The weekly X-Files column is here, with a review of Salvage. To read my thoughts, and to post your own, click “Read More.”

Synopsis

Scully and Doggett are called out to investigate an unusual death. (Gee, there’s a shock!) In this case, it looks like a car slammed into an obstacle that was “4300 times denser than steel.” (It would be nice to know what volume they were assuming for that calculation.) The car’s driver was dragged from the vehicle and deposited in a nearby garbage can.

The corpse had a set of holes in the face, spaced out like five fingerholes. Scully began the autopsy while Doggett investigated the possibility that the victim’s dead friend faked his own death.

Doggett’s investigation took him to the salvage yard where Chris (the victim in the car) and Ray (his “deceased” friend) both worked. This is where he found the corpse of their boss, who also looked like a used bowling ball. Ray’s blood was at this scene as well.

Doggett pursued the investigation to a local research institution, where the scientists were working on self-repairing metal, which they called “smart metal.” Scully concluded that Ray had somehow taken on the characteristics of this metal, while Doggett insisted that sort of thing only happens in the movies.

Meanwhile, Ray has been staying at a local halfway house. One of the volunteers there contacted his widow (Laura) to let her know Ray was alive and in trouble. She began working with Ray to find the people that caused his condition, and broke into the research institute to find out who was to blame. She gave Ray the name of the accountant who allowed the illegal dumping in the salvage yard, which eventually leaked, causing Ray’s condition.

Laura was caught during her little stunt, and was placed under 24 hour watch. She was escorted home, and allowed into the house alone, where she talked to Ray. This was the point where she finally realized what kind of person Ray had become. (This particular revelation was inspired by having her forearm almost crushed.) She ran from the house, telling the police who Ray’s next victim was going to be.

Ray beat the FBI to the scene, but halted his attack before killing the accountant. It seems the intended victim’s son managed to remind Ray that part of him was still human, and he let the man go with injuries that will heal. That last shot of the episode is a picture of Ray’s eye, where we learn he is hiding in a car wreck at the scrap yard, waiting to be crushed.

The Writing

Personally, I found many elements of this episode hard to swallow, and not in the typical X-Files way. Most X-Files episodes require a certain suspension of disbelief, but they are usually acceptable once the viewer accepts the existance of this week’s monster.

This week was different. I have the strong suspicion that the scene discussing the existance of “metal men” was conceived before the rest of the episode, and that the plot was designed around this inspiration. When the police catch someone on the phone and put them under 24 hour watch, wouldn’t they watch this person inside her own home? Especially since she was probably phoning her husband, who had faked his own death? Wouldn’t they expect her to phone her husband in this situation, unless he was home?

The sequence with the last victim near the end of the episode was another moment that I didn’t buy. This man has killed two of his closest friends, one stranger who wanted ot help him, and seriously injured his wife, but he takes his time killing his last victim, only to decide against it by looking the victim’s child in the eye? I found the change of heart to be too sudden. It would have been far more believable if we saw some inner torment when he talks to his wife. I needed to see him fighting the urge to kill to make the final decision easier to swallow.

There were a couple other scenes like this that got to me, but I’ll leave those to discuss in the comments below.

Directing

The directing in this episode was well done. Rather than the usual adequate job most directors do for a monster-of-the-week episode, we had some new ideas this week, especially in the final scene. The jump cuts between two different time periods (night and day) were effective, but atypical. Usually, the scene with Scully and Doggett would have been shown first, and then Ray’s suicide would have been used to end the episode. The jump cuts saved time, and managed to liven up a conversation that would otherwise have been less than thralling to watch.

Acting

Once again, Gillian Anderson has Scully nailed. Robert Patrick has also settled into the role of Doggett quite nicely, delivering consistent, solid performances each week.

The guest stars did nice jobs as well, although none really stand out.

Overall

This episode has its ups and downs. In my opinion, the writing problems outweigh the positive. How long was that first autopsy? It started in the day, and was still going the next morning after Doggett began investigating the second death! Overall, I give Salvage 1.5 stars out of 4.