Season Three

3x01 The Blessing Way 09/22/1995

While Mulder is nursed back to health in a Navajo healing ceremony, Scully is suspended from her position with the FBI for insubordination, and inadvertently discovers the microchip that she’s been carrying in the back of her neck. This is where we meet the unnamed members of the Syndicate—the shadowy group of conspirators who really seem to be running things. One of these is the Well-Manicured Man, another former associate of Mulder’s father who seems to put his own interests before those of the organization. He also clearly dislikes the Cigarette-Smoking Man, and it’s great to see CSM squirm as he tries to hide his own incompetence. This is a decent season opener that does a lot to advance the increasingly murky Mythology Arc. It ends with another great cliffhanger: Scully and Skinner stare each other down as they (and we) wait to see who’s outside the door….

3x02 Paper Clip 09/29/1995

The faces in a photograph that belonged to Mulder’s father lead the two agents to Victor Klemper, a Nazi scientist who continued his genetic experiments in America after the war. His information leads them in turn to an abandoned mine in West Virginia, and the discovery of medical records on millions of citizens, including Mulder’s sister, as well as Scully herself. There are some more great images here—including the seemingly endless tunnel lined with filing cabinets, and the spaceship that Mulder sees flying overhead. In the end, however, this episode’s most memorable scenes are the simple ones: Skinner finally telling the Cigarette-Smoking Man that “this is where you pucker up and kiss my ass,” and Scully grieving for the loss of her sister, who dies after being shot (at the end of the previous episode) by Krycek’s partner in a case of mistaken identity.

3x03 D.P.O. 10/06/1995

A series of unexplained deaths that have something to do with electricity bring Mulder and Scully into contact with Darren Peter Oswald, a troubled youth with the ability to control lightning. With the benefit of hindsight, this episode can be seen as a showcase for two young actors—Giovanni Ribisi and Jack Black—who would each go on to successful careers in motion pictures. Ribisi in particular fits his role perfectly. His portrayal of Oswald is downright creepy. (By the way, his infatuation with his boss’s wife is completely understandable: Sharon Kiveat is played by Karen Witter, a 1982 Playboy Playmate.) Ribisi’s presence makes for an enjoyable episode with some effective visuals. Scully has an amusing encounter with a typically closed-minded small-town sheriff, made all the more enjoyable by Mulder’s willingness to stand by and watch it unfold.

3x04 Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose 10/13/1995

Writer Darin Morgan won a well-deserved Emmy for scripting this wonderfully droll episode. It features Peter Boyle (who also won an Emmy for his performance) as an insurance salesman cursed with the ability to foresee the events of anyone’s death, including his own. He gets involved with Mulder and Scully’s current case—the search for the serial killer of some fortune tellers—when he discovers the body of one of the victims in the dumpster behind his apartment. The scene where Mulder encounters The Stupendous Yappi is a real gem, but it’s merely the first of many. There’s also some great dialogue, such as Mulder’s response to Bruckman’s remarks about autoerotic asphyxiation. The only thing preventing this from being remembered as the high point of Season Three is the fact that Morgan’s best work was yet to come.

3x05 The List 10/20/1995

Just before his execution, ‘Neech’ Manley, an inmate on death row, swears to return from the grave and seek vengeance on those who mistreated him. Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate when the promised deaths actually begin to occur. This is a very dark, very claustrophobic episode. It’s set in Florida, but the sense of heat and humidity that should be pervasive is largely absent—no doubt a result of the fact that it was produced in Vancouver. This is also another of those installments of the series in which Mulder and Scully accomplish virtually nothing. It begins with Manley’s promise to get revenge, and it ends with all five of the men on his list dead. In between, there’s a lot of scurrying around, but the agents ultimately have little to show for their efforts.

3x06 2Shy 11/03/1995

Mulder and Scully’s latest case has them tracking Virgil Incanto, a ‘fat-sucking vampire’ who preys on overweight women whom he meets through online chat-rooms. That sounds disgusting, and once again the special effects are up to the task. (Check out the way that what’s left of the first victim’s body spills onto the floor in the morgue.) The script, however, is disappointing. This is really just a rehash of Season One episodes like ‘Squeeze’ and ‘Tooms’, with little that we haven’t seen before. The episode’s one departure from the norm is the climax, which occurs with Mulder off-screen. With her partner distracted by the wrong suspect, Scully finds herself battling—and defeating—Incanto on her own, with a little help from the woman who would have been his next victim.

3x07 The Walk 11/10/1995

A failed suicide attempt by Lieutenant Colonel Victor Stans draws Mulder and Scully into a case involving Gulf War veteran Leonard ‘Rappo’ Trimble, a quadruple amputee who is getting even with the ones he holds responsible for his own fate through astral projection. He does this by killing the members of their families, at the same time preventing the men themselves from taking their own lives. The scene where Captain Draper drowns in the swimming pool is staged quite effectively, with more than a slight nod to similar scenes in both versions of Cat People. Ultimately, Mulder and Scully do little to resolve the case. They don’t even come up with a plausible explanation for Trimble’s abilities. That doesn’t stop ‘The Walk’ from being a successful, and somewhat disturbing, episode.

3x08 Oubliette 11/17/1995

When Carl Wade kidnaps teenager Amy Jacobs, Lucy Householder—who was kidnapped by Wade over two decades earlier—begins to experience Amy’s plight through some sort of ‘empathic transference’. The fact that the script doesn’t even really attempt to explain how or why this could happen in no way diminishes the intensity of this episode. Of particular note is the scene in which Scully questions her partner’s involvement in the case, prompting Mulder’s assertion that not everything he does is connected with his sister’s disappearance. There are some genuinely disturbing sequences in ‘Oubliette’, especially the one where Wade takes photographs of a terrified Amy. The final result is an episode that is quite harrowing, despite—or perhaps because of—its initial low-key appearance.

3x09 Nesei 11/24/1995

A videotape of a purported alien autopsy conducted on a railway car leads Mulder and Scully into the latest chapter in the increasingly complex Mythology Arc. Scully encounters a group of women in Allentown, Pennsylvania who claim to know her—fellow abductees who have also had implanted chips removed from their necks. Ominously, one member of the group is dying of cancer; a fate that the others claim awaits them all. Meanwhile, Mulder’s investigation leads him to a mysterious train carrying what looks like another alien. The big revelation in this episode is that Scully was abducted, not by aliens, but by members of the Syndicate, for the purposes of conducting medical experiments. ‘Nisei’ has great production values, and builds quite nicely to its cliffhanger ending. This is also where we first meet Pendrell, a nebbish FBI agent whose infatuation with Scully is obvious to everyone—except for Scully herself.

3x10 731 12/01/1995

Scully’s investigation of the chip removed from her neck takes her to a leper colony, where she encounters one of the leaders of the Syndicate. She is told that the inmates have been used for medical experiments; that one of them is on the train boarded by Mulder. Her partner, however, remains unconvinced that the creature is not an alien of some sort. Once again, the proof is elusive: X manages to save Mulder only seconds before a bomb destroys the car containing the test subject. And once again we are left with an episode that looks terrific but that doesn’t make a lot of sense. By this point in the series, a trend has been firmly established: Mythology Arc two-parters that start out great, but that fail to live up to their potential in the second half.

3x11 Revelations 12/15/1995

Scully’s religious faith is put to the test when she comes to the conclusion that she has been chosen to protect Kevin Kryder. Simon Gates, a serial killer who has been targeting alleged stigmatics, threatens the fifth grade student, who bleeds from his palms, with death. The role-reversals here seem to be a little too contrived: Mulder’s complete refusal to even consider any but the simplest explanation for the wounds on Kevin’s hands doesn’t ring true. Nor does Scully’s blind willingness to take Kevin’s affliction at face value. This is another of those episodes with no easy answers. Kevin, Owen Jarvis (the gardener who tries to protect Kevin) and Gates all seem to have some sort of supernatural abilities, but we never learn how or why this is possible. Like Scully, we just have to accept it on faith.

3x12 War Of The Coprophages 01/05/1996

Mulder has seemingly stumbled into an infestation of killer cockroaches, but Scully—relaxing at home—manages to provide frustratingly rational explanations for everything that happens. The plot thickens when Scully suddenly realizes that she has a rival for her previously uncontested position as Mulder’s scientific advisor: etymologist Dr. Bambi Berenbaum, played by the perfectly cast Bobbie Phillips. Watch carefully for the scene where the cockroach crawls across your TV screen, and try not to jump too high when it does. There’s a terrific in-joke in this episode relating to the book that Scully is seen reading during one of her telephone conversations with Mulder. It’s Truman Capote’s Breakfast At Tiffany’s—the subject of the Final Jeopardy question that David Duchovny got wrong when Stephen King defeated him on Celebrity Jeopardy! This is a real winner of an episode, with a truly hilarious script by Darin Morgan.

3x13 Syzygy 01/26/1995

The deaths of a number of male high school students bring Mulder and Scully to the town of Comity, where the alignment of Mercury, Mars and Uranus has given supernatural powers to Terri and Margi—best friends who were born at the same time on the same day in 1979. This is a pretty silly episode whose saving grace is the fact that the alignment makes everyone else in Comity—including Mulder and Scully—act in a bizarre, easily agitated manner. Thus, we get to see our two heroes lob some really nasty one-liners at each other. (i.e., Mulder, on why he never lets Scully drive: “I was just never sure your little feet could reach the pedals.”) The off-the-wall nature of ‘Syzygy’ invites obvious comparisons with ‘War of the Coprophages’, which serves mainly to make Darin Morgan look like even more of a genius.

3x14 Grotesque 02/02/1996

A lengthy investigation by Bill Patterson, Mulder’s former mentor in the FBI’s Investigative Support Unit, leads to an arrest in a serial killer case. But when the killings continue, Patterson turns to Mulder for assistance. This is a very dark episode, both literally and figuratively, as Mulder follows Patterson’s teachings by trying to put himself in the killer’s world. He’s so successful that Scully—and even Skinner—begin to question his mental state. For one of the few times in the course of The X-Files, there’s not a hint of any unexplained phenomena. This is a straight psychological horror story; one of a small handful of genuinely scary episodes in the entire series.

3x15 Piper Maru 02/09/1996

A French salvage vessel returns to port with its crew dying of radiation burns, leading Scully to an encounter with a naval officer who was a contemporary of her father’s, while Mulder ends up in Hong Kong with Krycek, who is selling information from the stolen digital tape. This is a continuation of the story begun at the end of Season Two in ‘Anasazi’ and it continues elements from ‘Nisei’ and ‘731’ as well. For the first time, we see the mysterious ‘Black Oil’, an alien life form that is able to jump from one body to the next. Skinner is also front-and-center in this episode, as he takes a stand by insisting that the investigation into the murder of Scully’s sister remain open. It’s a decision that will lead to his near-fatal shooting. More comprehensible than most Mythology Arc episodes, ‘Piper Maru’ raises high expectations for Part Two.

3x16 Apocrypha 02/16/1996

Mulder returns to Washington with Krycek—‘possessed’ by the Black Oil—in his custody, and the stolen digital tape—last seen in ‘Paper Clip’—seemingly within his grasp, but he ultimately loses both. Meanwhile, Scully is more successful in apprehending Luis Cardinal, the man responsible for shooting both her sister and Skinner. ‘Apocrypha’ is a real X-Files rarity: the second half of a Mythology Arc two-parter that is both enjoyable and understandable. Of particular note is the scene in which Scully catches up with her sister’s killer. The intensity of the emotion she displays is both uncharacteristic, and wholly believable. Another highlight is Mulder’s encounter with the Well-Manicured Man, who is obviously more than a little uncomfortable with his colleague’s methods. This is a satisfying effort on any number of levels, deftly employing a large cast and an abundance of locations in the service of a well-written script.

3x17 Pusher 02/23/1996

Robert Modell has a brain tumor that allows him to ‘push’ his will on others, forcing them to see and do whatever he wants. Since the cancer is killing him, what Modell wants most of all is to see other people die as well. In Mulder, he sees a worthy adversary, and the episode builds relentlessly to a confrontation between Mulder and Modell, and between Mulder and Scully, that is as intense as any scene in the entire series. This is not an episode for the faint of heart. It contains a couple of particularly graphic scenes; especially the one where Modell convinces a SWAT team member to set himself on fire. The relationship between Mulder and Scully reaches its most intimate moment yet at the end of ‘Pusher’ as they reach out to hold each other’s hands while contemplating what Modell almost accomplished.

3x18 Teso Dos Bichos 03/08/1996

When an urn containing the skeleton of a female shaman is sent from an archeological dig in Ecuador to a museum in Boston, it triggers a series of deaths as a number of the people involved are attacked by a horde of…killer house cats? Actually, this episode is a lot better than that one-line synopsis makes it sound, although it still has its problems. Chief among them is the fact that most of the victims are only sketchily developed as characters, so that when each of them meets their untimely demise—often off-screen—it’s hard to care. Its redeeming features include some really disgusting images (you’ll never want to lift a toilet seat again), and a few typically funny one-liners from both Mulder and Scully. This may not be classic X-Files, but it’s still a lot better than most of what was to come in the final seasons.

3x19 Hell Money 03/29/1996

The cremation of a man while he was still alive in San Francisco’s Chinatown leads Mulder and Scully to a lottery where the losers have transplantable organs removed from their bodies. Detective Chao, a local police officer of Asian descent who, they eventually learn, is working with the organizers of the lottery to keep ‘foreigners’ away, aids them in their investigation. Like ‘Grotesque’ before it, there are no unexplained phenomena here. Unlike ‘Grotesque’, this episode is somewhat sordid and not really all that enjoyable. It also contains more than a hint of racism in the way that Mulder and Scully begin to treat Chao well before he has done anything to arouse their suspicions. A pre-Ally McBeal Lucy Liu appears in this episode as the sickly daughter of Hsin, a man who enters the lottery in hopes of winning enough money to pay for the operation she desperately needs.

3x20 Josť Chung's 'From Outer Space' 04/12/1996

With yet another perfect Darin Morgan script, this is—beyond a doubt—the best episode of the entire series. Charles Nelson Reilly (of all people) plays Josť Chung, a writer doing research for a book about an alleged alien abduction case that Mulder and Scully investigated. In the course of his conversations with Scully, we see the events in question both from her point of view, and from the points of view of some of the other people involved who have already spoken to Chung. If Mulder’s quest is a search for the truth, then this episode shows us that truth is often a relative concept. Stunt casting—which the series normally avoids—is put to good use here, as both Jeopardy! host Alex Trebeck and Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura show up as Men In Black. This is a wonderfully convoluted, genuinely funny episode that easily repays repeated viewing.

3x21 Avatar 04/26/1996

Skinner is suspected of murder when he wakes up beside a prostitute with a broken neck, and no clear memory of what happened. Mulder and Scully begin an investigation of the case, and come to realize that an effort is being made to frame the assistant director and discredit him, following the failed attempt to kill him in ‘Piper Maru’. Complicating manners somewhat is a recurring dream Skinner has of an old woman; a return of the visions he first experienced when he was in Vietnam. Appearing in a couple of scenes is Skinner’s soon-to-be ex-wife Sharon, played by Jennifer Hetrick. The plot of ‘Avatar’ is sometimes difficult to follow, and doesn’t always make sense. The big revelation here—and it’s really no surprise—is that Skinner is just as reserved and withdrawn in his personal life as he is at work.

3x22 Quagmire 05/03/1996

Mulder drags an unenthusiastic Scully to Georgia for the investigation of some mysterious disappearances attributed to Big Blue, a Loch Ness-style creature that is alleged to live in Heuvelmans Lake. The best thing about this episode is the conversation the two agents have when they’re stranded on a rock in the middle of the lake. In it, Scully equates Mulder and his obsessive search for the truth with Ahab and his quest for the white whale in Moby Dick. Making his third and final appearance here is Scully’s dog Queequeg (another Moby Dick reference), seen earlier in ‘Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose’ and ‘War of the Coprophages’. The dog meets an untimely end when he’s eaten by something in the lake. If the subsequent look of grief on Scully’s face doesn’t make you want to give her a hug, then there’s something wrong with you. Naturally, Mulder doesn’t seem to notice.

3x23 Wetwired 05/10/1996

A tip from an anonymous informant begins Mulder’s investigation of an electronic device that heightens people’s paranoia and makes them delusional through subliminal messages added to cable TV signals. The informant turns out to be X, who’s working desperately to prevent his employer from finding out what he’s doing. Mat Beck, the series’ special effects supervisor, wrote this well-crafted episode, which really gives Gillian Anderson a showcase. Scully—after spending hours watching videotapes of some of the doctored broadcasts—becomes convinced that she can no longer trust Mulder. She’s downright scary in the scene where she systematically demolishes her motel room in search of electronic listening devices, then takes a couple of shots through the door when her partner knocks on it. Despite that, the most memorable part of this episode is the genuinely surprising ending, where we learn that X is working for the Cigarette-Smoking Man.

3x24 Talitha Cumi 05/17/1996

Mulder and Scully encounter Jeremiah Smith, a shape-shifting alien with the seemingly miraculous ability to heal people. Their investigation is interrupted by the news that Mulder’s mother has suffered a stroke. We already knew that Mulder’s father was a former associate of the Cigarette-Smoking Man. Here, we learn that CSM was a friend of the whole family, and we receive our first hints that his relationship with Mrs. Mulder was intimate in nature, and that he knows something about what happened to Samantha. Acting on information provided by his mother, Mulder finds one of the weapons for killing aliens, first seen in Season Two’s ‘Colony’, hidden in a lamp in the family’s summer home. This is another Mythology Arc episode that is probably more confusing than it needs to be, and it builds to a cliffhanger ending that isn’t nearly as effective as the one in Season Two’s ‘Anasazi’.

Introduction Season One Season Two Season Three Season Four Season Five Fight The Future Season Six Season Seven Season Eight Season Nine I Want To Believe