In New Orleans, Louisiana, Jeb Larold Dukes is told that he is fired. His boss keeps telling him how sorry he is and then Jeb walks out of the office.
On the street he sees a car speed by pursued by the police. It collides with a jeep when it tries to plow through the intersection. Both vehicles are badly damaged and catch fire. While a crowd of onlookers watch the fires, only Jeb sees the burning man come out of the fleeing car and walk into him, merging with him. His eyes burn with a new intensity as he returns to the office. His first victim is his boss.
Agent Monica Reyes arrives at the crime scene, encountering Detective Franklin Potter while getting some nicotine gum out. Potter believes the murders are satanic cult related so he called Reyes in. Reyes points out the “devil pictures” are Marilyn Manson and the killer probably just snapped from a trigger event, like being fired. But as she is leaving, she sees one of the bodies carbonize into a charred corpse before her eyes. After Potter distracts her, she turns back to see the victim's body back to normal.
Fox Mulder is visiting Dana Scully when she doubles over in pain, clutching her pregnant belly. John Doggett meets Mulder at the hospital but since neither man is the husband, only co-workers, they can't go in and see Scully. The staff says she should be okay but they are going to run some tests. Mulder receives a phone call from Monica Reyes about a strange case that she wants to discuss with him. He reminds her that Doggett is in charge of the X-Files but she tells him that the case involves Doggett and she can't talk to him about it.
Jeb Dukes is in a hotel room in Georgia trying to shoot himself through the head. Staring at himself in the mirror as he holds the gun to his head, the gun becomes extremely hot. Dropping it, he sees burns all over his hand. He notices something wrong with his face; he claws at his face peeling away the skin to reveal a lake of burning of embers beneath.
Mulder and Reyes meet in a FBI records room, after she finds the case file on the death of Agent John Doggett's son, Luke Doggett.
Years ago, when Doggett's son disappeared, the FBI were called in to investigate. Monica Reyes was one of the agents on the case and Doggett himself was involved in the investigation, working at the NYPD at the time. They never found the killer and when they discovered Luke's body, Reyes and Doggett saw the body transform into ashes momentarily. Reyes says that Doggett has spent the last few years convincing himself he didn't see it. Reyes believes it was a psychic message, some sort of clue that could help them, and now with the other crime scene, she has seen it again.
As Doggett checks in on Scully and sees her sleeping, he slips back into the memory of finding his son for just a moment before the hospital staff asks him to leave.
Doggett attacks Mulder over looking into his son's case until Reyes shows up and explains why they are looking into the case. Bob Harvey, a suspect in his son's murder, died in the burning car outside the office building where the shooting happened. Reyes stresses the vision's importance but Doggett dismisses it.
Reyes goes to visit Jeb Dukes’ sister, Katha, and learns he did not know Bob Harvey. She does not believe her brother is capable of these murders. While Reyes is there, Katha receives a call from Jeb but tells him to call later. As Jeb leaves the phone booth, a woman with car trouble appears asking for help. All she finds is a murderer.
Doggett visits Scully again and asks her what made her start to believe in the paranormal. She says she realized she was “afraid to believe.” Doggett seems to be on the edge of remembering the vision he saw of his son.
Jeb Dukes takes the car of the woman who had the flat tire. He sees himself surrounded by fire in the reflection on the windshield.
As Doggett approaches the body of this latest victim, he finds himself seeing Reyes surrounded by law enforcement officers at the body, just like when he found his son. Though the déjà vu is unsettling he sees no vision but merely the woman from the payphone face down on the ground with a gunshot through the back.
Doggett storms off but Reyes refuses to let it go, finally revealing her theory. That this is a “thread of evil,” a belief common everywhere but the West. Much as one would see God in a rose, one would see evil in death, in a murder. This thread connects through time and opportunity back to the first crime but Mulder points out that if Doggett doesn't see it, then he won't see it.
Scully relates to Mulder that she had a partial abruption (that the placenta tore away from the wall of the uterus) and tells Mulder he should keep trying to help Doggett.
Katha Dukes returns home with her daughter and finds Jeb Dukes there. He insists it wasn't him and that he needs help. He hugs his niece Mia when she comes in; there is nothing evil about him then, as if he didn't kill anyone even with blood still on his face.
Doggett and Reyes talk about his son and how Doggett has to believe that he did everything he could to save Luke but the supernatural implies there was more he could have done and he can't accept that. They receive a phone call from Katha about Jeb Dukes being there.
Katha tries to get her daughter Mia to leave the room but Jeb catches on that the FBI are there so he uses his niece as a hostage. Doggett drops his weapon and tries to talk to the man but he is too craven. Before he can shoot Doggett, Reyes takes him out with a round to the throat.
At the hospital, Doggett hopes to speak with the wounded Jeb Dukes about a connection to his son. Reyes suggests that maybe all of it was just to lead them to save that little girl.
Doggett finally embraces the memory of finding his son and seeing him as charred. Mulder calls him out of Scully's room and talks to him about his time in Violent Crimes. Mulder couldn't understand the monsters they saw there and began to think of evil like a disease that infected people. Some lacked immunity to this disease of evil because of some tragedy in their lives. Perhaps the man is infected with evil and that it passes on from person to person.
Jeb Dukes dies while Agent Reyes and his sister Katha are in the room. After the doctors leave, Katha's eyes
glow that fiery way. She hits Reyes over the head with an oxygen tank and takes her gun. Before she can execute Reyes for killing her brother, Doggett appears and wrestles her to the ground.
In the end, Doggett watches a bedridden catatonic Katha Dukes in her restraints.
- This episode's title is a reference to Εμπεδοκλης (Empedokles or Empedocles), a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who formulated the theory of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water.
- The pictures found in the killers work desk are from Marilyn Manson's album Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death).
Cast and Characters
- Jay Underwood (Jeb Larold Dukes) previously played Michael Slattery in the Millennium episode "Covenant".
- David Duchovny as Special Agent Fox Mulder
- Gillian Anderson as Special Agent Dana Scully
- Robert Patrick as Special Agent John Doggett
- Jay Underwood as Jeb Larold Dukes
- Wendy Gazelle as Katha Dukes
- Denise Crosby as Dr. Mary Speake
- Ron Canada as Detective Franklin Potter
- Bruce Wright as Gary Garber
- Dayna Beilenson as Roberta Toews
- Cheryl Francis Harrington as ER Nurse
- Amanda Fein & Caitlin Fein as Mia Dukes
- Jennifer Hammon as ICU Nurse
- Devlin Elliott as Pizza Delivery Man
- Jake Fritz as Luke Doggett
- Veronica Brown as Payphone Woman
- Louise Melilli as Distraught Woman