If you would like to read my review of the last episode, click here.
Synopsis: Skinner goes AWOL when his past comes back to haunt him. As Mulder and Scully try to track him down, their growing mistrust of him reaches its apex. (IMDB)
Writer: Gabe Rotter
Director: Carol Banker
Running Time: 45mins
Skinner has been one the core characters throughout the series but we never got to learn much about him through 10+ seasons. This episode tried to give him his own story as we got to learn about his past including his time during the Vietnam War. But does it even matter at this point? This of course wan’t just Skinner’s story as Mulder and Scully played a significant part as always, however, Skinner’s backstory and the case of the episode conflicted a little too much to form a cohesive enough story.
During the Vietnam War, Skinner and his battalion were delivering a crate of experimental nerve gas to another unit. In the course of a firefight, he saw the effects of this gas as the crate was punctured, leading gas to escape and affect his platoon mate John ‘Kitten’ James (Haley Joel Osment). James began to see monsters while murdering several innocent people.
Kersh called upon Mulder and Scully to find Skinner as he had disappeared. He also told them the truth about why he hadn’t advanced in his career which was because his devotion to them was holding him back. A note with an ear inside of it in his apartment led them to a town in Kentucky. Information about Skinner’s platoon had since been classified. Residents of the town had been losing their teeth and had claimed to have seen a monster in the woods. The owner of the earlier ear was found in a bear trap along his regular walking route. Other Vietnam veterans were residing in a government run mental institution just outside of town. Skinner was later caught on video near another trapping in the woods.
Skinner then visited James’ house looking for him but found James’s son Davey (also Osment). His testimony put James into a mental institution after the war but now he wanted to help. Though he knew what really happened, he never mentioned it during the trial because he was following orders and he’s felt guilty ever since. Thinking that he was being taken to James, Davey led him to a trap that put him in a hole in the ground and impaled by a spike.
Mulder and Scully later learned about James and found Davey once they visited his house. He told them that his father had secrets. Veterans were being tested on in the nearby mental institution, using the earlier nerve gas. He claimed to not know Skinner but Mulder found evidence otherwise. Mulder asked Scully to call for help while he tried to find Skinner.
Davey had been killing other veterans from his father and Skinner’s platoon while wearing a monster costume similar to the monster his father saw. When Mulder found Skinner, he fell in the same hole. As it looked like Davey was going to set them on fire, Scully saved them. Skinner went after Davey and then found himself impaled by his own trap.
Now that they were all together, Skinner revealed that he was indebted to them. He wasn’t there for James. What happened to him in Vietnam placed seeds of doubt of his government within him. Mulder and Scully rekindled this part of him. They committed to be there for him. As he was leaving, Skinner discovered that he was losing teeth as well.
Finally, it was revealed that the nerve gas experiments were ongoing after a plane appeared to drop some sort of gas across a field.
Overall, this was a decent episode that admirably tried to give Skinner a backstory but it failed to do him justice as it conflicted with the rest of the episode. His speech at the end was great, however, the events leading up to it were lacking in emotion and were okay at best. The case was pretty generic and we didn’t really learn anything new here. Osment was good at both roles though both characters were disposable. We didn’t see nearly enough of him as James and we didn’t get any answers about Davey. At least this episode sort of brought the three closer together so it will be interesting to see what happens from here with 4 episodes left until the season finale.