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Hungry

This was a tough review to do. It wasn't because it was a horrible episode, I can get through those by being an extreme smartass. Nope, this review was tough because the monster was so boring. With minimal screen time for Mulder and Scully, the monster was supposed to be the star, but this creature will be forever banished to an existence off-off-off-off Broadway. What's disappointing is that this could have been a great episode. All the pieces were there: a script from Vince Gilligan, a joke-worthy setting and a brain sucking monster. What more do you need? A lot, unfortunately.

Anyway, here's what happened in this unremarkable episode:

It all begins a few minutes past midnight in Costa Mesa, California. A red-headed slacker dude driving a gas-guzzling American car sidles up to the drive-thru window of a Lucky Boy restaurant. Just as he's about to order, the "open" light goes out and the nearby speaker announces that Lucky Boy is officially closed for the evening. This distresses the Carrot Top wannabe and he voices his dismay at the turn of events. Using Gen-X slacker speak, he threatens to call the Lucky Boy main offices and have the unseen employee fired. This strikes a chord with the employee for he summons the red-headed man to the serving window to complete his order.

When the man pulls around, he's met by something much different than a double cheeseburger. Slurping, stomach growls and heavy breathing emerge from the restaurant. Peering over the window's ledge, the man looks inside to see a dark kitchen. The noises get louder and the man's eyes grow wide. Suddenly, a bald monster with gnashing teeth pops from below the counter and lunges at the man, dragging him through the window. The red-head's sandal falls to the pavement as his car rolls into the dark highway and settles against a nearby tree. Inside, screams mingle with the sizzle of burgers.

Evil is afoot at Lucky Boy.

Three days later, Rob Roberts reports for work at the same Lucky Boy. Wearing a smile and a stylish Lucky Boy uniform, Roberts greets his co-workers and prepares for a day of slinging beef. His first customers are a couple -- a lanky man with an enormous nose and a bad haircut and his stunning red-headed female partner. Flashing their badges, Mulder and Scully ask the establishment's manager, Mr. Rice, to round up the employees so the agents can hold a burger pow-wow. A body was found in a reservoir ten miles up the road, which has little to do with Lucky Boy, but the crime scene held a crucial piece of evidence; a Lucky Boy "Free Fer" button. The buttons are worn by Lucky Boy employees on Fridays to promote a buy-one-burger-get-a-second-free promotion. The exclusive buttons (which list for more than $400 on Ebay) are only given to Lucky Boy employees, which means someone at a Lucky Boy has been up to no good. Mulder asks the employees if they have their buttons and one by one the "Free Fer" pins appear -- all except one. A buttonless blond man standing at the grill catches Mulder's attention. Mulder asks for his name and the man responds "Derwood Spinks: Tomato Cutter, Fry Guy, Burger Flipper Extraordinaire." Spinks doesn't have an appreciation for authority, so when Mulder asks about his "Free Fer" button Spinks says he only carries it on Fridays and he "sure as hell didn't leave it on no dead guy." In typical dumb-criminal fashion, Spinks has revealed too much information. "I don't believe that we said the victim was male," Scully says. "We've got you now burger boy!"*

The agents ask that the employees move to the parking lot so they can conduct an investigation. The Lucky Boy crew files outside as Mulder and Scully probe the kitchen. As the employees mill about the pavement, Rob Roberts sneaks to the drive-thru window and flips the microphone on. Rushing to the drive-thru menu speaker, he listens as Mulder and Scully discuss the case inside the restaurant. Mulder is impressed with the cleanliness of the kitchen -- it's clean but a little too clean for his liking. Perhaps it was scrubbed to cover up evidence (or maybe the Lucky Boy corporation saw Skinner's cleaning chops in "Zero Sum" and hired the AD to tidy up their kitchen). Scully, as usual, doesn't agree with Mulder. The victim's brain was neatly removed from his skull, which suggests the murder involved some degree of surgery. As cleanly as the Lucky Boy kitchen may be, it's unlikely a surgery was performed there. Surgery my foot, Mulder says. What looks like a surgical hole to Scully appears to be a punch mark to Mulder. He contends that the victim's skull hole was made by a "proboscis" (which makes Mulder a lead suspect) and the brain wasn't just removed, it was eaten. Scully's eyes roll uncontrollably but Mulder draws upon his encyclopedic X-files knowledge to tell her that tribes in New Guinea have been known to dine on brains, so his theory has a precedent. Have brain-eating New Guinea tribesmen descended on Orange County, or could it be something more sinister?

We'll have to wait to find out because the scene moves to Rob Roberts' apartment. The affable burger man returns to his modest, immaculate home. Once inside, he rushes to the bathroom and looks down at a pool of bloody, stagnant water in his tub. Reaching into the blood bath (sorry, couldn't resist), he grabs a Lucky Boy shirt and scrubs the stained garment with a brush. With the agony of Lady MacBeth, he scrubs and scrubs, but the blood won't come out. Dejected, Roberts tosses the shirt in a plastic garbage bag, ties it up and moves toward the door to throw the evidence in the outside dumpster. But his trip to the dumpster is interrupted by Mulder's knock. The agent ingratiates himself with Roberts by using the time-honored Dumb Detective routine. "Ah, gee Mr. Roberts, I'm not a smart man, but your manager, Mr. Rice, told me that you stayed late last Friday and, I, well, I wanted to ask you about that. If you don't mind of course."* Give him a raincoat and a glass eye and he'd be Columbo. Roberts fields Mulder's questions, but as he answers he sees that a pale puddle of blood is leaking from the garbage bag. Mulder, unaware of the puddle, finishes his questions and moves toward the door to leave. Roberts wishes him luck in his investigation and says he hopes Mulder finds the culprit soon. "I've already got a pretty good idea of who it is," Mulder says with a glint in his eye.

With Mulder gone, Roberts rushes outside with the garbage bag just in time to toss it in the garbage truck. As the truck pulls from the curb Roberts looks down at his hand and sees bloody brain residue sticking to his fingertips. He looks longingly at his hand and moves his fingers toward his mouth, where he licks the brain goo eagerly. MMM, SHLURP, SHLURP, BRAIN. As he's probing his mouth with his fingers, he looks across the street and sees a man sitting in a maroon sedan. From afar, the man looks a LOT like Mulder. Roberts stares, trying to identify the stranger. The man rolls down the car window and it's apparent that it isn't Mulder. "Bugger off finger sucker!" the man says.*

Roberts rushes into his apartment and spies on the Mulder lookalike through his venetian blinds. As he peeks at the man, the phone rings and the answering machine picks up. Dr. Mindy Rinehart, a psychologist, leaves a message, telling Rob that he is required, as a Lucky Boy employee, to visit her to discuss his feelings about the recent murder. As she blathers on, Rob moves to the bathroom to attend to a bloody lip. Most people would dab the cut with a Kleenex, but Roberts isn't like most people. Grabbing his incisors, he pulls the top half of his jaw from his mouth. The camera cuts to the sink and three jagged, shark-like teeth clink next to the drainhole. Roberts' stomach growls like a wolf on the tundra and he doubles over, shocked by the huge bubbles churning through his digestive tract. Staring into the mirror, he gets that "oh no, not again" look.

Desperate to curb his brain-eating desires, Roberts pops a self-help videotape into his VCR and pours a box of "Slim Chew" gum into his bloodthirsty mouth. He peers outside and sees the same man sitting in the same maroon sedan. As he paces, he chants along with the videotape: "You are your own man and you control everything that you do." Roberts seems to have misunderstood the point of this message for he storms from his apartment, walks outside and marches toward the maroon sedan. Staring at the man, Roberts curls his lips to reveal a stunning set of razor-sharp teeth. With a desperate hiss and a carnivorous lunge, Roberts snacks on the man's brain.

The next morning, Roberts is woken up by Derwood Spinks. The angry burger man has dropped in on this fine California day to blackmail Roberts. Spinks is an ex-con who served five years on an attempted murder charge. His previous record coupled with his missing "Free Fer" button have made him the prime suspect in Scully's eyes, but Spinks has an ace in the hole. The day following the murder, Spinks opened the Lucky Boy franchise and found a bottle of diet pills lying in the kitchen. The pills were prescribed to Roberts, but Spinks held on to them, figuring they'd be good for a few kicks. When the murder investigation was launched, Spinks took a closer look at the prescription and found a splotch of blood on the cap. So now Spinks has the goods on Roberts, but he's offering him a chance to save his hide. In exchange for his TV, VCR and the full balance of his bank account, Spinks will keep quiet. Before Roberts can haggle for a better deal, a knock sounds at the door. Roberts' rotund neighbor, Sylvia, wants to know if Roberts saw a man sitting outside in a maroon car the night before. "I ate him," Roberts would have said if he were feeling honest. Instead, he feigns ignorance and says he'll keep an eye out. With that, both Sylvia and Spinks exit the apartment and Roberts is left to sort out his messy, complicated existence.

Things get messier when Roberts goes outside and is surprised by Mulder. Still employing the Columbo Technique, Mulder says that he just saw Derwood Spinks walking nearby and warns Roberts to stay away from him. Scully, and the Costa Mesa Police department, believe Spinks is the prime suspect, but Mulder tells Roberts he thinks the murderer is someone with a compulsion to kill (or eat). That being said, Mulder walks off.

With his brain-eating world crashing around him, Roberts goes to the office of Dr. Mindy Rinehart to satisfy the Lucky Boy psychoanalysis requirement. Rinehart is a compassionate woman who wants nothing but the best for her patients (as long as they're insured). She asks Roberts a string of questions: Have you been suffering from insomnia? Do you have nightmares? Have you felt emotionally numb? Have you developed an undeniable urge to flick your proboscis into people's heads and suck out their brains? Roberts misses this last question, because as Rinehart talks, Roberts' stomach bubbles and growls. Roberts focuses on Rinehart's forehead and he can hear the blood pulsing through her sumptuous brain. "What I wouldn't give to eat that brain with some fava beans and a nice Chianti," he thinks.* Just as it appears that Rinehart's brain has thought it's last thought, Roberts draws on a reserve of willpower and resists the urge. The phone rings, temporarily breaking the tension. Mulder is on the line, asking Rinehart for information, but as she denies his request, Roberts moves to the door, claiming he's late for work. Rinehart asks that he call her that evening to continue their session, but Roberts walks off without acknowledgement. MUST....EAT....BRAIN...

While working the grill at Lucky Boy later that day, Roberts stares at the sizzling burger patties and gets that burning, yearning hunger. He blinks and imagines luscious brains cooking before him. But his brain daydream is interrupted when Derwood Spinks walks into the kitchen and demands his final paycheck from the manager. Bidding adieu to his former co-workers and shooting a knowing look at Roberts, Spinks leaves. Roberts' eyes narrow as baaaaad thoughts zip through his mind.

Spinks has made the brain sucker angry and everyone knows you should never agitate a brain sucker. Returning to his cruddy apartment later that day, Spinks discovers that his abode has been tossed. Roberts, hiding in a hallway closet, was searching for the bloody prescription bottle, but he failed to find it. Spinks can sense someone is in the house, and it's a fair bet Roberts is the culprit. Grabbing a baseball bat, Spinks moves toward the closet, taunting Roberts by telling him the deal is off and he's going to turn him over to the FBI. As Spinks speaks, Roberts reaches up and removes his hair, ears and contacts. When Spinks opens the closet door, he sees a monster before him -- an earless, black-eyed creature with big teeth and a nasty disposition. Roberts (who now looks a lot like Batboy) snaps his proboscis through Spinks' forehead, killing him instantly. The brain-sucking rampage continues, but at least now Roberts can keep his VCR.

Most monsters are blessed. Void of consciences, they can kill without guilt. Unfortunately for Roberts, guilt courses through his veins each time he sucks a brain. Seeking solace, he returns to Dr. Rinehart's office and tells her he needs help. He explains he has a compulsion to eat (he doesn't mention what he has a compulsion to eat) and Rinehart immediately diagnoses him with an eating disorder. The doctor hands Roberts a mirror and explains that low self-esteem (a psychoanalytical cure-all) is the culprit. Looking at Roberts, she says that where he sees an ugly, bad person, she sees someone "with a nice smile and soulful brown eyes." Heh, sure lady, if you only knew. Rinehart asks Roberts to attend a support meeting that night, and as she moves toward her desk to write down the meeting information, Roberts inadvertently knocks his prosthetic ear off his head. The ear falls to the floor, settling in a patch of sunlight. Horrified, Roberts lunges for his fallen lobe, snatches it up and delicately reattaches it to the side of his head before Rinehart can notice. Unaware, Rinehart hands Roberts information on an Overeaters Anonymous meeting being held that night. With ear firmly attached, Roberts tells Rinehart that he's really trying to "do right." A look of concern passes over Rinehart's face as Roberts leaves. Does she know he's the killer or is she simply wondering why his ear is upside down?

Note: The ear wasn't upside down, but it would have been funny if it was.

Moving on. Roberts returns to his apartment, but his pleasant afternoon is ruined by Mulder and Scully. Derwood Spinks is missing and the agents want to know if Roberts has any idea where he's gone. Roberts plays the innocent and says he has no idea. Mulder finally sheds the Columbo facade and gets down to business. He tells Roberts that he believes Spinks was murdered by the same person -- or thing -- that killed the first Lucky Boy victim. He reveals that Scully found a fragment from a sharp, shark-like tooth during her autopsy of the first victim, so Mulder has concluded that they're looking for a genetic freak who has a "biological imperative" to eat. Roberts, emoting through his whiny, pinched voice, says this is all a bunch of hooey. Instead of good-cop, bad-cop, Mulder and Scully are "good-cop, insane-cop." The agents don't find humor in this comment and rise to leave, but as they depart, Mulder tells Roberts to "watch out for that monster."

In a last-ditch attempt to curb his brain-eating ways, Roberts attends the Overeaters Anonymous meeting. In a stroke of weird luck, he randomly sits next to his portly neighbor, Sylvia (the one who noticed the man in the maroon car). Sylvia encourages Roberts to introduce himself to the group, and since he's feeling social, he walks to the podium. Standing before a sea of friendly faces he introduces himself as Robert Roberts (an evil name if there ever was one). He goes on and on about the joy of eating brain, describing it as juicy, salty and buttery. When he says "your teeth just sink into it like it's a juicy cloud" audience members lick their chops with anticipation and delight. As Roberts lauds the flavor of brain, his stomach growls and his eyes lock on a man's bald head. As he stares, the outline of a brain emerges through the man's skull and Roberts can feel his hunger welling inside. But he blinks and the murderous urge passes.

The meeting concludes without incident and Roberts accompanies Sylvia back to their apartment building. Walking up the stairs, Sylvia tells a story about her ex-husband and for a moment, it seems that Roberts has successfully curbed his urges. But Sylvia says goodbye at her doorway, and as she closes the door, Roberts is overcome by stomach growls. He pauses to knock on her door and as she moves to answer, he removes his fake teeth, preparing for another round of brain sucking.

The next morning, Roberts watches as Sylvia's body is deposited in the garbage truck. With his neighbor's corpse disposed of, he turns to another matter -- Derwood Spinks. Clutching the same bat Spinks used earlier in the episode (we know this because Spinks' name is conveniently carved into the barrel) Roberts kicks in his own apartment door and proceeds to smash, smack and destroy anything in his path. When the upstairs neighbor yells "What the hell is going on?" Roberts yelps "Oh my god! Call the police!"

Of course, the police alert Mulder and Scully and when they arrive, Roberts explains that he lied when they first questioned him. He lied because Derwood Spinks had threatened his life. With his frail, Michael J. Fox voice and his Jennifer Love Hewitt acting (or lack thereof), Roberts says that last Friday Spinks came into Lucky Boy and said he'd close up. Roberts jumped at the chance to go home early, but when he arrived at his apartment he realized he still had the dumpster key. Being a diligent employee, he returned to Lucky Boy, but when he arrived he saw Spinks mopping blood from the floor. Spinks returned earlier that afternoon and destroyed his place to make sure Roberts wouldn't talk.

Instead of overtly laughing at Roberts' pathetic story, Mulder instead produces a brochure from a private investigator's office. A picture of the investigator, Steve Kiziak, is printed on the front of the pamphlet and Mulder asks if Roberts has seen this man recently. Obviously, Kiziak was the man who was sitting in front of Roberts' apartment building in the maroon sedan. The PI was hired by Sylvia's ex-husband to keep an eye on her, but dammit if he hasn't vanished. Roberts says he's never seen the guy, so with that, Mulder and Scully rise to leave. Before departing, Mulder offers a final taunt: "Don't worry Rob. It won't be long now."

Roberts has reached his breaking point. Throwing open his closet, he begins to pack his bags. As he gathers his things, Dr. Rinehart appears in his doorway and asks him if he wants to talk. Roberts isn't in much of a mood to talk, but Rinehart has a bad, bad feeling about this guy. She lays it on the line and says she knows he's the Lucky Boy Murderer. Roberts stops dead in his tracks and slowly closes the door. As Rinehart asks Roberts to turn himself in, sirens wail outside. With the police closing in, Roberts approaches Rinehart and slowly peels away his hair, ears and eyes. "Do you believe in monsters?" he asks. But Rinehart doesn't react the way you might think. "You poor man," she says, stroking his cheek. "What you must go through." Alas, her therapy is interrupted by Mulder and Scully, who kick down the door and rush inside, guns drawn. The agents order Roberts to step away, and Rinehart asks Roberts to be the good person he's trying to be, but this is the X-files and we don't have happy endings. Roberts runs toward Mulder, giving Mulder no choice but to plug him with bullets. As he bleeds on his carpet, Rinehart asks him "Why?" Roberts, gasping for air in melodramatic fashion, says "I can't be something I'm not."

And with that, the creature dies and across the nation Mensa members shiver at the thought of such a monster.

So there you have it, the story of a boring, brain sucking monster.

Editor's Note: Quotes or segments marked with one of these * contain fabricated elements. Try not to take them too seriously.

Note: This review originally appeared at Ontap.com. It's reprinted here for archival purposes.



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