The temptation to start singing “Push It” whenever I hear the term Pusher is real. But possibly inappropriate. Also: 90s holiday chic! Let’s proceed.
In which TXF deploys the age-old trope of a bad guy sort-of-maybe-partially turning good to help stave off a bigger threat. It’s a would-be redemptive arc for Robert Modell, aka Pusher, whom we last saw comatose in a hospital bed after Mulder shot him during a tense game of Russian Roulette. Or at least, it would be if he didn’t turn out to be spectacularly ineffective against his long-lost and similarly-powered twin. Yes, twins. That’s almost … pushing it, wouldn’t you say?
Anyhoo, Modell’s been in physical therapy in prison since waking from a coma. He shortly breaks out and embarks on what initially appears to be some kind of vengeance spree. The FBI spearhead the manhunt with help from the US marshals’ office, which means Walter gets to give pep talks (sigh) and our heroes are annointed point people. They haughtily warn the marshals not to approach Modell without an entire battalion of backup and for once, no one makes a sarcastic quip.
Modell calls Mulder from a convenience store soon after escaping. They get a trace but he’s gone by the time they arrive. Word arrives that the prosecutor who tried Modell, Nathan Bowman, has been killed. They head over to take a look and find him quite literally drowned in paint. Cerulean blue paint, to be precise. This does not look like a fun way to go.
The paint was also used to scrawl something in Japanese characters on the walls. A translator decodes this as “kitsunegari”, a word meaning fox hunt. A distant womp noise sounds and everyone looks awkwardly at Mulder. They attempt to chase up Bowman’s wife, Linda, and learn that she left earlier to meet a client named Fox Mulder. When they reach the scene, they find a policeman holding a gun on his partner. It appears as if Modell made the cop believe his partner was Modell. Linda arrives and is quickly escorted into protective custody. Mulder, sizing up what they know so far, starts feeling fidgety and sounds off to Scully. He wonders why Modell didn’t just kill the two cops, especially when his preferred target during the original killing spree was law enforcement. Modell, who’s watching from across the road, manages to corner Mulder and warns him not to “play the game”. Mulder’s suspicions intensify.
He and Scully come to speak to Linda at the FBI safe house. She’s very peculiar, doesn’t appear particularly fazed about her husband’s death, and keeps making references to paint and brushstrokes. Mulder quickly decides she’s taunting them and that she’s orchestrated the whole charade. Skinner is not particularly taken with this analysis and, suspecting Modell may have influenced him, suspends Mulder until he can be sure his judgement is “sound”. Walter, pet, you may never work with him again at that rate. I’m convinced these two would have killed each other long ago if Scully wasn’t there to defuse the tension. She is the original Wonder Woman standing between two embittered grown men who should know better. Also, lads, is it me or would you not indulge Mulder occasionally, given so many of his crackpot theories actually turn out to be true? Maybe they can’t prove it half the time but he’s usually on to something, even if it seems ridiculous.
Not one to be fazed, Mulder continues investigating on his own while Scully and Skinner coordinate the FBI’s efforts. His first pitstop is the physical therapist who worked with Modell in prison. She tells him that a group of nuns used to visit, and one in particular seemed oddly taken with Modell. She would refer to him as a “conquered warrior” which, given Modell’s obsession with Samurai mythology, seems suspicious. Mulder asks the therapist to look at a photo of Linda to see if she’s the “nun” in question. The therapist goes to get her glasses but is convinced to electrocute herself after taking a phone call.
Elsewhere, Modell reaches the safe house. He uses his powers to convince the marshals to leave and goes looking for Linda. Walter, ambling along the corridor, suddenly realises he’s the only lawman in town and pegs it to Linda’s room. Modell convinces him there’s a gun in his hand so Skinner shoots him in the shoulder. He’s carted off to hospital, but no one can find the gun he was supposedly holding. Awkward.
Mulder goes to the hospital and waits for Modell to wake up. A nurse comes in and asks him to leave for a moment. Unbeknownst to Mulder, it’s Linda. She approaches Modell, referring to him as “Bobby”, and promises she’ll finish what he started. The original Kylo Ren, peeps. At least she’s not speaking to a scorched helmet of indeterminate authenticity. She uses her powers to convince Modell’s body to shut down, because apparently that’s a thing. When Mulder comes back, he finds Modell dead and a piece of paper saying “NURSE” sitting on the bed. Modell used something similar—a paper reading “AGENT”—to break into FBI HQ before. Mulder spots an address on the back and makes his way over.
He finds Scully holding a gun on him. Unpleasant. Just as it seems we’re headed for a replay of the Russian Roulette, Scully turns the gun towards herself and says “make her stop” before shooting herself in the head. Mulder rushes to her side, then turns and finds what appears to be Linda facing him with a gun. This Linda claims to be Scully, and starts rhyming off the names of Mulder’s family. (I finally know his mum’s name is Tina! Huzzah.) It’s enough to stall Mulder momentarily and she then shoots someone in the distance. When Mulder turns back, the Linda he was seeing is actually Scully, and the person she shot is Linda. Confusing, I know, but basically Scully’s grand and Linda has a bullet in her shoulder. It’s all good.
Our heroes report back to Skinner. Linda has the same tumour as Modell, which accounts for her similar powers. She and her long-lost twin were separated as infants and only found one another six months earlier. The fox-hunt, as it were, was her attempt at revenge for what happened to her brother.
This was excellent, and a worthy follow-up to one of TXF’s finest episodes. I guess it’s because they don’t have to do them that often but the show actually does regular police procedural stories really well, and somehow always manages to make them creepier than the paranormal eps. I love watching them interact with other law enforcement types. Especially US marshals. It makes me crave a Justified/TXF crossover which precisely no one has taken the time to write yet, if my quick scour of AO3 is anything to go by. Wasted opportunity, friends. Get on that shit while I’m working my way through these!
This was interesting but a touch confusing, and rather poorly executed. Its basic premise is that a psychiatrist, abused as a child, grew up to somehow gain dominion over an orchard. She uses the trees and mud to trap unworthy parents (or people she considers to be unworthy parents) and then drown them. It’s a bit loopy and doesn’t really make sense but I’ll give it a pass for the one-liners.
Our heroes arrive in a Michigan town after the first victim, a man named Phil, is pulled from a pit in the orchard. Scully’s autopsy reveals 12 pounds of mud in the man’s stomach alone. Mulder, examining the pile of dirt with widened eyes, immediately takes the opportunity to ruin the tone of the investigation by commenting “is it possible he took the term ‘mud pie’ literally?” Phil fell into the mud after chasing his stepson Bobby out into the orchard. They had an argument, things got heated, Phil tripped on what looks like a tree branch and was pulled under despite Bobby’s efforts to help him. Bobby is your standard 90s delinquent teen (sporting Travis from Clueless’ wardrobe) and as such finds himself anointed the cops’ prime suspect.
Mulder attempts to chat to him. Bobby openly admits to hating his stepdad and claims he used to beat him up. Scully, speaking separately to the mother, also suspects abuse in the house. She and Mulder discuss their theories while examining the pit in which Phil’s body was found. While Mulder’s digging through the mud, Scully sees a man with an axe watching them from the distance but he disappears before she can approach him.
Bobby’s been in therapy for anger issues, so our heroes go to speak to his therapist, Karin. She’s evasive and sketchy and seems to suggest that Phil had it coming. Apparently he once made Bobby eat alone in the cellar for two weeks because he spilled a glass of milk. When Mulder and Scully try to press her for more info, she claims there are some crimes in which there are only victims.
The next day, Bobby follows a girl from school, Lisa, home. Her dad has just enough time to warn her not to be hanging around with him before something pulls the dad out the window to his death. When Mulder and Scully arrive at the scene, they find Karin speaking to Lisa. Lisa is also one of her patients and is being treated for an eating disorder. Again, Karin suggests her father is the root of many of the girl’s problems.
The police believe someone (probably Bobby) pushed Lisa’s dad out the window. However, Mulder finds broken glass on the inside of the window frame, suggesting he wasn’t so much pushed as pulled. Scully goes to get Bobby out of school for more questioning. I know it’s technically a bad thing to have an FBI agent drag you out of class but lads, honestly, if Dana Scully marched into your classroom and pointed at you with this much class and authority you’d positively skip to the police station. Give us a chance here, Gillian. Pls.
An autopsy on Lisa’s dad reveals a splinter of wood in his neck. It came from a living tree, which piques Mulder’s interest as all the trees in the orchard are dying of blight. He shows it to Scully and they go to check out some trees. Mulder, proving he really is little more than an overgrown child with a crush, climbs the tree outside Lisa’s house and calls down, “is this demonstration of boyish agility turning you on at all?” He’s lucky we like him, cos that could so easily be gross in the wrong context. The dude with the axe reappears while Mulder’s up the tree. Scully calls him down and quizzes the axeman about the splinter. His response is to cut into the tree, which appears to bleed some form of red gunge. The problem is caused by a “very bad man”, he says. That’s helpful.
Lisa is staying with Karin until her aunt can come and collect her. From her room, she overhears Karin arguing with someone and goes to investigate. In the basement, she finds what appears to be a partially-buried corpse, but when she tries to run the door closes and locks in her face. A leering voice taunts at her from the other side. Mulder and Scully arrive the next day, looking to chat to Karin about her dad’s death. He died twenty years earlier after being submerged in mud in the orchard. There was another blight at the time, and according to the axeman Karin’s father’s death ended it. Karin claims she was too young to remember anything. When they ask about Lisa, she lies and says she’s gone to her aunt’s. In reality, poor Lisa’s still in the basement, and Karin warns her it’s not safe to come out.
Not one to be deterred, Mulder decides to dispense with needless formalities (like court orders) and procures a shovel to dig up Karin’s father’s grave. Cute Date Ideas: The Show continues. Scully stands over him warily, undoubtedly also wondering if he deliberately hauls a grave-robbing tool kit around the country just in case. As it happens, the grave is empty. The coffin contains naught but a wad of tree roots and the body’s been snatched. Out of precisely nowhere, Mulder decides someone is controlling nature and using the trees to attack people. Scully quite understandably doesn’t know what to say, so they go to chat to Bobby. Again. For maybe the fourth time? Persistence is the key, I guess.
Lisa’s aunt arrives at Karin’s house to collect her and is quickly dismissed. Lisa manages to call out from the basement, but Karin kills the aunt and then just … leaves the body lying in the garden, the head half shoved through broken glass. Real inconspicuous, this. Not exactly a white picket fence town.
Bobby finally cracks and reveals that Karin made him believe he was a victim and forced him to stand up to his stepdad. She told him he had the power to “make it all go away”. I’m not entirely sure if all this makes sense, but I *guess* Karin managed to convince these kids that their issues all stemmed from their parents when in reality they had nothing to do with them. She’s basically projecting her own issues onto her clients and getting all murderous over it, but I don’t think they made that particularly clear. Regardless, she’s the real villain here. As if shoving someone’s aunt’s head into broken glass didn’t make that clear enough. Mulder and Scully come back to her house to search for Lisa. They find the body of Karin’s dad in the basement and discover Lisa crying in the kitchen.
Karin attempts to flee in her car. Mulder hurries after her and is nearly taken out by a falling tree trunk. Karin makes her way to Bobby’s and chases him into the orchard. Bobby turns to confront her, but the mud starts sucking him up. Karin, affecting someone else’s voice, shouts torrents of abuse at him until the axeman appears and hits her over the head. She falls face-first into the mud and is apparently absorbed by it, while Bobby and Mulder manage to wriggle free.
So … I’m confused. I like the premise of this but I’m not sure they actually did it justice. Did Karin actually have some ability to control the trees or mud? Where did that come from? Did the trees feel bad for her cos her dad was an asshole? Would nature ever be that empathetic? Why did she only just start manipulating her clients when her dad had been dead for 20 years? Something’s missing from this one, friends. It wasn’t the worst, but it could have done with some serious refining. It actually felt a lot more Stephen King than the one which follows, which was written by Stephen King.
And for full disclosure: I don’t particularly like Stephen King. I’ve read several of his books and they always annoy me, between the ridiculous gender roles and twentysomething ingenues inexplicably falling for middle-aged men and generally dopey characters. Of the books I’ve read, there seems to be either a manic build-up to a short ‘n’ stupid conclusion OR hundreds of pages of nothingness followed by one chapter of action. I don’t really get the appeal. The guy’s clearly accomplished but the hype may have ruined him. In any event, I just thought y’all should know that I rolled my eyes as soon as I saw his name on the credits. Not entirely sure I’d want beloved Dana in his hands for even a second.
Onto the episode. Scully’s on holiday! And her holiday chic is killing me. Check that out:
Pls, babes. None more 90s. She and fellow crazy kid Mulder have decided to take a weekend off and she’s headed up to Maine for some peace and quiet. Her idiotic manchild of a partner spends it aimlessly faffing (and fapping) about the office. Unfortunately, Dana’s weekend of R’n’R is rudely interrupted by a demonic doll whose idea of playtime involves people stabbing themselves in the eye. Scully wanders right upon the aftermath of one such attack, when the doll somehow makes an entire shop full of people bleed from the eyes. She picked the wrong day to wear white.
The doll belongs to a little girl named Polly. Her mother, Melissa, is an outcast among the townsfolk because she is—quote—young, pretty, the object of unrequited affection for multiple local creepy men (that she doesn’t reciprocate is probably progressive for King tbh) and most damningly, descended from someone in Salem. Small towns the world over are apparently always as bad as each other. Melissa’s late husband found the doll while out fishing for lobster and it managed to attach itself to Polly, while giving Melissa horrible visions of the soon-to-be-deceased.
Scully, inspecting the carnage in the grocery store, calls Mulder. He’s delighted to have something to do and suggests witchcraft. Scully rubbishes this notion and, when Mulder presses it, rhymes off a lengthy list of hexes, charms and occult paraphernalia while pointing out that none of them are evident at the scene. Mulder joins us all in asking her to marry him. It’d be adorable had he not just been watching a porno in the background.
The local police are idiots and Scully ends up doing all their work for them. One of the cops, Buddy, quietly contacts Melissa and suggests she get out of town for a bit. He too is infatuated with her and suggests that he can’t go on waiting in the wings for her to notice him. Spare us, lads. (Please let me know if King’s ever written a dude who isn’t fundamentally creepy in some way.) Melissa dutifully takes the suggestion on board however, if only so she can get the homicidal doll away from people for a bit. It however has other ideas. One of Polly’s former teachers, a woman named Jane, is its next target. Scully and the police chief, Bonsaint, come to question Jane shortly before the doll gets her. She’s not particularly nice and suggests Melissa’s a trollop who has it all coming to her. Not before you get yours, friend, and in the form of a broken record slicing your throat open. Ouch.
Scully’s alerted to Jane’s death and comes to examine the body. All this despite her efforts to take a peaceful bubble bath.She speaks to Mulder again, who’s busy moping about his apartment. She casually suggests to Bonsaint that he keep his mind open to more extreme explanations. They go for a lobster lunch and Bonsaint explains how Melissa’s husband died. About a year ago, he was found on his fishing boat with a hook pulled right through his head. The boat he worked on is moored in the harbour so Scully goes to chat to one of his erstwhile colleagues. This man—who was also one of the people injured in the grocery store earlier—tells her that he found the doll three days before he died. Scully calls Mulder and asks him about objects having the power to direct human behaviour. Mulder, who’s back in the office now, says there’s a well-established talking doll myth in New England. According to the lore the doll sometimes passes magical powers to its possessor. Scully decides it’s high time they all went to speak to Melissa.
Buddy had the same notion, and now finds himself dead after a self-inflicted beating from a baseball bat. Poor Melissa is (understandably) losing the plot. She attempts to board up the windows and doors and then spills gasoline all over the kitchen floor. The doll comes alive and stops her from lighting a match. It then compels Melissa to start hitting herself in the head with a hammer. Absolute anti-craic, lads. Scully and Bonsaint arrive and see what’s happening. They break inside and Scully manages to wrangle the doll off Polly. She throws it into the microwave and it catches fire. Melissa survives, and Polly seems to come around.
On Monday, Scully arrives back in the office not quite as rested as she’d like. She finds Mulder sharpening some pencils. He has just enough time to start telling her about his mega productive weekend when pencils start raining from the ceiling, where he’s been shoving them decoratively. Scully’s face says it all:
There is no way she’s paid enough to put up with that shit.
In the final scene, we see the burned remnants of the doll being hauled aboard another ill-fated fishing vessel. The moral of the story is to avoid Maine, I guess. Between all that rubbish and the giant alligator in Lake Placid, it’s just not safe.
All in all, not too shabby. Not stellar, but more entertaining than I expected. I can’t tell how much of that was in King’s draft or the rewrite but I always appreciate a Scully-centric episode! One of these days she might even get the holiday she deserves.
Til next week, friends!
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