2×02: The Host

“You know, you had a pair of agents that could have handled a case like this. Agent Scully and I might have been able to save that man’s life, but you shut us down.” – Fox Mulder
“I know. This should have been an X-File.” – Walter Skinner

Mulder finds himself knee-deep in the sewers of Newark, New Jersey tracking down an unknown parasite, while Scully assists in attempting to figure out what the hell is actually down there….

The Host

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: “The Host” has a reputation for being one of the more disgusting entries into the series, and upon rewatching the episode that assessment still rings true. A Russian ship is docked off of Newark, New Jersey, and one of the workers is attacked while cleaning its sewage system. Later, his body is found in the sewers of Newark, and Mulder is pulled off another wiretap detail to investigate.

At first, he thinks this is just Skinner jerking him around, and is so frustrated by things he is seriously considering leaving the Bureau. However, Scully tells him that there is still a body to examine, and that it would be a mistake to leave. Upon doing a classic Scully autopsy, she finds a flukeworm feeding off of the corpse’s bile ducts. Later, a Newark sanitation worker is attacked in the sewers, and is left with a nasty bite reminiscent of a flukeworm, only orders of magnitude larger. Arguing over how the worker could’ve gotten a bite that big, Mulder and Scully fall into their old routine of believer/skeptic that’s become a hallmark of the show, and Scully realizes this, and misses what the two of them had before the X-Files were shut down. It’s an incredibly warm and touching scene that reminds us again of the incredible chemistry the two of them have together.

Now when I mentioned “The Host” is one of the more disgusting entries in the series, I’m especially referring to the scene of the sanitation worker in his shower. Still recovering from his attack, he is trying to clean himself off when he begins to convulse, spitting out blood and other fluids, and then finally expelling an entire flukeworm down the drain. It’s the kind of scene that makes you immediately gag and want to run to the nearest toilet to throw up yourself. But as Mulder said, it’s only “the runt of the litter.” We soon are brought face to face with the real threat, the “Flukeman,” a humanoid creature that’s a cross between primate and parasite. As portrayed by Darin Morgan (brother of show writer Glen Morgan who would later pen some of the series best episodes in his own right), Flukeman is a horrifying grotesque, the mere sight of which sends shivers down the spine.

It is in this episode that we are introduced to a mysterious benefactor to the X-Files, Mulder’s “friend in the FBI” who intimates success in this case is one step towards reopening the division. Aside from phoning Mulder on two occasions, this individual slips a tabloid newspaper under Scully’s door with an article about the attack on the Russian ship, which she then connects to the corpse she autopsied. We will soon meet and find out more about this mysterious new informant, but for now he is a new tantalizing piece of things to come in the larger mythology of the series. Another scene of note is when Mulder files his field report with Skinner, and while the Assistant Director notes that everything is in order, Mulder admonishes him for closing the X-Files, given that a division such as that was tailor-made to investigate such a case. “We all take our orders from someone,” Skinner notes, which underscores the precarious politics at play.

Radhika: Ah, good old Flukey. In the first Monster of the Week of season two, viewers are introduced to a memorable creature that went on to join the ranks of past villains like Eugene Victor Tooms and the Eves, as well as future villains like Donnie Pfaster, Robert Patrick Modell and the Peacock family. Not too shabby.

In addition to that, it’s a far better New Jersey-centric episode than season one’s “The Jersey Devil.” Both Max and I are very hung up on this, since we both grew up in New Jersey. However, there is a lot more to Jersey than its apparently terrifying sewage system, but that’s a point for another day…

“The Host” is about a monster, and it’s a solid monster story at that. But The X-Files is often so much more than a monster show, as evidenced by the relationship between Mulder and Scully, which Max alluded to above.

The second season is all about the two characters opening up to each other. When Scully tries to discourage Mulder from leaving the FBI, she has no qualms about telling him that it would be a huge loss to her if he left. We’ve often commented on the chemistry and bond Mulder and Scully share since day one, but if you really think about it, the two characters have only known each other about a year or so at this point. And yet they’re already all about the raw honesty. Makes you wonder what would happen if they truly were split apart. (Foreshadowing — what?)

Going back to the monster aspect of the story, there is a bit of an ominous twist at the end, when Scully links the Flukeman to Chernobyl, saying that the Russian freighter that brought it to the U.S. was salvaging waste from the disaster site. The implication that this is a monster of our own human making is a rather distressing one, nor is it entirely implausible.

One thing that’s always surprised me about this episode is that series creator Chris Carter was the writer behind the story. Carter typically seems more interested in subjects that are more alien in nature, and truth be told, a number of his Monster of the Week episodes (especially early ones, including the aforementioned, highly terrible “The Jersey Devil”) tend to be a little bit on the not-so-good side. Though based on a little Googling, it appears Carter wrote this story while in a frustrated place, it’s just another example of how the writers, actors — and the series creator alike — really hit a new stride with the second season of the show.

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