7×18 Brand X

Smoke emanates from the chimney at the Scobie house in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Skinner runs the team of FBI agents keeping protective custody of Dr. Jim Scobie, who will testify before a grand jury against his former employer, Morley Tobacco, the next morning. Although no one knows the specifics of his research or what he will say in court, the doctor has received death threats. Dr. Scobie lets out a ragged cough into his fist and takes a sip of water. He doesn’t notice the small amount of blood and the lone beetle squirming inside the glass he drank from. Later that night, Joan Scobie awakens to find that her husband is not in bed. She knocks on the locked bathroom door, calling out to Skinner for help. Skinner breaks down the door to reveal Dr. Scobie’s body on the floor. The flesh from the man’s nose to his throat has been stripped away.

The following morning, Mulder and Scully arrive at the Scobie residence to examine the crime scene. There is no signs of a break-in and no fingerprints. Scully infers that acid may have caused the damage to Scobie’s face, but Mulder is not convinced, asserting that the man’s screams would have alerted the many agents surrounding the house. Skinner has been ordered to quickly solve the case, and asks Scully to perform the autopsy. Mulder notes the lack of ashtrays in the house of a tobacco company executive, finding it odd that Scobie did not smoke. He requests to accompany Skinner in questioning Dr. Peter Voss, Scobie’s supervisor at Morley. On the way out, Mulder notices the beetle in Scobie’s water glass.

Skinner and Mulder are met with a cold reception as they flash their FBI badges at Morley Tobacco headquarters. Daniel Brimley, head of corporate security, amiably escorts them to Dr. Voss. The team of lawyers flanking Voss prohibits him from answering any of Skinner’s questions. Mulder produces a baggie with the beetle and asks Voss if he can identify it. Voss replies that it is a tobacco beetle, common to the area surrounding Morley. Visibly shaken, Voss returns home and is met by Daryl Weaver, a man with a sickly complexion, yellow teeth and nicotine-stained fingertips. Weaver demands that Voss continue Scobie’s arrangement in supplying cigarettes, figuring that his silence is in demand. Unnerved, Voss hands him unmarked packages of cigarettes and a wad of cash, and begs the man to leave.

Concluding her autopsy, Scully explains to Mulder and Skinner that Dr. Scobie choked to death. Mulder asks about any traces of beetles, but Scully has found none. Meanwhile, in a skid row hotel, Weaver puffs away as his neighbor, Thomas Gastall, complains through the air vent about the smoke that has reached the next room. The man coughs violently into his hand, but Weaver ignores his pleas. Suddenly quiet, Gastall sees that his fingers are flecked with blood and he falls to the floor. Several tobacco beetles scamper across the floor near his face, which is eaten away like Dr. Scobie’s.

The agents observe that Gastall died in the same manner as Scobie, but Skinner and Scully can not conceive of a motive for the transient’s death. Finding more beetles, Mulder is convinced that no murders were actually committed. Scully surmises that there may be some sort of insect-borne contagion, and Mulder goes door-to-door to investigate. He finds Weaver, who tells him that Gastall was annoyed at his smoking. As Weaver speaks, he lights up a cigarette and blows smoke on Mulder. Having found nothing, Mulder decides to pay another visit to Dr. Voss. Although he is sorry that another victim has surfaced, Voss is still uncooperative and heads into his house to a ringing phone. It is Brimley, who has been watching Voss from outside the house, wanting to know what Mulder talked about. Voss is shaken and begs to go forward with what he knows. Brimley tells him to sit tight, and he asks where Weaver is. Voss replies that he does not know. Later, he goes to the skid row motel to pay off Weaver to leave town. Knowing that Morley Tobacco won’t kill him, Weaver is adamant about staying put and getting more of his special cigarettes. Voss is unaware that he has led Brimley right to Weaver.

Skinner and Scully consult with an entomologist, who examines the beetles from the dead bodies and explains that the insects are not normal. Scully thinks that perhaps the tobacco plants were genetically altered, which affected the beetles that fed off the plants. Back at the morgue, Scully tells Mulder that the beetles had nested in the dead men’s lungs. As she explains, Mulder begins coughing uncontrollably. He looks into his hands. They are covered in blood. He is brought to surgery, where doctors attempt to suction the beetle larvae from his lungs. Scully informs Skinner that although the procedure is working, it will only buy time until more beetles are gestated. The two surmise that the beetles may have hatched from eggs that were transported through smoke. Outraged, Skinner obtains a search warrant for the Morley facility and demands answers. Out of guilt, Voss finally gives in, telling Skinner that they had tried to engineer a safer tobacco that killed all but one of its test subjects — Darryl Weaver. Skinner breaks into Weaver’s hotel room, but finds only Brimley, bound and gagged. As the knot is loosened, beetles swarm out of Brimley’s mouth and his face is quickly covered with the insects.

After the operation, Scully informs Mulder there is a hunt for Darryl Weaver so that they can learn something from his immunity to the tobacco. Suddenly, Mulder gasps for air and he goes into arrest. The doctor wants to open up Mulder’s chest, but Scully protests, saying that he is too weak for such a surgery. She is frustrated and helpless, but makes the decision to wait for more answers from the investigation.

Skinner, meanwhile, finds Voss held at bay by Weaver, who wants more of his cigarettes. Skinner draws his gun on Weaver and the two are at a standoff. Yet when Weaver attempts to light up a cigarette, Skinner shoots him in the shoulder. They bring him into the hospital for testing, and Scully notices Weaver’s nicotine-stained fingers. She gets an idea, and immediately orders that Mulder be injected with nicotine.

Two weeks later, Scully welcomes the recovering Mulder back to the office. She explains that the high levels of nicotine in Weaver’s blood acted as an insecticide and kept him alive. The same happened to Mulder when he was given high doses of nicotine. Unfortunately, he has become addicted and pulls out a pack of Morley Red cigarettes. Scully is surprised, and insists that he can’t start smoking. He surrenders, and tosses the pack in the trash can. She exits, and Mulder looks longingly at the red and white pack, fighting off the temptation.

Original Air Date: 04/16/00

Written by Steven Maeda & Greg Walker
Directed by Kim Manners

DAVID DUCHOVNY as Special Agent Fox Mulder
GILLIAN ANDERSON as Special Agent Dana Scully

Also Starring:
Mitch Pileggi as A.D. Walter Skinner
Dennis Boutsikaris as Dr. Peter Voss
Richard Cox as Daniel Brimley
Tobin Bell as Darryl Weaver
Mike Hungerford as Thomas Gastall
Shannon O’Hurley as Ann Voss
Arthur Rosenberg as Lead Counsel
Ron Marasco as Doctor
Pat Destro as Joan Scobie
Caryn West as Dr. Libby Nance
Rick Deats as Dr. Jim Scobie
David Sawyer as Security Man
Greg Poland as Second Windbreaker Man
Matthew T. Wilson as Manager