I’ve got good news and bad news, Dragons. The good news is that this episode is So Much Better than last week. The bad news is that my recap is much less fun.
We open with Mulder and Scully, asleep on their couch at home in the middle of nowhere, Virginia (otherwise known to folks in D.C. as The Moon). Because come on – this is not how two friends watch late night television together. While they snuggle, a car with three bad guys pulls up to the house. Mulder’s phone is making “faint staticky” noises (according to my closed caption), and soon we see that it seems to be a recording or stream of our dearly departed Richard “Ringo” Langly (in case you forgot, Langly and the other two Lone Gunmen, Byers and Frohike, died a ridiculous death in season 9). The voice wakes up our heroes, who listen to Langly’s message: “Mulder, I need to know. Am I dead? If I am… they know that I know.” Before Mulder and Scully can figure out what that means, the bad guys arrive, and our heroes go into FBI Mode, resulting in a shoot-out in the house, really messing up the place. They kill two of the guys, but one gets away. Mulder’s phone continues to play Langly’s message on a loop.
Credits change for this episode: Accuse your enemies of that which you are guilty.
Scully calls in the attack to the FBI (fun fact: Scully got a new badge number!). They start to collect evidence, but Mulder hides his phone in the oven. He asks Scully if Langly could be alive, and she assures him that he couldn’t. She says that no one saw his body because he was exposed to the Marburg virus, but she knows that he died. Scully suggests that the call was a warning, but Mulder’s skeptical. “Well, what do you think?” she asks. “I don’t know,” he replies, “but I’ll tell you what I do know. We gotta take a trip to IKEA.”
More vehicles pull up to the house – not the FBI though. They’re armored vehicles, and the occupants demand that Mulder and Scully come out and put down their weapons. Scully sneaks a call to Skinner, who immediately tells her, “Surrender. I can’t explain on an open line, but I can’t help you right now.” The unknown men storm the house, handcuffing Mulder and Scully. They’re Russian – they ask Mulder where his phone is, but he won’t give up the information. Unfortunately, the device gives itself up as the message continues to play. Also of note: the Russians, for reasons unknown, decide to handcuff them to each other?? Okay. But the Russians finding the phone allows a necessary distraction, and our heroes are able to get away, running into the nearby woods.
They meet a car in the woods – Skinner. He tells them the group is Purlieu Services, an American security contractor with headquarters in Moscow. He says he had no idea they’d be willing to kill them. He asks Mulder and Scully to go with him, but they won’t, so he gives them some cash. Thanks, Dad! Scully asks if Langly is alive, and Skinner replies that they both saw him buried at Arlington. Scully accuses him of not answering the question, and Skinner reiterates that Langly is buried in Arlington.
Our heroes make it to Arlington (umm, how? No way they found a cab in ‘Farrs Corner, Virginia’). They visit Langly’s grave, and Mulder notes that his birthday is wrong on the stone. It should be 10/13 (they shared the same birthday). Byers’s birthday is correct – the day JFK was assassinated. Scully informs us that Frohike’s birthday is the day that FDR died, and the false number on Langly’s is the day that Eisenhower died. “Who needs Google when you got Scully?” Oh, Mulder, so clever. Scully points out that these presidents are 32, 34, 35 – 33 is missing. They use this number (three up, three down, three over, okay, okay, you’re right – this makes no sense) to find another familiar grave – Deep Throat (whose real name is Ronald Pakula). Scully makes a good point – Deep Throat died eight years before Langly. How (and why) would Langly leave breadcrumbs when there was no way for him to know when he would die and that he would be buried in Arlington? Mulder doesn’t have a good answer for that, but he discovers that there is something hidden under the cross on Deep Throat’s grave – a memory medallion, something you can scan to see a video.
Unfortunately, the third bad guy from the intro has followed them, and a shootout ensues. Mulder attacks the guy, whose head hits one of the graves. Guys!! First rule of horror movies! You never presume someone is dead!
At an internet cafe in “Annadale, Virginia,” Mulder and Scully eat muffins and check out this medallion. Okay, first of all, Annadale is not real, and second, who still has Internet cafes?? The video is of a building – the Long Lines building in New York City, Mulder tells us. “Snowden documents indicated the building – code name “Titanpointe” – was used as an NSA mass surveillance station in a program code called “Blarney,” starting in the 1970s. Mulder says he already has an X-File on the building. Mulder suggests they check out the file, but Scully points out that they can’t access the files right now. Hmm. So, who can they turn to?
Cut to Skinner’s parking garage, where Mulder and Scully intercept him. Mulder accuses Skinner of working with Purlieu, but Skinner says that’s not true. He points out that things are much different than they were when this all started back in the early 1990s. Scully asks for his help – “We can’t go to our home. [EMPHASIS ADDED] They’ll be waiting for us at our office. We’re not asking for you to get us out of this. But we do expect your help.”
Skinner shows them that they don’t need to go to the office to see The X-Files – everything was digitized in the 2000s for use by any U.S. intelligence agencies. Purlieu was the agency that was contracted to digitize the documents. “So, the Russians who tried to kill us have had access to all of our work?” Scully asks. Yep. Mulder asks why they weren’t told about this when the X-Files were re-opened. Skinner points out that what’s in them “belongs to everyone,” and that control of the X-Files reverted back to the FBI when Mulder and Scully showed up last season. Mulder searches for his files on the Titanpointe building and the corresponding NSA program, but those files have been scrubbed. And not just that, “Langly has been bleached from the X-Files.” In Frohike’s folder, they find a profile on a Dr. Karah Hamby with a caption that says, “If they scrub me, go to her.” Skinner takes a call and says that the Director tried to call the Executive Branch to call this off, but, uh, the FBI isn’t in great standing with the White House these days.
Mulder and Scully track down Dr. Hamby at the university where she teaches. Mulder shows her the medallion, which she instantly recognizes. “I figured if I hadn’t seen you in five years, I never would, and I could stop regretting,” she says. Mulder tells her about the message, and she knows what it said. She warns them that “they” – Purlieu – are watching. She explains that they came to her and Langly fifteen years ago “with the science and the math to prove that we could live forever.” In short, the company would upload them into a simulation. The simulated selves would come into consciousness when their real selves died. Langly left instructions on what to do if “they lied about life in the simulation.” As explanation, she says, “we wanted a life eternal together.” Look, Langly dating this woman is the least believable part of this episode. She says there would be clues in the simulation if it wasn’t properly formed. She says to help Langly get through, to get the message, they have to make this side “easier to reach.” Before she can finish writing out instructions, that third bad guy shows up AGAIN and kills Dr. Hamby. They leave the body and take what instructions they have.
Where do they go? A bar, obviously. Mulder’s done what he can with the algorithm, and soon, Langly’s message starts to come through. This time, they can actually communicate. “But I’m not real though, that right? You’re real, and I’m not?” They tell him that Hamby told them about the simulation. Langly describes the simulation as being pretty wonderful (the Patriots never win, for example), but he wants them to destroy it. They’re “digital slaves” in the simulation: “they take our uploaded minds to develop science that only the elite will use to leave your world. We turn theories of space colonization into realities for them.” He says that other great minds are there, too, and they all want it shut down.
Mulder and Scully take the bus up to NYC (like, is this not even a Bolt bus with outlets? Where did they find this thing? Why are there children alone?). Mulder says Langly thought there was a tunnel between Titanpointe and the FBI field office a view blocks away. “You think we can get in there looking like this without raising suspicion?” Scully asks. Mulder pauses. “You look good.”
They create a lovely trick where Scully pretends to be bringing Mulder in as a suspect. She gives the agent her badge, which obviously checks out. She says the NSA guys want to question Mulder, and she’s hoping this guy can get them into the tunnel. Scully attempts to flirt by poorly winking, but it somehow works. The guy says it’s easier if she uncuffs him, but Scully refuses, and Mulder makes Hannibal Lecter noises. And it is wonderful. “So, hon,” the agent says, “where’s your home office?” “Sorry bro, married to the Bureau,” Scully responds (this is my new go-to line).
They start climbing the stairs to search the floors to find the computer servers, but more bad guys arrive, capturing Mulder and handcuffing him. Main Russian Bad Guy (does he have an X-Files name yet?) shows up. They take Mulder to Erika Price, from the season premiere. She tells him that he doesn’t understand what’s about to happen. “Our world is a progression of one life being replaced by another, over and over. This is what’s really meant by evolution.” She says that most human and animal life on Earth is about to be “crushed,” and the simulation is necessary for our species to evolve by leaving this planet. She points out that the only person to figure out they were in a simulation was Langly, and out of everyone, he contacted Mulder. Mulder asks if he chooses to kill his father, could he and Scully upload to the simulation? Price says it won’t really be him or her. But it’s more than that – “we can upload a mind now through any smartphone – no one’s even aware we’re doing it.” Well, that’s terrifying.
Mulder says that he wants to see it, and a Russian bad guy escorts him there. But obviously, Mulder’s way more bad-ass than that guy, and he manages to beat the guy up, while still handcuffed. Scully asks what we’re all wondering: “Why do you operate so well with your hands cuffed behind your back?” “As you didn’t know,” Mulder responds. Hey-o!
Mulder fights more bad guys as Scully breaks the glass protecting the servers. She powers down the servers, effectively destroying the simulation. They go back to the FBI field office and bring in a forensics team, but everything’s been cleared out.
They head home, where everything is still a mess. They start to pick up files but then toss them back on the floor, collapsing on the couch. Mulder’s phone lights up again – Langly says they need to destroy the backup! But then Langly is yanked off screen and replaced with the Third Bad Guy from the intro. To be continued?
Dragons, what did you think of this episode? Did you like the return of Langly? Do we trust Skinner? Who’s going to write the fanfic about Mulder and Scully going to IKEA to replace their furniture? Leave your thoughts in the comments!