Saturday, January 12, 2019

X-Files S5E12: Sink your teeth into this one

Sestra Amateur: 

Sestra Pro promised a good episode was coming up and she was right. In the woods of Chaney, Texas, Mulder is chasing a suspect who apparently won’t take responsibility for whatever wrong he committed. (OK, allegedly committed.) Luckily, just like in horror movies, the runner trips, so Mulder catches up to him. There’s a struggle, but Fox manages to stake him. (Wait, what?) Scully catches up and Mulder proudly shows her the suspect’s pointy teeth. He’s a vampire! Scully shows they were fake. Ooh Mulder, you’re in truh-ble…

Back in their D.C. office, Fox takes out his anger and frustration on an innocent garbage can. Dana says Assistant Director Skinner wants their report in one hour. So does that make this a real-time episode? With commercials, there would be approximately 57 minutes left. Funny how alternate media options just mess up a good in-joke without even trying. So let’s just pretend Skinner wants their report in 44 minutes. Also, they’re being sued by the family of Ronnie Strickland (the fake vampire boy) for a blatantly punitive amount of money. Mulder wants to get their stories straight. He is sounding more and more like someone who did wrong and desperately wants to cover his tracks. Scully tells him her version of the events. Yes, it’s a Rashomon-ian bottle episode. It’s actually a great tool to articulate how Scully thinks Mulder “sees” her, with condescension and superiority.

The previous day, an overly excited Mulder brings a new case to Scully -- dead cows in Chaney whose carcasses were drained of blood. “Classic vampirism!” Fox exclaims, then buries the lead about a dead tourist being one of the victims. They meet with the local sheriff Lucius Hartwell, played by Richie Tenenbaum himself, Luke Wilson. (Someday I’ll watch The Royal Tenenbaums, Sestra Pro. Honest.) Dana gets all swoony, but I blame Mark Snow’s dreamy score for that. Scully begins her preliminary exam of the dead tourist. The sheriff is on board with all of her not-a-real-vampire analyses. Real-time Mulder takes umbrage with “Dana’s” embellishing.

Back in the morgue, Fox makes the discovery of a lifetime, the victim’s shoes are untied! To quote Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, “This means something.” Mulder and Hartwell head to the local creepy cemetery while Scully is on autopsy duty. After the world’s most boring autopsy, Dana checks into either the Davey Crockett Motor Court or the Sam Houston Motor Lodge, and Fox eventually appears covered in mud. Scully tells Mulder the victim has an abundance of knockout drops in his system. Fox sends Dana to autopsy the latest human victim while he steals her Magic Fingers bed time and laughs maniacally. She also lets Mulder have her pizza. By the way, the delivery boy is Ronnie Strickland.

I was wrong, the second autopsy might be the world’s most boring one, except for the intestine thing. Doesn’t Fox realize the importance of sleep and nourishment for accuracy? If Scully made any mistakes it could have tanked Mulder’s whole investigation. Dana then gets interrupted by a heavy breather on the phone. Good to know she takes obscene calls in stride. Once she gets back to the examination, she realizes this victim had the same last meal as the previous victim. The chloral hydrates (knockout drops) were in the pizza! The pizza guy did it! 

Scully breaks into the motel room (even though she has a key) and sees Fox unconscious on the floor. She sees the pizza guy – yes, with fangs – and shoots! She misses him but disables his car so Ronnie escapes on foot. After Mulder regains consciousness and starts to sing "Shaft," Dana pursues Strickland. Somehow, Fox gets to Ronnie first and “overreacts.” Scully admits they caught a killer, just not a supernatural one. Now it’s time for Mulder’s version (and his perception that Dana is impatient and whiny).

They do agree on two things: Fox brought this case to Scully’s attention and he already had their plane tickets. He’s not nearly as enthusiastic with his sales pitch and clearly doesn’t have confidence in his supernatural beliefs, at least not around Dana. This version of Mulder is practically worn down, probably from years of dealing with Scully’s skepticism. At the funeral home, Fox is clearly jealous of the attractive sheriff as well as Scully’s reaction to him. Or maybe Lucius really does have buck teeth and a lack of intelligence. Mulder is rattling off a laundry list of vampire facts when he notices the victim’s untied shoes. 

Mulwell head to the cemetery, where they run into Ronnie and his pizza delivery car. There’s your suspect, Fox. But it’s daylight and he looks like a normal guy, so no alarm bells yet. Later that night, Mulwell are waiting patiently for their vampire when the sheriff gets called to an unusual scene -- a runaway RV is driving backwards in a circle while a crowd (including Ronnie) watches. After they fail to shoot out the tires, Mulder tries to board it, but just gets dragged and flung into a mud puddle. It runs out of gas and stops on its own, then Mulwell find the latest victim inside. 

Fox gets to the motor lodge and asks Dana to handle the autopsy. This Scully says everything to Mulder that Rashomon Scully did not. After she storms out, Ronnie delivers the drugged pizza to Fox, who generously tips Ronnie two cents. Yep, you read that right. To add insult to injury, he clearly still has quarters for the Magic Fingers. Shoeless Mulder sees his shoelaces have been untied and tries to call Scully, but he’s been drugged. Yes, Fox is Dana's obscene caller. Didn’t we have Caller ID on most cell phones in 1998? Maybe not the name, but at least the number. Since Mulder called her cell on his, she should have known it was him. I stand by my theory that the biggest and lamest plot contrivances on this TV show relate to the cell phones. 

So anyway, Fox is losing consciousness when Ronnie returns, all fangs and glowing eyes. Mulder flicks a bag of sunflower seeds at him which distracts Strickland, who compulsively has to pick them up. Fox loses consciousness but wakes with fangy/glowing green-eyed Ronnie attempting to bite him. Scully shoots Ronnie but – from Fox's perspective – the bullets hit him in the chest twice and don’t stop him. Then Strickland flies toward Dana and gets away with her in hot pursuit. Mulder breaks up some furniture to make a wooden stake and goes after them. He finds Strickland first and stakes him. Fox is convinced Ronnie’s autopsy will vindicate him.

Strickland's autopsy is being performed in Dallas. The coroner has a legitimate theory as to the cause of death, because the stake is still protruding from Ronnie's chest. After the doctor removes it, a glowing-eyed Strickland rises off the table. He’s clearly disturbed by his lack of fangs, but bites the coroner anyway. Sculder are more than relieved when Skinner sends them back to Texas to locate Ronnie’s now-missing body. Luckily the coroner lived, just probably has an embarrassing hickey. 

The dynamic duo returns to the local cemetery, where Sheriff Hartwell chats with Scully while Mulder tracks Ronnie’s greedy, lawsuit-happy family in a local RV park. Unfortunately, Lucius is part of the problem; he drugs Dana and reveals his glowing green eyes. Fox finds Ronnie in one of the RVs, but the “family” starts to come after Mulder. He uses two garlic sticks as a makeshift cross, but that doesn’t do squat and they overpower him. Sculder wake up the next morning groggy, disoriented and puncture-free. The RV park is empty because the would-be vampires pulled up stakes. (Get it?) Back in D.C., Walter has trouble believing our intrepid heroes, but clearly the “I was drugged” defense works to a degree for both of them, which might be the most unbelievable part of this entire tale. Nah, the cell-phone plot contrivance still wins.

Sestra Professional:

This might be Vince Gilligan's finest hour on The X-Files. With irrepressible writer Darin Morgan's departure, a glaring hole opened up in terms of comedy episodes that still felt true to the show. The supervising producer had somewhat toiled in Morgan's shadow on this front. He delivered some of the best episodes of the entire run -- "Pusher" (Season 3, Episode 17) and "Paper Hearts" (S4E10) -- that seamlessly worked in humorous moments, but "Small Potatoes" (S4E20) didn't quite hit the middle of the comedy target. With "Bad Blood," Gilligan showed he could not only match, but in some respects surpass the gold standard set by Morgan. It was certainly a blueprint for Gilligan's later supremacy as the creative force behind Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.

How could he do that for The X-Files? Well, some fans consider the Morgan episodes a little too deep. They find his material dense and don't particularly want to work out the deeper meanings in his stories. (Please don't include me in this grouping.) But Gilligan's work -- and here particularly so -- is instantly accessible. He can get laughs without sacrificing the rest of the story. In "Bad Blood," he uses what's become the time-honored entertainment trope of differing versions of the same tale. It's masterful. It utilizes everything we know of Sculder to this point, including a couple quick digs at "El Chupacabra."  It's a veritable throwaway line, but every fan who's seen every episode will instantly pick up on the fact that Gilligan's touching upon the Mexican goat sucker from the widely reviled S4E11 episode "El Mundo Gira."

You really know your stuff, Dana: "Bad Blood" requires a lot of the actors too. There are three Scullys in this episode, there are three Mulders as well -- the way each looks at himself/herself, the way each looks at the other and the way their boss looks at both of them. Like they say about the truth -- there's one person's version, another's person's version and what actually happened. Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny hit the perfect notes with all of them. Gilligan gives them the opportunity to be short with each other, basically to react to a co-worker the way an actual human being would react as opposed to the way a television character might in similar circumstances. Andovny (just following Sestra Am's lead) respond with great relish, it must have given them some license to work out some issues about each other's idiosyncrasies. 

Props to episode director Cliff Bole for giving all the brilliant little moments the necessary time and space, starting with Fox exclaiming "oh, sh--" and the timely cut to the opening credits to avoid completion of the swear word. We'll never look at a Dana autopsy the same way again after watching intestines slide off the scale the way they did in this show. Even the Dallas coroner gets a laugh when looking at the stake running through Strickland's body.

That is essentially exactly the way it happened: Scenes for both versions were shot one after the other, which made it a little difficult on the actors. "You never know whether the way you have to shoot something is actually going to end up inhibiting important performances," Anderson said in The Complete X-Files of her all-time favorite episode. "It's hard to know whether that, in and of itself, will work and benefit the show. So the fact that it did work was very satisfying."

There's even room for growth in this comedic bottle episode. We get a finer look at Scully, she continues to be the character who shows more colors as the series moves onward. Her interest in the sheriff seems a lot more organic and tangible than with fellow FBI agent and ex-boyfriend Jack Willis in "Lazarus" (S1E15). And we even learn more about her in the small moments -- Dana can be doing an autopsy on a guy who ate pizza, and that makes her hungry enough to order her own pizza. She does go off on her half of a light cream cheese bagel tirade and calls her "obscene caller" a creep in Mulder's version of events, but hey, low blood sugar can do that to a girl. Trust me.

Hoo, boy: Is it my imagination or does Fox come off as kind of ridiculous in all the variations? The muddy Mulder jumps on the bed to not waste Scully's quarters in the Magic Fingers and downs her pizza. In his own, six dead cows are still more important than one dead human. He's never been this subservient to her -- "that's one opinion and I respect that." During his story, he's so bothered by the competition that he describes Hartwell as having big buck teeth, gets dragged around by the RV when he's unable to shoot out the tires and gives the aforementioned two-cent tip. In short, he condemns himself with his own words.

I'm not bothered by the cell-phone thing at all, Sestra Am. I wasn't close to having a flip phone yet when this originally aired on Feb. 22, 1998. If I even had a cordless at this point, it didn't have caller identification. So none of that diminishes the impact of the story for me, and Fox turning out to be Dana's obscene caller was priceless because it was so unexpected. But what do I know, I bought the "I was drugged" defense. Couldn't they do a blood test to confirm such a thing?

Meta bites: In the official episode guide, Gilligan admitted his original plan was to play "Bad Blood" like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, with other actors playing Mulder and Scully. But ultimately he couldn't figure out how to make it work, so he took co-executive producer Frank Spotnitz's suggestion to play it like The Dick Van Dyke Show (see also Rashomon.) In the episode "The Night the Roof Fell In," Rob and Laura Petrie (remember those names, you'll need them in Season 6) give differing accounts of a quarrel. ... The runaway RV required a stunt driver out of camera range to work from an auxiliary steering station at the back of the vehicle, manipulating the wheel backward as if driving a fork lift, the guide said, adding Duchovny was stretched out on a small hidden creeper rig for Mulder's failed attempt to stop it. ... Gilligan always worked the name of his girlfriend, Holly Rice, into his X-Files scripts. Hartwell is her middle name. ... The part of the sheriff was written for Wilson, who starred in the Gilligan-penned 1998 movie Home Fries. 

So we had a pair of famous guest-star writers (Stephen King for "Chinga" and William Gibson with "Kill Switch") in the previous two episodes and now Gilligan's dazzling comedy effort. We definitely need to get back to the mythology, so we can try to figure out what the black oil's all about and why those shape shifters always seem to be ahead of the curve and what the heck Alex Krycek has been up to. Sculder will be searching for the truth, the Sestras will just be trying to figure out what the heck is going on and how/if the pieces fit together.

Guest star of the week: Whether or not you think Lucius Hartwell has big buck teeth, Luke Wilson deserves some kudos. Earlier I was talking about how tough it was for our regulars to dish out variations on their character. Well, Wilson was only on the show for one episode and had to deliver two widely different accounts of the sheriff. He was picture perfect for both of them.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

X-Files S5E11: It's 'Twilight Time'

Sestra Amateur: 

Just to clarify, this episode, "Kill Switch," is not a crossover between Kill Bill and The Matrix, but wouldn’t that be a fun one to watch? (Quick memory refresher: Switch was a member of Morpheus’ crew, the blonde lady who referred to Neo as “Copper-Top” and wore white leather when everyone else on the team wore basic black.) And yes, I realize both Kill Bill and The Matrix were released after this episode originally aired, but if I wasn't out here making pointless pop-culture references then I’m just not being true to myself, or you. Fun fact: This episode aired on Sestra Pro’s birthday in 1998.

A bug-eyed man is hacking a computer program on the crappiest laptop while drinking coffee in an empty and dimly lit D.C. diner. But business is about to pick up. Every local criminal with a score to settle is heading to the Metro Diner, along with a couple of U.S. Marshals because they all received the right tips to head over there. Care to guess how many people are about to get shot? If you said everyone, then you are correct. Hopefully the waitress was smart enough to stay in the back.

Sculder are called to the scene, probably because of the hacker’s identity. Mulder enlightens Scully about David Gelman’s history as a Silicon Valley pioneer, practically the inventor of the Internet, who disappeared in 1979. Fox is convinced the whole bloodbath was a hit on Gelman. He removes Gelman’s laptop from the crime scene and finds a CD in the CD-ROM drive. We get to listen to the dulcet tones of "Twilight Time," a beautiful Platters tune. (Not one of my go-to favorites, though. I’ve always been partial to "The Great Pretender," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "My Prayer.") 

The Lone Gunmen analyze Gelman’s laptop and Mulder shows them the CD. When Byers asked what is it, I really wanted Fox to reply, ”It’s a small plastic disc on which digital information is stored … but that’s not important right now.” Byers figures out there’s background data embedded in the song. Dana suggests checking Gelman’s email, which leads them to a shipping yard. 

Sculder find a young woman in one of the shipping containers. Her likes are computers, loud music and zapping FBI agents with a stun gun. She calls herself Invisigoth (she definitely enjoys dressing the part) and surrenders fairly quickly to Scully. Too bad someone (something?) has locked onto their location via satellite and blows up the hacker’s “home.” Luckily the agents (with very little assistance from Dana, I might add) and Goth Girl escape with only minor damage to the company car (your federal tax dollars at work). There are times when I’m glad they prove Scully wrong. Her hemming and hawing almost got them killed.

Sculder and Invisigoth have been driving all night. Either that or it’s a bad segue between scenes. Mulder asks Goth Girl about Artificial Intelligence, which she claims Gelman  let loose on the Internet so it could flourish in its natural environment. Dana seems jealous at having another intelligent female around because Goth Girl just pushes her buttons. Scully slams on the brakes and bails out of the car. Our heroes argue about A.I. and what the government is capable of. Jeez, Dana, have you regressed all the way back to Season 1 denial? 

Invisigoth claims the A.I. would recognize her voice, so she doesn’t even use a phone but there’s a third member of their team named David Markham out there somewhere. And it turns out "Twilight Time" contains the kill switch to catch the A.I. "Twilight Time" would have been a better episode title than "Kill Switch," it gets said just as frequently. It’s easy to think this girl is too paranoid for even the Lone Gunmen, but remember, it’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you. 

The L.G. meet Invisigoth. whose real name is Esther Nairn. You’d think they just ran into Neil Armstrong or Amelia Earhart, they act like total fan boys. Esther is less impressed with Mulder’s brain trust, who almost got her incinerated and destroyed her home. Goth Girl points out how the A.I. arranged for Donald’s death by sending everyone to the diner. She realizes they can’t catch the A.I. over the Internet, so they need to locate its hard drive to directly install the kill switch. Fox finds the right place in Fairfax, Virginia. Napping Scully wakes to find Esther escaped from her handcuffs. And apparently, the Lone Gunmen sleep together … is that a paranoia thing or are they just that close? Invisigoth gets the drop on Dana and forces her at gunpoint to drive to David’s location. Unfortunately, it looks like Markham’s house also got torpedoed from above. Handcuffed Scully frees herself, but Esther breaks down and gives Dana the gun.

Mulder approaches a cheap-looking motor home which has some serious security precautions -- thermal cameras, a fingerprint scanner (which confirms his ID) and the world’s most annoying siren. But he still manages to enter the trailer from underneath with only a screwdriver. Once inside, Fox thinks he found David, or at least what’s left of him. The A.I. then takes Mulder hostage and bolts him to the hardware. 

Fox later wakes up in an ambulance with visible burns on his wrists. They arrive at a hospital, where things seem a little off: He’s wearing a hospital nightgown instead of his regular clothes, the nurses look more like strippers and a creepy doctor is coming at him with a bone saw. Scully and Esther (Sculther? Sculgoth?) are now working together to stop the A.I.. They need to cut off its T3 connection and locate Fox, who is being alternately comforted and tortured by a blonde nurse. She claims they cut off Mulder’s left arm (yep, it’s not there) and will cut off his right arm if he doesn’t tell the nurse what she needs to know. Fox gets a wee bit panicky, understandably so. 

The A.I. targets Sculgoth, but luckily they get rid of the computer (and the kill switch) in time. Fox wakes up to three attractive nurses taking care of him. The scene is reminiscent of Dracula’s three brides tending to Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Blonde nurse again tries to get kill switch virus info out of Mulder, who realizes his right arm also has been amputated. Lucky for him she threatens to take the legs next, not a different appendage. Dana arrives and pummels the three nurses, then starts to question Fox about the kill switch virus. I guess Mulder finally realized this isn’t real because he kicks Scully and she is revealed to be part of a computer simulation. (Hey, my Matrix comment at the beginning was disturbingly accurate!) Fox is still in the trailer, trapped in a virtual reality nightmare and yelling out to Dana for help.

Sculgoth find the trailer. Scully handles the siren differently than Mulder did, she just shoots it. Now they can hear Fox. Dana enters the trailer from underneath and shoots at the robot standing guard. Esther spots David’s dead body while Scully tries to get through to Mulder, who is trussed up with lid locks like Malcolm McDowell’s character in A Clockwork Orange. Turns out, Esther did not get rid of the kill switch when she dumped the laptop. The A.I. wants it and continues to torture Mulder until it gets it. "Twilight Time" starts playing as our dynamic duo escape the trailer. 

Esther takes Fox's place and uploads the virus until it kills her too … or does it? This has turned into The Lawnmower Man, in which Jobe is trying to upload his consciousness to the Internet. Then the satellite blows up the trailer. The next morning, Scully looks at the motor home wreckage and is convinced Invisigoth died, but Mulder thinks Esther may have succeeded with her upload. A loving message to the Lone Gunmen’s computer -- "Bite Me" -- supports that theory. In a trailer park in Nebraska, a teenager retrieves his football from a fenced-in yard containing a motor home which has some serious security precautions, just like the one in Fairfax, Virginia…

Sestra Professional:

I can say this much for "Kill Switch," it's got an arm up -- Mulder's specifically -- on last week's super-fan contribution, Stephen King's "Chinga." And it's head and shoulders above William Gibson's second offering, "First Person Shooter." But we'll get to tearing that one asunder in Season 7.

At the time this originally aired, computers weren't quite the ever-present notion that they've become in the ensuing decades. It made for an intriguing concept. Now a system locking on to your location is something we deal with on a daily basis, with Facebook showing us ads on something we've looked for on another site. But in the day, it was fodder for Gibson ... even if it wasn't a typical kind of X-File. The subject matter seems more Millennium-istic to me.

What are we but impulses? Electrical and chemical, through a bag of meat and bones: It's sort of telling that King's X-Files episode gave Scully the spotlight, while Gibson stands firmly in Mulder's corner. As Sestra Am pointed out, Dana doesn't seem to be retaining any of the data she's collected over lo these many seasons. That's not to say the cyberpunk writer can't flesh out female characters, because Invisigoth proves to be right up his alley. Just that in this particular case, Scully seems to have reverted to her factory settings. Although he seems to try to make up for that in the dream fight sequence.

Ah, "Twilight Time." Well, it's certainly better than hearing "The Hokey-Pokey" over and over again last episode. Ever notice this show doesn't tend to use music recorded before the invention of compact discs? Thank goodness, Chris Carter shoehorned "Walking in Memphis" into the Cher-riffic episode, "The Post-Modern Prometheus" (S5E5), after setting the stage with "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" and "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves."

The agents were able to locate Invisigoth pretty easily considering she's so paranoid about being found. If she couldn't elude dogged-but-computer-ignorant Mulder and leery Scully, Goth Girl should probably just count herself lucky they got to her first. Even if Dana did almost get them blown to bits like the motley crew in the teaser.

Whoops, there go your legs: The whole episode virtually exists to get Mulder into his convoluted extended dream/nightmare scenario. The computer's so astute it probably knew of Fox's predilection for porn. Hence the nurses. It really makes me wonder how much it knew about his biggest wishes and fears. I'm not sure whether I should be more concerned for Mulder's mind state ... or Gibson's. 

Sestra Am painstakingly explained all the hows and whys of the episode, yet there's really nothing substantial in here that propels our characters or the story. Of course, we don't really look for that in a stand-alone episode. But we also don't want to take away from all they've done and all they've learned either, just to give Fox the ultimate wet dream and/or The Lone Gunmen someone to drool over. 

But we do get one of the hard and fast rules about technology in modern times. All the conspiracies in the world, all the aliens and hybrids and shape shifters can't do as much relentless damage as computers. We may think we have control of them, but ultimately, more often than not, they seem to be ruling us.

Metadata: Gibson kept bumping into executive producer Chris Carter on airplane flights prior to his involvement on the series. In the official show episode guide, Gibson said he initially just wanted to wrangle a set visit, but Carter came up with the idea of him submitting a script. The writer recruited friend and author Tom Maddox to help him do so. It took years before their idea became "Kill Switch." ... Editor Heather MacDougall took home the Emmy for Outstanding Single Camera Picture Editing for a Series for her work on this show. ... Episode director Rob Bowman said in The Complete X-Files that it took 22 days to film it, all while he was still piecing together Fight the Future for summer release. ... Gillian Anderson, who called the artificial intelligence trailer "the set from hell" in the episode guide, added in The Complete X-Files that she relished the fight scene. "When I read that scene, I was so happy," she said. "I happened to be in good shape at the time and was just raring to get in there and be taking these half-naked nurses out with some karate chops."

Guest star of the week: After opening eyes (and The Lone Gunmen's mouths) as Invisigoth, Kristin Lehman continued on in the science-fiction vein for years afterward with work on shows such as The Outer Limits and Strange World. Obviously it wasn't all in Esther Nairn's fondness for clothing and makeup, she displayed a great flair and presence needed for the genre.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

X-Files S5E10: A doll less than the sum of her parts

Sestra Amateur: 

This week we travel to good ol’ Maine in the month of February. A mother, her daughter and the daughter’s doll are at the grocery store. They don’t seem very happy about it, you’d think they were walking to the electric chair. The girl’s doll says it for both of them -- she wants to go home. Everyone in the store stares at them and Mom starts seeing strange things in the frozen food aisle. Then all of the people in the store start hurting themselves and bleeding from their eyes. Fortunately, the butcher is armed with a knife when he sees the doll in a reflection. Or rather unfortunately, he is armed with a knife when he sees the doll in a reflection … and ends up stabbing himself in the face. Clearly this isn’t going to be one of those comic relief bottle episodes.

Scully is enjoying a weekend off, cruising around Maine in a convertible, when Mulder calls to harsh her buzz. This is exactly why I don’t answer my cell phone when coworkers call on my off days. After hanging up, Mustang Scully gets cut off by the mother/daughter duo in the grocery store parking lot. Dana goes inside to try and help. The store manager directs her to the butchered butcher in the back. Scully then calls Mulder. I’ll bet her X-file trumps his. Then she is saddled with the stupidest police officer I think this show has ever had … and that’s saying a lot. Can you imagine being able to identify the mom on camera by name (Melissa Turner), seeing she is unaffected while everyone around her is trying to harm themselves, and thinking it’s not a clue that can possibly explain everything?!? Officer Buddy Riggs definitely isn’t detective of the year. 

Captain Jack Bonsaint gives Dana a little more of the back story. It turns out Melissa is involved with – was involved with – Dave the butcher. Buddy Boy makes things worse by calling Melissa to tell her about Dave. Melissa’s daughter, Polly, tells Mommy to hang up the phone while the doll dances to the "Hokey Pokey," because, you know, that’s what it’s all about.

Scully and Bonsaint arrive at Melissa’s house, but she's already bolted. Someone also had hammered the windows closed. Was that to keep something out or to keep something in? Dana learns Melissa is a recent widow, Polly is autistic and the butcher ruined his marriage over Melissa. Maybe she cast a spell on him since townsfolk think Melissa's a witch. Polly’s former teacher, Jane Froelich, isn’t fond of the daughter either. She once slapped Polly in the face because she couldn’t control the child. Riggs buys the little girl an ice cream sundae and tries to convince Melissa to let him take care of her. Melissa claims she saw her husband, Rich, dead before he died -- just like Dave. Maybe you should listen to her, Buddy. Meanwhile, Polly and her doll want more cherries, but the cashier won’t give them away for free. The poor woman gets her long hair caught in the ice cream machine while Melissa takes Polly and dolly out of the restaurant.

Dana and the captain meet with Froelich, who claims Melissa needs to be burned just like witches from hundreds of years earlier. Melissa and Polly head to Riggs' cabin to hide out. Polly continues to throw a tantrum, which wakes up the doll and results in another of Melissa’s visions. This time, she sees Froelich with a slit throat. Melissa bolts and almost runs over a ranger. The "Hokey Pokey" starts playing in the teacher's house. She threatens someone – something – with a broken record, then proceeds to slash her own throat.

Meanwhile, Scully is back in vacation mode. She’s taking a nice bubble bath and eating room service cuisine. She manages to ignore the phone for a bit, but then gets a visit from Captain Jack. They head to the latest murder (suicide?) scene where Fox tracks Dana down by phone. Clearly he doesn’t handle his days off as well as Scully does. Dana concedes to Bonsaint they should keep themselves open to extreme possibilities. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Scully is “the Mulder” this time. Melissa, who is back home with Polly and dolly, is being tortured by the "Hokey Pokey" record playing over and over again. She also sees a vision of a dying Riggs. Dana and the captain discuss the case over dinner, during which Scully learns Rich died after a grappling hook went through his skull on a boat. Buddy confronts Melissa about almost running over the ranger. And dolly wants to play again, which doesn’t bode well for Riggs.

Dana interviews Rich’s fishing partner, who was on the boat when Polly's dad caught the doll in one of the traps. They heard weird noises afterward and Rich later died horribly. When Mulder calls again, Scully asks him about possessed objects. Fox seems a little too eager to explain the concept of Chucky to her. Polly starts freaking out because her mother isn’t making popcorn quickly enough. Sorry Polly, but it’s hard to concentrate when your friend (in this case, Buddy) is lying dead on the floor and getting blood everywhere.

After her daughter finally goes to sleep, Melissa starts hammering the windows closed again, but the noise wakes Polly and dolly. Melissa then sees a vision of the hammer claw lodged in her own forehead. Dana and Jack arrive at Melissa’s house and Bonsaint spots Riggs' car outside. Melissa tries to burn down the house, and Scully and Bonsaint naturally attempt to stop her. Then Melissa bashes herself in the head several times with the hammer while Dana strives – not aggressively enough, I might add – to wrangle the doll from Polly. Scully finally wins and tosses the doll into the microwave, breaking the hold it had over Polly and Melissa. On Monday morning, Sculder are back in their office engaging in lame post-weekend chatter. And somehow a fisherman pulls the barbecued doll from the ocean. She still wants to play…

Sestra Professional:

Well, if the Master of Horror can't deliver a top-notch episode for The X-Files, I guess I shouldn't be too tough on the likes of Larry and Paul Barber ("Gender Bender, Season 1 Episode 14); Marilyn Osborn ("Shapes," S1E19) and Kim Newton ("Revelations," S3E11). There's something so awkward about Stephen King's presentation and even the script massaging by executive producer Chris Carter doesn't do much to alleviate that. 

We're on King's turf in New England, but he doesn't seem too at home. It's like one of his film adaptations that doesn't live up to the book, like Children of the Corn. This offering has moments when it's like The Stand -- some good, some meh overall -- but probably it's most like Dreamcatcher, basically feeding off the talent of an actor truly invested in a character. 

The teaser does seem to sorta have something going for it, even if the death vision inside the frozen-food case seems kinda lame. Some of the extras were definitely better at dealing with doll terrorism than others. That's probably another reason why "Chinga" never seems quite balanced. (By the way, I've never been quite sure about the title of the episode, even before people took offense at every little thing they consider offensive on social media.)

Let's have fun: I can't determine whether Dana's vacation selection is perfect, out of character or just perplexing. Whatever the case, I'll utter one chuckle for Scully's choice of bedside reading material -- Affirmation for Women Who Do Too Much -- and major points for her choice of ride (although the Maine t-shirt is a little over the top, so to speak).

I'm also on the fence about the Sculder phone conversations here. Maybe it's a good time in the series for Dana to be asserting herself, to be more than just the sounding board for Fox. However, it feels really awkward how it plays out here. That might just be because we saw something similar done to better humorous effect in "War of the Coprophages" (S3E12). Do the shippers really get off on Mulder saying "Scully, marry me" after she shows some knowledge of buzz words in the black arts? Their connection is so much better than that, so much deeper than that. To detract from it with a line that any ol' wisecracking lead male in a series can say to his counterpart comes off supremely lame to me.

We've had a lot of great creepy kids in the series to this point. Polly (Jenny-Lynn Hutcheson) ain't one of them. I sorta wonder if this episode might have played better with someone who could have coaxed some sympathy out of the viewers. Basically I wanted to put her into the blender instead of ice cream ... and a cashier who wouldn't cough up more cherries. They deemed Polly autistic, although her story didn't seem to really play that way -- a teacher whose response to the girl's behavior would be hitting her? That's against some scholastic oath, I'm sure. They could have gotten more mileage out of the overall story if Polly's history factored into it better. The way it ultimately aired, the doll had more dimension than the child.

I never ever want to hear the "Hokey Pokey" again. I don't wanna hear a doll say "I want to play" or "Let's have fun" again. I'll probably be able to accomplish that just by avoiding "Chinga" on future rewatches and not hanging around talking dolls. Sorry, Betsy Wetsy. ... I also could do without another character named Melissa. Can't Scully even flinch at hearing the same name as her deceased sister, who was wrongly killed by someone who thought she was Dana?

Meta manuscript: Sculder show some knowledge of pop culture with a reference to Chucky. Brad Dourif -- the memorable Luther Lee Boggs in "Beyond the Sea" (S1E13) voices that character in the Child's Play films. ... Mulder's penchant for tossing pencils in the ceiling first were displayed in this episode. ... David Duchovny lost to King on Celebrity Jeopardy in 1995. But the writer told Duchovny he loved the show and wanted to pen one. ... Although they're both credited for the script, Carter and King never met in person, according to the official episode guide. 

Guest star of the week: Larry Musser, in his fourth and final appearance on the show finally garners the honor. His previous eps were anchored by other powerhouse characters -- "Die Hand Die Verletzt" (S2E14), "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" (S3E20) and "Requited" (S4E16). In this one, it's either him or the creepiest moppet since the title character in The Twilight Zone's "Living Doll." Musser complements Gillian Anderson nicely, and he has far better manners than Jose Chung's Detective Manners.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

X-Files S5E9: Pulling up roots

Sestra Amateur: 

Strange things are afoot in Coats Grove, Michigan where a stepfather is berating his vacant, videogaming teenaged stepson Bobby. OK, that part is pretty standard. The kid decides he’s mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. He threatens stepfather Phil with a shovel before running off into the woods. Phil chases him but trips on a root and falls to the ground. Patti -- Phil’s wife and Bobby’s mama -- comes upon them and sees Bobby on top of Phil, who is being sucked into the muddy ground. Looks pretty incriminating to me. The next day, Scully gets to handle Phil’s autopsy which confirms the dude had an awful lot of mud in his stomach. He was also buried in a standing position, meaning the hole was more than six feet deep. Dana thinks Bobby, whose nickname around school is “Dorkweed,” intentionally murdered Phil. Tell me, why is this a federal case?

Mulder interviews Bobby while Scully talks to Patti, who denies Phil had a history of hitting Bobby. Patti thinks Bobby was struggling to help Phil, not kill him. Bobby tells Fox that Phil shoved him in the past and he didn’t kill Stepdaddy Dearest. Apparently Phil was under stress because of “the blight,” which was killing his hazelnut trees. And apparently Bobby is unable make friends, which rules out the accomplice angle. Sculder wander through the woods where Mulder trips on a root and Dana sees someone watching them.

Dorkweed lied, he does have a friend. Can’t believe they expected a suspected murderer to be honest. He tells schoolmate Lisa that he finally stood up to his stepfather. Other boys in school taunt Bobby and call him Psycho Killer (fa-fa-fa-fa, fa-fa-fa-fa-fa). How come death of an immediate family member doesn’t get you an excused day off from school, even if (especially if) you’re the suspect?

Sculder then talk with Karin Matthews, played by Sarah-Jane Redmond who hit the rare trifecta cast as three different X-Files characters -- she's also the young mom in Season 2 Episode 12 "Aubrey" and a special agent in I Want to Believe. Karin seems to be working on Bobby’s self-defense argument. Bobby meets Lisa at night and tries to convince her to stand up to her own father the way he stood up to Phil. Lisa refuses but goes home and ends up yelling at her father anyway when he tells her not to hang out with Bobby. Then something -- not Lisa -- causes him to fly through the window and die. Problem solved, new problem created since Eugene was a single parent.

Karin preps Lisa on avoiding Sculder then explains to Fox how she helps the teens break the cycle of abuse through therapy. Mulder analyzes the broken window and determines Eugene was pulled out of the two-story window – you know, the type without a balcony or trellis or anything else for a would-be murderer outside the second-story window to hang on to.

The coroner determines Eugene died from a broken neck. Fox thinks it was blood loss, but the overly defensive coroner doesn’t agree with Mulder's assessment. Fox then finds something unusual in Eugene’s neck. Dana and the local police pull Bobby out of class. She looks for proof of a struggle on Bobby’s arms, but there’s not a single imperfection to be found. The Fox shows up with the “evidence” removed from Eugene’s neck. Karin gives Lisa a place to stay until her aunt arrives and Lisa later hears a man berating Karin. 

Sculder return to Lisa’s house, where Mulder has the urge to go tree climbing. The man who was watching them earlier is standing behind Scully with an axe. He claims to be the one who takes care of the trees. Dana shows him the piece of splintered wood the coroner obtained from Eugene’s neck. Axe Man says it came from the same tree Fox was just climbing. He confirms the trees are dying and a similar situation occurred 20 years ago. Axe Man hits this one with his ax and the tree starts “bleeding.”

Lisa snoops in Karin’s basement and the berating voice locks her in. The next morning Sculder show up at Matthews' house to ask about her father, who died 20 years earlier in an orchard. The good news is his death ended that particular blight. Karin claims Lisa was already picked up by her aunt, but the poor girl is still in the basement. Looks like she had a long night too. Why can’t she break that window? There are so many things down there she could have used. Karin tells Lisa she can’t let her out of the basement until it’s “safe.”

Mulder decides to exhume Karin’s father, Charles, without a court order. He opens the coffin, but it’s full of roots instead of a rotting human body. Aunt Linda shows up at Karin’s house, but Matthews claims Lisa went to the bus station. The girl finally breaks a window and gets Linda’s attention. Too bad someone impales the aunt with a root before she can call the police.

Fox decides nature – or someone controlling nature – caused the deaths of the three men who worked in the orchards: Phil, Eugene and Charles. Mulder goes to the weak link – Bobby – who reveals Karin influenced his hatred of Phil, who was not abusive. Sculder end up in Matthews' basement where they find what’s left of her father. The agents locate Lisa, but Karin gets away. Fox chases after her, but a tree blocks his path and a branch tries to impale him. Good luck explaining that one to the car rental agency. Hope Mulder signed up for the insurance option. 

Karin shows up at Bobby’s house, but Patti tries to keep her away from him. Dorkweed panics and runs through the woods, then decides to take a stand against Karin, who is possessed by … her father? A spirit? The woods? Deadites? The ground starts to swallow Bobby, but Fox shows up. He tries to pull him out, but gets sucked down with him. Axe Man takes care of everything in a very predictable and efficient way. Yes, he chops off Karin’s head. Mulder and Bobby are fine, but their dry cleaning bills must have been astronomical. On the upside, I think the blight is over. Can we have a spinoff show called Tales of the Axe Man? The guy gets things done.

Sestra Professional:

The kid's apathy rubbed off on me in this episode. I wanted to sit around playing video games instead of blogging ... and I don't even play video games.

Chalk that up to the one-dimensional nature of the story and the characters within. Even Mulder and Scully have been reduced to stereotypes. Fox is making his usual wild assumptions (rather boringly) and Dana is explaining everything away under the guise of science (ditto ad nauseum). Give credit for that to co-writers Jessica Scott and Mike Wollaeger, who never got a second chance to make an impression as X-Files writers. (They went on to pen kids' fare for Goosebumps and Animorphs, where perfunctory characterization probably went over better. We certainly don't appreciate that in our Sculder.)

Is it possible that he took the term "mud pie" literally? I'm not too sure whose side we're supposed to be on. We're watching a stereotypical standoff between a father and his stepson. The kid's an empty-headed probable drug addict who apparently has never heard of John F. Kennedy. He has anger issues but can be easily bullied at school. And the dad is so heavy-handed and belligerent. It's hard to reconcile that with what we later hear about him being a man who could tell a joke and was well-liked around town. Even with a hazelnut blight.

So Karin Matthews enters the picture. And since she's played by Sarah-Jane Redmond, who had just given the second season of Millennium a huge boost as the epitome of evil, it's kind of obvious she'll be doing more than playing the plain Jane trying to help out the troubled kids at school. Karin's philosophy that all you have to do is stand up to the person hurting you seems rather misguided. It's an unrealistic theory that might cause more harm than good.

You little piece of garbage: There's not a lot of nurturing going on in this town. Lisa's dad suffers from the same malady as Bobby's stepdad (although he can't be blamed for wanting to keep his daughter away from a suspected murderer, I suppose). Thusly, he suffers from the same fate as Farmer Hazelnut after his daughter yells at him to shut up. Having a quiet girl deliver a verbal outburst doesn't exactly qualify as character development. And then there's the guy walking around with an ax on foggy nights under the guise of watching over trees.

The same goes double for our heroes. Fox and Dana play their believer-doubter roles as we've seen 100 times before. And Mulder can usually do a lot better in the flirting department than climbing a tree and quipping "Is this demonstration of boyish agility turning you on at all?"

I think she's the killer and the victim: There are some theories here that don't take root. Someone's able to control nature because they were abused? And why is Bobby suddenly cleaned up? If the kid really was trying to save his stepdad, how could he be cured of his insecurities when Phil died in front of his eyes as he tried to help? Bobby should have been falling even deeper into his doldrums and self-loathing. And poor Karin, said to be so consumed by her past and the fact that she didn't use her silly trope of standing up to her own father that it's all right for the Axe Man to get rid of the stupid concepts in her head the hard way. 

Meta mulch: Ridiculousness of plot aside, the effects of those pulled into the mud are striking. According to show's special effects coordinator, David Gauthier, in the official episode guide, the mud was heated for the comfort of the actors. A hydraulic elevator was used in one scene and an air-powered ramp in another to draw the characters deeper into the bog. The tough part was Karin's headless body. Gauthier said a stunt woman was fed oxygen so she could breathe as she slowly went under. ... Also props to Mark Snow for a different kind of score on this episode. The composer used all-too-appropriate woodwinds for the right sound, he said in the guide. ... "Dorkweed" was originally scripted as "Dickweed," according to the guide. ... Katharine Isabelle, who played Lisa, is the daughter of the show's production designer, Graeme Murray.

Guest star of the week: As previously mentioned, Sarah-Jane Redmond had already made an indelible impression in a couple episodes as Frank Black's best and brightest nemesis on Millennium by the time of "Schizogeny." (The Ten Thirteen Productions favorite later starred in the ill-fated Harsh Realm as well.) They can take away all Redmond's makeup here, but they can't subdue her talent. She speaks volumes with her eyes, much more than the written words on the page. If it wasn't for her, this one would be even worse than it is. Hard to fathom, but completely true.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

X-Files S5E8: When you gotta go, you gotta go

Sestra Amateur: 

Today’s episode puts us back in Monster-of-the-Week mode, but with a twist -- it’s a follow-up to "Pusher" (Season 3, Episode 17). And if you’ve ever seen a movie called The Fury (or read the book), then you have a general idea how this one is going to go. Remember Robert Patrick Modell, who killed several people but made the deaths look like suicides or accidents? Mulder shot him and left him in a vegetative state after a rousing game of Russian roulette. Well, Modell is undergoing physical therapy in a Virginia correctional facility. Most people think he’s a vegetable, but at least one guard/orderly sees Robert Patrick (no, not the future series regular) for the horrible man he is. Too bad Chuck, the younger orderly, doesn’t heed the wise one’s warnings. Chuck tells him that Modell “had to go.” Too bad he never gets his “I told you so” moment. Watch out, Fox! He probably wants payback.

Assistant Director Skinner is debriefing the feds and marshals assigned to the manhunt. Hope Walter doesn’t get beaten up by a mind-controlled employee again. Of course there are a couple of doubters in the group of government agents, so things are likely to get a little rough for them. Scully learns RP simply woke up six months earlier and his brain tumor is still killing him. Shouldn’t the penitentiary have warned Mulder that Modell woke up? Watching Dana work this current investigation, you’d never even know she found and lost her miracle alien child so recently.

Pusher is torturing bike store employee Todd, who was unfortunate enough to be watching the news story right when Modell walked into his shop. After convincing Todd his baseball bat is a poisonous snake, RP starts chowing down on energy bars. Pusher calls Mulder, who manages not to fall under his influence. They trace the call to the bicycle store where Fox sees Modell walking away. Mulder chases him, but it’s just Todd in RP's prison clothes. So that’s two people Pusher could have killed but didn’t. Prison has softened him.

Speaking of, Modell is staring at a picture of a blonde woman. There’s also a man sitting in a living room covered in cerulean blue paint. Sculder and company arrive and find dead, blue Nathan Bowman – Pusher's prosecutor -- and learn the Japanese word "Kitsunegari" is written all over the man’s walls. In case you still questioned whether or not RP was coming after Fox, "kitsunegari" means “fox hunt.” 

Mulder tries to locate the man’s wife, Linda, played by Diana Scarwid -- best known for portraying Christina Crawford to Faye Dunaway’s over-the-top Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. Luckily, Linda’s secretary is disturbingly forthcoming, especially when talking to a stranger who has not even identified himself as law enforcement. The Falls Church Police Department responds, but apparently didn’t get the memo on Pusher’s psychic ability and one officer holds another one at gunpoint until the agents arrive on the scene. Two more survivors of Modell’s power. 

Lucky for Linda Bowman she was running late, because she didn’t arrive until after all the excitement. Fox manages to find RP across the street. He calls for backup, but Pusher desperately wants to tell Mulder something. Then Fox tells Dana that Modell “had to go.” Mulder also says RP warned him not to play the game. Skinner suspends Fox and takes his gun.

In interviewing Linda, the agents learn she married Nathan two months ago after a really brief courtship. Her words convince Mulder she arranged her own husband’s death and may be a pusher herself. (Pushette?) Fox returns to the penitentiary to question the therapist about Modell’s visitors. Unfortunately, she can’t see the picture Mulder shows her of Linda without her glasses on. The therapist takes a phone call then casually electrocutes herself to death. 

Falls Church police arrive at Linda’s safe house with RP, who pushes the marshal to go home. Skinner realizes something is up, breaks into the apartment and catches Modell with Linda. Pusher creates a suicide-by-cop situation by convincing Walter he has a gun. Skinner shoots Modell in the shoulder. Of course, Walter sounds crazy when he later tries to explain it to Sculder. Mulder waits patiently for Modell to come out of surgery and regain consciousness. A nurse arrives to change RP's bandages, but it’s just Linda with the word "nurse" pinned to her shirt. Fox, seeing an actual nurse, leaves and Linda pushes Modell to a painless death. Dr. Kervorkian would be proud.

Mulder returns too late and realizes Linda played him. She also left a clue to her whereabouts. (I wonder if she “pushed” her secretary to give all of that information to Fox when he first called looking for Linda. That actually makes some sense.) Mulder encounters Scully, who is pushed to point her gun at Fox. Dana then shoots herself in the head. She falls to the ground and the blood pools around her. Linda arrives, armed and claiming to be Scully, listing Mulder’s family members to prove she’s not Linda. Believe her, Fox! Gillian Anderson is under contract, Diana Scarwid is not! 

“Linda” then shoots behind Mulder and hits … Linda, who goes down for the count. Dana calls for an ambulance and Linda is (unfortunately) saved. Turns out, she and Modell are fraternal twins and she has the same type of brain tumor. They still don’t really explain why Pusher isn’t so murderous this time around. Was it his choice not to kill or did Pushette prevent him from being able to kill? It’s not like she was opposed to killing anyone. In the end, Skinner actually praises Fox for a job well done. Maybe Linda “pushed” him to say nice things to Mulder.

Sestra Professional:

"Pusher," the original episode written by Vince Gilligan, stands as one of the highlights of the entire series. "Return of Pusher," penned by Gilligan with Tim Minear, isn't quite as strong but fits nicely into the fabric of the series.

Keep pushing. No pain, no gain: As Sestra Am pointed out, it's tough to figure out what to make of Robert Patrick Modell this time around? The enemy of law enforcement didn't show any remorse after killing 17 people. Has the vegetable roasted into a rutabaga? Didn't expect that to turnip.

"Pusher" worked as an episode because he was the worthy adversary he imagined himself to be for Mulder. It wasn't just a case of Fox making wild guesses to solve a supernatural case. Even when Sculder had evidence of Modell's abilities, it wasn't easy getting him off the streets, although Pusher's ailments didn't have him operating at 100 percent efficiency. Mulder may be smart and strong, but even he fell under the smooth talker's spell. 

Two words. It's alive: That gives "Kitsunegari" a strong jumping off point. Ah, the miracles of medicine that kept Robert Patrick alive long enough that he was able to ply his wares once again. Having Robert Wisden back in the role provides another carbo boost for the show. He pushes us to want to know what's going on with Modell. And Fox, Dana, Walter ... they all suffered at Pusher's hands in the first episode, so it's intriguing to bring that back story into the latest go-around. 

But it's not really Modell's story this time around. Sure, he's the catalyst, but his murderous impulses have been tempered and it's Linda Bowman driving the action this time. Even with the same abilities as Robert Patrick -- the character -- she doesn't cut quite as charismatic a brutal swath through "Kitsunegari." Which is not to say she and the story fail. I guess it's just tough for her to navigate in her sibling's shadow.  

Mulder, no: Pusher's kills gave us thrills and chills. We don't see Linda's hubby get the blues, we only see the cerulean outcome. Pushette doesn't have quite the flair as her fraternal twin. But she does have the capacity to put Fox and Dana/Walter on opposite sides of the same issue. And that's where "Kitsunegari" gains some traction.

It does make a lot of sense from the Scully/Skinner viewpoint. Would an escaped killer really just be diverting suspicion away from the real estate lady? Even though we know Mulder's right, common sense dictates looking at the situation a different way. And it does set up the harrowing standoffs between faux Scully and Mulder and/or Fox and faux Linda. 

But poor Mel Cooley, I mean, Walter. He doesn't get a tiny high heel in his face courtesy of his secretary, but he does fall victim to the old "I have a gun" trick. Even on his last legs, Modell's able to draw Skinner's fire. Maybe he should have suspended himself too.

Meta-minded: Tim Minear -- who wrote for Lois and Clark before The X-Files and produced Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse afterward -- originally pitched the idea of a criminal who truly was a changed man. It was X-Files co-executive producer Frank Spotnitz who came up with the idea of using Modell to that end, according to the show's official episode guide. ... "Kitsunegari" was director Daniel Sackheim's first effort for the show since "The Host" (S2E2). ... And can't forget the reprise of the use of longtime X-Files director/producer Rob Bowman's surname for Linda and her husband, the Blue Man Group reject. 

Guest star of the week: It was spectacular to see Wisden back in Modell's skin, and under ours. But it's Diana Scarwid's episode. She does the heavy lifting, er, the heavy pushing and a fine job playing Scully for a couple minutes, almost as tough a task as following in her on-screen brother's footsteps. (By the way, Sestra Am, I know her best from Psycho III. Think she used a thing or two gleaned from Norman Bates?)