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Patient X / The Red and The Black

"The Red and the Black" was the conclusion to another stellar two-part mythology arc. As some have already pointed out, the transformation of Scully to believer and Mulder to sceptic has been subtle throughout this season, but with last week's "Patient X" and this week's episode, their role reversals were in full bloom -- for a while at least.

The flip-flop in character personalities would have been more than enough entertainment, but the X-Files crew went even further by bringing Old Dirty Bastard (the cigarette-smoking one that is) back. Most of us thought he was still alive, but I doubt anyone could have predicted that he'd be holed up as the Canadian Unabomber.

So let's get to it. In "Patient X" we learned that the well-laid, ultra-secretive plans of the Syndicate were going horribly awry. Slowly it was shown that the group of well-dressed, stuffy old white guys aren't as all-powerful as we've been led to believe. Turns out an intergalactic war is brewing and this is one conflict CNN won't be covering.

In the course of "Patient X" we saw that Scully is starting to believe in those "extreme possibilities" Mulder was always preaching about, but just as she's about to admit her conversion, our intrepid friend with the porn fetish announces that all this gyro-pyro, anal-probing alien abduction stuff is a load of hooey (he does this at MIT no less).

Mulder is on the verge of coming to terms with his seemingly foolish pursuit of extraterrestrials, but then we run into alien-abductee extraordinaire Cassandra and her non-smoking FBI agent son. The son thinks his mom is a crackbaby, as does Mulder, but Scully feels a connection with the woman (most likely due to their matching, subcutaneous computer implants).

At the end of "Patient X" Scully is drawn to a dam in Pennsylvania where it just so happens a whole bunch of other formerly-abducted folks are hanging out, waiting for something big to happen. And happen it does -- Scully finally sees one of these behemoth alien ships, but her realizations are abruptly intruded upon by two eyeless aliens with glorified Zippos. The sightless visitors systematically light the abductees on fire and things really don't look all that good for Scully.

But as always, our favorite redhead manages to survive. "The Black and the Red" picks up just after the abductee barbecue. Scully is in the hospital, but Cassandra is missing, which gives a lot of credence to all those abduction stories she was always wining about.

Now stick with me here, because this is where things get confusing. In "Patient X" we were witness to the return of both Alex Krycek and Marita Covarubius. Krycek tries to double-cross the Synidcate, again, by offering one young Russian teenager infected with the black cancer in exchange for all the research the Syndicate has compiled about this nasty stuff with the high viscosity. But Krycek is out of his league, for Marita uses her special Nookie Deception Skills to snatch the young ruskie away. It appears the Syndicate has won again...but wait!

Marita turns up a short while later suffering from a very bad coma, which just happens to be a nasty side-effect of the black cancer. The Syndicate looks down from above (literally) and all appear quite grave and more pasty than usual. Finally we get a clue as to what the hell has been going on all this time. The Fat Man (that lard-ass without any bottom teeth) is worried because the Americans don't have the antidote to the black cancer. Apparently, the motor oil we've seen crawling up people's nostrils for the last season-and-a-half is all part of an evil alien race's plan to colonize earth. Since this alien group is a heck of a lot more powerful than the human race, Fat Man believes humans must submit to the aliens' wishes. But there's dissension in the Syndicate's ranks, for the Well-Manicured Man knows of a Russian antidote -- and if the antidote works, there's a chance for resistance (hence the term "Resist or Submit" right after the credits).

And I haven't even gotten to the Alien renegades yet. Shortly after Scully turns up in yet another hospital bed, we see an alien ship pull a Hindenberg at a U.S. Air Force Base (which was convenient considering the government loves to cover this stuff up). The ship was piloted by a pair of alien rebels. One bites it, but one lives and is taken into custody by the UN's Blue Beret Alien Recovery Team.

The evil alien race isn't pleased about these rebels, so the Syndicate arranges to have the renegade visitor turned over. But Mulder has a different idea. After an informative visit from Krycek in which the Russian traitor tells Mulder of this intergalactic war (and kisses him for some odd reason), Mulder takes a little time, reevaluates his beliefs and finally returns to his alien-chasing self. He and Scully travel to the air force base to investigate the crash, but during a security check Scully recognizes one of the Syndicate's henchmen -- and he just happens to be driving a military truck. Mulder dashes from the car and attaches himself to the back of the truck while Scully once again is left to deal with the fuzz.

Inside the truck Mulder finds the eyeless alien renegade, but seeing as Mulder is a weak little human armed only with a Glock and a flashlight, there isn't a lot he can do. The truck stops and the driver morphs into the alien assassin we all know and love. Our shapeshifter buddy jumps onto the bed of the truck just as lights swirl in from the sky. Mulder pulls his gun and fires at something, but the view is obscured by those damn halogen lights aliens love to splash in our eyes just as we're about to see something important. When all is said and done Mulder has no idea what just happened and neither do we.

Somewhere amidst all this tingly plot development Cancer Man makes his return, and based on the evidence we've seen, he appears to be the father of Agent Spender. So what's the deal? Has Cancer Man gone solo? Can Spender be trusted? Do we really want to put our faith in alien rebels who can't even fly their own ships? And why did those rebels find it necessary to light innocent abductees on fire? "The Red and the Black" offered a few answers, but once again Chris Carter and Co. have thickened the plot without showing any of their cards.

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



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