Season 3, Episode 18
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: John Shiban
First lesson of… well… of anything, really, is that archeological excavations in the horror / supernatural genres never dig up anything happy.
Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Exorcist. Even The Ruins to an extent. Nothing good there. Seemingly a great idea on the surface, The X-Files ventures into that territory with “Teso Dos Bichos,” a title that I thought meant “three bitches” thanks to my rudimentary grasp of the Spanish language. Unfortunately, the episode focuses on silly cliches and an unfocused storyline rather than the eerie archeological dig. By the end, “Teso Dos Bichos” devolves into the television equivalent of a hairball – best coughed out and swept away.
The opening sequence features one such archeological dig in South America where a team uncovers the remains of a burial urn that contains the sacred remains of an Amaru – a female shaman. After the urn is removed despite the locals’ objections, the leader of the expedition is mauled by what is later referred to as a mysterious jaguar spirit. Flash forward to Boston where an archeologist working in a history museum goes missing leaving behind a pool of blood in his office, an office which just so happens to contain the same urn from the prologue. Mulder and Scully investigate and are pointed to Dr. Bilac (Vic Trevino) who worked on the original dig. After questioning him and finding Bilac suspicious, Mulder and Scully continue their investigation, and the Boston museum’s curator, Dr. Lewton (Tom McBeath), is mauled by the same jaguar spirit. They later find an elegant array of Lewton’s intestines hanging from a nearby tree, draped over a branch like a crimson snake.
Back in the museum, a graduate student seemingly involved with Bilac hears a noise in the women’s restroom and is attacked by a toilet full of rats. Mulder and Scully investigate the museum and find Bilac cowering in the same bathroom stall, telling Mulder that the graduate student has died. Questioning from Mulder and Scully reveals nothing (Bilac claims a spirit is attacking them while Scully thinks he’s high), and Bilac manages to disappear from a seemingly fool-proof holding room. Following a trail into the labyrinthine steam tunnels that exist beneath the museum, Mulder and Scully find a stash of recently missing and mauled bodies (including Bilac’s) and are comically attacked by dozens of really pissed off cats. They escape, and the Amaru’s remains are returned to South America where they are reburied over the watchful – and catlike – eyes of a local shaman.
“Teso Dos Bichos” has a ridiculous concept with ridiculous execution and must have been exceedingly difficult to film with a straight face. The “hunting camera” effects of much of the episode – meant to represent the killer jaguar spirit – are effectively creepy and unsettling. That is the episode’s best aspect hands down. The rest is mostly garbage because it lacks a defined villain or relatable force on which to focus. The human aspects are a letdown and rather boring because the characters aren’t very well conceived, and the bodies start piling up before we really even start to care. Finally, the episode ends with a completely ridiculous cat sequence where Gillian Anderson has to fake being attacked by a cat, and cats are seen trying to claw their way through a wooden door a la Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
Sorry, don’t mean to be catty… Couldn’t resist that one.