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Recap / The X-Files S03 E17 "Pusher"

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Season 3, Episode 17:

Pusher

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/thexfilespusher.png
"He is just a little man who wishes that he were someone big... and, and, we're feeding that wish."
Written by Vince Gilligan
Directed by Rob Bowman

"But the mechanism of suggestion is the same. It's just a lot more powerful in this case. I mean, this guy calls himself 'Pusher'. Can't we take that to mean that he pushes his will onto other people?"
Fox Mulder
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Mulder hunts a hitman with the power to psychically "push" people into obeying his commands.


Tropes:

  • Adult Fear: Mulder has to turn the gun on Scully, his close friend and partner. And wasn't able to stop pulling the trigger until Scully distracts Modell. Horror sets in when it turns out the shot meant for Scully was the one loaded chamber. Mulder aims this at Modell and puts him in a coma.
  • Affably Evil: Downplayed. For a remorseless sociopath, Modell is surprisingly outgoing and polite, and his actions have an air of childish mischief about them; he treats the entire affair like a game. He also shows a moment of kindness to an enthralled Holly when he notices her bruised face... right after willing her to break into the FBI's database (and suggesting that she make him some coffee).
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Frank Burst is one, according to Pusher.
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  • Bilingual Bonus: Mulder's pronunciation is off, but 押す (osu) actually is Japanese for "to push". Bonus points to his dictionary for even listing the plain form instead of a formal oshimasu.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Scully & Mulder wear them going into the hospital, but Mulder take his off under Pusher's control, off screen.
  • Compelling Voice: Pusher's key element in forcing his victims to do what he wants.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Criminal Mind Games: Modell plays with several policemen and FBI agents. Mulder becomes his prime target.
  • Deadly Upgrade: Modell's brain tumor, as detailed in I Just Want to Be Special.
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  • Everyone Can See It: Modell thinks Mulder and Scully are awfully close for being just partners.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: Modell.
    Mulder: He wanted to be a Navy SEAL and then he wanted to be an Army Special Forces Green Beret. Promptly washed out of both, though not for lack of intelligence. He ended up being a supply clerk at Fort Bragg. Served two years, general discharge.
  • Gunman with Three Names: Robert Patrick Modell.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: Modell certainly loves Japanese culture.
  • Held Gaze: Before Mulder goes into the hospital and gives Scully his gun, they share one of these while Holding Hands.
  • Holding Hands: Mulder and Scully. Twice.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Robert Modell's Compelling Voice derives from a brain tumor that's killing him. He refuses to treat it because his powers would dissipate.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Though not a full-on fight, Scully tries to snap Mulder out of pulling the trigger of the gun by telling him he's "stronger than this" and Mulder uses all his willpower to stop himself, telling Scully to run and shooting Modell instead.
  • Immune to Mind Control: Skinner is the one person who Pusher actually fails to hypnotize.
  • Loophole Abuse: One possible interpretation of Mulder's actions at the climax. He does pull the trigger on Scully, as ordered, just not enough to actually fire the gun.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Pusher.
  • Monster of the Week: Very memorable one.
  • Pay Phone: Used very effectively. Modell used them to preserve anonymity.
  • Pet the Dog: Modell idly comments on Holly's horrible bruising and says that he'd make her assailant pay for it if he could.
  • Phone-Trace Race
  • Plot Hole: A minor one: Why didn't the FBI send Skinner to the hospital with the SWAT team? He already demonstrated his resistance to Pusher's mind control. But then, of course, we wouldn't have had that awesome showdown between Mulder and Pusher.
  • Professional Killer: Modell's ad reads "I solve problems".
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: Modell's MO.
  • Psychic Powers: Modell's suggestive ability is a form of psychokinesis brought on by the brain tumour which he doesn't want to treat.
  • Rōnin: Modell sees himself as ronin, a samurai without a master who does not fear death.
  • Russian Roulette: In the climax of the episode, Pusher made Mulder play with him and nearly kill Scully.
  • Self-Immolation: Modell forced Agent Collins to set himself on fire.
  • Serial Killer: At first he was a hired hitman and then he targeted law enforcement.
  • Shout-Out: Yojimbo and Svengali.
  • Sleep Cute: Scully falls asleep on Mulder's shoulder during a stakeout.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Mulder and Scully think Pusher is "a small man", and that he welcomes the idea of going down as an epic killer.
  • The Sociopath: Modell has no regard for the feelings of others and perceives people as objects.
  • Suicide by Cop: Modell wants to go down as a big badass, and he believes playing Russian roulette with Mulder will definitely count.
  • SWAT Team: They are used at the end of the episode during the climax in the hospital.
  • The Worf Effect: Double Subverted in Skinner's case: Skinner is the only one who wasn't influenced by Modell's compelling suggestions. However, we all get to know what Modell is up to when he gets Skinner beaten up anyway, and by petite Holly on top of that. In the final showdown, even though Mulder proved great force of will, at the end he couldn't actually resist him either. They would have lost if Scully hadn't pulled a fire alarm to break the spell of his voice.
  • Worthy Opponent: Modell was looking for one, and found exactly who he wanted in Mulder.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Agent Burst would be an excellent agent were he tracking an ordinary serial killer. Against Modell, however, he's clearly outmatched.

"I say we don't let him take up another minute of our time."
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