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Recap / The X-Files S03 E19 "Hell Money"

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Season 3, Episode 19:

Hell Money
Written by Jeffrey Vlaming
Directed by Tucker Gates

"You see, on the 15th day of the seventh moon in the Chinese calendar it's believed the gates of hell are opened and the ghosts of unwanted souls roam the earth. Now, believers protect themselves by leaving gifts of food and hell money outside their homes to appease the ghosts. To keep them from coming inside and causing trouble."
Glen Chao

Mulder and Scully investigate a series of deaths in San Francisco's Chinatown that turn out to be linked to a gambling ring where losers have to forfeit their own body parts for organ transplantation.


  • The Atoner: Chao at the end.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The Hard Faced Man will get off free from his crimes and be able to continue his sadistic rigged game, thanks to having Chao killed before he can testify and the rest of the club refusing to testify against him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: More bitter than sweet. Kim is added to a donor recipient list, while Chao redeems himself and narrowly saves Hsin's life. However, he fails to kill the Hard-Faced Man, who makes it clear that the game isn't over. Completely unrepentant, the Hard-Faced Man will likely get away with his crimes, the club's members having enforced a policy of silence. The episode ends with Chao burning to death in a crematorium, the Chinese word for "ghost" once again looming nearby.
  • Dirty Cop: Chao, for most of the episode.
  • Eye Scream: We don't see the actual surgeries, but one of the men who is questioned has a fresh gauze-pad on his face, indicating that he's just forfeited an eye.
  • Faux Fluency: Lucy Liu and Michael Yama both noticeably struggle with their Cantonese dialogue and accents. Yama in particular was dissatisfied with his performance and decided to rerecord his dialogue in post-production to ensure that his pronunciations and accent were more convincing.
  • Hannibal Lecture: The Hard Faced Man attempts to justify the lottery to Scully, along with an undercurrent of Evil Gloating.
  • Healthcare Motivation
  • Lottery of Doom: Rigged by the Hard Faced Man and his associates such that the "winner" of the initial draw and the harvested organ are predetermined.
  • Mundanger: There are no aliens, monsters, or government conspiracy in this episode. Although the superstitions associated with "the Chinese Festival of the Hungry Ghosts" are addressed in the story, there are no èguǐ either; the events are entirely unsupernatural.
  • Murder by Cremation: Used for discipline by the gambling ring; if you can't pay up (or if you rat), you're disposed of in a crematorium. Alive.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Detective Chao.
  • The Sociopath: The Hard Faced Man.
  • Shout-Out: "Who you gonna call?"
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: How Scully reacts to Hard Faced Man's Hannibal Lecture. He is entirely unfazed, knowing he will have to be released.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Chao gives Scully a hell of a talking-to when she accuses him of covering up for the organ harvesting operation to "protect his local community" and basically calls her out for racially profiling him. Unfortunately, this is subverted by the fact that it turns out she's absolutely right.