7×08 The Amazing Maleeni

On the Santa Monica Pier in California, the Amazing Maleeni sits on the bumper of his dilapidated van, dressed in full performance tuxedo in anticipation of his magic act. A young boss tells him he’s ready to go on. “This will be my greatest show ever,” Maleeni says before approaching the stage. He performs a rudimentary sequence of cups and balls while reciting the history of the great magicians. A guy in the audience heckles him to do a more exciting trick. Maleeni makes a retort to the guy, Billy LaBonge, then announces that he will attempt a feat of the Egyptian Dedi by reattaching his severed head. As the crowd silences, Maleeni incredibly turns his head all the way around his neck. The audience applauds and Maleeni throws a look at LaBonge, who leaves. After the show, the young boss goes to Maleeni in his van, but the magician sits motionless. The boss taps him. Maleeni’s head rolls off his body and out the open window, as his headless corpse stays behind the wheel.

Mulder and Scully peruse the crime scene the following day. She is uninterested, thinking this was merely a murder case. But Mulder believes that Maleeni’s great magic trick somehow went wrong. They examine a camcorder from a tourist who taped the show. They suspect the heckler, but do not see his face. Scully notices that the heckler throws away a soda cup. The fingerprints on the cup lead them to Billy LaBonge, another small-time magician with a criminal record. LaBonge writes off Maleeni as a hack with gambling debts. As the agents turn to leave, LaBonge stops them to return their FBI badges. They didn’t even realize they had been pickpocketed. Later, LaBonge pays a visit to loan shark Cissy Alvarez regarding Maleeni’s debts. LaBonge offers to help him make back ten times the amount of money he is owed. Alvarez is interested in hearing the proposal.

Scully finishes the autopsy on Maleeni (aka Herman Pinchbeck) and finds that his head was sawed off and glued to the body with spirit gum. Pinchbeck, however, died from a heart attack and had been refrigerated for over a month. Mulder and Scully go to a Los Angeles bank to see Pinchbeck’s brother, Albert. He is an exact twin of Maleeni, and he is wearing a neck brace. Albert says he and his brother used to have a magic act together, and he proceeds to show a trick that involves Mulder pulling a card from the deck. Mulder suspects that Albert performed one last trick on the Pier in honor of his brother Herman. Albert says that he couldn’t have been at the show, revealing he is in a wheelchair with no legs. Scully apologizes. With no other leads, Mulder and Scully bring LaBonge to Maleeni’s van to look for clues. LaBonge thinks he will uncover a secret compartment for the body, but nothing turns up. Mulder does find one of Pinchbeck’s gambling markers.

At the bank, Albert Pinchbeck admires the courier guard’s gun. He is then visited by Alvarez who threatens him. Albert notices the distinctive tattoos on Alvarez’s hand. Meanwhile, the courier guards find a masked man inside their armored car and shoot at him. The man escapes, but the guards take note of the tattoos on his hand. Out of sight, the man pulls off his mask. It is LaBonge, unharmed. He wipes the tattoos off with a towel. Mulder and Scully question Alvarez about his gambling marker, but he denies any knowledge of a murder. Mulder confides to Scully that he thinks they are being misdirected, like a sleight-of-hand trick. LaBonge watches them leave Alvarez’s pool hall and places a 911 call. He goes inside and is threatened by Alvarez. As he runs out with a gun in his hand, LaBonge is picked up by the police. The agents return to the bank where Mulder dumps Albert Pinchbeck from his wheelchair. He does have legs, hidden by holes in the wheelchair. He confesses that he is really Herman Pinchbeck/Maleeni, and he was afraid for his life because of gambling debts to Alvarez. When he went to Albert for a loan, he found his brother dead of a heart attack. He schemed to slip into his brother’s life, right after retiring with his greatest performance. Mulder doesn’t believe his sob story and has him arrested. He looks through Pinchbeck’s computer. The bank officer says that electronic transfer funds would require Mulder’s badge number and thumbprint. Scully notices a robbery attempt was made on an armored car that Pinchbeck signed out. The bank officer says that no money was stolen. Pinchbeck is taken to a holding prison, where someone in the next cell raps on the wall. It is LaBonge. Pinchbeck tells him that everything went “swimmingly.” The former rivals seem to be partners in crime.

The next morning, the bank vault is emptied. Security footage shows nothing, but a previous tape shows Alvarez entering the building, and the courier guard recognizes his tattoos. The FBI raids the pool hall and finds the money. Alvarez claims he was set up by LaBonge. Mulder and Scully realize that Pinchbeck and LaBonge are working together. They get to the prison just as the magicians are about to be released on bail. The agents unravel their theory: the death of Albert Pinchbeck opened a door of opportunity for the two men. Maleeni intentionally lost money to Alvarez and then faked his own death. LaBonge, Maleeni’s protégé, set up Alvarez to take the fall for the heist, hoping to enact revenge on Alvarez, a former prison mate. Maleeni placed blanks in the courier guard’s gun, so that the masked LaBonge was not killed. While the two were locked up overnight, they used their magic tricks to escape, rob the bank, plant the money with Alvarez and return to prison by morning. Since the money has been returned, the agents release Maleeni and LaBonge.

Afterwards, Mulder tells Scully that he was still puzzled as to why they used an elaborate set-up without a payoff. He shows her Maleeni’s wallet, pilfered from the evidence room. Framing Alvarez was merely a way to misdirect the agents’ attention. The pair’s real plan was to access the bank’s electronic transfer funds using Mulder’s badge number, obtained when LaBonge pickpocketed the ID. They would have also needed a thumbprint, and Mulder pulls out of the wallet the playing card that he picked from Pinchbeck’s card trick. The only question still lingering is how Maleeni turned his head around. Scully says she knows the trick. She turns her hand all the way around on the floor as Mulder looks in wonder. He asks her how she did it, and she merely replies, “Magic.”

Original Air Date: 1/16/00

Written by Vince Gilligan & John Shiban & Frank Spotnitz
Directed by Thomas J. Wright

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

Also Starring:
Ricky Jay as The Amazing Maleeni/Albert Pinchbeck
Jonathan Levit as Billy LaBonge
Robert LaSardo as Cissy Alvarez
Jim Maniaci as Bullethead
Rick Marzan as Holding Cell Officer
Mark Chaet as Bank Officer
Dennis Keiffer as Bullethead
Dan Rice as Uniform Cop
Sherri Howard as Female Employee
J. David as Young Boss
Steven Barr as Courier Guard
Adam Vernier as Driver