"Conduit" is the fourth episode of the first season of The X-Files. It premiered on the Fox network on October 1, 1993. The episode was written by Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, and directed by Daniel Sackheim.
Mulder becomes personally connected when he and Scully encounter a young boy who is deeply affected by the disappearance, or abduction, of his teenage sister.
At night – in Campsite 53, beside Lake Okobogee – a family consisting of a teenage girl, a younger boy and their mother are sleeping, with the two youngsters outside in sleeping bags and their mother in the top bunk of a nearby RV. A violent shaking sends the mother falling to the floor while a bright light begins to shine into the RV from outside. Moments later, the light suddenly dissipates, the shaking quickly subsides and all is quiet once again. As the woman hears her young son, Kevin, screaming for his mother outside, she hauls herself to the door of the vehicle but painfully finds it is searing hot and eventually manages to open it with an oven glove. Outside, a frowning Kevin immediately tells his mother that Ruby, his teenage sister, has disappeared. Their mother takes hold of Kevin and begins shouting for her missing teenage daughter, to no avail.
Chief Blevins informs Special Agent Dana Scully of a 302 that Blevins has indirectly received from Scully's FBI partner, Agent Fox Mulder. In frustration with Mulder, Blevins tells Scully that the otherwise unexplained 302 is effectively petitioning the FBI to assign a case number to a tabloid headline – specifically, "Teen Taken From Tent By Aliens." Blevins shows Scully case X-40253 – which concerns the disappearance of Mulder's sister, Samantha, an incident that happened years ago – and considers that Mulder's personal quest to discover his sister's fate is clouding his judgment. Scully disagrees with this suggestion and asks to not only talk to Mulder but to also make a recommendation to Blevins on the subject, before he disallows the 302.
In the basement office of the X-Files unit, Scully challenges Mulder on the validity of his request. Mulder replies the disappearance occurred at Lake Okobogee, a known UFO Hotspot. He also lets Scully know that one of four well-documented UFO sightings from 1967 involved a young girl scout, now the missing girl's mother, Darlene Morris.
SIOUX CITY, IOWA
The next day (on August 26), Mulder and Scully arrive at the Morris residence in Sioux City, Iowa and are welcomed inside by Darlene, who tries to introduce them to Kevin but he ignores them, all the while scribbling something on paper. Mulder studies a row of family portrait photographs on a mantelpiece and affectionately touches one of Ruby Morris, Scully noticing he feels personally connected to the case. Darlene gives a statement to the agents, claiming she and Kevin have been traumatized by the loss of Ruby, such as Kevin having been acting strangely since the disappearance. Questioning Darlene, Scully implies a suspicion Ruby may have been taken by Charles, Darlene's former husband, though Darlene herself denies this, insistent a UFO was once again involved. She realizes Mulder has the same opinion but that Scully is more skeptical. Mulder tries to talk with Kevin but finds him busily watching static on the TV set and copying a binary string onto a pad of paper. Kevin insists the transmission is coming from the TV, even though Mulder observes only static.
At the Sioux City Police station Mulder faxes Kevin's transmission fragment to Danny Bernstein at the FBI Cryptography Section. In a simultaneous telephone call Fox promises Danny tickets to a Redskins game as compensation for attempting to decipher the binary string.
Sheriff Jack Withers (a former classmate of Darlene Morris) explains that Darlene has been telling stories of her UFO sighting since the first grade; most people in the area dismiss as having an active imagination. This combined with Ruby's well-known wild-child attitude, a lack of evidence at the scene and no ransom note led to the case being dismissed as a simple runaway.
Mulder and Scully find a note stuck to their car and covertly meet a friend of Ruby's in a public library who claims that Ruby's boyfriend, Greg Randall, got her pregnant and that the two had been planning to leave town.
Later that night, Mulder and Scully venture to the Pennsylvania Pub in search of Greg Randall who was apparently employed as a barman there. The establishment has a distinct Heavy Metal/Biker feel to it, they quickly discover that Greg has not shown up for work in over three weeks and has been dismissed. Spotting a flying saucer tattoo on Kip the bartender's arm, Mulder poses as a UFO skeptic, cleverly encouraging the man to volunteer information to the contrary. This pays off as the man shows the pair his right ear which is badly burnt and disfigured due to what he calls a "killer sunburn at night" at Lake Okobogee.
At 5:30 a.m. the next morning, agents from the NSA burst into Scully's hotel room demanding to know where Mulder is. Mulder is then quizzed by Agent Holtzman as to where he obtained the binary string he faxed the previous day which is revealed to be a defense satellite transmission.
The Morris residence is ransacked by NSA Agents later that day, and Kevin's possessions are boxed up to be taken away for investigation, while many other items in the house are broken or damaged in casual disregard for the family's rights and freedoms. As the operation draws to a close, Mulder and Scully arrive. Mulder collects samples of a substance blistered on the roof of the RV present at the lake on the night of the abduction.
At the FBI regional office in Sioux City Agent Leza Atsumi explains that 77 pages of binary code recovered from the Morris residence were deciphered, the data included an image of DaVinci's Universal Man, a short animation of a DNA double helix and a short segment of music from the Brandenberg Concerto, some lines from the Koran and a Shakespearean sonnet. Mulder notes that the fragmented nature of the data and its varying origins implies time-division-multiplexing - this is a means of sending multiple messages to multiple destinations/clients at once in a single transmission.
Darlene and Kevin Morris are roughly ejected from the NSA building, while Darlene explains that she wants nothing more to do with the FBI, Kevin stares blankly at some CCTV monitors, perhaps seeing embedded transmissions in these too.
Mulder explains to Scully that he believes Kevin has been touched by whatever abducted Ruby, allowing him to perceive these transmissions, the two return to Campsite 53 in the hopes of discovering the truth in the absence of any other evidence. They notice that a line of trees beside the lake have been singed by extreme heat, Mulder then discovers chunks of glass in the sand on the shore also formed by extreme heat (of at least 2500 °F). Mulder sights a wolf that leads him to the discovery of a shallow grave just inside the forest.
Mulder discovers that the grave contains Greg Randall's body with a note inside his wallet (which still contains money) that reads:
- Dr. Jack Fowler Aug.7 - 2:30
They match the hand-writing from this note to the one pinned to their car; both are written by the girl they met at the library whose name they discover to be Tessa. The Sheriff had discovered from Dr. Fowler that the appointment was for Tessa and that she had lied to them, in fact she was pregnant, not Ruby. Greg Randall was the father and he and Tessa had planned to run away. Mulder presses her into slipping up and revealing that she killed Greg and would've killed Ruby had she had the opportunity. Scully argues that they should now hand the case over to local law enforcement and close the X-file, Mulder refuses and presses on to try to find Ruby.
They return to the Morris house, which is empty, with the front door unlocked and many sheets of paper laid out on the lounge floor. The papers are covered in neatly written binary strings, Scully looks at the arrangement from the mezzanine level above the lounge and from this new perspective sees the chilling image of Ruby Morris' face made up from 1's and 0's.
In the dark, the pair return to Campsite 53 and find the Morris' RV abandoned by the shore. They follow a trail into the forest and find Darlene trying to catch her breath. Kevin had escaped her and has run deeper into the forest. Mulder finds Kevin walking towards a bright light which turns out to be the headlights from dozens of bikers off-roading through the forest. Mulder and Kevin run back when they hear Scully's screams to find an unconscious Ruby lying on the forest floor.
At the Sioux City hospital Scully and Mulder discuss the health of Ruby who has been awake for a few hours. She has several unusual symptoms that Mulder claims can be caused by prolonged weightlessness. Ruby tells the pair that the "persons" who took her told her not to disclose any details of the abduction. Kevin presses her tell Mulder who he says "already knows", but before Ruby can answer, she is interrupted by Darlene who because of the troubles "the truth" has brought her, tells the agents to leave and never contact Ruby again. When Mulder's desperate pleas to Darlene to let Ruby speak about her experiences are met with stark defiance, he appears crushed that "the truth" has eluded him once again.
Back in Washington, Scully reviews Mulder's hypnotic regression tape concerning his sister's disappearance. Mulder describes the room, his paralysis and his sister's cries for help as she was being abducted, at the same time the real Mulder sits in a church crying, looking at his sister's photo. On the tape Mulder describes a voice he can hear in his head, telling him not to be scared and that one day his sister will return unharmed. Asked whether he believes the voice he replies:
- "I WANT to believe."
"I want to believe."
- - Fox Mulder
- Carrie Snodgress as Darlene Morris
- Michael Cavanaugh as Sheriff Jack Withers
- Don Gibb as Kip
- Joel Palmer as Kevin Morris
- Charles Cioffi as Section Chief Scott Blevins
- Shelley Owens as Tessa
- Don Thompson as Holtzman
- Akiko Morison as Leza Atsumi
- Taunya Dee as Ruby Morris