Trills in the Midwest
"Roadrunners" Plot Summary:
A hitchhiker named Hank flags down a bus in Utah's Sevier Desert and complains when it stops minutes after he boards. He follows everyone off the bus and is horrified to watch them beat the brains out of a crippled man. Then they advance on him as he screams. When Scully later examines the crime scene, she finds mucus-like glycoproteins on a rock, and calls Doggett in Washington to ask him to track down the file for a similar, unsolved case. When the bus drives past her, she follows it to a gas station, where the attendant fills her tank with water to ensure that she will return quickly.
Back in town, the attendant tells Scully that Milsap's former boarding house has a phone so she can call for help. Yet Milsap's phone line is dead and he seems overly eager to offer her a room for the night. Scully says she gets the distinct impression that somebody doesn't want her to leave. When she tries other houses to borrow a phone or car, people sit inside reading their Bibles and refuse to answer the door. At night, the entire town converges on the house where Hank lies on a cot having seizures.
In the morning, Milsap wakes Scully, saying they need a doctor. He takes Scully to Hank, who has a gruesome wound on his back but no apparent head trauma. While Scully tries to treat Hank and begs for transportation to a hospital, her new partner learns that Scully never arrived at the nearby sheriff's office and asks for a trace on the pay phone she used. Doggett learns that the last call made from the same pay phone was by a man named Hank who is now missing. The man in question has a parasitic organism living in his spinal column. Scully warns him that he will die without proper medical treatment, and gives him her gun while she searches for transportation out of town.
Doggett arrives in Utah with photos of four other remote highway victims found with their brains beaten out. While he heads toward the anonymous desert town, Scully finds the hidden bus but is trapped by the townspeople, who ignore her pleas that she is pregnant. "Your life is about to take a wonderful turn," Hank says. "You're going to become part of something much greater than you are. You're going to be so loved." Then the woman who cared for him beats his brains out as Scully screams. They pull the parasite out of Hank and put it into Scully, leaving her tied to the cot while they wait for the creature to take over her nervous system. "That last man just wasn't a suitable tabernacle," they try to soothe her.
Because she is gagged, Scully can't scream when Doggett drives in to ask questions and then drives away. But he has spotted the gun in Milsap's pocket, and breaks into the former boarding house, freeing Scully. Because his car is so far away, he takes her to the bus, but before he can get it started, Scully feels the creature approaching her brain and demands that Doggett cut it out of her. The people of the town break into the bus as Doggett slices open Scully's neck to pull out the creature. He shoots it. "Why?" sobs Milsap, dropping his weapon. The police arrive in force as Doggett carries Scully down the road.
At a hospital in Provo, Doggett tells Scully that the cult is insisting they are being persecuted for their religious beliefs. Scully says they believe they worship Christ -- they think the parasite was the Second Coming. Then she apologizes for leaving Doggett out of the loop when she left for Utah, which almost got her killed. Her partner agrees that she screwed up. "I won't do it again," she promises. "I appreciate it," he replies, and takes her bag so they can leave.
Our first Doggett-rescues-Scully episode has a satisfying ending only because Scully looks so utterly stupid going off on an investigation with no backup, a cell phone that doesn't work, and nobody knowing where she's supposed to be. Mulder only ran off that impulsively when he thought the fate of humankind depended on his actions. As the episode demonstrates, Scully could easily have become another anonymous corpse, her skull crushed so badly that even her teeth wouldn't identify her. I'm not really concerned about the damsel in distress aspect of "Roadrunners" since Scully tends to be rescuer as often as victim, but I do wish the first hurt-comfort episode of the new regime had featured Scully saving Doggett rather than the other way around. His skepticism must be wearing down a bit already, but he'd have a whole new perspective if he'd gotten a giant slug put in his spine.
Ah, the slug. Someone on The X-Files staff must have been watching a Deep Space Nine episode about the Trill and gotten grossed out, because that's what the thing resembles -- wet, slimy, bloody and mind-controlling. We know Scully's in deep doo-doo as soon as the gas station owner says the unidentified town consists of just a few like-minded people trying to keep the modern world at bay. That's always bad news. Of course we don't get satisfying answers to the question of where the creature came from, how it entered its first victim, and how that victim somehow convinced everyone it was Christ before they beat his brains out. I guess we're supposed to take it on faith that there's a logical explanation, though this episode reviles faith communities as inherently the province of psychotic, murderous, mindless followers.
Scully makes the apology speech to Doggett that it took Mulder several seasons to make to her. Which is fine -- I'm glad they're establishing a different pattern, though he doesn't have to remind her she screwed up while she's in the middle of apologizing for it. Does he know she's pregnant yet, and am I weird to think he's performing a c-section of sorts when he cut the creature out of her body? I guess it depends on whether she's carrying a human baby or an alien hybrid, which we still don't know. I just wish Scully had screwed up doing something meaningful in the long run -- looking for Mulder or finding people who believe Cancer Man is the Second Coming, rather than chasing down yet another sick small-town cult.
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