For the Love of a Son
"Trevor" Plot Summary:
As a storm approaches a prison work center in Jasper County, Mississippi, prisoner Wilson Pinker Rawls nails a fellow inmate's hand to a board and is sentenced as punishment to be locked in "the box" - a tiny outdoor cage - even though a tornado has been spotted. When the weather clears, police find only pieces of the box and discover the warden brutally murdered, his body cut in half and apparently burned. Scully performs an autopsy and jokes that they should arrest David Copperfield. Mulder notes that there were no signs of blood or industrial acid in the office. "Spontaneous human combustion?" Scully suggests, and Mulder rewards her by saying his heart leapt at her surprising conclusion.
However, Mulder's theory is even stranger. After a prison cop says Rawls killed the warden by walking through the metal walls, Mulder discovers that the wall crumbles at his touch. Scully insists that it really could have been spontaneous human combustion triggered by the storm's lightning, but Mulder thinks they're dealing with a murder case. Rawls was serving thirty years for armed robbery of money which was never found, and had a history of violence; their only clue to his past is a photo of him and a red-haired woman. In Meridian, Mississippi, that very woman - with a chic new haircut - is suggesting marriage to her beau, but he listens to the news where the woman hears Rawls presumed dead and drops her teacup.
An officer finds Rawls robbing a heavily-gated convenience store and handcuffs him to a pole, but Rawls escapes in the police car with his new clothes. Examining the cuffs, Mulder snaps them in half. Later, Rawls enters the trailer which formerly belonged to June - the woman in the photo - but finds only the boyfriend who succeeded him. "I want what's mine" says Rawls to the man, who threatens Rawls with a gun, then shoots him. The bullets pass right through. When Mulder and Scully arrive on the scene, the place has been trashed, "I want what's mine" is written on the wall, and the man's face has been burned off. Mulder finds the bullets shot at Rawls embedded in the wall; they disintegrate at his touch. He proposes to his dubious partner that Rawls can somehow change the chemical material of anything he contacts, allowing him to pass through walls like a ghost.
Mulder and Scully discover that the woman in the photo, June Gerwich, has moved and changed her name to June Burdette. June contacts her sister Jackie, who is very disturbed about Rawls' disappearance. He breaks into her house and she threatens him with a knife, but he only wants to know where June is and does not harm her. When Mulder and Scully arrive to question her, Rawls hides in their trunk as Jackie explains Rawls walked right through her wall.
Mulder and Scully visit June, who has realized Rawls is alive and calls him the biggest mistake she ever made. She admits she found the stolen money and spent it on the house in which she now lives, saying she just wanted another chance. As he prepares to take June into protective custody, Mulder sees a crack in the car's trunk and realizes they took Rawls right to June; he sends the woman away with police officers and enters the house, where he and Scully find "I want what's mine" scrawled on the wall. Mulder notices that the letters, which have apparently been burned into the paint, stop at the mirror, and guesses that certain substances which repel electricity like rubber or glass can't be affected by Rawls' power. He also believes he has found what the convict was looking for in the house: the lien on an unpaid hospital bill showing that June had had a baby within a few months of living with Rawls.
Rawls breaks into June's hotel room through the ceiling, killing her guard. He kidnaps her, ignoring her apologies about the money, demanding to know about his son. "You were never going to tell me," he accuses, relating that he found out third-hand while in prison. "God wanted me to know. Then he fixed it so I'd have passage." Meanwhile Mulder and Scully frantically search for adoption records but come up with nothing until Scully suggests that the adoption might have been informal - a friend, a family member. They rush to Jackie's house with a gun loaded with rubber slugs.
A terrified June apologizes to Jackie for leading Rawls back to her. Rawls praises Jackie's mothering skills, then locks June in the pantry when the boy, Trevor, greets her warmly. Telling his son that they're going to go away together, Rawls demands that Trevor pack; Jackie agrees, but hits Rawls with a pot of boiling soup as soon as Trevor is out of the room. When her attack has no effect, she screams, "Trevor, run!" as Rawls beats her. Mulder and Scully arrive on the scene in time for Scully to take the boy while Mulder shoots an advancing Rawls with the rubber bullets, but those only slow him, and he traps Scully and Trevor as the two are about to escape in her car. Scully locks herself and the boy in a glass phone booth which Rawls cannot pass through, but he smashes it with a stone until he sees the terror on his son's face. Stepping back, Rawls is hit by a car driven by June; it passes right through him until he hits the glass, which kills him.
As Mulder shuts the ignition, June says that she had to do it - Rawls would have hurt Trevor. "What did he want?" she whispers. "Maybe another chance," Mulder replies. June lowers her head and sobs.
I found this episode wrenching and depressing, disappointing not in the sense of weakness but in terms of the human flaws it illuminated. "Trevor" didn't make Mulder or Scully look good and left little hope that people can really change, even after undergoing a life-changing chemical event. The pace was steady and the visuals were effective but the emotional core seemed compromised, rather like the walls Rawls walked through.
This episode wasn't aiming to be a good mystery since we were shown that Rawls was in Mulder's trunk before he knew it himself, and it was a good bet the boy was the sister's kid from the moment we learned Rawls had a son. All the suspense was on a human level: would Rawls spare June and Jackie to get close to Trevor? The answer turned out to be that he wasn't capable of it, but at least he never hurt Trevor himself. The question of whether Rawls was redeemable did not get resolved. I'll admit to being moved by his reaction upon seeing the son he'd been denied, but I also can't forget the hole in the face of the man burned by Rawls for no good reason since the man's gun wasn't a threat to him. This was a vicious, abusive man, a great deal less likeable than demon daddy Wayne in "Terms of Endearment," and only a slight improvement on Jeffrey Spender's daddy.
Therefore, I found Mulder rather insensitive telling June that Rawls had just wanted another chance - echoing her own words about why she took her ex-lover's stolen money. Yes, June had hidden Rawls' son from him, but the episode suggested strongly that he'd abused her in the past, and we saw him abuse both her and the boy in the present - even Mulder had seen the condition in which Rawls left the woman who had raised his son. I don't think June's crimes are in any way comparable with Rawls'. It's cruel to suggest that he and she are on a similar level in terms of the likelihood of their redemption, even if they were both killers in the eyes of the law. Of course she shouldn't have killed him, but Rawls was stalking June's baby, the child her sister had raised and adored; her maternal panic is much easier to justify than his paternal stalking. I understand that line was likely closure for the episode, but it made Mulder sound coldly judgemental.
Scully seemed a little off to me this episode too - she matched Mulder one-liner for one-liner, but overall she seemed emotionally detached from the events she was witnessing. As someone who lost a child of her own not too long ago, I'd expect her to have stronger reactions both to Rawls' parental instinct and to June's hiding her child. The big scenes were focused on Mulder since Scully was in skeptic mode on the alchemy issue - he was the one who thought to check the cuffs and the bullets, who got the rubber slugs, whom we followed through Jackie's house - but I'm not sure why. I would have found this story more emotionally compelling if there was a more direct tie-in to the psyche of one of the agents investigating.
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