Season 2

2x02 The Host

Air date: 09-23-1994
Writers: Chris Carter
Editor: James Coblentz
Director: Daniel Sackheim
Director of Photography: John S. Bartley, C.S.C.
Documented Phenomenon: Mutant, Flukeman

Episode summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

In the Atlantic Ocean, two miles off of New Jersey, a Russian freighter is sailing. A Russian crew member discovers the toilets are overflowing. In the bowels of the ship, a crew leader orders Dmitri to check on a tank, which has backed up. A blockage must be removed before the tanks could be purged. Under some protest, the crewman enters and is attacked by something in the filthy water. He disappears. The commander orders in a panic that all the tanks be flushed out.

At the Longstreet motel, Washington, D.C. Mulder is involved with federal wiretapping job, # 5A21147. An agent appears and informs Mulder he’s being reassigned and that Agent Bozoff is taking over. He’s informed that he’s going to Newark, New Jersey for a murder case. While en route he’s told  to meet with a detective Norman, and that the reassignment was at the request of A.D. Skinner, to his amazement. Mulder arrives at the crime scene. Forensics has completed their work. It turns out the body was found in a sewer tunnel, which was found by a sanitation worker. The body is badly decomposed. The police ask him what to do with it and Mulder dismissively tells them to wrap it up and send it to the FBI, courtesy of Walter Skinner.

While In Skinner’s office, Mulder wonders why he was assigned the case, only to discover he’s in a room filled with other officials. He explains he believes it was a simple drugland body dump, not a typical case to waste FBI resources on. Skinner sternly informs Mulder he will carry out his assignments to the best of his ability.

Later, Mulder privately meets Scully outside the Lincoln Memorial, facing across the reflecting pool, towards the Washington monument. They discuss the incident in Skinner’s office. Scully points out that Mulder has never fit into the program. Mulder admits he’s been thinking about leaving the Bureau to her surprise. She tries to suggest some options, as it’s clear she doesn’t want him to leave. Scully suggests she see the body he is investigating to see what she might find. But Mulder believes the whole case is just an exercise, that it’s pointless. When she examines the decomposing body in her lab, John Doe # 101356, case number DP112148, she finds a tattoo in Russian on the right forearm. Upon opening up the body, she finds a living tapeworm, which she pulls out.

While in Newark, a sewer workman is attacked by something in a lower level sewer, and is dragged and bitten by it. At Middlesex County Hospital, Sayreville, New Jersey, the man is being treated, at which time he is paid a visit by Mulder. The man complains about a strange taste in his mouth. The doctor explains the situation to Mulder. She assumed it was a bogus Worker’s Compensation claim, but she notes the sanitation worker has a strange wound on his back--what she thinks might be a bacterial infection--but she has never seen anything like it before. As Mulder speaks to the workman, he finds the man believes he may have been bitten by a python. Mulder looks at the strange wound, as Scully calls, and informs him of a strange parasite found in the John Doe. As Mulder is about to leave to get back to headquarters, he gets another call from an unidentified man who states, “You have a friend in the F.B.I.” then hangs up.

Mulder visits Quantico, Virginia at the Academy, where Scully shows him the tapeworm called a Turbellaria, or fluke worm; it had been feeding off of the liver and bile duct. Mulder asks if the victim contracted the fluke, before or after he died. She suspects he must have been in a sewer and that it was unlikely that a single parasite could have killed him, but she could not find another cause of death. She explains how flukes attach themselves to the victims, with a sucker-like mouth with four spikes. Mulder shows her a photo of the worker at Sayreville. She’s astonished and they begin a dialogue that feels like old times. She explains that flatworms are obligate endoparasites; they live inside the host, but are not creatures that attack people. He concludes at the very least it will be interesting to the city’s department of sanitation. Mulder adds, he doesn’t know who she spoke to with the hope of launching a campaign for Mulder, but she has no idea what he’s talking about; she never discussed anything with anyone else.

The sanitation worker, after swallowing toothpaste, is taking a shower and spits up a large worm that falls down the shower drain. At the Newark Processing Plant, Mulder is speaking to the supervisor. The man explains that Mulder had visited one of the older sections of the sewer system where the man had been attacked. Mulder observed it looked like a catacomb. The supervisor notes that most contemporary pipes are no more than 24 inches in diameter. Mulder shows him the flask with the fluke worm and the supervisor isn’t surprised.

Later, a worker at the plant finds something swimming in the main processing rooms. He calls the supervisor and backflushes the system. They see in the pipe, a giant human-like creature. Scully is researching about fluke worms, learning that they can self-reproduce, are hermaphroditic, and that they need many hosts in a lifecycle. Someone slips a paper under her office door, a tabloid that has a story about the incident on the Russian ship. She re-examines the forensic data on the John Doe, and realizes it must be the same man from the ship. Mulder calls and informs her about the creature found.

The creature has been placed in a room at Middlesex County Psychiatric Hospital where it hides in the shadows of the room. Mulder points it out to Scully who is stunned by the sight. She observes that Platyhelminthes are often hermaphroditic and observes it has primate physiology. Scully asks where it came from and Mulder retorts that he’ll have to tell Skinner “It is a giant, bloodsucking worm after all.” Scully reveals to Mulder what she’s learned about the Russian victim. She notes the tattoo, and shows Mulder the tabloid article that was shoved under her door. She also tactfully notes it would be a professional loss if Mulder decided to leave the FBI.

Skinner reviews Mulder’s report and the agent notes there’s no way to prosecute this case; the creature can’t be placed in a psychiatric institution. Then Mulder learns that the sanitation worker has died from his injuries. Mulder confronts the Assistant Director about closing The X-Files, and Skinner admits this should have been an X-File, after Mulder points out that lives could have been saved. “We all take our orders from someone, Agent Mulder,” Skinner retorts and Mulder is dismissed.

Medics transfer the creature to a U.S. Marshall ambulance. The creature manages to break out of the gurney it’s secured in. The driver investigates, and is attacked by the creature. They are parked in front of Lake Betty campsites, with a sign that reads “Live Bait, fish…all year round.” The creature crawls into a portable toilet.

At 5:27 AM, an A&A sanitation truck pulls up. A worker installs a hose to pump out the portable toilet, and the waste is vacuumed into the tank. The hose momentarily gets backed up, buckles, then settles down, the creature obviously in the tank. At 6.37 AM, Mulder arrives at the crime scene, just as the A&A sanitation truck passes him. He learns the Marshall is dead and the creature has escaped. Mulder advises to watch the storm drains, the sewer systems, as the creature will try to get back underground. Then Mulder gets a call from the mysterious man who called him before: “Mr. Mulder, I’ll make this brief; success in your current assignment is imperative.” When pressed, the man explains “Reinstatement of the X-Files must be undeniable,” then hangs up. Mulder ponders this as he overhears a call about a campsite; dogs had tracked a chemical scent. Mulder then realizes that the creature is already on a tanker.

Mulder arrives at the Newark Sewage plant at 8:15 AM, and is informed by the supervisor that there were already five trucks sent out to that area in the morning. There are no detailed records of the uploads. He learns every tanker dumps their load at the plant, so the creature could already be there, or already gone. They scour the plant.

Scully calls and informs Mulder that she thinks the fluke in the corpse had been an incubating larva that is transmitting its eggs through its bite; it’s looking for hosts and the bodies provide generative nourishment. Both realize if it finds a new host, it could multiply. The plant supervisor informs Mulder that something was spotted in a section of pipe in the area where the first victim was found--an old overflow system that dumps into the harbor. Mulder realizes that the creature is trying to get back into the ocean.

Mulder arrives at the location, wincing at the smell. He suggests to the supervisor that they close the gate for the overflow system. Trying to get leverage of the rusted valve, the supervisor falls into the sewer water and is attacked by the creature. Mulder jumps in and grabs the injured supervisor just as the creature makes his way to the gate. Mulder loosens the valve and the door severs the creature in two.

Mulder and Scully again meet at a Washington park. She asks about talking to Skinner. Mulder realizes that they have a new informant. She shares with him the lab results about the biology of the fluke larva; analysis indicates reproductive and physiological cross-traiting, a quasi-vertebrate human, but still capable of reproduction like any flatworm. She further explains that radiation and abnormal cell fusion is the cause; that nature didn’t make this creature, science did. Scully shows Mulder a series of photos from Chernobyl. The creature came off of the decommissioned Russian freighter that was used in the disposal of salvaged material from the Chernobyl meltdown. It was born in a soup of radioactive sewage. Mulder wonders that for every species that is disappearing off the planet, how many more new species are being created. Back in Newark, another flukeman appears.

Episode Summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

  • One of the obvious questions has to do with the two tapeworms, the one that comes out of Dmitri, and the other that comes out of the sanitation foreman. Will those tapeworms eventually grow and transform into another set of Flukemen? Or is it just an aimless biological imperative of such a creature to use hosts to multiply
  • The other question involves Mulder’s hypothesis about the origin of the flukeman, it being born in a proverbial soup of radioactive sewage. While crossbreeding occurs on a frequent basis with certain plants and animal breeds, the way that Scully describes reproductive and physiological cross-traiting, resulting in a quasi-vertebrate with the same reproductive traits as any flatworm, and that radiation and cell-fusion is the cause, she implicitly suggests that the radiation from Chernobyl wouldn’t be enough. That Russian scientists might have cross-traited human DNA with flatworms; could the creation of such a species have been random happenstance? Only if Flatworms had come across human remains in such an environment, and that began a speed up cell fusion.
  • Science Consultant for the series, Anne Simon, has acknowledged, that while the flukeman is improbable, previously unknown creatures are being discovered and not just in exotic locations far from civilizations. She cited an article from Science magazine in 1979 when scientists discovered at the bottom of deep ocean trenches, teaming with life. The researchers were amazed to find acres of mollusks and tube worms, some over ten feet long, feeding on bacteria that don’t need the sun, rather the bacteria derive energy from the blistering furnace of the Earth’s interior.**
  • In the first season’s finale, “The Erlenmeyer Flask,” we saw the end of Agent Mulder’s informant, Deep Throat. Season two began with the X-Files closed and Mulder and Scully separated. Will this shady new contact in the FBI fill that void? If so, how much influence will this new contact be capable of? – Chris Irish
  • Deep Throat’s absence from the series after being executed leaves Mulder in limbo regarding his work with The X-Files. The new contact tells Mulder that success in this current investigation is critical and that it would make re-opening the X-Files undeniable. What greater implications will this information play into the emerging conspiracy that Mulder is just starting to touch on? – Chris Irish
  • Assistant Director Skinner’s attitude toward Mulder was decidedly cold. He is well aware of the kinds of tasks he is assigning Mulder to. Is this due to Skinner’s displeasure with Mulder’s performance over the course of Season One, or could something be controlling Skinner, thus controlling Mulder? It was implied in Season One that Deep Throat was working behind Mulder’s back to control his movements, but to what end? – Chris Irish
  • If this proves a success, where will it take Mulder and Scully? Depending on whom this new contact is in the FBI, could they assist Mulder in actually re-opening the X-Files? – Chris Irish
  • Since Skinner has been playing against Mulder and Scully so far and this new FBI contact has surfaced, does this indicate a break within the FBI itself? How could this affect Mulder’s interaction with the management tier of the FBI itself? – Chris Irish
  • Respected media genre critic John Kenneth Muir has made a number of observations: “The episode, like Mulder himself, is practically awash in sewage. ‘The Host’ not only imagines a monster that dwells and thrives in such sewage, it asks uncomfortable questions about how we treat our waste, and what happens to it after we flush it down the toilet. That’s the point, of course, that most of us stop thinking about such waste. ‘The Host,’ however, takes the journey one step further, one step below the surface. We see the underneath that nobody talks about…The visuals in ‘The Host,’ consisting of out-houses, sewage trucks, processing plants, and over-flowing toilets by the row all reinforce the powerful notion that just out of sight, our society is built on wobbly or even dangerous pillars. Terror will arise not from outside our borders, but from the inside, from our very way of life…‘The Host’ might be considered a variation of the alligator-in-the-sewer urban legend popularized first in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but a closer look reveals how powerfully it questions the society we have made, and asks, literally, what horrors grow in a world most of us don’t see, yet interact with, in some fashion, every single day of our lives.” ****

Episode Summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

“The Host” enjoys a number of ‘firsts’ – budgets for the show had developed enough to allow for the first fully realized creature on The X-Files, The Flukeman. – Darin Morgan who plays the Flukeman would shortly co-write “Blood” with Glen and James, and then go on to write several of the most beloved episodes of The X-Files and then Millennium. – We get another glimpse of Skinner and are left to the impression he could be more of an advocate than adversary that is conflicted by obligations. We also get the first, off-screen appearance of Mr. X, the replacement for Deep Throat, who would soon be revealed to be a more guarded and resourceful survivalist. Writer Robert Shearman has commented “This is a decent old-fashioned monster story, given a new spin by being set in the new X-Files-less FBI”*** Respected genre media critic John Kenneth Muir observed:” Any list of the top ten episodes of The X-Files is bound to include Chris Carter’s second season story, “The Host.” For one thing, the monster of the week -- the Fluke Man -- is one of the most visually distinctive and memorable of the catalog, inspired, perhaps unconsciously, according to Carter, by his childhood love of the Gill Man in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).” Adding, “But on a deeper, almost unconscious level, ‘The Host’ generates anxiety, fear and also disgust by peeking below the surface of our industrialized culture.”****

The inspiration for the story came from the most mundane of sources, as explained by Chris Carter, “My dog had worms, and I was studying these worms a little too closely…I had been reading a story about Chernobyl and about the extinction of species and somehow synthesized all of the information and put it together, coming up with one of the, I believe, ever-popular episodes on the show”*, it has been observed by another writer, “The Wongs really pushed Chris into wanting to make that a creepy, scary episode.”* (Of course, ‘the Wongs’ was the production team’s in-side joke about Glen Morgan and James Wong’s creative partnership.) Chris Carter had a major dispute with Fox’s standards and practices when the worker throws up the fluke, and had to insist that the scene stay in. Chris Carter had used his father’s past experience with constructing brick-based sewers, as a template for the sewer set built by Graeme Murray. The production team had to film Gillian Anderson in various ways to mask her developing pregnancy.

The Flukeman costume was a major accomplishment for the early seasons of the series. The process of fitting the costume was painstaking at first, taking up to six hours to fit, until technicians were able to speed up the process, and at one point had to be worn by Darin Morgan for 20 hours. Because it was so difficult to remove, Darin Morgan had to relieve himself in the suit, which Chris Carter would later joke that the assignment was a rite of passage for any aspiring writer. Effects technician Toby Lindala recalled “We cast Darin and I still had just my little basement shop; I had four guys working with me on that episode; that was quick.” The costume was built from multiple urethane rubber pieces, along with mask prosthetics and contacts. Darin Morgan had wanted to emulate the Creature From the Black Lagoon, but once fitted in the costume, realized his mobility was limited to just head motions. After the episode had been produced, Darin Morgan, while working on “Humbug”, recalled sitting on a plane next to David Duchovny, “I leaned over and I said, ‘Hey you’re that guy on that show, aren’t you?’ he just nodded, and I said, ‘Would you sign my book for me?’ he says, ‘sure’ And then I ask him to sign it ‘To my Arch Nemesis,’ and he goes ‘Why do you want me to write that?’ I say, ‘I’ll explain later’ then he signed it, and I said ‘I’m the Flukeman.”*

The episode faced a number of challenges regarding locations and uncomfortable situations as recounted by Todd Pittson*****. In spite of the fact that a sewer set piece was designed by Graeme Murray, and built by Rob Maier, the sewage treatment plant was found at the Iona Island Causeway, in Richmond. But the odors were potent enough that despite a 12 noon crew call, and taking into account the hot summer weather at the time, crew members were given the choice for opting out of the day, or wearing special breathing apparatus – paid for at great cost for the production --  which filtered out the most offensive odors. The entire crew showed up for work, yet some crew members could not handle it. Second assistant director Michelle Dutka recalled an after-lunch vomiting session with crew members out by the far side of the fence on the perimeter of the property. Key grip Al Campbell recalled his technique for dealing with the location: “Whenever I began to feel queasy, I’d visit the primary sedimentation tank – the place where the raw, untreated sewage came in. A couple minutes of that and I’d go back to whatever I was doing, feeling relieved and grateful that nothing else was as bad as where I’d just been. For years afterward, no matter how ugly a location was, I’d remind Chris of the sewage treatment plant, pointing out that nothing could ever be as bad as that place. And we weren’t going back there.” One other minor incident that occurred at the location just before midnight, was that the plant’s emergency alarm system sounded, causing delays. This apparently happened every couple of years.

The location of the Freighter / Engine room was found at the Port Mann Hydro Substation at 14115 King Road in Surrey. While the idea of filming the flukeman’s escape from the engine room of a real freighter was entertained, the idea was nixed. The prospect of using such a freighter would have been possible if a vessel had been decommissioned, or on lay-over. The hydro substation had been built in the 1950s as a backup power supply in the event of a nuclear war and had never been used. The owner had been in the process of trying to sell off whatever generating equipment he could and the site was available. With the addition of some gauges and piping, and an aging job courtesy of head painter Louis Solyom’s department, a serviceable engine room was achieved. There was another incident that occurred during the filmng of the episode, as recounted by Todd Pittson*****. This occurred during the sublease of a building at 1195 Richards Street, a contractual arrangement with the lessor of the premises to build a set – a medical examination room – in the building. They were scheduled to film on the False Creek seawall near Anderson’s Restaurant and they needed another location nearby to complete filming. The actual lessor of the premises had previously moved his business elsewhere and was not involved with the activities of his associate – known as Mr. B – to whom the property had been subleased to. Arrangements had been made and one stipulation was that security measures had to be strictly observed as Mr. B had some equipment stored in a back room, which he had planned to utilize once he renovated the building into a café and poolhall. The set had been built, filmed, then torn down. A female designate of Mr. B’s insisted on being left to lock up the premises once she had completed her work. The following morning, Mr. B called the production offices screaming about some stolen video lottery terminals (VTLs), and had threatened to sue to the tune of thousands of dollars in reimbursement. In spite of receiving a promise to investigate the matter, he kept harassing the production offices, even storming into the production office, and harassing Anita Truelove, until the Vancouver Police were called in, who advised him to contact his insurance company and file a police report. This continued until it was learned that Mr. B had a criminal record in Ontario. Once Mr. B realized that the production offices knew of his criminal record, the harassment settled down. The café and poolhall never materialized, by the way.

Darin Morgan’s acting history, although he appeared on The Commish and 21 Jump Street, is limited to the Flukeman, and playing Eddie Van Blundht Jr. in Vince Gilligan’s
“Small Potatoes,” but his importance to The X-Files cannot be underestimated, as a writer. The brother of Glen Morgan, when Glen and James Wong got the job at The X-Files, Glen tried to get his brother involved, hence, Darin donned the Flukeman suit. While Darin assisted with “Blood,” Glen prevailed on Darin to write an episode, which lead to “Humbug” and the rest became history. Both brothers were enrolled in the same film course at Loyola Marymount University, and Darin had grown up with an appreciation of Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin. Darin had begun writing scripts and teleplays, but it seemed he was going to go nowhere until Glen’s career helped him. Darin’s writing on The X-Files would end after four episodes, and two episodes of Millennium. After a lengthy break, acting as a producer on Frank Spotnitz’s Night Stalker, Bionic Woman, Fringe, Tower Prep, and Those Who Kill, he went back to writing with Glen on the series Intruders. His additional acting appearances include The Others and the feature The One.

Actor Matthew Bennett who played the first workman, Graig, had appeared in a range of projects, to most genre fans he is noted for playing Aaron Dorel on Ron Moore’s Battlestar: Galactica. Originally born and raised in Toronto, he was involved in the acting program at Northern Secondary, and went to Vancouver for his formal training. His early film work includes Swann, and Stealing Sinatra. His television appearances are broad, The Commish, Earth: Final Conflict, Total Recall 2070, Da Vinci’s Inquest, Peacemakers, as well as Det. Len Harper on Cold Squad, M.V.P., and Orphan Black.

Actor Freddy Andreiuci who played Detective Norman has also appeared on The Commish, Babylon 5, Felicity, Charmed, and Sons of Anarchy.

Synopsis and review: Matt Allair
Additional production notes: John Kenneth Muir, Christopher Irish
Page Editor: XScribe

*”The Complete X-Files: Behind The Series, The Myths and the Movies” by Matt Hurwitz and Chris Knowles, Published by Insight Editions © 2009
** “The Real Science Behind The X-Files” by Anne Simon, published by Touchstone, © 1999
*** “Wanting To Believe” by Robert Shearman, published by Mad Norwegian Press, © 2009
****Exclusive comments for The X-Files Lexicon by John Kenneth Muir.

*****”X Marks The Spot: On Location with The X-Files” by Louisa Gradnitzer and Todd Pittson, published by Arsenal Pulp Press © 1999

Please visit J.J. Lindl's Tumbler account, The X-Files Poster Project, to find out how to purchase his work:

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2x01 Little Green Men
2x02 The Host
2x03 Blood
2x04 Sleepless
2x05 Duane Barry
2x06 Ascension
2x07 3
2x08 One Breath
2x09 Firewalker
2x10 Red Museum
2x11 Excelsis Dei
2x12 Aubrey
2x13 Irresistible
2x14 Die Hand Die Verletzt
2x15 Fresh Bones
2x16 Colony
2x17 End Game
2x18 Fearful Symmetry
2x19 Død Kalm
2x20 Humbug
2x21 The Calusari
2x22 F. Emasculata
2x23 Soft Light
2x24 Our Town
2x25 Anasazi