Dead On Arrival
"S.R. 819" Plot Summary:
Skinner, covered with blemishes, is dying in a D.C. hospital; a doctor asks that Agent Scully at the F.B.I. Just before he flatlines, the A.D. whispers a name to the doctor. The CPR team goes into action, but the doctor tells them to let him go. Skinner's voice reflects that he lived having to choose right from wrong until death chose for him.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Skinner was boxing in a local gym when his vision became blurry. He was knocked out and woke in a hospital, still unfocused. At 9:35 p.m., his cell phone rang, and a synthesized voice informed him that he had 24 hours to live. "You are already dead." The doctor came in and reported that Skinner was going to be fine, though he did have an unusual bruise on his ribs.
At 10:21 p.m. at the F.B.I., Mulder spotted his former boss not looking well. The younger agent dropped in to chat, then summoned Scully at 11:09 p.m. upon learning of Skinner's threatening phone call. Skinner told her that the bruise hurt but he suspected the call was merely meant to scare him; Mulder insisted that it had to do with his former connection to the X-Files. The only thing Skinner could remember all day that was out of the ordinary was a man grabbing his wrist to ask him for the time. Checking surveillance tapes, Mulder learned that the man was physicist Kenneth Orgel, an advisor to a Senate subcommittee. The man entered the F.B.I. that morning and signed in as a visitor of Walter Skinner.
Scully recommended rest, but Skinner said he wouldn't stop until he could put a gun to the head of the guy who did this to him and ask him why. He accompanied Mulder to Orgel's home, but Orgel insisted that they leave. Then there were gunshots and several men abducted Orgel after decking Skinner. Mulder managed to catch one of the would-be-kidnappers, but he had diplomatic immunity as a Tunisian embassy attache, so Skinner was forced to let him go. He left Mulder to deal with the police while he followed the Tunisian.
At 1:06 a.m., Scully went to the hospital and discovered that Skinner's blood appeared to have an unknown compound separating the blood cells from the plasma. The blood had a great deal of carbon in it, which was multiplying at a vast rate, blocking the normal flow. Meanwhile, Mulder went through Orgel's papers and found photos of him with Senator Matheson. Visiting the public official, he learned that S.R. 819 - Senate Resolution 819, a funding bill - seemed to be behind both Skinner's poisoning and Orgel's kidnapping. The Senator insisted that the bill would provide health care to Third World countries, and that he was trying to save lives, but he couldn't save Skinner.
At 5:10 a.m., Skinner followed the Tunisian diplomat in an Embassy Row garage. The man shot at him, but although Skinner's blurred vision made him an easy target, another car hit his would-be assassin. Skinner fainted on the hood of another car, setting off its alarm. Scully, who had discovered by 6:14 a.m. that the carbon was creating a matrix, solidifying in an orderly fashion in Skinner's blood, rushed to tell the doctors at D.C. General not to amputate Skinner's arms. Though they refused to believe at first that she knew anything about his medical condition, they ultimately listened to her suggestion to keep his arteries open using lasers.
Meanwhile, at the F.B.I., Skinner's secretary arrived at work to find Mulder in Skinner's office looking for files on S.R. 819. When he found a paper with a Senate seal, he joined Scully at the hospital to report to his partner that Skinner had been reviewing the bill; Mulder believed Orgel planned to tell the A.D. that the bill would authorize a gross violation of export laws involving new technology, which should have prevented Skinner from permitting Senator Matheson to allow its passage. Just then, Skinner's phone rang. When Mulder answered it, the synthesized voice told him to give up. Realizing that the assassin must have followed them to the hospital, Mulder walked into the hallway and saw a man with a beard typing onto a palm screen. He pursued but the man escaped, only to make a threatening phone call to Senator Matheson.
At 8:55 a.m., investigators found PCBs in the tire tracks which indicated that the assassin's car had been near a power plant. At around the same time, Matheson arrived at a power plant and found Orgel strapped to a gurney, dying of the same condition as Skinner. Matheson told Orgel that "they" believed the scientist exposed "them" to F.B.I. scrutiny; Orgel screamed in pain and died as the guy with the beard, hidden nearby, adjusted levels on his palm screen.
At the hospital, Scully suggested filtering all of Skinner's blood to remove the poison, though she warned Skinner that it could be risky and put him in shock. Skinner told her he owed her and Mulder an apology - their quest should have been his, he should have taken sides. Scully reminded him that he had been their ally, but Skinner said, "Not the kind I could have been." Suddenly, he remembered seeing the man with the beard - at the F.B.I., at the gym, at the hospital, in the garage killing the diplomat.
By then Mulder arrived at the power plant and found Senator Matheson standing by the gurney where Orgel died. Mulder refuses to believe that what Orgel knew died with him, and demands to know whether it's nanotechnology which is poisoning Skinner and which S.R. 819 would authorize for export. Matheson said Skinner was already dead and claimed he was also a victim. At the hospital at 9:33 a.m., Skinner flatlined. The doctor told the CPR team to let him go.
Back in present time, the man with the beard touches his palm screen. Under a sheet, Skinner coughs and begins to breathe again. Three weeks later, Scully tells him his prognosis is excellent and she has photos of the man they believe is responsible for the now-dormant technology in his bloodstream, but Skinner can't ID the man. Mulder requests permission to investigate further, but Skinner tells the two agents to go about their business for Assistant Director Kirsch; the matter is closed. Scully is shocked. In the garage, Skinner gets into his car, then realizes someone is in the back seat. "I've been expecting you," he says. It's Krycek, who says, "You know I can push the button any time." Skinner asks what it's all about, but Krycek says, "All in good time."
Tired as I was of arcs and conspiracies when this season began, I must admit that I liked this episode very much. I liked getting to see Skinner without the baggage of Spender and CSM, I liked the D.O.A. plot even with the copout salvation twist, I liked the introduction of nanotechnology even if it did manifest just a bit too much like Borg nanoprobes in its appearance. I liked the bad guy from Tunisia...which is where we last saw the bees, the cornfields, and the Shadow Conspiracy's head, at the end of Fight the Future). We're at a tangent to the giant arc of the last few years, and there's no reason yet to believe that Mulder's right and any of this connects directly to the X-Files, but there sure are hints. If Krycek's involved, can aliens be far behind?
It's obvious that we're not going to be able to trust Skinner again until all this is cleared up, which is pretty neat because this episode pointed out how much Mulder and Scully do trust him and care about him. For once there was no hesitation on Scully's part when Mulder dragged her away from whatever they were supposed to be working on to investigate something else. Mulder and Scully had more chemistry working mostly apart in "S.R. 819" than they did working together in "The Rain King," and I liked her solving a scientific mystery without needing the Lone Gunmen or some other outside expert. It's annoying that Mulder rather than Scully realized that the molecules were nanotech, which seemed obvious to me the first time we saw them onscreen, but maybe she knew and was just keeping the term to herself until she had a clearer idea how they were manufactured.
The possibilities are endless: nanotech in contemporary sci-fi has been used for everything from giving people silent heart attacks like in this episode to rewiring their bodies to make them better ballet dancers. We could be looking at a race of drones, or aliens, or the technology itself could be alien in origin. Bet we'll find out. Bet that if Skinner could have gotten them in his system from casual contact, like a handshake, as Scully tells him, then the Conspirators won't need that corn much longer. Bet this is a faster way of delivering a virus than bees.
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