Werewolves of Asia
"Alpha" Plot Summary:
Two men searching the cargo hold of a ship from Asia, now docked in San Pedro, discuss an animal that allegedly tried to bite one of them. From inside a wooden crate, red eyes peer out. The men open the lock on the crate and look horrified at what they find inside. The police arrive at the boat, where a man named Detweiler announces that he is the owner of the animal cargo, which he claims needs care. An officer reports that the cargo hold was secured in Hong Kong and the crate was still locked when they found it, but inside it the police found the heads of the men who had prowled the hold earlier.
At the FBI, Scully finds Mulder looking at pictures of the bloody corpses. He tells her that merchant marines were found dead in San Pedro of multiple bite wounds, and the dog is now missing: "Doggone." Scully reports that people almost never die of bite wounds themselves - blood loss and infection caused by wounds, but not the wounds - so the report may be erroneous. She also doesn't understand how the men were found inside a crate locked from the outside. "Bad dog?" Mulder suggests.
When his golder retriever barks, a customs official sees the shadow of a wolf- like dog outside his house. He chases it off, then goes inside to find his own dog bleeding. The red eyes find him and he is attacked. Meanwhile, the FBI agents have arrived in San Pedro. They discuss with officer Jeffrey Cahn the fact that the dog is not still on the ship - no droppings - but Dr. Ian Detweiler is still trying to claim it. Detweiler, Mulder learns, is a crypto- zoologist, a specialist who studies extinct or mythical animals. He claims the missing dog is a Wanshang Dhole, a species which reportedly died out years earlier. The police are upset about the presence of an unquarantined animal attacking people, but Detweiler insists that the Wanshang Dhole is a scavenger, not a hunter.
Still, the report on the dead customs official indicates that he was bitten by the same animal that killed the men on the boat, so Mulder makes a joke about the dog biting the hand that feeds him. When Scully asks Mulder if he's suggesting that the dog can cover its tracks at crime scenes, Mulder tells her she gets a biscuit and takes her to a kennel to meet Dr. Karen Berquist, a kennel owner who specializes in dog behavior problems, who has written several books on the intelligence of dogs with titles like Better Than Human, whom Mulder met on the internet. Scully discovers that Berquist has an "I Want To Believe" poster in her office and becomes immediately contemptuous, demanding to know whether dogs are intelligent enough to commit murder. Berquist replies that murder doesn't take any intelligence.
Fiedler, an official from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Commission sees signs of scavenging and heads into an abandoned building, where he is followed by a man who morphs into a dog and attacks him. Officer Cahn tells Mulder that Fiedler was his friend; he wants to kill the murderous dog, plus arrest "that crypto- sonofabitch" who brought it into the country. Berquist arrives and says that while it's refreshing to read about a dog biting a dog-catcher, this looks like typical alpha dominant behavior to her. Detweiler also comes to the scene, claiming that he tranquilized the dog after tracking it for two weeks in Asia. He threatens the policeman who wants to kill the animal, claiming that it left no tracks at the new crime scene, but Berquist finds several tracks which he overlooked. The pawprints show a fifth toe pad on the right paw; canids only have four, but some people believe they used to have a fifth which operated as a prehensile thumb.
Scully scoffs that she accepts the dog behaves like Jack the Ripper, but Berquist counters that in Chinese myth, the Wanshang Dhole was a trickster who could open doors and steal men's wives. Scully doesn't doubt that. Outside, she suggests to Mulder that she questions Berquist's motives - she thinks the dog-lover is using this case as an excuse to get close to her partner. Meanwhile, Detweiler goes to a veterinarian (where dogs bark at him), asking Dr. Riley for Telezol and other animal tranquilizers. When Riley locks the back door for the evening, the dogs start barking again and the demon dog appears. Riley manages to escape to call the cops, but when they arrive, they mistakenly shoot a pet St. Bernard which has escaped. Riley operates on the dog as Mulder and Scully arrive. As she finds an autographed photo from Karen Berquist on his wall, she hears a scream and finds Riley bloodied on the floor near the St. Bernard, which morphs into the wolflike Wanshang Dhole after she runs to get help.
Scully then goes to Berquist to tell the other woman she's being investigated as well: Berquist's dark windows and long sleeves are hiding the fact that she has lupus. Berquist knows: she finds it ironic that she has a disease whose name means wolf since she relates to wolves. Scully accuses that she's different with Mulder and has been trying to lure him to her, but Berquist doesn't bite. She does agree, however, that she never believed Detweiler caught the Dhole. "You watch but you don't see," she tells Scully.
Mulder summons Cahn to check out some tranquilizers he found, but Cahn is attacked in his police car by the demon dog. When Mulder goes to the hospital to visit, he finds Detweiler already there, claiming he wanted a description of the animal. Mulder catches on to the fact that Detweiler and Berquist want the same thing, to save the Dhole from extinction...and they both know that the Dhole is Detweiler. At night, he becomes the trickster. Mulder speculates that Detweiler hates what he has become and wanted the tranquilizers to try to stop himself from killing, but the man walks out without comment. He bumps into Berquist, who says she protected him for as long as she could.
Mulder accuses the dog-lover of lying to him about the case, but she points out that she called him out there in the first place because she knew no dog did those killings. Detweiler, she says, must be put down. Mulder summons Scully to the hospital to guard Cahn, though his partner snorts that even if Detweiler is the dog, what's he going to do, pee in corners? She warns Mulder again that Berquist is manipulating the facts to get to Mulder, but he insists on waiting until late at night when he suddenly realizes that Detweiler isn't coming after Cahn, and Berquist knew it all along. Calling the kennel owner in a panic, Mulder begs her to lock her doors and wait for him, but Detweiler is already in the house, in wolf form. "Come on, dog," she whispers, and it launches itself at her, knocking them both backwards through a high window. Mulder and Scully find the corpses of Detweiler (as a man) and Berquist.
Back in Washington, Scully asks Mulder when he's going home, but unlike at the start of the episode when he said his office was home, he allows that he's leaving in a few minutes. Mulder admits that he trusted Berquist very quickly, though he barely knew her. Scully said that she had excellent instincts and figured him out to a T - a kindred spirit. Then she gives her partner a package from Berquist Kennels containing an "I Want To Believe" poster. Mulder tacks it up.
This episode is, well, a dog. I wish that were just a flip comment, but I found "Alpha" boring, predictable, and grating. The only mystery was whether Berquist would choose to kill Detweiler or find a way to get him to bite her so that she could turn into the wolf-woman she fantasized about becoming, but I guess in the end she's one of the legions who feel that if they can't have Fox Mulder, it's not worth going on living in this dog-eat-dog world. It's pretty sad when I find myself glad that the main guest character is dead so we don't ever have to see her again. Berquist was alternately ridiculous and pathetic; if I had lupus I'd be offended at the suggestion that this is a disease people somehow bring on themselves by wishing they were more canine (or canid, as the dog scientist says).
Rottweiler - I mean Detweiler - was much more compelling, in part because of a twitchy performance by Andrew "Garak" Robinson, in part because his predatory predictability at least made sense. It made much less sense that everything else would be so easy to figure out. The funniest line in this episode was the cop calling Detweiler a son of a bitch, but it was also a dead giveaway. Then again, I was willing to bet that the guy was a werewolf from the first time we saw that the owner of the red eyes looked like a wolf, even if it was really a Wanshang Dhole.
The Chinese trickster legend added nothing but an excuse for some cliched dialogue between Mulder and Scully about how women, too, can be tricksters...especially internet losers like Karen Berquist. Once again we had to deal with Shrike Scully protecting oblivious Mulder, which was funny when the focus was Bambi and the bugs. But now that it's dogs, it's quite annoying, though the "she's a dog" theme did go along well with the atrocious dog jokes throughout the episode. Dog-woman in catfight! Very funny. I was half-waiting for Scully to mark Mulder as her territory in the usual manner, since she was already treating Berquist like...you know.
I received a letter recently telling me that I am too defensive of Dana and too harsh on Fox, so I would like to note that I found Scully unprofessional and bitchy in "Alpha." As for buying Mulder's belated chagrin, however...ah, bite me.
The X-Files Reviews