"The Red and the Black"
by Michelle Erica Green

The Truth Is Down Here

"The Red and the Black" Plot Summary:

In a remote cabin in Quebec, a father writes a letter to his son about Navajo reservations, magic, monsters, and reconciliation. He sends it via a courier to the post office. At the bridge in Pennsylvania, Mulder and Skinner walk amidst burned bodies. The conspirator who was pushing Cassandra Spender's wheelchair is among the dead, but Scully and Cassandra are missing. Some distance away, Scully is found alive but in shock, and is airlifted to a hospital. She remembers nothing. Agent Spender blames Mulder and Scully for his mother's disappearance.

In another hospital, Covarrubias lies dying of the black oil cancer while a conspirator stands over her. The elder conspirator goes to visit Krycek - who's a prisoner on the ship he used to transport the boy to the U.S. - to tell Krycek they were both wrong to trust Covarrubias. The boy is dead, burned on the bridge, so can't tell anyone what he saw. The conspirator hypothesizes that Krycek infected the boy so that anyone who abducted him would get the infection, and moreover believes the Krycek must have a vaccine for the oil or he wouldn't have risked infecting the boy. Krycek says he won't help cure Covarrubias. The conspirator reiterates that they must have a vaccine to resist the alien colonization, and threatens Krycek.

At a fireball outside an air force base, a man with no face walks away from a spaceship and is taken into custody. The conspirators identify him as a member of the alien resistance fighting colonization, while the elder explains that the Russians have developed a vaccine for the black oil cancer which is being tested on Covarrubias. He says that it is now possible for them to join the resistance to alien colonization. Meanwhile, Mulder and Scully argue about whether or not there are aliens. He will no longer consider the possibility that there might be, while she refuses to disallow that possibility. Scully points out that when she met Mulder, his memories and his faith were all he had, and she followed him based on those. She won't follow him now that he no longer believes that, not without her memories.

Mulder takes Scully to Dr. Werber, who hypnotizes her. She remembers being on the bridge with an alien ship passing overhead. The faceless men from the ship begin to set humans on fire. Another ship comes and attacks the faceless men. Then it shines a bright light over them all, and Cassandra is taken up. Werber brings Scully out; she gives a tape of the session to Skinner, who demands to know what Mulder and Scully think he should report. Mulder insists that the memory could be false, part of a military cover-up, but Skinner says that extraterrestrials are more plausible than that. Spender shows Scully a tape of himself at age eleven, under hypnosis, discussing an abduction experience; he says that he made it up under his mother's influence to deal with his father's abandonment. He warns her not to let herself be used. At the secret hospital, Covarrubias still has the black cancer. The elder says that they must give the cure time to work, but one of the other conspirators tells him that they have already turned the alien rebel to the colonists, to crush the resistance.

Mulder finds a note on his floor saying things are looking up and is attacked by Krycek, who pulls a gun and tells him of a planned invasion of the planet by aliens. Mulder laughs at him and calls him a murderer and a liar. Krycek tells him he must resist or serve (the "Truth Is Out There" replacement line at the start of the episode), adding that the incinerations were part of an alien rebellion to stop Earth from being occupied. He tells Mulder that they must save the alien rebel, and kisses him. At Wiekamp Air Force Base, where the alien is being held, the shapeshifter breaks in. Sculy visits Mulder to tell him she might have been wrong to believe the hypnosis tape; he tells her he might have been wrong too, and that he thinks the secrets are at Wiekamp, as Krycek told him.

At the base, Mulder tries to lie his way past the guard. While the guard receives orders to place him and Scully under arrest, Scully recognizes the conspirator who was on the bridge with her driving a truck away from the base. Mulder leaps onto the truck as Scully is taken into custody. The conspirator shapeshifts, and gets into the back of the truck where Mulder has found the faceless alien. The shapeshifter pulls out a stiletto. The lights of an alien ship pass overhead. Mulder pulls a gun, screams no, and shoots. When he is arrested, no one else is there, and he doesn't know what happened. Back home, Covarrubias is cured, and Spender goes to Skinner, who tells him that there's no news on his mother and that he shouldn't worry about his own reputation: someone outside the office is patronizing him. When he leaves Skinner's office, Spender receives the letter posted at the beginning of the episode. At the cabin in the mountains, the letter comes back returned to sender. It's Cancer Man who opens the door to receive it.


Well, I'm convinced. There are alien invaders. The conspirators said so. Krycek said so. Scully said so. And we saw them. Does anyone mind if I'm a little disappointed, and hoping against hope that it isn't true after all? I didn't agree with Skinner that extraterrestrials were a more plausible explanation for the implants and the immolations than a government conspiracy. I find that easier to stomach than bipedal alien colonists. Maybe before the movie there will be another twist.

It was brilliant to begin and end this episode with what seemed like the answer to one question, and ended up being the answer to another. We all knew Cancer Man would be back, and it wasn't hard to guess that he was the one writing the letter at the beginning of the episode, but I bet everyone was assuming that the letter was to Mulder! Now we know that he's connected to Cassandra and her son as well. Suddenly it seems entirely plausible that Samantha really was abducted by aliens...just when Fox no longer believes it. I guess he was right about that, and wrong about worrying Cancer Man was really his father. Though that could be another ruse by himself or someone else to get to another man inside the F.B.I.

There was lovely stuff here between Mulder and Scully - particularly her refusal to follow him now that he's disavowed everything he always stood for. It's finally becoming clear that the search for aliens has been Scully's quest since her abduction, not just Mulder's, even when she refused to believe that that was what had happened to her. Spender was right that she'd been under Mulder's influence, but he'd been under hers as well, and that has never been clearer. Despite the escalating conflict between them, their methods and their ideologies, their closeness is still much in evidence; he took her hand during the hypnosis, she took his at the end when he didn't know what happened to the alien. That can drive a lot of silly plot moments, as can Mulder's humor - I loved Krycek telling him that he can beat Mulder one-handed, and Mulder retorting that he thought that was how Krycek beat himself these days.

There was one interesting plot hole which was maybe not a hole: the conspirator found dead at the start of the episode, the one who'd been pushing Cassandra's wheelchair, was the same guy seen driving the truck at the end. This isn't such a problem since he was really the shapeshifter, but Scully told Mulder that she remembered seeing the man. Where, if she remembered nothing from the bridge? Did she mean from then, or from a different experience which she's not quite recalling? The other thing I don't get is how the aliens managed to summon people who didn't have implants, like the Russian boy who survived the last conflagration. But hey, what's a nit or two in an arc like this?

Jeffrey Spender's got to be working for someone. Cancer Man must need to stay out of the U.S. for a reason. I'm betting there's a connection between them and Samantha that we don't know about yet, which would mean there's a connection between them and Fox that we don't know about yet. The real question is, was Scully selected for the implant purely because she was Mulder's partner, or are there things in her own past which haven't been made clear yet that pushed her to the conspiracy's attention? I still think her army brat brother is up to something, and knows more than he's telling.

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