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Recap / The X-Files S04 E21 "Zero Sum"

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Season 4, Episode 21:

Zero Sum
Another day, another cover-up.
Written by Howard Gordon & Frank Spotnitz
Directed by Kim Manners

Cigarette Smoking Man: This only happened because you left your job unfinished.
Skinner: I handled him just like I've handled everything else you've asked me to do. I followed your instructions.
Cigarette Smoking Man: You failed to neutralise a potentially compromising situation.

Assistant Director Skinner finds himself in a difficult position as a result of his deal with the Cigarette Smoking Man.


  • Badass Boast: CSM gives Skinner a simple but effective one.
    "This isn't the first gun I've had pointed in my face, Mr. Skinner. I'm not afraid to die."
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: After CSM says the above, Skinner pulls the trigger several times. We shortly see that he only shot the wall around CSM, but in spite of his boast, we also see that CSM is visibly shaken for one of the few times in the entire series.
  • Bee Afraid: Genetically modified bees attack several people in this episode.
  • A Day in the Limelight: For Skinner.
  • Deal with the Devil: Skinner covers up evidence for the Cancer Man in exchange for him saving Scully's life.
  • Did Not Think This Through: If Cancer Man didn't kill the police officer, his photographs wouldn't have been sent to Mulder, and Mulder wouldn't have even known about the case.
  • Enhance Button: Done fairly realistically. A dark surveillance tape is brightened and cleaned up, just a little, but unfortunately for Skinner it's enough for Mulder to recognize him.
  • Oh, Crap!: Skinner clearly gets this look on his face when he hears the type of gun a detective was killed with. He goes over to his desk and, sure enough, it has been broken into and his gun — the same type — is gone.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The episode opens with a postal worker being killed by bees in a restroom. We then see Skinner erasing files of the case from Mulder's computer, destroying evidence in the restroom, and stealing and disposing of the woman's corpse. That an assistant director of the F.B.I. would do all this clearly indicates that something is very, very wrong.

"I saved her life once before, when I had her returned to Agent Mulder. I may save her life again. But you'll never know if you pull the trigger, will you?"