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Recap / The X-Files S01 E12 "Fire"

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Season 1, Episode 12:

"Often, the setting of fires results from his cowardice and inability to develop a natural relationship."
Written by Chris Carter
Directed by Larry Shaw

"Well, that's peculiar. People don't normally just catch on fire. I mean, we burn, but we don't conduct all that well. There's usually some kind of extraneous fuel involved like candle wax, gasoline, something flammable and incendiary that adheres to the skin."
Melvin Beatty

Mulder receives a visit from an old flame in Scotland Yard. Members of the British aristocracy have been bursting into flame for no readily apparent reason.


  • Ax-Crazy: Cecil L'Ively.
  • Book Ends: Mulder gets a tape from Phoebe at the beginning and at the end of the episode.
    Mulder: Ten-to-one, you can't dance to it.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Scully pulls out British accent briefly. First when she greets Phoebe with "hello" and then at the end when she teases Mulder.
  • Distress Ball:
    • Mulder carries a Distress Ball in one scene when he tries to rescue the children from fire. He cannot continue and just collapses. Firemen to the rescue!
    • The boys are in big trouble twice. First the villain pulls the trick of saving them and then it's Mulder, overcoming his fear.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Scully does enjoy looking at shirtless Mulder.
  • External Combustion: Mulder and Scully get into their car and find a strange cassette tape on the dashboard. They pop it in, and a voice informs them that by doing so they have armed a bomb hooked up to the car, and opening the door will trigger the explosion. Someone then opens the door from the outside, and Scully jumps—turns out the voice on the tape was just Mulder's New Old Flame, trying to mess with their heads.
  • Evil Brit: Cecil L'Ively, who was a British national that burned several people alive, a bar full of people, the 14th story of a building in Boston, and the Marsden's house at Cape Cod.
  • Finger-Snap Lighter: Cecil L'Ively lights his finger to mess with a young woman at a bar. He also lights his cigarettes completely hands-free on several occasions.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Cecil is a heavy smoker, and at one point tries to induce the boys to take a puff. He's also one of the most evil characters in the show's history.
  • Healing Factor: Cecil's ability to heal is pretty extreme, as is revealed at the end of the episode. He not only survives getting fifth to sixth degree burns over most of his body, where a fourth degree burn is often lethal, he is shown to be recovering within weeks. This might be Required Secondary Powers for his pyrokinesis.
  • Heroic Fire Rescue:
    • Invoked by Cecil L'ively who set the fire at the hotel himself so that he could save the boys from their room. He succeeds and comes off as a hero.
    • Played straight with Mulder who saves the children from the burning house.
  • I Am Very British: The case of the week is the serial immolation of very posh English people. Upon espying his new home, a seven-year-old British child naturally exclaims:
    "What a pleasant surprise!"
  • Infernal Retaliation: "You can't kill fire with fire."
  • Kick the Dog: Cecil has two.
    • Near the beginning, he literally kicks and berates a dog that is about to expose the corpse of the caretaker he is impersonating.
    • Later, after taking time out to show the Marsden children a series of magic tricks with a cigarette (which on its own might have been a Pet the Dog moment), he rather aggressively tries to convince them to smoke.
  • "London, England" Syndrome: The opening scene in England even includes the distance from London on the time-stamp.
  • Monster of the Week: A pyrokinetic villain.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Mulder wears nothing but black boxer shorts in one scene.
  • Must Have Nicotine: Cecil's smoking may have more to do with his pyromania than with an addiction, but he at least references this trope in the final scene.
  • New Old Flame: Mulder and Phoebe Greene were a couple at Oxford.
  • Playing with Fire: Cecil has pyrokinetic abilities and is capable of starting fires at a distance.
  • Pyromaniac:
    • Cecil L'ively is the monster of the week. He's a British arsonist and murderer with pyrokinetic abilities.
    • The FBI arson specialist comes off as a (benign) pyromaniac. The first thing we see of him as he is shown a slideshow consisting of fires that spontaneously erupted on - and killed - a member of the British aristocracy is him hugging the projector screen while gushing about how beautiful the fire is. He's even a little jealous that it's Mulder on the case and not himself.
  • Shirtless Scene: Mulder when recovering from smoke inhalation.
  • Shout-Out: Green refers to the arson case as a "three-pipe problem", which Mulder explains to Scully as a Sherlock Holmes reference and an In-Joke.
  • Single-Issue Psychology: Mulder has to face his fear of fire, which goes back to a single traumatic event in his childhood. It will never come up again after this episode.
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: Cecil tries to get the kids to try his cigarette, but they are mostly grossed out by it (even though he just did a cool magic trick with it).
  • Spontaneous Human Combustion: This was suggested as a possible explanation, but it wasn't the case.
  • UST: Scully doesn't like Phoebe, and she's more than annoyed with her and Mulder dancing and kissing. How much of her annoyance comes from jealousy, and how much from Mulder's non-professionalism —they're dancing when they should should be looking out for a suspect— isn't made clear.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Mulder is deathly afraid of fire, and guess what he has to face. However, it is not that much of a coincidence, as Phoebe Green brought him on the case on purpose.

"I'm just dying for a cigarette."


Video Example(s):


The X-Files S01 E12

Cecil Lively decides to lighten up Mulder's mood... by bringing the house down with flames.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / PlayingWithFire

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