Hushabye, Don't You Cry, Agent Doggett
"Invocation" Plot Summary:
At a Dexter, Oklahoma fair in 1990, Billy Underwood's pregnant mother looks away while her son plays on the swings. Suddenly he disappears. A strange loner drops Billy's dinosaur backpack near the pony ride. Ten years later, Billy reappears at Webster Elementary School, looking exactly as he did when he vanished. He refuses to speak, and gives his brother terrifying looks.
Scully believes the trauma of kidnapping must have affected Billy's physical condition, which is why he can't speak. But medical tests indicate that Billy has not aged at all since 1990 -- he has lost no teeth, and his CBC is identical, which should be medically impossible. Doggett insists on speaking with the boy. He claims he has worked with lots of other boys and girls who've been hurt, and he can help find the bad guy. Billy, who is busy drawing pictures, doesn't react until Doggett shows him the dinosaur backpack; then Lisa bursts in, enraged, demanding to take her son home. Afterwards, Doggett insists to Scully that if the boy will talk, he can help them stop the kidnapper from committing the same crime again.
At home, the Underwoods' dog attacks Billy. Josh tries to stay away from his "older" brother, now several years younger. After bedtime, Billy gets up with a large hunting knife and stabs Josh's mattress. Scully realizes Doggett has opened sealed juvenile records and is furious that her partner broke the law; Doggett insists that he just wants to catch the perpetrator, since he has learned that Ronald Purnell -- the loner with the backpack from the fair -- was detained and questioned but dismissed, though he has been convicted of several crimes since. During a morning visit, the agent suggests he get Ronnie and Billy together to see if the boy recognizes the man. Ronnie says Doggett doesn't make any sense, and asks to be left alone.
Although neither boy was cut by the hunting knife, Scully and Doggett learn that the weapon was covered with Billy's blood. Scully believes Billy should be institutionalized for observation, but Doggett insists that Billy is not possessed by evil forces -- he's a kid who's been through hell, and may be trying to communicate. There's a symbol on the knife, which a policeman recognizes: when Billy first vanished in 1990, the police brought in a psychic who drew the same symbol. Scully has seen the mark before too. It's what Billy was drawing while Doggett questioned him the day before.
On the way to a psychiatric appointment, Billy vanishes from the family car and appears in Josh's room, terrifying his brother. Scully consults with the psychic, over the objections of Doug Underwood, but Doggett says it's worth taking any steps to find out who traumatized Billy so badly. The psychic becomes terrified when she meets Billy, saying powerful forces are drawing the boy to his brother. She looks at Doggett, saying she feels the force coming through him, for he lost someone like Billy. Then the psychic has convulsions and speaks in tongues. A mark appears on her forehead like the one on the knife -- the one she and Billy both sketched.
Ronnie's mother throws her son out of the trailer, announcing that she has company coming. An unkempt man arrives, kisses the mother, and goads Ronnie who flees into the woods. There Ronnie finds a shovel and uncovers a child's skull. Afterwards, he gets in his car and tries to flee, but the car won't start. His mother's lover says he heard the cops came to talk to Ronnie, and threatens to tell them what he did to the little boy buried in the woods.
Scully tells a disinterested Doggett that the psychic will be all right. He says he might care if he didn't believe she was a charlatan. Scully has a tape of the "nonsense" the woman spoke; when she plays it backwards, Doggett can hear someone singing a lullabye. Immediately he is distracted by the sight of Ronnie's car coming down the street near the Underwood home. Inside the car, Billy touches Ronnie's shoulder. Doggett knocks to ask Ronnie to open the door. Seeing the child inside, Doggett screams for Scully to pursue as a panicked Ronnie drives away. By the time Scully catches up, Billy's not in the car anymore.
When Doug stops for gas, Josh gets out of the car to look at a trailer full of ponies. When he reaches in to pet one of the animals, something grabs him and he screams. The trailer sports the same symbol Billy has been drawing. Meanwhile, Doggett questions Ronnie. The young man says he has no idea how Billy got into his car, and claims he only drove by the Underwood house to see if Billy really had come back. While he speaks, Ronnie has a flashback of Billy tied up in a pony trailer, where someone held a knife. Ronnie says he couldn't let Billy go, and recalls singing to him so he wouldn't be afraid. "Who was he afraid of?" asks Doggett, realizing that Ronnie might have been a victim as well.
At Ronnie's mother's motor home, Doggett and Scully find the pony trailer, with Josh hidden beneath a trap door in the floor. Scully sends Doggett after the owner -- Ronnie's mother's lover -- who claims when caught not to know anything about any other missing kid. But the agent sees Billy standing nearby in the woods. When he races toward him, he stumbles over the child's skull. In the morning, as the parents cry over Billy's remains, Doggett says he still doesn't believe it. Doctors took blood from Billy days earlier, they all saw him in the flesh. Scully, who has been in his position, suggests that the body is explanation enough. Doggett has made certain that the man who committed the crime can never do it again.
Mark down "Invocation" as the first bad X-Files script saved by Robert Patrick's acting. It's nice to know he can do that -- take a haphazard story and put the force of his performance behind it so that the holes seem irrelevant until one really starts thinking about them, as Duchovny and Anderson have done so many times with bad arc stories. Apparently we could have a mystery from Doggett's past to rival Samantha's disappearance in terms of personal trauma. The writers cheat the audience by not having Scully pursue the psychic's words at all; she asks no questions about whether her new partner has a personal stake in the bond between the brothers. But on this show where personal mysteries are played until they've stopped making any sense, we all know the question will come up again.
It also makes Scully seem rather insensitive not to ask whether Doggett needs to talk about it, especially since he seems so positive Billy must need to talk about his experiences, if only to make sure the perpetrator gets caught. They don't know each other well -- they've largely stayed away from personal questions since Doggett's interrogation right after Mulder's disappearance -- but in this case, since his emotional involvement could impact his objectivity, it almost seems as if she's obligated to ask. I thought perhaps we were going to get some cheesy ending in which Billy was a manifestation of Doggett's inner child, but the mystery left hanging isn't particularly more satisfying.
It doesn't help any that "Invocation" features so many parallels to "Sein Und Zeit" and "Closure," the episodes that purportedly ended the mystery of Samantha Mulder's disappearance. How come Billy doesn't go to the same "better place" as Amber-Lynn LaPierre? For that matter, how come he protects his brother by terrorizing the poor kid into wanting to get away from home, so that strange horses seem less scary than other kids? The episode is full of red herrings, like Ronnie's guilty behavior and like Billy himself, but from the moment we see the symbol on the side of the trailer, we know who's guilty.
The real mystery is how far Doggett will go before he figures it out. His passion is moving, but it would be more moving if the story made more sense, and if it had the courage to tell us something real about his background, rather than letting ghosts waft through.
The X-Files Reviews