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Unusual Suspects

Okay, so we're all agreed we've been bombarded by too many repeats, and we're all longing for great mythology episodes that send us hurtling toward the movie, but if we've got to deal with repeats, at least we're treated to great ones like "Unusual Suspects."

For four years we only caught glimpses of Mulder's hacker friends, but their on-screen moments were always classic. With "Unusual Suspects" we finally understand the genesis of the threesome.

It all begins in Baltimore in 1989. A swat team descends on a warehouse where they find a naked FBI agent screaming something about "They're here!" and a trio of geeky-looking guys who aren't too good at hiding from authority figures. We recognize the agent as Mulder and the three guys as the Lone Gunmen, but, as usual, we've got no idea what's going on.

Enter Richard Belzer, who shows up as his alter ego Detective Munch from "Homicide." Munch interrogates Byers and away we go.

Byers relates how it all began the day before where he was diligently working for the FCC at a computer and electronics expo. While handing out buttons to ungrateful geeks, he spots a beautiful blonde woman who is doing her damndest to look mysterious (all mysterious people wear sunglasses in well-lit convention halls). The woman approaches Byers, gives him a glancing-over-the-dark-glasses stare and walks off. Byers is love-struck and pursues. The woman darts behind a corner, Byers follows and smacks directly into her. The woman collects her things, including a picture of a little girl, and turns to walk away, but Byers reaches into his "Heartbreakers Bag of Tricks" and offers his help. During a conversation over coffee the woman launches into some lame story about how her psychotic ex-boyfriend kidnapped their child. The boyfriend is dark, mysterious and seemingly involved with computers -- particularly Arpanet (the grandaddy of the Internet for all you non-techy types). Unwittingly, Byers offers to use his FCC priviledges to hack the mainframe for information about the psycho kidnapper.

Byers searches for information on Suzanne Modeski -- the supposed name of the blonde woman's daughter. The result is a heavily encrypted file, prompting Byers to wonder why the hell a two-year old girl would have a top-secret file in the Department of Defense database. Good point, but before the blonde with the glasses can answer she darts behind a curtain, startled by the unwelcome appearance of the boyfriend. Peering from behind government-issue curtains, Byers sees a dark, mysterious man in an overcoat bearing a remarkable resemblance to Mulder.

Byers turns to Frohike for help, and while trying to do devious things they're cornered by Mulder. Mulder flashes his badge, prompting Byers to wonder how the blonde woman's ex could be an FBI agent. Byers and Frohike decide they need to hack the FBI computer to determine just what's going on. They barge in on an intense game of Dungeons and Dragons in the hopes of enlisting hacker-extraordinaire Langley for help. After getting Frohike to admit that his "kung-fu is the best," Langley breaks out a glorified 286 and promptly hacks into a high-security government computer.

It's there they discover the little girl has absolutely nothing to do with this -- in fact the woman doesn't have a daughter at all. She concocted the whole story to get Byers to hack into the DOD computer and check the files on her, not her daughter. Suzanne appears just as the guys learn the truth and she takes this opportunity to deliver a heartwrenching speech outlining the horrors of hotel bibles, presidential assassinations and chemical testing on innocent American civilians. The three hackers think it's a crock, but the snub-nosed revolver that conveniently falls from Suzanne's purse convinces them to help.

Suzanne's been busy -- busy pissing off the wrong people that is. Suzanne is Dr. Modeski and her experiments have been used for very evil things by the government. When she threatened to go public and spill the goods the conspirators torched her lab and killed a couple of her co-workers, then framed her for murder. So now she's on the run, and the electronic implant in her molar isn't helping her cause -- so she wrenches the bugger out with a convenient pair of pliers. The presence of the tiny tracker convinces the men to pay closer attention to Suzanne's conspiracy theories.

The guys crack the encrypted DOD file Byers downloaded and learn that a shipment of Dr. Modeski's really bad chemicals is set to be distributed to the Baltimore populace. They track the merchandise to a warehouse, where they find crates of asthma inhalers -- inhalers filled with a substance known to cause delusion, hallucination and paranoia. Mulder suddenly appears, glock in hand, but before he can arrest Modeski two men appear from the shadows, pull uzis and send Mulder diving for cover behind the crates. Bullets rip through the inhalers, spraying Mulder with the chemical and within seconds he's squirming on the ground, ripping his clothes off and screaming. The two uzi-toters stand over the agent, but their deed is foiled when Suzanne shoots both cleanly in the back. She strolls out while Byers, Langley and Frohike gather themselves from the floor.

This party isn't over because X walks in and tells his conspriratorial clean-up crew to sanitize the joint. When they come to Mulder -- now completely naked and seeing hallucinogenic aliens -- X says "No one touches this man" (doing wonders for the mythology arc). Byers, who suddenly has a massive pair of cojones, berates X for his actions. In customary X fashion he calmly brings the men to their knees, strolls behind Byers, cocks his gun and releases the hammer. Good thing a bullet wasn't in the chamber because Byers' search for the truth would been a short one. Instead, X tells them to behave themselves, then walks into the murky night, driving off just as the police arrive.

Back in the present (the present of 1989 that is) the three are released from jail after Mulder emerges from his chemical-induced stupor and verifies their story. Free at last, the Gunmen track Suzanne down just as she's hauled off by men in dark sedans. Her parting words "No matter how paranoid you are, you're not paranoid enough" obviously made their mark.

In the closing scene we see Mulder approach the guys at the empty convention hall. He mentions his weird ideas and they treat him to his first lesson in government conspiracy. Ah, you've gotta love a good love story.

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

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