Friday, December 27, 2013

1x14: Gender Bender

It seems to me the best blogs, the ones that last, are frequently the ones that are rooted in obsession.  You know, one day you look at the X-Files and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere.  And the show that was just a show is suddenly the only thing you can think about.

I seriously considered abandoning the schedule and reviewing How the Ghosts Stole Christmas this week (given that I've watched it ohhhhhhhh about a MILLION TIMES in the last few days) but I promised chronological order and dammit, I will deliver chronological order. Could someone who's good at math please tell me when we'll be getting to 6x06 and if it's any time in the holiday season? Figure one ep per week plus one wrap-up post per season, and maybe 2 weeks for each movie because they're so long.

Ahhh, Gender Bender. The one that first introduced us to Nicholas Lea, though not as his official character. I like to think the random dude in this episode was Krycek's long-lost good twin, and throughout the rest of the series he's somewhere in the background doing good deeds and saving puppies and stuff. It also features yet another type of species of alien that's sort of loosely related to the ones we'll see later (able to change their face at will)  but they're not quite the same. It's like the writers looked back on Season 1 when they were designing the Grays and said, "Okay, here's all the alien-ish things we made already. Let's mash 'em together and see what happens": shape shifting (GB), radiation burns (Fallen Angel), possessing (Space, though I much prefer the black oil to the Mars face ghost... thing), communication with abductees (Conduit, sort of), and been on earth for a long time in secret (Ice) and our government is in on all of it (EBE).  

As a reminder, here are some of the themes we'll be exploring as we go forward with these reviews.

1. The show is as much about Scully's journey toward becoming a believer as it is about the paranormal events she and Mulder encounter.
2. Scully is only a skeptic when viewing things from a clinical distance; when the shit hits the fan, she acts on Mulder's crazy beliefs because she knows it will keep her alive.
3. Mulder isn't right nearly as often as he thinks.
4. The evolution of the Mulder/Scully relationship - not just the romantic involvement that eventually occurs, but their dynamics of trust and distrust, the changing ways they view each other, and the friendship that grows over time.
5. Assault on a federal officer never seems to lead to jail time.
6. Mulder is kind of a dick.
7. Hotels, car rental places, and apartment landlords must be crazy to rent to FBI agents.
8. The enormous top-secret government conspiracy actually really sucks at keeping things quiet.
9.  There are some serious homoerotic undertones in this show.
10. The X-files department is super toxic to anyone who comes close to it.
11. Mulder and Scully are both terrible at their jobs.
12. Local law enforcement is protrayed in an extremely negative light.
13. This show is white-washed as fuck. And almost all the non-whites are villains or stereotypes.
14. Bathtubs are scary, terrible places that should be avoided at all costs.
15. Plot and logic will be completely discarded just so Scully can have some reason not to witness the big paranormal events of the episode.

We open on a nightclub, and it's like the 90s version of a sexy industrial club with people in cages and music with lots of clanging in it but it's also filmed in Vancouver so it's all a little vanilla, y'know? A young guy gets shot down by a hot blond and is all bummed until another chick comes up to him and starts stroking his hand, and he floats away with her like Pepe le Pew on a cloud of pheromones.

We cut to a hotel room about 1/2 a second to late to witness them actually boning. The girl gets out of bed while the guy starts talking about how amazing that was, but he has a hard time getting the words out around all the gross pink foam he suddenly starts vomiting up.

He dies pretty quickly, and then the girl starts putting on his clothes... and as the camera pans up, we see she is now a he.

Crime Scene
Germantown, Maryland
Outside Washington, D.C.

After the opening credits, we're back in that same hotel room which is now swarming with cops and forensics guys. Mulder examines the body while Scully gets the details from the detective in charge: security shows the dead guy arrived with a woman at 10:13 and that an unknown man left the room just after midnight, but cameras never caught him arriving or the woman leaving. Scully seems confused as to why they would be called in on a case like this, but it's yet again a case of Mulder withholding relevant and important information about THEIR department (not just his).

Back at the X-files office, Mulder finally pulls his head out of his ass and shows Scully the files he's been collecting for over 6 weeks on young attractive folks dying in the throes of passion.

Goddammit, Mulder, this is why I have a hard time liking early-season you. Scully is your partner. She's going with you on these cases, working at your side. She has a medical background. Why the hell wouldn't you let her in on this thing a bit earlier? Maybe she could have provided her invaluable insight like 5 weeks ago and then FIVE PEOPLE WOULDN'T BE DEAD. Do you have some sort of body count minimum required before you'll actually start investigating rather than just collecting casefiles? #6 and #11... just... everywhere. Ugh.


According to yet another of Mulder's signature slideshows, all these hot young nookie-lovers were found with huge amounts of pheromones and arteries burst from an overdose on vitamin XXX. Victims are both male and female and the pattern is moving south from Boston to DC. There was one other death a year before near an Amish-like religious settlement of "The Kindred." A substance used in Kindred pottery - found exclusively in that region - was found in the scratches on one of the victims.

Steveston, Massachusetts

Our intrepid agents hoof it up to Amish Kindred country where they immediately begin questioning random locals about the reclusive religious extremists. Mulder spots a bunch of photos of the Kindred on the wall of one of the shops, which the owner says were taken in the 1930s.

A group of the Kindred shows up in a horse-drawn wagon; Mulder follows the ladies into the feedstore to talk to them while Scully speaks to the one tending the horses. He's hesitant at first, but starts to open up as they talk about the horses. Then he starts caressing her hand and she gets a little, uh, happy:

Scully's "melting at your touch" face.

The other Kindred come out just in time to keep her from ripping off her panties and humping the guy right in the street. Mulder notices she's acting a bit weird but all she says is that she thinks there's something going on up there.

They drive up to the settlement but have to park the car as the road becomes too rough. Mulder displays absolutely zero Indian Guide skills and gets them lost in the woods, but they're found by a group of roaming Kindred. They will take M&S to their village but only if they give up their guns. They do, but very reluctantly.

Up at the Kindred compound, M&S view such wholesome scenes as a bunch of people threshing wheat, hanging clothes out to dry, chopping wood, praying over an obviously sick man instead of using any sort of medicine and refusing to let Scully help when he starts choking to death on his own mucus, and getting way too riled up and defensive about one of their members possibly being a murderer. Nope, nothing weird going on here!

We cut back to the same nightclub from the teaser

You will never see a cage dancer wearing so much clothing in real life.

where the killer is trying out his/her new boy skin by picking up a trashy blonde. She doesn't want to dance with him until he starts touching her hand, at which point it's all she can do not to take him then and there.

Any other Dresden Files fans out there? I wonder if this episode was part of the inspiration for the White Court vampires...

A group of Kindred lead Mulder and Scully to the edge of the compound and points them towards their car. They walk away, very suspicious of what's really going on underneath the veneer of quiet religious life. They realize the Kindred never answered a single one of their questions and, weirdly, there were no children at all. Mulder also thinks he recognizes some of the people in the photos from the store - the ones taken in the '30s.

They sneak back to the compound and find all the buildings abandoned but the barn, where they peek in and see the Kindred carrying the lifeless corpse of the man who was choking earlier into a cellar.

After they leave the barn, Mulder head inside to peak into the cellar. Scully stays to ostensibly keep watch but really the writers didn't want her to witness what's really in the cellar (#15) and because this gives them a chance to write a scene in which she has a sexual interaction with someone other than Mulder. The horse guy from earlier, Brother Andrew, finds her and takes her into the house on the pretense of giving her information.

Mulder makes his way into the cave and observes the Kindred performing a ritual around the corpse, rubbing it with white clay. After they carry it further into the caves, Mulder decides it's safe to do some poking around only to almost immediately hear footsteps and voices approaching; he dives into one of the holes in the cave wall, where he overhears the Kindred saying that Scully has come back. He realizes he's in the same cubbyhole as the corpse, but now it has noticeably longer, darker hair and isn't exactly dead anymore.

Still a prettier woman than DD in Red Shoe Diaries.

He waits for the Kindred to leave and then goes to find Scully.

Meanwhile, Brother Andrew takes Scully to his bedroom and says the killer was his best friend, Brother Marty, who was fascinated by the outside world and left the Kindred to explore it. She starts asking questions about Marty and how he killed and the ceremony in the barn, but Andrew takes her hand... then he strokes her face... and starts nuzzling...

and then pushes her, unresisting and making little happy noises, onto the bed.

Mulder breaks in just in time. He pushes Brother Andrew away and half leads, half carries a limp Scully out of the house. The other Kindred are gathered outside and stare with a mixture of anger and judgment, but let them pass. As they get out of hearing range, Mulder asks Scully just what the hell she was doing back there with a guy who looks more than a little bit like Mulder himself. She can't answer, just starts throwing up on the side of the path.

At the dance club again, the killer (now in the form of the woman from the teaser again) seduces the man who will be Krycek:

Mulder brings coffee out to the car and asks Scully how she's feeling. She doesn't remember much of what happened except that Andrew IDed the killer. He tells her what he saw in the cellar and how the corpse was in the process of changing sexes, which would explain the security footage of a woman entering a hotel room but a man leaving.

He's also victim-blaming pretty strongly here, considering that Scully was essentially roofied and nearly raped. I'm pretty sure a victim overwhelmed with pheromones is legally unable to give consent, and Mulder knows that any hanky-panky taking place here would have probably resulted in Scully's death. Yet he seems way more angry than concerned for her well-being. And maybe, just maybe, some of that anger is just misplaced jealousy that Scully was about to give it up to a stranger (granted, under the influence of supernatural roofies, but still) and not to him. #4, #6.

Cut to NotKrycek making out with the killer in a parked car. A cop knocks on the window to break them up (second time they've used that trope in as many episode, btw) and NotKrycek starts gasping in pain. The cop moves to help him, only to get punched in the face by the suddenly-male killer.

Later, NotKrycek lies in a hospital bed, telling them more or less what happened. He uncomfortably admits, off the record, that when he saw his lady friend beating up the cop, she looked more like a man friend.

Him giggling about hooking up with a guy might just be the origin of all the homoerotic Mulder/Krycek fanfiction out there.

As they walk out of the hospital, Scully tries to rationalize the supposed mansformation by saying NotKrycek might have just accidentally hooked up with a transvestite, but Mulder is pretty sure any guy who gets as much tail as NotKrycek knows the difference. Just then, a cop or something runs up and tells them that a credit card stolen from the last victim was just used to order takeout to a downtown hotel.

At said hotel, girl-Marty soliloquies to his/her latest victim's corpse about how the forbidden fruit is always the sweetest, and that the others are coming to find him/her soon because "the day is coming and they won't leave without me."

Mulder and Scully arrive at the hotel, guns drawn, and make their way to Marty's hotel room. Mulder kicks the door down, and Marty becomes the latest in a long line of perps to knock Scully out with a single blow to the head and escape, thus leaving Mulder the only one conscious to witness Marty shift from female to male. #15

Scully comes to and rushes past Mulder (who received his own grogginess-inducing punch to the face*) and into an alley. She sees boy-Marty running towards her and orders him to stop; he freezes, but a bunch of figured dressed in black descend upon him and start carrying him away.

That horse-and-buggy ride must have taken forever!

Would-be-molester Andrew steps out of the crowd and blocks Scully's line of fire, begging her not to hurt Marty. He inches closer to her and she starts to lower her gun. She turns briefly when Mulder calls her name as he emerges into the alley, and Andrew knocks the gun out of her hand and hits her hard enough to knock her down - so yeah, that's the second time in less than 3 minutes that she's been taken out of the fight by a punch. Mulder rushes to her side and the Kindred get away.

Later, the area is swarming with cops, one of whom tells Moose and Squirrel that the area is secure but there's no sign of the Kindred. Knowing there's only one place they'd hide, Mulder and Scully and a bunch of police roll up to the Kindred compound the next morning, only to find it empty. The cellar door that once led down to the resurrection/sex-change caves now opens only to a wall of solid clay.

All they find is a crop circle, indicating the Kindred fled the compound by no earthly means.

Writers: "So they were, like, aliens? Sure. Let's go with that. Whatever."

Firsts: Nicholas Lea, shape-shifting aliens

I don't know how I feel about this episode. It had an interesting premise - outcast shape-shifter seeks more exciting life, only to find that the intimacy it craves ultimately kills the humans it adores. Like if the Little Mermaid's "kiss of true love" had given Prince Eric a coronary. But I think the writers also tried too late to give Marty any sort of motivation and did it in a really deus ex machina way - explaining his/her loneliness to a corpse, really? That's pretty amateur writing.

Also, the killer being able to change sexes at will feels extremely transphobic in this day and age. At the time, sure, trans people were seen as freakish and scary and the very manifestation of that terrifying "other," the kind of sexual deviants you were afraid to run into. But that attitude has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, so the story of a sex-changing villain just feels insensitive. Not to mention the thinly-veiled religious intolerance, painting the Kindred (and thus the Amish, Mennonites, etc) as evil.

The writers revisit the premise of "outcast shape-shifter seeks more exciting life" brilliantly in season six's The Unnatural (one of my top 5 favorite episodes), which makes Gender Bender seem even more crappy in comparison.

Next week: Lazarus or "The First of Three Season 1 Episodes About Immortality" or "Hey Look, Scully Has Bad Taste in Relationships, Too!"

*I feel like I need to be keeping some sort of blow-to-the-head count for these characters. All this repeated head trauma can't possibly be good for them, nor for the bottom line of the Bureau's health insurance. This episode marks at least the 3rd time Scully has been knocked out or at least badly stunned this season, having also received a blow to the head in the pilot and Eve. Mulder has had his fair share of bumps and bruises, too; this episode is his first knock-out but he also got shot in Beyond the Sea, broke a leg in Fallen Angel, was lightly gored by the she-beast in Jersey Devil, and got some smoke-inhalation damage in Fire. And this is just the first season! By the end of the series, I'm surprised either of them can walk upright after all the physical trauma (and don't get me started on all the emotional damage they sustain).

Friday, December 20, 2013

1x13 Beyond the Sea

We wanted to believe... we wanted to be scared. On September 10 1993, a TV show was launched on the Fox network. It was called The X-Files. It carried a message. A highly-rated broadcast depicting images, music and sounds of scary things, arranged so that it would evoke feelings of fear and captivation among its audience. Twenty years after its launch, The X-Files continues to resonate with old fans and new. After the final movie in 2008, there were no further episodes made, nor were any planned. We want them, though. On June 19 2013,  IDW Publishing initiated The X-Files Season 10 comic book project. An attempt to wrap up loose ends left dangling after I Want To Believe and bring Mulder and Scully back into the homes and hearts of those who love them. ... We want to believe, and the tools have been given to us again. The X-Files have been revived (sort of). They opened our eyes... our voices have been heard.... our ears now alive to the realms of extreme possibilities. (Quote adapted from 2x01 Little Green Men)

This week we're covering 1x13 Beyond the Sea or "The One Where We Meet Scully's Dad and Then Promptly Lose Him" or "The One with One of the Greatest Guest Stars Ever." Everyone cites Luther Lee Boggs as one of the best one-off special guest stars ever, and I have to agree. Brad Dourif is so convincing and committed to his role that I find myself nearly as entranced yet repulsed as Scully herself. He is right up there with Peter Boyle (3x04 Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose) and Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner (6x06 How the Ghosts Stole Christmas, which you should watch RIGHT NOW given the holiday season) as far as my favorite guest stars go. Plus, it's a Morgan/Wong collaboration, so it's amazing by default. The episode is a big fat smattering of #1, #2, and #4 and almost entirely devoid of #15, so buckle in for a fun ride.

On a sort-of-related, my brother (who is a sailor and frequently away from home) and his wife had their first dance to Beyond the Sea at their wedding. ALL THE FEELS.

In case anyone has forgotten, here's a list of themes we'll be keeping in mind over the course of these reviews:

1. The show is as much about Scully's journey toward becoming a believer as it is about the paranormal events she and Mulder encounter.
2. Scully is only a skeptic when viewing things from a clinical distance; when the shit hits the fan, she acts on Mulder's crazy beliefs because she knows it will keep her alive.
3. Mulder isn't right nearly as often as he thinks.
4. The evolution of the Mulder/Scully relationship - not just the romantic involvement that eventually occurs, but their dynamics of trust and distrust, the changing ways they view each other, and the friendship that grows over time.
5. Assault on a federal officer never seems to lead to jail time.
6. Mulder is kind of a dick.
7. Hotels, car rental places, and apartment landlords must be crazy to rent to FBI agents.
8. The enormous top-secret government conspiracy actually really sucks at keeping things quiet.
9.  There are some serious homoerotic undertones in this show.
10. The X-files department is super toxic to anyone who comes close to it.
11. Mulder and Scully are both terrible at their jobs.
12. Local law enforcement is protrayed in an extremely negative light.
13. This show is white-washed as fuck. And almost all the non-whites are villains or stereotypes.
14. Bathtubs are scary, terrible places that should be avoided at all costs.
15. Plot and logic will be completely discarded just so Scully can have some reason not to witness the big paranormal events of the episode.

We open in Scully's apartment, where both her parents have come for dinner. Her father William. (played by Don S. Davis from Stargate SG-1 / the "biological clock" doctor from Look Who's Talking) teases her about still having her Christmas tree up. Before they leave, Margaret gives him that significant look all moms and wives gain as a special ability, and William sort of awkwardly asks Scully about work... and she equally awkwardly says it's all good.

Remember in the pilot when Scully says she joined the FBI against her parents' wishes? Here we're seeing the strange family tension in action. I love how subtle it is.

Later that night, Scully has fallen asleep watching infomercials. She wakes up suddenly and sees her father sitting in a chair in front of her. His mouth is moving but we don't hear the words.

Fun fact: He's actually reciting the Lord's Prayer. Whether that's his final message to Scully or not isn't really clear.
She tries to talk to him, but the phone rings and startles her; when she looks back, he's gone. On the phone, her mother is crying and tells her that William has just died.

Jackson University
Raleigh, North Carolina

After the opening credits, we cut to a guy and girl getting all hot and heavy in their parked car, so you know from countless horror movie tropes that terrible things are going to happen to them. Sure enough, a cop (or rather, a very bad guy pretending to be a cop) knocks on the window, orders the boy out of the car, and beats the guy with his flashlight while the girl screams.

... Just a side note: you have every right to refuse to get out of your car until the officer provides valid ID. In this age of cell phones, you can even call dispatch to make sure that it's really a police officer and not a serial killer. This is especially useful if a cop wants to pull you over a dark, empty road.

FBI Headquarters
Washington, D.C.

Mulder is reading some files when Scully comes in and quips that the last time he was that engrossed, he was reading porn. Mulder, for perhaps the first time, shows some sensitivity to the fact that she's just lost her father, even calling her "Dana" which grates on my nerves nearly as much as it does hers.

"How do you like it when I call you 'Fox', eh?"
See, Scully is not the type of woman who likes to be treated with sympathy or kid gloves when she's in pain, as it makes her feel weak and vulnerable at a time when she needs to be strong and in control. That's not necessarily the most emotionally healthy way to deal with grief, but she do how she do.

She wants to dive back into work, so Mulder tells her about the two kidnapped kids, who are the latest in a pattern that leaves 2 kids dead by extreme torture. As a bonus, a death row inmate named Luther Lee Boggs claims to be having psychic visions that could lead to finding and saving those kids, in exchange for being granted life in prison instead of being executed in a week.

Mulder, in yet another first (so much character development in the first 10 minutes of this episode!) is actually skeptical and thinks Boggs is in on the kidnapping somehow. (Spoiler: #3)

She wants to go with him to meet Boggs, even though it'll be right after her father's funeral; Mulder tells her she should take some time, but she needs to work. And then this happens, and Shippers across the globes experienced simultaneous spontaneous combustion:

I don't know how they do it, but these two manage to make the smallest bits of personal contact look sexier and more romantic than actual sex.

After he leaves, she goes to the drawer and pulls out this file:

Remember this for Elegy in S4.
But puts it back without reading it and slam the door.

We cut toWilliam's funeral, which is attended by none of the people who will play his children in later episodes. I guess they hadn't fully fleshed out Scully's siblings yet (and we never do meet Charlie) so maybe we can assume they were all, like, insanely busy or had nervous breakdowns at their father's death or something and these are other family members.

As they scatter his ashes off a small boat, "Beyond the Sea" plays loudly - the song that was playing when William proposed to Margaret immediately upon his return from the Cuban Blockade.
SCULLY: I know that you and Dad were... disappointed that I chose the path I'm on instead of medicine but I need to know... was he at all proud of me?
MARGARET SCULLY: He was your father.
Yeah that's... that's really not helpful, Mags.

Central Prison
Raleigh, North Carolina

Mulder and Scully interview Luther Lee Boggs, who jumps back and forth between personalities (or spirits possessing him, or he's faking it). Mulder decides to test him and hands him a piece of fabric; Boggs immediately starts squirming in pain, saying the kidnapped boy is in terrible agony, tied with twine and being beaten with a wire coat hanger. There's a warehouse and angel of stone, and a waterfall that's not water.

After this spectacularly creepy performance, Mulder takes the cloth away and says it's from his New York Knicks t-shirt - it has nothing to do with the victims. He leaves, disgusted, and Scully moves to follow him... until Boggs starts singing "Beyond the Sea."

She looks at him, and in her eyes he's been replaced by William Scully. She winces away, and when she looks again she's seeing Boggs, who is says in her father's tone, "Did you get my message, Starbuck?"

She rushes out, past Mulder and the guards, saying she's just upset about her father. Mulder tells her to go back to the motel so he can interrogate Boggs and find out where the kids are. Guards emerge and lead Boggs back to his cell, and he's still singing.

Scully drives away; when she stops at a red light, she closes her eyes, remembering what Boggs said: a waterfall that's not a waterfall, an angel of stone... She opens her eyes and sees:

She pulls into a nearby alley and opens the door to a condemned building. It's empty, but she finds the missing girl's bracelet and a pile of wire coat hangers amid a ring of candles. (Filing this as #2 and #1, although it's possible she only went in there because she believed Boggs really is in on the kidnapping and leaked these details to make himself seem credible.)

Later, Scully sits in her hotel room, in front of an empty chair, thinking about her father. Mulder knocks on the door and tells her the girl's family confirmed the bracelet was hers. She asks if Boggs confessed, but after 5 hours, Mulder got nothing from him.
MULDER: Just five hours of Boggs' "channeling." After three hours, I asked him to summon up the soul of Jimi Hendrix and requested "All Along the Watchtower." You know the guy's been dead for twenty years and he still hasn't lost his edge.
Scully admits she lied to the police about how she found the warehouse - no "suspicious activity, just the signs Boggs spoke of. Mulder seems both angry that she fell into Boggs' trap (and could've been killed) and hurt that she didn't want to go on record saying she believed him, because "the bureau would expect something like that from 'Spooky' Mulder, but not Dana Scully."

His anger fades quickly to sympathy as he realizes (despite her denial) that this has something to do with her father. He wants her to back away from the job, worried that her judgement is clouded by grief and guilt, but she says she loves this job.

Not her job, mind you, but this job. As in, being assigned to the X-Files. As in, working with Mulder. #4

Mulder reiterates his belief that Boggs is working with someone on the outside, and says they have to be very careful because Boggs has planned ahead. The only thing they have on their side is the deadline (hah, get it?) of his execution.

Central Prison
Raleigh, North Carolina

Mulder shows up with a fake newspaper which states that the college kids were found safe; he hopes that Boggs will call his accomplice to find out what happened.  They from the security room watch as Boggs reads the fake paper and is then lead to a phone room for his weekly phone privileges. He dials, and Mulder's phone rings in his pocket. Obviously, it's Boggs. He stares straight at the security camera, almost as if he can see them watching the monitor, and says
BOGGS: How come you don't believe me? Agent Scully believes me.
Boggs drops the phone, and Scully tells Mulder that they have to make a deal, because those kids are going to die in 3 days and their only connection to the case is going to the gas chamber in 4.

Back in the interrogation room, Boggs does his best to describe the killer: male, small, thin, late twenties, cold gray eyes, something about a skull... As he speaks, we get flashes of the actual killer (wearing a skull earring) as he looks down at his victims. The killer strikes the air with a wire hanger, and in the interrogation room, Boggs reacts as if struck.

He says they're in a small boathouse on Lake Jordan, and warns Mulder not to go near the white cross: "We see you down... and your blood spills on the white cross."

We cut to the boathouse, where our killer is getting ready to wail on the two teenagers, only to look up and see that he's surrounded by FBI agents. They kick down the door and find the girl, but the boy and the killer are gone. Mulder goes haring off alone (again, like always, like an idiot) and gets shot (like always, like an idiot). The killer gets away in a motorboat. Scully runs to Mulder's side and presses her coat to his wound, and looks up to see that the beams of the boathouse form a white cross towering over them, splattered with Mulder's blood.

They get Mulder to the hospital in critical condition; Scully stays with him only briefly, then goes to the girl's room where she is looking at photos trying to ID the man who kidnapped her - it's Lucas Jackson Henry, who's done time for other crimes but nothing this big. The timing of the kidnapping and previous murder falls on the anniversary of the auto accident which killed his mother and high school girlfriend.

Central Prison
Raleigh, North Carolina

Scully goes back to question Boggs again, and is understandably a little upset:
SCULLY: You set us up. You're in on this with Lucas Henry. This was a trap for Mulder because he helped put you away. Well, I came here to tell you that if he dies because of what you've done, four days from now, no one will be able to stop me from being the one that will throw the switch and gas you out of this life for good, you son of a bitch!
He tells her the story of when she was 14 and snuck out of the house to smoke one of her mom's cigarettes (which comes up a few times later in the series); she denies that it's true but is obviously shaken. She wants to believe him, but only if he'll let her talk to her father. Boggs starts to channel him, but stops and says nobody talks to anybody until he gets his deal.

He tells her what happened the first time he went to the gas chamber (where he got a last minute reprieve), walking down the hallway and seeing the family whom he murdered lining the walls.

Facing his own death, he felt his soul leave his body, and thousands of other souls rushing in. He says that death is a cold dark place, a place Mulder is looking into right now. As she leaves, he reminds her that without him, that boy is going to that same cold, dark place.

Central Prison
Raleigh, North Carolina

(Yeah, again. We open back to the same place after a commercial break.)

Scully goes to the warden (or maybe a judge?) to ask for more time for Boggs, but he denies her.

Then she visits Mulder in the hospital, and he's not looking all that good.

Sick Mulder: Still 100000x more bang-able than healthy Frohike. (Sorry, Hickey...)
He tells her again not to believe Boggs - it's all a scam to get back at him because it was his profile that put Boggs on death row. He worries she could be his next and last victim.

Back at the prison, Scully again interviews Boggs and tells him he's got his deal. (Lies, Scully! Lies!) He's grateful, and tells her he sees factory vats where the boy is being held, and gets real specific by saying they're at the Old Blue Devil brewery. As she gets ready to leave, he tells her he knows she was lying and there is no deal, but that at least she tried. He warns her to "avoid the devil."

Cut to what is presumably the Blue Devil Brewery. Henry is waving hatchet around, getting more and more worked up, while the boy is bound and gagged on a table. Just as Henry gets ready to axe the kid, Scully and a bunch of agents swarm in. He tries to throw the hatchet at Scully but she shoots him and he runs.

While a few of the agents check on the boy, Scully - showing far more brains than Mulder ever does - goes chasing after Henry with a few more agents as backup. They chase him to a catwalk over which a giant blue devil mural looms; Scully stops when she sees it, but Henry doesn't, and the boards collapse beneath him. He plummets to his death.

The devil's face fades away, replaced with Boggs, who is sitting on a cot in his cell. Scully comes by to thank him for saving her life and the boy's; she thinks that if Boggs and Henry had been working together, Henry would have been warned about the catwalk, too. He knows she wants that message from her father, but will only tell it to her that night when he's in the chamber.

Later, the guards bring him his last meal. He looks up and his once again surrounded by his dead family; they line the halls, whispering to each other as he walks to the chamber. The executioner straps him to the chair and sticks an EKG lead to his chest... right over a tattoo of a blue devil, which I never noticed before. Interesting. Makes me wonder if he was also warning her away from himself...

The viewing window opens, and he looks up with hope... but Scully isn't there. Just a priest, the warden, and a witness. They flip a switch and activate the gas, and Boggs looks on in pure terror.

Cut to Scully, sitting at the foot of Mulder's hospital bed. He's looking much healthier, this time. She's trying to rationalize what she's experienced - Boggs could have found out everything about her and her father if he knew she was Mulder's partner, visions of deceased loved ones are a common psychological phenomena, etc etc. Finally, however, she admits that she's afraid to believe.
MULDER: You couldn't face that fear? Even if it meant never knowing what your father wanted to tell you?
SCULLY: But I do know.
SCULLY: He was my father.
He nods and smiles sadly at her, putting a comforting hand on her shoulder.

I just... I can't even. This episode is so good. Gillian Anderson is absolutely spectacular here, giving Scully's character new depth and nuance and subtlety that really bring her to life. A daughter grieving for her father, fearing that her one true act of rebellion tore a hole in their relationship that she can't now fix; a skeptic in a moment of vulnerability, confronting for the first time the real possibility that there is more to life than is dreamt of in her philosophy. GA also has the prettiest "ugly cry" face I've ever seen.  This may be the most artfully crafted episode of the first season, and stands out in the series as a whole in terms of character development. It's the first true Scully-centric episode (Squeeze almost counts, but not really), and the first to explore her complex feelings about her father, her career, and her struggle between faith and fact. LOVE IT.

Next week: Genderbender or "Hey, Isn't That Krycek?" or "Scully Gets Her Freaky-Deaky Groove Back."

Firsts: Scully's parents, "Ahab/Starbuck," Scully appears in the teaser, Mulder's skepticism about psychics, Mulder and Scully switch their believer/skeptic roles,  face touching OMG, the New York Knicks t-shirt thing, Mulder gets shot

Friday, December 13, 2013

1x12 Fire

It seems to me the best shows, the ones that last, are frequently the ones that are rooted in unresolved sexual tension.  You know, one day you look at Mulder and Scully and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere.  And the partners that were just partners are suddenly the only people you can think about getting it on.

Welcome to 1x12 Fire, or "The One Where Mulder's Ex Sparks Feelings of Thinly-Veiled Jealousy in Scully."  We already saw her be all bashful and defensive about having a date in Jersey Devil; now we see her get strangely possessive of him when some British chippy starts horning in on her territory. Chris Carter is a confusing guy - he claims he never meant for M&S to have a romantic relationship, but then he goes and writes episodes like this, where the romantic/jealous undercurrent is made pretty obvious. AND he said at Comic Con 2013 that Mulder and Scully basically fell in love the day she walked into his office.

This guy. This fucking guy. STOP TOYING WITH MY EMOTIONS.


In case anyone has forgotten, here's a list of themes we'll be keeping in mind over the course of these reviews:

1. The show is as much about Scully's journey toward becoming a believer as it is about the paranormal events she and Mulder encounter.
2. Scully is only a skeptic when viewing things from a clinical distance; when the shit hits the fan, she acts on Mulder's crazy beliefs because she knows it will keep her alive.
3. Mulder isn't right nearly as often as he thinks.
4. The evolution of the Mulder/Scully relationship - not just the romantic involvement that eventually occurs, but their dynamics of trust and distrust, the changing ways they view each other, and the friendship that grows over time.
5. Assault on a federal officer never seems to lead to jail time.
6. Mulder is kind of a dick.
7. Hotels, car rental places, and apartment landlords must be crazy to rent to FBI agents.
8. The enormous top-secret government conspiracy actually really sucks at keeping things quiet.
9.  There are some serious homoerotic undertones in this show.
10. The X-files department is super toxic to anyone who comes close to it.
11. Mulder and Scully are both terrible at their jobs.
12. Local law enforcement is protrayed in an extremely negative light.
13. This show is white-washed as fuck. And almost all the non-whites are villains or stereotypes.
14. Bathtubs are scary, terrible places that should be avoided at all costs.
15. Plot and logic will be completely discarded just so Scully can have some reason not to witness the big paranormal events of the episode.

Bosham, England
70 Miles Southwest of London

(Because to Americans, every place in England needs to be explained in relation to London or else we won't know what the hell is going on.)

We open on a charming British estate, where an old man with a lovely mustache kisses his wife goodbye and heads off to some important mustache affair. On the way to the car, he strolls through his gardens, greeting the gardeners milling about... one of whom Cecil L'ively, played by none other than Mark Sheppard

He looks SO YOUNG. And evilly bearded. Definitely going to be King of Hell someday.
aka Crowley on Supernatural aka Romo Lampkin on Battlestar Galactica aka Canton Delaware from Doctor Who aka a lot of other guys on a lot of other shows. This was one of his earliest roles and I just cannot get over how young he is here. Or how well he's aged. Guess he hit max level early.

Anyway, as Mr. Mustache gets to his car and waves goodbye to his wife one more time, he's suddenly ON FUCKING FIRE. He flails about and then falls to the ground, while Cecil looks on with no small degree of satisfaction.

Washington, D.C.

After the opening credits, we catch up with Mulder and Scully walking to their car after a day in court. The find the door unlocked and a cassette sitting on the dashboard.  Rather than do the sensible thing for any paranoid monster-hunter to do and send it to be analyzed somewhere, Mulder just jams it into the car's tape player (#11).

A woman with a British accent starts speaking, describing how a British Minister of Parliament received a tape much like this one - and when he put it in the tape player, it triggered a device that blew up the car when he tried to open the doors.

And Scully nearly shits herself as a woman opens the door - it's Phoebe Green, an ex from his Oxford days, and WE HATE HER.

Haha, very funny.  Because the best way to come back into your ex's life is to make him and his new partner think they're about to get blown to bits.

She gives Mulder a kiss that's not quite on the lips nor on the cheek, which makes Scully rather uncomfortable.

#4, just #4 all over the damn place. And we have this delightful snippet of dialogue:
MULDER: Dana Scully, this is Phoebe Green, terror of Scotland Yard.
GREEN: Hello.
SCULLY: Hello.
GREEN (whispering in Mulder's ear): She hates me.
Goddamn right she does. Whether it's because you made her think she was about to die, or because you're snogging on the man she doesn't want to admit to herself she's in love with, is not quite clear. It's probably both. Yeah, I'm going with both on this one.

They head over to the X-files office, where Phoebe shares a casefile about some asshole BURNING PEOPLE ALIVE. (It bears mentioning that being burned alive is tied for my least-favorite-way-to-die, right up with being buried alive. So I'm going to be freaking out about the fire in this episode almost as hard as Mulder.) One victim only narrowly escaped, Malcolm Marsden, and he and his family are now in the US where Phoebe thinks the killer will strike again. Mulder says he'll run it by their arson specialist and Phoebe leaves... but not before throwing a "goodbye" at Scully that's basically code for, "I'm deliberately ignoring you and pretending not to notice you're even here."


Mulder tries to pretend he's not uncomfortable when he tells Scully that Phoebe is his ex, and Scully in turn tries to pretend it doesn't bother her to think about him being all up in another woman's vajay. These two...
MULDER: That was over ten years ago, Scully.
SCULLY: Yeah, I noticed how you couldn't drop everything fast enough in order to help her out.
MULDER: Oh, I was merely extending her a professional courtesy.
SCULLY: Oh, is that what you were extending?
Chris Carter, though he may play with my emotions like a freaking Monopoly board, does write some of the best dialogue in the series.

At the arson lab, the arson specialist doesn't even try to hide how sexually excited he is at the slides of fire, or "demon poetry," that Phoebe has brought with her, while I briefly imagined her and Mulder bonding over their love of gruesome slideshows, and then I threw up in my mouth a little. There's no trace of accelerant or ignition device to be found at the crime scenes, so Mulder decides it has to be pyrokinesis - someone who can control fire with his brain.

Cape Code, Massachusetts

Cecil, now sans that dead giveaway of a beard, is dressed as a handyman and painting some walls... and I never noticed until RIGHT NOW that he's coating them with rocket fuel. 20 years later and I'm still noticing new things.

You'd have to imagine the house would smell pretty bad if you'd used this for paint, right?? Did no one notice?

The Marsdens (Malcolm, his wife, and two young boys) show up for their escape-an-arsonist vacation, and Cecil puts on an American accent and introduces himself as Bob the Caretaker.  He heads outside and sees their dog digging in the woods - he kicks the dog away and we see a hand sticking out of a shallow grave, all that remains of the real Bob the Caretaker.

Back at the X-files office, Mulder tries to explain to Scully that this whole case is about Phoebe mindfucking him, because she knows that he is utterly terrified of fire ever since his friend's house burned down when he was a kid. But he's going to help her anyway, because he secretly hates himself and thinks all the bad things in his life are punishment for not being able to save Samantha and he deserves it knows every man must face his demons sometime.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cecil watches creepily through a window as Mrs. Marsden makes herself some tea, then he has a little talk with their driver who can't seem to stop coughing. Cecil offers to get him so cough medicine and heads into town.

He grabs a beer at a bar, and one of the kinda-pretty barflies you get in dives like that starts flirting with him. She takes out a cigarette and he offers to light it for her - with his fingertip.

Not pictured: her panties also spontaneously combusting.
She turns for a moment to call her friends over, and when she looks back, his whole hand is engulfed in flames and he's smiling an evil little smile. He slams his arm down on the bar, setting it on fire, and everyone in the bar runs screaming as he watches the flames dance.

Boston Mercy Hospital

Mulder and Phoebe (oh how that hurts to write) show up to interview the barfly that was flirting with Cecil, and she tells them about this "magic trick where he lit his finger on fire." She agrees to meet with a sketch artist. They leave, and Phoebe makes an awkward segue to talk about "a certain youthful indiscretion atop Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's tombstone" and are you TRYING to make me go all Cecil on my computer? Because I'll do it. I really will. I will develop pyrokinetic abilities just to make you stop flirting with my Scully's Mulder.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Meanwhile, Cecil hints that he's poisoning the driver with the cough syrup.

FBI Headquarters
Washington, D.C.

Scully is taking casenotes as she peruses the photos of the victims' burnt and horrifically mangled bodies. Charming. She reiterates that no traceable accelerant has been found, and postulates that the arsonist has intimate access to the victims based on the fact that they died in safe surroundings in the presence of family members. Her voiceover continues as we watch Cecil approach the Marsden boys, offering to show them a magic trick - the disappearing cigarette, which starts in one hand, vanishes, and reappears as he pulls it from his ear, lit.

Mmmm, carcinogens and charred ear hair. Delightful.

Scully heads to the arson specialist's office, wondering if the arsonist could have snuck rocket fuel into hand cream or anything else that could have been in contact with the victim's skin. The specialist says it's possible, but that it would still need to be ignited somehow.

Cecil now has 3 cigarettes in his mouth, which he lights without touching. He offers one to the younger boy who refuses it, then to the older. As the boy reaches for it, entranced by the taboo, Mrs. Marsden calls to them, breaking the spell as they run to her. She tells Cecil that their driver has taken ill (probably all that rocket fuel or whatever in the cough syrup) and asks him to drive them into Boston for a party. Scully's voiceover comes back on as Mrs. Marsden walks away, Cecil watching her with a leering grin - "The arsonist is usually unmarried and prone to excessive fantasies about women or men who are inaccessible to him" and the fire at the bar suggests he has followed the Marsdens to the US.

No shit, Sherlock.

Mulder and Phoebe (like nails on a chalkboard!) are walking in the rain and discussing the case and she's all "yeah I agree with you, it's totally pyrokinesis" and he's all "wow, how hot, you agree with me" and then she's like, "oh btw, I got a hotel for the night and we should totally bone later" and dammit, this shit is not right!!!  There's a chance I have jealousy issues, here.

It better not start raining sleeping bags.
Oh, and they decide to set a trap for the arsonist or something.

Venable Plaza Hotel
5:16 P.M.

Mulder checks into a hotel room (Phoebe's, perhaps?) and immediately gets a call on his cell phone - Scully, who has info on the identity of the arsonist. She wants to come up there, but Mulder is "anticipating having his hands full" which... could mean a lot of things but I prefer to think it's about the trap for the arsonist and not about banging his ex. Either way, Scully looks a bit disappointed.

6:57 P.M.

Phoebe arrives at the hotel with the Marsdens (the party they're attending is here), and Cecil as the driver. Inside, Mulder and Phoebe break my heart by having a romantic little slow dance in full view of poor Scully

Me too, Scullster. Me too.
who turns away in disgust only to see Cecil standing right there, creeping creepily. She looks back at the dancers (who are now kissing, excuse me while I bleach my eyes) and has to turn away again... and now Cecil has disappeared. The fire alarms start going off, giving her an excuse to break up the vomit-inducing couple - there's a fire on the 14th floor, where the Marsden children are.

Mulder, fighting down his own fear, runs up the stairs. He tries to rescue the children, who are screaming for help, but he can't do it, and the firemen have to carry him out. It is Cecil L'Ively who emerges with the children safe and sound. Everyone surrounds him, offering praise, including Phoebe... but it's only Scully who notices Mulder, wearing an oyxgen mask, being carried out by the firemen. She goes to comfort him, while Phoebe is just fangirling all over Cecil.

And this is one of the reasons that Scully is an infinitely better person and friend than Phoebe will ever be. Even though Phoebe was the one just locking lips with Mulder, she's already forgotten about him to fawn over some other hero. And Scully, who has just witnessed her partner and friend - and probable crush - kissing another woman, puts that aside and goes to help him rather than using this as a way to punish him for being an idiot. #4 I think this is also the first time we see her do that forehead touch / doctor / comfort thing, which makes up the majority of their physical contact for, like, ever.

Later, Mulder is lying in bed in nothing but black silk boxers, sexy as hell despite the coughing, while Scully sits over him playing doctor. Not shown: the scene where she strips him (y'know, for doctor reasons) much to everyone's disappointment. I find it both frustrating and thrilling that the only bare skin contact these two seem to have occurs only when one or both of them is wounded and/or in great emotional pain.

Just lean in and nibble him already. You know you want to.
She hesitates for a moment before asking him what happened, and he admits with no small degree of shame that he panicked. She asks what he knows of the guy who saved the kids, and Phobe comes in at that moment to tell them that she checked him out before the Marsdens even arrived and he's clean. She tells them the Marsdens are going to be heading back to England ... and she is too. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

After Phoebe leaves, Scully tells Mulder that there was only one common connection between the murder victims - Cecil Lively, who worked for two of them, and who also happened to have died in a tenement fire in 1971. More digging revealed that Cecil L'Ively, with an apostrophe, appeared on a list of death cirtificates among of group of children who died in a satanic ritual sacrifice in 1963... and then again on a British visa stamped by US Immigration 2 weeks ago in Boston.


Mulder jumps into action, heading to Cape Cod to warn Phoebe about the arsonist, and tells Scully to get the sketch composite from the barfly and fax it freaking everywhere. The sketch comes through and she immediately recognizes it as the hero driver.

She tries to call Mulder but he's out of service, thanks to convenient 90s cell phone limitations.

Up in Cape Cod, Cecil watches from a window as Mulder pulls up, interrupting a kiss between Mr. Marsden and Phoebe. I hate to see him emotionally wounded (no I don't) but damn, bitch, really? That guy? Over Mulder?

Guess we know what broke them up in the first place.

Anyway, Mulder delivers his warning and they start gathering everyone up to leave. Scully shows up with the sketch, and Mulder confirms the driver has disappeared. There's a moment of confusion as Mr. Marsden looks at the sketch, saying that that man isn't the driver but the caretaker, who is upstairs with the children.

Upstairs, they find the real driver dead, his burnt out husk of a corpse kneeling over the toilet as if he died mid-vomit. In another room, shit starts burning up and Mulder tries in vain to extinguish the flames. The fires grow and they run out - Mulder thinks Cecil has rigged the whole house to blow, coating everything in rocket fuel. Scully runs to find a fire extinguisher, and Mulder ushers everyone outside to safety while he goes to find the children. Before Phoebe leaves, she asks if he'll be okay, and he says "There's no place I'd rather be." Translation: "I would literally rather walk into a burning building to confront a homicidal pyrokinetic armed with rocket fuel than spend another second with your skanky fish-and-chips ass."

He goes back upstairs and hears the children screaming behind a locked door but before he can break it down, Cecil shows up behind him and snaps his fingers:

The whole hallways goes up in flames and Mulder jumps back, terrified. Cecil turns to start down the stairs only to see Scully standing at the bottom, pointing a gun up at him, but he knows she won't shoot because it could send the whole house up in flames. He practically skips down the stairs, gloating, until Phoebe comes around the corner and does the only good thing she's ever done in her whole life: splashes accelerant on his face. Blinded by rocket fuel, Cecil stumbles out of the house.

Mulder reaches down deep in that stout little heart of his and finds the courage to brave the fire and save the children, emerging from the burning house as a hero with a child under each arm.

Then Cecil straight up loses his mind, lighting himself on fire and laughing maniacally as he falls to the ground.

Later, Mulder sits at his desk, thinking, when he hears the door open and a woman with a British accent says, "Care to take me to lunch?" He practically shits himself before realizing that it's Scully. She asks where Phoebe is, but he doesn't know - she just sent a tape to him. But he hasn't played it, because he's a strong independent Mulder who don't need no Brit... Just his Scully :)

We cut to a high security burn unit as Scully's voiceover comes on, explaining that Cecil L'Ively suffered 5th and 6th degree burns over his entire body and yet survived, and is even recovering rapidly. We watch as a nurse walks up to his hyperbaric chamber, asking if he needs anything. He looks at her and says, "I'm just dying for a cigarette."

It really bothers me that he still has eyelashes despite being ON FIRE.

End credits.

Obviously, I hate Phoebe Green. The way she toys with poor Mulder is just cruel, but it does establish a pattern of his relationships with women which will culminate in fucking bitch despicable Diana Fowley. And I do get a kick out of Scully being all jealous because we know how much she hearts Mulder at this point, even if neither of them will admit it for 6 or 7 more years.

I did not know this, but every bit of fire used in this episode was real - no CGI at all. Which is super impressive, considering that both David Duchovny and Mark Sheppard did nearly all their own stunts. Apparently DD still has a scar from a burn suffered in production.

I sort of wish they'd gone a little more into the whole "this guy died in a fire in the 70s after being ritually sacrificed in the 60s" thing. Did he pick the name Cecil L'Ively because of those incidents? Or is he the original Cecil who "died" in the sacrifice, perhaps rising from the dead with the power to control fire? And was that death in the tenement fire a "Meredith Gordon on Heroes" kind of deal, where his ability allowed him to survive an otherwise fatal fire so that he could fake his own death and disappear? So many unanswered (and, in fact, unasked) questions, just begging for more exploration, which we never get. And maybe that's okay? I really don't know.

Next week: Beyond the Sea or "The Brief Appearance of Bill Scully Sr." or "Holy Shit That Guy Is Scary As Balls."

Firsts: Jealous!Scully, Mulder kisses someone and makes me see red, forehead touch, Scully plays doctor to a sick or wounded Mulder

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


I stumbled across this video last night and just couldn't wait til Friday:

Friday, December 6, 2013

1x11: Eve

Thanks for the kind words and for being so understanding about the lack of post last week. I'm going to see the wrist doctor today and should have a better idea soon just what's going on inside there.

Now back to your regularly scheduled review.

It's interesting you should say that, because I've always wanted to obsessively watch the X-Files. It's an adolescent phase I never grew out of. No, I'm not being flippant, I've given this a lot of thought. I mean, if you watch the X-Files and other shows like it, it's enough simply to keep on watching; you know, bravely enduring whatever fresh horror they think up; but with other shows you're only meant to sit back, passively absorb, be mindless. So if anything I'm actually the antithesis of the current TV demographic because if I did obsessively watch the X-Files I'd quite possibly be more happy and more content and not feel the need to keep watching these reality shows about people totally out of touch with reality.

These quote appropriations keep getting weirder and weirder, you guys. Maybe I should stop. (I'm not going to stop.)

Anyway, welcome to 1x11: Eve, one of my favorite episodes of season one and of the series as a whole. There is something just so intensely creepy about the little girls in this episode, as well as the adult Eves, that it just sticks in my brain and makes me uncomfortable all day.  Plus it's the inspiration behind Eve 6, a band that my teenage self just LOVED and I still find myself humming their songs today.

If you want to read a deeply unsettling fanfic about the Eves (takes place after the season 7 finale, so, y'know, spoilers) check out "We Could Have Made Music" by DiscordantWords.

In case anyone has forgotten, here's a list of themes we'll be keeping in mind over the course of these reviews:

1. The show is as much about Scully's journey toward becoming a believer as it is about the paranormal events she and Mulder encounter.
2. Scully is only a skeptic when viewing things from a clinical distance; when the shit hits the fan, she acts on Mulder's crazy beliefs because she knows it will keep her alive.
3. Mulder isn't right nearly as often as he thinks.
4. The evolution of the Mulder/Scully relationship - not just the romantic involvement that eventually occurs, but their dynamics of trust and distrust, the changing ways they view each other, and the friendship that grows over time.
5. Assault on a federal officer never seems to lead to jail time.
6. Mulder is kind of a dick.
7. Hotels, car rental places, and apartment landlords must be crazy to rent to FBI agents.
8. The enormous top-secret government conspiracy actually really sucks at keeping things quiet.
9.  There are some serious homoerotic undertones in this show.
10. The X-files department is super toxic to anyone who comes close to it.
11. Mulder and Scully are both terrible at their jobs.
12. Local law enforcement is protrayed in an extremely negative light.
13. This show is white-washed as fuck. And almost all the non-whites are villains or stereotypes.
14. Bathtubs are scary, terrible places that should be avoided at all costs.
15. Plot and logic will be completely discarded just so Scully can have some reason not to witness the big paranormal events of the episode.

Greenwich, Connecticut

A little girl, Teena Simmons, stands outside her house when two joggers come running by and ask who left her all alone out here in the cold. She says her daddy needed some alone time in the backyard; when they take her back there to scold him about his shoddy parenting, they instead find his lifeless corpse swinging on his daughter's swingset with two puncture marks in his neck.

FBI Headquarters
Washington, D.C.

After the opening credits, we're back in the warm, disheveled embrace of the X-Files office where Mulder and Scully are discussing the bizarre death of Swingset Man, who died after losing 95% of his blood. For once, Scully is the one pointing out how bizarre the whole thing is - the daughter was away from his side for less than 10 minutes and no blood was found at the scene. Mulder, of course, thinks this might be UFO-related, like cattle mutilations, and whips out his slide projector to show Scully images of dead cows. Like, he just had all these slides queued up and ready to go? Including a slide of Swingset Man's neck wounds?Even though none of the things he lists as common to cattle mutilation have actually happened here except for the exsanguination? (#3) Because it sounded like Scully was showing him the casefile for the first time, but here he goes with his far-too-enthusiastic slide shows again. He also reveals the autopsy showed digitalis in the man's blood - a paralytic drug - which sounds like something Scully should have pointed out...

Not pictured: his raging erection as he gives the grisly details of cattle mutilation.

Fairfield County
Social Services Hostel
Greenwich, Connecticut

M&S visit Teena in the hospital, where she's staying until she can be placed in foster care as her mother died two years ago.

I'm struck by just how good Scully is at talking to kids in this scene. Usually Mulder is the one who interviews the kids, but Scully shows remarkable sensitivity and tact as she asks Teena if anyone would want to hurt your daddy.  Teena tells Mulder there was red lightning in the backyard that day and then "men from the clouds" went after her dad: "They wanted to exsanguinate them." Mulder seems shocked that she knows such a big word, and Scully gets a phone call saying there's been another death.

Reardon Crime Scene
Marin County, California

Taken on one of the 3 sunny days a year you get in SF. Also, pretty sure this shot is
used in the Full House opening, too.

After an establishing shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, which makes my heart ache for home, we see another swingset in another backyard, nearly a mirror image of the one where the first victim died. M&S read through the file - same poison, same punctures on the jugular. And the murders occurred at the exact same moment. Scully thinks it could be serial killers working in tandem, but Mulder's sticking with his UFO theory (#3!). He wants to interview the daughter to see if she remembers red lightning, too.

They have to wait 'til the next day though, as the mom and daughter are in Sacramento with family.

Fairfield County
Social Services Hostel
12:35 A.M. E.S.T

A storm rages outside as someone breaks into Teena's room. A social worker comes when she hears the screams, but all she finds is an open window and Teena's stuffed bunny sitting alone in the rain.

Reardon Crime Scene
Marin County, California

Moose and Squirrel pull up at the Reardon house, talking about Teena being kidnapped the night before. Mulder, perhaps inevitably, assumes it was aliens (#3). They knock on the Reardon's door and a little girl answers... and she looks exactly like Teena Simmons.

Bum bum buuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmmm!

While Mulder and Scully talk to Mrs. Reardon, the little girl, Cindy, flips the channel from cartoons to a news conference - which should be a clue to just about anyone that she is EVIL INCARNATE.  M&S are understandably confused, asking if Cindy was adopted or was a twin. Mrs. Reardon says that she and her husband tried for 6 years to get pregnant, and succeeded through in vitro fertilization.

Our intrepid agents depart, wondering what the odds are that two unrelated people happen to be identical and both witness their fathers' exsanguinations. They think it may be a pattern - exsanguinate the father, kidnap the daughter. Mulder volunteers to keep an eye on Cindy in case someone tries to kidnap her, while Scully tries to figure out if the Simmons family used in vitro as well.

Luther Stapes Center for Reproductive Medicine

Scully visits the clinic where the Reardons had their in vitro done. She finds a file on the Simmons family, who were at the clinic under the supervision of Dr. Sally Kendrick. The doctor on staff says Kendrick was nothing but a problem - like, "trying to use eugenics on our patients' future children" kind of problem.

Aaaaaaand this is why I instantly hated Harriet Harris's character on Desperate Housewives. Felicia Tillman was always a little eccentric, but I knew from her appearance on TXF that she would eventually be revealed as full-on eyeball-eating self-mutilating murder-framing insane.

The doctor says Kendrick was censured by the American Medical Association but his request for investigation was denied, and then she disappeared.

Scully, girlfriend, this is the kind of shit you seriously need to remember in season 8's flashbacks to season 7, when you're pursuing in vitro. I know you'd make an amazing mother, and your biological clock is roughly the size of Big Ben at that point due to your post-abduction sterility, but sweetie, you know better. No one on this earth should be more paranoid about baby-implanting than you. You're actually lucky you got off as easy as you did, with your alien Jesus Mulder-spawn, because shit could have gone so much worse. What if she'd gotten knocked up with an Eve?

Oh sweet Jeebus, someone needs to write a fanfic of that RIGHT NOW.

Cut to Mulder and Scully lying entwined in sitting on the edge of a motel bed in Mulder's room, watching the tape from the fertility clinic as she tells him what she found out. They now suspect Kendrick is behind the killings and kidnapping, trying to cover up her crime, probably with the help of an accomplice. Scully gets a phone call that's nothing but a few clicking sounds, and Mulder suddenly can't get her out of there fast enough.

MULDER: I'll tell you what... I'm going to sleep on it and we'll talk about it in the morning. (He bumrushes her to the door.)
SCULLY: Mulder, you're rushing me out of the room.
MULDER: No, I'm not.
SCULLY: You got a girl coming over?
MULDER: What's a girl? (He opens the door and all but shoves her out of it) No, I have... there's a movie I want to watch on TV. Sleep tight. See you in the morning.
They are so fucking adorable.

Cut to Mulder at a dark pier, where he meets up with Deep Throat for some hot man-on-man action to learn about a cloning conspiracy. DT tells him about the Lichfield experiments - the US government's attempt to beat the Soviets at making genetically-controlled children in order to create the perfect soldier. The boys were named Adam, the girls Eve. He gives tells Mulder there's a woman he needs to see.

Whiting Institute for the Criminally Insane

Mulder and Scully arrive, saying they're there to see Eve 6 (warning: 90s in a nutshell), but they have to turn in their guns and are issued panic buttons before they can proceed.  Just another fun, carefree day at the X-Files office!

They're led through an insane (hah!) amount of security before arriving at a dark cell - because "she screams and screams" if they turn the lights on - in the bowels of the facility and find, well:

Scully immediately assumes this bag of cannibal crazy is Sally Kendrick, but she's actually Eve 6 - one of the Litchfield Eves, locked in the dark because she likes to bite eyeballs and giggle in an entirely too upsetting manner. She says that her line is prone to suicide and that only she and two others are left - 7 and 8 - who have escaped. She points (well, gestures with a chained foot) at the wall where she's hung pictures of the other Eves as children - each one a perfect match of Teena and Cindy.

Mulder concludes that Kendrick was using the in vitro clinic to carry on the Lichfield experiment, cloning herself.

That night, at the Reardon house, Cindy says her prayers while Mulder and Scully sit in a car outside the house, wondering if the escaped Eves could have committed the murders.

MULDER: Suppose Eve 6 is right and there are two other Eves out there. That could account for the two identical murders occurring at exactly the same time. Sally Kendrick does have an accomplice. Herself.
SCULLY: Until I heard that, I was beginning to suspect the girls.
MULDER: No. No, no, no. It seems the two remaining Eves are doing away with the parents in order to keep Teena and Cindy in the family.
I would like to cite the above as #3 and also mention that this may be the first time that Scully is dead-on right about something. You suspect those unbelievably creepy identical clones of a totally insane government eugenics experiment, Scully. You suspect the hell out of them.

Suddenly lights come on in Cindy's room. Mulder and Scully split up (which is NEVER a good idea, these people clearly don't watch enough horror movies), and of course Scully gets knocked out while Mulder finds one of the adult Eves (7/Sally Kendrick) in the backyard, dragging Cindy away.

The Eve threatens to shoot Cindy so Mulder lets them go.

Pt. Reyes National Seashore
40 Miles North of San Francisco

Eve 7 pulls up to her hotel and hurries into her room with Cindy. Teena is already there, and the two girls share a creepy smile.

Back at the Reardon house, an office tells Scully that Eve 7's car was spotted in an airport parking lot, while Mulder receives a call that a motel manager spotted her in Point Reyes - she checked in with a little girl, left without her, was gone all night, and returned with the same girl. A girl who told him to use chlorine to irradicate the dinoflagellates in the swimming pool. So yeah, pretty sure Mulder is right on this one, Scully.

In the hotel room, 7/Sally expresses her disappointment that Teen and Cindy went crazy ahead of schedule (apparently the original models didn't start killing 'til 20) and they just get creepier and creepier, finishing each other's sentences and saying they weren't born, they were created.  It doesn't help that, for some reason, 7/Sally has purchased them matching blood red outfits.

Someday I really hope I have twin girls so I can dress them like this for Halloween.
No one will get it, but that's okay.

She tells them they can't give in to genetic destiny and that she can help them become normal functioning adults like her! Oh boy!

Don't worry, though - they poison her with digitalis in her soda, just like they did to their fathers. She grabs a knife from the counter, to "correct her mistake."

M&S show up with a herd of cops and find Eve 7 dead on the floor, with Teena and Cindy huddled in a corner in fear. They say 7 and another Eve tried to poison them (a la Jonestown), and Mulder and Scully totally buy the "scared and innocent" act, taking the girls under their protection.

This is one of those times when it's totally okay for the audience to know something our heroes don't. I know I bitched about it in Space (and I will continue to bitch about that episode for, well, ever) but that was a case of the writers beating us over the head with it from minute one while M&S continued on, clueless; this is a case of a scary reveal 2/3s through the episode, creating tension in the viewer as we worry for the agents' safety as they tote around two tiny homicidal maniacs.

"We promise not to eat your eyeballs."
After a brief crime scene exam / exposition revealing that digitalis is sweet and thus probably undetectable in soda, Mulder and Scully take the Murder Twins on a little road trip back to the Bay Area.  Predictably, one of the girls says she needs a pee break and Scully needs some caffeine (even though Point Reyes to Marin is, like, less than an hour), so they pull into a rest stop. Mulder orders them some drinks (diet for him and Scully, regular for the girls) and they head off to their respective little boys'/little girls' rooms. This whole scene evokes images of a quaint family roadtrip, Mom and Dad taking the twins up to Point Reyes for the weekend. There's even a cute little bit where Mulder gives the money to one of the girls so she can pay for their drinks, just like my dad used to do to make us feel grown up. I just love the juxtaposition of that image with the real story of two monster-hunting FBI agents unknowingly escorting two pre-pubescent time bombs of insanity.

One big happy family... OF MURDER!
Anyway, one girl pretends to be stuck in her stall while the other sneaks away, grabs the sodas from the counter, and puts poison in two of them before handing them to Mulder.

Mulder and Scully both comment that their supposedly diet sodas are strangely sweet, and it's like that part in the horror movie where you're just yelling at the dumbass on the screen DON'T GO IN THERE THERE'S A SERIAL KILLER WITH A FACE MADE OF HUMAN SKIN IN YOUR BASEMENT but of course they don't hear you.  It makes the audience scared, angry, and helpless, and that is exactly the space you want them to be in.

One of the many, many reasons I love this episode in particular.

Mulder goes back inside because he forgot his keys (one of the few times his idiocy pays off) and finds a ring of green goo on the table - spilled digitalis.

He rushes back out yelling Scully's name and then tries to smooth it over by saying he just wanted to open the door for her. Smooth like Ex-lax, this guy. As he opens the door, he intentionally knocks her drink out of her hand, whispering that it's poisoned and they should just get the girls in the car.  But it's too late, the girls have vanished.

We're treated to a really cool chase scene of them searching through the truck stop grounds for the girls, including some beautiful cinematography that evokes the James Bond gun barrel credits

Mulder grabs them, but a trucker with a huge rifle sees the struggle and forces him to let them go. The waitress inside points them in the direction of a school bus that just left. We see the rental car go peeling out, and watch as the girls climb out of their hiding place in a boat hitched to a truck trailer. Just as they (and we) think they've gotten away with it, Mulder grabs them from behind. They try the "we're just little girls" routine again, but he's not fooled anymore.

Back at the Reardon house, Mulder tries to convince Mrs. Reardon that she should push the government for the truth about what really happened, but she knows now that Cindy was never her daughter. She throws Cindy's picture in the fireplace and watches it burn.

We cut to Cindy and Teena (now labeled Eve 9 and 10) locked up next to 6. A woman in a white lab coat comes down to their cells, and the girls greet her as Eve 8. They've been waiting for her to come for them; they just knew.

End credits roll.

God I love this episode. It's one of the masterpieces of Season One. I really wish this hadn't been a one-off and that those creepy girls had come back later on, but you can definitely see the influence of this episode in later seasons: the cloning, the government facilities working on creating a perfect human (or hybrid), multiple models of clones bred for nefarious purposes. The reveal of Teena and Cindy's true nature is beautifully done and an almost total surprise for the viewer, and it comes just late enough in the episode that we're not mad at or frustrated with Moose and Squirrel for not figuring it out yet. The tension this creates (the viewer knowing what the heroes do not) is one of my favorite parts of the episode - us watching helplessly as Scully and Mulder sip the poison, worrying that they're going to die, and then worrying that the girls have gone free. It's actually quite a relief to see Mulder catch them at the end. And while pretty much every episode ends with nothing being completely resolved and with the possibility that the bad guys get away, the ambiguous nature of 8 finding the girls in the facility is super creepy. Is she there to set them free? To kill them? To continue the cloning experiments and perfect the Eve line? Inquiring minds want to know.

Please read that fanfic I linked at the top of those post (here it is again) - it's the closure I didn't even know I'd been looking for.

Firsts: cloning, creeeeeeeeeeeeepy children, Scully is completely goddamn right about something

Next week: 1x12 Fire, or Goddamn It Phoebe Green Stop Beaver Damming Scully!