Strange things happen in a zoo that result in several deaths, including a government employee and apparently an invisible elephant.
Two janitors are working on a building at night when the ground shakes violently. The two are terrified when the windows suddenly shatter due to some invisible force. Forty-five miles away, an Indian elephant is found dying on the road. The elephant is suspected to have killed a construction worker by stepping on the man in his car. Scully interviews the janitors, who tell her they were attacked by something invisible. Mulder notes that the construction worker had his spine crushed by what appeared to be an elephant's foot.
Ed Meecham talks with them about the escaped Indian elephant, Ganesha, who apparently ran herself into exhaustion. He also mentions that Ganesha's cage was closed and locked. Mulder talks about 'Elephant Rebellion', asking if Ganesha had ever had any troubles. Ed insinuates that there were, but tells them to speak to Willa Ambrose.
At the Fairfield Zoo, Scully and Mulder discover Ambrose leading a tour group. She shows them the cage in which Ganesha was held. The cage itself is very small, with shackles, and Ambrose informs the two that she intended to change those.
The prime suspect in the release of the elephant was the Wild Again Organization, or the WAO. They believe that animals cannot live in captivity. Kyle Lang, the leader, shows Mulder and Scully video footage of the Fairfield Zoo from years ago. The footage shows an elephant being abused by zookeepers, which Kyle says is still going on. He also reveals that Willa Ambrose has been busy with a lawsuit by the Malawian government. Ambrose rescued an infant gorilla and raised her like a child, but now the government wants the gorilla back.
Scully suspects the WAO, but Mulder reminds her that none of the witnesses saw an elephant. Scully suggests that if the zoo had another disaster, it would lose funding and have to close, which is what the WAO wants. Mulder leaves, saying he wishes to 'talk to the animals.' (Frohike, Byers and Langly)
Mulder talks with Frohike and Byers over a satellite connection. Langly is not present, as he does not like the idea of his image being bounced off a satellite. Frohike tells Mulder that the Fairfield Zoo is near an air base, which is a major UFO hotspot. Byers adds that none of the animals at the Fairfield Zoo have ever taken a pregnancy to term.
Scully follows a WAO member to the zoo, where he jumps the fence. She is discovered by Ed Meecham, who instructs her to follow him. The animals begin to grow violent and agitated as the WAO member tapes the tiger. A white light flashes over the area, and when the member looks again, the tiger is no longer in its cage. The member hears growling around him and is attacked by the tiger while his camera records the entire scene.
Kyle Lang claims to have no knowledge of the member, and tells Scully that if the tiger killed him, it was a natural act. Scully threatens him with jail if he is lying. Mulder shows Scully the camera footage, describing the attacker as a phantom. The two agents go to see Ambrose so they may speak with her gorilla, Sophie. Ambrose is defensive, but she allows them to speak with the gorilla in sign language. She tells them that for eight months, Sophie has been moody and depressed, prompting her to remove the gorilla from its public exhibit.Sophie tells Ambrose 'light afraid', meaning that she is afraid of the light. Ambrose wonders if Sophie knows that she might be taken away. Mulder seems to have developed a theory, and asks Scully to perform an autopsy on Ganesha. Ganesha, despite not being mated, shows the signs of having been pregnant.
Across town, a pair of construction workers are on site at night when they discover the tiger. Ed is prepared to shoot and kill the tiger, but Ambrose insists that they can capture it. Ed reluctantly complies as the group tries to find the tiger. One of the construction workers tells Ambrose that the tiger was 'just here'. The tiger attacks Ambrose, but it shot by Ed.
The board has withdrawn funding from the zoo, which has been closed until further notice. All of the animals are going to be shipped out to other zoos. The tiger was revealed to have also been pregnant. Mulder suggests that the animals were artificially inseminated, and that the embryos were being taken for DNA. He also thinks that Sophie is also pregnant, and afraid of losing her baby. Sophie tells Mulder and Ambrose that she is afraid of the light, and that 'baby go flying light'. At that moment, Ambrose is ordered to release Sophie into protective custody. She goes to Kyle Lang for help, pleading with him to find the gorilla a special reserve, but he initially refuses. While Sophie is being moved, Scully shows Mulder a newspaper clipping showing Kyle and Willa together, stating that the two had once worked together.
At night, Kyle Lang enters the zoo, seeking Ambrose. The animals grow agitated once more as Kyle is thrown up against the wall and attacked. The next morning, Scully confronts Ambrose with a witness report of her talking to Kyle. As they leave, Mulder suggests that Ambrose may have killed Kyle, but believes that they should perform an examination on Kyle's body.
As Ambrose packs her things, Scully reveals to her that Kyle died wrongfully. Ambrose tells her that Ed killed Kyle, and that the former is keeping Sophie. Mulder discovers Ed downstairs, who claims that Ambrose paid him to kill Kyle. Sophie is throwing herself up against the door of her pen out of terror. Worried that she might kill herself, Ed readies a tranquilizer and Mulder opens the door. Sophie attacks Mulder, but calms down to sign something to him. Afterwards, another bright flash of light fills the room and Sophie is gone.
Scully finds Mulder on the ground and informs him that Ed had been captured trying to flee. The two leave the zoo to find Ambrose, who demands to know what happened to Sophie. Mulder shows her what Sophie signed to him, and Ambrose translates it as 'man save man'.
Sophie is found dead, miles away, having been hit by a car.
Ambrose and Meecham were both charged with manslaughter for the killing of Kyle. Mulder muses over the motives of the 'visitors', wondering if perhaps, 'man saves man'.
- When Mulder speaks to Byers over a satellite connection, Byers says that Langly refuses to participate due to philosophical issues with his likeness being bounced off a satellite.
- This is the only time in the series that the Lone Gunmen have appeared without Langly.
- The episode title is taken from William Blake's poem "The Tyger". The construction site where the tiger is shot is named Blake Towers after the poet.
- When Mulder and Scully are leaving the WAO offices, Mulder says, "It's all happening at the zoo, Scully." This line is from the Simon & Garfunkel song At the Zoo.
- One of the construction workers at Blake Towers tells the other, "I can't believe you bet on the Chargers," which is a reference to Super Bowl XXIX (played four weeks prior to the original air date of this episode), in which the San Francisco 49ers beat the San Diego Chargers 49 to 26.
Cast and Characters
- Charles Andre (Ray Floyd) previously played Thug in The X-Files episode "Shadows".
- Lenno Britos (Janitor) later played Luis Cardinal in several expisodes.