|The X-Files episode|
|Original Airdate:||May 12, 1995|
|Date(s):||probably March or April 1995|
|Written by:||Frank Spotnitz|
|Directed by:||Rob Bowman|
Mulder and Scully investigate the disappearance of a man in a town where the residents really are what they eat.
SummaryEditLate at night, in the woods near the town of Dudley, Arkansas, a middle-aged man and a much younger woman meet in the woods with amorous intentions. The man wonders why they cannot spring for a hotel room, but she insists on leading him into the woods. Before long, he starts to fall behind, and loses sight of her. When he calls for her, she does not answer. Too late, the man starts to sense something wrong, then looks up and sees a tall figure looming over him, wearing a tribal mask and raising a huge ceremonial axe. As the man screams, the axe comes down.
The man, George Kearns, was a federal health inspector for the Department of Agriculture, assigned to the famous Chaco Chicken Plant in Dudley. Scully feels the case is yet another "wild goose chase," but Mulder shows her a videotape of a deranged man, Creighton Jones, in a mental hospital, talking about fire spirits, and how he would not let them get him. The man was near Dudley when this occurred. Mulder theorizes a connection to foxfires.
In Dudley, Mulder and Scully investigate the place of the sighting, and finds a huge clearing made by a bonfire, and a "witch's peg," which seems to confirm Mulder's theory. The local Sheriff, Tom Arens, drives up and tells them the fire was just the work of some local youths. When asked about Kearns, the Sheriff says he was an outsider, who made himself unpopular around the town. Married to a local woman, Doris, George was a womanizer and, people were saying, going crazy.
Mulder and Scully interview Doris, who does not seem particularly upset that her husband has disappeared, though uneasy about something else. When Mulder asks if she knew that George was about to file a report about health violations at the chicken plant, Doris says her husband never discussed his work.The next morning, Paula Gray, the young woman from the forest, is preparing for her shift at the Chaco Chicken plant, but is nervous and irritable. She dry-swallows some pills before going onto the processing line. At the same time, Mulder and Scully are questioning the shift manager, Jess Harold, who says that three other inspectors gave the plant excellent ratings. However, in the middle of their conversation, a commotion breaks out: Paula has begun to hallucinate, and sees George's severed head pass her on a stake on the conveyor belt. She begins screaming, and as Harold tries to calm her, grabs a knife and puts it to his neck. Scully tries to calm her, and it seems to be working, but then Sheriff Arens shoots Paula dead, knocking her away from Harold and into a feed grinder.
The local doctor is initially resistant to Scully performing an autopsy on Paula's remains, so she and Mulder go to speak with Walter Chaco, the town patriarch and Paula's legal guardian. After an uncomfortable discussion, Chaco agrees to the autopsy. Scully examines what is left of Paula and discovers that she was suffering from Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, also known as "Mad Cow disease," a brain disease spread by eating portions of another diseased animal's nervous system, such as the spine. Scully is also shocked to hear that, according to her personnel record, Paula was actually forty-seven years old (though she appears no older than her mid-twenties). Scully insists that there must be a mistake and that they need to check Paula's birth certificate.
A short time later, a truck carrying a load of chickens crashes, and the driver is also found to be suffering from Creutzfeld-Jakob. Scully's theory is that Kearns discovered health violations at the chicken plant, the major source of employment for the whole town, and was killed to keep him silent. If they disposed of his body by dropping it in the feed grinder, that would have contaminated the chickens, and the people who ate them.
Discussing their theory with the Sheriff, Mulder speculates about places where Kearns's body could have been hidden, and asks the Sheriff to drag the local lake. When that is done, the net comes up with a huge pile of bones.Among the bones, Scully identifies some as belonging to George, and they inform Doris that her husband's death has been confirmed. Scully notices that several of the bones have been polished. She attributes this to erosion from the water, but Mulder has a different theory: pot polish, or an erosive effect caused by boiling in water. A background search reveals that in the last fifty years, eighty-seven people have disappeared mysteriously in the Dudley area, all of them outsiders. Mulder believes that the people were eaten, as there are a variety of beliefs, some religious, some scientific, that eating human flesh enhances the eater's powers and lengthens his lifespan. If Mulder is right, then Paula and the driver did not contract the disease from eating tainted chicken. They got it from eating George Kearns!
In conference with Chaco, Harold says that many of the townspeople are growing uneasy. Chaco assures him that the F.B.I. are the only real problem; the rest he can handle. Then, Doris enters and says she cannot bear the guilt any longer, as she contributed to her husband's death. Chaco reassures her in a fatherly way, telling her to go home and rest.
At the courthouse, Mulder and Scully find that every townsperson's birth records have been burned. They get a call from Doris, who says she needs to speak to them right away. Scully agrees to go meet her, while Mulder goes to Chaco's house to confront him.
Before Scully can arrive, the axe man in the mask appears in Doris's home, and she screams.
At Chaco's house, Mulder breaks in, and is told that Chaco is not there. Inside the house, Mulder sees a variety of tribal artifacts on the walls. Noticing a large, locked cabinet, Mulder breaks it open and finds four severed human heads inside, including George Kearns'. Scully calls him from Doris' house, saying no one is there and that the power has gone out. Suddenly, there are sounds of a scuffle, and Scully's voice disappears.
At a hideous "town meeting," a bonfire is burning in the clearing, while the townspeople queue up to receive portions of a stew ladled out from a cauldron. Scully is brought there, wide-eyed, handcuffed and tape-gagged as the captive. At the same time, Chaco arrives, berating the townspeople for killing Doris. He insists that once they start turning on their own, their community is no longer worth saving. Harold, smirking, says that Chaco's day as the town's leader has passed. The townspeople seize Chaco and force his head into a metal harness, and the masked executioner cuts off his head.Scully is the next one to be placed into the harness. A second time, the axe comes up, and then gunshots ring out, and the executioner falls dead. Mulder has arrived. The townspeople flee the scene, but Mulder is too busy reaching Scully to arrest any of them. Harold aims his gun at Mulder, but he is knocked over and trampled by the fleeing mob, possibly to death.
Mulder frees Scully of her handcuffs and the tape, where they crawl over to the dead axe-man and remove his mask to reveal the Sheriff.
Scully’s closing narration is heard over scenes of the chicken plant shown to be closed by state troopers, acting for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Though it is unknown exactly how many of the townspeople participated in the cannibalism, twenty-seven residents of Dudley have come down with Creutzfeld-Jakob since the murders.According to his Navy service records, Walter Chaco, who appeared no older than his mid-sixties, was actually ninety-three years old. During World War II, he was shot down in the Pacific and rescued after living for six months among the Jaletribe of Papua, New Guinea, whose cannibalistic practices have long been suspected, but never proven.
Scully finishes by saying that Chaco’s remains still have yet to be found. Outside Chaco’s mansion, a worker brings a bucket of feed to his chickens. Reaching into the bucket, he pauses when he finds a wisp of gray hair in the feed, then shrugs and throws it to the chickens, which peck hungrily.
- The episode's location is likely a spoof on Tyson Chicken, a nationwide purveyor of poultry products likewise founded in Arkansas.
- Walter Chaco's name is a reference to Chaco Canyon, a major cultural center of the ancient pueblo peoples. In particular, the Anasazi tribe, who have been suspected of cannibalism.
- Sheriff Arens' name is likely a reference to William Arens, author of a 1979 work on anthropology purporting to debunk several cannibalism myths.
- Caroline Kava as Doris Kearns
- John Milford as Walter Chaco
- Gary Grubbs as Sheriff Tom Arens
- Timothy Webber as Jess Harold
SEMICOLON-SEPARATED LIST OF ITEMS/LOCATIONS REFERENCED IN EPISODE (BUT NOT LINKED TO IF ALREADY LINKED IN SUMMARY OR GUEST STARS SECTIONS)
Mulder at 13:07: "If a fool would persist in his folly he would become wise" quoting William Blake.