The X-Files (1996) – Teso dos Bichos, and Hell Money

This entry in The X-Files is a bit of a tough one because we have two less than stellar episodes, back to back. First up is Teso dos Bichos (which has a slang meaning that caught some interest), and is one of stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson’s least favourite episodes.

Written by John Shiban, the episode first aired on 8 March, 1996. The story follows the fallout of an archaeological dig in Ecuador which unearthed an urn containing a revered shaman. When it’s sent to a museum in Boston against the wishes of the locals, a curse seems to follow out and ekes out revenge on anyone who comes in contact with it.

Mulder (Duchony) and Scully (Anderson) get called into investigate, and they are plunged into a strange case that features a number of bodies (with their eyes eaten out of their skull) suffering from wounds that look to be inflicted by a large cat.

The pair, during their course of the investigation are menaced by a pack of cats, rat-filled toilets, and a meandering path to the truth, which neither is sure they want to believe.

It’s not a very well-crafted story, and definitely indicates a low-point in the third season, because if it had been written properly, it could have paid homage to the curse movies of yesteryear, specifically, Universal’s Mummy movies, but it never builds to anything truly engaging.

And I’m sure it didn’t help shooting the episode when it was revealed that Anderson is allergic to cats.

The next episode doesn’t fare much better…

Hell Money ends up being a stronger episode on the merits of its casting, and an exploration of the dark underside of a culture the agents are outsiders in.

The agents find themselves in Chinatown, San Francisco, in this episode written by Jeff Vlaming. It debuted on 29 March, 1996. This one is a straight forward investigation, it’s one of the rare x-files that doesn’t have a supernatural bent.

The pair are called in to investigate a murder of someone burned alive, and discover a pyramid scheme for body parts, posing as a lottery game in the dark heart of Chinatown. And anyone they talk to could be involved.

The episode features three guest stars of note, B.D. Wong, as the cop assigned to help the agents around San Francisco, Lucy Liu as the daughter of a man caught up in the game, hoping to win the lottery to pay for her much needed surgery, and the wonderful James Hong, who runs the game, and serves as the surgeon who claims the organs the gamblers lose.

On reflection, this episode ends up being better and stronger than the previous one, and because most viewers don’t speak the language, there’s an extra layer of mystery as one attempts to figure out what is going on.

While neither are the season’s best offerings, this is just a small pause, before we leap into the run towards the season finale, and one of the best-loved episodes of the series… That’s next time as I explore more of The X-Files, because the truth is out there…

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