"Roland" is the twenty-third and penultimate episode of the first season of The X-Files. The episode first aired in the United States on May 6, 1994 on the Fox network. It was written by Chris Ruppenthal, directed by David Nutter, and is a "Monster-of-the-week" story, independent of the series' mythology arc.
The agents encounter a mentally handicapped janitor who is the only suspect in the murders of two propulsion research scientists, but the evidence of advanced theoretical work astounds Mulder and Scully as to the killer's real identity.
At the Mahan Washington Institute of Technology, in Colson, Washington, mentally handicapped janitor Roland Fuller is being scolded by research scientist Dr. Keats for forgetting how to use the facility's keycard locks. Keats then walks in on his colleagues, Frank Nollette and Ronald Surnow, as they are engaged in a heated discussion. The latter two men are arguing over their latest project, a prototype jet engine. Nollette wants to push testing of the engine to break mach 15, but Surnow is unwilling to risk damaging the prototype. Keats and Nollette leave, angry, whilst Surnow continues his mathematical work on a whiteboard. He then enters the facility's wind tunnel to make some adjustments. However, Roland is still in the control room and proceeds to close the wind tunnel's door and activate the turbine, which draws Surnow to his death. Roland erases the last line of calculations written on the whiteboard and writes out a new line.
FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are brought in to investigate the death. Scully notes that another member of the research team died several months earlier in a car accident. She believes Surnow's death to be a case of industrial sabotage. Mulder examines the handwriting on the whiteboard and concludes that it has been written by at least four different people, leading him to suspect that a fourth individual was present. Keats and Fuller both inform the agents that Roland Fuller was the only one left in the facility at the time of Surnow's death, but do not believe him to be capable of murder.
Nevertheless, Mulder and Scully visit the care home where Roland lives, finding him applying star-shaped stickers to a sheet of paper with numbers written on it in several arrangements. They gently ask him about the night of the murder, and he tells them he had not seen anything out of the ordinary. He also inadvertently reveals his mathematical prowess by rapidly counting the stars visible on Scully's blouse; however, his handwriting does not match the fourth sample at the facility. The discussion ends when Roland experiences a violent vision and has what seems to be a fit; his caregiver asks the agents to leave while she attends to him. Later that night, Roland has another vision, a first-person perspective of someone killing Dr. Keats.
Back at the facility, Keats is working late. He does not notice Roland entering the room, and is bludgeoned unconscious with a coffee cup before Roland submerges his head in a tank of liquid nitrogen, killing him. Keats' frozen body is dropped, causing his frozen head to shatter. Roland begins typing at one of the computers.
The next day, the agents are investigating the latest murder when they notice that the computer had been used for five hours after Keats' death. Attempting to open the file that was being worked on, Mulder realizes that the number Roland had written on his page the previous day is the computer file's password. The file turns out to be the work of Arthur Grable, the scientist who had died several months earlier, and it had been worked on constantly since his death.
Looking into Grable's death, the agents find that it was him who had hired Roland. They begin to think that Grable faked his own death and is killing his former colleagues, using Roland as a patsy. Grable's body was never brought to the morgue, nor was a funeral ever held. However, Dr. Nollette brings the agents to a cryopreservation facility where Grable's disembodied head is being stored in a cryogenic chamber, proving that Grable is most definitely dead. A photograph of Grable is found, and after some digital facial manipulation, he appears identical to Roland, leading the agents to discover the two were actually twins. Speaking to Roland again, Mulder becomes convinced the janitor is being controlled by the mind of Grable.
Meanwhile, Nollette sneaks into the cryogenic facility and tampers with Grable's storage unit, thawing his remains. He returns to the Mahon Institute, and enters as Roland is in the process of pushing the prototype engine to mach 15. Nollette admits to stealing Grable's work, and is about to shoot Roland, intending to claim self-defense, when Roland strikes him with a computer keyboard and drags him into the wind tunnel and activates the turbine. As Nollette's grasp slips, the agents arrive in time to convince Roland not to kill Nollette. The cryogenic tank's temperature stabilization fails, and Arthur finally dies. Roland is removed from the care home and taken to a psychiatric institute for testing, apparently now free of Grable's control.
- Željko Ivanek as Roland Fuller/Dr. Arthur Grable
- Micole Mercurio as Mrs. Stodie
- Kerry Sandomirsky as Tracy
- Garry Davey as Dr. Keats
- James Sloyan as Dr. Frank Nollette