As the agents investigate a series of murders committed by ordinary citizens angered after seeing illusory images, Scully's trust in Mulder is put to the ultimate test.
Mulder is given a newspaper article about a number of people who became psychotic and murdered several people by the Plains Clothes Man. One man killed five people, all believing them to be the same man. Mulder and Scully travel to see this man, who is in a psychiatric hospital now under the care of Dr. Stroman. He freaks out upon seeing a news show about a war criminal in the former Yugoslavia.
Mulder and Scully travel to the man's house where they find two boys watching a movie on the man's television. The boys quickly leave and Mulder and Scully poke around. Mulder sees a cable repair company van drive by while Scully finds many recordings of a news show. She theorizes that the violence on the shows caused the man to murder the five people. That night, Scully watches some of the videos the man had in his house to try and find any reasons for the murders. When she stepped out into the parking lot for a break, she saw Mulder and the Cigarette Smoking Man talking in Mulder's car.
The next day, Mulder denies that the conversation took place. The same day, Mulder and Scully go to a woman's house where a similar murder took place. The woman thought she saw her husband in a hammock with a blond woman; in reality it was her neighbor taking a nap with his dog. Mulder sees the same cable repairman, but he drives off before he can catch him. Mulder climbs up the pole and finds a device in the cable box.
Mulder brought the device to the Lone Gunmen, who found that it interfered with the regular television, but couldn't tell him how. Mulder calls Scully to update her, but she is growing more paranoid, and combs through her hotel room, looking for listening devices after hearing clicks on the phone. Mulder arrives at her hotel room, but upon opening the door Scully fires at him four times and runs off. A team of police/FBI arrive to find Scully but Mulder says that they are searching for her like an escaped prisoner. Skinner defends the search team, saying that Scully is armed and dangerous. Mulder calls Mrs. Scully to inform her of Scully's disappearance.
The Lone Gunmen call Mulder again and Mulder goes back to their place. They tell him that the device he found in the cable box is slipping images into the television these people are watching. The Lone Gunmen believe it to be a mind control device. Mulder was not affected by these images, because he is red-green color blind.
The police find a body that they believe to be Scully's. Mulder goes to see it, but he confirms it not to be her. The doctor present mentions that Mrs. Scully hasn't been answering her phone, leading Mulder to go to her house. There, he finds Scully who is still very paranoid and points a gun at him. Scully accuses Mulder of being part of the men who abducted her and killed her sister. Mrs. Scully steps in and calms Scully down. Scully is then hospitalized. Once she is better, Mulder tells her his theory that the device amplifies people's anxieties and causes dementia.
Mulder asked Scully's doctor if she would treat someone in Scully's condition for an amphetamine addiction, like Dr. Stroman was with the first man, who killed his wife. The doctor told him no, and Mulder tries, without success, to contact Dr. Stroman. He tracks Dr. Stroman to an empty hotel room, with cigarettes in the ash tray. Mulder finds Dr. Stroman and the cable repairman in a house with the help of phone logs from the hotel room. Before Mulder can enter the house, shots are fired. When Mulder enters, both men are murdered by X. Mulder accuses X of misleading him by using a third party to inform him of the murders, and of putting him and Scully in harm. Mulder also calls X a coward, but X refutes his accusations, saying that he was being watched too closely and that Mulder needs him.
Mulder and Scully finish their report for Skinner but their evidence is not enough to present a serious case.
X meets up and gives a report to the Cigarette Smoking Man.
- This is the first episode in which the character "John Gillnitz" is mentioned. The name - a combination of the names of regular X-Files writers John Shiban, Vince Gilligan, and Frank Spotnitz - would eventually become a running in-joke.
- This was the only episode written by Mat Beck, the regular visual effects producer on the first five seasons of The X-Files. He also worked on The X-Files: Fight the Future and The X-Files: I Want to Believe.
- When Mulder comes to Scully's motel room, she fires six shots at him and the slide on her pistol locks back. This is unlikely unless she didn't have a full magazine. Furthermore, when Skinner talks to Mulder about the shooting, Agent Mulder reports that Scully fired four shots at him rather than the six she did shoot.
- The character of Plain-Clothed Man, Mulder's informant for this episode, was created when Steven Williams's (X) availability was limited, due to his work on the show L.A. Heat. Williams did say, however, that his brief scene with the Smoking Man was his favorite of the series.
- Wetwired Video, a video store in Red Falls, Colorado in the X-Files: Resist or Serve video game is likely named after this episode.
Cast and Characters
- Colin Cunningham (Dr. Stroman) previously played Lieutenant Terry Wilmer in The X-Files episode "End Game" and Escalante in "731".
- Linden Banks (Joseph Patnik) previously played Reverend Calvin Sistrunk in The X-Files episode "Colony".
- Crystal Verge (Dr. Lorenz) previously played Woman Reading Words in The X-Files episode "Red Museum".
- Sheila Larken as Margaret Scully
- William B. Davis as Cigarette Smoking Man
- Tom Braidwood as Melvin Frohike
- Dean Haglund as Richard Langly
- Bruce Harwood as John Fitzgerald Byers
- Steven Williams as X