Season 1

1x03 Conduit

Air date: 10-01-93
Writers: Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon
Director: Daniel Sackheim
Editor: James Coblentz
Director of Photography: John S. Bartley, C.S.C.
Documented Phenomenon: Alien abduction, telekinetic communication probing

Episode summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

It is late at night at a camp site beside a lake. A boy and a teenaged girl are asleep in sleeping bags beside a fire that is dimming. About fifteen feet away there's a camper parked. The mother is asleep in the camper bed when the ground begins to shake violently and causes her to fall out of her bed. A light appears just as the shaking becomes more intense. Dishes fall out of the camper cupboard. The light is blinding as the mother begins to scream. The light disappears, the shaking stops as the mother comments to herself about her kids. She can hear her boy begin to shout for her. As she reaches for the camper door, the handle is piping hot and she burns her hand, crying out in agony. The boy is still screaming for her as she finds an oven mitt and slips it on. She opens the door to find her eight-year old son, Kevin, exclaiming that the sister, Ruby, is gone. The mother begins to shout for her daughter as a question, confused until the shouts become a statement. She embraces her son as she sobs.

Back in Washington at the bureau in a meeting with Scully, Chief Blevins passes on Agent Mulder's latest 302 request, requesting assignment and travel expenses to go to Sioux City, Iowa. This is the first time Scully is aware of this. Blevins explains that it came up through channels from Mulder's ASAC to the district G-14 and onto Blevins desk. Scully is puzzled while Blevins explains that Mulder is basically petitioning the bureau to investigate the matter, to assign a case number to a tabloid story about a teenager being abducted by aliens from her tent. Scully argues that he must have more evidence than that to justify the request. Blevins brings up the file on Samantha Mulder, and states that the file was initiated by Mulder. She acknowledges her awareness of it. Blevins asks her if his personal agenda has clouded his judgment and points out that it might appear that way to others in the bureau. She tells him she doesn't think so. Blevins points out to her that Mulder's preoccupation with fringe matters has caused friction within the Bureau. Blevins plans on disallowing the 302 request. She asks to talk to Mulder, to persuade him to withdraw the request.

In her discussion with Mulder, as he argues and points out that the essence of science is asking an impertinent question, through which come pertinent answers. Scully then asks what makes this case any more credible then a tabloid story about a mother who bears a lizard baby. Mulder replies that the lizard baby wasn't born near Lake Okobogee, which is believed to be a UFO hotspot. He points out that there were four sightings in August of 1967. A number of people sighted UFOs including a group of girl scouts, Mulder has her read off a number of names until she reaches Darlene Morris, the mother of the girl abducted.

They arrive in Sioux City and go to the Morris residence. Scully comments about their conversation on the phone and Darlene seems impressed with the fact that someone at the F.B.I. has shown interest in this case. They are invited in and Darlene tries to introduce them to Kevin, yet the boy seems withdrawn and continues to draw at the kitchen table. Darlene offers them some coffee. As Scully follows her, Mulder hovers around the living room, observing family photo's, and appears wistful and reflective, over photo's of Ruby that remind him of Samantha, Scully notices how this is affecting him.

Darlene comments about having trouble coping as well as commenting about how strange her son has been acting. Scully asks if there was custody battle during Darlene's divorce. Darline replies that her ex-husband had nothing to do with this. She states, "...I know what happened: it's just like before." Mulder brings up the sightings of '67, and explains that Darlene's name is on record at the Center for U.F.O. studies in Evanston, Illinois. She seems surprised as he explains that a pilot for the national weather service had a similar sighting on the same day in the same area. Darlene asks Mulder if 'they took her' to which Mulder has no reply. Mulder wants to talk to the boy, Kevin, to which Darlene agrees. Darlene observes to Scully that every time she tells someone like the police or the press, they have a similar look of skepticism.

Mulder approaches Kevin, sits beside him at the television which is tuned to a channel between frequency waves, displaying white noise. The boy is still writing in his sketch pad. Mulder gently brings up the boy's nightmares and asks what the boy is drawing, which looks like rows of zeros and ones in patterns. The boy points at the television and says "it's coming from there."

Later, Mulder faxes a copy of what Kevin was drawing to the Sci-Crime lab at the Bureau. In order to gain priority for the faxed documents which he suspects may be a binary sequence, Mulder phones the lab tech, Danny, with possible tickets to a Redskins game. The local sheriff tells the agents that there was no evidence of a kidnapping. It is their feeling that Ruby most likely ran away and add that Darlene is well known to have a very active imagination. Mulder confronts the Sheriff and concludes that Darlene's statement was ignored. The Sheriff points out that Ruby was not an innocent girl, she had a reputation, and implies it would have been a matter of time before something happened to Ruby. As they leave the local station Scully points out to her partner, it better to not antagonize local law enforcement. They find a message on their car window reading, "I'm across the street. Follow me." Looking up, they spot a girl in her late teens. They follow the girl into a library, and talk with her between the book shelves. The girl is Teena Sears. She tells them she knew Ruby and that some guy named Greg Randall was supposed to meet with her. As it happened, Ruby was pregnant by Greg and they were planning to leave town. Tessa further informs them that should they want to question Greg, he can be found at the Pennsylvania Pub. A book drops which distracts the agents and the girl runs away, vanishing.

They go to the pub, which is filled with a motorcycle gang type of clientele. Mulder asks the bartender about Greg and is told that Greg has been missing for three weeks. Scully gives the bartender the phone number of where to reach them, should he hear from Greg. Just then, Mulder notices a UFO tattoo on the man's arm. Mulder plays at being skeptical with the bartender who mentions Lake Okobogee. He pulls back his hair to reveal a severely burned and mangled ear and states he got a 'killer sunburn' there once, in the middle of the night. Scully isn't sure what to think.

Later, at the hotel where they are staying, Scully is asleep when she's awakened at 5:30, by shadows of men in her hotel window. Someone is trying to open her door. She tries to reach for her gun when agents break in. Agent Holtzman from the N.S.A. confronts Mulder about where he got the document, Kevin's drawing. Agent Holtzman threatens Mulder's career with the bureau. Mulder points out that he's not accountable to anyone outside of his subcommittee. Holtzman tells the agent it's a highly classified document from a defense satellite transmission, a highly classified fragment. Mulder won't tell them where he got it. Just then, the agents get a call and find out what they're after. Scully walks in and Mulder is angry with her for telling the N.S.A. Mulder wonders how an eight-year old boy could be a threat to national security. Scully wonders how he got top secret information.

The agents arrive at the Morris home where the N.S.A. is tearing apart Kevin's room. The N.S.A take Darlene and Kevin out of the house and force them in separate cars. Mulder, furious with the N.S.A. agents, is sarcastic. As they leave Kevin's room, he notices something out the window. He sees the camper van has scorch marks on its roof. He takes a ladder and finds a layer of thick ash on the camper's roof.

While at the bureau regional division in Iowa, Mulder and Scully are told by Agent Atsumi that none of the pages Kevin drew were a security risk, and that they are being released. Yet there was nothing random about the content of the pages. The data pulled up featured fragments from various sources. Darlene and Kevin are taken out of the holding area. Darlene tells Mulder and Scully to stay away from them, in spite of Mulder's plea. Kevin is seen staring at the security monitors, which Mulder observes. Mulder drives them towards the lake, arguing that the boy is the key to finding Ruby. He argues that Kevin is a conduit of some kind, a connection to whomever took Ruby, Scully argues that he's losing his objectivity on the case, reminding him that there's no evidence of an abduction.

They arrive at campsite 53 by the lake. Mulder points out where Ruby and Kevin were sleeping, to which Scully argues that in fact, anyone could have come out of the forest to grab Ruby. Mulder observes that there is a distinct scorch line along the upper branches of the nearby trees, indicating evidence of extreme heat. As further evidence, Mulder finds a chunk of sand near the lakeshore that has solidified into glass from exposure to high temperature. While Scully is holding the chunk, a white wolf appears. Mulder pauses before he chases and follows the wolf. A pack of wolves are around a crude burial mound of stones, which appear to comprise a shallow grave. Scully catches up with him after he's chased the wolves away. Mulder starts to move the stones away, whereupon, Scully has to reminds him he's disturbing a crime scene.

Later, the local police arrive and the body uncovered is found to be Greg Randall, as indicted by I.D. in his wallet. Within it, Mulder discovers a note with the name Jack Fowler on it as well as an appointment date. The handwriting is that of the girl they met at the library, Tessa Sears.

The girl is brought in and questioned, it turns out that Tessa is the one who is pregnant and had the appointment with Dr. Fowler. The girl is warned that perjury changes could be brought on her if she lies to them. When Mulder accuses her of killing Greg and then Ruby, Tessa says she wasn't at the lake and insists that she didn't kill Ruby and doesn't know where she is. By admitting she knew Ruby wasn't there the night it happened, Tessa implicates herself. Mulder still believes that Ruby is alive. At that point, Scully feels it is time to turn the case strictly over to local law enforcement. He's determined to speak with Kevin. Scully warns him to stop running after Samantha, but Mulder refuses togive up the search for Ruby.

Ms. Morris and Kevin appear to not be in their house, even though the door is unlocked. Scully turns off the kettle in the kitchen, Kevin's drawings are on the floor, and Mulder has no answer to what that means as Scully heads up the stairs. It is on the landing that the drawings Kevin has been so absorbed in are seen to have been perfectly arranged on the floor below to make up a mosaic of Ruby's face, a message.

They head up to the lake at night. While driving, Mulder confesses a childhood memory of wishing his sister would appear. They find the Morris camper van parked on the road near the lake. No one is there. The agents follow a trail head. They hear a shout and find Darlene. She was chasing after Kevin, but couldn't keep up with the boy. Mulder runs ahead and finds Kevin, in the fog, heading towards a light. This turns out to be a gang of motorcycle riders out for a joy ride. As the bikes drive off, Kevin insists that Ruby is back, though Mulder tries to tell the boy otherwise. Suddenly Scully can be heard shouting for him. Mulder and the boy run towards Scully, where they reach her and Darlene to find Ruby, naked and unconscious.

The following day, the agents are at the hospital. There is no explanation for Ruby's coma. Scully observes that Ruby's white blood cell count was sky-high. Mulder asks if there was a reduction in her lymphocyte population or glucocorticoids. There was. To Scully's stunned answer, Mulder explains they are symptoms of prolonged weightlessness.

Kevin let's them enter Ruby's hospital room and Mulder asks her what happened, Ruby tells them she's not supposed to say. Darlene arrives and they privately talk with the mother. Mulder argues that it's important for Ruby to tell her story and Darlene argues that Ruby shouldn't, -- that the truth has caused Darlene nothing but heartache. Darlene goes back into the hospital room and Mulder walks away disgusted.

Later on, Scully listens to Mulder's hypnosis sessions with Dr. Werber, Mulder describes himself as a boy lying in bed and able to hear his sisters cries, yet not able to do anything, that a voice tells him one day she will be returned to him. Mulder is seen in a church, looking at an old photo of him and Samantha. He is crying.

Episode Summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

  • Another minor inconsistency within regarding radiation exposure from UFO's. During Ruby's abduction, the tree tops at Lake Obobogee are singed, lake sand turns to glass, and the camper van's roof is signed, yet the boy, Kevin, doesn't suffer any burns. Even the bartender at Pennsylvania bar has suffered a burn that destroys his ear. While it's assumed that Kevin was protected by a energy field on the night of the abduction, there isn't even evidence of a mild sun burn.
  • The organization that Mulder mentions -- the Center for U.F.O. Studies -- is a legitimate organization and is currently located in Chicago Illinois. It's full name is The J. Allen Hynek Center for U.F.O. Studies. The organization was founded in 1973, they assess and categorize UFO sightings from a scientific point of view. There's no evidence that the organization known as CUFO was ever located in Evanston and that was probably a liberty of the writers. Allen Hynek was the technical advisor for Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

Episode Summary / Points to consider / Production analysis

This was the first mythology episode not written by Chris Carter. Co-writer Howard Gordon would continue to be a significant writer and producer for the life of the series. Like 'Squeeze', it was a good example of implying more than is shown. The makeup and effects are kept to a minimum and simple in execution. Emotionally, the episode focused on the impact that the loss of Mulder's sister has had on him, as well as Scully's growing understanding of that reality. The revelation of Ruby being exposed to weightlessness leaves a revealing moment for Scully, forcing her to consider Mulder's theories might have credibility. The scene where Mulder first speaks with Kevin in front of the blank television screen seems to take a nod to the 1982 Toby Hopper film Poltergeist. The address in Samantha Mulder's file, 2790 Vine Street, is the former address of 'the X-Files' production office in Vancouver. Fox Mulder opened the file on his sister, X-File � X-40253, nearly six months before he underwent hypno-regression. The large mural of Ruby was designed by assistant art director Greg Loewen, yet colleague Vivien Nishi had to go over the printout and write in the 1's and 0's to make it look like it was drawn by an eight-year old. The project took several days and the result only lasts a few seconds on film. Mulder's address of Chilmarc, Massachusetts is spelled different from later spellings of Mulder's home town as Chilmark, which is the correct spelling. This episode marks the first time that the character of "Danny", who assists Mulder with various background check favors, is referenced.

Actress Carrie Snodgress really helps to drive the episode with a strong performance as the tough, yet well intended Darlene. Ms. Snodgress has had a long career. She was a student at Northern Illinois University before she switched majors to drama and attended Chicago's Goodman Theatre School. Her major feature debut was in Rabbit, Run in 1970 and she followed that with Diary Of A Mad Housewife. Her performance earned her an Oscar nomination. She left her acting career to live with rock musician Neil Young and they had a son, Zeke. She resurfaced in Brian DePalma's 1978 film, The Fury and went on to appear in a number of films. She made her debut on Broadway in 1981. Her feature work in the eighties included Pale Rider. Her recent television work included The West Wing, Judging Amy, Touched By An Angel, Chicago Hope, Murder, She Wrote. Earlier television appearances include In The Heat Of The Night, Quincy, and Highway To Heaven. Ms. Snodgress died in Los Angeles from heart failure while awaiting a liver transplant in April of 2004. Her son was at her side.

Joel Palmer who played the memorable role of Kevin Morris, would appear in another memorable role in the second season, playing Charlie/ Michael Holvey in The Calusari. He began his career at the tender age of three appearing in a production of Hello Dolly. He then appeared in commercials for Mattel Toys and Woodwards. Joel recently appeared in the feature Dreamcatcher. Most of his appearances involved television films such as Living With The Dead, Final Run and Loyal Opposition. His early break came with his appearance in Morning Glory with Christopher Reeve. His other appearances include, up until 2000, First Wave, Family Law, The Outer Limits, Poltergeist; The Legacy, and The Commish. The X-Files was the first time he appeared in a series.

Michael Cavanaugh, who played the Sioux City Sheriff, started his career appearing in the all-nude musical of Oh, Calcutta! He is known for appearing in the prime-time remake of Dark Shadows playing Sheriff Patterson. In 1986 he appeared in the ABC series Starman playing Federal Security Agent George Fox, who pursued Robert Hays' character, Paul Forrester. Recent feature film work includes Holes, Red Dragon, Collateral Damage and Thy Neighbor's Wife. Some prior feature films include Any Which Way You Can, The Lady In Red, Gray Lady Down, The Gauntlet, Heroes and The Enforcer. His Television appearances include Monk, a regular appearance as Joseph O'Laughlin in 24, Boston Public, The West Wing, NYPD Blue, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Star Trek: The Next Generation, LA Law, Amazing Stories, Hunter, T.J. Hooker, Diff'rent Strokes and The Rockford Files.

Don Gibb, who played Kip, The Pennsylvania Pub Bartender, is one of those character actors who one could consider to be a 'recognizable unknown'. He is mostly known for playing Fred "Ogre" Palowakski in Revenge of the Nerds. He's a brother of the University of New Mexico alpha chapter of Phi Delta Theta. Recently, Don Gibb has gotten into the brewing business as the co-owner of "Trader Todd's Adventure Beer" and spokesperson for their product, 'Ogre Beer Lyte'. His feature film appearances include Grind, U.S. Marshals, The Revenge of the Nerds sequels, Conan the Barbarian, Stripes, and Any Which Way You Can. His television appearances include playing Slasher on Step By Step, in addition to Black Scorpion, Weird Science, Boy Meets World, Empty Nest, Cheers, MacGyver, Night Court, Magnum P.I. and Alice.

Episode synopsis and notes: Matt Allair
Page Editor: XScribe

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

Back to top