Nobody Shoots At Santa Claus
"Sein Und Zeit" Plot Summary:
In Sacramento, Amber-Lynn LaPierre's parents tuck her in. Then Bud goes downstairs to watch TV while Billie gets ready for bed. Suddenly staring off into space, Billie goes to her closet, tears a piece of paper from a dry cleaning bag, and begins to write a kidnapping note. Her husband walks upstairs and looks in his daughter's room, then panics, seeing the little girl dead. A moment later she appears fine, so he exits, but the door slams and when he breaks it open, Amber-Lynn is gone.
The next day Mulder strides into Skinner's office, demanding to be put on the case. Skinner reluctantly gives him till noon. At the LaPierre home, Mulder demands to speak to the parents, finding inconsistencies in the story they have told the police. When Scully arrives at his hotel that night to tell him Skinner is furious with Mulder for not reporting in, Mulder says he's thinking about how obvious it appears that the parents are guilty...and how he is convinced that they are not. His discussion with Scully is interrupted by a phone call from his mother, who asks him to please call when he gets back.
Skinner and his team show the evidence that the mother wrote the kidnapping note, but Mulder says parental guilt doesn't explain what happened to the child. He looks at the last line of the ransom note, "No one shoots at Santa Claus," and remembers having seen it somewhere else. Scully warns Mulder that he's personalizing the case, associating it with Samantha's kidnapping, yet her partner jokes weakly that he hasn't said anything about aliens, then tracks down a ransom note from 1987: "No one shoots at Santa Claus." A man in a car in California videotapes children playing. A small Santa ornament hangs from the rear-view mirror.
Mulder and Scully travel to Idaho State Prison to speak to another mother convicted of her child's murder. The woman pleaded innocent, claiming she had a vision of her son dead, but years later she confessed to the crime, saying she had had a psychotic break. Mulder theorizes that she made up the confession in the hopes of being released on parole, assuming no one would ever believe her continued protestations of innocence. He asks about the Santa Claus reference; she says that when someone promises you something, you want to make sure you get the gift. Mulder shows her the LaPierre note, asking her to help them if she can, but the woman says she can't explain any further. Outside the cell, Scully again berates Mulder for personalizing the case, but Mulder insists he can find the children. "What if they're dead?" asks his partner. Later, the imprisoned woman has a vision of her son and begs the guard to call the agents back.
Mulder's mother leaves a message on his answering machine, explaining that there are things she left unsaid. She burns her photos of Fox and Samantha. In the LaPierre's cell, Mulder shows a videotape of the woman in Idaho, who tells the imprisoned couple that their little girl is all right. The parents are released for lack of evidence. Skinner is furious with Mulder, saying the agent handed the suspects a "twinkie defense," but Scully interrupts their meeting to tell Mulder that his mother is dead. At her house, they find evidence that she committed suicide. Mulder says that doesn't make any sense. He feels guilty for not calling her back, but her photos are gone, she had wanted to tell him something about Amber-Lynn. "She was afraid of whoever took my sister," he insists, asking Scully to perform an autopsy. "Don't ask me to do this," Scully begs, but she agrees.
Back at the prison in Idaho, Mulder explains that his sister was taken when he was eight, and he needs to understand what happened to her. The woman in jail believes Mulder's mother must have seen "the old souls looking for new houses." She thinks Samantha was kidnapped to protect her soul. In California at Santa's North Bible Village, a man with a roomful of televisions and video equipment puts on a Santa suit to amuse visitors.
Back at home, Mulder replays his mother's message over and over; by the time Scully arrives, he believes he has found proof that his mother knew he'd learn the truth about his sister. He no longer believes Samantha was abducted by aliens, he thinks his mother was warning him about looking in the wrong place and she was killed for her warning. But Scully has a different interpretation. "Your mother killed herself," she explains gently, telling Mulder his mother had a deadly, degenerative carcinoma. "She didn't want to live." Mulder becomes furious, then sobs helplessly as Scully embraces him and tells him what she thinks his mother's final message meant: "She was telling you to stop looking...she wanted to take away your pain."
Amber-Lynn's mother sees a vision of her daughter. Skinner drops by Mulder's apartment, telling Scully that Billie is insisting on talking to Mulder. All three fly to California, where the woman says she saw her daughter and the girl was trying to tell her something. "She was saying 74." The number means nothing to Billie or Bud LaPierre, and when they leave, Mulder discounts the vision as a delusion. Even if it isn't, if the girl's spirit appeared, it stands to reason that the child is dead. "I don't know what is the truth and what isn't," concludes the agent, finally agreeing that he is too close to the case, and asking to be given time off.
Driving back to the airport, the FBI car passes Highway 74. Scully sits up and pulls out a map, finding Santa's North Bible Village at a nearby intersection. "Turn around," she orders Skinner. At the theme park, Mulder and Scully find the back room filled with videotapes...including a tape of Amber-Lynn LaPierre made days before her kidnapping. The man who dressed as Santa locks the two agents in the room, but Skinner pursues him. Mulder and Scully break out and arrive on the scene as Skinner stops the man with a warning shot. As Scully puts handcuffs on the suspect, Mulder realizes that they are standing in a field of child-sized graves.
This horrific, creepy episode features one of David Duchovny's finest performances as Mulder, who's already been through the wringer several times this season, goes through another cycle. We're led to believe that Samantha's fate will be revealed in the second half of this two parter and all I can say is: it better be, because it's not fair to Mulder or to us to keep dangling her out there like a carrot.
The episode started out strangely enough, with the kidnapping of a girl whose French-sounding hyphenate name is reminiscent of Jon-Benet Ramsey's, while her father participated in the idiotic cross-marketing ploy of watching Harsh Realm and twice talking about how much he liked it. Between that and the reference to Santa Claus in the kidnapping note, it almost felt like we were in for a joke, some sort of sick parody of the media obsession with missing children.
But that changed when Mulder personalized it - as it was easy to predict that he would, so it was incredibly frustrating to be faced with Scully in her most insensitive incarnation at precisely the moment she could have been working to balance Mulder's valid line of inquiry with that of the rest of the FBI. She redeemed herself somewhat when Mrs. Mulder died, performing an autopsy when she was clearly loath to get involved in that manner, but it should be obvious to her by now that Mulder's most insightful about cases he is too close to - it's what makes him invaluable to the X-Files. His furious, heartbroken response to the proof of his mother's suicide is devastating, though it's odd that anyone ever assumes cancer is coincidental after Scully's experience, particularly Scully herself.
The woman in jail in Idaho really did sound insane describing the wandering lost souls, so it was briefly possible to believe that Mulder really had lost all objectivity and was clutching at straws. Yet when he denounced Billie LaPierre's vision as a delusion, his previous approach suddenly seemed vastly preferable; he truly seemed to be the only person involved in the case who didn't take it for granted that Amber-Lynn was dead, which made him her best hope for salvation. Next week it all gets much messier as CSM gets involved, which makes me nervous, but I am hoping that for once we get a resolution which sticks. It's time for this show to wrap some questions up, for Mulder and for the audience.
The X-Files Reviews