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"Excelsis Dei" is the eleventh episode of the second season of The X-Files. It first aired in the United States on December 16, 1994 on the Fox network. The episode was written by Paul Brown, directed by Stephen Surjik, and is a "Monster-of-the-week" story, independent of the series' mythology arc.


Mulder and Scully uncover strange occurrences in an old-age care home when one of the nurses is attacked by an unseen force she claims to be one of the residents, a 74-year-old man.




At nighttime, a Victorian mansion housing the Excelsis Dei convalescent home stands alone. A female employee walks up the entrance stairs and enters the building. Inside, two staff members are watching a boxing match on television. As the female employee enters, the two staff members begin mock boxing, apparently to show off. Unimpressed, the woman attempts to discuss their work responsibilities. She is informed that a patient died that afternoon. After asking if anyone bothered to change her room, the female worker receives a sarcastic comment that the other workers left it for her. She picks fresh bed clothing and leaves for a room with two elderly men in it, who are also watching the boxing match. She flips off the television and secures one of them to the bed with velcro restraint straps because he gropes her. After she is done, she leaves for the deceased woman's room and begins cleaning it up.

Without warning, the door slams shuts and locks. The bed rolls across the room, further barricading the door. The nurse is unable to move it. The wrist restraints open themselves and she is then thrown onto the bed and secured to it by some unseen force. The scene closes with her screaming for help with no response...

Act One:[]

Scully is watching something on Mulder's television set in his office when he enters. After a brief exchange on the previous contents of his VCR, they talk about the video she is watching. It is the nurse shown from the opening of the show, Michelle Charters. Scully says that Charters claims she was raped by a spirit. Mulder immediately replies that he has X-files on similar unsubstantiated incidents and heads to his file cabinet, but Scully says she has been there since six o'clock looking through them. Mulder says none of the cases have been substantiated. Scully says she knows that but this case is different because Charters is suing the federal government, claiming that she knows the identity of the spirit who assaulted her. {The basis for a lawsuit against the federal government is never explained.}

Cut to Charters, in person. She says that the spirit is Hal Arden, and she knows this because she has been bathing him for five years and recognized his scent. She protests against Scully and Mulder's need for evidence, saying she did not fabricate the rape story. Scully and Mulder visit the convalescent home to talk to Hal Arden, the man Charters had secured to his bed prior to her attack. Despite his slight deafness and his audible opinions on Scully's looks, they manage to ask him about the lawsuit. Arden says that he may have one foot in the grave, but he "certainly can't fly down hallways spreading amore."

Now we cut to the exterior of the home, and Scully and Mulder are conversing with Mrs. Dawson, a worker with managerial capacities. It is revealed over the course of their conversation that Arden has Alzheimer's, which seems to contradict his behavior. Upstairs, the two elderly men, Arden and Stan Philips, are talking. Stan wants to know what Arden said to the two agents, and it appears they are both covering something up. Stan removes a pill from his nightstand and Arden asks where he got it. Stan replies that he knows where "he" keeps them. He swallows the pill. Arden says he wants one and threatens to rat him out if Stan does not comply. Stan stares at Arden.

Scully and Mulder are still talking with Dawson, this time in her office. She tells them that Charters has filed three different insurance claims while working at the home. As Mulder questions her, one of the male nurses from the teaser bursts in and interrupts, saying that Arden is choking to death. They all run to the room. Scully barks medical orders at the orderly and begins CPR on Arden. The scene cuts out as Scully says she is losing Arden.

Act Two:[]

Arden is being wheeled away in a gurney; he is dead. Scully is conversing with his doctor, Grago, while Mulder looks on. Grago says he has been attempting to treat Arden's Alzheimer's with an experimental drug called Deprenyl. While Scully says that she has read the benefits are only marginal at best, he maintains that the patients in the home have been proving otherwise. He informs her that before Arden started taking the drug, he could barely finish a sentence. Scully asks if she can see his other patients, and the doctor consents. Meanwhile, Stan is conversing with a male nurse, Gung, who seems to be the supplier of Stan's pills. Gung says Stan been taking too many and he is not going to give him any more. Stan waves him off.

Back to the agents. They are conversing with more patients on the Deprenyl trial, like Leo Kroitzer, once a famed artist, and an old babbling woman named Dorothy. Leo hints that it is not the Deprenyl that is making him better, but he is interrupted by the dinner call before he can elaborate. Once the patients are ushered out, Mulder makes to leave and we cut to their hotel, where they are checking out. Scully thinks there is something to this case, while Mulder believes it to be a giant goose egg. Scully persists, naming raised acetylcholine levels and fungal disease (from the general lack of cleanliness of the home) as possible causes for the rape to have occurred. Though Mulder looks skeptical, he agrees to stay for another day.

Back at Excelsis Dei, Leo is angling for more pills from Gung, but Gung refuses. Down the hall, Stan is arguing with his daughter, Mrs. Kelly, saying he wants to stay in the home. Scully and Mulder appear and ask to speak with Stan, but they settle for Kelly. She tells them that Stan's improvement has been pronounced since he was first admitted three years ago. Upstairs, her father makes a break to get away from the abusive orderly who is packing for him, by running upstairs to the fourth floor and through a window onto the roof. The orderly follows him and steps onto the roof, only to be knocked off of it by an unseen force. He grabs the ledge and hangs on, calling out for help. Mulder runs to save him but despite his efforts, the orderly falls to his death.

Act Three:[]

Mulder is in Stan's room when Grago enters. Mulder believes that Stan was involved in both Arden and the orderly's death. Mulder asks if Arden's autopsy report is ready yet, and they leave to see if it is. Meanwhile, Scully is conversing with Laura Kelly when she hears Charters arguing with Dawson. Apparently Charters is the only one who signed in today. Charters leaves as Scully walks over to them, and before Scully has a chance to talk to Dawson, she hears Dorothy talking to someone in the next room. Both of them walk over to Dorothy, and Dawson tells her to go back to her room. Dorothy says "they're all in there," but a glance in the room shows it to be empty. Dawson begins to wheel her back inside, but Dorothy grabs the wall, stopping herself from being wheeled in. She starts to tell someone not to touch "her," and Scully is shown surrounded by three ghostly figures she does not see. Looking uncomfortable, the agent excuses herself, and as she walks down the hall, the ghosts are seen following her.

Back with Mulder, the autopsy reports are in. Grago notes that there is ibotenic acid present in Hal Arden's blood, which is some sort of poison. Scully enters and they give her the post-mortem. She says there are only trace amounts, so he may not have necessarily been poisoned. However, that small amount in his system could cause hallucinations. Charters walks in and tells them all to come quickly, and she leads them to a room that has had a wall entirely repainted with a large portrait. Leo is up on a ladder working on the corner. Mulder, seeing something in the painting, inquires where Gung is, and he heads downstairs to find him. After looking around, he finds a door with a padlock, which he breaks open with a metal object he finds on the floor. Inside, Mulder finds a massive amount of mushrooms and an orderly, now deceased, who had failed to show up for work that morning, buried in the dirt on the floor.

Act Four:[]

Scully, Mulder, Dawson, and Grego interview Gung in an empty room. Gung swears that he did not kill the orderly, but admits that the mushrooms are his, and he has been giving them to the patients. He explains that in his culture, the elderly are revered and it is considered a great honor to care for them; coming to America, he was appalled to see how Westerners treat the elderly, even their own parents, like garbage, sending them away to places like Excelsius Dei, where - as Gung has seen firsthand - they are treated little better than animals. Gung was doing what little he could to help ease their suffering, but he admits that something has gone badly wrong. The mushrooms are used in his country to "speak with the dead," but the spirits in the rest home are restless and angry, and the living residents' use of the mushrooms has given them the power to act on that anger.

Mulder says they have to make sure no one takes anymore of the mushroom pills, so Scully, Mulder, and Gung leave for the basement where the pills are kept. When they get there, Gung finds the jar empty. Mulder pulls Scully aside and tells her he thinks that she has been right about the medication, only that it is the mushrooms that have been causing all of the incidents, not the Deprenyl. Scully disagrees, saying that mushrooms only cause hallucinations, they do not raise the dead. Mulder maintains that whatever has been happening has something to do with the pills, and that something has been released in the home. Scully has no response for his theory.

In Stan's room, Stan shakily takes three of the mushroom pills as his daughter enters. In the hall, Dorothy is continually telling someone to go away, and she tells Laura to run while she can. Ghosts are seen walking toward her. Leo calls for Dorothy and the old lady wheels herself to him as he collapses. When she sees him, there are ghosts bent over him. As Laura walks over to look, Leo is dragged back and the door is slammed shut. Behind them, someone screams. Down below, Scully and Mulder hear it and begin to run toward the sound. Mulder, getting there first, finds a bloodied Charters in a bathroom and witnesses her thrown across the room and against a wall by an unseen force. As Scully arrives, the door slams shut, separating them and locking Mulder and the nurse inside. Water begins bursting from all the faucets. Mulder yells for Scully to turn off the water main as she watches water start flowing under the door. Grego and Dawson arrive as she starts yanking on the door. She asks if they know where the water main is, but they do not, so she runs to find Gung. Inside the bathroom, the water has reached Mulder's knees.

Scully and Gung reach the main water valve, but it appears to be stuck. Scully leaves to find something to force it. Back in the bathroom, Mulder and Charters are hanging off the ceiling pipes, trying to stay above the ever-rising water. Meanwhile, Scully is running down the hall, but Laura stops her, saying her father needs help. She looks in to see Stan choking, and runs from the room to get help. Finding Grego, she tells him to go take care of Stan before going back to yanking on the door. Suddenly, the doors bust open, sending with it all the water that has collected in the room, and drenching Scully and Dawson.

Grego and Laura are standing over a dying Stan when Dorothy wheels up, gleefully expressing that "they're all gone."

Scully's voiceover ensues, explaining that the patients at the facility are still alive, while Gung has been remanded to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for deportation back to Malaysia. Grego's Deprenyl studies have been suspended. Denied access to the mushrooms, all the Alzheimer's patients have reverted to their earlier state. Ultimately, the other, seemingly spiritual events at Excelsis Dei remain unexplained.

In the day room of the home, Stan's daughter finishes her "visit" with him, saying she will come back soon. Stan stares ahead, completely silent and unmoving.


Massachusetts; nurse;


Mulder: "Whatever tape you found in that VCR, it isn't mine."

Scully: "Good, because I put it back in that drawer with all those other videos that aren't yours."

Arden: "I should be in the Guinness record book. Hey, I'm seventy-four years old. I've got plumbing older than this building." [exposes self to Scully and Mulder] "And it don't work much better either."

Mulder: *deadpan* "Thank you for sharing."

Scully: "Mulder, mushrooms aren't medicine. They taste good on hamburgers but they don't raise the dead."

Background Information[]


  • For the filming of this episode's climatic bathroom scene, special effects supervisor David Gauthier flooded the hallway with water from a 3,300 gallon tank.


  • Deprenyl (selegiline) is referred to in the episode as an enzyme inhibitor whose function is to increase acetylcholine in the brain. Selegiline is a real-world drug which inhibits the enzyme monoamine oxidase, but research has shown that it does not significantly affect acetylcholine in the brain, instead increasing levels of other monoamines such as dopamine and serotonin. Furthermore, Scully's assertion that increased levels of acetylcholine can lead to psychosis is incorrect. In fact, drugs decreasing the activity of acetylcholine are more likely to induce psychosis due to the inverse relationship between dopaminergic and cholinergic activity. Schizophrenia, whose hallmark symptom is psychosis, is believed to result from an increase in the activity of dopamine, an effect which could be simulated by drugs which decrease—not increase—the activity of acetylcholine.
  • In reality, ibotenic acid is a psychoactive substance found in mushroom fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) but, if ingested orally, most of it is converted into an alkaloid, Muscimol. Most, if not all, ibotenic acid is actually converted to muscimol during the preparation process and in the receiver's liver. Therefore, toxicology would have shown trace amounts of muscimol, not ibotenic acid, in the patients' blood.
  • On the DVD menu for this episode, it is referred to as "Exelsius Dei", although the box uses the correct title.

Cast and Characters[]


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