The X-files crew didn't chart any new territory with "Rush" but the territory it rehashed was fertile ground. Tapping the teen angst reservoir with the super-speed angle made for a fun, action-filled episode. Throw in some playful (platonic) banter between our favorite agents and you've got an enjoyable hour of television.
So here's what happens in this speedy tale:
It all begins in classic teen angst fashion. Tony Reed, a high school sophomore from Pittsfield, Virginia, sneaks out of his house late one night and drives into the woods to meet up with some friends. Creeping down a dirt road lined with "No Trespassing" signs, Reed parks in a clearing and exits the car. Walking past the treeline, Tony calls for his friend Max. The call is unanswered and things start to get creepy when fog rolls through the branches and an eerie blue-gray light shines from the horizon.
A lit match flares to life a few steps away. Reed jumps back but immediately realizes his friend Max Harden has emerged from the darkness. Max is a senior who fancies himself the next Dylan McKay. Harden's girlfriend, Chastity Raines (yes, Chastity), appears beside him. Continuing with the mysterious teen angst theme, Harden warns Reed that he can never tell anyone about this place, even if someone dies in connection with it. While Reed ponders this tidbit, headlights appear on the nearby road and a squad car pulls up. Reed whips around in fright, but when he turns back toward Harden and Raines, both have disappeared. Reed stares into the headlights of the police car as Deputy Ronald Foster approaches. In typical jerk-cop style, Foster serves Reed a steaming pile of attitude, ordering him to place his hands on the trunk of his car while Foster runs his record through the computer.
Reed obliges the donut lover and Foster returns to his vehicle. The scene suddenly turns fuzzy as something darts by Reed and rushes toward the squad car. A muffled grunt emanates from the car and Reed turns just as Foster's flashlight hits the ground. Reed calls out, but there's no response. Knowing that something screwy is going down, Reed walks toward the fallen flashlight and picks it up. Bad move Tony. The handle of the light is covered in blood, which probably means it was used to perpetrate a very bad crime. Horrified, Reed drops the light/weapon and looks inside the squad car. A pulpy, drippy mess has replaced the head of Deputy Foster.
Did Foster hold his sneeze in? Have homicidal woodland creatures claimed another victim? We'll soon find out.
A few days later, Mulder and Scully show up at St. Jude's Memorial Hospital in Pittsfield. Mulder's X-file siren went off when he read this case's police report. In the report, Tony Reed claimed that an "invisible assailant" knocked the murdered deputy to the hereafter. Scully, as you'd expect, thinks this is a crackpot idea, especially since the "invisible assailant" theory is floated by a kid being held for murder. Mulder, defender of the paranormally downtrodden, doesn't see any reason why Reed would commit this crime. He's an A student and as we all know, it is scientifically impossible for an A student to ever do anything wrong. Uh-huh. Nice logic Mulder.
Logic takes another blow when Scully examines the deputy's remains. After six years of alien residue, black oil and more edematous tissue than you can shake a stick at, Scully is still shocked at what she finds under the white sheet. Looking at the back of Foster's head, Scully sees that the deputy's glasses have been knocked clean through his skull. A single blow from a flashlight did all this damage. Even if that flashlight were made of pure steel, it's unlikely any "normal" person could have inflicted such damage. Scully weakly suggests that someone under the influence of heavy narcotics might be able to accomplish this homicidal feat. Of course, that someone could also bench-press a '68 Cadillac. As Mulder and Scully ponder this remarkable murder, the local Sheriff -- Sheriff Harden -- appears in the doorway and asks how much longer they're going to stare at the remains of his former deputy. Once again, local law enforcement shows an uncanny desire to help a federal investigation.
Seeing as they're not welcome in the morgue, the agents travel to the Pittsfield police station to question Tony Reed. As the pair enters the interrogation room, they pass by Chastity Raines, who shoots a coy look at Mulder. The look elicits a snicker from Scully. The lightheartedness ends as the questioning of Reed begins. Mulder plays the role of "sympathetic cop" (he's moved on from the "insane cop" delivery used in "Hungry"). He tells Reed that he knows what it's like to live in a dull little town. In an act of pure stupidity, Reed deflates any empathy Mulder was holding by pointing out Mulder's somewhat-advanced age. If the death glare Mulder shoots at Reed were to be expressed in words, it would sound something like this: "Son, I am the key figure in an ongoing charade to conceal the existence of extraterrestrials. I have saved the world at least four times now and I'll probably do it again. Do you really think a smart ass like you is going to ruffle my feathers?"* Ignoring Reed's remark, Mulder and Scully press on with questions about the murder. Nervous and scared, Reed demands to be returned to his cell.
In the hallway, Mulder and Scully discuss the interrogation. Both agree that Reed probably isn't the murderer, but that's where the agreement ends. Mulder thinks a "force" or a poltergeist manifested in the woods and killed the deputy. Scully inquires about the nature of this "force" and Mulder says it could be a ghost that preys on teens, particularly those who sneak into the woods to engage in rituals or film projects.* Scully doesn't have a well-formed theory, but she certainly isn't chalking it up to an apparition. Looking up at her partner, Scully cocks her head to the side and asks: "Mulder? Rather than spirits, can we at least start with Reed's friends? Please? Just...for me?" Mulder, overcome by Scully's sardonic blast, is unable to defend himself.
As Mulder and Scully exchange barbs at the police station, Chastity Raines sits in a science classroom, taking a midterm. The period is nearly over and her attention is focused on the clock as it inches closer to noon. As she watches, the minute hand skips backward a notch, then quickly corrects itself. At the same time, Max Harden strolls into the classroom. Clad in a leather jacket and sporting the proper degree of beard scruff for a high school rebel, Harden settles in front of the teacher's desk. The teacher -- Mr. Babbitt -- informs him that he's just missed the midterm, but Harden says he still has two minutes left. With that, Babbitt holds out a Scantron sheet and a copy of the test and tells Harden to have at it. Harden turns his back to Babbitt, shoots a smarmy look at Raines, then quickly fills in the test sheet. Spinning back around, he throws the test on Babbitt's desk and tells him to check the answers. Lo and behold, Harden has answered every question correctly.
The period ends and students shuffle into the hallway. Raines exits and is met by Mulder and Scully, who want to ask her a few questions. She stonewalls the agents, but when they inform her that Reed could go to jail for the rest of his life, her face drops. Before she can reveal anything, Max Harden appears behind her and declares that she "don't be having to answer ain't nuthin'."* Mulder sees Harden's name written on a folder he's carrying and ask the slacker what his father, the Sheriff, would think about him interfering in an investigation. Ah-ha! Not only is Harden a classic rebel-in-the-making, but he's also the neglected son of a Sheriff. The novelty just keeps rollin' on.
Harden's lack of intelligence makes it impossible for him to trade witty comments with Mulder, so he swings his arm around Raines and walks off. As he pushes by, he takes a look at Scully and says, "You must have been a Betty back in the day." Obviously this young man is suffering from vision problems because Scully's status as a Betty is still very, very valid.
Scully's cellphone rings as the "Betty" comment lingers in the ether. Sheriff Harden is on the line and he has bad news. The flashlight used to murder Deputy Foster has been stolen from the evidence locker. The agents zip over to the police station to discuss this unfortunate turn of events. A surveillance tape doesn't show any irregularities -- to the normal person that is. Mulder takes one look at the tape and sees an odd streak that appears on-screen for 1/30th of a second. He might be red-green colorblind but he's still got the sharpest eyes in the Western Hemisphere.
With the key piece of evidence missing, the police have no choice but to set Tony Reed free. Later that night he returns home with his Mom. Mrs. Reed is a hard workin' woman who wants the best for her son. Murder charges don't really figure in to her master plan. With this as the setting, Mother and son share an Oscar-worthy scene that's transcribed below:
Ma Reed: Tony, are you gonna be straight with me?
Tony: About what Ma?
Ma Reed: About this box I found. This box of...of drugs. Tony, are you using drugs?!
Tony: No Mom! Those aren't mine. They must be someone else's.
Ma Reed: Who taught you how to do this stuff Tony? Who taught you!?
Tony [sobbing]: You did Ma! I learned it by watching you!*
Ok, so that passage is a fabrication in every sense. All that really happened is that Reed and his Mom have a fight about his future. Ma Reed leaves in a huff and Reed settles onto his bed to relax. Before he can immerse himself in thought, pebbles rain against his window. Looking outside, he sees Max Harden.
Harden has stolen a souped-up car and he wants to take Reed on a joyride (aww, how sweet). Unfortunately for Reed, Harden's idea of a joyride is to jam the accelerator to the floor, aim the car at a telephone pole then mysteriously disappear from the driver's seat. Realizing that Harden has left the vehicle, Reed grabs the wheel and attempts to regain control, but it's too late. The muscle machine hurtles toward the telephone pole and Reed instinctively puts his arms in front of his face. The car slams into the pole, embracing the wooden structure with charred, metal arms. The camera pans back and we see Reed standing 30 feet away, his arms still locked in their defensive position. Harden is beside him, smirking at the carnage. Looking at Reed, he quietly tells him he's going to make him one of "them" (whatever that is). Reed is unable to respond; his thoughts are ping-ponging between his near-death experience and the change of undergarments he desperately needs.
While Reed and Harden run crash tests, Mulder and Scully return to the X-files office. Waiting for them in the cozy X-file abode is Chuck Burks, the paranormal scientist who occasionally helps the agents in their investigations. He's been called upon in this case to analyze the freaky streak Mulder spotted on the surveillance tape. Initially Burks believed the streak to be an astral projection, but after careful analysis he's determined that whatever the streak is, it certainly isn't a ghost. Being a diligent guy, Burks cross-referenced the shape seen on the tape with the Library of Congress database. The only thing the shape remotely resembles is a Soviet Akula-class submarine. Red October strikes again!
Just to make things more complicated, Mulder and Scully reveal that synthetic polymers were found in the evidence room. If we follow the logical string of clues we can deduce that the culprit is a super-fast submarine wearing sneakers.
Getting back to Burks and his findings. Our intrepid scientist is stumped, but he has one more trick up his sleeve. Using Spectrographic Color Attribute Generator software (SCAG for all you techies out there), Burks assigns color values to the streaky image. The software then fills in the remaining values and the result is a clearer picture. After running the streak through SCAG, Mulder sees predominant shades of purple and gold. Purple and gold just happen to be the colors used by Adams High School -- the same school Reed, Harden and Raines attend. But there's more! Raines wears an Adams High varsity jacket, which means she could be the zippy thief.
The suspects in this caper have all gathered for class at Adams High. Reed returns to school for the first time since his arrest and he's met by shocked looks from his fellow students. Finding Raines, Reed asks her how Harden can disappear from a speeding car, but Harden appears (the sneaky bastard) and Raines is unable to answer. The bell rings and all three move toward their classroom for science.
Inside the classroom, their teacher (Mr. Babbitt, the same science teacher seen earlier) hands out midterm grades. Moving to Harden, Babbitt plops a big 'ol F on his desk. Harden was under the impression he aced this exam, but Babbitt believes he cheated -- hence the F. The gruff rebel stares at his teacher with homicidal fury then chucks the test on the floor and storms off. With Harden gone, Reed asks Raines how he can help their disgruntled friend, but Raines looks back dejectedly. Despite her good looks, Raines strongly resembles a beaten mule.
Later that day, Reed sits alone in the cafeteria, pondering his predicament. Mr. Babbitt walks by carrying a full tray of food, but suddenly his feet cut out from under him and he falls to the floor, splattering carrots and mystery meat everywhere. While Babbitt collects his mess, Harden appears at the opposite end of the cafeteria. Reed spots him and as he stares, Harden's face blurs from side to side. As Harden's face blurs, Mr. Babbitt lets out a cry. Looking down, Babbitt sees that his hands are lined with knife cuts and he's spurting blood. The wounded teacher looks up, palms outstretched, and that's when he sees Harden. Harden's face blurs again and suddenly a nearby cafeteria table rockets across the floor and strikes Babbitt in the abdomen. Doubled-over, the teacher is pinned on the table as it speeds toward a concrete wall. Showing remarkable acceleration for an economy table, the angry piece of furniture slams Babbitt into the wall and crushes every internal organ you can think of. Remarkably, Babbitt doesn't die on impact. As Babbitt lifts his eyes in agony, Harden blurs again and sends a plastic chair hurtling at his teacher's sorry-looking head. Despite signs of resilience, Babbitt does not prove to be the next Rasputin. The chair puts the final punctuation on his life.
A freaky cafeteria murder brings Mulder and Scully to the scene posthaste. While gazing upon Babbitt's splatter pattern (which is quite artistic from a forensic standpoint), Mulder tells Scully that he suspects Harden killed Babbitt. He's heard about the F Babbitt gave Harden earlier that day and this, in his mind at least, proves motive. Mulder theorizes that the chemical changes Harden is experiencing as part of adolescence has given him super puberty, allowing him to move things psychokenetically. Mulder never actually uses the term "super puberty" but the suggestion of such a concept brings a smirk to Scully's Betty-like face. Seeing his partner's skepticism rising to the surface, Mulder says he'll prove his theory once he gets Harden in for questioning.
Too bad Harden is in the hospital. Soon after pelting Babbitt with cafeteria furniture, Harden collapsed in the school parking lot and was rushed to the emergency room.
While Mulder and Scully travel to the hospital, Raines meets up with Reed in the school hallway and she warns him to stay away from Harden. Raines rushes off, but Reed follows her on the sly. Raines drives to the wooded area seen in the opening segment. Light streams through the tree canopy, making the setting considerably less creepy than when we first saw it. Reed watches Raines enter an opening in a series of large rocks. Being a stupid kid, he follows. Inside the opening he finds a large, hollowed-out room with a sandy floor. A strong beam of light shines down from above and fills an area marked off with symmetrically placed stones. The whole place strongly resembles the second cave scene from "Fight the Future." Stevie? Can you hear me Stevie?
Allusions to the movie aside, Reed moves toward the center of the cave and sticks his foot into the magic area. His body shakes uncontrollably. Enjoying this sensation, Reed plants both feet in the shake zone. His head shakes violently and his body twitches with the speed of a hummingbird's wings.
Reed's homeopathic shaking therapy continues in the forest as Mulder and Scully pay an unfriendly visit to Harden in the hospital. Harden's father, the sheriff, is standing by his bedside, shooting authoritarian vibes into his son. Unfortunately for all involved, Harden is conscious. Mulder gets right to the point and says Harden is responsible for the deaths of Babbitt and Deputy Foster. The sheriff is aghast as such a suggestion, but Mulder continues, saying Harden has tapped into a superhuman ability. This power is derived from an external source, a source that produces the ultimate rush (hence the title of the show, pretty clever, eh?). But now that rush is wearing off and that's why Harden is in the hospital. Sheriff Harden shoots a steely glare at his son and says: "Boy, you best not be lyin'. I'm gonna whoop your hide to Kingdom Come if any of this is true. I'm just glad yer dear departed Mamma ain't here to see this."*
All this hillbilly talk doesn't sit well with Mulder so he asks to speak with the Sheriff in the hallway. Once there, he and Scully request permission to search the Harden residence for evidence. The Sheriff flatly denies this request, saying he doesn't believe his boy is a murderer.
Sheriff, you're a sad, blind man.
Since Mulder and Scully can't search the Harden house, they focus their efforts on Harden's body. Looking at X-rays, Scully finds exceptional abnormalities in Harden's muscles. His bones are fractured, arthritis is creeping through his joints and his tissue is torn. Scully says this is the kind of damage you'd find in someone who played pro football for 15 years. Encouraged by these results, Mulder digs through Harden's clothes and finds a sneaker. Looking at the bottom, he sees that the soles have been melted by friction. The residue clinging to the shoes is the same synthetic polymer found at the crime scenes. Suddenly, Mulder understands. Harden hasn't been moving things with his mind, he's been moving them with his body, but his body is capable of zipping around faster than the eye can see. He's the living embodiment of The Flash!
Before Mulder and Scully can discuss ways to exploit Harden's speed for profit, a nurse enters the X-ray room. Harden has disappeared from his hospital bed.
And where is the sneaky bandit? Out in the woods with Raines. Using her own zippy skills, Raines snuck Harden from the hospital and brought him to the "Hundred Aker Wood" so he could test his speed against Tigger and Roo. Wait, I'm getting confused. Raines brought Harden to the secret woods so he could replenish his speed in the sacred cave. While out there, she pleads with Harden to stop his reign of terror but he ignores her request and runs off to get his next fix. Suddenly, Tony Reed appears nearby. His experience in the cave has left him weak, but he's slowly gaining his strength. Raines spots him and knows he's entered the speedy circle. In a gag-worthy moment, Reed says he followed Raines because he was worried about her. The ground shakes, trees are replaced by the waters of the North Atlantic, and Raines and Reed land aboard the deck of the Titanic. Blech.*
Thankfully a new scene quickly replaces this moment. Sheriff Harden enters his home and rushes upstairs to his son's room to conduct an impromptu investigation. Rooting around in his boy's underwear drawer, he finds the missing, bloodstained flashlight. With evidence in hand, the sheriff moves downstairs, but before he reaches the first floor he hears a noise. Cautiously moving into the living room, he glances around. Suddenly, Max Harden appears. What ensues is the classic "father confronts son and son smacks father with flashlight" scenario. Harden raises the flashlight, preparing to bring it down with superhuman force on his father's head, but before he can swing, the front door bursts open. Instantly, Tony Reed appears, holding a gun to Harden's head and saving the day.
Shortly after, Scully walks beside Sheriff Harden's gurney as he's wheeled down a hospital hallway. Mulder rushes up to her, holding the killer flashlight in an evidence bag. Both agents find it odd that Harden left the flashlight behind. This suggests that someone with similar speedy powers intervened and saved Sheriff Harden's life. The logical choice would be Tony Reed and the logical place where they might find him, and Max Harden, would be the woods where the deputy was killed (how they reach this conclusion is anyone's guess).
I'm not sure if this next part is a continuity error or a mistake on my part. When we last saw Tony Reed he was holding a gun to Max Harden's head, but later that night he's sitting in the passenger seat of Chastity Raines' car as Raines drives back to the cave. Raines says Harden is slowing down, which allowed Reed to save the sheriff. But here's the question, how did Max Harden escape? Did he run off?
Anyway, Reed and Raines reach the edge of the forest and rush toward the cave. It's imperative they reach the cave before Harden, less he inflict his speedy wrath on them. Raines is the first to enter the cave. Reed follows seconds later, but when he enters he finds Raines unconscious. He rushes to her, but as he does, something blurs past him. Harden appears across the room and welcomes Reed to Smackdown 2000. Without warning, Harden does his twitchy-blur thing and sends Reed hurtling across the cave. Reed reaches for the gun stuck into his pants, but the gun instantly appears in Harden's hand. He tosses it aside, choosing to kill Reed with his body rather than a pistol. "All I ever wanted was for you to be my friend, Tony," Harden says. "You stuck a knife in my back, and now I'm going to mess you up."
Hold on there speed boy! Just as Harden is about to lunge, Chastity Raines grabs the nearby gun and shoots a bullet into her boyfriend's chest. In a scene drawing heavily from "The Matrix," time stops as the bullet rips through Harden's torso. The bullet slowly carries through the air, giving Raines time to walk over to Reed and say she's sorry. Reed's hands are up defensively (he does a lot of that in this episode) and all of this is happening in rapid time, so he doesn't hear her. Raines stands in front of the oncoming bullet and closes her eyes. Time returns to its normal speed as the gunshot rings through the cave. Both Harden and Raines fall to the ground -- each the victim of the same bullet.
Outside, Mulder and Scully hear the report and rush toward the cave. When they arrive, they find Reed cradling Raines' lifeless form. Harden lies dead nearby.
Sometime later, Scully and Mulder stand outside Tony Reed's hospital room. Inside the room, Reed's mother sits by his bedside as her son recovers from his ordeal. Mulder tells Scully that a team of researchers from the US Geological Survey didn't find any conclusive evidence at the speedy cave. Mulder was expecting a vortex or sacred relics that could have caused a physiological change, but nothing popped up. Scully points out that they both entered the cave and neither has experienced side effects. Mulder's suggestion that they might be too old to experience the effects elicits a sad look from Scully (who doesn't want to lose her Bettyness). Unfortunately, further investigation won't happen because the cave was sealed up with concrete for "precautionary reasons."
Mulder's gaze shifts toward Reed and he asks Scully about the teen's prognosis. Apart from some bruises and abrasions, he's fine and is expected to resume his life as a tormented adolescent. With that, the agents walk off. The focus turns to Reed as he stares at a clock opposite his bed. Just before the minute hand reaches 3 p.m., it drops backward then quickly corrects itself.
And that's it. A tale of fathers and sons. A tale of star-crossed lovers. A tale of really fast teenagers who do bad things with their superhuman powers.
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.