"Orison" marks the third time an X-file villain has returned for a second episode. The first attempt was classic ("Squeeze" and "Tooms"); the second featured one great episode and one so-so X-file ("Pusher" and "Kitsunegari"); the third is proof that it's time to abandon this concept. Donnie Pfaster, the sexual fetishist from season two's "Irresistible," oozes creepiness, but you need more than ooze to make a show work.
So here's what happens in this tale of prison breaks and toenails:
It all begins in a dirty common room of a high-security prison. A priest -- Reverend Orison -- is preachin' the gospel to a group of prisoners. Despite their haggard, two-seconds-from-slitting-your-throat appearance, the inmates are attentive. "Do you believe?" Orison asks as he moves through the audience. "OH YEAH! I BELIEVE! I FEEEEEEL THE POWAH! I'M GONNA RISE UPAH!"*
Orison hits a roadblock when he casts his eyes upon the familiar, evil face of Donnie Pfaster. The finger-loving star of "Irresistible" has been brooding behind iron bars for the last five years. Sitting in a dirty room with dirty men, listening to an overzealous preacher is not his idea of a good time.
Seeing Pfaster's lack of enthusiasm, Orison ratchets his sermon up a few notches. "Glory! Amen!" he shouts while stomping his foot. "Glory! Amen!" the inmates repeat.
The rest of the scene plays out the same way:
Orison: "Glory [foot stomp] Amen!"
Inmates: "Glory [foot stomp] Amen!"
You get the idea.
The "Glory, Amen" motif is still running later in the day as inmates work in the prison's garment shop. One particularly pious prisoner is stationed at a saw, cutting leather and chanting "Glory, Amen." Pfaster is working at the opposite end of the shop, folding cloth and attempting to ignore the insults being hurled at him by a nearby prison guard. Suddenly, the pious prisoner at the saw cries out. "My hands!" he screams while displaying his now-stubby fingers. Blood spurts from the wounds as prisoners and guards rush to the inmate's aid. Time slows to a crawl for everyone in the room except Pfaster. Something sinister has altered the space-time continuum, allowing Pfaster to walk at normal speed past the slowed-down crowd. Seeing his chance, Pfaster calmly strolls toward the exit.
At exactly the same time, Scully is snuggled tight in her bed, dreaming of an encounter with an X-files reviewer (ahem). Despite numerous home invasions over the years, Scully has left her bedroom window wide open. A strong breeze startles her awake. She plods across the room, closes the window, then plods back toward the bed. Her return to sleepy land is thwarted when she glances at her digital alarm clock and sees that it reads 6:66. Unflappable as ever, Scully grabs her Satanic timepiece and gives it a shake. As she holds the clock, the power cuts out, then cuts back in and the clock now reads 6:06 a.m.
Later that day, Mulder and Scully arrive at the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, which just happens to be the same prison Donnie Pfaster walked out of hours before. Since Mulder and Scully were responsible for catching Pfaster the first time, their help has been requested on the current manhunt. Mulder gives the assembled trenchcoat-wearing U.S. marshals a rundown on Pfaster. Our boy Donnie is a death fetishist. He likes to collect bone, skin, toenails, hair, fingers and, on special occasions, attached earlobes. One of the marshals asks the agents if they think a supernatural event aided Pfaster's escape. Scully shuts the door on that theory. There's nothing supernatural about Pfaster, she says. "He's just plain evil.
Scully leaves the group, moving into the nearby common room seen earlier in the episode. The empty room is lined with religious documents and hand-painted signs declaring "Sheep Go to Heaven, Goats go to Hell" and "Rust in the Lord." Scully hears muffled music coming from a nearby vent and she strains to make out the words. She seems to recognize the song, but her effort to name that tune is interrupted by Mulder's entrance. In a moment of unusual understanding, Mulder tells Scully that she should excuse herself from the investigation. Back in '94, Pfaster abducted Scully and the experience rattled her. In most investigations Scully is able to keep a level head, but Pfaster got under her skin (so to speak) and Mulder doesn't think she should be involved in "Pfaster 2: The Return." Scully locks her eyes on Mulder and tells him she doesn't have a choice -- it's her responsibility to make sure Pfaster doesn't continue his fetishistic ways. Mulder sees that he can't sway his partner, so the two get down to business.
Mulder has done his homework and he believes Pfaster's escape is the latest in a string of similar prison breaks. Over the last year, two inmates at maximum-security prisons in nearby states have disappeared. The inmates were in well-guarded, public areas, but no one remembers their departures. Additionally, none of the prisoners have been spotted on the outside. They've completely buggered off!
A short time later, Mulder sits down for an interview with the stubby-fingered prisoner from the garment shop. There's one problem -- the man's fingers have returned to their proper digits and there's no sign they were ever missing. The prisoner claims that he actually felt his fingers missing. He, and the other prisoners, saw his stubby remains, but somehow, through the power of the Lord, his wayward fingers returned. For some strange reason, Mulder slowly raises his hand, palm upwards. As he does this, the prisoner smiles and says "Glory. Amen." Mulder repeats the motion, and again the prisoner chants "Glory. Amen." Scully, standing at a nearby window, sees the prisoner's right foot rise and fall in tandem with Mulder's arm. Mulder smirks as an X-file light bulb flashes in his overeducated brain.
In the hallway, Mulder shares his discovery with Scully. He believes Pfaster's escape was made possible by group hypnosis. The rhythmic hand motion coupled with the Glory-Amen chant put the people in the garment room into a trance. Scully doesn't believe Pfaster would be capable of such a deed, but Mulder doesn't think Pfaster was the hypnotist. The only man who has had access to all three missing prisoners is the prison chaplain -- Reverend Orison. While the agents consider this, muffled music again emanates from an air vent. Scully's face drops as she recognizes the song from her high school days -- obviously it has meaning, but she doesn't elaborate.
At 12:52 p.m. in Harrisburg, Illinois, Donnie Pfaster strolls through a bus station, casting longing looks at female fingers. He walks into a nearby diner, quickly sitting at a table. His eyes focus on the plump fingers and red, painted nails of a waitress behind the counter. As he licks his chops, a red-haired prostitute sits across from Pfaster and offers him "today's special." Pfaster stares at the woman's hands and declares that she's in dire need of a buff and polish. "I'll even do your cuticles," Pfaster says in his low, evil voice. Who knew the word "cuticle" could be so sinister?
Before Pfaster can offer to "clip her toenails," a voice from behind Pfaster asks "Who do you think got you out of prison?" The voice belongs to Reverend Orison. "God got you out," Orison says. All of this talk of cuticles and God has made the prostitute uneasy, so she scuttles away. Seconds later, a dark government sedan pulls into the nearby parking lot and three U.S. Marshals walk toward the diner's entrance. Pfaster rises, his tall frame towering over Orison. Orison looks Pfaster in the eye and holds up a keychain (he's got the key to Jesus' hotrod). The marshals open the door and spot Pfaster, but as they approach, Orison swings his magic keychain and says "Glory. Amen." A scream pierces the air as time slows. Eyes dart toward the counter where a large, bald man is grabbing the plump waitress. The marshals draw their guns as the waitress hurls a scalding pot of coffee on her attacker. When the marshals look back, Pfaster and Orison have disappeared.
The scene cuts to the parking lot. Orison emerges from behind a bus but Pfaster isn't with him. Suddenly, a green, 1970 Chevy Impala with two passengers rounds the corner and smacks into Orison. The man of God crashes into the windshield and flies over the roof with the grace of a potato. Pfaster slams the breaks, kicks the car into reverse and almost squishes Orison as he speeds backwards. Orison rolls over as Pfaster and his accomplice (the redheaded prostitute) escape down a side street.
Later that afternoon Mulder and Scully arrive at the bus station. There they find three very confused U.S. Marshals who believe they saw Pfaster, but aren't quite sure. He was there, then he wasn't. The only evidence left in Pfaster's wake is Reverend Orison, who was carted off to a nearby hospital. Suddenly, Scully's ears perk up as she once again hears the same song she heard in the penitentiary. The song is "Don't Look Any Further," a popular R&B hit from the '70s. Is Scully the lynchpin to a retro revolution or is the devil manhandling the FCC?
We're left to ponder Scully's funkadelic ways because the scene shifts to the St. Clare Medical Center in Harrisburg, Illinois. Scully questions Mr. Glory-Amen in his hospital room, but her introductory questions are blocked by Reverend Orison's piousness. "Believe in the Lord Agent Scully. He believes in you," Orison says. "That's nice," Scully sarcastically counters. Unfortunately, Orison plays on Scully's two weaknesses -- her faith and her past. "Everything has a reason, Scout," he says as her face falls. Just as the song "Don't Look Any Further" holds meaning for Scully, so does the name Scout. Before we can learn anything of substance, Mulder enters the room. Orison tries to work the same unnerving religious trickery on Mulder, but Mulder doesn't buy into religious hoo-ha. In fact, he's got a trump card of his own. He hands Orison a picture from a recent crime scene that shows a redheaded woman lying dead in a bathtub of blood and water. The woman is the prostitute Pfaster picked up at the bus station. Orison's chin wrinkles and he closes his eyes.
Mulder is on to the reverend's scheme. Orison facilitates prison breaks so he can unleash the Lord's justice. The reason the first two prisoners were never found is because Orison killed them. In fact, Orison has a history of murder. Mulder tells Scully that back in 1959 the good reverend was convicted of first-degree murder. With the cat out of the bag, Orison backtracks. He says God told him to look after Pfaster. Venomous spittle collects in the cracks of Mulder's mouth. "When God spoke to you Reverend, did he happen to mention where Donnie was headed?" Mulder asks. All Orison knows is that Pfaster stole his green Chevy Impala.
Once again, Mulder and Scully convene in a nearby hallway. This time they decide to engage in a theological debate. Mulder takes the stance of the non-believing skeptic (a rarity for him) and Scully opposes from the believer position. Mulder won't accept that God is actually speaking to Orison -- it doesn't make sense. Why would God direct Orison to kill? Or, why would He direct Orison to allow others to kill? In Mulder's opinion, only nut jobs talk to God. As usual, Mulder has gone over the line. Apparently he wasn't paying attention to those prayer sessions Scully went to when she was dying from cancer. And maybe he hasn't realized that that necklace he keeps saving for her has a CROSS ON IT! Nonetheless, Scully maintains control and says that something -- be it God or fate -- is involved in this case. She reveals the relevance behind the name Scout and the song "Don't Look Any Further." When Scully was 13 she was sitting at home listening to "Don't Look Any Further" on the radio. Her mother came in to tell her that her Sunday school teacher had been murdered. The teacher was the only person in her life who called her Scout and that moment was the first time she new evil existed. To further complicate matters, Donnie Pfaster escaped from prison at the exact moment Scully was startled awake -- 6:06 a.m. For some reason she fails to mention the 6:66 incident.
Editor's Note: Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Illinois in a different time zone than D.C.? If Pfaster escaped at 6:06 a.m. in Illinois it would have been 7:06 a.m. in D.C.
Nitpicking aside, the scene cuts to a rural road where Pfaster is parked in Orison's green Chevy Impala. While pondering the beauty of the rural landscape (and dreaming of toenails and red hair), Pfaster hears a radio bulletin. "Police are looking for a sexual predator named Donnie Pfaster. He's driving a green, 1970 Chevrolet Impala. He's six feet tall with broad shoulders, clipped hair and a permanent scowl. Occasionally he sprouts horns and wings and answers to the name of 'Demon Boy.' If you encounter Pfaster, please unholster your pistol and blow a hole in his ugly, evil head. The Illinois State Police and the FBI thank you for your cooperation. And now, back to Super Sounds of the '70s!"* Alarmed by the bulletin, Pfaster pops the Impala's trunk and rifles through Orison's belongings. In a ditty bag, he finds Orison's wallet, which leads him to Orison's license, which, in turn, reveals Orison's address. Being a reverend, Orison lives in the aptly named town of Equality, Illinois. Next stop: Equality!
At the same time, Mulder and Scully are looking at an electronic scan of Orison's skull. Pointing out a splotch on the screen, Mulder says this is a cerebral edema, which is a swelling of the brain. Scully believes it was caused when Pfaster hit Orison with that gas-guzzling Impala. Not so fast Dr. Scully. Mulder has learned that the edema was probably caused by a small hole in Orison's skull -- a self-inflicted, old wound. Mulder launches into a long-winded dialogue about oxygen capacity in the brain. Basically, there's a theory that says that human abilities are only limited by the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain. If you get more O2 in your noggin you can do bigger and better things. Mulder believes that Orison was using a mind trick called "stopping of time" (fans of "The Matrix" will know this as bullet time, which was used earlier this season in "Rush"). Mulder believes that a combination of time-stoppage and hypnosis could allow Orison to temporarily alter reality.
Unfortunately, when he used this technique to release Pfaster, Orison inadvertently opened the gates of hell. Opening the gates of hell is usually a bad thing.
With the gates of hell flapping in the breeze, Orison decides it's time to correct his mistake. Lying in his hospital bed, he focuses his gaze on the U.S. marshal standing near the door. "Glory. Amen," he says as time slows. Orison takes the hypnotized marshal's gun and walks out the door.
A short while later, Pfaster is parading around Orison's apartment in his underwear (just what we need -- evil incarnate in whitey tighties). He's meticulously packaging fingers in Zip-loc bags and placing them in the freezer for safekeeping. As he goes about his business, a knock sounds at the door. The visitor is a red-haired woman Pfaster ordered from the "Tip-Top Gentleman's Service." Pfaster invites his new friend into the apartment, ogling her red hair and painted nails.
Being a well-heeled host, Pfaster draws a bath for his victim. The bathroom is illuminated with candles, which Pfaster must have bought during that unseen shopping spree at Bath & Body. Everything is going well until Pfaster's weirdness comes to the fore. Clutching an armful of hair care products, Pfaster asks his guest if her hair is chemically treated. Realizing her client is a loony, the woman asks Pfaster to hand her a towel so she can leave. Disappointed, Pfaster complies. Gazing upon his prey, he sees that her curly red hair is a wig. "You lied to me!" he screams. The woman grabs a nearby candle and smashes it into Pfaster's face. Distracted by the hot wax burning in his retina, Pfaster doesn't see the nasty right hook the woman unloads across his chin. Pfaster falls backward, cracking his head on the porcelain sink. With her attacker unconscious, the woman runs from the apartment.
At roughly the same time, Mulder and Scully find that Orison has escaped from his hospital room. Looking around, Scully sees a note on his bedside table that reads "Don't Look Any Further." Is it a warning or a song request?
While Mulder and Scully wonder how one little song could cause so much trouble, Reverend Orison prepares to take Pfaster to the Promised Land. Arriving at his apartment just as Pfaster is gaining consciousness, Orison gets biblical. "Whosoever shedeth man's blood by man shall his blood be shed," Orison says while aiming a gun at Pfaster's chest.
Later that night, Orison takes Pfaster to a nearby forest. With Pfaster tied and on his knees, Orison digs Pfaster's grave. Pfaster begins to cry and Orison believes Pfaster is sorry for what he's done. Poor Reverend Orison -- you have no idea what you've gotten yourself in to. Pfaster isn't crying for his sins, he's crying because Orison can't kill him. Looking at the reverend, Pfaster's face turns a lovely shade of red and his features morph into those of a demon (perhaps he and Wayne Weinsider are friends). Cracking a wry, demon smirk, Pfaster prepares to unleash his fury on the good reverend.
The next morning, Mulder and Scully arrive in the forest where police unearth the corpse of Reverend Orison. Scully is concerned because Pfaster placed the call that led the investigators to this rural location. Mulder, knowing Scully is on edge, tells her to let it go. As far as he's concerned, the X-files portion of the investigation is over. The U.S. Marshals are responsible for capturing Pfaster. In theory, leaving it all behind is a great idea, but neither Mulder nor Scully realize that Pfaster's future plans involve a trip to D.C.
Demon Boy travels halfway across the country and breaks into Scully's apartment before she arrives. Snooping around, Pfaster finds a Bible and places it in a nearby drawer. With the Lord tucked in a bureau, Pfaster hides in Scully's bedroom closet and waits for his victim to come home.
Arriving later that day, Scully sheds her FBI gear and dons more comfortable sleeping attire. As she moves around her bedroom she suddenly notices that her clock is once again reading 6:66. Looking to her left, she sees her bedroom door slightly ajar. Gasping, she moves to slam it shut, but Pfaster pushes from within. Scully puts up a good fight, landing blows to the groin, the eyes and the head, but when she goes for her gun, Pfaster hurls her into a mirror. Scully counters with heavy kicks and punches and finishes the battle off by dumping a metal bookcase on Pfaster's back. In a moment of inexplicably bad judgement, Scully runs for the phone instead of grabbing her gun. Pfaster catches her in the hallway, pins her to the ground and ties her wrists with cloth. Scully yells, telling Pfaster that the only reason he's alive is because she asked his trial judge for life imprisonment instead of the death penalty. Pfaster doesn't care much about that. Scully is the one that got away and for five long years she's all he's thought about. "I'm going to run you a bath," he says. Scully screams but Pfaster clamps his hand over her mouth. Tying her arms and legs and gagging her mouth, Pfaster drags Scully into her bedroom closet while he readies her bath.
At the same time, Mulder is casually brushing his teeth in his surprisingly clean bathroom. Moving into his bedroom, he sets his alarm clock, but as he's pressing the buttons the radio pops to life and "Don't Look Any Further" streams from the tinny speaker. Mulder places a call to Scully, but the call goes unanswered. A look of concern passes over his face.
Pfaster calmly moves around Scully's apartment, gathering bath supplies and listening to "Don't Look Any Further" on the stereo. The music and the running water allow Scully to exit the closet without being heard. Still bound and gagged, she squirms under her bed and begins to free her hands. Pfaster completes his preparations, turns the music off and walks back toward the bedroom. Time slows once again as Scully frees herself and lunges for the gun lying on the floor. Eerie music replaces the dialogue. Pfaster sees Scully reaching for the gun, but his attention is diverted as Mulder enters the front door. Drawing his gun, he aims at Pfaster. Scully appears in the bedroom doorway. Her nose bloody and her face covered in cuts, she approaches Pfaster, clutching her gun. Her eyes narrow and a light in the hallway flickers. A shell casing drops to the floor and the flickering light blows apart in an explosion of glass and sparks. Mulder turns toward the light and in that instant, Scully pulls the trigger. Pfaster falls as Mulder looks at Scully in astonishment. Horrified, Scully looks back at her partner as tears well in her eyes. The screen goes black as a gunshot rings out.
The next morning, police collect evidence at Scully's apartment. Mulder sits beside Scully in her bedroom and tries to calm her fears. He tells her that his report will say she had no choice but to kill Pfaster. In his eyes, it had to be done, for Pfaster would have killed again. Wracked with guilt and pondering her own morality, Scully says she's sure Pfaster was evil, but she's not sure who, or what, made her pull the trigger.
"You mean, if it was God?" Mulder asks.
"I mean, what if it wasn't," Scully answers.
And that's it. It seems that Scully will be dealing with guilt and fear for a while, but this is the X-files and we all know plot lines are rarely carried into subsequent episodes. Hey, if Scully can forget about the daughter she lost she can certainly move past killing a psychopath.
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.