The Erlenmeyer Flask
episode by Chris Carter
summary by Pellinor
Internal dating: The case starts on Sunday May 8th 1994. The case takes some three or four days. Thirteen days after the end, the X- Files are closed down.
The episode starts with a high speed car chase. A man is caught and beaten by the police, but breaks free, throwing the police to the ground. He is hit by a taser (which stuns people with electric shocks) but it has no effect, and is then shot, but still carries on running. He then jumps into the water, leaving a trail of green fluid.
The credits roll, with the altered tag line: "Trust no- one."
Sunday May 8th, 1994. Mulder is asleep on the couch in front of the television, a file open on his lap. Deep Throat calls him and tells him to watch channel 8, which is reporting the aftermath of the car chase.
Mulder and Scully study the video of the news report. Scully wonders why Mulder's bothering at all. "How do we know he's not just yanking your chain, this Deep Throat character?" she asks. "He has lied to you, by his own admission." Mulder still thinks there's something he's missing.
Mulder and Scully go to the crime scene. The police officer in charge of the chase tells them there were 3 different law enforcement agencies there the previous night, and Mulder, looking at a picture printed out from the video, points out an important looking man with no uniform or badge. The police have been 18 hours searching the water, but haven't found the fugitive.
Mulder studies the fugitive's car, but still doesn't know what he's looking for. He looks at the photographs again, and notices a doctor's symbol in the wind shield of the suspect's car in the photograph which isn't present in the car they've been looking at. He manages to read the first three numbers of the licence number of the car in the photograph and calls his ever helpful source, Danny, to run a check.
Emgen Corporation, Gaithersburg, Maryland. Mulder and Scully visit Dr Berube, who's car it turned out to be. Berube has a lab full of monkeys, which he says are part of an experiment, but he won't say anything else. Scully wants to stop the case. "This has reached the point of absurdity, Mulder," she says. "We're out here on half a hunch, after a cryptic phone call, chasing down a clue that's based on nothing more but speculation." "That's all we've got," he says, defensively. "That's all he's given us," she says. "Who is this Deep Throat character? I mean, we don't know anything about him. What his name is... what he does." Mulder says he's in a delicate position and an indiscretion could expose him. Scully says it could be just a game to him - "He's toying with you, rationing out the facts." "Do you think he does it because he gets off on it?" he asks. "No," she replies. "I think he does it because you do."
Mulder returns home, and finds Deep Throat waiting for him outside. Deep Throat says Mulder's level of commitment seems to have dropped. "I expected you to be working trying to put the pieces together," he says. Mulder says he could so this, if he gives him more, but Deep Throat says he's given him more than enough already. "From day one this has always been on your terms," Mulder says, adding that's he's gone along with it and been the dutiful son for too long. Deep Throat says he's afraid Mulder's become too dependant on him, but Mulder replies that Deep Throat may have become too dependant on him - on his willingness to play along with his games. He walks off, but Deep Throat calls him back and says he's never been closer. "Closer to what?" Mulder asks, but gets no reply.
Dr Berube is working in his lab at night when a man with a crew- cut comes in. "He's alive, isn't he," Crew-cut man says. "Has he contacted you?" Dr Berube says he won't answer anything, but Crew-cut man asks him where Dr Secare is, then kills him.
The search in the water for the fugitive is called off after two days. After the boats leave, the fugitive slowly resurfaces.
Mulder and Scully visit the scene of Berube's death, which is listed as a suicide, though Mulder's sceptical. Scully reads that Berube was working on the Human Genome project, and Mulder finds a flask labelled "Purity Control." Scully agrees to take it for analysis, but, she says, "if this is monkey pee, you're on your own."
Scully takes the Purity Control sample to Dr Carpenter in the Microbiology Department of Georgetown University, who is amazed at what she sees in the microscope. "These are.... strange," she says, looking at some unusual bacteria.
Mulder breaks into Dr Berube's house and goes through his phone bill. He calls the ever-helpful Danny, asking him to trace the address that belongs to a particularly frequently called number. As Crew-cut mans listens in from a van outside, Berube's phone rings and Mulder answers it, assuming it's Danny calling him back quickly. It turns out to be the fugitive from the teaser, calling from a payphone, who mistakes Mulder for Berube. "They shot me," he says. "I've been under the water three days." He then collapses, and someone on the scene cuts off Mulder's call before Mulder can find out where he is.
The paramedics treat the man in the ambulance, but suddenly cry out in pain, rubbing their eyes, when they insert a needle to take a blood sample. The man jumps up and runs away.
Scully calls Mulder, telling him about the bacteria. Each bacteria contains a virus and look like plant cells, and have been cloned. She says it resembles a highly experimental process called gene therapy, and it would probably be made to be injected into living things. Bacteria like this, she tells him, have never been seen before. While talking, Mulder has been driving to the address Danny found for him. "Keep up the good work," he says, getting out of the car as he arrives and finishing the call.
The address belongs to a warehouse called "Zeus Storage." Using keys stolen from Berube's house, Mulder opens the doors, finding a room full of tanks. Inside each tank is a human, seemingly asleep although fully submerged in the water. As Mulder watches in amazement, one of the men turns over as if in his sleep.
Dr Carpenter shows Scully the DNA sequences of the bacteria sample. Four nucleotides exist in DNA, she says, and from these four all living things are created. This sample, amazingly, seems to contain the fifth and sixth nucleotides. "What you are looking at, it exists nowhere in nature," she says. "It would have to be by definition extraterrestrial."
Mulder emerges from the warehouse to find men in suits emerging from a van outside. He feigns nonchalance for a while, but when one of them runs towards him he flees. No-one appears to chase him.
Mulder arrives home early next morning, immediately greeted with an anxious phone call from Scully, who's been trying to contact him all night. "I had a situation," he says, saying he left his phone in the car and couldn't get back to it. She tells him what Dr Carpenter discovered, and he asks her to come straight over.
Mulder and Scully drive back to the Zeus Storage warehouse. Before they go in, Scully, looking rather awkward, calls Mulder back. "I just want to say I was wrong," she says. "If you'd ever listened to me, maybe we wouldn't be here right now. I should know by now to trust your instincts." "Why?" Mulder asks. "No-one else does." The both smile. Scully says she's always trusted science, but after what she saw last night, "for the first time in my life I don't know what to believe." Mulder says that, whatever she believes, after she sees what's in the room, "nothing sacred will hold."
The warehouse is empty, no sign of ever having been used. "They were here, Scully," Mulder says, rushing desperately around the empty room.
Deep Throat comes in, saying they have been destroyed. Mulder accuses him of keeping secrets but Deep throat says there are black organisations even within his organisation, and he doesn't know everything. "There are limits to my knowledge, Mr Mulder," he says. Mulder tells him about the three men who chased him the previous night, but Deep throat says that, had they truly been chasing him, he would have been killed. "Those men are trained for that sort of business and they are trained well," he says. Scully asks if these are the same men who killed Dr Berube, and he says they probably were. "Why?" she asks, rather hostilely. "Why? You've worked so hard and you still don't see?" he says.
Mulder speculates that Berube was conducting human experiments with alien viruses. "Yes," Deep Throat says, as if this is nothing of any importance, "but that's been going on for years." They had the tissue since 1947, he says, but not the technology until recently. "Roswell," Mulder says, understanding, but Deep Throat says "Roswell was only a smokescreen. There have been half a dozen better salvage operations." Berube was killed as his work was too successful. He took six human volunteers to be turned into alien-human hybrids. All had been suffering from cancer, but all gained inhuman strength and their cancer disappeared. One was Berube's friend, Dr Secare, the fugitive from the teaser. He, like the others, were never supposed to have survived. "They" (though Deep throat says "we", talking of a top secret government project run from Los Alamos) wanted the technology - wanted to see that it could work - but actually having living proof of the experiments at large was too dangerous. Secare only escaped as far as he did as Berube, his old friend, warned him. "They're systematically destroying all the evidence," Deep Throat says, adding he didn't anticipate how fast they'd launch the clean-up operation or he'd have given them more to go on at the start. "Who would believe the story I just told you?" he says, telling them to find more evidence quickly. "I'll have no further contact with you in that matter." During the whole scene, Mulder wanders round the room, seemingly stunned into silence. Scully asks all the questions.
Scully returns to Georgetown to consult Dr Carpenter, but is told she and her whole family have been killed in a car crash.
Mulder, telling Scully he'll "trust his instincts" looks for Dr Secare in Berube's house. He hears a noise in the attic and goes to investigate. Secare attacks him, but Mulder tries to talk to him. "I'll protect you," he says, even as Crew-cut man, his face covered with a gas mask, shoots Secare. As green fluid issues form the wound, Mulder falls to the ground, crying out in pain and rubbing at his eyes and nose.
Mulder, his eyes, nose and mouth red and inflames, lies tied up on the floor, his cell phone ringing and ringing, as Crew-cut man is his henchmen dispose of Secare. "Why don't you answer it for me?" he mumbles to Crew-cut man, who replies that he doesn't like speaking on the phone. "I have this thing about unsecured lines," he says, referring to his earlier eavesdropping on Mulder's calls, "But when you feel like talking, let me know though."
6.10 am. Scully arrives at Mulder's apartment complex (a great view of the outside of the building) but is met by Deep Throat, who tells her "they" have Mulder. "They won't kill him," he assures her, saying he's too high profile and that she has evidence that can expose them if they did so. "I don't have any evidence," she protests, but he says that, with her medical background, he might be able to get her some evidence - to get her "the wellspring - the original tissue." "They might be willing to make a deal," he tells her. "It might save his life."
Fort Marlene, High Containment Facility, Maryland. Scully, looking very tense, uses Deep Throat's credentials and proceeds to level 7, "cryology" She gives her true name and department, but then is asked for the password. "Purity control," she says, and is let in. Inside, she opens a door and pulls out a jar of liquid nitrogen. Inside is a foetus that looks distinctly inhuman. She stares at it in amazement.
Scully and Deep Throat meet on a bridge late at night and he asks her to hand over the package. She refuses, saying she will be the one to make the exchange. "I don't trust you," she says. "I don't know who you are." He looks impatient and angry. "Don't screw this up," he says, telling here about a group of children who, in 1987, were injected with cloned DNA from a package, passed off an routine inoculation. "That's the sort of men you're dealing with," he says. If that's so, she protests, they shouldn't give them the foetus back. It could save Mulder's life, true, but at the risk of many others. Deep Throat says it will make no difference. This package is just the "tip of the iceberg", but Mulder and Scully are the only ones who can bring the project to light. Reluctantly, Scully hands over the package.
Crew-cut Man drives up, and Scully watches and Deep Throat hands over the package, then gets shot. Simultaneously, Mulder's body is thrown out of the back of the van. "No!" Scully cries, rushing to the scene. She checks on Mulder first, finding him alive but unconscious. She then goes to Deep Throat, who's been shot in the chest. "Trust no-one," he says, as he dies.
13 days later, Scully is wakes with a start at 11.22, then the phone rings. "They're shutting us down, Scully," Mulder says, his voice cracking. Skinner called him in this evening, he says, and they're being reassigned to other sections, after "word came down from the top." Scully protests, saying they can't do this, but he says they can - they have. "It's over, Scully."
Scully: "What are you going to do?"
Mulder: "I'm.... not going to give up. I can't give up. Not ass long as the truth is out there."
In a scene exactly echoing the Pilot episode, Cancerman (yet to be given that name) is seen putting the foetus in a box full of other similar jars in a huge Pentagon warehouse.