Season 1

1x21 Born Again

Air date: 04-29-94
Writers: Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon
Director: Jerrold Freeman
Editor: James Coblentz
Director of Photography: John S. Bartley, C.S.C.
Documented Phenomenon: Reincarnation, Psychokinesis, Poltergeist Activity

Episode summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

Buffalo, New York. 14th Precinct. Detective Sharon Lazard is heading out for the day and spots a young girl huddled in an adjacent alley. She brings her back to the precinct, but the girl won't speak. Lazard brings in Detective Rudy Barbala to talk to the girl, who finally offers her name - Michelle Bishop. Soon after Lazard leaves the two alone in an interrogation room, there is the sound of breaking glass. Lazard rushes back in, only to find the window busted and Barbala lying spread-eagled on top of a car two stories down. She looks at Michelle; the girl stares back impassively.

Mulder and Scully arrive on the scene and meet Detective Lazard. She explains that her brother is a cop in Baltimore. He told her about their work on the Tooms case and that they have a good feel for things out of the ordinary. Ruling Barbala's death a suicide didn't sit well with Lazard, so she couldn't let it rest without investigating further. She explains that the only person in the room with Barbala was Michelle, despite the girl's assertion that another man was present. Lazard takes the agents to the interrogation room, and Mulder notes that jumpers tend to open the window first. Scully asks Lazard whether she thinks the girl is involved. Lazard responds that she doesn't know what to believe, but something just isn't right about that girl.

The agents visit Michelle's house to get a description of the man she witnessed and to talk with her mother. With the aid of computer software and FBI techie Harry Linhart, Mulder prompts Michelle to describe the man, joking with her a little along the way to get the girl to smile. When Linhart puts a silly moustache on the face, the screen suddenly changes on its own to show just the kind of moustache Michelle was intending. Linhart explains it away as a glitch in the software, but Michelle is staring at the screen, looking slightly malicious.

Meanwhile, Scully is talking to Michelle's mother, asking how the girl could have taken the half-hour train ride into Buffalo without anyone knowing. All Mrs. Bishop knows is that she came home to find the nanny, Mrs. Dougherty, locked in the wine cellar--the fourth nanny already this year. She has to admit, Michelle is a disturbed child, with a tendency to see things and hear voices in her head. Michelle especially has a phobia about water--she screams whenever they try to get her near a pool. Michelle's parents are recently divorced, presumably because of the stress of raising a troubled child.

Outside, Mulder shows the printout of Michelle's mystery man to her mother, who doesn't recognize him, and learns that the "Sheila" Michelle mentioned to him is Dr. Braun, a developmental psychologist at Brylin Hospital who meets with Michelle twice a week. Michelle throws down an origami bird from an upstairs window, but her mother says she doesn't know where her daughter learned how to make it. As they prepare to leave, Mulder asks Linhart to give Scully a ride back into town to do the autopsy, while Mulder heads over to Brylin Hospital to have a chat with Michelle's shrink. Before they part, Mulder asks her to check for burns or lesions on the body: which are often signs of psychokinesis. Scully is left speechless at her partner's latest theory.

Mulder shows the computer-generated photo of the suspect to Dr. Braun, who doesn't recognize him either. In answer to Mulder's question about whether Michelle could have fabricated him, the doctor explains that it's a possibility with dissociative disorders. Her goal has been to discover the source of Michelle's extreme rage, which is typically the result of a traumatic event in the person's past. Dr. Braun shows Mulder a shelf full of dolls, each mutilated by Michelle in the same manner with the left arm ripped off and the right eye gouged out. The psychologist doesn't believe Michelle has been abused and is at a loss to explain her behavior. In the meantime, she's been treating the girl with Thorazine. Then Mulder ventures into the paranormal: he asks if she's observed any unexplained phenomena with Michelle. Dr. Braun looks at her watch and quickly shows him out.

Scully is beginning the autopsy and pulls back the sheet to reveal that, just as Mulder suggested, there is indeed a lesion on Barbala's abdomen, which suggests localized electrocution. She's visibly rattled at the discovery but doesn't have a chance to pursue it further as Det. Lazard drops by to talk to her. Scully demurs that she just started the autopsy, but Lazard retorts that he's probably not going anywhere. They step outside the room, and Lazard shows Scully a photograph of a man that matches Michelle's description. It's a picture of Detective Charlie Morris. The only problem is, he's been dead for nine years. Lazard's conclusion: Michelle saw a ghost.

Mulder is back at the precinct house, where he and Scully discuss Morris' death, an apparent gangland slaying. Scully preempts Mulder's allegation that Michelle saw a poltergeist, but he counters that Scully's the one who found the lesion in the autopsy and suggested it could have been caused by an intense concentration of electrothermal energy. Mulder asks the classic question: why is it so difficult for Scully to believe when all the evidence points to the paranormal? But she argues that looking for extreme possibilities sometimes blinds one to the obvious truths--in this case, the picture of Morris hanging on the wall, which Michelle would have passed and seen. Then Mulder offers his own evidence: the dolls that Michelle disfigured in the exact manner of Morris' grisly death.

Looking further into Morris' case, the agents drive to nearby Kenmore to visit the home of his old partner, a nervous Detective Tony Fiore, who conducts the abbreviated conversation on the front porch with the excuse that his wife is sleeping. He is reluctant to discuss Morris' murder since it is an ongoing investigation and is genuinely puzzled at the connection to the death of Rudy Barbala. Fiore finally opens up about the murder, explaining that it seemed like retaliation against the police for their crackdown on drug trafficking in Chinatown. However, the chat abruptly ends when his wife emerges from the front door, not the least bit sleepy and wiping flour from her hands. Fiore rushes them off, raising Mulder and Scully's suspicions about what he may be hiding.

Fiore then shows up at Buffalo Mutual Life, anxiously sharing the details of the agents' investigation with a much calmer accomplice, Leon Felder, who says not to worry because the FBI knows nothing. Fiore wants to head to Citibank immediately, to access a safety deposit box containing over two million dollars and dump it somewhere so it can't be traced back to them. But Felder tells him pointedly that they agreed to wait ten years, and that's what they're going to do. Felder says that neither he nor Barbala wanted to see Charlie wind up like that, that they were just trying to scare some sense into him, and that Tony needs to pull himself together.

At dusk, Felder is strolling down the sidewalk to catch bus 245, headed downtown. When he exits the bus, he makes the mistake of wrapping up in his scarf against the brisk Buffalo air while still standing in the open doors of the bus. An unseen force lifts the edge of the scarf and holds it in the doors, so that they close over the fabric, and then winds the scarf around the hand rail. The bus takes off, and Felder must run alongside it, yelling for the driver to open the door. The driver notices and tries to stop, only to have the same unseen force push on the gas pedal. Felder loses his footing and is dragged alongside the bus. Only when his limp body hangs from the scarf, still pulled tight against the doors, does the force release the gas pedal and allow the bus driver to stop. But it is too late. And all of this is witnessed by a little eight-year old girl riding in the window seat directly above the scene, staring down malevolently.

Later that night, Mulder and Scully sit with Michelle's mother in the precinct, explaining that Michelle was picked up by a patrol car a few blocks away from the bus stop and that she witnessed yet another death. Mulder assures Mrs. Bishop that no one is accusing Michelle of anything, despite the coincidence. But the distraught mother is at a loss to understand this and breaks down. Scully offers a comforting hand on her shoulder, while Lazard asks for Mulder to join her for a minute. Lazard reveals that the deceased Felder used to be a cop at the 14th precinct--and his partner was Rudy Barbala.

In a conference room, Mulder and Scully discuss the case over two chalkboards and a table full of files. Out of four cops--Morris, Barbala, Felder, and Fiore--three are now dead, and the only apparent connection is a drug bust in Chinatown nine years ago and a little girl from Orchard Park. They now know that Fiore lied to them about not knowing Barbala, but they don't yet know why. Scully discovers that a page is missing from Morris' homicide file, which was last checked out by Tony Fiore, that very afternoon.

The agents return to Fiore's house, apologizing to his wife, Anita, for the early hour, only to find that Tony didn't come home last night and she's rather worried. Inside, the first glimpse of the house is through the glass and bubbles of a fish tank, featuring a toy deep sea diver. Mulder looks over the fish tank and peruses the room, pointing out to his partner the display of origami animals beneath a painting of Noah's ark. Mrs. Fiore enters with a tray of coffee mugs, and they proceed to question her about where her husband might go if he were in trouble. She doesn't recognize the names Barbala or Felder when Scully mentions them. Mulder asks about the origami collection, and she says it belonged to Charlie, her first husband. Scully makes the connection, and Mrs. Fiore confirms that she's referring to Charlie Morris. She points out that he was duplicating the animals from the painting with his origami collection, and the only one he never got to finish was the giraffe.

On the way back to the car, Mulder starts making the connections between Michelle and Charlie: Michelle is eight, and therefore was conceived around the time Charlie was killed. Scully jumps in and draws his conclusion for him--reincarnation. She asks if this theory is based merely on the coincidence that they both knew origami, but Mulder points out the composite of Morris, the dolls, and Michelle's presence at two deaths. Scully asserts that is doesn't explain how a little girl could kill two grown men, so Mulder counters that people with strong past-life memories often exhibit powers like telekinesis. Scully asks where that leaves them, and Mulder quips, a step away from proving the pre-existence of the soul.

Michelle undergoes hypnosis by Dr. Spitz while Mulder and Scully watch on in the next room with Mrs. Bishop. When asked her age, the girl says she is 24, but then starts yelling that they can't do it, it's wrong, they're killing her. Dr. Braun insists that they stop this right away, and Michelle's mother charges in to comfort her daughter and put an end to the session. After the others leave, the two agents argue in the hallway. Mulder wants to try hypnosis again, to somehow convince Mrs. Bishop to allow it, all in pursuit of the truth. Scully believes their means to the truth is finding Fiore. Based on what they just witnessed, Mulder is convinced that for all intents and purposes, Michelle Bishop IS Charlie Morris. At Scully's incredulity, he asks, short of the girl growing a moustache, what it will take for her to believe. She allows his point for the sake of the argument, but explains that even if he is right and another hypnosis session can be conducted that will prove it, no grand jury will accept that as evidence, which leaves them without an actionable case.

At the FBI regional headquarters, Mulder is journaling his notes on the case while the tape of Michelle's regression hypnosis plays in the background. His attention is drawn by an apparent glitch in the tape, so he rewinds and views it frame by frame to isolate an image with a fuzzy outline.

Back at the Fiore house, there is a knock late at night. Anita rushes to the door, hoping for her wayward husband, to find waiting on the doormat only an origami giraffe.

Linhart, at the FBI regional office, is going over the frame from the tape of Michelle's hypnosis while Mulder and Scully watch on. Linhart states that the image is part of the film and was recorded in the room during the session. Mulder points out the precedent of a man from Porlock, Ohio in the '70s who could influence undeveloped film with his mind. Lazard enters, telling Scully that she tracked down the pathologist from Morris' case, Dr. Yamaguchi, now retired in Palm Beach. She got him to fax her the missing page from the autopsy report, which reveals that Morris died not as a result of his wounds but from drowning. Oddly, only his head shows evidence of submersion, suggesting he was held down in a bathtub or toilet--except, he had a raised plasma sodium level, indicating that he was killed in salt water.

Tony Fiore finally returns home, rushing in the door and hollering for his wife. He's worried that someone is trying to kill him and yells at her to go pack a bag. He runs upstairs, leaving her watching after in confusion. But she's not the only one who is watching--behind the curtains in the living room hides Michelle Bishop.

Linhart has now cleared up the picture, using an algorithm program, to reveal the image of a deep sea diver. Mulder recognizes the toy from the Fiore fish tank and makes the connection to the salt water: Morris was drowned in his own tropical fish tank, and the deep sea diver was the last thing he saw when he died. He states that they better hope Michelle is at home tucked in bed and reaches for the phone.

As Fiore is frantically packing a suitcase, which is lying next to a duffle bag full of cash, his wife confronts him about the giraffe on the doorstep. But before he can answer, the lights go out. He rushes out with his gun and tells her to stay there with the door closed. This will be no problem since after he leaves, an unseen hand turns the key in the lock. Fiore creeps down the stairs and across the living room in the dim light. An electrical cord unplugs itself and wraps around his legs to trip him. He reaches for the gun that has fallen from his hand, but it slides across the floor away from him, and lands at the feet of Michelle Bishop.

Mulder and Scully pull up in front of the Fiore home. At the sound of crashes inside, they run toward the house, but the door closes on them and won't budge. Shutters slam closed in Mulder's face. Inside, glass breaks in picture frames and clay pots crack open, all with just a turn of Michelle's head. Scully finds another door around back, and the agents are able to break in. Fiore, now a believer, speaks to Michelle as though she is Charlie, reasoning that they never intended to kill him; all Charlie had to do was take the money. Michelle's response is to send a fire poker sailing toward his head, followed by a vase.

Now inside, Scully goes upstairs to check on Anita, while Mulder joins the showdown in the living room. Scully unlocks Anita, and the two descend to find Tony cowering on the floor and Michelle still for the moment. Tony confesses to his wife that he knew about what happened to Charlie but couldn't admit his involvement because no one else would've been there to take care of her. This does not pacify Michelle, and the room is bathed in blue light by the glow emanating from the fish tank. The tank vibrates, and things continue to crack around the room, including the ceiling. Anita quietly begs Michelle not to hurt her husband anymore and watches the girl with curiosity and perhaps recognition. The fish tank shatters, sending water and glass flying, but with that, the mood is broken and the lights come back on. Scully wisely removes the gun from Michelle's reach. The deep sea diver is the last thing we see before the scene ends.

In a voiceover, Mulder gives his concluding notes for the case over the image of him and Mrs. Bishop walking alongside her pool. Fiore pleaded guilty to first degree murder after the fact, grand larceny, and obstruction of justice. The deaths of Barbala and Felder have been ruled accidental, but their complicity in Morris' murder has been definitively established. No charges were filed against Michelle, who is now having her first swimming lesson. She claims no memory of the previous events, and neither her mother nor Dr. Braun will agree to another regression hypnosis. The closing status of the case: unexplained.

Episode Summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

  • This is one of the rare cases when a previous episode is referenced (Lazard mentioning her brother in Baltimore and the Tooms case).
  • Barbala's toe tag reads: NAME: Barbala, Rudolph. CASE NO.: 51412 -38. WHERE TAKEN FROM: Outside 14th precinct station, Buffalo. However, the DATE line is conveniently blank. Mrs. Bishop mentions that it's only April (referring to the fact that Michelle has already gone through four nannies in less than four months), but the log sheet for Morris' file gives the date (twice) as 03-29-94 (March 29). At the end of the episode, Mulder reads his field journal entry, concluding on April 19, 1994. If Mrs. Bishop's comment is taken to mean that it is almost April, then it would mesh with the March 29 date and there wouldn't necessarily be a contradiction.
  • It is interesting to note Scully's hostility towards the notion of Reincarnation, when you consider during the season the number of proven paranormal events she has witnessed, or strange physical phenomenon from such incidents as Tooms and the prehistoric insects of Darkness Falls to such abstract ideas as psychic ability, poltergeist activity, as well as Transmigration. Naturally, due to Scully's Catholic beliefs, the idea of Reincarnation would work in direct conflict. Matt Allair
  • The conversation between Mulder and Scully after Michelle's regression illustrates the disparity in their goals, and perhaps one good reason why Scully was assigned to the X-Files: Mulder is most interested in gathering evidence for past lives and the pre-existence of the soul, but Scully is concerned in presenting an actionable case that can stand up before a grand jury. Scully often provides the voice of reason to remind Mulder that they are FBI agents, and that the business of the FBI is solving crimes, not verifying the paranormal.
  • Lazard's quip that the dead body isn't going anywhere (when she asks Scully to step away from the autopsy for a moment) is echoed by Scully in El Mundo Gira to a less-than-helpful medical examiner.
  • Felder tells Tony Fiore that he's acting like a little bug, which is somewhat ironic considering that the same actor (Brian Markinson) next appears in season five's Folie A Deux, freaking out about a rather large bug.
  • In typical X-Files fashion, Scully is absent from the room when the majority of paranormal activity is happening. Since she rushes upstairs to check on Fiore's wife, only Mulder is in the room with Fiore while Michelle is telekinetically hurling things across the room. By the time Scully and Anita arrive, Michelle has stopped. Scully does, however, witness the blue glow and the fish tank exploding, which she would probably explain as a power surge or localized earthquake.
  • Mulder's cliché "hand on Scully's back" makes an appearance when they make their second visit to the Fiore house: he ushers her through the door ahead of him with a hand to the middle of her back.
  • According to the official guide for season 1, Mrs. Bishop's first name is Judy, although this is mentioned nowhere in the episode.
  • Although Mulder is usually the partner known for his paranoia, Scully comments to Lazard that pathologists are paranoid by nature. If she includes herself in this category, she is apparently more like her partner than she wants to admit.
  • Unlike that majority of cases which include voiceovers of Scully's field notes, this case has Mulder reading from his field journal and narrating the conclusion of the case.
  • The file number, stated by Mulder in his closing notes, is X-40271.

Episode Summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

The episode suffers in a similar manner to Young At Heart, even if it is to a lesser extent. It's basically a cop show with paranormal elements that are grafted in, yet in all fairness, it is done with more flare, Mulder and Scully seem more integral to the story. The added little detail of Charlie's talent with origami is an interesting quirky element. Some of the concepts introduced in this episode reappear later as major threads in other episodes, notably the use of hypnosis to elicit details from past lives (The Field Where I Died) and the ability to influence film with a person's thoughts (Unruhe). Bellefleur / Matt Allair

The back story to the episode, according to Brian Lowry*: "Dealing with reincarnation, Born Again is another episode that fell short of the producers' self-imposed expectations, the feeling being that the premise was perhaps too similar to the soul transfer or possession themes dealt with in some of the shows that aired around the same time. "The impetus was desperation, I believe," producer Howard Gordon quips, adding that in the final analysis the hour proved "a little too cop show-y" for his taste." As a side note, the character name "Tony Fiore" appears to be quite popular name for crooked policemen in Vancouver-based genre shows.

Actor Mimi Lieber particularly loved working on The X-Files as she acknowledged in past articles. "It was challenging as an actor, without any of the common obstacles to just doing good work. In a one-hour episode show, sometimes things are very, very rushed. This was a show where we had to accomplish difficult emotional changes, and there was a script and an organization that supported that sort of strong work." She found working with child actor Andrea Libman an interesting experience, "Her performance was incredibly creepy," Acknowledged Lieber while observing that the actor would walk pass Andrea Libman's trailer to find her playing hopscotch with her family. Lieber was amazed that a child could have the silent self-possession of a very sad adult. During the ending sequence when Anita is locked upstairs, trying the door and screams to be released. Director Jerrold Freeman wanted her character to be docile and obedient, while Lieber felt, where primal instinct would make one want to fight, that she should the opposite. During post-production they realized that was the case and Ms. Lieber was brought in to loop the screaming.

Mimi Lieber's career has been varied. She started out as one of the principle dancers for such films as Grease and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Her recent upcoming film is Arranged, her prior feature film work includes Bulworth, Corrina, Corrina, Ghost In The Machine, Wilder Napalm, Last Resort, and Ron Howard's Night Shift. Her television appearances include Law & Order, Judging Amy, The Drew Carey Show, ER, Touched By An Angel, NYPD Blue, Clueless, Dave's World, Diagnosis Murder, SeaQuest DSV, The Commish, Seinfeld, Wiseguy, and Barnaby Jones.

Brian Markinson who plays Tony Fiore, not only appeared in the season five episode Folie a Deux, but also played Detective Teeple in three episodes of Millennium, during the first and second seasons, The Judge, Blood Relations and Sacrament. Recently Mr. Markinson's upcoming feature film is Charlie Wilson's War. Mr. Markinson graduated from New York's American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1983. His other feature film work includes RV, Small Time Crooks, Sweet and Lowdown, Enemy Of The State, Primary Colors, Up Close and Personal, Apollo 13, and Wolf. Television movies he's appeared include Prairie Grant: The Tommy Douglas Story, Spielberg's Taken and Take Me Home: The John Denver Story. His television appearances include Psych, Da Vinci's City Hall, Supernatural, The Dead Zone, Da Vinci's Inquest, The Twilight Zone, Judging Amy, Dark Angel, The Chris Isaak Show, Stargate SG1, Party Of Five, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Law & Order, Murphy Brown and China Beach.

Det. Sharon Lazard is played by Maggie Wheeler, formerly Maggie Jakobson, well-known for her portrayal of the annoying Janice on Friends. She also co-starred with David Duchovny in his first film, New Year's Day, and dated him at one time. Maggie Wheeler was born: August, 1961 in New York, New York, She originally appeared in the Pilot of the Booke Shields sit-com Suddenly Susan yet was replaced by Kathy Griffin. Her other television appearances include ER, Everybody Loves Raymond, CSI, Will & Grace, Ellen, Seinfeld, and L.A. Law. Bellefleur / Matt Allair

Andrea Libman who plays Michelle Bishop was born July, 1984 in Toranto, Ontario, Canada and presently she is attending the University of British Columbia and majoring in Civil Engineering. Her television appearances includes extensive voiceover work: My Little Pony, X-Men: Evolution, Dragon Tales, and Dragon Ball Z. Other appearances include The New Adventures of Madeline, The Odyssey, and Highlander.

Dey Young, who plays Judy Bishop, was born in July, 1955, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Studied acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse with Milton Katselas. She's the wife of producer David Ladd and the sister-in-law of Alan Ladd Jr. She is currently a partner with Jamie McGurk in Off-Balance Productions. Her recent feature film work includes Flicka, and Red Eye. Her other feature films include Guardian, Shiloh 2: Shiloh Season, The Mod Squad, Pretty Woman, The Serpent and the Rainbow, The Running Man, Spaceballs, and the punk classic, Rock N' Roll High School. Her television appearances include Bones, JAG, The West Wing, Crossing Jordan, Enterprise, Melrose Place, The Outer Limits, Diagnosis: Murder, Picket Fences, Jake and the Fatman, Star Trek: The Next Generation, T.J. Hooker and Hart to Hart.

* Quote source: P. 151, "The Truth Is Out There; The Official Guide to The X-Files" by Brian Lowry, © 1995 Harper Prism

Episode synopsis, review and additional production notes: Bellefleur
Review and production notes: Matt Allair
Page Editor: XScribe

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