Leonard Betts 4×14: I think I got the toy surprise.

"Did I mention that Mr. Betts had no head?"

This is what I’ve been longing for the past seven episodes or so now, a formidable MOTW horror tale.

Not that the main plot here is something we haven’t heard before: A genetic mutant comes along whose strange evolution requires that he kill/feed off of other human beings. Leonard Betts is the most recent in a long line of Mutant Monsters going all the way back to Eugene Victor Tooms in “Squeeze” (1×2). “Leonard Betts” has two main differences from your garden variety Mutant tale, however.

First, we have a mutant that kills only reluctantly. He certainly doesn’t enjoy his position in the food chain the way that Tooms or even Virgil Incanto does in “2Shy” (3×6). This adds a certain pathos to the proceedings. Second, and most importantly, this episode reopens a mythology plot line that had been all but forgotten and reintroduces it in the most memorable way possible.

To Leonard Betts’ credit, he’s a gentle man, who apart from a Darwinian mandate would rather save people than hurt them, choosing to survive on discarded cancers until circumstances force him into a corner. But I wonder, would his behavior be excused if, say, he was a starving man who killed someone for their food? Does needing something give you the moral clearance to take it? To be sure, Betts apologizes before a kill. But the fact is he’s hardly a self-sacrificing man even if he is the most compassionate of the “Genetic Mutant” Monsters of the Week. He could, of course, choose to die rather than become a serial killer. But I guess death is less frightening when it’s someone else’s.

As interesting of a character as Betts is, he’s more of a means to an end in this episode. The writers needed a circumstance they could use to bring our minds back to this:

Scully: I went to go see those MUFON members to find out about that woman, Betsy Hagopian.
Mulder: And what did you find?
Scully: I found out that she’s dying, along with a lot of other women who claim to be dying too. All of them who say that they’ve had these implanted in them. It’s the same thing that I had removed from my own neck.
Mulder: But you’re fine aren’t you, Scully?
Scully: Am I? I don’t know, Mulder. They said that they know me, that they’ve seen me before. It was freaky! They know things about me, about my disappearance.
Mulder: That is disturbing. But I don’t think you should freak out until we find out what this thing is.

This moment in “Nisei” (3×9) was the last word we had on the potential connection between Scully’s abduction and cancer. As far as we know, she never delved any deeper into the mystery of what happened to those MUFON women. Now, suddenly, and with one of the most memorable lines ever delivered on The X-Files, Scully is forced to remember.

“I’m sorry, but you’ve got something I need.”

The look of realization on Scully’s face is beyond memorable. Not only does she know exactly what he’s talking about, but it’s clear that despite all her protestations to Mulder, she believes in what Leonard Betts is whether science can explain him or not.

And as if that shocking moment weren’t enough, we launch immediately into Scully’s first ever real fight scene. Scully kicks butt and she does it in heels. It’s almost enough to bring a fangirl tear to my eye.

I could keep going but I won’t because I’ll just end up gushing over every funny and memorable moment in this episode, of which there are legion. This is one of those episodes, like “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4) that are hard to watch without a blissfully empty head and a smile on my face. It’s just great television.


This episode is definitely one of the highlights of Season 4, if not one of the series’ all time best. It’s the first in a long line of memorable episodes penned by the trio of Vince Gilligan, John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz. The “John Gilnitz” crew will continue to create some formidable X-Files together.

If I had to guess, I’d say that Spotnitz was probably responsible for this episode’s mythology elements, Shiban for the science and Gilligan for the characterization and physical writing. But, hey, with magic like this I don’t care who did what, I’m just glad they kept going.

“Leonard Betts” was famously aired out of production schedule in order to be shown after the Super Bowl. Whatever the consequences this had on the story that would come next, can you blame them? I can hardly think of an episode that’s more quintessentially The X-Files. This is what the show does best; an inkling of scientific truth, gross imagery, gorgeous shots and dark humor. Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

I wonder if Scully ever told Mulder what really happened. Doubtful. As then she’d have to admit that she believed in what Leonard Betts was. Maybe she’s not such a die-hard skeptic deep down. After all, she couldn’t cut into that head now could she?


Random Thoughts:

Something about Elaine Tanner’s slavish devotion to her son has echoes of Mrs. Peacock in “Home” (4×3).

Are we sure Betts is dead? Are we supposed to assume that Scully killed him while he was too weak to regenerate?

Did Betts really have to start killing? Couldn’t he have gone a ways down the road to where no one knew him and snuck a few more brown bag lunches of cancer out of a hospital’s disposal system?

For that matter, if you were going to regenerate and live under an assumed name, wouldn’t common sense tell you to move far away from the people you knew before? So your mother’s sick. Move her too.

I know I said I wouldn’t gush over every single lovely moment, but that scene where Mulder and Scully go digging through bio-waste never quite gets old.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Let’s get a slice to go.


Mulder: Chuck, would you believe that this man’s head had been decapitated?
Dr Burks: [Laughs] Oh, come on. No way.
Mulder: Way.


Mulder: [Holds up Betts’ detached thumb] Siskel or Ebert?


Scully: But what you’re describing is someone so radically evolved that you wouldn’t even call him human.
Mulder: On the other hand, how evolved can a man be who drives a Dodge Dart?


Mulder: What did your examination uncover?
Scully: I haven’t actually performed an examination yet.
Mulder: Why not?
Scully: Well, because I… experienced an unusual degree of post-mortem galvanic response.
Mulder: The head moved
Scully: It blinked at me… I mean, I know exactly what it is. It’s residual electrical activity stored chemically in the dead cells.
Mulder: Blinked or winked? You’re afraid to cut into it. Scully, you’re not saying that it’s alive are you?
Scully: I am certainly not saying that at all.
Mulder: But has it crossed your mind that it is not quite dead, either?

16 responses to “Leonard Betts 4×14: I think I got the toy surprise.

  1. I think you are correct in assuming that Scully doesn’t reveal that important detail of the skirmish to Mulder.

    The production order here is still confusing to me; ‘Never Again’ makes a lot of sense following this episode. However, it strikes me as absurd and out-of-character if taken to occur before the events in the ambulance…

    This episode and the two that follow it are a nice little set; I’m really excited for the next two write-ups.

    • Here’s what Gillian Anderson had to say about it:

      “I thought it was a great idea. I personally was going through a dark period at the time, and I wanted to explore Scully’s dark side. For some reason, Glen and Jim were on the same wavelength that week. Afterward, a lot of people told me that on that episode I was so ‘unlike’ Scully or that ‘it showed my range’. I told them I thought they were wrong. I don’t think that what I did here was out of character for Scully. The only thing different is that the audience hadn’t seen it before.”

      I understand her logic, but I’m not sure I agree with it. Character is what you do. And if no one’s ever seen her do such a thing, “she’s out of character” is a natural reaction. And her behavior is inconsistent with the image she takes pains to portray. Since Scully the Hypocrite would be no fun… I agree. It’s absurd.

  2. A great episode, and the first of season four that’s actually fun, although it is a beautiful cruel irony that it has the nastiest emotional twist in the season. Some of the plot holes annoy me a little (didn’t anybody else recognise Betts, apart from his ambulance driving partner), buit the writing, dialogue and performance from Paul McCrane mark this out as something special.

    • Yes! Season 4 has been pretty heavy duty, and it’s about to get even more so. I’m partial to an adventurous romp myself and I’m glad Leonard Betts is there to help break up some of the somber.

  3. ***applause*** Fabulous review of a fabulous episode. You covered all the bases.

    I agree that Scully probably didn’t share the details of her Betts encounter with Mulder. I’ve also wondered if Mulder maybe figured it out for himself. Firstly, why did Betts attack her? Sure, Mulder could assume a fight ensued because Scully attempted to apprehend Betts. But knowing what Betts attacks for, and knowing the concerns Scully revealed in Nisei, wouldn’t he maybe wonder about it? There’s also how incredibly somber Scully seems after the incident. Sure, she was just attacked and killed (perhaps) a man, but she’s been-there-done-that before. I’m probably reading into it too much, but I just like to think the dynamic duo connection leads Mulder to an understanding of what happened. 🙂

  4. LOL ROFL, I love this epi also. The lines you brought up are classic M & S banter….The best

    Pity they did not make a Lenard Betts II like they did for Squeeze in Tooms. Oh, there is fanfic…

    Love and Peace

    Carol M

  5. I feel like half of this season was aired out of production order. Ridiculous.

    In any event, I know I said at the beginning of the season that Scully is a saint for being able to put up with Mulder’s ditches, but I have to say here that Mulder puts up with his fair share of annoying Scully-isms, too. I mean, really, this is the second episode in a row where she’s like, “Muuuuulder what are we dooooing here?” And she does it several times in this one, too. The scene where she says, “I don’t know why I’m standing here listening to this,” I seriously wanted to smack her. Because 1) What happened to “I should know by now to trust your instincts”?; 2) Mulder’s right, like, 98.9% of the time; and 3) Oh hey, Scully, IT’S YOUR JOB. Nobody likes a whiner. I know, I know, it’s really that Scully is starting to ask herself these questions in a more, you know, metaphorical sense, but I swear sometimes I get so sick of her “Let’s-get-out-of-the-car” attitude. For someone who would say “I’m fine” if her leg fell off, she sure does complain a lot about other stuff.

    End rant. (And I should say that I really do love Scully, I swear. It’s ridiculous how much she shaped me as a young girl growing up.)

    The scene with the bio-waste is priceless.

  6. Digging in the medical waste was a great scene you will only find on the X-Files.

  7. M&S fire like only two shots after Betts escapes from his storage box, and his car explodes ?

  8. I thought this was a great episode. It was classic X-Files and you could really feel for Leonard, that he gets to live again but has to step out of his life.

    Like you, I loved to see Scully kicking butt in her fight, showing she’s got some fighting skills but also using her head to win the fight and not being a damsel waiting for a man to come rescue her (I’m not saying that’s what usually happens, just that I’m happy she won on her own).

    Also, I loved the scene when they dig through the hospital waste. The look on Mulder’s face at the very idea of it and Scully just nonchalently all “yay, they’ve left us lots to dig through!”. A great bit of continuity, as back in season 1 in The Jersey Devil Mulder looked grossed out by the sight of the chewed up body and in The Miracle Man he turns away with a wince when Scully starts cutting in to the body.

    Definitely a favourite episode.

    • This is one of my absolute favorites as well. I broke it out again the day of the revival premiere – it has everything The X-Files was justly praised for.

  9. I love the bio waste scene so much, but it never ceases to irritate me that Mulder goes straight from being so grossed out by that to walking to to a potential crime scene and sticking his hands into substances of unknown origin with bare fingers. You could really benefit from slapping on the latex yourself sometimes, Mulder. Sheesh!

  10. The funny thing is that my doctor looks just like Leonard Betts. It’s a good thing he’s not a paramedic or an oncologist or I’d be worried.

  11. Pingback: Season 4 Wrap Up: Stand back, Scully. It’s loaded. | Musings of an X-Phile

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