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Recap / The X-Files S04 E13 "Never Again"

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Season 4, Episode 13:

Never Again
"I want things more like a straight line, and I don’t ever want to go backward. That’s why I got the tattoo I deserve."
Written by Glen Morgan & James Wong
Directed by Rob Bowman

"From now on, I’m your right-hand gal. You and me. As long as I'm with you, no one will ever hurt you. Never again."

Scully gets involved with a man (Rodney Rowland) whose new tattoo (voiced by Jodie Foster) talks to him and drives him to commit murder.


  • Alone with the Psycho: Scully with Edward.
  • Animated Tattoo: The tattoo talks Ed into doing bad deeds.
  • An Arm and a Leg: What Jerse does to finally rid himself off the compelling tattoo voice.
  • Ax-Crazy: Edward Jerse, whose tattoo (be it through ergot poisoning, a mental breakdown that the emotional value of the tattoo is exacerbating, or the tattoo being genuinely cursed, or a combination of the first two) took his deep well of bitterness and resentment from his divorce and spurred him into homicidal misogynistic rages.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Scully getting her tattoo.
  • Hallucinations: What Betty the talking tattoo turns out to be.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Jerse only has problems and only attacks women.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Not knowing his partner has cancer, Mulder acts like a patronizing jerk during a This Is My Side argument.
  • Intoxication Ensues: Ed Jerse's tattoo of a seductive girl named Betty talks to him and forces him to do horrible things. It's revealed that the red tattoo ink was made from rye and contained ergot alkaloid that causes aural and visual hallucinations. Scully got a tattoo as well, but was not affected to that extent.
  • It's All About Me: Scully accuses Mulder of this. He's confused that their argument about a desk led to Scully's odd behaviour. Scully has to inform him that not everything is about him.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Is the tattoo evil, or is ergot in the tattoo ink causing Jerse to go crazy, or did Jerse go crazy independent of the tattoo?
  • Mundanger: Likely. While the possibility that the tattoo is genuinely cursed does exist, the episode leans towards the explanation that there was ergot in the ink, and Jerse was either poisoned by it or was having a mental breakdown that the tattoo wound up exacerbating (possibly both of the latter options).
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Scully is acting out because she's just discovered she has cancer, and is keeping it from Mulder. She seemingly has Sex for Solace with Edward and even gets a tattoo herself.
  • Ouroboros: Scully gets a ouroboros tattoo on her lower back. As as representation of infinity Scully presumably gets it as a defiance against her cancer.
  • Sanity Slippage: Heavily implied to be the case with Edward Jerse: it can be inferred that he had a nasty divorce that left him in an already fragile state, and then his impulsive tattoo acquisition pushed him over the edge into a murderous delusional breakdown one way or another.
  • Shout-Out: Rocky and Bullwinkle.
    Mulder: Eenie Meeny, Chili Beanie, the spirits are about to speak.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A favorite technique when coupled with the Gory Discretion Shot: something horrible would start to happen, and the camera would pan away, with cheerful incidental music being underscored by the sound of whatever godawful thing was happening. Used memorably in this episode.
  • Title Drop: Courtesy of a tattoo-induced hallucination, no less.
  • Tragic Hero / Tragic Villain: Edward Jerse. A recently divorced father working a crappy job who has had his children taken away from him by the mother. He gets a tattoo which promptly seems to come to life and starts driving him gradually insane and ruining his life further.

"Not everything is about you, Mulder. This is my life."