Guestwriter: Nick Monitto
In a small town park, a boy is on a little merry-go-round, singing to a “Mr. Chuckleteeth” doll. His mother is nearby, distracted by a phone call. A girl is on a nearby swing set, her mother also near. The boy, Andrew, looks up and sees a human-sized Mr. Chuckleteeth peering out of the woods. He follows it and disappears. Andrew walks around briefly until something charges at him. That evening, the police are searching the woods. One officer finds part of the doll and some blood, and then finds Andrew’s body. His father is one of the searching officers.
Mulder & Scully come to the scene to investigate. While the police suspect a coyote attack, Scully believes that wounds like the broken neck may have been caused by a person. Mulder makes a casual mention of the town’s ‘Witch Trial’ past. When Scully examines the body further, both sides seem to be correct; there are cuts & gutting like an animal would, but also shaking like a person might. They also find a white substance on his foot.
After the memorial service, Police Chief Strong expresses his condolences to Andrew’s mother, Diane Eggers, and she is very uncomfortable speaking to him. Strong’s wife Anna is upset that the agents want to talk to their daughter Emily (they were the others at the park), but he urges her to cooperate. At their home, Anna tries to encourage Emily to answer Mulder’s questions, but she only says “I saw him go in the forest” in a monotone. Her attention is focused on a TV show. Mulder finds books about town history and witchcraft on the shelf, Anna explains that her husband is a history buff. When the Mr. Chuckleteeth character comes on the screen, Anna yells, “Mommy! He was in the forest!”
Having heard Scully’s theories about a human attacker, Officer Eggers searches a sex offender database and finds that Melvin Peter lives in the area. Scully is telling Strong that she wants to talk to Eggers, perhaps with the hint of ruling him out as a suspect. They are told that Eggers just stormed out a moment before. He speeds off in a patrol car, with Strong & Scully in pursuit. Reaching Peter’s house, Eggers bursts inside but no one is home. Strong manages to talk him down enough to leave the building.
Mulder is investigating the forest scene and sees a large black wolf. Scully tells him to come to the home; he arrives just as a search warrant is delivered. They find balloons, a caged monkey, and other evidence of Peters working as a clown. Then in a closet, they see pieces of a Mr. Chuckleteeth costume. Outside there is a growing mob scene, and Mulder makes more witch trial observations.
Emily is again watching the kiddie TV show, and then she turns and sees a human-sized version of a character outside. She disappears before her mother returns from the kitchen. Emily is found shortly after, dead and attacked similarly as the boy was. Anna is furious, screaming that it is her husband’s fault. Mulder kicks away leaves and finds a large circle made of salt, believing that it is a witch’s protective circle. He confronts the Chief for ignoring the salt on the boy’s body, and the Chief confesses… to adultery. He was the one on the phone in the beginning; he had been having an affair with Diane.
Back at his house, Melvin drives near and sees the mob, then tries to avoid them. He bumps a police car and stops, revealing himself. Eggers grabs and starts assaulting him. He is finally pulled away, though the town mob quickly steps in. Mulder & Scully manage to briefly restore order, and she tells Eggers to call an ambulance. He reaches for his mic, then instead grabs his gun and shoots Melvin.
The next day, after Eggers’ arraignment, Mulder & Scully see Officer Wentworth summon them from across the street. He gives them a file showing that Melvin was far away when the boy disappeared, and could not have been involved. Eggers is released on bail, and confronts Diane at home about the affair. She storms out and speeds off in her car. Seeing Andrew in the middle of the road, she panics and crashes the car. A black wolf prowls around the wreck.
Eggers breaks into the Chief’s house to confront him. He hears the Mr. Chuckleteeth song, and then sees him prowling around. Eggers shoots, but misses. The TV starts playing a hellish version of the song; a distracted Eggers turns to see Mr. Chuckleteeth and is knocked to the floor. Climbing up, he runs into Chief Strong at the front door. Strong shoots him and disappears. Mulder & Scully arrive to find Eggers dead in the doorway, and more of the salt. Mulder notes that a Summoning Grimoire is missing from the bookshelf.
Chief Strong is driving and reaches the car wreck. He sees Diane in the woods, walking away, and follows her. We see (but Strong does not) Diane’s mauled body by a tree. Strong finds Anna inside a circle of candles and salt, holding the book and chanting. She knew about her husband’s affair and had tried to curse him and Diane. Mulder & Scully arrive just as Anna finishes an incantation and bursts into flames. Oddly, the book is not damaged at all. Mulder & Scully happily leave the town, trying to take in everything that they have seen. Looking from across the park at their SUV driving off, we see the little merry-go-round slowly start to turn…
A FEW THOUGHTS:
-Opening credits end with the tag of the traditional “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE”
-The show Emily watches is ‘BibbleTiggles’, seeming to be a Teletubbies clone. It had four large furry characters in muted colors, with dull plastic faces. Mr. Chuckleteeth was an equally large, black & white person with a giant head and spread-wide eyes. If the website includes a picture with this review, I hope you are not reading it at night…
-I give this episode a C. It seemed to do okay, though not great, at setting up and playing out its “monster of the week”. The ‘Witch Trials rise again’ aspect was a bit heavy at times. On its own, it may have landed a bit better as social commentary. But in the shadow of the previous episode, it was just overwhelmed.
Nick Monitto has been a sci-fi geek for a few decades now, having watched the original “X-Files” in its day. He is going to watch a bunch of ‘Mr. Rogers’ now in order to wash away the ‘scary kid’s show’ effect.