Category Archives: Recap
Wow. Man. It is already 1995 20 years later. Time flies when you are moving through it 20 years late. So, last we checked in, it was the beginning of season two, then some awesome episodes happened, then now. How is that for a season 2 in progress recap? I know. It’s awesome. You’re welcome. You’re too kind.
Fine. I’ll give an episode by episode rundown since Duane Berry, the most important episode of the season (see last post):
2X05: 14 October 1994/2014: “Duane Barry” (S02E05)
Awesome. Sweet alien abduction nutjob hostage stuff. Red speedos for those out there who are into that.
2X06: 21 October 1994/2014: “Ascension” (S02E06)
More awesome nutjob madness. Scully is in trouble, yo.
2X07: 04 November 1994/2014: “3” (S02E07)
Frigging vampires are real, Mulder. Figure it out.
2X08: 11 November 1994/2014: “One Breath” (S02E08)
WTF, Scully? Row to shore already. Also, where the hell is Nurse Owens?
2X09: 18 November 1994/2014: “Firewalker” (S02E09)
Josh Lyman in a volcano. Crazy things happen.
2X10: 09 December 1994/2014: “Red Museum” (S02E10)
Ever wanted to be in a cult? Now you don’t.
2X11: 16 December 1994/2014: “Excelsis Dei” (S02E11)
Ghosts are real. Ghosts are also the result of eating a bunch of shrooms. Ghosts can also kill or injure you if they are mad at you (or just generally mad).
There we are. All caught up.
Now, on to Aubrey. I hope we’re all ready for some science that still doesn’t even exist at all. What also doesn’t exist is syncing up reality between Chapel Hill, NC and Washington, DC. We have had some problems, but I think that we are now go for launch.
So… you may be thinking, “Is this that episode with Mulder in the red speedo in the pool that time?”
And the answer is: “No. Not yet. That is episode 5 of this season, which we will have been watching in a few weeks time. Good looking out though. Stay vigilant. Well done, XX-phile. Keep hope alive.”
So, that is basically a summary of this evening’s episode, “The Host.”
Oh wait: no it’s not.
So The Host is about worms that become people and people who become worms. What is a worm anyway?
Well, they live in sewers and they are older than other forms of life on Earth, DUH. Flukes are a kind of a rat. No, a kind of a worm, but flat. Not a python. Definitely not a python. Pythons are snakes. Snakes are not worms. Worms look like snakes. Snakes are not the same as eels even though eels are the snakes of the sea. Except for water snakes. Those are the real deal.
The Snake Mackerel is some sort of fish-snake hybrid. Here is a picture:
This should not be confused with the Catfish Eel, an easy mistake for amateurs. Note the differences:
So anyway, serpentine and vermiform creatures are really strange. Flukes are really bizarre, because they are so flat. Why are they so flat? Creepy. A giant one would slide right under your door like some sort of horror, nightmare hell. Then it would attack you, eat your bile ducts, and infect you with some weird thing that would turn you into a fluke also, but slightly less flat. A fat fluke. Fatluke. Fatke. Flake? No. Nothing works.
Anyway, so now that you are a human fluke hybrid, what is there to do? Well, you can start by slithering around the sewers and attacking all of your human friends so that you have some new slimy, gross flatter fat fluke friends to hang with in the dank filth pits beneath human habitations. Obviously.
It’s really easy to move around now that you are a fluke. You can totally fit your slimy fat flat wretched body through pipes and whatnot. Want to visit your friend? No problem! Slime your disgusting flat fat toothy-grinned squishy head through his toilet AND SCARE HIS ENTIRE FAMILY TO DEATH.
HAHA! HILARIOUS JOKES.
So anyway, being a fluke is cool, if you’re into hanging out in sewers and stuff (and you know you are).
We’ll see you next week for “Blood.” That is a pretty great episode, despite being a strange bottle, MOTW, one-off. Don’t go crazy in the mean time dreaming about being a flat worm thing. Certainly don’t do whatever the microwave is telling you to do. It does not know best. Get back in the toilet, you.
EDIT: GUYS, we just learned that the SNAKE MACKEREL is a REAL FRIGGING THING. WHAT?
I hate it when we invent things that actually already exist.
Consider this a recap, sort of.
So I wasn’t able to view “Darkness Falls” with the others this week because I was otherwise indisposed (you don’t need to know, nosey. Rude). Luckily, back in the day, when my brother and I were going to miss X-files we would program our video cassette recorder (VCR) (it’s like a DVR, but medieval) and then put in a tape cassette (I don’t even know. Some sort of recording medium. I don’t remember what they look like anymore) and then when we came home the episode would have been recorded so that we could watch it later. So this week, I had my colleagues in the north tape the X-files for me and then send it to me using the United States Postal Service (it’s like email, but SO SLOW. Like, it can take several days for me to receive something that someone else sends. BUT, you can send physical objects [future readers: I know, you 3D-print everything now. Aren’t you special. Kiss my past-ass] so it works for some stuff still). Unfortunately, I don’t have a VCR (or whatever it was called) so I just watched it on Netflix. Actually, I’m lying about this whole process (in this reality, not in an alternate one in which I am not lying). I just watched it on Netflix several days late, but that story is SO BORING. The other story was much better. I’m sorry to confuse you, though. I know we are already traveling through time (always forward, very slowly) and I apologize for introducing alternate realities as well (mostly just daft imaginings and delusions, according to this reality self). SO, if you want truth (BO-RING) then you can believe the Netflix story and if you want something way more fun, imagine Amanda trying to program a VCR and then mailing me a tape (WAY better).
Oh yeah. A recap of “Darkness Falls.” Sorry, I get distracted. There is so much TV to watch in so many past timelines that it is difficult to keep up with which one that I am presently actually physically in. I call this “temporal dysphoria” or “dystemporalia.” Mark your calendars (in whatever reality you like) as the day that those future words were coined. Someday they will be much more common because we will always be moving through time in multiple directions/dimensions and people will have a really terrible time integrating past-, present-, future- and alternate-reality-selves. It will be a huge new branch of psychology and psychiatry. So crack the books, kids, and become future psychotemporal therapists. Make all the money. Except that there will be no money because we will live in a socialist utopia. Or perhaps there will only be money, but it won’t matter because we will live in a dystopian, collectivist surveillance police state. Whatever, become psychologists.
And there you have it.
What? Oh yeah, the recap. I’m sorry. I get so confused.
Okay, so, “Darkness Falls.” [ALL THE SPOILERS ARE AFTER THIS] Tiny bugs. Green. Glow in the dark. Swarmy. Make webs/cocoons around people (not animals, I guess) and suck all the water out of their bodies. But only at night. During the day they are hiding under stuff. They don’t like light. Light is abhorrent to them. So anyway, Mulder and Scully manage to survive being cocooned somehow. Like usual, anyone else would die (and many do), but not our heroes. They are sort of just fine by the end, but Scully is worse, like usual. The end.
This is one of my favorite monster-of-the-week (MOTW) episodes. There is no solution. There is no explanation (not that there ever is). There are just a bunch of “Holy shit WTF?” looks exchanged at the end. I like it when they end like this.
Alright, so I have to go. I have to watch an episode of Star Trek Voyager that will have been airing five years from past now and then back to back episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel that will have been airing a year after that. We are so lucky to have all of this documentary content about the past future and the present past and also the alternate present past (sometimes).
Good luck staying out of temporal trouble. I’ll have been seeing you on Tuesday (present)/Friday (past) for “Tooms.” Cheers.
Omg (swt) you guys!!! After a long hiatus while I was in the sultanate of Oman, it’s time to return to x-files. We’re coming at you from Harvard with a small but thoroughly dedicated viewing party. Back to it!!!!!
Comparative mythology is one of my favorite subjects of study and inquiry. Speculative comparative mythology, really. I mean, what about comparative mythology can be anything other than speculative. Mythology is weird. There are coincidental descriptive characteristics between all sorts of different mythological paradigms. Vampires and werewolves seem a lot like the manitou or chupacabra (we’ll get to that one later. Probably. Shh. Nevermind.) and they all act like different races of jinn. That’s my current favorite: that everything from vampires to fairies to trolls to imps to sprites to nymphs to demons to ghosts to poltergeists are all jinn. Describe something weird to me and I will probably tell you it is a jinn, sometimes facetiously (never facetiously). Summary: jinn come in all shapes and sizes. Just because one can fly and another can change its size doesn’t mean they aren’t the same. It is sort of like how some humans are good at math and others excel at swimming. We are not all the same and neither are they.
So, in case you hadn’t caught on, we are talking about “Shapes,” 19th episode of our favorite documentary series. This episode is about a manitou (a kind of a jinn, but for aboriginal Americans) which embodies and represents the ongoing struggle between native/aboriginal peoples and their white oppressors. The manitou takes possession of a human and transfigures its body to attack other humans, or maybe just to do manitou stuff, but pesky humans always get in the way. Either way, the tribe on the nearby reservation knows all about this. They totally get it. Mulder thinks it is a werewolf. He is an idiot. It is clearly a jinn. Duh. Jinn are known shape-shifters. Silly Mulder. Manitou and jinn are the SAME THING obviously. Jinn have their cosmological origins in the terrestrial fire. When they burned the body of Joseph Goodensnake, it clearly released the jinn that had possessed him. Clearly. This is obviously the case because it then went on to possess someone else, ironically the son of the man who shot its previous host. Q.E.D.
I won’t summarize further, that is what Wikipedia is for. The plot is not important here, only the lessons. Back to jinn: most of what you think about mythological creatures is colored by the bowdlerized retelling of Grimm’s fairy tales. Those are garbage. The originals are way scarier, but not anywhere near scary enough. Even the original Grimm’s tales seem like children’s stories compared to the real stuff. The real stuff will curl your hair. It will leave you laying awake at night staring at the amulets you have nailed to the walls all over your house, watching the shadows for little movements that might be the end of you, or at least your sanity.
I don’t know anyone who does that stuff in the last paragraph. But I have friends who do. Yeah. Friends. But I digress.
What I really came here to do was write about the lessons that we should take away from “Shapes.” Here they are in order of increasing profundity.
- Native peoples all over the world have been seriously effed over. We should really think about that. A lot.
- Talk to old people. They are wise. Listen to what they have to say without thinking that they are just crazy.
- The world is weirder than you can imagine. So take whatever you imagine the world is like and remember that it is the cube root of the actual weirdness of the world.
- All of those things that you previously thought were weird supernatural things are just jinn, so don’t worry about them. Or worry and fret. As you like.
Thankfully, after another week of weird skips and jumps we will be back on a weekly schedule for a five-episode streak to the end of the first season. We have some of the best “monster-of-the-week” episodes in the series coming up followed by a doozy of a season closer. So hold onto your hats, folks. Nail your amulets to the walls, recite your protective supplications and stay tuned for “Darkness Falls” on April 15.
LONE GUNMEN! LONE GUNMEN! We finally saw them!
Or not. BUT MAYBE
Paul and I watched this episode in my new house in Dorchester. Then we ate pub food down the street. It was exhilarating.
Some episodes of our favorite television show are campy, fantastical, and sillypants. Some, however, borrowed from current and predicted developments in science. Young at Heart is a little of both.
In the episode, we are met with basically quotidian phenomena: a prison doctor has gone rogue after deciding that this country’s strict limits on human experiments and gene therapy/drug trials spite the body to save the nose, as it were; he absconds to South America, the mythical land of unfettered access to cheap progeria sufferers. (Eh, whatever.) He studies these little children who age at an extremely accelerated pace to determine the secret of speeding up aging because do the opposite and you can slow it down. SCIENCE. He uses this on himself to keep from aging, and he uses it on Barnett, his most “successful” prisoner-patient (on whom he had free rein with the progeria experiments because he just got the prison to declare him dead even though he wasn’t), who would be a success if he weren’t a big ol’ murderer. So we’ve got Mulder and Scully looking for a should-be-dead murderer on the loose, except they’re looking for an older Barnett, assuming he ages in the same direction we do. This is not only some good misdirection, but a great chance for the FBI to show off their 1990s Photoshop skillz.
Anyway, so that explains why Barnett is running and murdering around undetected — he’s pulled a Benjamin Button on his old enemy Mulder (enemy because Mulder put him in prison way back when). Oh, also, he has a salamander hand.
I’m not totally sure why they decided to go with the salamander hand and the progeria/age reversal thing in one patient/prisoner/character. From what I can find, and keep in mind that I know absolutely nothing about science besides, like, plants eat sunshine and there are atoms in stuff and whatever, regenerative medicine (the salamander hand) and life prolongation/age reversal are two different fields of research without a lot of cross-pollination. Granted innovations in one would inform developments in the other, but the ability that salamanders and some other creatures have to regrow bits of themselves comes from a totally different element of their biology than what causes progeria in humans.
So how did these two unrelated medical phenomena got smashed into one MotW? Much as we would suspect, the progeria aspects of the plot and the salamander hand were added at different times by different people. The initial draft only included the progeria research, but I guess Chris Carter was like gah boring SALAMANDER TIME when he rewrote the script.(1)
This decision to chase two totally separate forms of (at the time) fringe medicine ultimately proved problematic for later critics of the show, though I consider the episode to be top-notch, X-Files truly hitting its stride, on top of its game. What I find to be a clear articulation of the raison d’être of the show inspires other critics to call it at once “far-fetched” at Entertainment Weekly (2) and “not weird enough” at the AV Club.(3) Maybe nothing is weird enough for the AV Club. (While I disrespectfully disagree with Handlen’s dismissal of the entire episode as “sloppy” and “poorly edited,” I do agree with him that the focus should have been on the government’s willingness to bargain with Barnett for the research he was holding hostage, as we find out from Deep Throat at the very end before Mulder kills the guy and any hope of getting the research back along with him.)
So, we’ve established that this is an unpopular episode with two divergent pseudo-/pre-scientific themes vying for space in the same character. How realistic is the science?
Totally realistic that we could grow a new hand, and probably possible in our lifetimes, but it’ll be human, not salamander. Lee Spievak famously grew back his fingertip in 2008(4) using powdered extracellular matrix extracted from the tissue of pig bladders. What they do is take out the bladder, take some tissue, soak that shit in acid to get rid of the cells leaving only the glue that holds em together, and then powder it. For some godforsaken reason, the matrix that holds animal cells together (i.e., extracellular) is intrinsically part of organ development and growth, and so when applied to Lee’s missing finger, it straight up grew a new finger. And not a globular, gross, three-digit salamander hand like in Young at Heart; it was a proper, human finger. The salamander hand looked pretty cool on television, and it is extracellular matrix that allows ‘manders to grow back their limbs, but the limb that grows back is controlled by the organism growing them, not the source of the ECM.
A lot of the research that my lazy and cursory library search turned up looked at ECM in drosophilia (flies), zebrafish, and xenopus (‘manders). For more, read Rodrigues et al. “Skeletal muscle regeneration in Xenopus tadpoles and zebrafish larvae,” Developmental Biology 12:9 (2012). Hans-Georg Simon also wrote a more accessible article about why we caint quite do the same thing (which is BULLSHIT): “Salamanders and fish can regenerate lost structures – why can’t we?” Biology 10:15 (2012). It goes without saying that basically every abstract of an article about salamander/fish regenerating their bodies starts with something wistful about how mammals can’t do it because of their immune system and scarring.
Basically, when mammals have a major wound, macrophages (pac-men) show up about a day or two later to chomp up the bad bits.(5) They replace neutrophils, which are the most common type of white blood cells, when there is a wound and they manage the healing process. They shoot out all this weird goo, such as proteases (which break up proteins and also do stuff with blood clots), growth factors (which I sure hope is transparent in meaning), and cytokines (which do immune system stuff). The cytokines that the macrophages be chillin’ with attract other cells that come help with the wound clean-up. When the macrophages get out of there, that’s when the inflammation ends and the wound starts to contract. They also help out with skin repair, but that was a whole other set of studies I didn’t want to read. Here’s the deal though: in the salamanders, the macrophages still show up. Cool! But instead of helping to get the epithelial tissue back up and running (remember the four types of tissues? connective, muscle, nervous, and epithelial!), they do a bunch of other stuff, but unfortunately I lost interest before I got to that part. The bottom line is that regenerative medicine might grow you a new human hand sometime soon, but not a salamander hand.
Stay tuned for part II, wherein I read some articles about progeria and tell you about them.
(1) Frank Lovece, The X-Files Declassified, 1996
(2) Entertainment Weekly, X Cyclopedia: The Ultimate Episode Guide, Season 1
(3) Zack Handlen, “The X-Files: Young at Heart/E.B.E./Miracle Man,” The AV Club: The TV Club, 2008
(4) Matthew Price, “The man who grew back his finger tip,” BBC News, 30 April 2008
(5) My understanding of macrophages is derived from James Godwin et al., “Macrophages are required for adult salamander limb regeneration,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110:23 (2013), 9415-9420
CONFIDENTIAL TO MY IMMUNOLOGICAL FRIENDS: Please correct me where I have misrepresented or misunderstood sciencey things.
LETTER FROM THE PRESENT AMANDA, February 20, 2014: Hey you guys, it turns out that I started a recap of “Squeeze” but never finished it. I am going to post it now since it’s been so many months that I think I’m never going to catch up. So here you go.
Please note first that I haven’t written my recap of Deep Throat yet. I will. I think the big thing is that I don’t really like that episode all that much, so I have been procrastinating writing on it. But I will because I know I have at least one reader!!
So, tonight is Squeeze. First a word about my life: it has become busy. When I planned this project years ago, I never imagined not having the easy, intermittently stressful, but on the average delightful life of a graduate student. Now I have a real(ish) job, that requires me to wear high heels and blazers (sometimes), and go to an office (when I’m not telecommuting from my bed). So anyway I had to go out to dinner tonight—a private, off the record kind of dinner that I can’t write about. And I missed out on watching Squeeze with my friends because of it. So I stopped at CVS on the way home for some Diet Pepsi and ice cream and that’s going to accompany me through my viewing of Squeeze, alone, at my kitchen table.
So, our episode begins.
Can I just take a minute to interrupt myself? You guys. The opening theme song. With the completely random phrases? “Paranormal activity.” “Government denies knowledge.” It’s like they gave some intern who was going back to school the following week the task of thinking up whatever word salad should go. It’s awesome.
This is good.
Scully and some douchebag are having lunch and she defends Mulder, which means she loves him. Duh. Douchebag wants her help on a serial killer. “Come down to the crime scene, and also suck my dick. But just don’t mess up my perfect hair.” He also refers to her as “Mrs. Spooky,” a title which would point to the accomplishment which is literally my life’s dream. (For reference, “Mrs. David Duchovny” would also work fine.)
GEORGE USHER’S OFFICE
M&S are working on the crime scene.
Mulder: “Do you think I’m spooky?” he says playfully.
Mulder and Tom Colton (referred to above as Douchebag, let’s go with that) check each other out and assess relative, metaphorical penis size, kind of like the business card scene in American Psycho.
Naturally Mulder figures out that the vent is relevant to the crime using a tiny scrap of screw metal, and finds probably the most thoroughly obvious fingerprint on the vent.
Now Mulder compares them to crimes from years and years earlier.
Can I just say that Mulder sure does look fiiiine indeed near a slide box?
Scully wants to know if Mulder wants her to go in front of the Higher Ups with a theory that aliens did the murders, which stretch (punny!) through many, many years. “No of course not,” he says, “I find no evidence of alien involvement.”
“Well what then, that this is the work of a hundred-year-old serial killer who’s capable of overpowering a healthy 6 foot 2 business man?’” “And he should stick out in a crowd with ten inch fingers.”
“Our X-File dates back to 1903. We had it first.” So they’re going to do separate investigations and compare results at the end.
Scully doesn’t have her Business Ponytail while writing her off-the-cuff initial profile, so we know she’s full of shit. Get real, Sculls.
“That is, if you don’t mind working in an area that’s a bit more down to earth.” Douchey laughs.
CRIME SCENE, 7:15 P.M.
Mulder jumps out at Scully, which is hilarious. Oh Mulder! What a guy.
If I may say, the silly sound effects that play whenever Tooms is on the move are really, really distracting and horrible.
I wonder if Scully always imagined that being an FBI agent would one day require her to yell authoritatively while swingin’ a gun “Proceed down the vent! Slowly!”
Polygraph, because, um, that’s how we always tell whether people are criminals, right?
Colton-Douchebag wants to get Scully reassigned out of X-Files into his bedroom department, but she refuses because of her love for Mulder professional duty.
Can we please hear it for the visual effects that went into stretching Tooms all the way down the chimney? Brilliant stuff.
Colton has another dick measuring contest with Mulder.
“Whose side are you on?” “The victims’.” Good one, Scully. Bazinga!
LYNNE ACRES RETIREMENT HOME
2023 is when they’ll get Tooms again. For reference, 2023 is when we start xfiles30yearslater.
Pre-internet research! Poor Mulder.
Tooms has an interior design sense stolen right out of the interior of my house. (If you replace all the garbage he has strewn about with my roommate’s sports memorabilia, of course.)
“Is there any way I could get this off my fingers quickly without betraying my cool exterior?” Oh Mulder. No exclamation point. Just hyperventilation.
66 EXETER ST., 11:30 A.M.
66 EXETER ST., 7:25 P.M.
Scully is running a bath when she hears a weird noise. First off, does everyone really run a full bathtub of water and then get in? I feel like that’s what people always do on the television. I always get in the bathtub while the water runs. Is that weird? Could I be doing something as simple as bathing incorrectly?
——-RECAP ENDS HERE——
Imagine this: a merry band of odd folks united by their love for the X-Files have assembled in a Somerville, MA living room. Twenty years ago, one of the finest television shows known to Creation was aired for the first time. When we finally get everyone to sit down and shut up (a process of several hours), we are immediately transported to Oregon.
A young woman in a nightgown runs through the forest, but she is running very poorly. She is clearly not a professional runner, and I have my immediate doubts that she is a professional actor. A bright light breaks up the forest and we see a figure walk from it. The figure approaches her and white light engulfs the pair. The leaves around them swirl in a vortex. The screen goes white.
Can you imagine what the primitive peoples of the early 1990’s thought of this show? A little known fact about late 20th-century American culture is that the discussion of aliens was a major taboo. The X-Files made major strides in normalizing aliens among Americans.
TITLE: COLLUM NATIONAL FOREST, NORTHWEST OREGON
Following the white screen, we come back to the girl on the ground. The lighting is normal now, so we’re in the regular world again. The Collum National Forest a very convenient place for some x-files since that’s around where the show was filmed. Stick to what you know, producers!
Two marks on the girl’s lower back set up the episode’s main mystery (how did they get there?) while also foreshadowing for some sexy scenes to come—clever aliens, they could have chosen to leave their weird marks on the ankle or somthing.
The detective is perplexed, but he recognizes her. “She went to school with my son.” This guy says “It’s happening again, isn’t it?”
TITLE: FBI HEADQUARTERS, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Now we’re in FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Business time! Lots of power suits and shoulder pads. David Duchovny gets top billing followed by Gillian Anderson, probably because he’s the one with a penis (also I think it was more famous than her at the time). Back to the documentary: Dana Scully is on the prowl.
She has to meet with some bigwigs and she doesn’t look happy about it.We get some amazing background: Scully was recruited out of medical school, she saw the FBI as a place she could distinguish herself, blah blah…shut up, Scully, are you familiar with Fox Mulder? She is! Who knew. She knows he likes the occult and he’s the best in the violent crimes section.
They ask her if she’s familiar with the “so-called” X-Files. Well, I know of several million people who are familiar with them! But they were presumably pretty unknown in 1993, so the question is reasonable. Turns out Scully has been recruited to write field reports about kooky, “Spooky” Agent Mulder.
Her response: “Am I to understand that you want me to debunk the X-Files, sir?”
Scully agrees to the plan and scurries off to the the basement where they’ve stashed poor Mr. Mulder. “Sorry, nobody down here but the FBI’s most unwanted!” That’s Mulder’s first line of the show. Hot. Mulder, trust me, you’re not Amanda Propst’s most unwanted.
In the basement scene, we get our first glimpses of some amazing, exciting things: Mulder himself, the famous I Want To Believe poster.
Mulder is looking at slides on a lightbox. How retro! Next he’s going to be counting aliens on an abacus.
“I was under the impression that you were sent to spy on me.” Mulder knows exactly what Scully is up to, even though she is a little coy about it.
ADVICE: Scully plays this man like a fiddle. Us ladies should all learn from her.
It’s always nice when characters meet each on the first episode of a show like in this one, because we get some excellent straight-up characterization without any of the hassle of actual story-telling.
Not much time for chit-chat, though, because M&S have to jump right into the mystery du jour. Mulder shows Scully (with slides!) an autopsy with no explained cause of death, but we do see those marks from the girl in the forest. “Dr. Scully, can you ID these marks?” She sure can try! She throws out a bunch of things they might be from bug bites to electrocution, but when Mulder shows her a molecular diagram of the substance found near the marks, she can’t figure out what it is. “It’s organic,” she says confidently, “Is it some kind of synthetic protein?” I’m sorry, because I want to keep this blog G-rated, but come on, insert your own semen joke here.
The synthetic protein was found on a few of these unexplained deaths. Why does the bureau ignore them, Mulder demands to know. “Do you believe in the existence of extraterrestrials?” he asks Scully. If Scully’s game is immaculate, Mulder’s could use some work. Busting out with the alien-talk in the first ten minutes of meeting a stoic FBI medical examiner is probably not the best way to get her to reevaluate her diagnosis of crazytown.
Mulder, still on the alien rant, derisively dismisses “conventional wisdom” as a way to figure out these deaths. Watson, I think we have a THEME!
And the theme continues! “Now when convention, and science, offer us no answers, might we not finally turn to the fantastic as a plausability?” Mulder, something tells me this is not the first time you’re going to propose this approach to Scully and be TURNED DOWN. “What I find fantastic,” she counters, “is any notion that there are answers beyond the realm of science. The answers are there, you just have to know where to look.”
But Mulder has his own zinger to toss back at her: “That’s why they put the I in FBI.” Beautiful.
So now we’re on a plane to Oregon to check this stuff out in person. Scully is reading (apparently, she’s just reading the word “autopsy,” based on the zoom).
Just to remind you that we’re watching X-Files here, the plane freaks out and almost crashes. What I love most about this is that there’s absolutely no resolution for it or even much discussion by the characters on screen. Mulder’s not concerned, but a baby is crying, which I would find pretty concerning had I been there. I would have needed Mulder to comfort me, probably. Scully seems unsettled, but welcome to flying commercial. I guess the FBI didn’t spring for private jets for crackpot X-files.
M&S land and get a rental car. Scully’s indignant that people had already started investigating the murders (um, duh), and Mulder says that they had come out to poke around and that they “enjoyed the local salmon, which, with a little lemon twist, is just to die for if you pardon the expression.” Oh Mulder! So we now know that Mulder is a foodie. Hopefully he cooks.
Scully makes some smart-sounding observations about the situation and Mulder says she’s doing pretty good. “Better than you expected, or better than you hoped?” she snaps back. The windows fog up. Getting hot in here.
But then, as usual, the romance is cut when the digital clock freaks out. I guess in 1993 these things were still pretty new. Mulder stops the car in the middle of the road, goes to the trunk, fiddles with his stuff, and pulls out a can of spray paint. The real mystery to me is where he got it. Did they stop at the store? Did he disregard all plane safety and bring the aerosol can on the plane with him? Anyway, he marks the spot where the stuff went weird with the paint. Scully looks on at him like she’s with a crazy person. A crazy, sexy person.
Whatever, weirdos! We’ve got an exhumation coming! M&S need a tissue sample from Ray Soames, one of the kids who died earlier.
TITLE: COASTAL NORTHWEST OREGON, MARCH 7, 1992
Editorial aside: I happen to like knowing what day this happened on. It’s too bad we didn’t celebrate the 20th anniversary of Mulder and Scully’s first trip out together on March 7, 2012.
M&S arrive at the graveyard where the exhumation is underway. It naturally attracts a few local figures who don’t seem happy that the FBI has called in its weirdo goons. The girl from the beginning (nightgown forest girl) isn’t happy. Dr. Jay Emmer, county medical examiner, “has been away” (lame excuse, dude) and is hoppin’ mad that the FBI is here. His daughter implores him: “Daddy, please, let’s just go home. Let’s go home, please.”
In response to his unhappiness, Mulder quips to Scully, “Guy obviously needed a longer vacation.” Oh Mulder!
By the gravesite, Mulder and Scully are seeing what else is going on in this weird little town. Turns out the third victim, Ray Soames, pleaded to be locked up but couldn’t produce evidence that he committed any crime; he got out of jail, though, and died of exposure after seven hours. How does a twenty year old boy die of exposure on a warm summer night, wonders Mulder? Scully refuses to accept the glaringly obvious fact that it was aliens.
The body looks like it’s seen better days (ha, ha), and Mulder notices too: “It’s safe to say he never made the varsity basketball team.” Oh Mulder! You slay me!
TITLE: 10:56 PM
Mulder is snapping pictures and Scully is in Business Mode so that she can more artfully complete the medical examination. Business Mode mainly consists of wearing glasses and pulling her hair into a fabulous 90’s ponytail.
Mulder is excited that he’s finally got an alien (because I think that’s what he decides the weird dead body is?) and Scully just keeps on doing what she’s doing as if he’s not there. She snaps that she doesn’t want the flash on her. Flashforward to ten years of marriage: “Stop taking pictures of me, Mulder!” She thinks it’s an chimpanzee or an orangutan. She also doesn’t seem to think that this is at all weird; Mulder obviously wonders to know where Ray Soames’s body is or I guess what could have caused it to turn into an ape. Get me a full genetic workup, Scully! I don’t even know what that is, but I need it! When Scully sighs and clearly doesn’t want to take the x-rays and whatever else, Mulder reassures her: “I’m not crazy, Scully. I have the same doubts you do.” WE ALL DOUBT IT, MULDER!
Fantastically, she spends her evening at the hotel transcribing her notes onto an ancient laptop. Mulder knocks on the door and she’s scared, but when he identifies himself (by claiming he’s Steven Spielberg! Hilarious! Oh Mulder!) she smiles like a schoolgirl, thus setting loose butterflies in the hearts of thousands, nay, millions of women across the United States and the world. She’s wearing my old 90’s standby of a large t-shirt and leggings. She doesn’t want to go on a run with Mulder. My guess is that Mulder didn’t really want to go on a run anyway, but Scully is more interested in the nasal implant they found, which is probably more productive anyway. Oh yeah they found a nasal implant in the dead body.
TITLE: RAYMON COUNTY STATE PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL
So now we go to meet Ray Soames’s psychiatrist, who oversaw his treatment for a year. He couldn’t grasp “reality,” says Doc, and suffered from post-traumatic stress. He saw the same thing in a few of Ray’s classmates, too. Mulder asks if he uses hypnosis on any of them. Pay attention to that; hypnosis is a bit of a running theme. The psychiatrist says that he has two inpatients with the same symptoms in the hospital, and so obviously Scully wants to talk to them. Won’t be easy, though, jokes Doc! Ha, ha, we’ll see why!
Billy Miles is in a waking coma. So he can’t talk! He and the other patient, Peggy, were in an automobile accident leaving him in a coma and her in a wheelchair (and apparently a little bonkers). She freaks out and starts knocking everything over and has an explosive nosebleed. I’m surprised neither Mulder nor Scully shout “NASAL IMPLANT!” but I guess Fox expected that the viewer could make that connection on their own. Mulder grabs a quick peek at her—wait, oh, at her lower back marks. Scully storms out.
She’s mad that Mulder knew the girl would have the marks. “What is going on? What do you know about those marks? What are they?”
“I don’t think you’re ready for what I think,” says Mulder. (Editorial note: I’m ready, I’m ready, I pant.) She wants to know anyway.
“I think those kids have been abducted.” “By whom?” “By what.” Scully’s frustrated by the line of thought that always leads back to Mulder’s aliens, so she insists that there has to be an explanation. All four victims were in the woods…she uses her medical and investigative smarts to put together that if four victims got into trouble in the forest, maybe they should…
go to the forest!
So now they’re stomping around the forest. Scully’s got Business Ponytail and Business Khakis in play, so we know this is for real. Mulder’s compass is going weird again; he needs a new one. Scully senses something is wrong, too, and raises her gun. She sees a bright light—we’re not dumb, we remember that light from the forest in the teaser! Holy shit! Aliens! Scully’s going to meet some aliens! How will she hide behind science then! A figure comes out from the light, in silhouette. We know it’s some aliens! What must be do now? Obviously, cut to commercial!
Scully identifies herself as FBI, but it turns out the alien is just a regular dude who informs her that she’s trespassing on private property. We know he’s Detective Miles from earlier, but he doesn’t give Scully his name. Law enforcement works so well together!
Mulder shows up. The detective says he has to arrest both of them, because that’s SOP when you have FBI agents doing an investigation, you arrest them. The detective will accept them just getting in their car and leaving, though, so that’s what they do. I think it’s pretty soft to go from threatening arrest, but I guess he knows he’s dealing with the big guys here.The bright light turns out to be lights mounted on the detective’s truck. Gah. Boring! Not aliens at all!
M&S get out of there. Scully fortunately grabbed something strange before they were rudely dismissed from the forest: some weird ash that was all over the ground. “I think something’s going on out here. Some kind of a sacrifice, maybe.” Good work, Scully. She wants to come back and check it out more when Detective Buzzkill isn’t going to wag his rifle in their faces.
Mulder looks at his (famous) wristwatch and it’s 9:03.
Suddenly, an interlude of laughably bad cinematographic effects indicates to us that something strange has happened/is happening. “We lost power. Brakes, steering, everything!” observes Mulder, who is apparently not only a foodie but also a mechanic. What can’t he do! “We lost 9 minutes!” he shouts when he looks at his watch again. He’s kind of excited about this. For some reason, they both get out of the car even though it’s raining. “Look! Look!” Mulder is so excited when he notices that this happened right where he marked the spot earlier. They were abducted, he reasons. The car’s engine starts all by itself while they stare at each other, in a single moment completely destabilizing everything I thought I knew about cars and their engines. They go back to the hotel. Hey, what can you do?
Scully’s back to typing on her ancient computer when the electricity goes out. Things just go from bad to worse, don’t they! What do you do when the power’s out? Take a shower. I guess. Whatever we can do to get her in her underwear. This is the pilot, after all, and Fox needs some ratings. I guess this is what ensured at least a full season buy-in. She notices something on her back, though—could it be incredibly unflattering underwear? No, not just that. So of course she puts on a robe and goes over to Mulder’s room to have him check it out, because that’s exactly the tone I would want to set with my new FBI partner that I wasn’t going to start sleeping with. Eh, whatever.
Mulder seems quite unfazed when Scully comes to his room and disrobes. I guess this happens to him all the time. He looks sexily unfazed. He looks at her closely and diagnoses the marks: mosquito bites. He even gives it a comedic delay to freak her out. She hugs him and we get the first real spark of chemistry between them (and the starting point for a thousand fanfic stories, I hope). Let me gather my wits. Okay, we can move on now.
Cut to what I can only assume is post-coital chatting: Mulder is telling Scully about the abduction of his sister. Typical pillow talk. He starts with his biography: “My success [in the FBI] allowed me a certain freedom to pursue my own interests.” It’s interesting to me that the FBI works like that, but whatever. “Someone” has been blocking Mulder’s attempts to get classified information, but he has Congressional connections that let him continue his work. Now we go off the deep end: Mulder has retrieved repressed memories through hypnosis. “Listento me Scully! This thing EXISTS! They government knows about it!” Sexy. But the phone rings (remember those?) and it kills the mood. Or what I assume was a mood. What I desperately hope was a mood.
The phone call was a woman just saying Peggy O’Dell was dead. Scully daftly identified Peggy O’Dell as “the girl in the wheelchair”; this explication is helpful for any viewers who have fallen asleep or don’t have basic understanding of how narratives work. Peggy was apparently running and got hit by a truck—but how could she have been running when she needs a wheelchair! The thick plottens.
TITLE: RURAL HWY. 133, BELLEFLEUR, OREGON
Scully investigates Peggy’s body and notices that her watch stopped by 9:03. Maybe that’s significant? We learn from Mulder that the exhumed orangutan corpse, meanwhile, was stolen, and the hotel was set on fire! The x-rays, pictures, everything is gone. If that’s not an advertisement for backing your shit up on the cloud! They should have been using dropbox or something. Duh.
They hurry back to the hotel and the medical examiner’s daughter approaches them as the hotel burns. “You’ve got to protect me,” she says, with the subtext being “protect me from my atrocious acting skills.” They take her with them to some restaurant to talk. She sometimes finds herself wandering through the forest. “I’m scared…I might…die,” she says haltingly. She’s the one who called Mulder to tell him about Peggy dying. Her father obviously knows all the sinister alien stuff going on, but she isn’t supposed to tell anyone. She confesses that she has the marks, too, like the others, and then of course gets a nosebleed (aliens, build better nasal implants, yeah?). Scully, who assured her that she’s not going to die, is freaked out, kind of not toeing that line very well. With excellent timing, the dad stomps in just in time to take her from Mulder.
Turns out Detective Miles is Billy Miles’s father. We already knew that, but Mulder and Scully are just now finding out. Welcome to the party. Scully finally bites: these guys are clearly hiding something. Mulder thinks it’s aliens; Scully thinks it’s more routine small-town murders.
So they clearly need to go to the graves of the other two victims and see if they became orangutans too. The graves are empty, but that’s enough to get Mulder to realize it’s been Billy Miles, the guy in the waking coma, who’s been offing his friends. And why else would the detective be covering for him? It’s why the hotel was burned down, too. What a tight story, dudes.
TITLE: 5:07 AM
Scully is a little incredulous that Billy Miles could have done it. “It all fits a profile with alien abduction,” says Mulder. Word to the wise, Mulder: maybe don’t sledgehammer aliens into every idea you have? Scully would be more likely to believe the mundane parts of your theory if you give the aliens a rest.
“The forest controls them…it summons them there.” Right, Mulder. Scully’s not buying it. So much that she starts laughing uncontrollably after Mulder finishes his theory. They go to Billy Miles of course for Scully to see whether he might be capable of leaving the hospital to ferry people to the forest to die. Conveniently Scully finds that weird ash from the forest on Billy’s feet. Serious FBI investigative tactic.
Now Scully realizes she’s going to have to report all this weird shit to the FBI. Oh no, all her science (and thankfully her underwear) was destroyed in the fire! They have to go back to the forest to get a new sample of the ash. A scream in the forest and the detective’s car: not all is well. We have a half-assed chase scene, until the detective hits Scully on the head. I assume this is more metaphor for how local law enforcement views working with the feds.
Now we see it, the money shot: Billy is lifting the medical examiner’s daughter in the middle of a vortex. Mulder and the detective watch. Scully is a bit behind them rubbing her head, so naturally she doesn’t see the actual action, which is pretty important for her character development.
After all the vortex drama, things suddenly go back to normal. Billy’s marks are gone too, and he can talk now. And the girl is fine! Guess the aliens just decided to let ’em go.
TITLE: MARCH 22, 1992, FBI HEADQUARTERS, WASHINGTON, D.C.
We come to the denouement. Billy is in a nice shirt, giving some kind of deposition. He explains that his high school friends and he were all in the forest partying and the light took him to the testing place. The aliens would tell him to gather the others so they could do tests on them. They put something in his head. Scully’s FBI bosses watch with her through the mirror as Billy gives his speech. And of course our friend the Cigarette-Smoking Man is there too. He whispers something and they all walk out. Scully and Mulder exchange a knowing glance, which is probably about whether or not she’s going to betray him or not in her report to the FBI, but I like to think it’s more of a sexy look.
In another meeting with the bigwigs, Scully admits that her reports are personal and subjective and that she can’t draw any conclusions. She can’t substantiate anything. Science wins. We’re setting a real pattern here, Mulder.
Scully then makes a big mistake. She’s pocketed the implant from the exhumed body and it was the only piece of evidence not destroyed in the fire. The material couldn’t be identified through a lab test, but she isn’t that disturbed. She hands the implant over and passes by the CSM on his way into the office as she’s on her way out.
Mulder calls Scully late that night unable to sleep. I know those kinds of calls, and I would most certainly answer one from Mulder. He tries to gets her in the mood by telling that they aren’t filing a case on Billy Miles and the paperwork is gone. “We need to talk, Scully.” I agree, you sure do. Scully says she’ll talk tomorrow—girl knows how to play hard to get. I should learn from her. Then she just hangs up. Her game is on fire.
Cut to the CSM is in some labyrinthine vault. He deposits the implant into an acrylic case and walks out. Sinister. We think there may be something bigger going on. Maybe?
The sign on the door as we pan out is not very subtle. This is Pentagon-level shit, kids.
If you made it this far, congratulations! You get absolutely nothing in return for reading this, not even the last half hour of your life back. Recaps won’t typically be this in-depth, but I wanted to start with a bang. And a long, long whimper.
If you want a more straight recap of the episode, I encourage you to check out the X-Files Wiki’s entry on this episode.