Robert Patrick Modell, also known as "Pusher" was a rather ordinary man who, through an accident of nature, developed mind-control abilities, that allowed him to work as a contract killer. His title, "Pusher", comes from the fact that he was able to "push" his will onto others', taking control of their actions.
Dana Scully summarized Modell as a "little man who wishes he were someone big."
In reviewing Modell's life history, the prevailing adjective used by FBI Agent Fox Mulder was "average." After graduating from a minor community college, he joined the U.S. military, applying first to become a Navy SEAL, or, failing that, an Army Green Beret. Though he tested reasonably intelligent, he was quickly washed out of both programs and ended up a supply clerk at Fort Bragg.
After a general discharge, Modell later applied to the FBI, but was flunked on the basis of psychological screenings, which classified him as "acutely ego-centered," having no regard whatsoever for other people's feelings or welfare, and also extremely paranoid towards government institutions and authority in general. Another disqualifying factor was his need to invent grandiose details about himself that were quickly exposed as lies (for instance, he claimed to have been combat-trained by ninjas in Japan and Gurkha commandos in Nepal, when in fact he had never traveled outside the United States).
Before he came to the attention of Mulder and Scully, his last recorded employment was as a clerk in a convenience store.
His life changed when he developed a brain tumor that endowed him with telepathic abilities. He found that he was able to influence other people's minds, usually through the use of his voice. Using this power consumed a great deal of his metabolic energy, and he had to compensate by consuming high volumes of energy bars and protein shakes. He also had to take medication for epilepsy, which he developed as another side effect of the tumor.
Modell began working as a freelance hit man, advertising himself in various martial arts magazines under the pseudonym "Osu" (the Japanese word for "push"). He carried out fourteen assassinations, all of which were ruled suicides, because he was able to convince the victim to kill him or herself.
Although his tumor was operable, Modell was so enamored of his new power that he refused medical treatment, even as his health deteriorated. When he was only a short length away from death, he decided to go out "in a blaze of glory," and called the FBI to confess to his murders, setting off a manhunt that eventually caught him.
In keeping with his self-aggrandizing fantasies, Modell liked to read Japanese philosophy, especially "warrior codes" like bushido, and started to imagine himself as fearless and invincible. Also in keeping with this view, he sought out a "worthy adversary" to fight, and fixed on Mulder.
After leading Mulder and Scully on a cat-and-mouse chase, during which he killed or maimed several other FBI agents with his abilities, he lured Mulder into an evacuated hospital, where he used his abilities to force Mulder to play "Russian Roulette." After firing empty chambers at Modell and himself, Mulder was forced to turn the gun on Scully. But he was able to resist the mind control long enough for Scully to activate the fire alarm, breaking Modell's concentration and hence his control over Mulder, and then Mulder turned the gun on Modell and shot him in the chest. Modell was hospitalized, in a coma from which he was not expected to awaken before he succumbed to the effects of the tumor.
Later History and Death
However, he did regain consciousness, and was incarcerated in a seemingly vegetative state, having never regained normal brain function. About two years after his encounter with Mulder and Scully, he secretly regained both his cognitive function and his unique abilities, and escaped from prison.
Mulder and Scully were tasked to hunt him down, but eventually realized that Modell was actually trying to stop his fraternal twin sister, Linda Bowman, from killing everyone associated with his conviction, including the two FBI Agents. As his sister, Bowman developed a brain tumor, and the same persuasive abilities, as Modell, and was secretly motivated to take revenge on her brother's behalf.
In the mistaken belief that Bowman was a target for Modell, she was placed in protective custody and Modell was shot by FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner as he was trying to confront her. While Modell was in the hospital, Bowman visited him, alone, and performed a mercy-killing by using her power to persuade her brother to stop his heart.
Bowman was later apprehended by Mulder and Scully.
Powers & Abilities
- Telepathy - As a result of his brain tumor, Modell was capable of mentally dominating people just by speaking to them (i.e. saying "Go home," would make the listener actually go home.)
- Persuasion - Modell's most displayed power was his ability to enthrall his victims into performing whatever actions he desired by telling them what to do. This power was used to make a police officer set himself on fire with gasoline while fully aware and force Mulder into a game of Russian Roulette.
- Personal Actualization - An extension of his persuasion ability was that Modell could influence a person's body into believing it whatever effect Modell described was real (e.g. when he spoke with Agent Frank Burst over the phone, describing clogged arteries and grease then vocalizing a heart complication gave Burst a fatal heart attack).
- Illusions - Using his telepathy, he could cause a person to perceive objects as something completely different an example would be when he had a store clerk believe he was holding a snake when he was really holding a baseball bat and made a police officer believe another officer to be Modell himself (Kitsunegari).
- Writing "Pass" on a brown sheet of paper and stuffing it into a coat pocket gave Modell clearance from an FBI Security Guard as he thought it was genuine.
- He could make people unable to perceive certain objects like he did in his first appearance, making an truck disappear from a police officer's vision (Pusher); in addition, he created the illusion of holding a pistol by saying "I have a gun."
- Noise - Since Modell's Telepathy is based on his target(s) hearing, if his voice is blocked out by a loud enough noise he is powerless.
- It is noted that when Scully pulled the fire alarm while Mulder was under Modell's control, Mulder was able to regain control of himself the moment the alarm started.
- Metabolism - Using his powers takes a lot of energy for Modell, so he was forced to eat energy bars and drink coffee in order to continuously use his powers.
- Brain Tumor - The source of his powers is his brain tumor which is fatal and is slowly killing him.
Background Information and Notes
- Modell was played by Robert Wisden in both episodes.