skinner’s loose and worked up.)

Scully begins to come on board with the mind control theory after speaking to Holly, who says she felt like she was watching herself from across the room. Skinner gets them a warrant for Modell’s apartment. They raid it and find it empty, though there are shitloads of protein drinks in the fridge and epilepsy medication in the bathroom. Scully speaks to Modell’s doctor and learns that he developed epilepsy about two years ago. Adjusting her MD cap, she says one possible cause of late-onset epilepsy is a brain tumour. Mulder notes that tumours have been linked to psychic activity and decides this is how he got his abilities. Their investigation is interrupted when Modell calls the apartment and gets chatting to Burst. He manages to talk Burst into having a heart attack over the phone, which is tragic and sad but Burst does at least manage to stay on the line long enough for them to get a trace. The payphone Modell was calling from is close to a hospital, the name of which matches the one on the medication label.

They find out that Modell’s scheduled in for an MRI. Mulder decides to go in alone and unarmed to prevent Modell getting him to shoot up some patients. Scully is alarmed. Whoever wrote this episode, btw, was an even bigger shipper than I am because honestly:

I'm completely fine.

I’m completely fine.

This isn’t even the most egregious example. Scully’s alarm is palpable but Mulder goes in anyway, and ends up being captured. Modell forces him to play the most painstaking game of Russian Roulette ever. Scully goes in after him – the SWAT team are reluctant to gas the building given the various ill patients in the vicinity, so she attempts to reason with him. Modell convinces Mulder to fire on himself and Modell – getting an empty barrel both times – then makes him train the gun on Scully. This was pretty agonising. An actual tear rolls down Dana’s cheek before she manages to scupper Modell’s concentration by setting off the fire alarm. The brief interruption is enough for Mulder to snap to and actually shoot Modell, though he’s only injured and not killed. Later, they learn Modell had a tumour but wouldn’t allow doctors to operate. Mulder believes he was afraid he’d lose his abilities, the only thing that ever made him feel like a ~big man. Scully is still distinctly discommoded and reaches out for Mulder’s hand.

[stares into the camera, The Office-style]

[stares into the camera, The Office-style]

Creys. This one was pretty excellent. The abundance of shipper-friendly material sets it apart in my (biased) mind, but it is well-written and beautifully performed. I’ll be seeing that poor SWAT guy begging for help in my nightmares.

Teso Dos Bichos

Finally for this week, our heroes are foiled by a gang of murderous cats.

Homicidal. Cats. Someone just absolutely gave up here, lads.

A museum in Boston disturbs a Native American dig site in Ecuador and its staff begin to pay the price…IN BLOOD. That’s essentially it. After learning that a petrol pipeline is about to be laid through an ancient Secona Indian burial site in Ecuador, the Boston Museum of Natural History organises a dig to recover the artefacts in the pipeline’s path. They uncover the remains of a female shaman, an Amaru. Their liaison with the Secona tribe, Bilac, strongly advises them not to move it but like all excellent white people they ignore him and slowly but surely start being picked off.

Ian Malcolm wouldn't have let this happen, anyway

Ian Malcolm wouldn’t have let this happen, anyway

The first casualty, Roosevelt, dies on the ground in Ecuador. A spirit in the shape of a jaguar comes bounding out of the trees and mauls him to death. Back in Boston, another academic named Horning is murdered in the museum, prompting the police to call in our heroes. Horning’s body is missing but from the masses of blood spilled all over the museum floor, it doesn’t look like he’s coming back anytime soon.

The museum curator, Lewton, believes the attacks are meant to intimidate them into returning the bones. Mulder asks him about the Secona belief that anyone who disturbed an Amaru would be hunted by the spirit of a jaguar. Lewton’s a scientist and has no time for that rubbish. Admittedly, Scully doesn’t either, pointing to a letter Bilac sent to the State Department on behalf of the Secona. She wonders if his sympathies towards the tribe haven’t led him to vent some bloodlust. She and Mulder head over to Bilac’s house to question him and his cagey behaviour cements her suspicions. Mulder, while not immediately disagreeing, points out that they have no bodies and very little forensic evidence to go on so they’ll have to keep looking even if Bilac’s the obvious culprit.

Lewton’s the next one to bite the dust. He leaves work to find his car (a Jaguar. Chortle) won’t start and is then set upon by some kind of animal. Again, there’s no body, but Mulder has the misfortune to stumble across a piece of small intestine in the woods. Scully examines it and confirms it’s from Lewton, but can’t deduce how he was eviscerated. There are animal marks on the intestine, but only tiny ones as of mice or rats.

Another employee at the museum, Mona, pays Bilac a visit. When she gets to the house, she finds bowls filled with a Secona hallucinogenic called yajé. Bilac’s still acting all weird and creepy and Mona gets freaked out, heading back to the museum. Once she’s there, she gets the eerie feeling that something’s stalking her and calls Scully for help. Scully sends Mulder to the museum to pick her up, while she herself goes after Bilac. By the time Mulder reaches the museum, Mona’s gone. When last we saw her, she was in the bathroom, where scores of rats were attempting to dig their way out of the toilets.

Look away now if you’re not into rats.

"Unpleasant"

“Unpleasant”

I don’t mind rodents but even for me that’s a little much.

The bathroom is covered in blood and Mulder finds Bilac cowering in one of the stalls. Scully calls to say she’s found yajé all over Bilac’s house. She wonders if he’s been tripping balls and getting knife-happy. She comes to the museum to question him but Bilac claims he can’t remember anything, though he’s quite certain Mona is “gone”. Scully leaves two guards with him and goes to search the museum, but when she gets back a short while later Bilac has vanished. Mulder spots an air vent in the back of the room. Checking a schematic, they discover the vents lead down to a tunnelling system under the museum. Later that night (because why would anyone ever do this kind of thing in daylight) the two of them head down to the tunnels to search for Bilac.

They find a pile of bodies (Lewton, Mona, et al) and a horde of killer cats.

Apparently evolution has made cats practically invincible; it's their world and we just live in it

Apparently evolution has made cats practically invincible; it’s their world and we just live in it

I’m a cat person through and through and this episode wasn’t actually that bad up until now, but from here on out it completely loses the plot . One of the cats leaps on Scully and claws her face. Mulder rescues her and they attempt to flee, but can’t find their way out. They stumble across the air vent Bilac was dragged out through – and Bilac’s body, while they’re at it – and just about manage to get away before the cats attack. The next day, the authorities scour the tunnels and bring up what bodies they can find. They don’t find any evidence of cats, but the tunnels go on for miles in different directions so they could be anywhere. Mulder gets on the phone to the State Department and learns that the museum has finally agreed to return the Amaru to Ecuador. A wise but also practical decision, given there’s apparently no one left to actually run the museum. The Secona re-bury it in the same place, with a tribal elder supervising. His eyes have vertical slits, just like a cat’s.

Et tu, writers? Not so much the ball being dropped as violently flung off a cliff. It seems like y’all got halfway through a decent treatise on the perils of ignoring Native traditions and disrespecting culturally significant artefacts but couldn’t think of a plausible way to end it so yiz just decided a possessed Thackery Binx and his army of murder cats was the best way out. That said, any episode depicting Native spirits mauling people to death probably isn’t the most respectful representation of culture to begin with, so maybe we should just park this here and move along with our week.

Til next time, X-Philes!

Grace Duffy is a pop culture devotée and sometime film critic currently catching up on her classic sci-fi. You can read more on her Tumblr or catch her frequent TV liveblogs on Twitter.

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