Just so you know, this episode finished fourth in its time slot. It got The X-Files's lowest ratings since the show moved to Sundays, five years ago. There's a reason for that, you know. "Yeah, the reason is that the show blows without me," the Mulder action figure mutters from his spot on my right shoulder. (He likes to read the recaps as I type them. Occasionally, he corrects my spelling.) "Are you saying I'm not enough?" the Scully action figure yells at him from across the room. "I never said that!" the Mulder hollers back. "Whatever, you deadbeat," the Scully mutters under her breath. I'm sorry, action figure 'shippers; things are pretty awkward between the Mulder and the Scully. Although it turns out that the Mulder actually was only helping my Britney Spears doll with her yoga -- as he proved by demonstrating to all of us that her red leather catsuit doesn't actually come off -- things remain strained and strange for our tiny plastic friends. It's very sad.
Speaking of sad, let's go to the videotape. We open...somewhere. Some guy in a turtleneck walks down a dark hallway, lit only with red light bulbs. Mark Snow plays "Foreboding Snare Drums of Illicit Activity, Opus 4,545," a tune he composed in his car on the way to the studio in between picking up some Krispy Kremes and dropping off his duvet cover at the dry cleaner. It's all very Mission Impossible, as Turtleneck passes first a palm-recognition checkpoint and then a retinal scan to gain admittance...somewhere. He walks down some stairs...somewhere. None of this is very clear. Turtleneck takes a small white envelope out of his pocket. The envelope reads "Top Secret!" although sans the kicky exclamation point. Turtleneck approaches some other guy who's guarding a door. Somewhere. I don't know. Can't I fast-forward ahead to the nudity? Anyway, Turtleneck tells the Guard that he has a message for "Dr. Nordlinger." The Guard assures Turtleneck that he'll pass the message along. Turtleneck gruffs that he has orders to "confirm delivery" and report back. Finally, the doctor himself pokes his head out the door and asks what the fuss is all about. Guard bitches that there's some confusion about "proper procedure." While he's complaining, Turtleneck peeks over his shoulder and into the room behind them. Inside, a bunch of lab-coated workers are fiddling with what looks like human ova. Everything they're doing is projected on a giant screen on the wall, the better for Turtleneck -- and us -- to see it. I don't know why Chris Carter doesn't just project a sign reading "This Will All Make Sense Eventually. Pinky Swear!" Nordlinger notices him spying, and shuts the door, holding his hand out for the note. It reads: "Emergency. Stop. Return to Operation Base Directly. Stop." The snare drum snares frantically. "Communication acknowledged and confirmed, Captain," Nordlinger says. "We're returning to base." I'll bet he's still crabby from being called "Nerdlinger" in high school. They stare. I yawn. Two minutes in, and I'm already yawning. Who cares about these anonymous people? I don't. I want answers to all the questions this show has raised over the years, and I want them now! Either that, or I'd like a musical episode, like Buffy. Can't you just see it? Skinner and Doggett, standing out in the rain, alone, each singing "Can't Help Loving That Man," in counterpoint? Scully, serenading William with "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby"? Moronica, singing "Damn! I Wish I Was Your Lover" to Scully's picture? Anyhoo, Captain Turtleneck walks back...somewhere, where he talks to...some other guy. Let's call him Pierre. "Prepare to transmit to operations commander," Captain Turtleneck tells Pierre. Pierre is all, transmit what? "We're coming in," Captain Turtleneck announces. More staring. He walks over to a steering wheel thing, and starts a-steering. We pan out one of the portholes and see that Captain Turtleneck is driving a big old oil rig...I mean, "aircraft carrier." Whatever.
Credits o' Pain.