Two salesmen and a federal employee join forces when they meet Susanne Modeski, a woman who claims that she is being pursued by her violent ex-boyfriend, Fox Mulder.
In 1989 in a warehouse in Baltimore, a group of SWAT agents head in, finding a naked Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) in a box, shouting "They're Here!" Frohike, Byers and Langly sit in a Baltimore prison, blaming each other for the predicament they are in. Byers sits down with Detective John Munch in an attempt to explain what happened.
Byers tells Detective Munch that he is a public affairs officer for the FCC and attended a computer and electronics show at the Baltimore Convention Center. Byers follows a beautiful woman who passes by his booth and also by booths manned by Frohike and Langly, offering bootleg cable. When Byers bumps into her she introduces herself as Holly and says that her daughter has been kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend. The only clues she has to his whereabouts is that he's in the Baltimore area and a piece of paper with ARPANET/WHITCORPS written on it. Byers realizes that the paper is referring to a Department of Defense network that she requests he hack into. Byers finds a file on her daughter, named Susanne Modeski, but it is encrypted. Just then a man who Holly claims to be her boyfriend passes by, Fox Mulder.
Byers and Holly recruit Frohike to help them decipher the encrypted file. Byers and Frohike think it would be a better idea to beat Mulder up but don't do it when he introduces himself as an FBI agent to them. Returning to his booth, Byers finds his colleague being arrested for the hacking he did. Frohike convinces him not to turn himself in and recruits Langly to help them hack into the FBI database to learn more about why the FBI is after Holly. Hacking into the FBI Database they find that Holly actually is Susanne Modeski, and that she is wanted for murder, sabotage and terrorist acts that killed four people at a weapons facility in New Mexico.
Holly/Susanne arrives and admits to lying to them, but claims that she has been scapegoated for trying to leave her job where she was working on Ergotamine, an aerosolized gas that causes paranoia and anxiety. She claims that the government plans to test the gas on the civilians in Baltimore. After deciphering the encrypted file they find that she's telling the truth and where the gas is located. Susanne also finds evidence that she has had a tracking device put in her teeth, which she pulls out.
The four of them head to a warehouse, where they find the gas stored inside asthma inhalers. Suddenly, Mulder arrives to arrest them, but two dark suited men arrive after afterwards to take Susanne. They fire at Mulder, hitting the boxes behind him and exposing him to the gas. The exposure causes Mulder to strip naked, hide in the box, and hallucinate about seeing aliens in the warehouse. Susanne kills the suited men and escapes. More men arrive, led by Mr. X. He who intimidates Byers, Langly, and Frofike. The apparently shaken Byres confronts Mr.X, asking him about his actions and mentions the supposed cover-up of the JFK assassination. Mr. X's obviously unconvincing denial - " I heard it was a lone gunman" - is the origin of the trio's name. Mr X's then leaves, as the police arrive and arrest the trio.
Detective Munch doesn't believe Byers story, but when Mulder corroborates the story he, Langly and Frohike are released. They later encounter Susanne again who has failed to get the media to believe her story. She tells them to reveal the truth to as many people as possible. She is captured by X and his men soon afterwards. Later the three of them meet Mulder in the convention center and explain what happened to him.
SEMICOLON-SEPARATED LIST OF ITEMS/LOCATIONS REFERENCED IN EPISODE (BUT NOT LINKED TO IF ALREADY LINKED IN SUMMARY OR GUEST STARS SECTIONS)
- This episode features the Lone Gunmen more than any previous episode in The X-Files and would ultimately lead the way to the trio's own spin-off series, The Lone Gunmen.
- The title of the episode is likely a reference to the film The Usual Suspects.
- Gillian Anderson (Dana Scully) does not appear in this episode.
- Richard Belzer set a TV record by becoming the first person to play the same character on three different prime time series during the same week.
- Detective John Munch appeared on the Law & Order/Homicide crossover "Baby It's You" on November 12 and 14 followed by this episode on the 16th.
- Due to the fact that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson would still be tied up in California shooting The X-Files movie at the end of August 1997, the producers decided to create an episode that was centered around The Lone Gunmen. This way, 1013 could complete the network episode order and have their leading stars freed up and complete principal shooting on The X-Files: Fight the Future. The scenes with David Duchovny were shot several weeks after shooting of this episode wrapped up.
- Eric Knight, who played Eric the Hacker Dude, is David Duchovny's personal assistant.
- Susanne's dentist, Dr. Michael Kilbourne, is named after writer Vince Gilligan's own, real-life dentist.
- Susanne Modeski owes her alias to writer Vince Gilligan's girlfriend, Holly Rice
- This episode was actually filmed before the conclusion to the season cliffhanger as David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were still away filming the X-Files Movie and the studio needed to begin filming to keep their production schedule.
- "Unusual Suspects" marks the 100th episode of the show.
- As Fox Mulder had already met the Lone Gunmen by the time of their first appearance (in the Season 1 episode "E.B.E."), this episode reveals how Byers, Frohike and Langly joined forces with each other, and became associates of Mulder.
- This episode is similarly the first chronological appearance of "X", who served as an insider contact for Mulder from Season 2 until the first episode of Season 4, "Herrenvolk". This Season 5 episode is also the penultimate appearance of "X". He would later appear in the series finalé, "The Truth".
- This episode is the only one that reveals the reason why the Lone Gunmen took that collective name, when X says, referring to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, "I heard it was a lone gunman".
- The storyline of Susanne Modeski and her work with government mind control is continued in "Three of a Kind", another episode which heavily features the Gunmen.
- At the end of the episode, Mulder believes that government operatives are Aliens, similar to some of the townsfolk in "El Mundo Gira".
- We find out the Byers' full name is John Fitzgerald Byers and he was born November 22, 1963. This was the same day that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed. Before the assassination when his parents decided to name him after the President, his name was to be Bertram.
- Dig Dug is the video game that Byers' booth partner is seen playing during the first half of the episode is a PC translation of Atari's 1982 arcade game Dig Dug. Versions of the game were made for several home game systems and computers from the '80s.
- The Gunmen's use of the primitive internet in 1989 is extremely dodgy. Among other things they downloaded Mulder's FBI file and picture in an instant which, given the standards of telephone lines and modems in 1989, is virtually unbelievable.
- The script of this episode never called for Mulder to wear a wedding ring. This was David Duchovny's idea who thought it would be cool to toy with the notion that Mulder could in the past have been married. When Frohike, Langly and Byers look at his FBI file, it says that he is single.
- White Rock is the name of a small, unincorporated town in New Mexico, largely populated by employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory and their families. The name could be a thinly disguised reference to Los Alamos or a conflation of Los Alamos and White Sands, a missile and atomic testing range also in New Mexico (however, the two facilities are not very close). Much of the basic research on the first atomic bombs was conducted at Los Alamos, and the first tests were done at White Sands.
- Munch: Don't lie to me like I'm Geraldo Rivera. I am not Geraldo Rivera. Detective Munch: Do I look like Geraldo to you? Don't lie to me like Geraldo, I'm not Geraldo! In the Homicide: Life on the Street pilot "Gone for Goode", Det. John Munch uses a nearly identical line when interrogating a suspect, except using Montel Williams' name instead of Geraldo Rivera
- Killlbarbie: "Your kung fu is the best."
The line "My kung fu is the best" is a reference to a prank voice mail "My kung fu is best" left to tease investigators who were attempting to apprehend famed hacker Kevin Mitnick. Originally Mitnick was thought to be the originator of the prank calls and is often mistakenly credited for making the quote, however the true identity of the prank caller has since been discovered to be phone "phreaker" (i.e.hacker) Zeke Shif who went by the handle SN.
- A play on the phrase "The Usual Suspects", which is also the title of a movie containing unreliable narratives: 1995's The Usual Suspects. The episode referenced the movie a few times, with a questionable character making up a story from objects he/she sees around the room, jail scenes, and the hard-to-explain opening that is revisited later when it is much more easily understood.
The title of the 1995 film is taken from the 1942 classic film Casablanca. Captain Renault's (Claude Rains') final line is "Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects". The Marx Brothers 1946 comedy A Night in Casablanca appears to start with that rounding up.
- When Suzanne extracts her tooth, she is shown holding gauze, and later an ice pack on her lower left jaw. Yet, the tooth being examined by the Lone Gunmen is a maxillary molar as evidenced by its three roots.
- When the Lone Gunman decrypt the file, it says Susanne killed four people and then the MP that tried to detain her, but whenever anyone mentions her crimes they say she killed four people including the MP.
- At the end of the episode when the payphone rings, the closeup of the phone shows a white van parked behind it, but when the phone is shown further away in the next shot, the van is gone.
- When Byers pulls up the Susanne Modeski file and sees that it's encrypted, she asks him to print it out; this is a useless effort, since encrypted files use codes that show up as nonprinting characters. Therefore, in a printout of such a file, much of the data would show up as blanks or garbled text from which it would be impossible to derive any useful information or recreate the encrypted data. What he needed to do was print a byte-by-byte file dump.
- When Susanne finds out her dentist was spying on her, she goes to the bathroom and pulls out her tooth. Her mouth should have been swollen, but when the Lone Gunman meets her, her face is perfectly normal.
- When the Lone Gunmen catch up with Susanne at the end of the episode, when she is talking to them and the camera is on the three, you can see not one, but TWO boom mics at the top of the screen. (This was seen on the DVD and may only appear there.)
- During the second last scene of the episode when the Men in Black drive off with Susanne, a billboard advertising CBC Radio Two can be seen in the distance. Radio Two is a national Canadian radio station that would not be available in Baltimore but Vancouver where the X Files was shot.
Cast and Characters
- Chris Nelson Norris (SWAT Lieutenant) previously played Edmund Peacock in The X-Files episode "Home" and Patterson in the Millennium episode "Sense and Antisense".
- David Duchovny as Special Agent Fox Mulder
- Gillian Anderson as Special Agent Dana Scully (credit only)
- Richard Belzer as Detective John Munch
- Signy Coleman as Susanne Modeski
- Bruce Harwood as John Fitzgerald Byers
- Tom Braidwood as Melvin Frohike
- Dean Haglund as Richard Langly
- Steven Williams as X
- Chris Nelson Norris as SWAT Lieutenant
- Glenn Williams as Officer
- Stuart O'Connell as First SWAT Officer
- Ken Hawryliw as Himself