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Recap / The X-Files S02 E01 "Little Green Men"

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Season 2, Episode 01:

Little Green Men
"Seeing is not enough, I should have something to hold onto. Some solid evidence. I learned that from you."
Written by Glen Morgan & James Wong
Directed by David Nutter

Scully: And you're worried that all your life, you've been seeing elves?
Mulder: In my case... little green men.

We begin with Mulder narrating over a shot of the night sky. We wanted to believe, he says, we wanted to call out. In August and September of 1977, two satellites were shot into the farthest reaches of space, each carrying a message to any who would find them: among other things, classical music. Thirteen years later, they left the solar system. No other messages have been sent. Nowadays, Earth is content to listen.

In 1992, NASA began the High Resolution Microwave Survey, a decade-long search of ten million frequencies for any transmission of extraterrestrial intelligence. It didn't get even a year before a Nevada Senator pulled the plug. As Mulder speaks, the camera pans over several images, ending up on a defunct observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The machines are all off, covered in plastic. I wanted to believe, Mulder says, but the tools have been taken away. The X-Files have been shut down. They closed our eyes. Our voices have been silenced... our ears are now deaf to the realms of extreme possibilities.

The machines spring to beeping life as the music from the satellites starts coming through the speakers.

woo waa woo waa wee woo

In Washington, D.C., at a place called the Longstreet Motel, a tape recorder is playing the banal, wiretapped conversation of two men. Mulder apathetically listens, chewing on sunflower seeds. He's been there a while, judging by the pile of shells by his feet.

A dead man is laid out for autopsy at Quantico F.B.I. academy, where Scully is wearing scrubs and teaching students. She goes on for a second about proper procedure before spacing out over the corpse. A student nervously asks if something's wrong. Scully responds that what this man imagined, what he dreamed, loved, saw, heard, remembered and feared are all somehow locked within a small mass of tissue and fluid. Somehow this doesn't allay the student's concerns. Are you okay? the student asks, that sounded a little... spooky.

At F.B.I Headquarters, Scully spies Mulder sullenly walking down a hallway. She cheerfully greets him and he walks blankly past her. He does notice a picture frame turned over on his desk, however. When righted, and pulls off a post-it note, revealing the face of a young girl.

A figure in a trenchcoat paces about in a darkened parking garage, at the Watergate Hotel, no less. It's Scully. Mulder walks in. Four dollars for the first hour of parking is criminal, he says, What you got better be worth at least forty-five minutes. She notes that from a distance he looked like Deep Throat. The flat response is that Deep Throat's dead. Mulder watched his funeral through binoculars at a thousand yards. The picture frame was down, and here they were. What has she found?

Scully says carefully that she wanted to talk, but she didn't have anything. This prompts an irritable lecture about how it's dangerous to meet, that they must assume they're being watched and that there'd be no indications of it. She responds that the X-Files have been terminated. Why would "they" care? The only reason she went through all the precautions is that it was the only way he'd see her. She worried about him. He passed within a foot of her and didn't even notice. When the X-Files were shut down, he had said he would go on as long as the truth was out there but she no longer gets that vibe from him.

Mulder looks up at her, Have you ever been to San Diego― Scully says yes― Did you see the Palomar Observatory― Scully says no, and sighs. From 1948 until recently it was the largest telescope in the world. The idea came from a brilliant astronomer named George Ellery Hale. It came to him one night in the form of an elf who climbed in his window and told him to get money from the Rockefeller Foundation. In his case, it's little green men. He's seen so much, but it's not enough, he needs something tangible. Sometimes he wonders if Samantha's abduction even happened. Before leaving, she encourages him not to give up... and tells him that next time they meet in the open.

We flashback to 1973 Massachusetts. A television newscast in the background is talking about the missing minutes from the Watergate Tapes. Kid!Mulder and the girl from the photograph (Samantha) ignore it, playing Stratego. He's been left in charge while their parents are out. They get into a bratty sibling argument about watching The Magician at nine. At one point, Fox get called a "buttmunch."

The lights go out. He's barely able to mention fuses before everything starts rattling. Blue and red lights start flashing through the windows. Bright light seeps through the sides of the door. The doorknob start turning. It opens to a Gray alien, silhouetted in white light. Samantha screams. Fox turns to see her, floating in mid-air. He screams for her and grabs a chair to get at locked box. The box is smashed to the ground, freeing a revolver. Fox dives for it, then looks up. The alien in a rectangle of light; Samantha floating to the window. SAMANTHA! he screams, SAMANTHA NOO-

Mulder bolts upright in bed. He starts closing the blinds when the door opens. It's a balding man in a trench coat. We're going to The Hill, he says.

A hastily dressed Mulder is brought to Senator Matheson's office, where classical music is blaring. It's the music from the satellite, Brandenburg Concerto Number Two. Do you know the significance of this piece? says Matheson, This is the first selection of music on the Voyager spacecraft, the first. Four and a half billion years from now, when the Sun engulfs the Earth, this will be out there. That is, if it’s not intercepted first. Imagine, Fox. If another civilization out there were to hear this, they would think "what a wonderful place Earth must be!"

This gets a look of "ooooookaaaay" from Mulder, but the Senator is able to pass him a note: They may be listening. They huddle together and talk in hushed tones. Matheson tells Mulder that he has to get to the observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. He'll try to delay as long as he can, but he figures that Mulder will have twenty-four hours before a Blue Beret U.F.O. Retrieval Team shows up, and they will display terminal force. Mulder asks what he's looking for. Matheson hands him a computer printout and says, Contact.

At F.B.I Headquarters in the morning, The Cigarette-Smoking Man and Skinner listen to a tape of Skinner questioning Scully about Mulder's whereabouts. Skinner declares that she doesn't know where he is.

In Puerto Rico, Mulder arrives at Arecibo Observatory on the back of a pick-up truck. The gate is locked, so Mulder follows the fence off-road until it ends, allowing him to climb a hill to the back of the facility. He pulls out tape recorder and starts making observations as he breaks in. No trace evidence is apparent. The power has been turned off, though the control panel lights are on. There is no sign that of recent occupation.

Meanwhile, Scully is in Mulder's apartment, listening to his messages. Eventually, she makes her way to his 90's desktop. It's password protected. She tries SPOOKY and SAMANTHA before hitting gold with TRUSTNO 1. The screen is filled with spreadsheets and numbers and phrases like "galactic latitude". Footsteps approach outside the door.

Scully hits the print button and logs out, but the paper falls to the floor and the door opens before she can grab it. It's two FBI agents. They had Mulder's apartment under surveillance, what's she doing there? When Mulder's gone I feed his fish, she says primly. She goes to do that and one of the agents picks up the paper. Fortunately, the agents think it's a computer self-test and they toss it. She's able to retrieve it by pretending to throw something away.

At Arecibo, Mulder pauses his work for a bathroom break. He opens the door to a man screaming in Spanish. This nearly gives Mulder a heart attack, but the federal agent is quickly able to deduce two things: (a) this guy is terrified and (b) doesn't speak a word of English. Mulder's Spanish is nowhere enough to get what this person is rapid firing. The man (Jorge) finally grabs Mulder's pen and draws out the face of a Gray alien.

At the U.S. Naval Observatory, and astronomer is looking at Scully's print-out. It looks like the Wow!Signal, he says. In 1977, a fellow astronomer at Ohio State picked up a signal thirty times stronger than the galactic background noise, with indicators that make it best evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence humanity has. The man was so excited he wrote "Wow!" in the margins, but this here is better. Scully asks him what observatory it came from. He can't tell, but lists off several possibilities, ending with Arecibo. Later, she finds the name of "Hale, George" on a flight manifest going to Puerto Rico.

Back at Arecibo, Mulder is recording observations. Jorge wanders about in the background, and gets curious about one of the machines. Mulder turns at the beeping― No, Jorge, don't touch that red button, he says, No-ho on the rojo. Jorge nods.

The machines suddenly start blasting Bach's Concerto and recorded voices from the satellite, causing poor Jorge to lose it. Mulder apparently takes Jorge's hysterical Spanish as we have to run because he says, where would we go? There's a storm outside. A sudden high-pitched ringing forces them to cover their ears. Mulder shouts over it, exhorting Jorge to not be afraid, as he makes his way to the speaker and turns it off. He looks back; the door is swinging open.

Mulder runs into the storm with a flashlight, calling for Jorge. He finds him dead, backed against a tree, frozen in an expression of terror.

At Miami International Airport, Scully sits in the main area and spies about with a make-up mirror. A man and woman are following her. She throws them off by making like she's taking a flight to St. Croix, then ducking out of sight. They go off to the St. Croix terminal, and she buys a ticket to San Juan.

At Arecibo, Jorge has been laid out on a table. Mulder grabs his recorder: The day is... The time is 10:30. I'm not a qualified pathologist, but I will record my observations in case decomposition should obscure forensic evidence. Subject is Hispanic male, undetermined age. No overt external injuries apparent. No sign of lightning strikes. No singing of hair or burns of any kind. There are no puncture wounds commonly associated with alien abduction. Subject was found in sitting position. Rigor mortis set in a little less than a half-hour. The skin is strikingly affected by goose flesh. The body shows sign of intense cadaveric spasm. The expression reflects... my God, Scully, It's as if he's been frightened to death. Again, nothing but evidence but no evidence at all.

He starts to range off-topic: The print-outs indicate contact with another lifeform yet I cannot see them. Even if I could see them, would they really be there? How do I know this isn’t some classified military satellite? Could extraterrestrials really have intercepted the Voyager? Or is this just some elaborate joke played on those who want to believe?

He sits down: I was sent here by one of those people. Deep Throat said "Trust no one." And that’s hard, Scully... suspecting everyone, everything. It wears you down. You even begin to doubt what you know is the truth. Before, I could only trust myself. Now, I can only trust you... and they’ve taken you away from me. My life up to this point has been about the need to see her again. To see them. But what would I do if they really came?

Whatever else you can say about "them", they're nice enough to help Mulder answer his question. Everything starts rattling. Blue and red lights start flashing through the windows. The printers start churning out paper and the speakers start repeating in a warped deep voice: Deep Throat said Trust no one Deep Throat said Trust no one... Mulder rewinds his tape, playing the part where he said that. The speakers, TRUST NO ONE. The door flings open.

NO! screams Mulder and he runs to shut it. And lock it. And barricade it. Everything dies down for a second but it's just a lull. A bright white light shines through the window, and the door starts to unlock. The barricade flies away from the door. Mulder pulls a gun from his backpack. The door opens into a square of light. The gun goes click several times. Mulder racks the slide but still only gets clicks. Slowly, he pulls the magazine out of the gun and checks it. It's fine. The same silhouette is in the door. Mulder stares at it for a second before everything goes white.

He wakes up on the floor of Arecibo to Scully shining a flashlight into his eyes. She gently asks him if he knows where he is, but Mulder has no time for that. They were here, he enthuses, and he finally has evidence― the tape, the printouts, the body, it's all here and... what's that noise?

He runs outside. An army van is driving up the road. He runs inside. A Blue Beret Crash Retrieval Team, he says, They'll kill us; help me with the body. She, sanely, says that there's no time. They'll never get that body out of the country. Evidence is worthless if he's dead. Eventually he settles on grabbing a reel of tape.

Mulder turns the key of Scully's car as the van pulls up and hits the gas as the soldiers jump out. He simply pulls forward, plowing through a wooden fence and off-roading it down the hill. The Berets blast out the rear windows to no avail. By the time they get the van down to the main road, Mulder and Scully are a speck in the distance.

Back at the D.C. FBI Headquarters, Skinner is chewing Mulder out while The Cigarette-Smoking Man watches. Mulder's absence ruined the case. All the work is gone, and now he's in it deep. Mulder replies that he heard enough in three days for forty counts of fraud yet he was left there. It's surprising Skinner even noticed he was gone, much less illegally tap his phone.

Skinner is taken aback by that, and the Cigarette-Smoking Man walks up to Mulder. Your time is over, and you leave with nothing he says. Skinner says Get Out!. The Man smiles. Skinner says again, I said get the hell out. The Man realizes that he meant him. He glowers at Skinner for a second, lights one of his namesakes, and sulks out. Mulder is ordered back to his assignment.

We end back at the Longstreet Motel, with Mulder and Scully. The tape Mulder grabbed is blank. She suggests an electrical storm may have degaussed the tape. You still have nothing, she says. He responds, I may not have the X-Files, Scully, but I still have my work. He goes back to the wiretaps. She starts to leave, looks like she wants to say something, but doesn't. After she's gone, Mulder puts on the Arecibo tape, straining to hear something in the noise.


  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Scully to Mulder.
  • Artistic License – Geography: One of Scully's objections to taking Jorge's body with them is that Mulder will never be able to get the body out of the country. The country being...Puerto Rico. Which is in the United States.
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper: Scully is followed by two tacky spies. She ditches them off by calling Mulder's answering machine (other shadowy people occupy his apartment) and telling them a code for a particular flight — which she's not taking of course.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Mulder.
  • Chase Scene: The car chase in Puerto Rico.
  • Continuity Nod: The phrase 'Trust no one' appears again. Also, the Blue Berets previously appeared in "Fallen Angel."
  • El Spanish "-o": This little gem from Mulder:
    Mulder: No, Jorge! Don’t touch that red button. No-ho on the rojo.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Skinner siding with Mulder over The Conspiracy at the end. There's a lot more to this guy than simply being a Mean Boss, and this is the first time it's emphasised.
  • Failure Is the Only Option
  • Flashback: Samantha's abduction.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Averted. Not so much gratuitous as Jorge couldn't speak English and Mulder couldn't speak Spanish, so had to try to communicate as in "Hablo inglese? Nombre?" or "Did you say men? Hombres?"
  • Highly Visible Password: When Scully needs to open a password-protected file on Mulder's computer, her guesses are not asterisked out. She tries SPOOKY (Mulder's nickname), SAMANTHA (his abducted little sister), and the third is the charm: TRUSTNO1, which are the dying words of Mulder's first Mysterious Informant Deep Throat.
  • Holding Hands: Scully to Mulder near the end.
  • Language Barrier: Mulder travels to Puerto Rico to a carefully watched observatory and he meets Jorge who is very scared and obviously had a weird encounter. Mulder tries desperately to calm him down and question him, but he only manages to produce some broken basic sentences. Finally, Jorge grabs Mulder's pen and draws on the wall something that looks like a head of an alien with big eyes.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Sleeveless Mulder.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": It took Scully only a few guesses to come up with trustno1 when she needed to access Mulder's computer.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: The first time this happens to the main characters. Scully's been sent to teach at the FBI Academy, while Mulder's stuck in a boring job monitoring a wiretap.
  • Shout-Out: Senator Matheson is named after science fiction writer Richard Matheson. The episode makes several references to All the President's Men, including Mulder and Scully's meeting in the parking garage and Matheson using classical music to drown out his conversation with Mulder as a precaution against bugging.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: The Smoking Man tries a Breaking Speech towards Mulder at the end, until Skinner curtly tells him to leave.

"I may not have the X-Files, Scully, but I still have my work. And I’ve still got you. And I still have myself."