One Son (part 2 of 2)
Oh boy did I love these episodes. I've delighted in watching them a number of times already and I'm sure I'll be scanning them both again soon.
So here's what happened in this near-miss alien-invasion story:
The photograph of Bill Mulder and CSM that Scully found while searching for information on C.G.B. Spender stirs Mulder's internal voice, and he lends his monotone thoughts to the teaser of "One Son." As he drones on about "heaven and earth," "preparing for the end" and "armageddon," we witness a scene from the past. It's October 13, 1973 and the Syndicate is making a deal with the alien colonists at El Rico Air Force Base. A long-haired CSM (or is he CGB now?) carefully places a folded U.S. flag before a group of backlit grey aliens. The Syndicate members stifle their laughter, but deep down you know they're cracking up. Assembled before them is a hoard of naked little aliens with big heads and big hands and here they are, powerful, well-dressed men joining in Alien Playtime. Oh yeah, they're laughing on the inside.
Unfortunately, the mood isn't particularly happy back in the present day. At the end of "Two Fathers" Mulder was pointing his pistol at Cassandra and when we return to the scene, he's still pointing his pistol at Cassandra's quivering face. Before he can make a decision, his apartment door is busted down by a team of biological warriors from the Centers for Disease Control. Within seconds the CDC platoon has sealed the room in plastic. Mulder and Scully demand to know what's going on and that's when Agent Diana Fowley (dressed in a white contamination suit -- how symbolic) tells them they've been exposed to a contagion of unknown origin. Cassandra's face curls into a snarl, and for a second she actually resembles a young pre-grey alien (the one from The Movie with the claws and ill-disposition).
The resemblance is lost on the assembled cast because they have work to do. Mulder, Scully and Cassandra are shipped off to Fort Marlene, Maryland where they're put through a rigorous series of decontamination tests. One of these "tests" places Mulder and Scully -- buck naked -- in a large shower area. Since alien colonization will soon wipe them out, Mulder throws caution to the wind and takes a quick peek at Scully's goods. She notices, takes a quick peek of her own, then turns around. Across the nation, Shippers squeal with delight because this obviously means the agents are starcrossed lovers. Meanwhile, the rest of us go about our lives in a normal and non-psychotic manner.
But I digress...
After the decontamination has been completed, the agents are taken to a dressing area where they're outfitted in white hospital pajamas. Once they're fully clothed, Fowley enters and apologizes for their hasty removal from Mulder's apartment. Fowley claims that Cassandra's presence at the railroad-car experiment in "Two Fathers" makes her a health risk. Cassandra may have been exposed to a contagion that destroys cell structure. Technically, she's right; the black oil -- which was probably present in the railcar in one way or another -- did some nasty things to human cell structure in The Movie and "The Beginning." Scully, however, knows that Cassandra isn't carrying the black oil -- she doesn't have any symptoms. Fowley's story is a bunch of hooey and the more Fowley blathers on, the hotter Scully's blood boils. Scully demands to see Cassandra and Fowley unwisely says "no," so Scully storms from the room and begins hatching a devious plan that will undoubtedly hurt Fowley in vile and nasty ways. Mulder, meanwhile, tries to avoid conflict by staying out of it.
But there's no running from this fight. Mulder joins Scully in a nearby locker room and listens as Scully rants -- in a big way -- about Fowley's ineptitude and the idiocy of their situation. Mulder tries to defend Fowley, but Scully has none of that. Somehow, amidst this cloud of Scully Angst, Mulder surmises that Cassandra is "the one." We knew that Cassandra was an important part of the colonization long ago, but Mulder is just catching on.
Mulder isn't the only one catching on. In "Two Fathers" the Cigarette-Smoking Man told Fowley that his compatriots in the Syndicate were unaware of Cassandra's successful hybridization. The old bandits were too concerned with the rebel attacks to realize why the rebels were attacking, but now they're beginning to put the pieces together. At a meeting in the New York offices, Krycek explains the Cassandra connection to the assembled members. The rebels struck, he says, because Cassandra had just become the first successful hybrid. CSM casually puffs a cigarette at the back of the room and listens as the Syndicate members demand that Cassandra be killed. But CSM has thought this through and he suggests that Cassandra be turned over to the colonists. This will initiate colonization, which will kill billions, but the Syndicate members and their families will be spared. It appears that the Syndicate's plan to save the world with a vaccine has been abandoned. "Save ourselves" has become the Syndicate's new mantra.
While the Syndicate comes to terms with colonization, Mulder comes to terms with the ill-fitting clothes he's been given at Fort Marlene. As he tries to break in a pair of miniature loafers, he spots a blonde woman darting through the complex's vacant halls. He follows her into an empty room and there, shivering behind plastic sheets, is Marita Covarrubius. The last time we saw Marita she was infected with the black oil in "The Red and the Black." For the last year, the Syndicate have been testing vaccines on the former UN employee and, judging by her haggard appearance and blood-red eyes, the vaccine hasn't done much good. She tells Mulder about the secret vaccine program and this drops another piece of the puzzle into place.
Marita's information shows Mulder that the Syndicate was engaged in two programs. On the surface they were working with the colonists to create an alien-human hybrid, but in secret they were developing a vaccine that would save humanity from the black oil. The human-alien hybrid experiment was supposed to fail so the Syndicate could buy time to create a vaccine. Obviously some diligent idiot expended too much effort working on Cassandra and the bastard succeeded in turning her into a hybrid. Marita, who has amassed an impressive amount of information in spite of her location and condition, tells Mulder that once the aliens learn of Cassandra's success, the colonization begins. With that, she hobbles away.
Mulder continues to struggle with alien colonization and ill-fitting shoes, but other developments are occurring at Fort Marlene beyond his view. Spender and Fowley visit Cassandra in her super-secure-yet-conveniently-accessible room. Fowley quietly waits in the doorway as Spender assures his mother that no one will be running tests on her. Cassandra scoffs, fully aware that her son is a peon who has no idea what's happening. She tries to educate him in the ways of the conspiracy, but once again, Spender doesn't listen.
With no contagion to speak of, Mulder and Scully are released from Fort Marlene and permitted to go on their merry way. Scully makes a beeline for the Lone Gunmen's lair. Sometime later, Mulder arrives and Scully tells him that she and the Boys have been digging up dirt on Diana Fowley. Mulder tries to defend Fowley, but the evidence the Gunmen have found shows that Fowley is definitely up to something screwy. Over the last seven years Fowley has visited every European chapter of MUFON (Mutual UFO Network). Her "official" assignment was in the counter-terrorism unit, yet here she was, scouring MUFON meetings (and presumably taking lots of "little notes"). Mulder still isn't convinced so Scully puts it all together for him in Very Easy Terms:
1. No official records on Fowley can be found.
2. She's been up to no good in Europe.
3. She conveniently reappears in Mulder's life just as he's discovering the truth about the conspiracy.
Mulder tells Scully she's making this a personal vendetta. Scully turns, glares at her partner and says: "You're damn straight it's personal! I've got a chip in my neck because of you! I lost my sister, I lost my daughter and I lost anything resembling a social life because of the X-files! My weekends are spent camped in front of a computer learning big words and finding ways to prove you wrong -- and now I discover that in a matter of weeks the ENTIRE planet is going to be overrun by little grey aliens! Deceive, inveigle and Obfuscate this you B-ball-playing, big-nose-sporting, sleeping-on-my-leather-couch-and-watching-soft-porn FOOL!"
Okay, so she didn't REALLY say that, but she was definitely perturbed...
Mulder didn't appear to buy Scully's story, but something rubbed him the wrong way. He takes it upon himself to visit Fowley at her apartment. And where does she live? In the Watergate Apartments -- the preferred locale for conniving conspirators. When Mulder arrives, Fowley isn't home, so he picks the lock and lets himself in. Before he can fully catalogue her underwear collection the front door opens and in walks CSM. Mulder forces CSM into a chair and tells him the gig is up. CSM reminds Mulder they've already played this scene -- "I remember looking over a gun barrel at you once before" -- but this time things are a bit different. CSM, seeing that Mulder is in an agitated mood, becomes unusually verbose. He claims that he came to Fowley's apartment to find Spender. Jeffy has, in CSM's view, turned to Mulder's side and CSM is going to give him a whuppin'.
Instead of whuppin' Jeffy, CSM decides to fill in the gaps in Mulder's version of the conspiracy. He tells Mulder that the Syndicate originally formed at the State Department after the Roswell crash in 1947. In 1973 they became a splinter group concealed from the government. Also in that year, they made a deal with the alien colonists. In exchange for cooperation, the Syndicate and their families would be spared once the colonization began. To make sure the Syndicate didn't go astray, the colonists demanded family members. The Syndicate forked over their loved ones with the intention of getting them back once the colonization began. In the Fall of 1973, the exchange was made at the El Rico Air Force Base. Bill Mulder, however, was still dissenting at this point, but he soon realized he hand no choice. Samantha wasn't present during the large exchange, so the aliens abducted her from the Mulders' home -- and that's what Mulder witnessed on November 27, 1973.
CSM explains that the family exchange was also the genesis of the alien-human hybrid project. The Syndicate created the hybridization project as a diversion, but in order to get the project rolling they needed to obtain the alien genome from the colonists. For some strange reason, the colonists bought into this plan and delayed colonization. They also handed over an alien fetus, which became the centerpiece in the human-alien hybridization. Two separate projects used the fetus' DNA. The first project centered on the hybrid and the second was a secret experiment to create a vaccine that could inoculate the populace against the black oil. Unfortunately, the hybrid project -- the project that was never supposed to succeed -- was the first one to the finish line. Now, the mistaken success of Cassandra's hybridization has brought an untimely end to the vaccination project. Once Cassandra is turned over to the aliens, the colonization will begin.
CSM appears to have come to terms with these developments, but it's odd that he's putting so much faith in the colonists. Perhaps he's forgotten about the lie the colonists told. Previously, the Syndicate believed that those infected with the black oil turn into a slave, but the events in The Movie showed that exposing the "slave" to heat initiates a gestation process that ultimately ends with the "slave" sporting an enormous chest wound while a newborn (and deadly) alien skips across the countryside. Despite the colonists previous betrayal, CSM is confident that the Syndicate's family members will be returned and the colonists will follow-through on their deal to spare the Syndicate from harm. That just doesn't seem like CSM.
Unfortunately, Mulder doesn't make this connection -- he's too busy sulking. CSM hands Mulder a slip of paper then calmly exits the apartment.
Meanwhile, little Jeffy Spender is scouring the Eastern seaboard looking for his father. Spender arrives at the Syndicate's offices in New York City, but the only person still hanging around is Krycek (why he's there is anyone's guess). The Syndicate members have cleared out of town in preparation for the colonization. Krycek ambiguously tells Spender that once Cassandra is turned over to the colonists the colonization will begin. During that time the Syndicate and their families will be injected with the hybrid DNA. While the majority of the human population is assimilated by the black oil, the Syndicate will be sitting on a tropical beach, drinking cocktails and listening as billions lose their lives.
Before the Syndicate can begin their time wasting away in Margueritaville, CSM and his doctors have to prepare Cassandra for the exchange. Strapped into her bed at Fort Marlene, she fights, but the doctors drug her up and paralyze her hybridized body. In a quiet bedside chat with his ex-wife, CSM tries to justify his actions over the last 25 years. Cassandra is pissed -- for the last quarter-century she's been subjected to tests and abductions. CSM says he did it to save her and their son, but Cassandra disagrees -- Jeffrey knows the truth about CSM and his role in the tests and he won't become part of the conspiracy. She tells CSM that the only way to save Jeffrey -- and the rest of the human race -- is to kill her. Unfortunately, CSM isn't feeling murderous, so her turns and walks out while Cassandra curses and weeps.
All of these important events are transpiring, but Mulder is still moping in Fowley's apartment. Fowley arrives and it's a good thing her gun wasn't handy because Mulder would have a slug planted in him. But gunfire is averted and Mulder explains why he's sitting alone in her apartment. He tells her about his initial plan to find evidence implicating her as a conspirator but his search was abandoned after his conversation with CSM. Mulder has lost hope. He believes there's nothing he can do to stop the colonization. Fowley takes the piece of paper CSM gave Mulder. "El Rico Air Force Base" is written on the scrap. Mulder says that the colonization will begin there -- and if they aren't present when the aliens arrive, they'll be killed during the wave of alien domination. The thought of armageddon and assimilation stirs Fowley, so she leans in and plants a kiss on Mulder. We all knew she was weird, but what kind of person gets turned on by armageddon? Fowley is one freaky lady.
Spender, meanwhile, has earned more frequent flier miles by traveling back to Fort Marlene. He rushes into Cassandra's room, but he's too late. Fortunately, Marita is there and she tells Spender where and how Cassandra is being transported.
At the same time, a doctor enters Fort Marlene's cryolab to prepare the alien fetus for transport. As he carefully moves the fetus from one container to another, the door swings open and an old, reticent woman enters. She walks toward the doctor and puts him in a classic faceless rebel chokehold. The doctor plays the good victim and thoroughly rips the face off his attacker before he dies. Seconds later, the faceless rebel takes on the appearance of the now-dead doctor and casually walks from the cryolab with the alien fetus in tow.
Back in Washington, Fowley has disengaged her crinkled lips from Mulder and the two prepare to travel to El Rico Air Force Base. Mulder reaches Scully on her cellphone and once again, Scully injects Mulder with a big dose of reality. Spender contacted her and gave her directions on where to find Cassandra. Together they might be able to stop the exchange with the colonists.
Scully and Mulder meet up and the agents travel to a train yard where they try to stop Cassandra's train from leaving the station. Scully parks her sedan across the tracks in an attempt to slow the train down. The agents get out and fire at the conductor, but Casey Jones isn't stopping. Mulder and Scully run off as the train smashes into the car. The train chugs on, which means Mulder and Scully have failed, but inside we see the doctor-killing faceless rebel. Mulder and Scully might not stop the exchange, but the rebel will.
At 11:21 p.m. the Syndicate and their families gather at the El Rico Air Force Base. An army medical truck pulls in and Cassandra is carefully removed on a gurney. The dentally-challenged First Elder says that a communication to their alien friends hasn't been sent -- they were waiting for Cassandra's arrival before proceeding. CSM looks around the hangar and sees that Krycek is missing.
Ratboy is at Fort Marlene, attempting to steal the alien fetus. He finds the dead doctor and the empty container in the cryolab, but he also stumbles on Spender and Marita. Spender wants to smuggle Marita out of the complex and he asks for Krycek's help. Krycek stares at his former love interest then looks back at Spender and says "It's all going to hell." With that, he's off. Spender is left to wonder: 1. What's going to hell? 2. How does he fit into this hellish equation? and 3. What the hell is he going to do with Marita?
Fowley arrives at the hangar and CSM walks over to greet her. The two approach and for one scary second it looks like they're going to kiss (I told you Fowley was a freaky lady). Before they can lock lips, the hangar doors open and bright light streaks across the faces of the Syndicate. No one has communicated with the colonists, so this is a surprise visit. CSM and Fowley realize that something is amiss, so they run to Fowley's car and speed off. Cassandra turns her head toward the light and smiles -- knowing that the Syndicate's well-laid plans are about to ram head-first into a rebel roadblock. A group of rebels surrounds the Syndicate and their families. In a few seconds, the Syndicate, their work and their plans become part of a rebel bonfire. There will be no colonization tonight John Boy.
The next day, Spender requests a meeting with AD Kersh. Mulder, Scully and Skinner are also present in Kersh's office. Kersh looks through pictures taken at the hangar -- pictures showing burned corpses. He casts a sneering look at Mulder and Scully (as if they're the ones who lit everyone on fire) and asks for an explanation. Spender, who has finally become his own man, says that Mulder and Scully could have prevented the deaths at El Rico. They deserve to be on the X-files for they're the only ones who can thwart further tragedies. Spender rises, touches Mulder on the shoulder, then walks off to pack up his office. Kersh protests, but Spender keeps right on walking.
With Spender out of the room, Kersh tries to dress-down Mulder and Scully, but he's so out of his league it's comical. He demands answers and Mulder tells him he's had answers for years, but no one listened. Mulder says that the people burned in the hangar burned themselves -- they were burned by a choice they made to sleep with the enemy, but that choice created a new enemy. "The future is here and all bets are off," Mulder says cryptically. Kersh demands that Scully interpret this line and Scully sternly says "Sir, I wouldn't bet against him." Mulder knows. Scully knows. Skinner knows. Kersh...Kersh knows nothing. At this point I was waiting -- hoping -- that Scully would get up, knock Kersh to the floor then plant her shoe right on his forehead. Alas, it didn't happen, but the confused look on Kersh's face was almost as good.
In the final scene, Spender enters his office to find an unwelcome visitor. CSM is sitting behind Spender's desk, gazing at the picture of himself and Bill Mulder taken in 1973. Spender orders his father to leave, but CSM isn't listening. He explains that the man in the picture is Mulder's father -- an old friend of his who betrayed him. Spender says he knows enough about CSM to hate him, which wasn't the right thing to say. CSM is suffering from a serious case of Disappointed Father Syndrome and words like "hate" can trigger bad responses. The perpetual-cigarette-sucker reaches into a desk drawer and pulls out a pistol, then says: "Your mother was right. I came here hoping otherwise. Hoping that my son might live to honor me like Bill Mulder's son." The camera cuts to an adjacent room as a shot rings out. CSM appears in the doorway, slides the old picture into his coat pocket, then walks off.
And that's the end of this two-story arc. I rank these episodes with the best mythology storylines. In fact I think it's already time to watch them again.
Note: This review originally appeared at Ontap.com. It's reprinted here for archival purposes.