Nora Pearce and Curtis Delario argue about the death of her husband and she says whoever is to blame will pay. Curtis says there is no one to blame while Nora believes Ray Pearce died from Gulf War syndrome. Delario starts to drive home and crashes into a man in the middle of the road. His car is totaled, while the man is unharmed as the car breaks around his body. Curtis, grievously injured, looks up at the man and says, “Ray?” The man’s arm slams through the windshield as Curtis screams.
Agents Scully and Doggett are investigating the crash and find shoe prints in the asphalt. Scully suggests a man stopped the car but Doggett points out how it would have required a dense block of steel to stop the car. Nora Pearce appears and asks what happened to Curtis Delario. Soon afterwards, Scully finds Delario’s body left in a garbage can nearby.
Autopsying the remains, Scully concludes that the crash didn’t kill the man but rather it was the wounds on his face. Scully confirms that the five holes in the man’s face were made by human fingers as someone reached into Delario’s head as if it were a bowling ball and pulled him out of the wrecked vehicle. Doggett finds a fresh fingerprint with fresh blood of Ray
Pearce, the dead husband of Nora.
Agent Doggett goes to see Nora Pearce and finds Harry Odell, who employed Ray Pearce at the salvage yard. Doggett asks about Ray, whose remains never showed up at the crematorium, but Nora insists she saw Ray die. Both don’t believe Ray could be involved in Curtis’s death.
Ray Pearce eats at a halfway house as volunteer Larina Jackson bothers him. She tries to reach out to help him but he is completely uninterested in talking with her.
At Southside Salvage, Harry Odell is shredding documents when Ray appears. Harry feigns friendliness while he gets the shotgun out of his desk drawer. He blasts Ray through a sliding glass door. Ray’s detached arm begins to rebuild with metal. Harry is transfixed by this sight as Ray walks back up and kills him.
The next morning, Doggett checks out the new murder scene and finds an interesting shredded document. Larina attempts to connect with Ray again and finds the bloody clothes. She tells him she can get a doctor but he tells her to get out.
Doggett goes to Chamber Technologies and learns about “smart metals,” metals that rebuild their original forms but are still a metallurgist’s pipe dream at the moment. When asked about Dr. Clifton, his replacement, Dr. Pugovel, says Clifton left the company and the company would not deal with a city salvage yard. On the phone, Doggett mentions the “smart metals” and Scully tells Doggett about how Ray Pearce’s medical records show his whole cellular structure was changing due to exposure to an unknown substance.
Larina sees Ray’s obituary in the paper and is watching the television news story about the murder at the salvage yard. She decides to call Ray’s widow.
Doggett and Scully discuss Ray Pearce with Doggett telling of Ray Pearce being a man who had problems and managed to put his life back together. He wasn’t the sort of man to become a killer. Scully merely points out that if Pearce has become this “metal man,” then how can he be stopped?
Pearce, now wearing a hooded sweatshirt to conceal how metallic he is, arrives at
Chamber Technologies. Dr. Pugovel lures him into a containment chamber and then Doggett, Scully, and SWAT team members surround it. He beats on the door for a while but then it stops. They open the chamber to find that Ray Pearce tore his way out of the back of the chamber and outside. Nora waits for Ray in the halfway house. Ray explains that he didn’t come home because he isn’t himself anymore. She thinks it’s a miracle that he’s alive but when she touches him she cuts her hand up. Ray turns angrily to her. “They have to pay for this. They all have to pay.”
Doggett, searching in the salvage yard, finds a blue drum (like the Chamber Technologies drums) and scratches away the blue spray paint on it. Dumping out a blue drum with a lid with human handprint indents, he finds a metal corpse. When Scully and Doggett confront Pugovel about it, he admits it is Clifton and that Clifton asked to be put in the barrel. He didn’t want it to ruin the company or slow the research. Pugovel says the drum with Clifton was supposed to go to a designated site not the salvage yard. Doggett notices Nora Pearce there at Chamber Technologies and
follows her. She was looking through the files there. The halfway house is raided by the FBI to find Pearce. Larina finds Ray and he puts one hand over her mouth to muffle her cries and another hand around her throat. Since his hands are mostly jagged metal, this kills her by accident.
Scully and Doggett tell Nora there is no one to blame for it. She tells them that she didn’t get to tell him the name from the files. When she is sent home, Ray shows up demanding the name and twisting her arm despite her being the wife he loved. She tells them the name of the guy he is going after, Owen Harris.
Ray Pearce attacks Harris and his family in their car but Harris has no idea what Ray is talking about with the salvage yard. The young son in back calls out to his father. “Daddy!” Ray turns and looks at the boy.
When Scully and Doggett arrive, the family is fine and sitting by an ambulance. Owen Harris was an accountant who accidentally sent the barrel to the salvage yard. Ray spared him and went off to die somewhere. Scully believes that the last shreds of Ray’s humanity are what drove him to kill in his machine like state but also what drove him to spare the man’s life. A machine knows neither blame nor mercy.
- A newspaper mentions George W. Bush succeeding Bill Clinton as American President, probably placing this episode in December 2000 or January 2001.
- In this episode, John Doggett, played by Robert Patrick, tells Scully that humans only become metal men in "the movies", to which she replies "Does it, Agent Doggett?" This is a reference to Patrick's previous role as the metallic T-1000 in the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The T-1000 is a shape-shifting android that assumes a human appearance throughout much of the film. This might also double as an obscure reference to the 1989 Japanese cyberpunk cult film "Tetsuo: the iron man", in which a metal loving man is killed by a car, then returns from beyond the grave, as a living metal/human hybrid to get revenge on his killer.
- The soundtrack features a theme from the first movement of Grieg's piano concerto.
Cast and Characters
- Wade Andrew Williams as Raymond Aloysius Pearce
- Jennifer Parsons as Nora Pearce
- Arye Gross as Dr. Pugovel
- Tamara Clatterbuck as Larina Jackson
- Dan Desmond as Harry Odell
- Scott MacDonald as Curtis Delario
- Randy Walker as SWAT Officer
- Kenneth Meseroll as Owen Harris
- Colleen Quinn as Mrs. Harris
- Reece Morgan as Owen Harris' Son
- Jack Forbes as Raymond Pearce's Double