While traveling to a conference with Scully and two other FBI agents, Mulder stops at a roadblock to join a nearby investigation of attacks by an unidentified predator.
A pair of surveyors are working on plotting out an area of the forest in North Florida (Leon County, near Tallahassee, FL) when they are attacked by unseen assailants with glowing red eyes and killed.
Later in the day, a father, son, and their dog are hunting for possums in the same stretch of woods when they come across a bloody jacket. Finding the jacket of one of the surveyors, the father orders his son to run home as fast as he can and not stop for anything. As the son and dog take off, he loads his shotgun amidst the sounds of rustling in the underbrush ahead. The sound of the father's gun stops the son and dog in their tracks. The dog growls and tries to run back the way they just came, but the boy is able to turn him around, and they continuing running out of the woods.
Meanwhile, Mulder and Scully are sharing a road trip with Agents Kinsley and Stonecypher, en route to a leadership and "team building" seminar. A visibly uncomfortable and annoyed Mulder is relieved when they are stopped at a roadblock by local police, who inform them that they seem to have had a shooting up ahead. Mulder decides to investigate.
Mulder briefly speaks with the boy's mother, who is frantic because no one will tell her what has happened to her husband. Making their way deeper into the woods, Scully and Mulder encounter more local law enforcement who inform the pair that they haven't found the body of the father, but have evidence of a shooting.
That night, at home, the boy tells his mother that he suspects his father is dead, as he was a good shot and if he had hit what he was shooting at, he'd have been home already.
In the meantime, Mulder and Scully are at the hotel for the reception. Scully visits Mulder in his room with a plate of cheese, and Mulder informs her that no animals in the wild will attack the strongest member of its prey when a weaker target is available.
Later that night at the home of the family, the dog (Bo) is upset and begins barking. The mother goes out to fetch him and bring him back in the house, but when she tries, she sees that the door has been bolted from the inside. The boy (Louis) is cornered by one of the creatures and just barely manages to escape through the dog door where he runs into Mulder, informing him that "it" is in the house.
The next morning, law enforcement is on the scene at the house and Scully and Mulder discuss the previous night's happenings. Mulder mentions that they found some tracks outside which appear to be human, but that the weight distribution is all wrong. Also, the fact that the creature attacked and killed three grown men and disposed of the bodies, as well as luring the mother outside of the house in order to get to Louis suggests to Mulder that the creatures are paranormal in nature. That, combined with the population pressures as human habitation expands might be at work in these killings.
An expedition into the woods with law enforcement and Infrared devices proves fruitless, as one of the officers is attacked after having been separated from the rest and the creatures fail to appear on the radar. At this point, Mulder advances the possibility that the creature is related to the Mothman of Point Pleasant, WV. Shortly, Mulder and Scully lose their only other companion to the creatures (despite the fact that Scully is able to wound it with her pistol), and they are left alone, lost in the woods as night falls.
That night, Scully and Mulder attempt to build a campfire and fail miserably. In order to help stay awake, Mulder convinces Scully to sing for him, which she does rather reluctantly, belting out a sadly uninspired rendition of "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night.
The next morning, Scully and Mulder are foraging for berries, when Scully falls through a hole, into an underground bivouac where the bodies of their missing companions are stored. She sees a pair of red eyes coming towards her and shoots, as Mulder drops into the hole with her. Having killed the creature, Mulder and Scully take a look at it and see that it is remarkably human-like, albeit with a wood-like texture to its skin. Near them the words "Ad Noctum" are found carved into a tree trunk.
Shortly thereafter, Agents Stonecypher and Kinsley, with police in tow, locate Mulder and Scully and help them out of the hole. Kinsley remarks that they got all the credit while Scully and Mulder did all the work. He also shows Mulder a crosscut of a tree with various dates inscribed on the rings including that of 1521, with Ponce de Leon searching for the Fountain of Youth in Florida. Mulder suggests that perhaps the predators are the result of Conquistadors who found the fountain and have adapted to life in the forest and are acting aggressively out of a need to defend their territory from encroachment. Kinsley ridicules the idea, although he admits that "Ad Noctum" was a phrase often used by the Conquistadors as they tortured and massacred Indians. Unfortunately, a further inspection of the cave reveals that the body of the creature Scully killed has mysteriously vanished and that they have been unable to locate it. Realizing something is amiss, Mulder rushes off to the hotel.
Meanwhile, back at the hotel room, Scully is packing. She takes her clothes from the closet and the camera lingers as if it will detect one of the predators. It doesn't. A similar thing happens concerning a chair. No dice. There is a knock at the door. It's Mulder, who, after ascertaining that Scully has finished packing, urges her firmly to vacate the room. She looks a little puzzled but leaves with him.
The camera moves back into the hotel room probing places a predator might be. The camera pans under the bed where... a pair of red eyes open.
- The episode is one of several which takes place in Florida. Mulder's theory is intriguing, but even though Ponce de León attempted to find the fountain of youth in Florida, he and his men were attacked by the local Indians and as such promptly relocated to Havana, Cuba, where de León died of his wounds.
- A song sung by Scully in this episode, sometimes known to the public as "Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog", or "Jeremiah the Bullfrog", is properly titled "Joy to the World", and was written by Hoyt Axton and made popular by Three Dog Night of which he was not a member.
- Although the episode supposedly takes place in Leon County, Florida and the Apalachicola National Forest, the botany and geography portrayed in this episode bear little resemblance to the real-life location. Unlike the mossy, ferny Pacific temperate rain forests that abound in southwestern British Columbia (where the episode was shot), the actual Apalachicola National Forest is flat, brushy woodlands dominated by longleaf pine and saw palmetto. Additionally, the character Fazekas mentions the presence of panther in the forest. This is beyond implausible, as the Florida panther has been completely extirpated in the region. The nearest wild panther live over 300 miles away, in the Everglades of southwest Florida.
- On Officer Michele Fazekas' jacket, the left arm patch mistakenly reads "Florida Search Rescue And".
Cast and Characters
- Merrilyn Gann (Mrs. Asekoff) previously played Prosecuting Attorney in The X-Files episode "Young at Heart" and Carlin's Mother in the Millennium episode "Force Majeure".
- Alf Humphreys (Michael Asekoff) previously played 2nd Controller in The X-Files episode "Space", Dr. Mark Pomerantz in "The Blessing Way", and Damon Rummer in the Millennium episode "Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions".
- Tom Scholte (Michael Sloan) previously played Young Christopher Johansen in The X-Files episode "Piper Maru".
- Tyler Thompson (Louis Asekoff) previously played William Garry, Jr. in Millennium episode "Covenant".
- Colleen Flynn as Officer Michele Fazekas
- J.C. Wendel as Agent Carla Stonecypher
- Scott Burkholder as Agent Michael Kinsley
- Merrilyn Gann as Mrs. Asekoff
- Anthony Rapp as Jeff Glaser
- Alf Humphreys as Michael Asekoff
- Tom Scholte as Michael Sloan
- Tyler Thompson as Louis Asekoff
- Simon Longmore as Marty Fox