The X-Files: Theef   Rewatch 
July 29, 2020 7:30 PM - Season 7, Episode 14 - Subscribe

Mulder and Scully investigate after a successful, award-winning doctor's father-in-law is found hanged and with his throat slit, and the only two clues are a figure made of graveyard soil in his bed, and the word "THEEF" written on the walls in his blood.
posted by orange swan (7 comments total)
My roommate still calls popcorn “poppin’ corn” because of this episode.

Ultimately I thought the killer’s motivation was a little half-baked (or maybe it just wasn’t effective as a secret late reveal), but the actor was great so it didn’t matter too much.

Is the doctor too nice in this episode? I get why they did it, but it felt like they maybe put too much effort into making him a super great guy who totally doesn’t deserve all this.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:28 PM on July 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ultimately I thought the killer’s motivation was a little half-baked

It was objectively speaking, but let's remember that Peattie is beside himself with grief. I was reminded of Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, in which she observed that grief can induce temporary insanity (i.e., she described how she promptly and efficiently disposed of all her husband's clothes and many of his other belongings very soon after his sudden death, but kept his shoes because he might come back and need them, even though he was not only unquestionably dead but had been cremated). In Peattie's extreme grief -- his daughter was his only family -- it seems reasonable to him to blame the doctor who ended his daughter's life 20 minutes before she would otherwise have died, because he thinks he might have gotten there in time to save her, even though he was on the other side of the country (the Wieders lived in California and the Peatties were from West Virginia).

Peattie will realize his daughter's death wasn't at all Dr. Wieder's fault in time, but now he'll be going to prison for three murders plus assault and unlawful entry charges and whatever else the legal system finds he did wrong. I don't envy his cellmates. They do anything he doesn't like, and he'll just start sewing poppets...

This is quite a solid episode -- although a strangely overlooked one. I think it needed a bit more Mulder and Scully to be a great episode. The guest actors were good, and their story was compelling, especially Billy Drago, who was unforgettably menacing and grief-stricken.

Respect for the fact that Peattie couldn't just content himself with giving his victims run of the mill ailments such as a stroke or a heart attack or cancer. No, he went all out, giving them incredibly rare and extremely unpleasant conditions, and I notice he ruined the doctor's attractive wife's looks before he killed her. He's barely literate and has never seen a microwave before, but he's as up on his medical conditions as though he subscribes to The New England Journal of Medicine.
posted by orange swan at 8:37 AM on July 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

He's barely literate and has never seen a microwave before, but he's as up on his medical conditions as though he subscribes to The New England Journal of Medicine.

I figured he didn’t have any special knowledge of these diseases, he just thought “I want X horrible effect to happen” and then his magic made it happen, within certain real-world constraints.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:15 AM on July 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Bay Area Doctor of the Year's life felt far too charmed - and uber privileged. I've worked with medical doctors, some of whom were lionized, and they're just people. Good, bad, indifferent.

But every single one who looked like that with that kind of background and success turned out to be monsters with deeply unexamined prejudices.

Damn, Billy Drago was a looker in his youth. Huh, he's of Apache and Romany descent.

Excellent casting, in contrast to Cara Jedell - the daughter - who isn't convincing as a young adult. Can't find her age/ birth year, but she's got to be at least a decade older than 16-ish.

Neat! Bernard from 'Monday' is Drago's son. Can definitely see the resemblance.

Finally results from a HPLC that actually makes technical sense.

then his magic made it happen

That scans. The thing with medical diagnosis is... it's an inexact science. Doubly/ triply so for rare ones. They observe symptoms and then compare it to symptoms that have previously been described. Diagnoses, especially superficial ones, are waaay off the mark more often than most people are willing to admit. Actually getting down to the molecular mechanism of disease (especially novel or rare ones) is complicated and time consuming. And at the end of the day, a lot of symptoms that appear similar end up being caused by different mechanisms.

Agreed, this is a much better episode than I recall.

The microwave/ MRI connection was a bit contrived, though. But it was useful to show that Peattie isn't stupid, or ignorant, just un-evenly experienced.
posted by porpoise at 2:07 PM on July 31, 2020

The Bay Area Doctor of the Year's life felt far too charmed - and uber privileged.

Yeah there is just no way they’d give a sympathetic character a house like that in 2020.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:30 AM on August 1, 2020

Hah! Yeah... especially the house and the phrasing "too late to [go back] to the City."

But like orange swan has mentioned, the show would have benefited with more women (and poc) in the writing room.

In 2020, perhaps a poc, first generation (post anything highschool), student loan/ scholarship-kid doctor getting an award for volunteer work (spouse: "You need to spend less time with volunteer work, we need to pay off your loans - and think about the mortgage!") - and show some background on how they've had to be absolutely by the book and completely unimpeachable just to get the opportunity to be a medical caregiver.

Instead of the fancy retired-Dr. father in-law, have it be a proud doting mother with a mild but chronic medical condition.

To be fair, the doctor here genuinely felt like he did the right thing for his patient. He did it out of compassion rather than out of callousness, and Scully concurs that she'd have made the same decision.

To be charitable, the doctor here played it as that this was the very first bit of adversity he's ever encountered and shits the bed.
posted by porpoise at 11:17 AM on August 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

My mistake, it was gas chromatography and yes that is what you would use it for and those would be the kinds of answers that you could get. It helps when they keep it vague, too.

Morphine 25 cc - odd that they don't specify the concentration (or just use absolute milligrams). Morphine sulfate normally comes in 2 mg/ml to 10 mg/ml. cc is basically ml, so that's 50 mg to 250 mg.

In a non-opioid abuser, it takes about 200 mg IV to cause terminal respiratory depression. Hydromorphone is a more common drug of mercy these days.
posted by porpoise at 4:02 PM on August 1, 2020

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