The X-Files: Leonard Betts   Rewatch 
May 21, 2020 6:58 PM - Season 4, Episode 12 - Subscribe

After a phenomenally gifted EMT is decapitated in a car crash, Mulder and Scully are called to Pittsburgh to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his headless body from the hospital morgue.
posted by orange swan (7 comments total)
I love this episode. That moment when Betts says . . . what he says to Scully in the ambulance is chilling, and is probably one of the best ways of putting a new plotline in motion suddenly that I've ever seen.
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:21 PM on May 22, 2020

From the X-Files Wikia page for this episode:

If Leonard is able to regenerate entire parts of his body, whole fibers, and bone structures from scratch, why then, didn't he regenerate his hair?

Fair question. I have others:

-- How did Leonard's headless body know where to go or what to do? I mean, he bashed the morgue attendant over the head without being able to see him, then took his clothes, then left the hospital *without anyone seeing him*, then went home to his apartment. Do his cancer cells have GPS-like attributes as well as the ability to regenerate?

-- How could Leonard possibly have thought he could get another EMT job in Pittsburgh under another alias, and not be recognized? I mean, the guy was winning "EMT of the Year" awards and being covered in the local news for his outstanding work. If his backup plan was to kill anyone who recognized him, he would surely have had to kill a lot of people.

-- Why did he need to hurt others to survive? He was saving lives as an EMT. Why not just be upfront about the fact that he could regenerate himself and go on living his life as Albert Tanner? Yes, it would have caused an uproar, and there would have been publicity that he probably didn't want, but it's not like he would have been doing anything illegal or hurting anyone.

-- Leonard can grow another head and regenerate his entire body, but he's killed by defibrillator paddles?

Paul McCrane was very good in this role, but I do wish they'd developed his character more and given him more to say. I remember him from E.R., where he played Chief Surgeon Dr. Robert Romano, a man of such almost wholly unrelieved awfulness that when he died after a helicopter landed on him, no one cared. It takes a good actor to play a terrible person with such commitment that's it's believable -- and Dr. Romano was believably and realistically, rather than farcically, horrible. (Example: One of his surgeons says he'd like to take some personal time to deal with some issues that have arisen in his life, and Dr. Romano snaps, "Yeah, and I'd like a month on the Riviera with a pair of Vietnamese twins, but it's not gonna happen.")

Mulder's squeamishness over the search of the medical waste bin is hilarious. He can barely stand to watch Scully do it, and then the look on his face when she tells him she needs his help because his arms are longer... hee! He can't bring himself to admit his queasiness to Scully, who is never squeamish.

This is one of the few times Scully manages to fight off a man -- Leonard, of course, is in a weakened condition, or she wouldn't have been able to manage it. Although, from what I understand, shocking Leonard when he was lying on top of her would have shocked her as well.

And yes, the reveal of her cancer is ingenious.
posted by orange swan at 1:52 PM on May 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Do his cancer cells have GPS-like attributes as well as the ability to regenerate?

I guess he got super-proprioception along with his regeneration.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:15 PM on May 22, 2020

The headless body was silly, and totally inconsistent.

Instead of "smart" cancer, the idea might have worked better as a cryptocreature. Vertebrates keep their CNS in the head because that's how terrestrial vertebrates roll. What if this was some kind of mimic that's made up of miniature jellyfish/ octopus as it's "cells" with a symbiont that serves the role of an endoskeleton instead?

Such a creature would be a massively distributed network of decentralized neural ganglia. If I was such, I'd keep the most important bits in the center of mass; losing a "head" in this scenario could trivial while an electrical stimulus to the center of mass could kill.

heh, "post mortem galvanic response."

The idea behind plasticizing the head for sectional slice light microscopy is based on a real thing. A post mortem core biopsy can be preserved and embedded in paraffin. A microtome makes slices from it, it gets stained via a huge variety of methods for different purposes, mount on a glass slide, and look under the microscope.

Cute prop though.

A defibrillator - most of the current flows directly from one electrode to the other through the path of least resistance, which is usually the fluid-filled meatbag it's applied to.

I liked the ... molting? ... scene, but not sure what was going on there other than to make a fun effect. He lost access to medical waste so felt compelled to make his own? I can't see how there's anything special in cancerous cells. Perhaps Betts wouldn't have been "evil" if he drank bone marrow stem cells instead of eating tumours?

lol, exploding car.
posted by porpoise at 8:13 PM on May 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, duh me.

If Betts was riddled with cancerous cells, couldn't he survive on himself?

If we define cancer as cells who's growth/ cell division regulation were broken (because of DNA damage*), there is are multitudes of "cell lines" (tamed cancer cells) used for research/ manufacturing - from many many species. All they need to grow is some bovine serum albumin (beef blood plasma) and cell growth media (salty, umami sports drink - yes, it tastes exactly like low sugar slightly salty slightly umami sports drink).

See 'Henrietta Lacks.'

No need to kill anyone or eat medical waste.

*there are many different mechanisms that can manifest, but the vast vast majority of the time a cell can recognize that it's damaged/ out of control and will suicide/ call in assisted suicide by the immune system; this probably happens many times every day in everyone
posted by porpoise at 11:48 AM on May 23, 2020

I liked the ... molting? ... scene, but not sure what was going on there other than to make a fun effect.

It was part of a ploy to fake his own death. Leonard needed a spare body to drive out of the storage unit, and then die in a fiery crash -- after which no one would have reason to look for New Leonard. But given that Former Leonard was sentient to the point that he was able to drive a car, I don't know why Former Leonard wouldn't have objected to being sacrificed to a horrible death.
posted by orange swan at 1:33 PM on May 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

I saw this when it aired. I was 15 and my mother had dragged me to her coworker's Super Bowl party. Then I wanted to stay after the game because I didn't want to miss the episode. So I got that reveal in a room full of strangers who had no idea why this teenager was crying on the couch.

Then I went home and joined the giant freakout in the X-Files channel on mIRC.
posted by MaritaCov at 5:01 AM on June 8, 2020

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