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"Leonard Betts" is the twelfth episode of the fourth season of The X-Files. It was written by Vince Gilligan, John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz, and was directed by Kim Manners. The episode premiered on the Fox network on January 26, 1997 and is a "Monster-of-the-week" story, independent of the series' mythology arc.

Airing directly after Super Bowl XXXI, Leonard Betts is the most watched episode of The X-Files, with a nielsen rating of 17.2, and a viewership of 29.15 million people.


Mulder and Scully are after a man who can literally live with cancer and grow back his head after being decapitated in a road accident.



An ambulance races through the streets, carrying Leonard Betts and his partner, who are trying to save a man who Betts diagnoses with cancer. Amazed at her partners ability, she never sees an oncoming semi, which T-Bones the ambulance and decapitates Betts. Later, in the morgue where Betts is stored, an attendant is attacked, and a man with bloody footprints is shown walking out.


Mulder and Scully are investigating the area, going over a surveillance tape that shows a man walking out of the morgue, head obscured by interference from the camera. Also, the locker where the body was stored was opened from the inside, bloody footprints as evidence. While Mulder interrogates Betts' partner, Scully decides to autopsy the severed head. When she goes to slice it open, however, its eyes open, and the mouth moves. Scully claims it is merely electrical response, but Mulder is still curious.

Mulder travels to Betts home and discovers evidence the body had been there. When Mulder leaves, Betts—who has regrown his head—rises out of his iodine-filled bathtub.

Mulder interviews Michelle Wilkes (Jennifer Clement), Betts' former partner, who recollects his ability to detect cancer. When an interior slice of Betts' polymerized head is examined, the agents discover that his frontal lobe displayed signs of pervasive cancer. Mulder has Chuck Burks (Bill Dow) subject the slice to an aura photography test; the final image shows corona discharge that takes the appearance of human shoulders.

Using fingerprint records, Scully learns that Betts had an alter ego named Albert Tanner. The agents visit his elderly mother, Elaine (Marjorie Lovett), who claims that "Albert" died in a car accident six years previously. Meanwhile, Wilkes tracks down Betts at another hospital and confronts him. After an apology, he gives her a lethal injection of potassium chloride; Betts is then pursued and captured by a security guard. After he is handcuffed to his car, Betts escapes by tearing off his thumb. The agents search the car the next morning, finding disposed tumors in a cooler in the trunk. Mulder believes that Betts subsists on the tumors, and that his nature makes him the embodiment of a radical leap in evolution.

Upon learning that the car is registered to Elaine, the agents have the police search her home. Elaine recounts how her son endured bullying as a child "because he was different", and says that "he had his reasons" if he killed anybody. Meanwhile, Betts accosts a bar patron and kills him to obtain his cancerous lung. Later, in a storage unit, he seems to shed his body and create a duplicate. When the agents come across the storage unit, the duplicate Betts attempts to flee in a car, which explodes when fired upon and seemingly kills him. Scully suggests that Betts' first "death" as Albert Tanner was staged, but when they exhume Tanner's casket, they find his body still inside. Mulder becomes convinced that Betts can not only regenerate his body parts, but his entire body itself. Because of this, he believes that Betts is still at large.

At Elaine's behest, Betts removes a cancerous tumor from her body before summoning an ambulance. The agents, already staking out Elaine's house, encounter the paramedics when they arrive. Scully accompanies Elaine to the hospital while Mulder conducts a search of the neighborhood. However, after arriving at the hospital, Scully realizes that Betts has stowed himself away on the roof of the ambulance. Betts locks her inside the ambulance with him, calmly but apologetically telling her that she has "something [he] need[s]." This leads Scully to realize that she herself has cancer. After a struggle, Scully kills Betts by pressing charged defibrillator paddles against his head. Scully remains silently stunned by the revelation of her illness. Later, in her apartment, she wakes up with a nosebleed, confirming her disease.


John Gillnitz

Background Information[]


Canadian band Caniform recorded a song called "The Ballad of Leonard Betts" sometime around 2009.

This episode had the highest rating in the show's nine-year run.

This episode aired after SUPER BOWL XXXI.

The name 'John Gillnitz' appears here again, as the name of the man in the bar. It is a combination of the names of the writers John Shiban, Vince Gilligan & Frank Spotnitz.

For the first time in the series, it's prominently indicated that Scully might have cancer: Leonard Betts attacking her "in hunger" and saying "I'm sorry, but you've got something I need", as well as her nose bleeding at the end of the episode. The very first indication, however, arises in the episode 4x04 "Unruhe", when Schnauz says he can see Scully's unrest, and points to the bridge of her nose.

In the teaser Michelle seems genuinely surprised about Betts' diagnosis of the patient but in her talk with Mulder later, she makes it sound like it happened all the time.

The dark liquid Betts submerges himself in while regenerating his head is identified by Mulder as providone iodine, which, he tells Scully, is used by researchers to promote limb regrowth in amphibians. It is widely sold and used in hospitals as a topical disinfectant under the brand name Betadine. Although considered harmless to human skin, it was cited in a 1975 article in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences as being capable of altering DNA in living cells and having mutagenic effects which could lead to cancer, which makes it ideal for Betts' purposes.

Betts is assigned to ambulance #208, and Scully wakes at 2:08am with a nosebleed; both possibly a reference to episode 2x08 'One Breath', where Scully is returned after her abduction.

"Will the real Leonard Betts please stand up?" This is a line from a game show called To Tell The Truth, in which a biographical sketch was given for a contestant, who was presented along with two impostors. The trio was questioned by a panel of celebrities, who then tried to pick the real person. The denouement came when the host (Garry Moore in the original run of the show) said, "Will the real John or Jane Doe please stand up?" The first version ran from 1956 to 1968, and it was revived for runs from 1969 to 1978 (again hosted by Moore), 1980-1981 (hosted by Robin Ward), 1990-1991 (hosted by Alex Trebeck) and in 2000-2002 (hosted by John O'Hurley ).


If Leonard is able to regenerate entire parts of his body, whole fibers, and bone structures from scratch, why then, didn't he regenerate his hair?

Scully shocks Betts with the defibrillator while Betts is still on top of her. This action could have resulted in her getting shocked as well. And *if* she was shocked, the electrical impulse could have jolted her own heart out of rhythm, thereby stopping her heart or causing it to fibrillate.

When Scully finds out about Betts' mother she says that "she lives right here in Pittsburgh". Nothing wrong there except that at the time they had just left Chuck Burks' lab - which is in Maryland.

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