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Recap / The X-Files S04 E12 "Leonard Betts"

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Season 4, Episode 12:

Leonard Betts
"The fluid that I found in Betts' bathtub was povidone iodine. It’s often used by lab researchers on reptiles and amphibians to aid regeneration."
Written by Vince Gilligan, John Shiban & Frank Spotnitz
Directed by Kim Manners

Mulder: Scully, there’s a great possibility that Leonard Betts not only is cancer...
Scully: But that he needs it for survival?

Mulder and Scully investigate after a man (Paul McCrane) revives at the morgue after an accident — in which he was completely decapitated.


  • Anti-Villain: Betts.
  • Apologetic Attacker: As Betts attacks the bar patron and later Scully, so that he can extract and consume their cancer tumors, he tells them both "I'm sorry... but you have something I need." He also apologizes to his colleague, as he kills her in a bid to keep his secret.
  • Body Horror: How Betts regenerates himself and grows a new body.
  • Car Fu: Leonard Betts tried to run Mulder and Scully over.
  • Character Title
  • Chiaroscuro: It's noticeable especially in the scene in the storage locker where Betts gives birth to his another self. Beautifully and scarily lit.
  • Combat Stilettos: Scully when she fights with Betts.
  • Deadly Nosebleed: A symptom of Scully's cancer.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Betts' retreating car blows up after Mulder and Scully each shoot one bullet in its general direction. Admittedly Betts was trying to fake his death, but there's no mention of the car being packed with fuel cans or something.
  • Faking the Dead: When Leonard Betts has a car accident, he has no other choice: after decapitation, he must pretend he died. He pulled this off as Albert Tanner. He tries to fake his death again after another accident.
  • Fingore: When Betts gets handcuffed to a car handle, he resorts to tearing off his own thumb. He does grow a new one, but it was obviously extremely painful.
  • Healing Factor: Leonard Betts is capable of very extreme regeneration of all body parts, including decapitated head. He can even create a whole new body. All he needs for his regeneration are human cancer tumours.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: Downplayed. It's Freedom or Finger Decision, and Betts's choice is made easier as he knows his thumb will grow out again.
  • Losing Your Head: Betts gets decapitated in a car accident. And is still capable of moving around afterwards, even eventually regrowing it.
  • Magical Defibrillator:
    • Defibrillator is used to revive Mrs Tanner.
    • Scully uses a defibrillator as an improvised weapon when Betts attacks her.
  • Mama Bear: Mrs. Tanner is very protective of her son Leonard Betts.
  • Monster of the Week: Betts. However, the episode is also connected to Myth Arc when it's revealed that Scully has cancer.
  • Picky People Eater: Betts eats tumorous tissues.
  • "Psycho" Strings: Similar sound was used when Betts attacked his victims.
  • Squick: In-universe.
    • Mulder is disgusted when they have to look for Betts's body in a medical waste processing unit, full of amputated limbs and other human remains.
    • Both Mulder and Scully squick when they realize that Betts needs to eat tumours to survive.
      Scully: He needs [tumours] for survival?
      [Mulder nods]
      Scully: So you’re saying that this is...?
      Mulder: Snack food.
    • Mrs. Tanner reveals to Betts that she's been diagnosed with cancer and... well, "it is a mother's duty to provide for her child"...
  • The Stake Out: Mulder and Scully stake out Mrs. Tanner's house.
  • Subhuman Surfacing Shot: Mulder and Scully investigate Betts's apartment after his apparent death by decapitation and subsequent disappearance of his body, and find a bathtub full of a strange, brown fluid that they don't have time to examine. After they leave, Betts - now with an intact cranium - emerges from under the fluid.
  • Take That!: This line:
    Mulder: How evolved can a man be who drives a Dodge Dart?
  • The Topic of Cancer:
    • Leonard Betts eats and is made of cancer.
    • It's revealed that Scully has developed cancer herself.
  • They Would Cut You Up: Implied to be why Betts is willing to commit murder to keep his abilities secret. As we've seen in past episodes, he wouldn't exactly be wrong.
  • Waking Up at the Morgue: Even though Betts's head was severed, he was only mostly dead and woke up at the morgue. He waited when nobody was around and simply left. His head was alive, too.
  • Wham Line: Betts to Scully: "I'm sorry... but you've got something I need." A cancerous tumor.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Poor Leonard Betts. It's hardly his fault he needs to eat cancers, but his "death" put the hospital stores out of reach. In desperation he kills, and horrible though that is, until the accident he'd been just a really good (if occasionally cannibalistic) EMT.

Scully: [Betts]' dead?
Mulder: As near as anyone can tell.