by Michelle Erica Green

Ghost In the Machine

"Elegy" Plot Summary:

Mulder and Scully investigate a series of bizarre deaths around a bowling alley and discover that the ghosts of previous victims appear to the person who will die next. Each of the dead women recite or write the words "She is me." The deaths all seem to revolve around an idiot savant named Harold Spiller, who has the bowling scores of hundreds of patrons memorized. The agents trace a 911 call about a victim to Harold's psychiatric center, and conclude that the compulsive Harold is the likely suspect. Then Scully has a nosebleed and sees a ghost herself.

Harold also sees an apparition - that of his boss at the bowling alley, who dies of a heart attack. Tortured by Nurse Innes at the psychiatric center, Harold refuses to take his medicine. Mulder later finds the nurse beaten and barely conscious; she claims that Harold assaulted her, but another patient warns Scully that Innes was trying to poison Harold. Scully realizes that the nurse was responsible for the murders and is attacked by Innes, but shoots Innes before her scalpel can do any real damage. Harold is found dead of respiratory failure - possibly because the nurse took his medication - and Scully sees his ghost, too.


The story arc about Scully's health or lack thereof was the main redeeming feature of this derivative, somewhat predictable version of a mental-patient murder mystery with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest twist. We appear to have contradictory information about Scully: in this episode she saw not one but two ghosts, when visions of spirits are indications that one is about to die. But Clyde Bruckman said that Scully was not going to die - ever. Obviously, someone's supernatural powers must be wrong, but whose?

I didn't spend much of the episode worrying about Scully because I was concentrating on the ultimately gratuitous mystery: the phrase uttered by all the victims, and the reason for the deaths in the first place. I'll buy the hokey explanation that people who are marked for death are closer to the spirit realm, which would explain why a man about to have a heart attack or a man about to die of respiratory failure would see ghosts. But why would a perfectly healthy woman who's about to be murdered or suffer a grisly accident have a premonition?

Scully's not making a terribly interesting skeptic these days, which I don't at all mean as criticism of her character: she was starting to sound stupid insisting on being a nonbeliever after all the things she's witnessed and experienced. But since she and Mulder are on pretty much the same wavelength a lot of the time, there's not as much tension between them. Her fear and loneliness were moving, but the episode really dragged, especially the scene where Scully told her therapist that she believed the hallucination but was reluctant to tell Mulder about it.

Did "She is me" refer to Nurse Ratched - I mean, Nurse Innes's identification with Harold's friends, or to her apparent death wish? Or to Scully's impending demise? If Mulder read the "She is me" even though he never saw a ghost, does that mean his life is in danger, too? I'm not sure, and I'm not sure why we're being toyed with along with Scully - we know she isn't going to die, not after that new contract Gillian Anderson signed, even if she doesn't know it yet.

I'm also not sure what the point of accusing, then exonerating, then victimizing a retarded man was. Plea for better treatment of mental patients? Slap at horror movies with negative depictions of mentally unstable murderers? The different plot puzzle pieces just didn't hang together for me. I must admit that I laughed when Mulder got a roomful of patients to agree that Jay Leno was the murderer, but it seemed mean-spirited. If Mulder's as important to Scully as she suggests during this episode, I wish she'd tell him so, so they can spend what may be little remaining time on her part doing something other than chasing his demons.

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