"Genderbender"
Written by Larry and Paul Barber
Directed by Rob Bowman



In which Mulder and Scully investigate a series of murders that seem to be connected to someone with irresistible sexual powers…and a bunch of extras from “Witness”...

Synopsis - Analysis - Memorable Quotes - Observations


<----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------->




"The things I do to see Scully naked..."


Synopsis

As the episode begins, dance music blares within a club in Germantown, Maryland. A young, well-dressed man attempts to pick up a young woman, but he is unsuccessful. Somewhat irritated, he moves on, reading his horoscope from a video machine. As he stands there, a young woman tries to get his attention. He appears less than interested, until she begins to softly stroke his left hand. He becomes visibly aroused and spellbound, and when she invites him back to her room, he goes willingly.

Shortly, the young woman rolls off of him, having just given him the night of his life. As she walks into the bathroom, staring at him from the shadows, he goes on and on in praise of her talents. But then he begins to cough and shudder in agony, until he contorts back against the bed, a foam of some kind escaping his mouth. When it’s over, the woman slides her lingerie from her body, and steps away…now a young man. He takes his victim’s clothing and begins putting it on.

The next day, Mulder and Scully are at the crime scene with Detective Horton. According to the detective, the security cameras show the victim entering the hotel with a woman at 10:13 PM. The cameras later record a man leaving the room about two hours later. Scully wonders if the woman could have simply changed clothes, but the man looks very different in terms of hair length and body weight. The victim died from a burst artery, suggesting extremely high blood pressure from intense physical activity. Scully wonders why they were called in, but the detective is surprised by that. After all, someone requested that the Bureau be notified of any case involving such a cause of death.

Back at the office, Mulder shows Scully four photos of victims matching the same cause of death. The victims total two women and three men, including the most recent case. Scully wonders if there’s some kind of new drug on the streets, but Mulder adds that the victims all had huge amounts of pheromones in their systems, hundreds of times stronger than found in nature. More than that, but the pheromones contain human DNA, suggesting that the killer is a “walking aphrodisiac”.

Mulder goes on to point out that the victims have been located in cities that suggest the killer is moving south, with the origin being close to the location of a similar case a year old outside of Steveston, Massachusetts. The area is home to a religious isolationist sect called “The Kindred”. Besides being vaguely like the Amish, they are also known for their pottery, which is made with a specific type of clay found in the local region. A type of clay, Mulder tells Scully with a grin, that he found in the deep scratches on the latest victim’s back.

Later, in Steveston, the agents walk into a general store. (The entire area is reminiscent of Amish country.) They speak with the man and woman at the counter, and ask about the Kindred. There are several pictures of the Kindred on the wall behind the counter, and Mulder asks about them. The man mentions that they were taken in the 1930s. Mulder asks about how they might find the Kindred, and the man gives him a map to their location.

When a small group of Kindred men and women arrive at the nearby feed store, Mulder tries to get their attention. He winds up following three women into the feed store, leaving Scully outside. Only one of the Kindred, Brother Andrew, is let outside to tend to the horse. Scully tries to start a conversation with him, but he is reluctant to speak, as it’s against their rules. However, he does eventually shake her hand…and almost immediately begins stroking her thumb. Scully’s expression goes blank, then slightly spellbound.

Brother Andrew releases her hand when the other Kindred emerge from the store. Mulder steps out, and immediately notices that something is odd about Scully. She appears confused, but she’s not entirely sure why. But she is sure that there is something different about the Kindred.

Late in the afternoon, Mulder and Scully drive as far as they can into the woods, and then set off towards the Kindred farms by foot. By early evening, they appear to be in the right place, but it is still in the middle of the woods. As they argue about what to do, they find themselves suddenly surrounded by the Kindred, who appears to simply melt out of the shadow of the trees.

Mulder and Scully identify themselves, and explain that they are investigating a murder. One of the Kindred, Brother Oakley, makes it clear that they will not be allowed to leave until they hand over their weapons. When they resist the idea, Sister Abby explains that they are welcome, but they do not allow weapons. Understanding the situation, the agents relent and hand over their guns.

At the Kindred farm, they are brought into the dining hall. Several other Kindred join them, including a brother that appears to be very ill. As soon as the mealtime prayer is over, Mulder and Scully begin asking questions. They want to show pictures of the apparent killer or killers, but this goes against the traditions. The Kindred only want to know where the crime was committed, and how much violence was done to the outside world.

Before the agents can press any further, one of the Kindred calls out in protest. Sister Abby takes the man to task for his anger, which is considered as intolerable as violence. Before the conversation can return to the murders, the ill Kindred begins to choke. When Scully tries to help him, against the wishes of the Kindred, they are admonished for trying to interfere.

As Mulder and Scully are sent packing back to their car, a young man trolls the same club for a young female victim, once again taking control after being politely turned down. Mulder suspects that the incident at dinner was all an act, meant to give the Kindred an excuse to turn them away. More than that, there are other oddities: there were no children at all, and many of the Kindred looked exactly like people from the pictures hanging in the general store. He decides to go back, eager to see what they might be hiding, and Scully scampers after him.

As they approach the farm, they hear the Kindred chanting as they walk into the barn, closing the door behind them. Mulder and Scully are able to look through a hole in the side of the barn, and they see the Kindred slowly carrying the previously ill brother into a cellar. When it appears that the Kindred have all gone inside, Mulder rushes off to go see what’s down there, leaving Scully to keep watch. But as soon as he’s gone, Scully is discovered by Brother Andrew.

As Brother Andrew takes Scully back to his room, claiming to have information she needs, Mulder finds a place to hide in the cellar, behind some oddly organic “roots”. The Kindred are standing around a hole in the wall, which appears to be some kind of hive. As the Kindred mix water with the white clay in the surrounding soil, they rub it onto the apparently dead brother’s body. Meanwhile, Brother Andrew tells Scully that the killer was his best friend, Brother Martin or “Marty”.

As the Kindred leave the cellar, Brother Andrew shows Scully a stack of magazines. Marty had been “seduced” by the images and materials found inside, and had gone out into the world to become “one of them”. In the cellar, Mulder finds several holes in the clay wall, covered over with some kind of organic, spongy material. When he hears voices, he jumps into one of the open holes. As the Kindred outside mention that Scully is with Brother Andrew, Mulder notices that he’s inside the hole where the dead man was placed…and he is startled to find that the man appears more feminine. Mulder is startled when the man opens his eyes.

In Brother Andrew’s room, Scully asks him how Marty kills his victims. Brother Andrew answers by taking Scully’s hand, and rubbing her thumb like he had before. He reaches out with his other hand, touching her face, and her expression goes blank. As he reaches forward to nuzzle her neck, she softly begins to cry out in arousal, and her body goes limp. Brother Andrew pushes her onto his bed, but before anything more can happen, Mulder bursts into the room, shoving Brother Andrew aside.

He takes hold of Scully, who is barely responsive, and walks her out of the house. They are met by the Kindred, who let them leave after a moment of silent confrontation. As they walk off, Scully begins to recover slightly, but she can’t remember what happened. She winds up vomiting, but otherwise she manages to survive. Mulder takes her for some coffee, and he tells her what he saw in the cellar. Scully is skeptical that the Kindred can change gender, but Mulder points out that it matches the footage from the security camera.

Back in Germantown, Marty (once again as a woman) charms a young man named Michael, and lures him into his car. She promptly begins ravishing him, but before she can get too far, they are interrupted by a police officer. He tells Marty to get out of the car, but as he begins questioning her, Michael begins choking in pain. Marty promptly shifts into male form, and knocks the officer senseless. Before Marty can run away, Michael sees him.

Later, in the hospital, Mulder and Scully question Michael about the incident. Michael admits that the woman was nothing special, but he couldn’t resist. Everything after she touched him is a complete blank. At Mulder’s urging, he admits off the record that he saw that the woman was apparently a man. As they leave the room, Scully argues that they might be dealing with a transvestite, but Mulder points out that Michael appears to know the difference rather well. They are interrupted with news that Michael’s credit card was used at a nearby hotel.

As the agents converge, Marty muses to her latest victim how addictive touching humans can be, and how she will be punished soon. The others will come for her, because “the day is coming and they won’t leave without me”. Mulder and Scully burst into the room. Scully finds the latest victim, but Marty hits her over the head, knocking her to the floor. Mulder runs after Marty, but he gets punched in the face. After seeing Marty switch to male form, Mulder gets kicked in the face, losing his gun shortly thereafter.

Scully recovers and follows Marty out into the alley behind the hotel. As she notices shadows forming on the wall nearby, Marty runs out towards her. But before anything can happen, the Kindred converge upon Marty, taking him into their custody. Scully orders them to back away, but Brother Andrew approaches her, and she begins falling under his influence again. She snaps out of it when Mulder calls her name, giving Andrew the chance to knock her gun away and punch her in the face. As Mulder runs to her aid, the Kindred disappear into the shadows, taking Marty with them.

The next day, Mulder and Scully lead several agents on a search of the Kindred farm. There is no sign of life. The table is still set for breakfast, but the entrance to the cellar has been covered with a wall of clay. Outside in a field, they find the only “evidence” of the passing of the Kindred…a small crop circle…


Analysis

As I’ve mentioned in the past, episodes where Mulder and Scully have little or nothing to do with the resolution of the case in question always leave be cold. The only exceptions are the episodes that use the circumstances to reveal something about the characters. This episode, unfortunately, gives us very little new insight into Mulder or Scully, and the Kindred themselves are so vague as to be effectively blank.

Oddly enough, the Kindred could have been an interesting addition to the overall mythology. The suggestion here is that the Kindred are some kind of alien life form, but there is enough room for speculation to suggest that they might be something else. Certainly a connection could have been drawn to the later shape-shifting aliens. Instead, they are effectively written as some kind of pseudo-Amish group, and it comes across as somewhat of an insult to the actual Amish.

Consider that Mulder and Scully, despite being aware of the fact that they are conducting an investigation involving religious isolationists, apparently care nothing for the code of conduct within that community. They simply bluster forward, ignoring even the most obvious strictures against contact with “outsiders”. In the end, it makes no difference, because the Kindred take Marty away, leaving the agents with nothing. Frankly, Mulder and Scully deserved to get much worse, and might have, had the Kindred remained long enough to file an official protest.

In terms of the actual nature of the Kindred, I think that the episode did a very poor job with the concept that they were trying to convey. Even though we are told that the victims were highly aroused and stimulated by Marty’s touch, they looked anything but. Scully’s reaction to the same kind of influence was about as non-aroused as one can get.

Perhaps if this episode had been developed later in the series, when it could have been properly, it might have had a better impact. While I understand that the point of having Marty operate in shadow was to emphasize the way the Kindred operate, and that Marty was meant to be relatively unattractive to emphasize the effects of the pheromones, they might have had more of a chance to show people having an actual reaction to exposure. All the exposition in the world can’t communicate arousal, when our eyes and ears tell us differently.

Beyond the simple execution of the idea, the dialogue for the Kindred was so obtuse as to be completely meaningless. I challenge anyone to tell me what the hell Sister Abby was saying to Brother Wilton, because when I heard it and later read it, it made no sense. Given that much of Scully’s time in this episode was spent in a stupor, there was almost nothing to lift the excitement of the episode. Considering that this was supposed to be all about excitement, that’s fairly ironic.


Memorable Quotes

SCULLY: “There’s something up there, Mulder…”
MULDER: “Oh, I’ve been saying that for years…”

MULDER: “The Addams Family finds religion.”
SCULLY: “Take me back to the 20th century…”

MICHAEL: “After she left the car and she was fighting with the cop, I saw her in her clothes and she looked like…(giggle)…she looked like a man…”
SCULLY: “She was a man.”
MICHAEL: “Hustling in the club scene used to be so simple…”


Observations

- As interesting as the teaser is, you’d think that the club scene in Washington would play more than one song!

- Cool H. G. Giger mural on the wall in the club…good use of metaphorical imagery

- Why would the heart attack take place so long after the actual exposure? One would think that the burden on one’s system would come with the earliest rapid response to the pheromones.

- Some of those pick-up shots in the office and on location have an odd grainy quality…it doesn’t quite match the quality of the other shots in those scenes!

- The “I Want To Believe” poster has moved itself again…or is Mulder having trouble figuring out where it ought to be?

- Mulder mentions the Kindred just a little abruptly, doesn’t he?

- Scully ought to know better than to let the man read the map!

- Do they even try to cover up the wire mesh used to make the tunnels?

- It’s absolutely hilarious seeing Nick Lea playing someone so completely different from Alex Krycek!

- Sorry, but especially this long after the fact, “doing the wild thing” sounds incredibly cheesy…

- The shot in the alleyway behind the hotel, when Scully steps out of the steam, is a very cool shot

Overall, this episode felt a little sloppy. The writing was vague, shifting pace without warning, and there were some lines of dialogue that make no sense, even when you read them a few times over. As with so many cases where the agents are only marginally involved in resolving the conflict, this episode passes with very little impact.

I give it a 4/10.


< -------------------------------------------------------------------------->

Next Episode

Back to Season 1

Back to Reviews

Email: entil2001@yahoo.com