‘The Sixth Sense’ star Haley Joel Osment does a guest spot on ‘The X Files’ this week. All grown up now, he’s traded seeing ghosts for seeing monsters.
I’m sure that Osment is probably sick of people always talking about him in relation to ‘The Sixth Sense’. As an adult, he’s actually had a pretty successful career as a character actor on shows like ‘Alpha House’ and ‘Silicon Valley’. Nonetheless, even with some extra height and a lot more pounds, it’s hard to see him in anything outside of his most iconic role.
Osment is introduced in episode ‘Kitten’ during a flashback to the Vietnam War, where he plays timid Marine draftee John James, nicknamed “Kitten.” When Kitten is exposed to an experimental gas toxin, his personality drastically changes and he becomes a psycho who takes human ears as trophies. This sudden transformation bothers his close friend, who we learn is a young Walter Skinner.
In the present day, Skinner has gone AWOL from the FBI and his boss, Deputy Director Kersh (James Pickens, Jr. from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’), assumes that Mulder and Scully know where he is. He also blames them for holding Skinner back from career advancement. Skinner’s loyalty to them over the years has gotten him into endless hot water. What Kersh doesn’t know is that Skinner is actually on the outs with Mulder and Scully lately (especially Mulder) over his involvement with the Cigarette Smoking Man. They don’t have a clue what happened to him, but agree to look into it.
Searching Skinner’s apartment, they find a mail package with a desiccated human ear inside. This leads them to travel to the town of Mud Lick, Kentucky, where they discover that the local doctor was recently found dead in the woods, the corpse missing an ear. The sheriff blames his death on falling into a hunting trap, but can’t explain the ear. Nor does he know why the body is missing some teeth. For that matter, he lost a few teeth recently himself, and so have a lot of other people in town. Hmm, ain’t that peculiar?
Mulder notices that a lot of people in town happen to be military veterans, and suspects that shady things may be going down at a nearby VA mental hospital called Glazebrook. A bunch of people in town also claim to have seen a monster in the woods.
When another hunter falls into a trap lined with punji sticks (just as the Viet-Cong used to lay for American soldiers), a deer-cam on a tree captures an image of Skinner walking up and peering down at the victim. Even though Mulder and Scully assure him that Skinner isn’t a murderer, the sheriff puts out an APB.
Looking for his old friend who sent him the package, Skinner makes his way to a trailer in the woods. There, he finds a man (Osment) who looks exactly like Kitten, not having aged a day. It turns out to be his son, Davey. He seems a little nutty. Davey says that his father never forgave Skinner for testifying against him when he was charged with war crimes. Skinner explains that the gas he was exposed to caused Kitten to see monsters and go crazy. He just wanted his friend to get the help he needed.
Davey leads Skinner outside to see the elder Kitten hung from a tree, then pushes him into another pit, where Skinner is impaled on a punji stick. Davey covers up the pit when a car arrives. It’s Mulder and Scully, who followed a trail of clues to Kitten’s trailer.
Davey claims that the government performed mind control experiments on Glazebrook patients and blathers some nonsense about gassing the population through airplane chemtrails. This feeds right into Mulder’s love of conspiracy theories, but Mulder finds this guy a little too kooky and makes excuses to leave with Scully. They drive down the road a bit, then Mulder gets out of the car and tells Scully to go get help while he sneaks back toward the trailer.
Davey is gone by the time he gets there, so Mulder snoops around and finds a monster costume in the closet. He’s interrupted by the sound of Skinner yelling for help. Had he looked a little closer, he’d find Davey wearing the costume. Mulder goes outside and finds his boss, only for Davey to sneak up behind and push him into the pit as well. Fortunately, Mulder avoids being impaled. Davey douses the two of them with gasoline and plans to set them on fire, but Scully returns just in time to shoot him. While she’s distracted pulling Mulder and Skinner out of the pit, Davey vanishes. They search for him and Davey attacks again. This time, Skinner kills him in one of his own traps.
Having gone through this experience together, Mulder, Scully and Skinner are all friends again. Skinner says that he doesn’t blame them for his faltering career and would do it all again. He just wants to find the truth. (Strangely, Mulder doesn’t ask him about working with the Cigarette Smoking Man. I guess that’s water under the bridge now.)
As the episode ends, Skinner pulls out a loose tooth. An epilogue shows a cropduster plane spraying the nerve toxin over a farm, and suggests that Davey was right about the chemtrails too.
Although Mitch Pileggi came back for both of the recent ‘X Files’ revival seasons at the same time David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson did, the Skinner character has had very little to do in them until now. I’m pretty sure he went a few episodes without even saying a line of dialogue. To that end, it’s nice to see Skinner made the focus of an entire episode. I just wish it were better.
This episode is pretty mediocre all around. It’s not very compelling as a Mystery/Monster of Week and the BS about chemtrails is tiresome. I was reminded of the amusing scene in Episode 4 where Mulder said that conspiracy theories aren’t as much fun as they used to be. The writers of this episode don’t appear to have gotten that memo.
Weren’t we told last season that chemtrails were a government conspiracy to infect the American population with an alien virus? Now they’re about mind control? Which is it, already? You know what, don’t even tell me. I don’t care.
Easily the weakest episode of the season so far for me, but I quite like how they showed more back story for Skinner, and also went into why he supports Mulder and Scully despite what it’s doing to his career.