by foxestacado

Recap by Namarie

Okay, first of all, I’m extremely excited to be recapping this episode of The X-Files, since it is one of my favorites. Second of all, I want to let you all know that I was wounded in the line of duty for this recap. On the way home from work the other day, I was thinking about how I would do this recap as I walked, and I missed the edge of the curb and tripped into the (thankfully empty) street. This probably also has something to do with me being severely sleep-deprived, but anyway.

We open with a young couple who are returning from a hiking trip. As soon as they get inside the cabin, the wife begins complaining about mosquito bites, and blisters from her new boots. She tells her husband that he was hiking too fast for her, and “for future reference, me running through the woods after you for an entire day is not my idea of a good time.” Then abruptly she rubs her temples, clearly having a headache. Her husband, I am pleased to say, does not start talking about how much of a spoilsport or whiner she is, but simply apologizes and says she can hit him on the head with a rock if she wants, to make her headache feel better. She smiles, and says she’s going to take a shower. Uh oh. Showers on this show hardly ever end well.

As the wife is taking her shower, in fact, Mark Snow’s quiet Strings of Impending Doom begin to play. Suddenly we see from her perspective that the shower walls are covered in yellow goo. Just as suddenly, everything is back to normal. The wife looks understandably freaked out. Then abruptly the music crescendos and we flash to her underground, covered in that same yellow goo, screaming, and after it goes back to normal she looks even more freaked out.

Next scene. The wife is in her bathrobe, sitting on the edge of the bed. She still has the headache and is rubbing her temples. Her husband asks if she’s still mad at him, which she denies. They lie down facing each other, touching each other on the side, as the husband promises that they’ll never go hiking again – it’s “indoors forever from now on.” Then he asks what’s wrong, and his wife tells him to just hold her. It’s very sweet. (Actually, they’re in almost the exact position Mulder & Scully are in at the end of “The Truth,” which probably has no deeper significance.) Slowly, the scene changes to two skeletons lying in a field, in that exact same position. Um, much less sweet. Credits.

FBI headquarters, basement office. The image of the two embracing skeletons is on the slideshow that Mulder is showing Scully, on a map of South Carolina. Mulder moves the projector so it’s now projecting onto the blank wall, and fills Scully in that these two skeletons belong to Angela and Wallace Schiff, a young married couple that were last scene hiking in the vicinity of Brown Mountain, North Carolina (so what was up with the map being of South Carolina? Did I miss some joke here?). The catch is, Mulder informs us, that they were found in this condition after only being missing three days, in temperatures that never got over 70 degrees.

Scully exposits that this rules out decomposition, and then also rules out predation, based on the fact that the skeletons are still intact. “Not to mention that these skeletons are not wearing any clothes,” Mulder points out, surprisingly without any accompanying eyebrow-waggling.

Scully acknowledges that input and then gives her opinion (remember this, because it will be Important Later!!): “Well, I’d say it looks like a double murder, possibly one with ritualistic overtones. The bodies may have been stripped, then skeletonized, possibly by boiling or by the use of some kind of acid solution. Maybe the arrangement of the bodies has some meaning for the killer or killers. But at any rate, I’d term it ritualistic.”

Raining on Scully’s plausible-sounding-explanation parade, Mulder points out that there were no tire tracks, footprints, or any other signs that such a huge operation would have likely left. Scully then asks what Mulder’s theory is. You think she would’ve learned by now.

Mulder is surprised (you’d think he’d have learned by now) that the location – Brown Mountain – doesn’t ring any bells for Scully. He goes on to tell her the story of the Brown Mountain lights, an atmospheric phenomenon that dates back almost 700 years, where strange multicolored lights are seen to dance above the peak of the mountain. There has not, of course, been any geologic or scientific explanation for the phenomenon. Scully wants to know what the connection is to their case. Mulder says that even if there hasn’t been a scientific explanation for the lights, “there are those of us who believe these strange multicolored lights are really…”

“UFOs,” Scully finishes for him. He smiles wryly and nods. Scully snarks that these extraterrestrial visitors apparently have nothing better to do than buzz the same mountain over and over for 700 years. At this, Mulder bites his lip and replies sadly, “Sounds like crap when you say it.” Hee!

Then he continues that he’s just wondering if there’s a connection here, and points out that the condition of these two bodies are reminiscent of certain southwestern cattle mutilations, which have long been associated with UFO activity. Scully just shakes her head and asks him if, for once, for the novelty of it, he can just Occam’s Razor it and go for the simplest, most logical explanation “instead of automatically jumping to UFOs or Bigfoot”.

Mulder is annoyed, and answers that in the six years they’ve worked together, he hasn’t actually been wrong that often, and that he’s getting tired of their cases always starting with this perfunctory dance where Scully tells him he’s not scientifically rigorous and is crazy, and then he ends up being right, “98 point nine percent of the time.” Then he pauses, and says he feels he’s earned the benefit of the doubt here. Scully has no response (though her hair looks fabulous, I must add).

Oooh, story by Frank Spotnitz. That’s good – the fact that he wrote this one gives me a little more hope for the new movie’s story!

Boone County Morgue, Asheville, NC. The coroner has pulled out both skeletons for our agents, and OH MY GOSH, Mulder looks fantastic in his dark blue fleece pullover. Ahem. Sorry. The coroner says they were about to send the bodies on to the state medical examiner, and Mulder tells him he and Scully appreciate getting a chance to look at them. Scully is all business and pulls on her gloves as she starts her examination, informing Mulder that the connective tissue is still intact. The coroner – I’m going to call him Fred, because I’m tired of typing “the coroner” already – remarks that that’s pretty much the only thing intact, and admits to being completely stymied by his findings.

Scully asks Fred’s pardon but is he sure that these are the right two bodies, and not the bodies of some couple who were missing for six months? Fred doesn’t look too offended, and tells the two that after triple-checking the dental records, it’s definitely Angela and Wallace Schiff lying on the tables there. Mulder looks at the photos and takes the file from Scully, asking Fred for the exact location where the bodies were found. Fred confirms that it was near Brown Mountain and offers to write Mulder some directions. Meanwhile, Scully is examining one of the skeletons (I don’t know whether it’s Angela or Wallace, since I’m not a forensic pathologist like Scully), and she notices some yellow goo. Dun dun DUN! She smears some onto the fingers of her glove and asks Fred if he knows what it is. Both he and Mulder come over to look at it. Fred dismisses it by saying the remains were found in a swampy area, so it’s just organic “bog sludge.”

Scully looks dissatisfied, perhaps thinking back to the last time she and Mulder dealt with yellow goo in a way that made Mulder betray his cool exterior, and Mulder says he wants to go check out where the bodies were found. He sets down the dental records file and asks Scully if she’s coming. She tells him to go ahead, at which he looks slightly disappointed but leaves nonetheless. I really, REALLY like how he looks in that blue pullover.

Mulder drives up to the scene where the bodies were found, the tire of his car crushing some mushrooms which release a puff of spores into the air. When I first watched this, I was like, “Hmm, I wonder if that could be significant, since the camera made sure to focus on the mushrooms right there.” But then later on I almost convinced myself that I had guessed wrong. I hate it when I do that to myself. Mulder gets out of the car into the cloud of spores and looks around. The field is in a very pleasant, sparsely-forested area, with rocks and boulders and stuff around. Mulder walks over to the exact spot where the bodies were (you can tell because there’s no grass there, just dirt), and bends down to touch some more of the yellow goo that’s on the ground. Eeww! You don’t have gloves! What is it with you and touching nasty goo without gloves, Mulder?? He smells it and grimaces, then stands up again, just in time to see Wallace Schiff walking around near some boulders!

Wallace looks over and sees Mulder, who calls out his name questioningly. At this, Wallace starts running, and Mulder quickly gives chase, as the music builds. Mulder runs after Wallace into a more rocky part of the terrain, and sees him crawl into a small hole under a rock. At this point, I am forcibly reminded of that scene in The Silver Chair where the giants are chasing Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum to try to catch them and make pies out of them, but the three adventurers escape in a very similar manner to Wallace just now. Mulder runs up to the tiny cave entrance and turns on his flashlight, calling out Wallace’s name again. He’s so pretty (Mulder, that is, though Wallace is not bad-looking, either).

Back at the morgue, Scully is looking at a drop of the yellow stuff under a microscope. Fred comes in with the results of Scully’s gas spectrometer, and shock of shocks, the bog sludge isn’t bog sludge at all! Scully reads off the list of components and recognizes that they are all digestive secretions. Fred agrees that it amounts pretty much to “stomach juices.” Ah, Fred, you and your quaint, folksy ways of saying things. “Bog sludge” and “stomach juices,” indeed. Then he ruins his folksy image by pointing out the one disparity in the results: chitinase. Scully doesn’t seem to know what that is, so Fred exposits that it’s also a digestives secretion, but one found only in plants.

We cut back to Mulder, who has entered the cave. It seems amazingly huge inside, and is lit with an eerie blue light. Mulder is soon able to stand up, and walks forward, calling out, “Hello?” after a few steps. It echoes quite a bit. Mulder shines his flashlight around and looks a bit spooked. (Hee, you see what I did there?)

Back at the morgue once more, Fred is showing Scully files of two similar cases. They were also found as skeletal remains, but since these were hikers that had been missing for months, Fred explains, they thought nothing of that. Scully notices that the bodies were found near Brown Mountain, not too far from Wallace and Angela Schiff, and immediately whips out her phone to call Mulder. When he doesn’t answer, her concern grows. She tells Fred to forward a sample of the goo to the FBI lab at Quantico where they can do a full analysis, and then asks to borrow his truck.

Creepy Cave of Creepiness. Mulder is still exploring. We see that one of the cave walls is dripping with nasty yellow goo, but Mulder can’t see this from his vantage point. Just then, Wallace comes out of the shadows and begs Mulder not to “take [him].” Mulder orders Wallace to come out into the light of his flashlight, but assures Wallace that he won’t hurt him. Wallace asks uncertainly, “You’re not one of them?”

Mulder asks what “them” Wallace is referring to, then confirms that he is, in fact, speaking to Wallace Schiff. Then he tells the still-frightened man that he’s supposed to be dead, and that his skeleton was discovered nearby. Wallace grimaces and says that it’s a fake, that “they” put it there. Mulder again asks who “they” are, and Wallace says ominously, “You know who.”

“The Brown Mountain lights,” Mulder guesses, and Wallace nods, looking sick. He tells Mulder that he and his wife were abducted and taken onboard their ship, but he can’t finish the sentence before he puts a hand to his head, as if it’s aching.

Mulder tells Wallace that they found Angela’s skeleton, too, but Wallace, nearly hysterical, replies, “No. Don’t you get it? They-they faked our deaths! They have that kind of technology. Who the hell would look for us if they thought they’d already found our bodies? You see?!” Then he continues anguishedly that Angela is still on the ship, and that they’re doing experiments on her, and he doesn’t know what to do. Mulder, looking very sympathetic, has no answer.

The notes of the theme ring out as Scully drives up next to Mulder’s Suburban in her borrowed truck. The camera lingers on the DODGE logo for a good five seconds as she gets out – product placement much? Scully walks closer to the rocky area, calling out for Mulder and looking worried (awww). Then she sees a man’s bootprints in the mud, and follows the trail, stepping on more mushrooms and releasing more spores as she does so. (You know, the equivalent French expression for “Step on it!”, meaning “Go faster!”, literally translates to “Press on the mushroom!” Fun fact.) Scully notices the mushrooms briefly before continuing on.

We’re back to Wallace and Mulder in the Creepy Cave (that should so be an album title, or something). Mulder says they need to find a way out of the cave first of all, and Wallace, confused, points to the exit right behind Mulder. Mulder turns around and sure enough, there’s an opening there. He begins to wonder what the hell is going on, since that was “solid rock a minute ago”. At this, Wallace begins freaking out again, saying that “they” must be messing with his and Mulder’s head, and how can they know if anything is real?? Mulder just walks over to the exit and tells Wallace to press on the mushroom already, but Wallace just yells that they’re out there. Cue eerie mechanical whooshing and vibrating noises, and a bright light pouring in through the opening. Wallace runs away in fear, but Mulder stays where he is for a few seconds before running after him.

Then we see that the light is actually coming from Scully’s flashlight, as she peers into the cave from the same entrance that both Mulder and Schiff went in. Scully calls out for Mulder again, but seems reluctant to go in the cave, despite the bootprints leading right to it. She always is a bit less impetuous than Mulder, isn’t she? After calling Mulder’s name one more time and looking around, Scully walks away.

Meanwhile, back with Mulder and Wallace, the eerie vibrating and bright light is still resonating throughout the cave, and Mulder hides behind a stalactite and stalagmite that have grown together into a column (see, I still remember some of my elementary-school geology!). He watches avidly as Wallace implores him not to let them see him. Suddenly, the light and sound are gone. Mulder turns his flashlight back on and Wallace turns on a little camping lantern thingy, and they have a brief conversation about how it’s odd that the aliens didn’t find them. Mulder surmises that they must have been after something else, and heads in the direction where the light was coming from. Reluctantly, Wallace follows. They enter another large chamber, and Wallace cries out “Oh, my God” as they both see Angela lying on the ground. Wallace cradles her head in his arms as he and Mulder crouch next to her, and Wallace rejoices that they brought her back. Mulder looks on pensively.

As Wallace fills his cup with water from the wall of the cave, Mulder is asking Angie if she remembers anything about what just happened to her. Suddenly we see that Wallace is actually filling his cup with the nasty yellow goo. EEEEeeww. Don’t drink that, Wallace! Meanwhile, Angie is saying that her memories are all fuzzy, and Mulder prompts her that she was with Wallace. Finally, Angie starts her story, with Mulder’s occasional help: blah blah strange lights dancing over Brown Mountain, blah blah white place, lying on a table blah blah featureless men doing experiments – we’ve heard it all before. Mulder moves Angie’s hair aside and looks at the back of her neck: sure enough, there’s a scar there. This is when one might begin to wonder at how perfect this whole setup is. I don’t think I did yet – but one might. Heh.

Mulder explains the scar to the distraught Angie and her husband as an implant – he’s seen this kind of thing before. Boy, has he. Poor Scully. Mulder does admit that this abduction experience is textbook, down to the last letter, except for the skeletons, which still confuse him. Then Wallace puts in that the skeletons might be something like the “cattle mutilations you hear about.” Mulder says he had that thought, but it’s without precedent in the literature. Well, Mulder, obviously these are revolutionary NEW abduction techniques, did you ever think of that? Huh?! What if the aliens have just gotten bored of the same old story, over and over, for 700 years?

Wallace reiterates his explanation that the aliens must not have wanted anyone to find them, and that they didn’t want Mulder “to know the truth.” Somehow the odd pointedness of that statement seems to pass Mulder by, and he says they should just get out of the cave. But both Angie and Wallace think that’s a bad idea, that they’ll get taken again. Mulder insists, but Angie says she can feel that they’re coming again. The noise and light returns, and Angie runs off screaming. Wallace tells Mulder to hide, or they’ll take him, too, but Mulder says, “No! I don’t get abducted until ‘Requiem,’ you moron!” Okay, he doesn’t say that last part, but he does walk defiantly into the beam of light, and out of the cave, Wallace’s “Nooooo!” following him. My sister and I totally thought Mulder had been abducted right then, since we’d heard that he got abducted at some point but didn’t know when. But we were all, “Hey, wait, I thought this wasn’t a mytharc ep!”

We transition directly (and niftily) to the “42″ on Mulder’s apartment door. Scully knocks, and Mulder opens the door, looking outside to see if anyone else is there. Scully is understandably somewhat upset that Mulder left North Carolina without telling her and then just called her from DC, but Mulder just says it’s a long story and holds the door open for her to come inside. GA is so short that she can walk right under DD’s arm. Hee. I love them.

Mulder introduces Scully to Angela and Wallace Schiff, who are sitting on the sofa. Scully recognizes them immediately, and Mulder tells her that she was “meant” to identify their remains. Angela gets off on the wrong foot with Scully by starting out with telling her that the skeletons were decoys planted by the aliens. Scully reacts just about as well to this news as you would expect, shooting a look at Mulder as they both move to sit down.

Mulder begins to talk to Scully in a very quiet, sort of reverent sounding voice, telling her to put aside her scientific bias for some news that is going to change the lives “of everybody on this planet.” He tells her about the Schiffs’ abduction, and that he’s found “the truth”. Angela then jumps in with an abbreviated version of her abduction tale, and when she gets to the part about the implant in her neck, Scully takes a deep breath.

“Just like what happened to you,” Mulder exposits unnecessarily, but Scully protests that from what she knows, this is nothing like what happened to her. Unperturbed, Mulder simply tells her that there’s more, still with that same quiet excitement/reverence, and stands up. He leads her to his bedroom – but not for that, come on, people! – and closes the door behind them, because, he says, “it doesn’t like the light.”

Scully asks who doesn’t like the light, but since nobody ever tells Scully anything important directly, Mulder just guides her forward by the arm. Scully’s jaw drops open (farther than usual, I should say): it’s a gray!

Adorably, Mulder grins and tells her, “I abducted him!” Then, still smiling, he tells her that they’ve been speaking telepathically, and that he told him everything – whatever that means. Still looking stunned, Scully gasps, “I – I can hear him!”

The theme plays again, slowly, as Scully tries to grasp what is happening. The two of them leave the bedroom (no, I told you already!), and Scully tells Mulder that she doesn’t know where to start, that he was right all along. Mulder is pleased, but thankfully not overly smug. Scully continues with a list of all the things Mulder has been right about involving aliens, but then Mulder himself brings up the skeletons. Scully dismisses them as decoys, but Mulder presses on, wondering about the organic goo that she was so interested in before. Scully dismisses the goo, saying it was just bog sludge, at which point Mulder puts his hand to his forehead.

“That, uh… doesn’t sound like you, Scully,” Mulder says, clearly in physical pain. “I can’t believe you’re buying that!” Scully just watches him with concern and repeats that she’s admitting that she was wrong. Then she asks him if he’s all right.

In another kind of scene that never ends well on this show, Mulder goes into the kitchen to splash cold water on his (pretty, pretty) face. He looks up and sees that the water from the faucet has turned into thick yellow goo. The noise it makes as it comes out of the faucet is incredibly revolting. Mulder is shocked. It turns back into water, and Mulder rubs his face, clearly wondering what the heck is going on.

Going back into the living room, Mulder repeats to Scully that none of this makes sense – the Schiffs being there, their stories, the skeletons. Then another wave of pain hits him, and he sees the entire room engulfed in a wash of yellow. Scully asks him why he can’t believe it if even she can, but Mulder isn’t listening. He’s too busy looking at the Schiffs, as they dissolve away into yellow goo, and the room around him gets all… bendy (big points to whoever gets that reference!). We pan back around to Scully, and Mulder stares at her in horror as she too dissolves away into bubbly yellow goo. Then it fades to black, and we are once more underground. Mulder is covered in tendrils of some kind and that same goo. His eyes are open, but he is obviously not seeing. There’s also more of those delightful squelchy, goo-type noises. Eewwwwww.

The next scene is Scully and Fred heading up the hill to the cave. Scully tells Fred that she went inside the cave and that it was empty (but we never saw her go into the cave! Could that be… a clue?), and that Mulder seems to have just vanished. Fred says helpfully that they’re bound to find him. Then Scully sees more goo on the ground, in a bootprint, and shows it to Fred. She says that it looks like the digestive material is coming out of the ground here. Then they both look around a bit more, and Fred discovers tracks leading in and out of the cave.

Scully is confused, and states that the tracks only led in before, to which Fred replies that she must have missed him. “How? I mean, this, this cave’s not much more than a hole in the rock,” Scully answers.

Fred calls her over from where she’s crouching next to the cave. He’s looking down at another skeleton sprawled on the ground in front of him. The music builds dramatically as Scully stares in shock and fear.

Back at the morgue. The new skeleton is on a table, and we zoom in on the head. What, does Spotnitz expect us to be able to recognize Mulder’s head when it’s just a skeleton (SPOILER!)? Scully is looking at the skeleton, too, distressed. She might actually be able to recognize Mulder from his skeleton, since she’s his doctor. Fred comes in holding an envelope, which he says the courier just dropped off – Mulder’s charts. Scully quickly takes the envelope and puts the enclosed x-rays on the lighted screen thingy. She compares the teeth to the ones from the x-ray from the skeleton. It’s a match.

Scully’s face crumples, and Fred apologizes quietly. She walks over to the skeleton again, swallows, and tries not to cry as she asks Fred if he thinks that the digestive secretion they keep finding could have done this to him. Fred seems confused, so she continues, still trying not to break down, “Well, it’s… it’s chemically similar to gastric juices, right? I mean, maybe he fell in it or… may… maybe it’s a product of a… of a particular vegetation that grows in the area.”

Fred concedes that this sounds plausible, except that there’s no goo on Mulder’s bones. Scully quickly verifies this by rubbing a cloth on one of the bones – nothing comes off. Confusedly, she mutters, “It was on the Schiffs,” and turns to Fred for reassurance.

Gently, Fred tells her that he thinks they should be looking for “the simplest explanation. The most logical.” Scully asks what that would be, and he replies, “I’d say we’re looking at a murder– one with ritualistic overtones. I think his body was stripped and then skeletonized. Possibly by boiling or use of an acid solution.” Remember that from earlier? Remember?

Scully also seems to remember, perhaps. Then Fred promises that they will send the remains on to DC, at which Scully looks even less happy, if that’s possible. Poor Scully. How many times has she thought Mulder was dead at this point in the series? How many more times are left?

We cut to Skinner reading the report of Mulder’s death, which contains such phrases as “cannot be fully explained” and “lack of any real physical evidence.” Skinner closes the report and tells Scully that he appreciates the thoroughness of her report, especially given the circumstances, and that she should take some time off.

Scully is incredulous that Skinner would be satisfied with the conclusions in the case, because she wasn’t able to reach any real ones. Skinner looks confused at her confusion. “You concluded that he was a victim of a ritual killing,” he states.

Scully gets even more bewildered, and her composure begins to slip. They argue (but not heatedly) about the fact that Scully thinks the ritual killing theory is the least plausible, while Skinner thinks it makes perfect sense and is a perfect fulfillment of Scully’s usual rational perspectives on X-Files. Scully asks Skinner if her scientific, rational approach has really helped to explain many X-Files, at which Skinner tries to comfort her that her reports always help make sense of Mulder’s views. In this case, though, Scully firmly states that her report wasn’t of use. Skinner asks if she really thinks this was something other than a murder. Almost crying, Scully answers, “That’s what Agent Mulder would have thought.”

Skinner tells her that while it’s tempting to attribute Mulder’s death to something paranormal, given his life work, that’s not the case. She wipes away some tears as Skinner promises her that “we’ll get the bastard who did this.”

Outside Mulder’s apartment. Scully gets out of the elevator, wearing black, and walks down the hallway. She takes a deep breath and knocks on number 42. Frohike opens the door and she goes inside, staring around at all the people in suits and somber colors. Other than the Lone Gunmen, there is no one recognizable. Hey, come on, Scully would be the first person there! As Scully meets the eyes of a few random, sympathetic people, we head into the next room. Oh good, there’s Skinner. That makes sense at least.

Skinner comes up to her and quietly tells her he’s sorry. Scully doesn’t respond, but looks through a door at the room with the coffin in it. None of the people next to it are any Mulder relatives known to us (not that there are that many left at this point). Byers comes up behind Scully and asks her how she’s holding up. She tells him that she still can’t believe it, and Langley agrees – he still almost expects Mulder to show up any minute. He’s wearing a tuxedo T-shirt, by the way, which is totally in-character. Hee.

Frohike offers Scully some wine to “dull the pain,” which she refuses. As Frohike downs the wine, Byers pulls her aside and tells her that TLG have launched their own investigation. Scully is relieved – she thought she was the only one who still had suspicions. Then Frohike dashes her hopes by saying they’ll find the SOB who killed Mulder and make him pay. As Scully begins to freak out quietly, Byers tells her that they managed to get ahold of her report and that they were “impressed by the thoroughness of it.” “Especially given the circumstances,” Langley adds.

Scully’s bewilderment grows as Byers starts to spout the same “ritualistic murder, stripped and skeletonized” stuff. Langley agrees that that’s the obvious answer. This is the last straw for Scully, who almost yells, “What the hell is wrong with everybody?” She wonders angrily why she’s the only one who sees the unanswered questions here, and TLG look at each other nervously. Frohike goes to get another drink. She continues accusingly that the Gunmen of all people should not be “buying the party line.” As her voice gets louder, Skinner looks at her in concern from across the room. Then Scully puts her hand to her temple, in sudden pain.

Byers quickly asks if she’s all right. The yellow washes over her field of vision, just like it did for Mulder in the earlier scene. Skinner comes over and tells her she should get some rest. Now Scully’s all paranoid, and demands to know what Skinner has done with Mulder. Skinner tries to calm her down, but Scully’s having none of it. She pushes his hands away and yells, “Look, something else is going on here! Where is he?! Where’s Mulder?!”

As everyone in the apartment looks around at each other anxiously (“What are we supposed to do with the crazy partner of this dead guy most of us don’t even know?” “Don’t ask me, I just came for the hors-d’oeuvres!”), there’s a knock on the door. No one else seems to want to answer it (Frohike is too busy drinking directly out of the bottle, which is hilarious), so Scully goes over and opens it herself. It’s Mulder! He comes inside, and everyone else who was there is suddenly gone.

Scully stares at him in complete shock, and notices the disappearance of the others. Mulder just nods to her and says, “Scully.” Aaaand scene.

Mulder is sitting on the couch, relating the story of what seems to be his abduction (which happened with the Schiffs, I think) from the cave. His voice is even more monotone than it is usually, as he tells the same old abduction story – quite unlike what actually happens to him later, from what we hear before Scully interrupts him with the statement that the Schiffs are dead, so they couldn’t have told him their abduction experiences.

“No, actually, they’re not,” Mulder answers. The way he says it comes off hilariously casual.

Scully insists that it was finding the Schiffs’ remains in the field that brought them to this case in the first place, and she just found Mulder’s remains that same way. Mulder just points out calmly that he’s here.

“How did you get here?” Scully asks.

“Aliens brought me back here.”

“From North Carolina direct to your apartment door?” Scully presses incredulously.

Mulder actually pauses to think about this, and they realize that Mulder doesn’t remember how he got to his apartment. Scully realizes that she doesn’t know how she got here, either.

At first Mulder tries to blow it off, but Scully points out that he knocked, at the door of his own apartment. She goes on that he didn’t seem surprised to see her there (well, actually, Scully, that’s not that surprising), and if the Schiffs actually are alive, where are they? And what happened to the people that were there for Mulder’s wake not five minutes ago?

Mulder doesn’t have an explanation but says that he’s here now, and that it’s real. Scully shakes her head. “Mulder, this is not reality. This is a hallucination. It has to be. And either I am having it, or you are having it or we are having it together.” Awww.

“Brought on by what?” Mulder wonders. Scully thinks about it for a while, and abruptly recalls the mushroom that she stepped on, back in that field in North Carolina. She tells Mulder that many mushroom varieties are known for their hallucinogenic properties, so they must have inhaled the spores. They are not, in fact, even in this apartment right now. They’re still in the field in NC.

Mulder, overwhelmed, says, “Whoa, Scully,” and rubs his face, but Scully says, “Bear with me” – hee! Role reversal! – and explains how it makes sense: Angela and Wallace Schiff were digested by the substance that was all over that field, then expelled out of the ground as skeletons. “What if that substance and this hallucinogen are – are from one and the same organism?” she asks.

“A giant mushroom?” Mulder wonders skeptically.

“A giant fungal organism,” Scully corrects him. Apparently there really are giant fungi that range dozens of acres and weigh hundreds of tons. Eewwwwww. I am NOT a mushroom fan, so that image is incredibly gross to me. She also mentions the precedent of carnivorous plants like the Venus fly trap and the pitcher plant – maybe this giant fungus is carnivorous, too.

Mulder is following along now, and says that the hallucinogen would be a way for it to lure its prey into the cave. Scully agrees – this would be a way to keep the prey complacent while being digested.

At this point, Mulder’s piercing headache comes back, and we flash to him underground, covered in tendrils and goo again, eyes open wide. Scully starts getting more and more frightened as she continues, “What if we’re still underground, Mulder? What if we’re moving deeper into the cave? Or being moved? Mulder, what if we’re being digested? Right now.” Then she dissolves into yellow goo again in front of Mulder, who is wearing his panic face.

(I’m just going to take a moment and say, what other couple would be hallucinating the same hallucination? Awwww. Even the giant mushroom has figured out that Mulder and Scully love each other enough that they would both need to be in the same hallucination.)

Okay, back to the story. We’re back in North Carolina, and Mulder is Westleying himself out of the muddy ground of the field. He knocks aside a mushroom as he pulls himself out, then reaches back in and pulls Scully out. They lie next to each other, and Scully coughs, like Buttercup when she came out of the lightning sand. Hee. And awww. They are both utterly exhausted.

Back in Skinner’s office, he reads their report and asks for details about the organism. Mulder and Scully report that the exact size can’t be determined, since it’s mostly subterranean, but that they’ve contacted all the necessary government offices and specialists, so their bases are covered. The spores that have been analyzed have a chemical structure similar to LSD, and also contain a narcotic. Skinner remarks on the rareness of both of them signing off on the same report, which seems to make Mulder pause.

Skinner asks him what’s bothering him. “I’m not exactly clear on how we escaped,” he admits, and turns to Scully. “Once you recognized that we were under a chemical influence then it simply kind of… broke its spell?”

Scully looks thoughtful, but nods. Mulder remarks that he doesn’t know of any drug that loses its effect once the user realizes it’s in his system, but both Scully and Skinner don’t seem to find this as confusing. I wonder when Hallucination!Scully ends and Real!Scully begins in this scene. Then Mulder points out that furthermore, after being underground and covered in acid for at least half a day, they should both have chemical burns all over their bodies – but they don’t.

Scully looks at her hands as Skinner asks where Mulder is going with this. Ignoring him, Mulder tells Scully that they never escaped – they’re still trapped underground. Scully smiles condescendingly and tells Mulder he must be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, but Mulder just shakes his head, smiles, and says, “This is not real.” He turns back to Skinner. “You – you’re not real.”

Skinner scoffs, but Mulder gets his trademark Crazy Face, pulls his gun, and fires at Skinner over Scully’s alarmed protest. Skinner doesn’t react at all to being shot, except to narrow his eyes and start leaking yellow goo from the three bullet holes. Scully and Mulder’s eyes widen. Then Scully looks at Mulder as he dissolves into goo, and Skinner’s office behind him.

We cut back to underground. Our agents are both covered in the nasty goo and the tendrils. They both are moving their mouths, but not able to move much else. Except somehow Mulder manages to get his hand partially up through the dirt, and the camera pans up from his hand to reveal a team of searchers all around the field. Skinner and several other people rush over to them and begin digging. The rescuers are all wearing gas masks, which is a darn good idea. They pull Mulder out, all covered with dirt and with red burns on his face, and then Scully, who is in the same condition. Skinner helps to load them onto stretchers.

Barely conscious, Scully mutters weakly, “Mushroom,” and Skinner assures her that they found it – presumably because of the sample Scully had forwarded to Quantico. Then he tells her to take it easy, and the two are lifted on their stretchers into the back of a waiting ambulance (Skinner helps lift Scully’s stretcher). As the doors close on our heroes, Mulder wordlessly reaches out a hand to Scully, and without even needing to look, Scully reaches out her hand. Their muddy, burned hands meet, and Scully turns to look at Mulder. Nothing needs to be said between them, and it is beautiful. They do not stop holding hands as we fade to black.

I’m really surprised – but mostly pleased – that CC & Co. didn’t go with the sci-fi cliché of ending the episode with some little thing to make the viewer think that it might still be a hallucination. Now of course I know that many fans have decided that all of seasons 7-9 are or should be “Field Trip”-induced hallucinations, but to each their own. Me, I’m just content to rewatch the ending scene of this episode, over and over.

Recap by Namarie