Mulder Gets In Doggett's Head
"The Gift" Plot Summary:
Months ago, Mulder drove to Squamash Township, Pennsylvania, opened a door with a shamanic symbol, pointed his gun and shot a grotesque figure, as a couple named Kurt and Marie protested. Now Doggett drives along the same route, recalling his investigation into Mulder's disappearance. He introduces himself to Sheriff Kurt Frye of Squamash, asking about a false report of a missing woman that Mulder had been investigating. Doggett has discovered from Mulder's cell phone records that he came back to the town the week before he disappeared. Kurt and Marie claim the entire case was a misunderstanding stemming from a domestic squabble, but Doggett can see evidence of gunshots in their wall, and thinks there was more to Mulder's investigation than a legend about a creature that eats people alive.
The men of Squamash surround a rural cabin, telling the woman who lives there that they're coming in if she doesn't bring "it" outside. The woman pleads with them, but they pursue a creature fleeing through the woods and lock it in a police van. In Mulder's apartment, Doggett finds a gun hidden under the sink. It has obviously been fired within close range of something that bleeds. He confronts Skinner with the weapon and the phone records, saying he can't ask Scully for the truth because she co-signed case reports for that weekend that were obviously false. Skinner says Mulder would not commit murder, and trying to prove that he did won't help find him. Doggett thinks the real question is why people in the town would apparently cover for Mulder.
The two agents return to Pennsylvania, where they question the sheriff about an unidentified transient found shot in the woods the weekend of Mulder's last visit. Doggett and Skinner dig up the transient's grave, but it's empty, and it looks as if there's a tunnel out. The same symbol from Paul's door is recreated in stones at the cemetery. Kurt goes to Paul's house, telling him Marie has to get ready. Though she is reluctant, she takes off her clothes and lies on the floor as the creature is released from the van. It enters the room and bites her, splattering blood over her face. Later, in a cave, it vomits into a grooved carving in the shape of a human.
Meanwhile Doggett and Skinner come to the house looking for the sheriff. They find blood on the floor. Paul claims Marie, who has a kidney ailment, vomited the blood. Skinner also finds the symbol on the door that they saw by the grave. The Lone Gunmen identify it as a Native American shamanic symbol associated with people with the power to consume the illnesses of others. On a hunch, Doggett tracks down the woman who allegedly found the transient in the woods, discovering that she believes the creature is such a shaman. He asks whether Mulder tried to shoot it to protect Marie; she says Doggett has it backwards. Then he sees a trap door in the floor and goes down a stone staircase to the cave, where Marie is lying under a veil of ooze. He carries her out.
At the hospital, Doggett tells Skinner that Marie's kidneys have spontaneously healed. Now he knows Mulder wasn't trying to protect the woman, but the creature, which suffers greatly for its healing gift. The woman at the cabin confirms that Mulder came to Squamash to see whether it could cure him of his brain disease, but when he realized how it suffered, he tried to take its pain away instead by shooting it. The creature that cannot die enters the cabin, and Doggett puts it in his car. The sheriff and the other men of the town demand that Doggett release it, and shoot him in the chest when he refuses. The creature flees, but they expect it to return as before.
Doggett wakes with a vision of bloody teeth and ooze on his face. He sees the woman kneeling near the creature, which has died. "It took your death," she tells Doggett. "You freed it." Back at the FBI, Skinner advises the agent not to try to explain the truth in his report, since it will only cause endless trouble for Scully and himself. Doggett complains that he is no closer to finding Mulder, but Skinner says that's not true: Doggett got inside Mulder's head. After the assistant director departs, Doggett has a vision of Mulder in the office.
A remarkably gripping episode until it degenerates into a tale of Great and Epic Sacrifices, "The Gift" gives us an entire hour of Doggett and Skinner without Scully. And it works. In fact, it works better than most of the Doggett-Scully episodes have worked so far, because Skinner's low-key insistence on not jumping to conclusions makes a better foil for Doggett than Scully's shrill insistence that he keep an open mind. I'm not sure how I feel about this; I'm irked at the writers for how poorly Scully has been scripted this season, and for the fact that Doggett seems so much of a man's man that he will listen to Skinner about things he'd resist from Scully.
Curiously, Doggett puts together most of the details about Mulder without Skinner's help. When I stop trying to guess the writers' motives and watch purely as a fan, I wonder whether Doggett isn't becoming a bit fascinated with Scully, and with Mulder by extension. He sure hasn't broken his back to find Mulder -- perhaps he is starting to hope for personal reasons that he never finds Mulder -- but he needs to understand Mulder to have any hope of really understanding Scully, and he needs to understand Mulder's allies as well. So Skinner, the Lone Gunmen, even Mulder's bizarre case contacts become people he must turn to. There's something perversely appealing about that.
The shamanic healing, a bit reminiscent of the Classic Trek episode "The Empath" with trademark X-Files gore, is quite powerful until we learn that Mulder went in for a miracle cure (how come he never took Scully in her cancerous days?). Then Doggett becomes the personal messiah for the creature that Mulder couldn't. Can't Doggett uncover something nice about Mulder for a change? The threatening townspeople and the suggestions of domestic violence between Paul and Marie add a nice creepy element, but it becomes pretty transparent once we realize what the creature's magic power is.
I still miss the old X-Files, but maybe its time really is past and there's no recapturing it. If that's the case -- if I have to watch a show in which Mulder exists only as a ghost -- I'd rather have Scully as a ghost too, and Doggett starting in a fresh direction. Too bad the writers killed off Jeffrey Spender and Diana Fowley, because either one of them would have made an interesting partner for Dogbert, as Langly so charmingly calls him. Hopefully once Doggett and Scully figure out what happened to Mulder -- and I really want that to have a happy ending -- the senior agents will bow out, and let the new investigators break their own ground.
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