HAL is Rolling in his Futuristic Computer Grave

1×06 – Ghost in the Machine

Episode summary:
Übergeek Brad Wilczek over-übers it and creates an Artificial Intelligence that will kill others to save itself. Mulder’s old partner Jerry acts like a jerk and then gets killed, and then Mulder and Scully disable the killer AI except maybe not.

The Intro Bit

It’s a company named Eurisko! (NOT ESKIMO.) Their stock is totally in the toilet!

It’s not safe if someone flushes!
Who keeps their stock in a toilet anyway? That’s unhygenic.

Two men in a room. One is a big alpha nerd — unshaven, glasses, t-shirt, ranting. The other is a total suit — calm, collected, manicured, wearing a powerful tie.

Powerful tie? What does that even mean?

The Nerd is Brad. The suit also has a name but it doesn’t really matter for reasons that will become apparent very soon, when he dies.

All hail the COS

Not-Brad power tie Suit Man is typing up a “why I’m firing Brad” memo, detailing his plan to “shut down” the “COS”. He thinks he’s alone, but somebody is watching over his shoulder– somebody who is…THE CENTRAL OPERATING SYSTEM! It is creepily watching him!

It’s kind of odd that this would be such a big deal when you think about it. It’s a TV show.
So cameras are watching everything anyway?
Yeah. How else could we even see the X-files?
Oh god the cameras THEY’RE EVERYWHERE
Crap, we broke her.

Before Suitster can really get down and dirty about all this firing and shutting down, he notices a mysterious running-water noise in the bathroom.

He has his own private bathroom? In his office?

Upon investigation: The sink is overflowing! Its motion sensor does nothing! And then…THE PHONE RINGS.

There is a phone in the bathroom?

The phone gives Suit the time…and then THE DOOR SHUTS. And the LIGHTS GO OUT. And his keycard doesn’t unlock the door, so he pulls out a normal sort of fancy futuristic skeleton key, and puts it in the slot, and WHAM BAM ELECTROCUTION FLYING THROUGH THE AIR SCREAMING.

This is just like the opening scene in Back to the Future except less rockin’.
That futuristic key thing was… the key TO HIS DESTRUCTION.

And then we look into the cold, scheming eye of a security camera. And back to the COS interface, where a robotic, vaguely Schwarzenneger-esque voice says:


This is going to be a crappy episode.

FBI Headquarters

This is where slashfic comes from.

Our agents are buying lunch when Mulder gets a surprise manhug from his friend Jerry — his old partner back in Violent Crime.

Scully just paid $8.50 for two sandwiches.
And that’s 1993 dollars.

Jerry buys them lunch and lays a case on ‘em. The CASE OF THE ELECTROCUTED SUIT GUY.

It looks like some kind of elaborate booby-trap.
[makes thoughtful, pondering face]
I’m not sure Mulder understands what “booby” means in this context.

Jerry really, really needs Mulder’s help on this one. Like, creepy, clingy, guilt-trippy need.

Nabisco : Triscuits :: Eurisko : Diskettes?

A bantering Mulder and Scully head to the Eurisko building — we get an ominous shot of a security camera lookin’ at ‘em. Mulder gives Scully the backstory on Jerry: he is a huge fuckup.

Look at those walls in the elevator bay.
Well, they’d better not take ‘em for… granite.
Because it’s probably some clever synthetic polymer.

And now a weird voyeuristic camera view in the elevator. Kind of an FBI Girls Gone Wild feeling to it. Or Cops. They head up to the 29th floor, but around floor four or so the elevator completely fucks with them and knocks Scully over.

And now the COS? I guess? is looking up her phone number.

Better than looking up her skirt.

Then we’re up in the Bathroom of death, where a nice building engineer fellow named Claude Peterson fills them in on how the COS works.

The phone’s off the hook.
oh for reals yo

What a handsome boy.

Mulder and Scully sit in on a debriefing run by Jerry, who has apparently just completely stolen Mulder’s whole profile and is presenting it as his own. Jerry sucks.

I think maybe every single FBI agent besides Mulder and Scully is just an asshole.

Double-barreled vocabulary discharge from Mulder:

Brazenly egomaniacal.

Brad’s Fancypants House

Note: at eleven minutes and forty seconds into the episode, whoever did the editing perfectly aligned a beat in the music with the THWACK of a golf club striking a ball. Nice.

Mulder and Scully pull up into the driveway of alpha nerd (and now prime-suspect) Bill Gates Brad Wilczek’s mansion.

He’s got a lot of cars. He’s so rich, he has all three flavors of car: old, new, and motorcycle.

Brad gives his theory on programmers:

You can divide the computer science industry into two types of people: neat and scruffy.
You can divide the vampire-slaying enthusiasts industry into two types of people: Willow and Buffy.
You can divide the brands-of-bikes-people-like-to-ride industry into two types of bikes: Schwinn and Huffy.
You can divide the stupid-dog-names industry into two types of stupid dog names: Poopsie and Muffy.
Let’s stop now.

Mulder tries to jump from nerd philosophy to FBI investigationography:

Could someone have, uh, HACKED into the system?
Well, not your average phone phreak, that’s for sure.
A phone freak is someone who has sex with telephones.
I can see why that would distract them from hacking well.
But there’s plenty of kooks out there. Data travelers. Electro-wizards. Techno-anarchists.
Digital alchemists.
Tandy diddlers.

Anyway, Brad acknowledges that he COULD have hacked the system to kill Suit Dude, but proclaims that he is TOO SCRUFFY TO KILL A MAN.

Taking notes

“Brad looked into Fox’s limpid, searching eyes…”

Scully does another Doogie Howser voiceover, writing up some case-file notes about Brad on her PC.

The question remains: if he’s so clever, how do we nail him?

Fact: Mulder and Scully are secretly trying to set up a threesome with Brad.

She finishes up her report and turns stuff off and heads for bed. AND THEN THE COMPUTER TURNS ITSELF BACK ON.

Dun dun DUNNNN! I think it’s going to play Number Munchers.
It’s…retyping her report?

And the COS says:



At which point the official Mulder’s Big Adventure workstation SHUT ITSELF DOWN. Seriously. This really happened.


The Return of Jerry

Jerry drops by to sort of apologize and then basically whine for a while and then call Mulder like Jesus or something. Awkward. Scully mercifully interrupts by using SCIENCE to prove that Brad’s voice is the same voice that called Suit Guy in the bathroom of death. Scully is so sure that this proves Brad’s guilt that she DRAWS ON A MONITOR SCREEN WITH A PEN.

She also uses white-out to fix typos.

Brad, hacking the Gibson

Brad tries AND FAILS to hack into, presumably, the COS or Eurisko or whatever, then heads to Eurisko HQ. He rushes into the, uh, COS Control Room, and the COS greets him with a friendly “WELCOME BACK, BRAD”. Brad gets all WTF and begins to both speak AND type at the COS:

You’re not equipped with a voice synthesizer. What is my user level?

And the COS is all ha ha fuck you and Brad’s all BUH WHA SCRUFFY. Jerry, in the mean time, has been tailing him — he gets on an elevator.

Tilty = bad news.
Can we get this animated?


And then the elevator plunges from the thirtieth floor, pinning Jerry to the floor of the car–

Wait. If it’s going down, he shouldn’t be pinned to the floor.
That’s…really, really, really wrong.

–while Brad screams at the COS to stop it. COS does NOT stop it.

That man just lost a fight with an elevator.
Why, computer, why?!
Just “COS”!

Reviewing the tape

Mulder sits and watches security cam footage of Jerry splatting and Brad hollering. Scully comes in and tries to talk him out of his “it wasn’t Brad” theory.

There has to be a name for this. This thing needs a name.
This thing?
Where Scully tries to gently convince Mulder to abandon his crazy theory that is actually totally correct.
No, that’s terrible.

I wear my sunglasses at night day

Mulder sets up a meeting with Deepthroat, which kind of pisses DT off but they talk anyway.

How much do you know about artificial intelligence?
I thought it was only theoretical.
It was, until two years ago. You remember Helsinki, the first time that a chess-playing computer ever beat a grandmaster?
Oh, hey, Deep Blue vs. Kaspa–
That was Wilczek’s program.

Also, bonus tangential not-what-he-meant conspiracy theory phrase:


So DT’s theory is that the government framed Brad to get him to develop AI for weapons. Mulder confronts Brad in jail and asks about the whole fake-confession thing; Brad huddles in the corner amd makes an Oppenheimer/A-bomb comparison. Mulder hectors Brad into helping him TAKE THAT COMPUTER DOWN.

Scully still thinks Brad did it and she’s all blaming this on Mulder’s feelings about his dead partner.

Mulder, I think you’re looking for something that isn’t there. And I think it has something to do with Jerry.
Specifically, your homosexual love for Jerry.
You’re probably right.
Dead Jerry. Someone, somewhere, has written X-Files necrophilia slash fiction about this episode.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


MS-DOS, ladies and gentlemen.

Scully gets a call at 1:31 am — from a MODEM! She rushes to the computer to find that…SOMETHING is downloading her case report! She makes a call to trace the call–

Wait, but there’s a modem on the phone right now.
“Hello, can you please trace the call that I’m actually on right now and so can’t possibly be calling you?”
“No, it’s cool, I’m FBI.”

Cut to a nice up-nostril shot of Mulder outside Eurisko HQ. Scully meets up with him and reports that the call was coming from INSIDE THE CORPORATION.

It’s the machine.
[weary sigh]

So they hack building security with a stolen vanity license plate, and then building security hacks into the hood of their rental car with a spiky security gate.

What do you say we take the stairs?
Too bad for you the stairs are made of NANITES.

Hijinks ensue. The lights go out; Mulder hacks the ELECTRIFIED DOOR with a screwdriver and sticks a glove over one of COS’s cameras; Scully crawls through a ventilation duct.


The vent is apparently capable of producing gale force winds–

Artificial windtelligence.

–and, preposterously, nearly kills Scully by blowing her into a vent fan, or, yeah. This is one of the stupidest things the show has done so far.

And while she’s busy almost dying in HVAC-land, Mulder teams up with that nice building engineer Clyde to try and, I dunno, kill COS?

Not to be outdone, Scully starts SHOOTING AT THE KILLER VENT FAN.

If Mulder doesn’t punch COS in the nose, I think Scully wins the Absurd Fight With Inanimate Object contest.
You mean “winds”.

Mulder successfully hacks the COS! And Clyde the engineer pulls out a gun! He’s a spook!

And then Scully, who did NOT die, shows up and pulls a gun on Clyde! Mulder inserts the virus! COS does a cheesy HAL impersonation–

It’s only 1993 at this point. HAL had like eight years on this thing. Give COS a break.

–and, with a troubled “WHYYYY”, that’s it for the killer AI.


Wrappin’ up

Mulder and Deepthroat have a nice chat on a park bench (command summary: Wilczek has been SO BONED by the government and is pretty much going to build weapons no matter what).

Could be worse.

And a bunch of whitecoat nerds, led by Clyde the fake engineer dude, go digging through the guts of COS, but they don’t find a thing — it’s just a room full of circuit boards and wires.




  1. dan Said,

    June 19, 2008 @ 9:59 pm

    This is a good site with a good idea. Hope you don’t get bored and quit anytime soon.

  2. It's Raining Florence Henderson Said,

    June 19, 2008 @ 10:10 pm

    You can divide the furrie industry into two types of people: fluffy and… well, fluffy.

  3. Chel Said,

    June 19, 2008 @ 11:48 pm

    That “powerful tie” looks an awful lot like a bad Mulder tie. What’s the difference?

    There is a phone in the bathroom. Right next to the toilet. It became convenient, but they always had problems with prank calls.

    I like that you doom it from the beginning XD

    This is where slashfic comes from.

    No, this is where slashfic comes from: http://xfphotos.fredfarm.com/season2/duane_barry/cap028.jpg

    Merry Christmas.

    A BtVS reference? Ouch, didn’t think you’d sink *that* low.

    …Kidding, kidding! (I don’t want to get a staked.)

    investigationography–Oh, is that what the kids are calling it now?

    but proclaims that he is TOO SCRUFFY TO KILL A MAN. The scruff gets in his eyes and ruins his aim?

    and…Scully writes fanfiction?

    I’d say that the Brad/Scully/Mulder suggestion terrified me, but after all the Scully/Mulder/Skinner fics out there, nothing scares me anymore. I’m numb.

    Awkward Word. I think Jerry has a man-crush!

    And what’s with the screen drawing? Pointing doesn’t work? We must draw on the poor defenseless monitor? And they can’t already tell it’s the same voice? They sound exactly alike! That’s like hearing Ben Stein lecture, and then hearing Ben Stein lecture while getting over a cold. Is that what the FBI training is for-missing the obvious and using more convoluted means to find a simple answer just for good television?

    and Brad’s all BUH WHA SCRUFFY. LOL. Apparently it won’t get you everywhere, Brad! You and your scruff. The COS doesn’t give a scruffy rat’s ass.

    Scullyduggery? I like it!

    Side note: I love Mulder’s rant, “And you wanna talk about morality!” He gets all bug-eyed and crazy. It’s TV gold.

    And…I think I have a problem. I’m step-by-step reviewing your step-by-step review. Oh…dear…

    This probably says something dark about my inner psychology, doesn’t it? I think s-”ALIIIEEENNNS!” *Mulder yells and proceeds to chase after me with a giant butterfly net*

  4. calraigh Said,

    June 20, 2008 @ 11:07 am

    Sigh x a million. Love this. Can’t wait for season 2 when Scully becomes mysteriously 3 times her normal size and starts wearing mumuus. Then mysteriously becomes 6 times smaller and becomes galactically hot. Galactically hot. Yep I’m not sure what that means either but I’m leaving it.

    Keep on blogging in the C world!

  5. calraigh Said,

    June 20, 2008 @ 11:10 am

    Also Chel-
    That picture, oh god. The memories. Global heart failure and fan trauma. It’s a long way to California-cation…

  6. Shalora Said,

    June 22, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

    ROTFLMAO! This episode has soooooo many holes in it… (gee, an x-files ep with plot holes? I am deeply shocked) The phone thing when Scully’s system is being hacked always made me the craziest. I /still/ run dialup internet (thank god for high-speed at work!), and I know full well the futility of trying to call someone when your (or someone else’s) (evil) computer is online. I once had to tell a friend that I was IMing with, I need to log off so I can call 911, can we finish this chat later?

    And really, Scully. Shooting at a fan blade? Really? She is so much smarter than the writers ever allowed her to be… *sigh*

  7. Heather Said,

    June 22, 2008 @ 11:06 pm

    You did an excellent job with (quite possibly, depending on which person/writer/producer you talk to or interview) the worst XF episode ever. It was once described as the “…biggest disappointment”. I think that’s the only thing they got right about this episode.

    Oh, and please NEVER stop doing the candid pictures with random titles underneath. My personal favorite from this review:
    “What a handsome boy”.

    And just as an aside; I LOVE the disclaimer at the bottom of the page. I think you two are my heroes.

  8. Chel Said,

    June 30, 2008 @ 9:27 pm

    Ah yes, many a woman resorted to fangirling after that shot. And slashing. But that’s another story ;p

    And I would like to add that, in fact, the slashiness of that scene only strengthened my belief in MSR. Nope, it did not put it in question in the least.


  9. gosh Said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 6:33 pm

    This was a pretty crap episode. The acting in the opening scene left me speechless. I do love Scully all mussed up after her trip through the vent though.
    I so expected Mulder to say either “Scully! What took you so long?” or “Scully, what happened to your hair?

    Did the FBI not pay their agents enough for them to have 2 phone lines? That’s sad. I used to have a dedicated modem line at home in the 90′s and I wasn’t working for the FBI.

    Why is AI always so psychotic?

  10. Nina Said,

    December 8, 2008 @ 1:22 am

    This is FANTASTIC. So quotable. And the captions are brilliant. :)

    But I have a Nerd Physics thing to say because apparently I am that kind of person (and I was always too lazy to really think this problem through, so I feel I should learn the real answer), re: Being Pinned to the Floor of the Elevator When It’s Going Down. He wouldn’t feel pinned to the floor, yeah. But he wouldn’t be pinned to the top either unless the elevator was accelerating downward faster than 9.8 m/(s^2), right? And then a WEIRD THING would happen in between. See, you don’t have to do the Vomit Comet! Just get an evil COS to hurl you down an elevator shaft!

  11. Dawn Said,

    February 17, 2011 @ 9:42 am


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