"Patient X"
by Michelle Erica Green

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

"Patient X" Plot Summary:

As a bright light passes overhead, two Russian boys wonder whether others saw it. They smell smoke, then see cars and bodies burning. A man with a caul over his face grabs one boy and incinerates him as his friend hides. Later, Marita Covarrubias faces off with Krycek at the scene. She claims the U.N gives her authority to be there, but Krycek tells her it's not the U.N.'s business. When he finds the surviving boy and learns that the boy was a witness, he takes him into custody.

A woman on a screen speaks to a roomful of people about her abduction experiences. Afterwards, a panel of people including Mulder discuss her testimony. Mulder argues that people believe in aliens because that's easier than accepting that aliens are a government ruse designed to divert attention from biological warfare, but those comments cause dissension. After the discussion, Mulder's former regression specialist Dr. Werber asks Mulder how he could have ceased to believe in aliens after what happened to his sister, and offers to introduce Mulder to the woman, Cassandra Spender. She tells Mulder that he was a hero of hers because he believed Duane Barry when he said aliens influenced him, and that belief made her realize that she could seek help. Mulder reiterates that the conspiracy isn't that there are aliens; it's that there aren't, but it's in the government's interests for people to believe that there are. She disregards this and tells him that the aliens are benevolent, and that she senses he will be summoned by them.

In Tunguska, Krycek tortures the boy for information and then orders a doctor to begin experimenting on him. He also steals a vial of fluid in a sealed test tube. The boy is put in wire and exposed to the deadly black oil. An agent demands to know who ordered the boy to be experimented upon, and discovers that the doctor who performed the task has been murdered. Krycek has taken the boy onto a boat, the Star of Russia, and had his eyes and mouth sewn shut.

Agent Jeffrey Spender asks Scully for help reaching Mulder; he wants to keep the other man away from his mother, Cassandra, who's a great embarrassment to him. Scully agrees to help and jokes with Mulder that he seems to have invalidated his own work so she might as well quit, but then she learns from Mulder's records that Cassandra was abducted at Skyland Mountain just as she was, and also has an implant. When she goes to see Cassandra, the older woman tells Scully she knows her and asks whether she feels the same pull from her implant. Scully says she merely wanted to warn Cassandra not to have her implant removed, but Cassandra says that she would never do that; she wants to be taken wherever the aliens intend for her to go.

Meanwhile, Covarrubias goes to the shadow conspirators to report what she found near Tunguska. One of the elders thinks it sounds like a botched group abduction, but Covarrubias says someone must have set it in motion, and tells them she saw Krycek at the scene. Just then Krycek calls from New York, offering to trade the boy for a vaccine for the black cancer. Hundreds of cars convene at Skyland Mountain, and the scene from Tunguska repeats itself: they and their occupants are torched by a man with a caul. At the scene the next morning, Scully points out to Mulder that they're right back where she was abducted, but he scoffs at her suggestion of alien involvement. The conspirators are very upset at this incident in their own backyard, and ominously wonder what "the colonists" are up to.

Cassandra calls Scully in tears to tell her she knew most of the dead - they were her friends - but her son rants that that's because they were all members of a suicidal UFO cult. Covarrubias seeks out Krycek on the boat, demands to know what he's up to, and kisses him passionately, asking him to go out with her. When Krycek returns, the boy is gone, and one of the conspirators is there demanding to know where he is. Mulder reports to Scully that the dead all had implants like her own and were undoubtedly called to their deaths by a government homing signal, but Scully, who has been feeling drawn herself by the constellation Casseiopeia, isn't convinced and wants to talk to Cassandra again.

Covarrubias calls Mulder from a pay phone to tell him she has the boy, who is peeling his eyelids open as she speaks. Just as she tells Mulder where to meet her, the boy knocks on the glass, black oil streaming down his face. When Mulder arrives, the U.N. representative is missing, and the glass is smeared with dark residue. Mulder calls Cassandra, looking for Scully, but Jeffrey Spender answers the phone and reports that his mother is missing.

Large numbers of people gather on a bridge, watching the stars. Cassandra is there with one of the shadow conspirators pushing her wheelchair. So is the boy from Tunguska. So is Scully, who takes Cassandra's hand. They see a light in the Casseiopeia which turns out to be a triangular-shaped spaceship. Men with cauls over their faces appear, and start burning people.


Out of the frying pan and into the fire, is that the expression? This episode was thoroughly gripping from start to finish, and it feels like a LOT happened, but when it comes down to it we only learned a couple of things: that Covarrubias and Krycek have been intimate but don't trust each other, that the conspirators are not behind this particular twist of events and are in fact afraid of it, and that Krycek knows something about the black cancer which nobody else does. We also learned that Scully's replacement implant works as a homing signal as well as a cancer deterrent, and that Mulder no longer trusts his own memories, though Scully apparently trusts hers more than she ever did before.

That's what was most interesting about this episode, actually: Scully declaring the X Files a moot issue, since she no longer needs to disprove Mulder's theories because he's doing that himself. As has been happening over the course of the past two seasons, he has become the skeptic and she, the believer, at least as far as the presence of aliens is concerned. The only really funny line in the episode, when Scully asked Mulder if he was constipated and he replied, "I've had my head up my ass for five years," was also very telling about their relationship growth over that time. I have a confession to make: if there are real aliens, I'm going to be very disappointed. On a series this dark and this full of social commentary, I'm MUCH more interested in a conspiracy among humans than in anything involving extraterrestrials, whether they're leaders or pawns.

This episode had not one but two warnings about violence, and there were an awful lot of death-by-immolations, but those didn't gross me out nearly as much as the kid's bloody face after the beatings and sewing-shut of his orifices. I hope Krycek needs a cure because he's slowly and horribly dying of the black cancer; couldn't happen to a nicer guy. The Close Encounters ripoff goofiness at the mountain didn't quite work for me; maybe it was accidental, but it seemed like the wrong episode to risk trying to parody Spielberg's friendly alien saga.

Things we could see next week: Cassandra saving Scully, or the boy saving Scully (who in hell called him to the bridge, anyway? Don't tell me he had an implant...). CSM somehow being behind all this. Bees. Smallpox. Men without faces, or shapeshifters, or clones, or all of the above. Should be interesting at any rate.

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