Scene 36: He’s interrupted by the others’ sudden arrival. Hodge immediately jumps to the conclusion that Mulder killed him, while Dana insists that her partner wouldn’t. Meanwhile Fox is yelling at the other three that one of them is a murderer.
Scully shouts at all of them to shut up and stop accusing one another. Scully orders Fox to lower his gun and take a blood test, but Fox states that the results could be doctored by Hodge during analysis to put the blame on him to cover himself.
The situation quickly escalates as Fox insists that he’s not turning his back on any of them to check his neck. He shouts that as far as he’s concerned, they’re all infected. Da Silva helps nothing by shouting that they should lock Mulder up.
Hodge grabs a lying-around-in-the-lab crowbar and makes a sudden move, which causes Fox to point his gun in Xander’s face. Dana pulls her own weapon and points it at Mulder, ordering him again to put the gun down. She tries to get him to understand the situation, but he turns the gun at her and shouts for her to put her weapon down. Scully screams back that he needs to put his gun down first. Fox tries to reason with Scully that it’s him, she knows him. But Scully pulls out the arc-words, “You may not be who you are” which seems to break through to him. He lowers the weapon.
Commentary: This is another really nicely filmed scene. I’ll go ahead and give David Nutter a kudo, because I don’t think I’ve mentioned his work yet. He’s done a really good job at bringing out the threatening atmosphere our characters are stuck with, and he’s using the limited locations in very good ways to keep that tension always present.
Despite the scripting being strained to keep everyone suspicious of one another, I want to say that the acting has also been very good, helping to draw us into and hold onto the moments of stress and possible violence among the characters. Gillian was especially effective in this confrontation with her partner and even managed to recite the arc-words without it being awkward sounding.
Scene 37: Fox allows himself to be escorted to a storage room for isolation. He glares at Scully and tells her that in this room, he’s going to be safer than she’ll be out there with the others.
It’s something she is obviously considering even as she locks him in.
Scene 38: When Dana returns to the lab, she hesitates as she sees Da Silva slumped over the microscope. She tries to surreptitiously check for signs of worm activity. But she’s suddenly grabbed by the suspicious Dr. Hodge, waking up Da Silva as well with a startled yell. Dana admits to what she was doing.
Xander points out that Dana is the only one now with a gun, leaving the other two of them defenseless if she should be infected. She unloads her and Fox’s weapon and removes the gun clips into the blowing snow outside.
Scene 39: Hodge insists that they can’t turn on one another now, but Dana only gets pissy because of the implication that Mulder is already infected and being written off as “not one of them”. Dana insists, to Da Silva’s agreement, that even if Fox is infected he needs their help, not to be shunned and ignored to his fate.
Nancy worries that prolonged exposure to the parasite could result in permanent psychosis, while Xander makes it clear to Scully that if Mulder has been infected he will not allow him to be air lifted out to risk a loss of containment.
Scene 40: Dana returns to the radio to broadcast for emergency assistance, despite the weather clearly locking them in and everyone else out. The answer to her general distress call is interference.
Scene 41: Later, more blood samples are being worked on. The parasite from Bear continues to grow [the previous magnified look was at x300... Now it can be seen at x200].
He asks Nancy to add a drop of uninfected control blood to the slide to study how the parasite reacts and is annoyed when he has to repeat himself as Nancy is being impacted by exhaustion.
She ends up putting infected blood on a slide of already infected blood, pissing off Hodge who is becoming more short tempered with the lack of sleep. They both take off sniping at one another over Hodge’s attitude, Da Silva’s error and his treating her like she’s his lab assistant.
Scene 42: Scully takes a moment to check the slide just contaminated. And happy mistake -- the parasites are head butting one another in an obvious attempt to kill off the competition. Dana calls Hodge to check out the now dead parasites.
She pulls Sample Jar One and places it in the cooler next to Sample Jar Two to reveal that the two worms can’t tolerate one another’s presence, even separated by such distance and barriers.
Hodge suggests that doesn’t make sense as they’d need two in order to procreate further but Da Silva tells him worms can be hermaphroditic and impregnate themselves. Dana suggests they can kill off the invading worms by introducing a second to an already infected subject.
Commentary: Sooooo… a few issues I have with this neat and tidy way to destroy the infection. One, I’ll buy it -- I don’t have a problem with our resolution per se. But I do question the two worms being able to ‘sense’ one another when both are in two different jars of solution, separated by glass containers and inches of distance. Unless they have eyesight, this doesn’t make much sense to me and it doesn’t make sense that they’d have vision, other than perhaps light detection, if they’re meant to spend their lives deep in a subject’s brain.
We still don’t know if this is in fact alien to Earth, but if so we also have the huge hole in the explanation of how it could find itself hanging out on a meteorite.
Scene 43: So with this possible resolution, the dog is infected with a second worm to test the hypothesis. They end the thing crawling into the pooch’s ear after sedating the animal.
The animal is re-caged and a wait begins.
Moments later, the dog twitches and whines. It becomes conscious and acts entirely sedate and friendly. Hodge checks it’s heart and it sounds normal. He even has a healthy appetite suddenly.
Sometime later, Hodge confirms that the dead worms were passed out of its stool [from the neck??].
Commentary: Wow. So many problems with this worm’s biology and impacts. First, how are the worms managing to remote detect one another? Then, how do you put a full size worm into a dog’s ear and have it find the way to the back of the neck, locate its rival and destroy it without tearing through muscle somewhere along the way, and how does it manage this route in record time, and if it went through the ear, doesn‘t it have to have traveled through the brain -- and wouldn‘t that be destructive? Also, how can we be sure that both worms are destroyed in all cases unless they’re releasing the toxin to do so - and how does this not kill the host? [I’ll just assume that each bug has a slightly different chemical makeup in their toxin, otherwise the worm would kill itself during its own self-defense.] How does a full grown worm manage to make it through to the hypothalamus for its final life cycle without causing noticeable brain damage along the way [which would’ve surely been mentioned by Dana]? Once destroyed, how does the large worm’s body make its from the back of the neck to the digestive tract, and isn‘t this causing some damage along the way? How does a parasite designed to survive in liquid ammonia survive transition to a warm blooded mammalian host?
Ugh. This life form was horribly described by our script writers.
Scene 44: With the answer ready, the next major issue is whether Fox Mulder is infected or not.
They enter the room holding the storage space. Dana tells the other two that she needs to talk to Mulder first, as she’s not willing to infect him without being sure that he’s already been compromised. Inside when they can speak privately, Mulder points out that he’s not infected, as far as he believes, but that one of the others had murdered Murphy.
Dana asks why he wouldn’t let them inspect him, and he uses her pulling a gun on him as a reason to not be more cooperative earlier. Fox tells her that he doesn’t trust the other two, but wants to trust her. She points out that the other two aren’t in the room.
He turns around to expose his neck. Dana starts feeling around for evidence the parasite is moving around. She massages around his shoulders and feels nothing [but, uh, she didn’t actually rub the back of his neck where the parasite would be located…].
When finished, he spins on her with a distrusting glare. She smiles at him and turns to leave, but he grabs her unexpectedly. Before she can wonder if he’s infected after all and turning on her, he begins to rub at the back of her neck to check her for the worm.
Scene 45: Outside the closed door, Da Silva is repeating that they have the last one alive in a jar ready for Mulder. She tells Xander that Dana isn’t going to allow them to place it in Mulder. She tells him that Fox will convince her somehow that he’s fine.
Scene 46: The door opens and Scully and Mulder exit. They confronted by the distrusting looks of Xander and Nancy.
Dana tells them that they’ve examined each other and neither of them are infected. Dana points out that this means it must be one of them [No. No, it doesn’t. It means that you still have a murderer among you, but you already knew that. What isn’t answered is if Murphy was murdered due to a parasite’s influence or if he was killed for some other reason… perhaps seeing something suspicious, or surprising one of the other two doing something underhanded. People can still kill people just fine without being compromised by a parasitic invader.]
Xander suggests that they perform another examination among all four of them. Despite the suspicions, Fox allows himself to walk in front of the group. Hodge grabs him and throws him into a wall, while Da Silva grabs Dana and shoves her into the storage room, locking her in.
Meanwhile, Hodge wrestles Fox to the floor.
Scene 47: With Mulder on the floor and Dana locked banging in the supply room, Hodge tells Da Silva to get the worm for Mulder. Nancy is about to drop the parasite into Mulder’s ear, when Xander sees her neck bulging with worm activity.
He shoves her away, and shouts at Mulder that Nancy is infected. Da Silva flies into a wild rage and knocks her way past them to run for who knows where she thinks she’s going. Meanwhile, Fox releases Dana. Xander retrieves their remaining specimen.
Scene 48: Nancy meanwhile is having a full on rage induced freak out and tearing up the lab room. She grabs up the evidence gun left clumsily in a desk loaded in its plastic bag. She shoots at the rushing Mulder, but he knocks her to the ground.
Scene 49: After Mulder and Scully wrestle Da Silva down, Hodge inserts the bug into her ear. Nearly immediately [like, really -- instantly] she begins convulsing violently. In moments, she calms but is only semi-conscious.
Scene 50: After the storm, Nancy is carted away in a protective suit following isolation protocol from the Nome air base. Despite this being days later, she’s still out of it. Hodge assures them that she’ll be kept in decontamination along with the surviving dog until they’re surely sure that the infection has been stopped. Meanwhile, with their tests being normal, they’re all free to go on their way.
Mulder says he’s going to return to the site with a full team. Hodge has to break the news to them that 45 minutes after they were airlifted, the site had been firebombed. He offers he doesn’t know which agency authorized it, but jokes that they should know, being part of the government themselves. He walks away with a smirk at them.
Scene 51: Mulder complains to Scully that the larva are still out there in that crater. She hopes that its just left there.
Commentary: Yeah. Nice attempt to foley in some cold wind but the green grass and the lack of steam from our actors kinda point out that they’re not freezing in Alaska, guys.
The Good: The opening was very strong, very atmospheric and surprising in how it resolved. I really enjoyed the beginning of our episode.
I enjoyed allowing Mulder a sense of fun, even when things turn a bit dire, in this episode. There were some nice light moments with Fox's comments.
I want to compliment the set design, the lighting, the cinematography and directing in this episode. The look of the episode was very well done. I also want to compliment the soundtrack that did a great job in supporting the creepy and tension filled atmosphere of the episode.
I liked the effects for Bear's infection and the resultant discovery of the parasite.
The Bad: The Toxicologist is a real problem as far as the script either not doing anything with the character's entire reason for being included on the team, or actually having Nancy ignore or react counter to what she should as a toxicology expert. The script makes her reactions as too generically 'woman in danger' rather than treating her like somebody who is familiar with medicine, quarantine procedures and isolation protocols and has had training in how to implement them.
The entire argument set up to place Scully and Mulder at odds so they can suspect one another of being infected due to the strain between them is badly scripted. The argument is over a difference of opinion that in no way ultimately comes down to an Option A or Option B choice. Both can actually be correct in this circumstance, so the opposition to one another is overblown and misrepresented by the script.
The entire murder of Murphy is also badly handled. At the end, we can guess that Da Silva murdered him because she was infected -- but this is never actually addressed and in the end, nobody seems to remember that he was murdered. Even just somebody wondering how Nancy will do when she remembers what she did to Denny would've resolved this dangler. But it's also just not consistent with Nancy's infected status: Why murder Denny when she wasn't trying to kill anyone else? We need some reasoning behind the circumstances that this came about, especially since she obviously had the self control not to go on a killing spree, and she managed to be together enough to attempt to hide the body out of sight. I was actually left wondering if Hodge hadn't killed him as some plan to whittle down the risks of infection to himself by killing them all off and then claiming to be the only survivor when rescue arrived.
Other Thoughts: The post-opening credits scene felt clumsily written to introduce our guest cast and invite us to form one word opinions on their personalities and/or quirks before we dive into the action. This is to be expected, I suppose, but the way the scene was executed felt exactly like what it was meant to accomplish, rather than being smooth.
There were some character problems and how you'd expect them to react to the situation with the scripting causing some scenes to seem designed too heavily to reach a particular story point without actually reflecting the characters being used to get there. For instance, places where a medical doctor or toxicologist would have an obvious opinion are passed over without any comment from these professionals on the matter. In fact, throughout the script, things that Dana says or does should logically put her on Hodge's side rather than in opposition to him and there is an issue with Da Silva and Murphy often having opposite reactions from what they should -- like the two character's dialogs should've been swapped around.
I'm not going to put it into the bad, because of the time period but the CGI worms aren't convincing in the least whenever they're on screen. Try to remember that CGI is just coming into use in television at this time so we're still in early days of the technology.
There is a weird bit with the mention of the atmospheric controls malfunctioning that goes nowhere. I can only think that an earlier script draft must've made a big deal over the parasite responding differently in their hosts to changes in temperature - perhaps becoming more dangerous when the temperature rises. Whatever the original intent, the idea seems to have been dropped, but the scene where it came up was left intact making it a complete nonsequitor.
I enjoyed the acting when Fox and Dana aren't on the same page and are suspicious of each other's motives, but the scripting to keep them apart I found to be clumsy and a bit obvious, rather than natural.
The worm's basic biology was also very clearly not thought through well. There are some pretty basic problems in how its designed to work, especially when it comes to the resolution to destroy them.
I have trouble buying Nancy's infection [when did this have a chance to happen] and her being able to show absolutely zero signs of a growing psychosis until dramatically relevant to wrap up the plot.
The Score: This is a wonderful episode as far as mood and atmospherics. The acting is well done by all involved and the pacing is great as well. But the script is really messy and the characters are often badly and illogically used for the scenario they're in; this is especially true for a toxicologist on the team who doesn't do much in the way of scientific inquiry. I really enjoy the episode, and would've loved to put it well over four stars, but the writing let it down score-wise.
3.75 out of 5 stars
Next up: BTVS, "Revelations"