Scully’s cancer goes into remission, the Lone Gunmen’s origin story is pretty blah and our heroes get lost in the woods during a routine teamwork conference. “Detour” saves this week.
This episode was manic. If the first half was mostly an info dump, this squeezed enough erratic developments into it for four episodes. I’m not sure all of them are particularly convincing but the important thing is Scully’s getting better! And apparently the CSM is dead. I believe that. Sure.
Scully’s been carted off to the hospital after collapsing at the end of the last ep, so this one opens with Mulder coming to look for her. Skinner’s already waiting and sighs menacingly when he sees him. I forgot Mulder was supposed to be dead. Walter’s not happy. He tackles him angrily—fine decorum, as ever, in a hospital—and Mulder says there’s a mole in the FBI. I can’t help but feel like Skinner should already know about this but regardless, he does now.
Mulder goes in to see Scully, who’s looking seriously worse for wear. He tells her he’s going to testify before the FBI inquiry. She tells him to blame her for the death of Ostelhoff, saying that is she’s on her way out she wants her death to have some meaning. This is not even in the vicinity of OK, and Mulder tells her as much. Dana brings self-effacing nobility to celestial heights tbh.
Elsewhere, the CSM meets one of his brethren from the vague yet menacing government agency. He’s watching a Senate hearing on cloning, because foreshadowing. He also knows Mulder is alive and isn’t happy about it. Are these people ever happy about anything though, really? Dastardly megalomania is exhausting. The CSM has a solution—he’s gonna try to persuade Mulder to switch sides. Slow clap that one out, lads. Even after decades of surveillance, the CSM apparently doesn’t know our zealously righteous FBI agent at all. The other guy sends the CSM on his way and quietly dispatches an assassin after him. Chickens, roosting, something something.
The CSM meets Mulder at the hospital. Contrary to what the Lone Gunmen tests may have shown, the vial Mulder got from the Pentagon facility is indeed a cure. It contains a microchip which can be inserted under Scully’s skin to relieve her symptoms. Mulder takes it to Scully. Her mother and brother are there and Bill for one is not happy. Scully decides she wants to try it, as at this stage her odds of survival are so grim she may as well try something ~unconventional. Outside her room, Bill confronts Mulder. He calls him a “sorry son of a bitch” (hmm) and asks him if the deaths of so many loved ones have been worth it in his quest for little green aliens. Mulder concedes he hasn’t found what he’s been looking for. You have to sympathise with Bill here, really. To anyone on the outside, Mulder’s quest must seem deranged in the extreme, though it is tempting to pull Bill to one side and remind him he’s seen exactly zero of the shit that’s gone down over the past while. The mainland can be a twisted place while you’re off at sea.
The CSM calls Mulder later and asks for an update on the patient. You’d swear they were BFFs by now. Mulder’s disinclined to be civil. The CSM then tells him to come to a meeting downtown. Mulder does so, and is promptly confronted with what must be the seventh or eighth fake Samantha of this series. Seriously, it’s one of the clones. And she thinks the CSM is her father. Mulder’s face says it all.
Does this show have *any* idea what to actually do with the Samantha myth? These reveals have really lost their impact after so many false leads over the past while. Remember when Mulder became temporarily convinced someone had kidnapped and murdered her and that he’d completely ~imagined the aliens spiel? Oy.
They chat while the CSM waits out in the car. Samantha says her memories are all jumbled up. Her foster parents introduced her to the CSM, who said he and Mrs Mulder kept the truth about her parentage a secret in order to protect the family. She doesn’t remember anything from before the abduction but she does remember Mulder the night it happened. Mulder calls bullshit in the most polite way possible. He tells her that the CSM has known where he was for ages and if this was some huge meaningful gesture, he could have brought Samantha to meet him ages ago. There’s more on all this smoke and mirrors rubbish but tbh I’m not buying it at all cos this is definitely a clone and the CSM is in league with the lot of them and there are secret colonies everywhere and I’m surprised the bees haven’t put in a reappearance tbh. Where’s that bounty hunter when you need him?
Back at the hospital, a PET scan suggests the microchip isn’t working. Scully calls her mother in and breaks down. She worries she’s pushed her faith away just when she needed it most. She grabs the cross around her neck and thrusts it at her mother. Mrs Scully holds her and tells her that she knows she’s afraid, but she has to confide in someone. This kind of breakdown is long overdue. Dana seems so intent on carrying herself the whole time, but you can’t do everything in this world by yourself, bb. You’re just pushing away anything that might make you confront the (emotional) reality of what’s happening, and you’re not ready to do that. You can’t approach your own cancer diagnosis and possible death with the clinical detachment of a physician, much as you would like to. Poor darling. I want to hug her to bits.
At FBI HQ, it’s been a busy day. Kritschgau is called before the inquiry to talk about the information he gave Mulder and Scully. He says he knew about a governmental conspiracy against the American people and that’s why he helped them. He says there’s no connection between Ostelhoff’s death and our heroes and, in a dark aside, reveals his son died that morning. I can’t tell if there’s some implication there that shady government types bumped him off, but he was sick from exposure to chemical weaponry so maybe it was just that. Anyway, Kritschgau also reveals that while he’s employed by the Defence Department, a part of his payment comes from a congressional lobbying firm named Roush. Skinner, who’s present and listening intently, takes down the name.
The assassin person is still following the CSM around. He watches as the latter meets Mulder outside the hospital. The CSM tells him that the deal still stands, regardless of Mulder’s plans to testify at the hearing. Mulder heads back to FBI HQ to meet Blevins, the section chief who assigned Scully to the X-Files and who’s been doing a completely conspicuous job of stirring shit up of late. It’s almost as if he has a vested interest, amirite? Blevins says they have forensic evidence linking Mulder to Ostelhoff’s death. He mentions that Scully was going to name a mole in the FBI before she collapsed. They believe that she was going to name Skinner, and Blevins urges Mulder to do so in her place. This would exonerate him and mean Skinner takes the fall. Predictably, Mulder tells him to shove it.
Skinner himself pays a visit to the senate hearing on cloning. The CSM’s shady cohort is still watching, and isn’t best pleased when he spots Skinner on TV. He picks up the phone and says the FBI problem is supposed to have been solved by their “colleague” and if it isn’t sorted now, he’ll sort it for good. Yawn.
Mulder pays Scully another visit before going to testify at the inquiry. Scully tries to convince him to name her. He refuses, citing her family and the fact he couldn’t live with it. To live a lie, you must believe it, he says. “We all have our faith and mine is in the truth.” Much poetic, very wow. He leaves just as Father McHugh arrives to chat to Scully, underlining that line about faith rather starkly. At the hearing, Mulder goes down like he always does: as a ton of bricks. This inquiry is held in ridiculously poor lighting, in what’s quite possibly a deliberate nod to the murky dealings going on behind the scenes. After the traditional rant about conspiracies and some glowing praise of Scully’s integrity, Mulder says section chief Blevins is the mole. Blevins apparently bolts out of the room, cos next thing he’s shot in his office. Elsewhere, the assassin finally takes out the CSM.
Mulder goes back to the hospital, where he meets Skinner. Skinner tells him the CSM is dead. There’s no body but too much blood loss for anyone to have survived. I’ll believe that when I see it. Skinner gives him a photo recovered from the scene. It appears to be younger Mulder and Samantha. Skinner also reveals that Blevins was on Roush’s payroll for four years. Mulder shakes his head at the catastrophical obviousness of this clean-up operation but happily informs Walter that Scully’s cancer has gone into remission. As if this news wasn’t fabulous enough, Walter almost smiles. It’s a magical moment in X-Files history. God bless us, every one. Then Mulder starts sobbing over the photo of him and Samantha and we fade out.
Some notes: I really hate being a downer, but does any of this really work? I want to be super uplifted and gratified by Scully’s getting better but that whole subplot lacked urgency for me, at least insofar as her actual chances of death were concerned. I would have been much more interested in some scenes of her speaking to the priest and getting more of a feel for her state of mind. It would have been much more illuminating and interesting than Mulder’s 100th meeting with someone who’s not Samantha and more utterly meaningless conversations with the CSM. At this stage I’d almost wonder if Samantha ever actually existed or if she’s a figment of his imagination, dreamed up to justify his moronic behaviour.
Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh. But all these random meetings are annoying because they completely remove the weight of her disappearance, not to mention the emotional gutpunch of an actual return at some point. If we’d never seen her or heard anything about her in the whole time she was gone, then a return would feel more momentous. All these twists and turns and fake reveals only undermine the significance of Mulder’s search and the impact on his emotional wellbeing. It just seems lazy, as does the assertion that the CSM is her father. The CSM being who he is (a slippery and inscrutable bastard), I wouldn’t put it past him to lie about this in some creepy attempt at inserting himself into a family he’s obviously obsessed with but unable to recreate for himself. He doesn’t have a domestic set-up so he seems to be trying to make himself part of someone else’s, and having worked with Bill and seen the kids grow up he clearly feels like he knows them well enough to be part of the family. The clone is easily pressured into it what with the CSM having the bounty hunter on speed dial and his murderous intent being well-known. Ach, I dunno. This was all just a bit meh. Am I being very horrible? Sound off in the comments.
This was also kind of meh. Soz for all the sullenness this week, X-Philes, but literally the only good part of this episode was the brief and glorious reappearance of Mr. X. I miss that guy so much. What a smooth criminal.
This ep is an origin story for the Lone Gunmen, but I think it’s safe to take it with the same healthy dollop of salt as “Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man”. The story unfolds as Byers tells it to Detective John Munch (apparently a crossover from Homicide: Life on the Street) after he picks the three of them and Mulder up in a warehouse. Mulder was in a box, in the nip and babbling about aliens. Honestly, that’s not all that unusual for him.
Byers begins by saying that he used to work for the FCC. His first names are John Fitzgerald, btw, because subtlety never actually went here. He bumped into Frohike and Langly when they all got caught up with a woman named Susanne Modeski. They’re at a trade fair when she and Byers get to chatting. She initially introduces herself as Holly and says she’s looking for her daughter, who’s three years old and has been abducted by her father. The father, and Holly’s “psychotic” ex-boyfriend, is one Agent Fox Mulder. Mulder is actually pursuing her cos she’s wanted for homicide and terrorism offences, but we’ll get to that later. He’s rocking a slightly more 80s hairdo with fuller sideburns. It’s quite the sight to behold.
Byers helps Susanne hack into a secure Defence Department site and gets a file on her daughter. He and Frohike are approached by Mulder, who shows them a photo of Susanne and asks if they’ve seen her. They play dumb and then spot Byers’ FCC colleague being hauled off by military police for hacking. Frohike stops Byers from turning himself in and goes to retrieve Langly, who appears to be embroiled in a high-stakes tabletop game. Langly hacks into the FBI mainframe so they can look up Mulder. The FBI file on Susanne indicates she’s a delusional terrorist and that her daughter is non-existent. Whoops.
Susanne, realising they’ve twigged her secret, says she’s not a terrorist. She’s a scientist who helped develop chemical weapons for the government. She’s on the run because she discovered the government were planning to test them on the public, and wants to expose the whole thing. She also claims JFK was murdered (this is true regardless of who killed him tho) and the government wants to control everyone. You can really see why Mulder would be looking for this woman. They’d get on like a house on fire. The Bible placed in every hotel room in the country is used for electronic surveillance, she says, which if true would actually be rather clever. In God we trust, etc.
The lads do more hacking and discover that someone named Kilbourne has been assigned to monitor Susanne. Susanne says this is her dentist. She goes to the bathroom and pulls out one of her teeth, revealing a surveillance bug inside. The hack also showed up the location of the weapon to be tested. They all head over to the warehouse and find boxes of inhalers, which Susanne says will be used to distribute the gas. Right on cue, Mulder bursts in. Before he can arrest them, two other men appear and open fire on the lot of them. Some of the inhalers are damaged and gas begins to leak out. Mulder, trapped behind some boxes, inhales a good chunk of it and starts rolling around, stripping off his clothes and babbling.
Just when you thought the whole thing was gone completely off the rails, the two gunmen are shot. The doors roll open and the great beacon of badassery that is Mr X walks in. Lads, I cannot begin to describe how magnificent this was. Nothing saves a self-destructing episode quicker than a stone-cold spook, determined and fierce and ready to clean up your shit. He instructs his clean-up crew to “sanitise” the place. Mulder, who’s starting to hallucinate, sees little alien creatures in place of the clean-up crew. Mr X orders his men not to touch him. Byers comes over and demands to know what’s going on. Mr. X, stifling a sigh, orders the three of them to their knees and takes out his gun. Rather than shoot however, he simply says “behave yourselves” and strides off, his work complete. That man is so much cooler than you or I will ever be. Before he leaves, Byers calls after him and asks about JFK. Mr. X, wry grin just off-screen, says “I heard it was a lone gunman” and rolls the shutters on the door down behind him.
Moment of silence for that exchange, possibly the best of the entire show so far.
We now cut back to Munch and Byers in the interrogation room. Munch understandably thinks this is all a crock and dumps Byers back in a cell with Frohike and Langly. The next morning, he releases them, saying Mulder has come round and corroborated their story. He advises them to pick up some tinfoil hats.
The three of them go looking for Susanne. They find her outside the Baltimore Guardian newspaper, where she’d gone to try to sell her story. The editors laughed her out of the place. Byers says they still want to help, to which she replies “You already have” and kisses him on the cheek needlessly. A payphone on the corner starts to ring and Susanne legs it. I feel like I’m watching a shit version of The Matrix, especially when she turns around and shouts “no matter how paranoid you are, you’re not paranoid enough.” A group of men hustle her into a car and as it pulls away, Byers sees Mr X staring out at him.
The three of them then go to meet Mulder. He says he has “weird ideas” he can’t seem to shake. That’s the story of your life, friend. Susanne Modeski is no longer wanted by the FBI and the case has been abruptly closed. The Lone Gunmen sit him down and start telling him about secret elements within the government that want to control everyone’s lives. Mulder shouts “WHAT?” incredulously and we fade to black.
So that was that. I honestly feel like this should have been a lot more interesting than it was. Even as an unreliable narrator kind of spiel, it just seemed a bit too routine and predictable for me. I suppose there is something fitting in the Lone Gunmen’s origin being a cliché—cos everything about them is kind of a cliché—and it suits their grandiose sense of self to believe that they convinced Mulder about the conspiracy. I don’t think Mr X would have let them go in a million years. They weren’t truth-seekers at that point, so he had no reason to keep them around for future ends. I do like Mr X ordering that no one touch Mulder though. That may be the one ring of truth in the whole thing, as Mulder was definitely suspicious of UFOs and government involvement even at that stage of his life and Mr X may well have been lining him up as a potential ally. The moral of the story is, essentially, everything is improved by the appearance of Mr X.
One more note: Mulder, in the midst of his rolling half-naked along the ground, appears to be wearing a wedding ring at one point. Tempted to see this as an indication that the whole thing is imagined. Or at the very least, embellished. It’s like Inception and the whole Cobb-only-wears-his-wedding-ring-when-he’s-dreaming thing.
Also, the above events take place in 1989. Not a TSwift in sight. 1989 is also the birth year of Danielle Haim, who is objectively far more important.
This was great fun. (Thank Christ.) A monster-of-the-week and happy return to frothy dialogue and bumps in the night after several curiously flat mytharc episodes. Scully’s back in action and our villains are flesh-eating tree people who may or may not be descended from Spanish conquistadors. I wonder if this show will do something on the Lost Colony at some point.
Our heroes are dispatched to a teamwork seminar in Florida. Just imagine for a moment the very notion of Mulder and Scully being sent on a seminar about teamwork. The two of them can communicate in eye rolls at this stage, so evidently Walter wanted them somewhere moderately reliable so he could take a weekend off to golf. Two agents named Kinsley and Stonecypher pick them up and drive them to the seminar. This pair are way too enthusiastic in the way corporate seminar types are always way too enthusiastic, and when they come across a roadblock Mulder takes the immediate opportunity to leap out of the car.
It turns out that the police are searching for some missing persons who disappeared in the woods. Mulder is stopped by Mrs Asekoff, who wants to know what became of her husband (one of the missing people). Mulder consults Fazekas, the officer in charge, and learns that a survey team didn’t report in from an operation in the forest the day before. Then, that morning, Mrs Azekoff’s son Louis was separated from his father. These happenings were shown in the opening scenes. The killer is Peeta Mellark, mad as hell and not willing to bake cakes anymore.
Mulder senses an opportunity to escape a hellish seminar (I feel you) and instructs Scully to fob Kinsley and Stonecypher (what a class name tbh) off. They check into a motel and start doing some research. Mulder’s intrigued at the fact the creature, whatever it is, took the father and not the son. He says that not one of the 4,000 species indigenous to North America would attack strong prey while the weak is vulnerable. He wonders if this is a primitive culling technique. Scully responds coolly. “Mulder, we’re in western Florida.” She’s brought wine and cheese and is a woman after my own heart.
That night, Mrs Asekoff comes downstairs to find the dog barking at something in the woods. She goes outside to investigate and ends up locked outside the house. Louis gets out of bed and discovers Peeta in the hallway. He attempts to run away, only to collide with Mulder. I’ll leave it up to you to wonder what the eff Mulder is doing in a randomer’s house in the middle of the frigging night. Also, this is terrifying:
Scully is content to blame all this on Louis’ imagination. Mulder discovers tracks by the back door. Whatever got into the house walked on the ball of its foot, not like a human. Apparently he and his dad were Indian Guides. Hard to imagine them ever spending any quality time together. The two of them join forces with Fazekas and Jeff Glaser, a local technician who has tracking equipment. They head into the woods to search for clues. Mulder believes that the creature has an accomplice as it tried to separate Mrs Asekoff from Louis before attacking. He wonders if this is something in nature pushing back against human encroachment into the woods.
Two shapes show up on Glaser’s equipment. Scully and Fazekas pursue one while Mulder and Glaser follow the other. The shapes disappear and Scully worries they’ve been split up deliberately. They make their way back to one another but something grabs Fazekas. Glaser insists they leave before it gets dark. Mulder wants to stay and look, but Scully says it’s too dangerous without supplies. As ever, she is the voice of exquisite reason.
They start making their way back to civilisation. Mulder mentions an X-File going back to 1953 about “moth men” with glowing red eyes which terrorised small towns and killed livestock. Glaser starts to panic, realising they’ve lost the trail back. Scully spots something moving in the woods. She and Mulder attempt to corner and shoot it but it disappears. Glaser bolts off in the opposite direction—solid plan, dude—and is swiftly snatched by one of Peeta’s crew.
Scully rescues Mulder from being mauled by Peeta. He’s OK but all torn up. They can’t find Glaser, so they’re left to make a campfire and hang out overnight in the woods. Ginger, get the popcorn. These moments are without rival the best parts of the show. This entire sequence is the warm-hearted successor to their night on the rocks in Big Blue’s lake and it’s chock full of delicious low-key flirting. As Scully unsuccessfully tries to light a fire, Mulder talks about how to keep warm. He says the best way is to crawl naked into a sleeping bag with someone who’s already naked. Scully nods and says if it happens to rain sleeping bags, he might get lucky. Then they start talking about the Flintstones. Mulder asks if she identified more with Betty or Wilma. Gillian, the biggest troll of the 90s, says she identified with Betty’s bust line. I want to snuggle this dialogue.
There is a slightly more loaded conversation about death and how meaningless it is and nature’s supreme indifference to what happens to them but no one cares about that. Scully pulls Mulder in close to keep him warn and he playfully says he doesn’t want to wrestle. He coaxes her to sing so she launches into a delicious refrain of “Jeremiah was a bullfrog.” The next morning, Mulder wakes up in a panic as Scully’s nowhere to be seen. She reappears from behind some trees, berries in hand, and assures him he never left her sight. Somebody send the writers some chocolates. I’m so happy.
Peeta wisely chooses not to interrupt this beautiful love scene and instead manages to lure Scully into his lair. She falls down a hole into an underground tunnel of sorts, finding all the people who were snatched trussed up in the walls. Peeta—or one of his compadres—stands at the end of the tunnel staring at her. That part was also terrifying. Keeping us humble after the shenanigans by the campfire. Up above, Mulder sees something moving behind him and jumps into the hole with Scully. Scully takes his gun and shoots Peeta. Furrowing her brow, she declares that there has to be a scientific explanation for all this. (Earlier in the episode, the camera closes in on a science textbook in Louis’ room just as Dana walks in. I chortled.)
They set about trying to stack the bodies so they can climb up and out of the hole. This is amusing because Kinsley and Stonecypher had talked about building team unity through stacking chairs. As it happens, these two are out with a search party and actually manage to find our heroes. Teamwork, y’all!
They’re rescued, and the live captives from the tunnel (Fazekas and Mr Asekoff among them) are sent off to hospital. Mulder chats to Kinsley as they prepare to pack up. He theorises that Peeta and co. are the mutated descendants of Spanish conquistadors who landed in the woods 400 years ago. They used to engrave “ad noctum” onto trees and these words were inscribed on a piece of wood in the tunnel. Kinsley is aghast, saying Mulder’s making all that up cos he works on the X-Files and wants to write off his motel. Not a bad guess really, but Skinner won’t be pleased to hear Mulder successfully got into hot water when he was supposed to be at a harmless conference. (That said, I too would take mutated tree men over teamwork seminars any day.)
Kinsley casually mentions that the second tree creature has yet to be found. Mulder, freaking out, hurries back to the motel after Scully. She’s packing up their things and emerges unharmed when Mulder arrives. They head off, and the camera pans down to reveal one of Peeta’s crew hiding underneath the bed. Nope.jpg. You know that horrible notion that your arm will be hanging over the edge of the bed of a night and something will grab it? I shudder.
Thoughts: this was so much fun! Such a light, charming, entertaining episode. Peeta and co. were genuinely quite scary but all other feelings are superseded by my sheer delight at Mulder and Scully getting trapped in the woods. It’s like cute date ideas: the show and this doesn’t happen often enough. I’m pleased that this allowed them to go back to what they do best—falling into ridiculous urban myths and flirting their way out—and also gave both some time away from the weightier concerns which have afflicted them of late. Scully’s in remission and back in the field with a bang! More like this as we go forward, please.
Oh, another thing: Louis falls asleep watching The Invisible Man at one point. I’m reminded of Mulder and his tendency to fall asleep in front of old horror movies. Maybe Louis will grow up to take over his legacy.
See you next week!
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