30 Days of Halloween! Day 9 – And Your Winner for “Monster of the Week” is… [X-Files Monster Guide]

Sylent Mari Says: I’m obviously way behind schedule posting additions to the 30 Days of Halloween, but I will hopefully be caught up by at Friday of this week [10/23/15]. I suffer from chronic pain due to a back condition, and colder weather triggers it and makes it painful to do much of anything, including: Netflixing, cooking, and sleeping (three of my favorite things). Kinda hard to sit down for hours and write too. Enjoy this massively long post dedicated to many of my favorite Monster of the Week [MOTWepisodes from The X-Files. We’re less than 100 days from seeing the new episodes that make up the limited series! YASSSSSSSSSS!!!

It’s time for The X-Files to make another appearance on this blog. It’s not a retrospective post; those will be resuming shortly. While the X-Files is more traditionally known as a science fiction-drama series, it has had its encounters with monsters before. The term “Monster of the Week” (first dubbed by X-Files fans) refers to the non-mythology cases that Mulder & Scully investigated involving all sorts of bizarre humanoids, supernatural events, paranormal maybe-activity, and even demonic entities. These cases were always a blast to watch and they sometimes helped move the series along by giving fans a chance to relax for a moment before being slammed with the next mythology-heavy episode in the ever-evolving alien colonists/shadow government storyline.

There are several very popular MOTW episodes that many X-Files fans – both old & new – still talk about frequently. In our ever-growing fandom, these episodes are fan-favorites that have some of the quirkiest, funniest, freakiest, or darkest scenes & characters from the series. The impressions they’ve left on fans has obviously been felt throughout the years. You still have people who get very squeamish when talking about the most controversial episode of the entire series: “Home” – that episode makes an appearance here.

Each X-Files fan has their own list of MOTW episodes for newbies to check out. The list below is NOT a comprehensive list of every MOTW episode; some of them don’t fall under the Horror category. These episodes that I’ve selected are many of my favorites from the entire series run, as well as episodes I think every fan should check out at least once or twice. Some of the more humorous MOTW episodes I’ve left off the list ’cause they deserve their own post for another day. Probably somewhere in the X-Files retrospective I’ve been super-slow in completing.

More than a few of the best MOTW episodes in the following list were written by Vince Gilligan, who is best known to fans as the writer-creator of the critically-acclaimed television shows Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, both filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico (city shout-out!). He’s written some of the best episodes pf the series that range from hilarious to horrifying. Definitely a creative dude.

Each episode below has a short synopsis and some have additional thoughts from yours truly (“The Host,” anyone?). If you’ve never seen an episode or were never a follower of the series, you don’t have to worry about understanding the main alien mythology arc that comprises 80% of the show. As stand-alone episodes, the MOTW are great introductions to newer viewers to the show and to series stars Fox Mulder & Dana Scully (aka David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson).

Bonus Time! Many popular actors & actresses of today had roles on the X-Files at some point in their careers. Some of these actors & actresses were already established, and some were just starting out. It’s amazing how many of them appeared in the series, and many will surprise you. If you’re also a fan of Canadian talent and watch way too much Canadian TV like this writer, you’ll also recognize many of the actors & actresses too. The first five seasons were shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, and a million shows still shoot up there.  

Episode Guide Note: Episodes with three “+’s” next to it is a personal favorite and one you should watch. ‘Cause it’s amazing. And probably written by Vince Gilligan. 


SEASON ONE

“Squeeze” / “Tooms” – +++
Written by: Glen Morgan & James Wong

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The first episode (“Squeeze”) that I ever watched of the series, and it scared the shit out my 12-year-old self at the time. Yep – I was 12 when the series aired in 1993. Eugene Tooms was the first repeat “monster” and wow… He was he a creepy son-of-a-bitch. Doug Hutchison was perfectly cast in the role, though he almost lost out on the part because the producers thought he looked too young to play the liver-eating killer. After watching both episodes, you’ll be scrutinizing every small opening in your house. Sleep well!

Guest Stars: Doug Hutchison (Lost), Donal Logue (Terriers, Gotham)

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“Shadows”
Written by: Glen Morgan & James Wong

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A young woman still mourning the loss of her beloved boss has the worst luck ever: hired guns try to kill her at her house, they attack her at an ATM, and yet she has a ‘guardian angel’ that seems to be saving her from these attacks. It turns out that the ‘guardian angel’ is in fact a poltergeist/spirit that is watching over her.  Could the poltergeist have a personal connection to the woman? Mulder & Scully race to find out the answer before more people “mysteriously” die.

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“Shapes”
Written by: Marilyn Osborn

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Mulder & Scully head up to Montana to investigate animal attacks on ranchers who are warring with a Native American tribe over land rights and just being general dicks to them (the ranchers). The case is similar to an early X-Files that Mulder found in his archive of really old X-Files cases that were created by other agents throughout the years (it’s quite the archive). Could it be a case of lycanthropy?

Lame CSI: Miami parody ahead: “Well, Scully…” *Mulder pulls out sunglasses* “It looks like someone’s been… barking at the moon.” *cue The Who*

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“Darkness Falls” – +++
Written by: Chris Carter

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Environmental activists + loggers + flesh-devouring lightning bugs = the episode that scared me away from camping for years. When Mulder & Scully investigate the case of missing loggers, the main suspects are activists (aka “eco-terrorists” to the logging company) who have been sabotaging logging equipment to prevent logging in a Pacific Northwest-area forest.  Make sure the lantern never goes dry and let “darkness fall” over your hiding spot…

Guest Stars: Jason Beghe (Chicago PD), Titus Welliver (Sons of Anarchy, Lost)

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“Born Again” – +++
Written by: Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa

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Does reincarnation exist? That’s one of the questions brought up in this late Season One entry. The episode features a young girl who witnesses the brutal murder of two detectives who might have been involved in the death of a fellow detective. She starts to exhibit some traits that are similar to the slain detective’s, puzzling her mother and Mulder & Scully as they investigate this strange & deadly case.

Guest Stars: Maggie Wheeler (Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond)


SEASON TWO

“The Host” – +++
Written by: Chris Carter

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One of my favorite, and most bizarre, of the MOTW episodes is this one featuring the infamous Flukeman, a humanoid-leech hybrid. Actually, we don’t really know what it is other than it’s a mutant that loves to hang out in sewers, infect its prey with huge leech-like creature, and sometimes loves to disappear its victim from septic tanks and porta-pottys. There’s a reason why I never use those things – besides being the most disgusting places on earth to visit if you absolutely need to.

Guest Stars: Darin Morgan (X-Files writer), Matthew Bennett
(Battlestar Galactica – reboot, Orphan Black), Gabrielle Rose (Once Upon A Time)

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“Blood”
Story by: Darin Morgan; Teleplay by: Glen Morgan & James Wong

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When appliances go homicidal! No, not really. This isn’t Stephen King’s The Mangler, but common household appliances are sending deadly digital messages to unsuspecting citizens  of a small town. What could be causing this chaos and paranoid among the residents? I’m going to have to keep a closer eye on my microwave tonight.

Guest Star: William Sanderson (True Blood, Deadwood)

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“3” (aka “Trinity”)
Written by: Chris Ruppenthal and Glen Morgan & James Wong

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The obligatory ‘vampire’ episode, though there’s a much better take on vampires in the Season Five highlight “Bad Blood.”

Guest Star: Perrey Reeves (Entourage)

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“Excelsis Dei”
Written by: Paul Brown

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A nurse at a retirement home is raped by a mysterious entity, first believed to be a poltergeist, but it could be a wandering spirit of one of the deceased residents of the home. Also – taking mysterious mushrooms with your regular medication can cause some disturbing hallucinations, or are they real?

Guest Stars: Teryl Rothery (Canadian series The Guard), Frances Bay (Twin Peaks, The Middle – R.I.P.)

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“Irresistible” – +++
Written by: Chris Carter

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Though not a traditional MOTW, what makes this a highlight of Season Two is the fact that we’re seeing a human monster with no remorse and a death fetish (i.e. he has an obsession with women’s feet and hands). Scully soon becomes a future target for this real-life nightmare. The “monster” is this episode is also perfectly portrayed by character actor Nick Chinlund.

Guest Star: Nick Chinlund (The Chronicles of Riddick, Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

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“Die Hand Die Verletzt” – +++
Written by: Glen Morgan & James Wong

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The occult + high school = classic X-Files episode. What? Your parents never participated in occult rituals in lieu of parent-teacher conferences?

Guest Star: Dan Butler (Frasier)

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“Humbug” – +++
Written by: Darin Morgan

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One of my all-time favorite X-Files episodes featuring Jim Rose and his merry band of circus “freaks,” including The Enigma. Darin Morgan has written some of the quirkiest and funniest episodes of the series, and their influence is still felt today in other shows. A classic MOTW episode.

Guest Stars: Jim Rose (Jim Rose Circus), The Enigma (Jim Rose Circus), Michael J. Anderson (Twin Peaks, Carnivale), Vincent Schiavelli (noted character actor – R.I. P.)

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“Soft Light” – +++
Written by: Vince Gilligan

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An experiment involving dark matter goes terribly wrong as a scientist is hit with a deadly “blast” of dark matter, only to survive his accident and take on a horrible burden: his shadow burns people to ashes if they step on it. Can Mulder & Scully stop him before more innocent people die? Watch out for the light!

Guest Star: Tony Shalhoub (Monk)

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“Our Town”
Written by: Frank Spotnitz

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After watching this episode, you’ll be scrutinizing the pink slime that McDonalds’ uses to make its Chicken McNuggets even more than usual. Or any chicken-based products. Those chicken strips still looking good for dinner tonight?

Guest Star: Gary Grubbs (Treme, Angel)


SEASON THREE

“D.P.O” – +++
Written by: Howard Gordon

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Two popular actors make appearances in this MOTW featuring a teenage outsider who can harness the power of lightning after being struck by it during a freak accident, and becoming the only survivor of lightning-related deaths in a small Oklahoma town. The teen uses his newfound abilities for various small benefits & pranks, like unlimited play at the local arcade he works at with his bestie, and messing with the town’s traffic signals. But what this teen a MOTW is his obsession with a former beauty queen/teacher at his high school, and he will stop at nothing to force her to give in to his affections – including using his dangerous ability to injure (and possibly kill) those standing in his way.

Guest Stars: Giovanni Ribisi (Dads, Selma, Public Enemies), Jack Black (Tenacious D, School of Rock, Goosebumps)

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“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” – +++
Written by: Darin Morgan

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There are several episodes from the series that really stand out and have been praised by both critics and fans; this is one of those episodes. A fan-favorite episode starring Peter Boyle, this MOTW is based on an unknown assailant who is murdering psychics left-and-right, though none of them appear to actually have psychic abilities. Enter Clyde Bruckman: a life insurance agent who can predict the death of an individual by touching an object the future “victim” has touched. It appears as though he has true psychic ability and even Scully’s skepticism is tested as she has a revelation at the end of the episode. Beautifully shot, poignant, and with a fantastic performance from Boyle.

Guest Star: Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein, Everybody Loves Raymond – R.I.P.), Karin Konoval (Millennium, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)

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“2Shy” – +++
Written by: Jeffrey Vlaming

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An episode so gooey and gory that even I – a connoisseur of all things video-nasty – almost tapped out while watching it. I just can’t deal with bile-related ickiness, yet I can handle most other bodily fluids. This episode will also scare you away from any future online dating. There’s a great moment where Scully puts a misogynist in his place while she’s examining one of the victims of this bile-tastic killer. Don’t mess with Scully’s skills as a doctor or investigator.

Guest Stars: Timothy Carhart (24, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), James Handy (Alias, NYPD Blue)

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“Revelations” – +++
Written by: Kim Newton

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The X-Files have had several great religiously-themed episodes that have seen Mulder & Scully’s roles reverse: Scully as a religious believer and Mulder as an agnostic skeptic. In this episode, a young boy is being pursued by a man obsessed with looking for a real stigmatic, or someone who has mysterious bleeding wounds that are supposedly similar to the ones Jesus Christ had when he was crucified. Scully meets a strange gentleman who claims to be a guardian angel for the boy, Kevin, and she later becomes his protector from the man who’s trying to kill him.

Guest Stars: Kevin Zegers (Transamerica, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones), Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes – 1977; noted character actor), R. Lee Emery (Full Metal Jacket; noted character actor)

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“War of the Coprophages”
Written by: Darin Morgan

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If you really, really, really hate cockroaches – it’d be best to avoid this episode. If you want to see one of the funniest episodes of the series and meet an Department of Agriculture scientist named “Bambi,” then sit back and enjoy! It’s so worth it to see Scully’s eye-rolling as Mulder calls her at home on her day off and her dismissive “Bambi?” when she hears the scientist’s name. Scully and her eye-rolling are one of the best parts of the show.

Guest Stars: Tyler Labine (Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Reaper), A.J. Buckley (CSI: NY, Supernatural)

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“Syzygy” – +++
Written by: Chris Carter

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Sure. Fine. Whatever.” “I was just never sure your little feet could reach the pedals.” What happens when a rare planetary alignment starts affecting the residents of a small town, though two teenage girls seem to have some strange powers also manifesting. The scariest thing about this episode? The Keystone Cops playing repeatedly in Mulder & Scully’s hotel rooms. Mulder & Scully also act quite sarcastic to each other thanks to the alignment, delivering the two lines at the beginning of this synopsis.

Guest Stars: Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Friday Night Lights – TV series, Nashville), Lisa Robin Kelly (That ’70s Show – R.I.P.), Ryan Reynolds (yes, THAT Ryan Reynolds)

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“Grotesque” – +++
Written by: Howard Gordon

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A disturbed serial killer claims that demons have been haunting him, causing the murder of seven innocent men by his hands. The FBI quickly dismisses his claims, but more men are killed while he’s sitting in prison, which leads Mulder into believing his story has some credence to it. As Mulder digs deeper, the very demons haunting the serial killer could be haunting him as well.

Guest Star: Kurtwood Smith (Robocop, That ’70s Show)

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“Pusher” – +++
Written by: Vince Gilligan

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Quite the controversial episode when it first premiered because of a very suspenseful Russian Roulette scene between the MOTW, Robert Patrick Modell, and Mulder. Modell has the ability to bend people to his will by messing with their heads (making a cop miss the truck coming at him, forcing a SWAT member light himself on fire). He has a heightened sense of suggestibility – quite the dangerous ability. Mulder almost falls victim to it, but we know he survives. A stand-out episode of the series.

Guest Stars: Robert Wisden (Da Vinci’s Inquest, Final Destination), Roger Cross (every Canadian show you can think of: Motive, Continuum, Dark Matter, etc., 24), Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters)

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“Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” – +++
Written by: Darin Morgan

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This episode is pure perfection. Watch it now. Like right now.

Guest Stars: Charles Nelson Reilley (noted character actor/comedian – R.I.P.), William Lucking (Sons of Anarchy), Alex Diakun (Da Vinci’s Inquest, Andromeda), Jesse Ventura (former WWF/E superstar, Predator, The Running Man), Alex Trebek (yep – the Jeopardy host)

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“Quagmire”
Written by: Kim Newton

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You know the X-Files had to tackle a Loch Ness monster-inspired story at some point. As Scully learns in this episode too: it’s never safe to bring your dog with you while you’re investigating a case. A quirky episode with an offbeat ending.

Guest Star: Chris Ellis (Murder in the First, Sequestered), Tyler Labine (Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Reaper)


SEASON FOUR

“Home” – +++
Written by: Glen Morgan & James Wong

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Over their original nine season run, the X-Files had more than a few episodes that had both fans & critics talking about them and dissecting their contents after they aired. While there’s been a few with somewhat controversial scenes or storylines, no other has come close to the amount of attention that “Home” got when it first aired back on October 11, 1996. Mulder and Scully investigate one of their most bizarre cases yet as well as encountering some of their most formidable foes: the infamous Peacock family, a deformed clan of inbred mutants that have given the term “keeping it in the family” a whole new meaning. My dad, who watches shows that are even gorier and more extreme than what was seen in this episode, tapped out after watching it.

Guest Stars: Tucker Smallwood (The Sarah Silverman Program, Star Trek: Enterprise), Sebastian Spence (Cedar Cove, Battlestar Galactica – reboot), Karin Konoval (Millennium, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)

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“Unruhe”
Written by: Vince Gilligan

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Bizarre photographs showing phantom hands around future victims, a creepy serial killer, and Agent Scully’s life in danger for the umpteenth time makes this one of the more serious MOTW episodes. It has some great scares in it, but it’s also quite disturbing – seeing the photos of the future female victims screaming in terror before being “taken away” by the phantom hands associated with the killer. Scully’s own “death” photograph is a bit chilling to view.

Guest Stars: Pruitt Taylor Vance (Heroes Reborn, The Mentalist, Deadwood), Michael Cram (Flashpoint, Lost Girl)

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“The Field Where I Died”
Written by: Glen Morgan & James Wong

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This Season Four highlight is easily one of my top five favorite episodes from the series. It’s a sad & beautiful story that’s spearheaded by terrific performances from David Duchovny and guest star Kristen Cloke. This human-based MOTW episode features a David Koresh-like cult leader who almost leads his congregation to an early death in the opening scene, with the FBI quickly finding the cult members and its leader in a hidden bunker. Mulder has a moment of deja-vu with the wife of the cult leader, Vernon Ephasian: Melissa Riedel-Ephesian. It later turns out that their connection runs much deeper and could possibly be to a past life they both shared. Definitely a “not-to-be-missed” episode of the series.

Guest Stars: Kristen Cloke (Space: Above and Beyond, Final Destination, Millennium),  Michael Massee (The Crow, 24, Flashforward)

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“Sanguinarium”
Written by: Valerie Mayhew & Vivian Mayhew

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The occult and the world of body enhancement (aka plastic surgery) has a horrific marriage in this gory episode. There’s some great twists in it that I didn’t see coming at first, but now I’m like “Oh!” when I realize them now; I was 15 when this episode first aired, so lots of things flew over my head easily. Like the Golden Girls‘ adult humor, for example. If surgical scenes and bucket-loads of blood make you nauseous, this may not be an episode for you.

Guest Stars: O-Lan Jones (Edward Scissorhands), Andrew Airlie (IntrudersReaper), Richard Beymer (Twin Peaks)

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“El Mundo Gira”
Written by: John Shiban

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El Chupacabra finally makes an appearance in the series. It had to show up eventually – every other fantastical creature has show up. The episode has an interesting twist on the legend; it mostly works as a stand-alone episode.

Fun Fact: El Chupacabra has two major origin tales: one in Puerto Rico, one in Mexico, though I’ve heard most people speak of it as having Puerto Rican origins. *cough* I’m Puerto Rican, so slightly biased *cough*

Guest Stars: Rubén Blades (popular singer, Fear the Walking Dead, Gideon’s Crossing), Raymond Cruz (The Closer/Major Crimes, Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul), Lillian Hurst (noted Puerto Rican character actress)

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“Leonard Betts”
Written by: Vince Gilligan & John Shiban & Frank Spotnitz

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The most-watched episode of the entire series with a depressing ending and a dire prognosis for one agent. I won’t go into further detail, but the MOTW is a slightly-sympathetic one that kills to survive. It’s terrible what he does (killing people to eat their cancerous growths – delicious), and he’s able to re-grow body parts like a salamander (including his head). He even attacks one of the few people that truly cared about him in life, which was a dick move on his part But the ultimate “monster” of this episode? Cancer, the big “C,” making itself known thanks to a simple nosebleed that surprises…Scully. Fuck cancer. Scully’s cancer storyline would be an ongoing plot for several episodes and seasons throughout the series, with the origin of her cancer being extraterrestrial.

Guest Stars: Bill Dow (Stargate SG-1, Da Vinci’s Inquest), Paul McCrane (ER, 24)

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“Never Again” – +++
Written by: Glen Morgan & James Wong

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An evil tattoo voiced by Jodie Foster that orders its owner to kill? Scully letting loose and getting her own tat? Sign me up!

Guest Stars: Rodney Rowland (Veronica Mars, Space: Above and Beyond), Jodie Foster (yes, THAT Jodie Foster)

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“Kaddish”
Written by: Howard Gordon

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Episodes dealing with hate crimes always hit me a bit hard emotionally; this is one of them. “Kaddish” deals with an anti-Semitic murder by Neo-Nazi assholes and a “golem,” a Jewish legend, avenging the man’s death. What makes the case even stranger is that fingerprints left on the body of one of the slain Neo-Nazi’s is that of his Jewish victim. It’s a well-done episode touching upon a sensitive topic and worth watching.

Guest Stars: Justine Miceli (NYPD Blue), David Groh (Rhoda, Black Scorpion), Channon Roe (Murder in the First, Kindred: The Embraced)

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“Small Potatoes” – +++
Written by: Vince Gilligan

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It’s time for a funny Vince Gilligan entry! Writer Darin Morgan appears as the MOTW: a strange man named Eddie Van Blundht who can change his identity to appear as someone else. Morgan’s first acting gig on the series was as the infamous Fluekman from the Season Two episode “The Host.” Oh, and he’s impregnating women (making them believe they’re having sex with their husbands), leaving behind tailed babies behind. We love our quirky episodes!

Guest Stars: Darin Morgan (X-Files writer), Christine Cavanaugh (popular voice actress – Babe – R.I.P.), Paul McGillion (Stargate: Atlantis, Sanctuary), Peter Kelamis (SGU Stargate Universe)

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“Elegy” – +++
Written by: John Shiban

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I seem to be picking a lot of sad!Scully episodes – add this one to the list. In this one, a developmentally challenged** man working in a bowling alley starts to see different apparitions of a customer and his former employer trying to speak to him, yet words never come out. Scully herself sees an apparition and starts to question even her own skeptical beliefs. Unfortunately, the man who first started seeing them is dying, which is why he’s able to see them. Which means Scully is also- I’ll be right back while I grab a box of tissues. The “Scully with cancer” storyline was one of the darkest and emotional of the series, and episodes like this one remind us of her own mortality. Give Scully some love for once, writers!

** I apologize if I’m not using the right terminology. 

Guest Stars: Sydney Lassick (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Carrie – R.I.P.), Lorena Gale (Battlestar Galactica – reboot, The Butterfly Effect – R.I.P.), Christine Willes (Emily Owens M.D., Reaper, Dead Like Me)


SEASON FIVE

“Detour”
Written by: Frank Spotnitz

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If you’ve ever wanted to see an episode featuring hallucinations and mysterious murder-y tree people (or people trees?), than this episode is for you! If not – skip it. I have seen it several times and still don’t remember much from it, aside from Scully singing Three Dog Nights’ “Joy to the World” to a cold Mulder while they’re hunkered down in the forest they’re trapped in.

Guest Stars: Merilyn Gann (Everwood), Anthony Rapp (Rent – original Broadway musical)

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“The Post-Modern Prometheus” – +++
Written by: Chris Carter

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An instant classic. Extra bonus points for being in black-and-white and featuring the music of Cher. Yep, ya read that right. This is a take on the classic Frankenstein tale with a really cool twist (the Great Mutato, a creature dreamed up in a comic book, comes to life, who loves the film Mask – the Eric Stoltz/Cher film). The best part is the improvised scene at the end, where Mulder asks Scully to dance with him while they watch “Cher” singing one of her hits. A deleted bit from that scene features them kissing during the dance. MSR’s (Mulder & Scully Relationshippers) always get teased, but I can see why the kiss was left out too. Their first “official” kiss doesn’t come ’til later in Season Seven.

Guest Stars: C. Ernst Harth (Once Upon A Time), John O’Hurley (Seinfeld, Devious Maids), Chris Owens (aka “Jeffrey Spender” in The X-Files), Jerry Springer (yes – the talk show host)

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“Kitsunegari” – +++
Written by: Vince Gilligan & Tim Minear

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A MOTW makes a repeat appearance in this episode and this time he may not be the main culprit. Robert Patrick Modell, the “pusher” who was involved in an almost-deadly game of Russian Roulette with Mulder back in Season Three, makes a return. He might have a connection to one of his future victims that doesn’t seem as random as first thought.

Guest Stars: Ty Olsson (Supernatural, Continuum, The 100), Diana Scarwid (Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls, Silkwood), Robert Wisden (Da Vinci’s Inquest, Final Destination)

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“Chinga”
Written by: Stephen King & Chris Carter

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AKA “Stephen King’s Killer Doll Episode with a Dirty Spanish Word As It’s Title.” I’m surprised that the episode title [aka the Spanish version of the “F” word) went unnoticed by FOX executives. The word itself is the name of the titular scary-ass doll that goes around killing people – classic King. While this offbeat and really weird episode doesn’t flow all too well, it’s still cool to see King’s signature style in the X-Files universe. Leave it to King to scare the bejeezus out of me with a creepy-ass doll and little girl.

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“Kill Switch” – +++
Written by: William Gibson & Tom Maddox

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I’ve been addicted to watching TV shows lately that cover the darkside of technology; the irony of using technology to watch shows about the perils of technology). Technology both amazes me and frightens me. In this episode, written by cyberpunk pioneers William Gibson and Tom Maddox, Mulder and Scully take on a case that’s like the forefather of the show Person of Interest, with a deadly A.I. trying to wipe out the people who are trying to stop it from killing innocent lives and setting people up to die *cough* Samaritan *cough*. It’s not perfect, but the “technogoth” chick in it is pretty hot and a sarcastic bad-ass, and it will make you paranoid around wires and small electronic devices. And computers. And satellites. Maybe I should step away from my laptop for a few…

Guest Stars: Peter Williams (Stargate SG-1, Da Vinci’s Inquest), Kristin Lehman (Motive, The Killing), Stephen Collins (7th Heaven, Revolution)

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“Bad Blood” – +++
Written by: Vince Gilligan

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A perfect example of writing a hysterical vampire tale that works perfectly on the small screen. This is not only a fan-favorite – it’s Gillian Anderson’s favorite, too. There’s so many quirky and offbeat moments throughout this moment, including a scene where a drugged Mulder starts singing the Shaft theme song (the original flick, folks) while Scully eye-rolls. One of the best episodes of the series if you’re looking for something a bit more light-hearted.

Guest Stars: Luke Wilson (Bottle Rocket, Idiocracy, Legally Blonde), Patrick Renna (The Sandlot, The Big Green)

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“Folie à Deux”
Written by: Vince Gilligan

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Writing a simple synopsis for this episode is a bit difficult, so I’ll share some key plot points from it:

  • Employee hallucinates his boss as giant bug creature, takes his office hostage.
  • After employee is killed, Mulder starts experiencing same hallucinations, and only Scully believes him.
  • Could the boss really be a bug creature?
  • Gotta love the really out-there MOTW episodes.

Guest Stars: Brian Markinson (Continuum, Caprica, The L Word), Cynthia Preston (Carrie – film reboot, General Hospital), Dmitry Chepovetsky (ReGenesis), Roger Cross (every Canadian show you can think of: Motive, Continuum, Dark Matter, etc., 24)


SEASON SIX

“Drive” – +++
Written by: Vince Gilligan

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The episode best known as “When Vince Gilligan & Bryan Cranston Met for the First Time.” Before Walter White and Heisenberg, Cranston played a man who was evading police as he was driving his wife to some unknown location. An experiment with sonar technology by the U.S. Navy was the possible culprit, but victims who were affected by the secret project and experiment conducted by them suffered a blown brain if they didn’t keep moving; in this case, traveling towards the West Coast. Mulder is taken hostage by Cranston’s character, and he realizes that heading West and continuously driving was the only way to keep the man alive. This is one hell of a nerve-wracking episode.

Guest Stars: Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Malcolm in the Middle), Junior Brown (popular singer)

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“Triangle” – +++
Written by: Chris Carter

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“Triangle” is not your average MOTW. Does a geographic area count as a MOTW? If so, the Bermuda Triangle is our winner! This uniquely-written and shot episode features Mulder trapped in a time warp, courtesy of the Bermuda Triangle, and he encounters alternate World War II versions of Scully, Skinner, and the Cigarette Smoking Man and a few others. There are some amazing long shots in this episode, reminiscent of Martin Scorcese, and it’s cool seeing the “present” and “past” scenes slowly start to meld together until Mulder is rescued at the end. One of my Top 10 favorite episodes.

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“How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” – +++
Written by: Chris Carter

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Season Six was known for having many off-the-cuff episodes that received a mostly-positive reaction from fans, though it felt a little off from the overall alien mythology that the series had worked so hard to establish throughout the previous five seasons. Not like the alien/Syndicate mythology was easy to follow at all. In this one, Mulder calls Scully on Christmas Eve to help him investigate the strange case of people mysteriously dying in a reportedly “haunted” house. Mulder & Scully encounter two unusual personalities in the house, and things get stranger by the minute.

Guest Stars: Edward (Ed) Asner (Mary Tyler Moore, and just about everything you’ve ever watched), Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie, and just about everything you’ve ever watched)

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“Terms of Endearment”
Written by: David Amann

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This episode has Bruce Campbell; that is all. If you have no clue who Bruce Campbell is, please watch the following: the Evil Dead film (and future TV) series, the TV show The Adventures of Briscoe County, Jr. (which aired right before the first season of The X-Files in 1993) and Xena, Warrior Princess (as the devilishly handsome thief Autolycus). Bruce is in this episode and it’s as weird as you can imagine.

Guest Star: Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead series, Burn Notice, Xena, Warrior Princess)

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“Tithonus” – +++
Written by: Vince Gilligan

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It’s time for another serious Vince Gilligan episode. In this episode, a photographer shows up at crime scenes and takes pictures of those close to death, trying to capture Death itself in action. What’s even stranger is that this crime scene photographer, Alfred Fellig, hasn’t aged for several decades. If you’ve created a drinking game to follow along with this MOTW guide, take a shot for Scully being in peril (yet again) in this episode.

Guest Stars: Geoffrey Lewis (The Devil’s Rejects, Land’s End), Richard Ruccolo (Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place), Mo Gallini (Chicago Fire)

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“Agua Mala”
Written by: David Amann

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Don’t drink the water. Or bathe in the water. Or be near the water. Just avoid the “bad water.”

Guest Stars: Darren McGavin (Kolchak: The Night Stalker), Joel McKinnon Miller (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Big Love), Valente Rodriguez (Happily Divorced, George Lopez), Diana-Maria Riva (The Bridge, The Good Guys), Silas Weir Mitchell (Grimm, Prison Break)

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“Arcadia”
Written by: Daniel Arkin

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If you ever wanted to see Mulder & Scully as your average domesticated couple living in an idyllic suburban gated community with this own dark secrets, you’ll definitely be satisfied by this episode. The MOTW itself is pretty lame, but it’s pretty funny seeing Mulder & Scully pretending to be your average suburban couple. If they don’t kill each other while undercover.

Guest Stars: Abraham Benrubi (The Bridge, Happy Town, ER), Tom Gallop (The Bourne Supremacy/Ultimatum, Will & Grace), Debra Christofferson (Carnivàle), Tim Bagley (Web Therapy, Monk, Will & Grace), Tom Virtue (The Secret Life of the American Teenager)

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“Field Trip” – +++
Story by: Frank Spotnitz; Teleplay by: John Shiban & Vince Gilligan

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I really don’t know how to describe this episode, but it involves mushrooms. Of the hallucinogenic type. And hallucinations in general. And lots and lots of goo.

Guest Stars: Robyn Lively (Teen Witch, Twin Peaks), David Denman (Parenthood, The Office, Angel), Jim Beaver (Supernatural, Justified, Deadwood)


SEASON SEVEN

“Hungry”
Written by: Vince Gilligan

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This MOTW is a bit different than the other episodes for one reason: it features the point-of-view of the “monster” itself. It’s a great reflective piece on someone who tries to deal with day-to-day life as something more than human. Another great episode from the common theme in this guide: Vince Gilligan.

Guest Stars: Chad Donella (Final Destination, Saw 3-D: The Final Chapter), Mark Pellegrino (Lost, Supernatural, The Returned), Judith Hoag (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Nashville, Big Love)

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“Millennium” – +++
Written by: Vince Gilligan & Frank Spotnitz

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Lance Henriksen guest stars in this episode as his Millennium counterpart, Frank Black. If you’ve never seen or heard of the show Millennium, it’s a series created by Chris Carter that ran for five seasons before being cancelled. I honestly don’t remember much from the series, but I have seen most of the episodes;  I just haven ‘t seen them since they originally aired. The series was on Netflix for a while, but has since been taken off. I recommend the show because it was a bit darker than the usual FOX fare at the time, and Lance Henriksen is a gifted actor who doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves. In this particular episode, Mulder & Scully pay a visit to Frank Black in a psychiatric hospital to find a man who’s been resurrecting the dead to help bring the apocalypse to Earth, sooner rather than later, in the year 2000.

Guest Stars: Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Near Dark, Millennium), Holmes Osborne (Donnie Darko, Southland Tales), Brittany Tiplady (Millennium), Octavia Spencer (Snowpiercer, The Help, Fruitvale Station), Dick Clark (TV host – R.I.P.)

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“X-Cops” -+++
Written by: Vince Gilligan

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The X-Files + COPS + a tale about supposed lycanthropes = one of my favorite TV mash-ups ever. Before you ask the question, yes – this episode was shot in the live-action style of your average episode of COPS, and it works to absolute perfection in this episode. I really wasn’t sure if I would like this episode when it first aired, but it later turned out to be one of the many offbeat episodes that I greatly dig.

Guest Stars: Judson Mills (Walker, Texas Ranger), Lombardo Boyer (Murder in the First, The Bernie Mac Show)

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“First Person Shooter” – +++
Written by: William Gibson & Tom Maddox

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Scully is a motherfriggin’ badass in this episode! Another episode written by the  cyberpunk pioneers Gibson & Maddox, Mulder and Scully investigate a gaming company that is ready to introduce its newest IPO to the public, but there’s one little snafu: its in-game femme fatale is killing players in real-life, which should be impossible because it’s just a game. Right? When Mulder enters the gamer to get to the bottom of the mystery, he’s trapped himself. So who’s gonna rescue him? Enter badass Scully OWNING the game! For the Scully lovers out there, this is one of my favorite episodes featuring our favorite skeptic.

Guest Stars: Krista Allen (Significant Mother, What About Brian), Constance Zimmer (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., UnREAL, House of Cards), Billy Ray Gallion (LOST), Michael Bower (Salute Your Shorts)

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“Theef” – +++
Written by: Vince Gilligan & John Shiban & Frank Spotnitz

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This dark and frightening MOTW episode features one of my favorite character actors, Billy Drago. He has that frightful, imposing, yet seductive persona that makes his terrific for villainous roles, much like Tony Todd (who also appeared in an early X-Files episode). In this episode, he plays a man that uses hexcraft to seek revenge against a doctor that was involved in his daughter’s death. There’s lots more to the story, but this is a great unsettling episode to watch on a stereotypical “dark & stormy” night.

Guest Stars: Billy Drago (The Hills Have Eyes – remake, Charmed), James Morrison (24, Hawthorne, Space: Above and Beyond)

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“Chimera”
Written by: David Amann

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I’m not really sure how to describe this episode, other than Scully’s stuck on a stakeout detail while Mulder investigates this X-File solo. The aforementioned ‘chimera’ of the title is not the creature of mythology that you’ve heard of, but something entirely different. It’s an OK episode – not one you have to watch immediately, but good to watch if there’s nothing else on TV.

Guest Star: Wendy Schaal (American Dad – voice: Francine Smith)


SEASON EIGHT

“Patience”
Written by: Chris Carter

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If you aren’t a fan of the Duchovny-less final seasons of the series, you can skip this section now and move on to reading another post…or something more constructive. If you’re a fan of Robert Patrick’s “John Doggett,” welcome to his third appearance in this season! This MOTW episode is a bit lame an is not really notable other than Dogget and Scully butting heads over their investigative styles, and there’s a bat creature of some sort in the mix. It’s a pretty forgettable episode, but at least it kept Doggett on high-alert for the bizarreness he would start to encounter as part of the X-Files team.

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“Roadrunners” – +++
Written by: Vince Gilligan

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As a huge Scully fan, any episode where she takes the lead is an automatic win for me. Scully-centric episodes are always interesting, and this one is no exception. Scully’s working solo on this MOTW and encounters a strange religious cult that worships a slug-like creature that controls its victims after being inserted into their spines. Yuck… Will Scully make it out alive before she becomes a slug-infested pod person? Spoiler Alert: It’s Scully! She can handle anything.

Guest Star: Conor O’Farrell (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Lawrence Pressman (Transparent, Hart of Dixie)

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“Via Negativa” – +++
Written by: Frank Spotnitz

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Another “crazy-ass religious cult leader” story. In this episode, a religious cult leader has the ability to enter people’s dreams and murder them in their sl- Ummm… Freddy Krueger, is that you?

Guest Stars: Wayne Alexander (Babylon 5), Keith Szarabajka (Angel), Grant Heslov (True Lies, Good Night, and Good Luck, The Scorpion King)

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“Salvage”
Written by: Jeffrey Bell

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[Insert your own “Iron Man” jokes here]. One of the weakest episodes of the series. If you’re at least the tiniest bit curious to see why I dislike it so much, then feel free to view at your own risk. And try to contain your scoffing and eye-rolling to a minimum.

Guest Stars: Arye Gross (Castle, Ellen), Scott MacDonald (Carnivàle, Star Trek: Enterprise), Wade Williams (Prison Break)

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“Badlaa”
Written by: John Shiban

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Another “meh” MOTW episode that’s mostly notable for the appearance of character actor Deep Roy. An Indian beggar (our MOTW) seeks revenge for the people of his caste in India after an American company has deadly gas released from one of its facilities, killing over a 100 people in the Indian mystic’s area. I didn’t really care for the portrayal of the beggar in the episode (not Deep Roy’s fault –  the writing was a bit weak). An episode worth skipping unless you’re a completest like me and have to watch it.

Guest Stars: Bill Dow (Stargate SG-1, Da Vinci’s Inquest), Deep Roy (Big Fish, Doctor Who, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Michael Welch (Z Nation, Joan of Arcadia)

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“Alone”
Written by: Frank Spotnitz

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This episode is most notable for being David Duchovny’s last MOTW appearance on The X-Files, before his appearances became finally tapered off with a few guest appearances. His only appearance in Season Nine would be in the series finale, the two-parter “The Truth.”

Guest Star: Zach Grenier (The Good Wife, Deadwood, 24)


SEASON NINE

“Dæmonicus”
Written by: Frank Spotnitz

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Monica Reyes was one of the most polarizing characters in X-Files history, sharply dividing fans who liked and hated her. Can we all agree – at least – that Diane Fowley (Mulder’s ex-girlfriend and the bane of Scully’s existence) was just the worst? I really liked Reyes and I might be in the minority of fans who did, but I’ve always liked the actress who portrays her: Annabeth Gish. As someone who’s spent most of her life in Albuquerque, I gotta give some love to a hometown gal. This MOTW is based around Satanic rituals and demonic possession; if that’s your thing, I recommend it. I’ve always like a good old-fashioned demon possession story.

Guest Star: James Remar (Dexter, The Legend of Korra)

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“4-D” – +++
Written by: Steven Maeda

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In this Reyes-centric episode, Reyes has the unfortunate task of trying to figure out how a killer who seems to bend reality and can move in and out of “realities” murdered Doggett with her gun in one alternate reality, while she’s accused of the crime. I liked the episode a bit and I dig Doggett & Reyes’ friendship. Reyes is more open-minded than her male counterpart and is willing to accept explanations that would make most people roll their eyes (hello, Scully!). She’s kinda like a New Age-y version of Mulder, but probably with ideas that even Mulder himself would thing were a bit “out there.”

Guest Star: Cary Elwes (multiple appearances in the series; The Princess Bride, Saw)

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“Lord of the Flies”
Written by: Thomas Schnauz

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While this episode is nothing spectacular, I gotta give it a shout-out for featuring both Aaron Paul and Jane Lynch. I swear – almost every working actor in Hollywood has made an appearance on the series. There’s so many I haven’t listed on here, but they’ll be featured eventually as part of the ongoing X-Files retrospective I’ve been working on over the past year.

Guest Stars: Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad, Big Love), Erick Avari (Heroes, The Mummy), Hank Harris (Popular), Jane Lynch (Glee, Party Down, The L Word), Michael Wiseman (Vegas), Samaire Armstrong (Resurrection, Entourage)

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“Hellbound”
Written By: David Amann

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I always call this episode “the Hellraiser one” because of the skinned bodies seen in frightening hallucinations from future victims. The first Hellraiser sequel was named Hellbound: Hellraiser II, which makes for another coincidence. In this episode, a vengeful spirit is attacking the souls of those who may have killed them when they were alive, and repeating the process throughout the years whenever these souls are born into a new body. Skinning them alive is the most popular way of taking them out.

Guest Star:  Don Swayze (The Bridge, True BloodCarnivàle)

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“Audrey Pauley”
Written by: Steven Maeda

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Reyes-centric episode time! You have two choices: skip it if you hate her, or watch it ’cause you like her or you love the show and will watch all the episodes. After being involved in a nasty car accident, Reyes falls into a coma and her consciousness finds itself trapped in a limbo-type  world where random patients that she encounters for help “disappear” mysteriously. What’s happening? Someone in the hospital is killing their comatose bodies, making the patients “disappear” from this alternate realm. While trapped in this limbo-like realm, Reyes keeps encountering a somber woman named Audrey Pauley, who is like a guardian angel of sorts for the patients trapped in this world. Will Reyes wake up before she becomes the next victim?

Guest Stars: Stan Shaw (Fried Green Tomatoes, The Monster Squad), Tracey Ellis (The Crow: City of Angels, The Age of Innocence), Vernee Watson (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Big Bang Theory)

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“Improbable” – +++
Written by: Chris Carter

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Before the episode “Sunshine Days” was released towards the end of Season Nine, I would’ve easily called this one the strangest MOTW episode of the series. It’s so offbeat and strange and enjoyably weird that you have to watch it a few times to really appreciate it. The brilliant casting of Burt Reynolds in one of the best roles of his career helps as well. The episode itself involves Scully & Reyes investigating murders based around numerology, trying to catch a serial killer who keeps offing numerologists.

Guests Stars: Burt Reynolds (every TV show & film you can think of), Ellen Green (Pushing Daisies, Little Shop of Horrors), John Kapelos (Forever Knight, Justified), Ray McKinnon (Sons of Anarchy, Deadwood)

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“Scary Monsters”
Written by: Thomas Schnauz

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A young boy’s scary hallucinations causes the death of his mother and a family pet, who were attacked by strange insects. A confrontation with an overly-protective father seeking to protect his son from the FBI “strangers” leads the agents into a very dangerous situation. With insects. Lots of insects. Gross.

Guest Stars: Scott Paulin (Castle, Teen Wolf – film), Brian Poth (CSI: Miami, True Blood), Steve Ryan (The West Wing, American Dreams – R.I.P.)

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“Sunshine Days”
Written by: Vince Gilligan

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Leave it to Vince Gilligan to deliver one of the most truly unique and absolutely nutty episodes of the series. What do you get when you mix Bud Bundy + Ben Linus + the Brady Bunch in an episode? You get the most “WTF?” episodes of the entire series. I can’t even begin to describe it, but the main suspect in some bizarre killings is Oliver Martin, who was a cousin of the Brady’s on the show. Could Cousin Oliver be behind the killing, or is it the house itself with a sudden taste for blood? The twist – the house the show was shot in is also a suspect. Yeah – told ya it was weird as hell.

Guests Stars: David Faustino (Married… with Children), Michael Emerson (LOST, Person of Interest), John Aylward (ER, The West Wing)

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