Season 3, Episodes 1 and 2, “The Blessing Way”/”Paper Clip”
Original Airdates: September 22 and September 29, 1995
There is an ancient Indian saying that characters only die as long as the summer hiatus. My people have come to trust season premieres over season finales. So even when the season begins and Mulder is still dead and the Cigarette-Smoking Man is beating up Albert Hosteen and some black helicopter types are stealing the newly-translated files from Scully, surely there is no way this is the end of the world. It can’t be. It’s the beginning of a new season.
Scully has been given a mandatory leave of absence. Skinner tries to be her friend about it but she word-slaps him with the phrase “perpetuation of a lie,” then goes to her mother’s house and bursts into tears. It’s a relief to see Scully cry, and also this is how we know things are very bad. Mulder is still dead, and then, he is not. The Navajo men find him in the quarry, near dead but not dead dead, and they set about bringing him back to life. They do this by surrounding him with plants and chanting and there is also smoke. Eventually there is so much of all of this that Mulder dreams up some dead men. First he sees Deep Throat, who talks about time and the abyss. Mulder dreams of the aliens in the boxcar, dreams of them dying as hydrogen cyanide canisters fall around them. Then Mulder sees his father, and he opens his eyes to look at him. Mulder asks if Samantha is there but William says no, Samantha is not in the weird dead man shadow dream place. Woohoo?
A drunk and grieving Frohike shows up at Scully’s door with a news clipping about the death of The Thinker. He was shot before Mulder disappeared. Scully takes this to Skinner and explains that if the ballistics data on The Thinker’s case matches the same data on William’s death, it would exonerate Mulder. But Skinner is not interested, not because he’s not interested, but because the Cigarette-Smoking Man is lingering in the next room. Then because Scully cannot go through an entire day without having one small weird success, she sets off a metal detector and deduces that she must have some metal, like, in her. And she does. Embedded just beneath her skin, on the back of her neck. The doctor who pulls it out says maybe it’s shrapnel, but you guys know it definitely isn’t shrapnel. Not unless shrapnel is now also a computer chip.
Scully does not really want to reckon with what this means, but her sister Melissa convinces her to visit a therapist for some good old-fashioned regression hypnosis. While under, Scully remembers men, and sounds, and maybe something else but then she snaps herself out of it, unwilling to go further into her own subconscious. Upon arriving home she sees Skinner leaving her apartment, which yes is exactly what you want when you come home from a weird psychotherapy experience, to see your boss being sneaky. She calls him and he denies it, again not because he wants to but because the Cigarette-Smoking Man is sitting right in front of him. At William’s funeral, Scully is approached by a man. What man? The Well-Manicured Man! The Well-Manicured Man has all sorts of things to say, like about how he’s sure that Mulder is dead and also how he’s sure Scully is next. He claims to be part of a “consortium,” and he tells her that his colleagues will kill her either by sending two men or by sending someone she knows and trusts. No big deal!
Scully needs her sister, and so her sister is going to come over, only too late Scully realizes that a slumber party at her apartment is a bad idea. Before she can fix it, Scully is intercepted by Skinner, who demands that Scully go with him. There is no opportunity to tell Melissa not to do what she does, which is open the door to her sister’s apartment. There are two men in there, one of them is Krycek, the other is someone else. They’re there to kill Scully but it’s dark, and they shoot Melissa instead. Krycek turns over the body, sees that they’ve made a mistake, and the two of them run. Unaware but wary, Scully takes Skinner to Mulder’s apartment and pulls a gun on him. Skinner claims that he’s not there for any dumb murder plot, but instead he’s there because he has the DAT. Then there is a noise at the door then Scully looks then Skinner pulls a gun on her then….
OH MAN TO BE CONTINUED???
Just kidding we’re going to keep going straight on into “Paper Clip” territory. Mulder is at the door, he’s not dead at all! Skinner and Scully and Mulder all point guns around and shout at each other. Skinner shows them he has the DAT but refuses to give it to them, but then Mulder’s like, there are truths out there that aren’t on that dumb tape and Scully’s like yeah! And they leave Skinner behind and he cries and cries and cries because he just wants to be friends. Mulder and Scully meet up with the Lone Gunmen for some important exposition about some men in a photograph that Mulder took from his home. The photo was taken in 1972 and shows William Mulder surrounded by men who we know to be consortium men and who Mulder knows to be question mark question mark question mark. We learn about Operation Paper Clip, in which the government provided safe haven for Nazi war criminals in exchange for the science in their brains. Langly picks one of these scientists out of the photo, a man named Victor Klemper who was best known for his hugely awful experiments on Jews and also for being, conveniently, still alive. Our agents visit Klemper in his convenient greenhouse and badger him until Klemper reveals that the photo was taken at a mining company in West Virginia.
They go there, and it is a large place, full of files. The files are for people, and the files have tissue samples in them. There is a file for Scully, with a recent tissue sample attached. There is also a file for Samantha, but the file has two labels, one covering another. Mulder pulls up the top label and finds his name underneath. And then all of the lights go out, and our agents are separated. Small, alien-like creatures run by Scully, except it is dark, so who knows, denial is possible. Mulder meanwhile goes outside, sees a large craft overhead. Then there are men, normal men, shooting at Mulder and Scully and so Mulder and Scully run.
Elsewhere, the Cigarette-Smoking Man is starting to have the worst day ever. The men in the consortium, led by the Well-Manicured Man, are perturbed that Melissa was shot. The Well-Manicured Man calls out the CSM’s “ineffectual assassins,” snap. They ask the Cigarette-Smoking Man if he definitely has the tape, and he says of course like I said, and they say are you sure, and he says YES GUYS GOD but he doesn’t. At all. Then Klemper calls the consortium and says he just spoke to Mulder, a/k/a the guy the Cigarette-Smoking Man said was DEFINITELY dead, and now. Well now he looks like a big dumb idiot in front of all his friends.
Skinner proposes handing over the tape. Mulder doesn’t like the idea, but Scully talks him into it. Before making the hand-off, Skinner drops by the hospital to offer assurances to Mrs. Scully. On his way out he’s attacked by Krycek, who punches him a lot, like a lot, and takes the tape. You’d think this small success would earn Krycek a medal! But I guess the “ineffectual assassin” thing really stung the Cigarette-Smoking Man, because the next thing Krycek knows he is sitting casually in a car and there’s a bomb, there’s a bomb in the car. Krycek runs and the car explodes and he phones his former employer to inform him that ha-ha, guess what you jerk, you couldn’t kill me, either. And just when the Cigarette-Smoking Man thinks the screws can’t get any tighter, Skinner introduces him to the unbelievably helpful Albert Hosteen. Albert has taken the time to memorize the contents of the DAT, and to repeat them to twenty other men. Should Mulder or Scully find their lives threatened, Skinner will phone up Albert and his buddies. What an awful day for evil.
Mulder and Scully visit Klemper’s greenhouse and find the Well-Manicured Man there, smug and smiling and blithe and positively full of answers. Klemper was trying to create alien-human hybrids using human test subjects, the files were a database of DNA. William objected to the project, and so Samantha was taken as insurance against exposure. Mulder confirms as much with his mother, who tells him that the choice to give up Samantha was one that they were given, and one that William ultimately made. Scully doesn’t care at all for any of this. As she did in the office with the hypnotherapist, she recoils at the truth, accuses the Well-Manicured Man of lying. And I know it’s frustrating, once more, to see Scully revert again, to watch her watch the truth and then reject it. But I want to give her a pass, here. I think she has the talent for and the right to some solid repression. If what the Well-Manicured Man says is true, then Scully is in that database. She is a test subject, her body no longer hers. It is a reality more terrifying than anything Mulder has yet had to face.
Melissa dies. Scully wants to return to work immediately. She tells Mulder she needs something to put her back against, tells him she’s done with the truth and now she wants answers. It’s a small difference, but good. If truth is the DAT, the facts, the things beyond her repression, than they’re pretty much done. Only they’re not. What is the point of creating an alien-human hybrid, what is the point of using human subjects at all? What was at stake when the government bartered its people, and what was gained in the deal? It isn’t enough to know that people have been taken, or what was done with them, those are simply the facts of the case. Now we must know the motives. We must know the why.
Next week: “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”