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"Pilot" is the pilot episode of the The Lone Gunmen. It premiered on the Fox network on March 4, 2001. The episode was written by Chris Carter, Vince Gilligan, John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz - the creators of the show, and was directed by .


While he and the other Lone Gunmen attempt to steal a computer chip, Byers receives news of his father's death and the trio soon find themselves unraveling a government conspiracy in which an attempt to fly a commercial aircraft into the World Trade Center would result in increased arms sales for the United States of America.




A bearded hijacker arrives as Frohike dangles helplessly in midair.

At night, The Lone Gunmen attempt to steal an Octium IV chip during a conference at the headquarters of E-Com-Con Computer Corp. in Vienna, Virginia. While Langly causes a distraction by posing as a heckling attendee who supposedly passes out, Byers lowers Frohike into a highly secured room that contains the chip. However, the software that controls Frohike's winch is hijacked by an observing bearded man and the building's security guards discover that Langly is wearing a listening device. As Frohike dangles helplessly in midair, the bearded man enters (setting off an alarm), kisses Frohike (who immediately recognizes the intruder) and removes the Octium IV chip from the room. The security team takes the Gunmen into custody and, finding the chip gone, one of the guards orders a full body cavity search of Frohike. Meanwhile, the actual robber exits the men's restroom, having removed the disguise – the "bearded man" is actually a woman, who watches as the Gunmen are forcibly led away.

Act One[]


The Lone Gunmen return to their offices in Takoma Park, Maryland, having been thoroughly searched. They are disappointed by the failure of their recent operation. Byers is not only frustrated that they have failed to obtain the proof they were seeking but he also bemoans the lack of influence that group's newspaper has had, ever since they started publishing it. Frohike confirms for the others that the actual robber was Yves Adele Harlow, of whom Langly has heard rumor. The men find a small listening device that they believe Harlow used to learn of their plans to steal the chip and an angered Langly throws the device into a mug of coffee. Moments later, Byers answers a telephone call in which he confirms for the caller that he is indeed the son of a particular male who he does not name.

Byers launches a rocket in remembrance of his father.

The Gunmen attend the funeral of Byers' father, Bertram Roosevelt Byers, an aerospace engineer. Frohike is impressed by the amount of military brass in attendance and, following a eulogy by Ray Helm, Byers launches a rocket in memory of his father.

While later walking through the graveyard, Frohike tells Langly about how Byers lost contact with his father in 1989, when the Lone Gunmen started publishing their newspaper, because Byers' father disapproved of the other Gunmen. Langly thinks he sees Yves Adele Harlow from a distance but finds that this bearded man is exactly that. When Byers joins Frohike and Langly, Frohike compliments the funeral service but Langly is initially eager to plant listening devices on the attendees, until he realizes that doing so might not be appropriate on such an occasion. Byers wishes to leave but Ray Helm approaches and, introducing himself as a coworker of Byers' father, Helm reveals a desire to talk with Byers about his father's death, implying that there is more to the incident than what has been reported.


Under a bridge, the Lone Gunmen learn more about the supposed murder of Byers' father.

Ray Helm later shows the Lone Gunmen to the area where Byers' father crashed – beneath one end of a bridge in Reston, Virginia. According to Helm, the police have ruled that the crash was caused by the driver falling asleep at the wheel, based on the lack of skid-marks in the area. After Langly realizes that Helm's theory differs, Byers initially thinks that Helm is suggesting his father committed suicide until Helm clarifies that he believes Bertram Byers was murdered.

In the past, Bertram Byers realizes that a car has been following his vehicle and is shot by the driver of the other car, causing his vehicle to crash and then explode in a ball of flames.

Ray Helm admits to having no proof to backup his claims, but states that that outcome would be desired in the case of a government sanctioned murder. In response to Byers' puzzlement over why his father specifically was targeted, Ray Helm states that the government may have had a problem with Bertram Byers being such a conscionable man and recalls that Bertram had been upset about something unspecified when he had last talked to Helm. Frohike and Langly find fault with Helm's story, due to the fact that he is a government employee himself, but Helm claims he believed that, if Byers was anything like his father, he would want to know the truth.


At night, the Lone Gunmen's van arrives outside the former residence of Bertram Byers. Inside the property, Frohike asks Byers if he is sure that he wants to search the place and Langly reminds him that Ray Helm said there would be no evidence anyway. Gazing at a photograph of his father, Byers expresses his intention to search his father's computer for any clue as to why he may have been murdered. The others start to follow Byers to the computer but Frohike slips on a wet section of carpet and, looking up at his accomplices from the floor, he suggests that the wetness may be because the carpet has been cleaned. Byers instructs Frohike to investigate the damp patch, as he and Langly continue over to the computer. They find that all information has been deleted from the computer, including a text file that seems to be a Department of Defense document and refers to Scenario 12-D. Meanwhile, Frohike – dressed in white coveralls while using an ultraviolet light wand in the dark – discovers that the wet patch is, in fact, blood that he subsequently shows the other Lone Gunmen. Byers concludes that, in contradiction with popular belief, his father was dead long before the car crash and was murdered at home.

Act Two[]


A Yard Worker leads Byers and Frohike through the ABC Salvage yard, while Byers explains to a slightly confused Frohike that there must be evidence, in the wreckage of the crashed car, that was not destroyed in the vehicle's explosion. The Yard Worker questions the fact that Byers has given his name as Bertram Byers, however, as records show that Bertram Byers was born in 1934. As a way of explanation, Frohike utters the word "viagra" to the Yard Worker. The worker then indicates in the general direction of Bertram Byers' car.

Frohike falls in mud.

Under the mistaken impression that the Yard Worker has indicated to a car that is about to be crushed, Frohike and Byers desperately rush to save the vehicle but Frohike falls face-first in mud on the ground and the car is crushed regardless of their efforts. The Yard Worker shows the two visitors to Bertram Byers' actual car, which has already been crushed.

Backed by Kimmy Belmont, Langly confronts Yves Adele Harlow.

At a high-tech shooting range, Langly tracks down Kimmy Belmont, a fellow hacker who Langly asks for help with circumventing the Defense Department's online security codes. Kimmy is reluctant to help, however, busy with the shooting simulation and suspecting that Langly is investigating yet another conspiracy theory such as those regarding the Kennedy assassination. Kimmy lengthily advises Langly that, as such a skilled hacker, he should be enjoying success but their discussion is interrupted by noisy rapid gunfire from another user of the simulation, a silhouetted long-haired woman who is using two guns simultaneously. An initially impressed Langly learns from Kimmy that the woman is none other than Yves Adele Harlow, so Langly confronts her. She mockingly insults Langly and his group but Kimmy persuades Langly to leave her to the simulation, while they exit to do some hacking.

Byers and Frohike talk, while the latter Lone Gunman rummages through a wreckage.

In a dimly lit workshop, Frohike is working on the wrecked car and voices his frustration, to an observing Byers, regarding the search of the wreckage. Frohike speculates that Byers may find that his father wasn't as respectful as he hopes. Byers recalls how his father used to tell him stories, when he was a child, that made him believe in the promise of his country. He also remembers that his intentions to expose those who would destroy the American dream influenced him to team up with the other Lone Gunmen but Frohike jokes that he believed Byers joined up for "the chick throw-off". Frohike sums up his advice by telling Byers not to set himself up for disappointment and to instead make peace with his father some other way. Moments later, Frohike comes across a vital piece of evidence – a circuit board that he removes from the wreckage.

In the Lone Gunmen offices, Langly and Kimmy successfully access the Defense Department's mainframe shortly before Frohike and Byers arrive. Kimmy claims that he only agreed to partake in the hacking to save Langly from Yves Adele Harlow and Langly recounts more of this incident to the new arrivals, who show Langly the circuit board. According to Frohike, the technology could be used to remotely control the speed of a car.

As the Gunmen cluster around Kimmy, a tense hacking situation develops.

Self-congratulatory whoops from Kimmy draw the others over to the computer he is using, where he explains that he has managed to access a government think-tank's upload directory. The directory seems to indicate that Byers' father was murdered due to a war game and the group learns that Scenario 12-D concerns airline terrorism. Byers insists that Kimmy downloads a file about Scenario 12-D, but the hackers' intrusion is remotely detected by two men in a small room. Even though Kimmy continues downloading the document while he and Langly express their anxieties over being tracked down, Frohike eventually pulls the plug before the intruders' address could be determined. One of the two men tracking the intruders is actually Ray Helm, who says that he knows who the hackers were, anyway.

Act Three[]

5:48 A.M.

In the Lone Gunmen offices, Langly suggests to Frohike that they resign for the night but Frohike remarks that it is already morning. A depressed Byers considers the blood that the trio found in his father's residence, eventually coming to the realization that the blood may not have been his father's.

Ray Helm chats with the Lone Gunmen, learning of their findings.

Later, the Gunmen exit their van, at the same site where Ray Helm suggested that Bertram Byers may have been murdered. As the threesome examine a set of vehicle tracks on the ground, Ray Helm arrives alone in a car. Frohike hands over the computer chip that he uncovered earlier and Byers explains that the group now believes his father is not actually dead, also beginning to recount that the blood found in his father's living room had actually been from his father's potential killer.

As Byers and Frohike continue to explain that the bloodied carpet had been freshly shampooed to erase the blood evidence, a male assassin creeps up behind Bert Byers in his house, while he is watching television, but suddenly trips, falls and shoots himself.

Ray Helm remarks, with sarcasm and seeming skepticism, at the unprofessional quality of an assassin who shot himself, but Langly reminds Helm that the killer had been a government contractor.

While Byers assumes aloud that his father would have subsequently realized he was in danger and had probably wanted to initially flee from the danger, Bert Byers goes to his car. He finds the remote control that the assassin had attached to his car; meanwhile, Byers narrates this discovery, adding that someone had been going to great lengths to fake his father's death in a car accident and murder his father without arousing suspicion. While Byers says that his father – in the knowledge that his potential killers would only stop if he himself was dead – had come up with a plan to make it seem as if he was, Bert Byers straps the dead assassin inside his own car and, using the remote control, he drives the vehicle into the bridge support at great speed, causing a fiery collision.

Byers tells Ray Helm that the attempt on his father's life was part of an effort to hide Scenario 12-D. The other two Gunmen, despite Helm's eagerness to find Bert Byers, are more interested in learning what Scenario 12-D is. Frohike and Langly ask for Ray Helm's help and, specifically, his password, which Helm admits is "Overlord". Although Byers is pleased that Helm seems willing to assist, Byers is still clearly depressed as he walks away from the others. His cheerlessness confuses Langly but Frohike explains that Byers is troubled because he may never see his father again.

Bert Byers reveals his existence to his son.

Later, Byers enters his father's living room, where he discovers a stack of Lone Gunman newspapers. After noticing that his father has come into the room, Byers is at first very pleased to be reunited with his father. However, Bertram Byers slaps his son, angered that his son has derailed his attempt to fake his own death. Byers asks about Scenario 12-D and his father reluctantly reveals that the same men who developed it now intend to act out the scenario, planning to commit a terrorist act against a domestic airline. Bert Byers is frustrated that, as usual, his son assumes the entire government are involved; he clarifies that the terrorists are only a small faction of the government. Bertram Byers goes on to outline an elaborate plan, saying that the crash of a fully loaded 727 in the middle of New York City will influence many dictators around the world to contend that they were responsible for the crash, thereby introducing some enemies for the US to stockpile against and increasing the country's arms sales. Byers is shocked to hear of this scheme and learns from his father that the crash is scheduled for later that night. When Byers suggests that his group's newspaper would have exposed the plot if his father had come to him about it earlier, his father ridicules the notion and insults the publication. Bert Byers further admits that he doesn't know all the specifics of the scheme but thinks he knows the targeted flight and, referring to the faction as "Overlord", he irritably tells his son to remain uninvolved in preventing the plot.

At the Lone Gunmen offices, Frohike is writing out a list of anagrams of Lee Harvey Oswald and Langly is at the office's computer with Ray Helm when Byers arrives. He recounts his encounter with his father. As Ray Helm begins to rush away to Bert Byers' home, Byers advises Helm to be cautious, claiming that Bert Byers suspects Helm of involvement in the attempt on his life. Following Helm's departure, Frohike and Langly realize that Helm may indeed actually be involved and both are puzzled that Byers has seemingly given away his father's location to Helm. Byers hints that, by contacting him, the terrorists planned to put him in danger and hoped that doing so might flush his father out of hiding. Amid his colleagues' confusion, Byers starts to look for equipment that he hopes will help in the search for a bomb aboard the plane that will be downed, but he does not reveal his plan to his fellow publishers, merely instructing Frohike to answer the door to Bert Byers before telling his own father that they have a plane to catch.

Byers talks to his hesitant father.

At an airport terminal, Byers and his father walk across a crowded concourse towards departure gate 34 – from where Flight 265 is due to head to Boston – but his father is reluctant to board the craft, cautious that they may be under observation and intent that they instead report a bomb threat that the FBI can deal with. Byers reminds his father that they cannot trust any government official, since they are unsure of the conspiracy's full extent, and the two men finally board the plane. They are indeed being watched by a man who, via telephone, reports to Ray Helm, who is standing in Bert Byers' residence, that the two men have boarded the plane, news that Ray Helm regards as two problems having been solved.

Act Four[]

Once aboard the plane, neither Byers nor his father are able to locate a bomb, despite their use of hi-tech gadgetry. While conversing with his father, Byers suddenly comes to the conclusion that Overlord instead plan to crash the aircraft using remote control.

Soon thereafter, the other two Gunmen receive a call from Byers in which he notifies them of his conclusion and instructs Langly to do some hacking to determine the plane's course. Langly and Frohike work in tandem to access readouts from the plane, discovering that someone is indeed flying the aircraft from a grounded location.

Ray Helm and his henchman detect the Gunmen's hacking.

Elsewhere, Ray Helm sits with his henchman in their small computer room. They again detect the Gunmen's hacking but Helm orders his henchman to keep the plane on its current course.

Meanwhile, Langly and Frohike continue their call to Byers, reporting that the aircraft is on a collision course with the World Trade Center and is due to come to its abrupt end in twenty-two minutes. Byers relays this news to his father, who hurries away to inform the plane's flight crew, while Langly begins an attempt to disrupt the flight control system.

When Bert Byers goes to warn the flight crew that the craft has been commandeered, the crew members are at first bewildered by his intrusion into the cockpit and are then intent on following the protocol of confirming his cautioning. However, Bert Byers reaches forward for the controls himself and proves, by deactivating the aircraft's autopilot, that the plane has truly been possessed.

A frustrated Langly finds that disrupting the flight control system will take days and tells his two publishing partners of the problem, but Frohike implies that he has another plan and heads away.

At the shooting range, Yves Adele Harlow is finishing a round when Frohike approaches her. They share menacingly teasing banter but Frohike also appeals to Yves for the chip she stole earlier and threatens that, if she does not hand it over, he will release the secret that her alias is an anagram of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Bert Byers witnesses Flight 265 approach the World Trade Center.

In the cockpit of Flight 265, the plane's captain speaks over the intercom, informing the passengers that the craft is experiencing some trouble for which they should prepare by returning to their seats. Adding to the captain's message, Bert Byers grimly comments on the situation of impending doom.

The plane soars over the World Trade Center.

Langly keeps trying to disrupt the flight control system but his efforts are still in vain and the plane's crash seems certain until, at the very last moment, Langly's attempts are finally successful; he is unknowingly, remotely being helped by Frohike and Yves utilizing the Octium IV chip. With screaming passengers aboard, the plane makes a steep ascent and glides over the rooftops of the World Trade Center, narrowly averting disaster.

A short time later, Byers and his father disembark from the now-landed aircraft, the continuance of its journey to Boston having been canceled. Byers is adamant that they stop Overlord by publicly releasing information about the operation. However, he pauses to look back with curiosity at his father, lagging behind. Bert Byers tells his son that, although they are very alike, the younger Byers has a braveness that the older man does not; this statement is, as the younger Byers recognizes, an implied admittance that his father does not plan to take further action against Overlord, due to the danger that they still pose to his life. Bert Byers also admits that he knows his son is fighting for the American dream but advises John Byers that he shouldn't expect to win. Without another word, Bert Byers leaves his son in the bustling airport terminal.

Later, all three Gunmen surround the computer in their office. They initially plan that their next cover story will be about the averted terrorist plot but Byers disagrees that they should publish the story as they have insufficient proof. Instead, Frohike suggests that they write their forthcoming cover story about the Octium IV chip, revealing that he reseized the chip from Yves Adele Harlow; the other two Gunmen, pleased to be in possession of such incriminating evidence, agree on writing about it.

Background Information[]

Introductory Details[]

  • This is the only episode of the series in which a main cast member, Stephen Snedden, does not appear.
  • Like many pilots, this episode does not have any opening credits. Instead, The Lone Gunmen logo appears briefly on screen, after which all the regular cast are credited in the same manner as guest cast.

Story and Script[]

  • The writers' idea of running an airliner into the World Trade Center came about because they – typically tasked with trying to come up with a terrible, horrible and virtually unimaginable scenario for the series' heroic characters to save the world from – were specifically trying to imagine crimes that were not paranormal but instead involved government-sponsored terrorism. Writer Frank Spotnitz later believed that, if it had ever occurred to him, he had imagined that the government obviously had thought about such catastrophes and put preventive systems in place. He expected that, if he and his fellow Hollywood writers could imagine such a disaster, that outcome must surely have been considered by people in the Defense Department, charged with maintaining the country's defense.

Location Shooting[]

  • The ABC Salvage yard was actually a car reclamation facility, named ABC Recycling. Filming conditions there were filthy, wet and cold. The area had toxic, thick mud that was full of rust, gasoline, metal and multiple random other elements. As the ground was consequently a safety hazard, the production crew scraped out a square area that was approximately six feet by eight feet square and about nine inches deep. The crew completely cleared the area off and put a base in it, so that it couldn't be polluted by the surrounding dirt. They then filled it with a mixture of peat-moss and a special clay, to safely resemble mud.


  • In common with many pilot episodes, there was not much prep time to find the right visual look for this episode. However, prior experience helped; Director was a veteran of working on episodes of The X-Files, also having directed The X-Files Movie, while Cinematographer Robert McLachlan had experience on Millennium, as had the majority of his crew and the episode's production designer. Similarly, members of this episode's crew who had previously worked with the three actors of the Lone Gunmen on The X-Files (such as Rob Bowman) not only had a familiarity with the episode's tone but also were already aware that there would be much rehearsal time for this episode.
  • Rob Bowman was pleased to be asked to direct this installment. "That came at a period when I wanted to work and do something I thought I could do well," he remembered. "Frank Spotnitz, John Shiban, Vince Gilligan and Chris [Carter] asked me if I would do it and I said, 'Of course, thank you for asking' [....] I [...] wanted to try to give their show a proper send-off. I said, 'If it's not going to be me it's going to be somebody else, so it may as well be me.'" (The X-Files Magazine Yearbook 2002, p. 52)
  • Though Rob Bowman usually doesn't particularly like having writers on a set during production, John Shiban witnessed, with Bowman's approval, much of the filming of this episode. "That was really Frank, John and Vince's baby," recalled Bowman, regarding the installment, "so I had John on the set every day because I wanted to make sure they got exactly what they wanted. It wasn't so much me, maverick director, off on the set making my own show. I was very inclusive [....] I wanted to make sure that every little nuance those guys were thinking of was there when I shot it [....] I said, 'John, come on up.' He wanted to learn to direct anyway. So I was glad to have him there and to show him and tell him anything I could think of." Although there was usually a lot of communication between Bowman and Chris Carter during Bowman's tenure on The X-Files, the same was not true for the making of this episode. "He was sort of in the backseat on The Lone Gunmen pilot," Bowman noted about Carter. (The X-Files Magazine Yearbook 2002, p. 52)
  • Rob Bowman found that, if he instructed the Lone Gunmen performers to play the entire episode as seriously as they could, the scenes would naturally become funnier.
  • The first shot of this episode, an extremely long shot that pans from the car park of E-Com-Con headquarters to the building's roof, was operated by Rob Bowman and was filmed as the last shot of its particular night; the shot was even unusually big for Bowman, despite the fact that he also has directed big-budget films. A red light under a vent that the Lone Gunmen access on the roof – at the end of the shot – represented an issue for the production crew, as they were not entirely sure whether to add the light or not. They ultimately decided the illumination should be present in the scene, due to the darkness of the location.
  • Frohike actor Tom Braidwood first met Yves actress Zuleikha Robinson on a day when they were filming the scene in which Frohike is hanging upside down and Yves, dressed as a bearded man, kisses him. Robinson was extremely bashful about this scene and Braidwood was aware she felt very badly that, even though they didn't know one another, she had to kiss him while he was hanging upside down.
  • Zuleikha Robinson thought her character's bearded disguise was extraordinarily ugly, despite thinking that she didn't look so bad with only a short wig on. Playfully experimenting, she went outside while wearing the disguise and asked several women if they would go out with her but they simply stood and stared at her, because the male appearance looked so weird.
  • Rob Bowman very much wanted Tom Braidwood to personally perform the scene in which Frohike falls in the mud, even though the production crew had a stunt double for the scene, if so required. Braidwood agreed to do it but on the condition that he would perform the scene only once, even if it didn't work on the first take. He figured out the timing of the face-plant in the mud before performing the fall. Impressed with the stunt, Bowman found the scene hilarious and even had to cover his mouth, laughing at the monitor. Braidwood found the scene to have been "fun."


  • Visual Effects Supervisor Mat Beck found that the shots of Frohike dangling were fun, due to their extremely comic nature, but also featured both a simple and a difficult effect to create. Rob Bowman was aware that the wire-work involved in the scene would require a certain amount of skill on Tom Braidwood's part. Even though a stunt double was also used, Braidwood had to very frequently be hanging in the kind of harness that makes its user's mid-area really sore. The actor also felt sick from the experience and, judging merely by the look on his face, the production crew were very careful not to stand under him, after two or three takes had been filmed. As Rob Bowman was aware that the wire-work required particular skill on the actor's part, Bowman was very impressed that Braidwood seemed to naturally dive into the role of staying in character, surviving a day in the harness despite the pain, and performing acrobatics that looked fun and entertaining.
  • The airliner in this episode was actually a CGI plane. As shots of the plane approaching the World Trade Center required background plates of the real buildings, members of the production crew, including Mat Beck and Co-Executive Producer John Peter Kousakis, traveled to New York City and flew around the World Trade Center, filming numerous passes of it as they flew over it and quite close to it. In ironic contrast to the September 11 attacks that took place months later, the crew experienced great difficulty in mounting this visit and acquiring authorization for it; they got special permits, such as to go into New York City and to have a helicopter shoot at night, heading towards the towers.

Reception and Aftermath[]

  • This episode became a haunting precursor to the real-life September 11 attacks, as both the episode and the attacks involved a plan to hijack a commercial plane and fly it into Manhattan's World Trade Center. Also, the flight in this episode is from Washington, D.C. to Boston, both airports from which planes in the real attacks departed. When Frank Spotnitz awoke on the morning of September 11 and saw footage of the attacks on television, his first thought was that he hoped The Lone Gunmen's production crew had not been guilty of unknowingly inspiring the attacks with this episode. Being aware of that possibility was a terrible feeling for Spotnitz but he learned, within a matter of hours, that his concerns were unfounded. He nevertheless found it too difficult to bring himself to rewatch the episode until he had to do so, in order to prepare for an interview that was ultimately included in The Lone Gunmen DVD.

Cultural References[]

  • The teaser of this episode includes visual references to the 1996 film Mission: Impossible, wherein the character of Ethan Hunt, like Frohike, infiltrates a high-security white room by hanging from the ceiling. This scene likely harkens back to a realization that the creators of The Lone Gunmen series had, early in their conception of the series – specifically, that it could essentially be "Mission: Impossible with three geeks."
  • At one point, Langly holds up an issue with the front page headline "Teletubbies = Mind Control".
  • In another scene, Frohike uses the phrase "truth, justice, and the American way," which is actually a quote from Superman.


  • When Bertram Byers first discovers the remote control, he is able to make the car move both forwards and backwards, without changing the gears to and from reverse.


  • In this episode, it is said that Bert and John Byers became estranged after Bert's disapproval of John's decision to team up with Langly and Frohike. The formation of John Byers' union with the other two Lone Gunmen forms part of the plot of The X-Files episode "Unusual Suspects".

Cast and Characters[]



Guest Starring