episode by Darin Morgan
summary by Pellinor
Internal dating: No dates given. If internal dates follow air-date order, this episode and the next two should all be crammed into the latter half of March 1995, after Mulder and Scully are recovered from "Dod Kalm."
Gibsonton, Florida. Two boys play in a pool in the dark, and something looking very like a Monster of the Week creeps up on them and attacks them. But hang on a minute... This can't be right. They laugh and call him "Dad." Hmm. Sneaky trick.
The boys go inside, and the father stays in the pool where the real Monster of the Week attacks him and the pool fills with blood. The victim is revealed as Gerald Glazebrook, Alligator Man.
Mulder tells Scully about the case, saying there are 48 similar attacks over 28 years, in every state, and no pattern to the victims. "What do you think, Scully?" he asks, after a long monologue. She's staring at the picture of the Alligator man, who suffered from icthyosis, a skin disease. "Imagine going through your whole life looking like that," she says (remember this one for the end).
They attend Glazebrook's funeral, where most of the mourners are side-show freaks (his wife is a bearded lady). Suddenly the coffin starts rattling and a man bursts out from the ground beneath it. He drives a stake into his chest, saying it's a tribute to the dead man, even though he didn't know him. "I can't wait for the wake," Mulder mutters, as the man (Dr Blockhead) is hustled away.
Mulder and Scully talk to the sheriff, who explains that the town was founded by circus performers. Scully theorises that the murders could have been done by a performer, full of pathological resentment at the world for their deformities, but the sheriff interrupts her, saying that on the inside they're just as normal as anyone else. Scully stands her ground, saying that if he truly regards them as normal, then he must accept that they are capable of killing, just like some "normal" people. Mulder asks about a mermaid picture on the menu, which is painted by one Hepcat Helm.
The sheriff takes them to meet Hepcat, who runs what he calls "tabernacle of terror," but then sheriff calls a funhouse. Mulder asks him about the mermaid picture, and Hepcat says it's the Fiji mermaid - a bit of humbug Barnum pulled. He sewed the tail of a fish to the body of a monkey and billed it as a mermaid, but then he came out and billed it as an incredible fake, and even more people wanted to see it. "You never know where the truth ends and the humbug begins," Hepcat says, telling the story. Mulder is intrigued, thinking maybe Barnum only billed it as a hoax for box office reasons. He shows the sheriff tracks found at several of the crime scenes. They seem rather like monkey tracks, and the Fiji mermaid was supposed to be half monkey. "Do you recall what Barnum said about suckers," Scully says to the sheriff, gesturing at Mulder.
Mulder and Scully go to Gulf Breeze trailer court. Mulder asks the manager, Mr Nutt, who's about three feet tall, if he's done any circus work, and he, offended, launches into a tirade about judging people by appearances. "I've taken in your all-American features, your dour demeanour, your unimaginative neckwear design, and concluded that you work for the government - an FBI agent. But you see the tragedy here. I have mistakenly reduced you to a stereotype - a caricature - instead of regarding you as a specific, unique individual." He finishes with an air of triumph. Mulder reaches into his coat and pulls out his ID. "But I am an FBI agent," he says, deadpan.
A man, Lanny, carries their bags to their trailers and tells them how he used to be in the circus, with his partially attached "twin", who appears like a child sized body protruding from his abdomen. He's drinking from a hip flask, and acting rather drunk.
Scully warns Mulder not to start thinking about the Fiji mermaid. "Every murder investigation begins with a list of possible suspects," he says. "You should try not to be so exclusive, Scully." "As long as you try not to let the atmosphere of this place distort your list out of proportion," she replies.
That night, Hepcat Helm is attacked in his studio by a creature that climbs in through the window and crawls across the floor. It does indeed looks a little like the Fiji mermaid.
Mulder is out for an early morning run when he sees a nearly naked man, his body covered with a jigsaw of tattoos, emerge from the river and eat a raw fish.
Scully is woken up by Lanny, who tells her the sheriff wants to see her as there's been another murder.
At the crime scene, Mulder notices blood on the window. It is on the outside, implying that the attacker had blood on them before the attack. The sheriff wonders why the attacker didn't come through the open door.
Dr Blockhead, the man from the funeral, is performing a theatrical escape. Mulder says it was some trick with the railroad spike, but he claims he doesn't do tricks. It seems that he doesn't feel pain, as he knocks a nail into his nose. Dr Blockhead's companion in the Conundrum, the tattooed man Mulder saw at the river, who eats everything. He gobbles up a handful of raw crickets, and, to Mulder's horror, Scully eats one when offered. She later reveals it was a sleight of hand taught her by her uncle, an amateur magician. Mulder claims he's managed a sleight of hand too ("everybody's uncle's an amateur magician"), and pulls out the nail Blockhead tapped into his nose, saying they now have his blood sample.
Scully visits the local Museum of Curiosities. The owner tells her about Chang and Eng, the original Siamese twins, who died within hours of each other. The second one died of fright, upon seeing his twin - the other part of his body - dead. He also tells him he has an authentic Barnum exhibit which he'll show her, for a fee, but it turns out to be just an empty box.
Mulder finds Mr Nutt under Scully's trailer, repairing the plumbing. He's suspicious, but Mr Nutt launches into another tirade about being judged for his size. "Not all women are attracted to overly tall, lanky men like yourself," he says. "You'd be surprised how many women find my size intriguingly alluring," "And you'd be surprised how many men do as well," Mulder says, deadpan, and Mr Nutt beats a hasty retreat.
Mulder tells Scully that the blood on the nail and the blood on the window were both O positive, but that doesn't prove anything yet. Scully's also been doing some research and has found out that the sheriff used to be Jim-Jim the Dogfaced Boy. They watch as the sheriff buries something in his garden under a full moon, then, when he's gone back inside, they creep out and start to dig it up again. Mulder gets some qualms about it, saying they're judging him unfairly, just because he once had lots of hair, but they decide to carry on anyway. Just as they've exhumed the buried object, the sheriff comes out and finds them. "We were exhuming.... your potato." says Mulder, starting confident but ending up rather less so. Scully tries to explain, turning out a long and unconvincing story about routine background checks into law enforcement officers, but Mulder buts in, saying they've found out about his past. The sheriff's unflustered by the whole thing, but he explains how he buried the potato out of some superstition about curing warts. "Investigation isn't going too well?" he says.
The Conundrum brings Mr Nutt his rent. After he's gone the dog barks at the door, and something grabs Mr Nutt through the little dog door.
Lanny, his hands covered with blood, bursts in and tells Scully about Mr Nutt's death. Lanny is heartbroken, and the sheriff takes him into the drunk tank. Mulder finds a pin in Mr Nutt's hand, taken from the rent cheque Dr Blockhead sent, and they go to arrest him. They handcuff him, but he escapes (he's an escape artist) and pushes Mulder over onto a bed of nails. "More comfortable than a futon," he says. The sheriff manages to catch Blockhead.
Lanny, asleep in a cell, wakes up and stares in horror at the window, screaming, "No!" Mulder and Scully go to investigate, and Scully says she thinks Lanny's brother has pulled itself free of him and has been wandering around attacking people. "How could I turn him in without turning myself in?" Lanny mumbles. He says he doesn't think the brother knows he's hurting anyone. He merely wants another brother. "I don't know why he hates me so," he says, but then "he'll come back. he always does." Mulder says he's ready to trust Scully's judgement on this.
The brother is seen crawling into Hepcat's funhouse, and Mulder and Scully track it, which leads to some fun bits with mirrors and secret doors.
The Conundrum is attacked, but when Mulder and Scully arrive all they see is the Conundrum lying on the ground, smiling. After they go, he rubs his stomach.
Next day, the sheriff is sarcastic about Scully's theory. "Now you know how I feel," Mulder says. Scully talks to Blockhead, who's planning to leave, scared of the killer. Scully wonders aloud about the incredible situation. "I've never seen anything like it," she says. Blockhead says she never will again. Next century, with genetic engineering, everyone will look just like Mulder, he says. "Imagine going through your whole life looking like that." he says, as Mulder poses in the background. "Nature abhors normality, it can't go very long without creating a mutant. Do you know why?" "No, why?" asks Scully. "I don't either, it's a mystery. Maybe some mysteries are never meant to be solved."
Just before they drive off, Mulder comes over, and asks about the Conundrum, who looks a little off-colour: "Probably something I ate."