You Do Keep Me Guessing
"Theef" Plot Summary:
The night after Dr. Robert Weider wins an award as Bay Area Doctor of the Year, his father-in-law sees the shape of a man made in dirt in his bed. Hours later, the elder doctor is found hanging from the ceiling, the word "Theef" written on the wall in his blood. Scully thinks it's a misspelling, but Mulder believes it's a code or anagram used as part of a hex. "Everyone loved Irving," says the son-in-law, leading the agents to wonder whether an enemy of Weider's committed the crime, though Weider's daughter tearfully insists her father is not a thief. Meanwhile, a landlady discovers that her tenant Peetey makes poultices in his room. He also makes cloth puppets, one of which is hanging from a wire closet hanger.
Mulder learns that the dirt on the bed was graveyard dirt, and Scully discovers that the dead man had an extremely rare brain disease. Then Weider's wife is stricken with another rare ailment just after Peetey sews her photo into one of his puppets. Peetey visits Weider in the hospital as the doctor sees "Theef" on his wife's MRI scan, asking whether Weider remembers a patient named Lynette Peetey. After Weider researches his Jane Doe patients and recalls a woman he euthanased with morphine because she was dying in horrible pain, Peetey places another doll in a microwave. Mrs. Weider dies horribly during radiation treatment, the word "Theef" burned into her flesh.
The agents learn from the owner of a Wiccan store that the puppets must contain thorns from rose plants and the hair and photo of the victim. In addition, the killer needs a charm to activate the magic. Suspecting that Peetey has been getting his dirt from his daughter's grave, Mulder has the girl's body exhumed, but the coffin is empty. Peetey's landlady finds the corpse in Peetey's room, then dies of yet another rare ailment. Mulder hears the report on the news and warns Scully, whom he has sent with Weider and his daughter to a remote cabin in Sequoia National Forest. But Peetey has followed the car, and taken his daughter's skeletal head with him. Removing Scully's FBI badge from the car, he places the agent's photo in a puppet and sticks pins in the puppet's eyes, blinding her.
Weider tells Peetey he did what he could to save Lynette, but Peetey is convinced the doctor murdered his daughter. As Weider's daughter screams, Peetey stabs another puppet with a knife, nearly killing Weider. But Mulder has arrived and removed the pins from the Scully puppet's eyes so that Scully is able to see again. She shoots Peetey, who lies in a coma in a hospital. Scully admits that she would have made the same call as Weider in the case of a dying patient in agony, but wonders whether Peetey could have used folk magic to save Lynette.
"Theef" felt like an episode from an earlier season of The X-Files, which I mean as a great compliment. It had some of the trademark medical gross-out feel, and I half-expected to learn Weider had been performing illegal plastic surgery or some such. Instead it turned out that he was a responsible, honest doctor, whose sole flaw lay in his dependence on the technology scorned by Peetey, who marveled at the newfangled microwave before using it to burn the puppet that killed Mrs. Weider. "I'll lose to magic dirt?" Weider asks Mulder incredulously as he storms off to study MRIs, but the same arrogance that convinces Weider he can save his wife may have cost Lynette Peetey her life in his emergency room years earlier.
It's a nifty dilemma, for Dr. Scully as well as for Dr. Weider. The sub-theme of the episode is Scully's ability to surprise her partner after all this time, first when she accepts hexcraft as motive if not a definitive cause of death, and later when she confesses that she wonders whether Peetey could have saved his daughter using a power unknown to her. I love this Scully, who can admit she might be wrong while admitting her dependence on the imperfect science with which she is familiar, yet who can also keep her wits after being suddenly blinded.
Yet this is the second time in a short period in which she has shot a man for supernatural reasons. Will the FBI accept voodoo torture as a reason for firing at Peetey? I find it disturbing, just as I found it disturbing that Mulder seemed so confident about sending Weider and his daughter to a remote cabin for safety instead of a crowded city hideout where they'd be harder to trace. Doctors and law officers are sometimes too quick to assume they know everything. It's not safe for anyone to feel that way.
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