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Take Two - Stillwater- Review: "We're Researching Aliens Now"

"So you want to play Mulder and Scully?"

In an episode that mingles a fun case with actual intrigue, one of the most enjoyable aspects is how it nails all the details. Small town with gruff sheriff who declares "this is my town" and cautions that "outsiders" might not be welcome. Check. Eddie and Sam wandering around in a dark forest with flashlights. Check. Even the name of the town is perfect: Stillwater. It could be any small town with a history of UFOs and alien abductions.

Sam and Eddie are summoned to this little hamlet on the outskirts of California wine country to investigate a missing persons case. Cooper (Imaginary Mary's Nicholas Coombe) witnessed his wheelchair-bound mother be taken. He did blackout when it happened though. But still his mom with advancing paralysis is nowhere to be found. Her wheelchair left behind. Eddie finds it all immensely sketchy, but Sam overrides him, moved by the fact the boy called them crying because "We're the only PIs he's ever heard of." A more logical explanation immediately presents itself. Cooper's mother Mary was going through a contentious divorce from a man named Chuck who bailed once she started getting sicker. That would be a dark but tidy reason for her disappearance. They pay a visit to Chuck, but he is not about to let them check out his property. Especially the shed with the bloody trail leading to it. He says it is a deer, so they stake out the place.

For a couple episodes now, Sam and Eddie's rapport has been perfect. They act natural around each other, alternating between teasing and sharing backstory excerpts. It is rather adorable, for lack of a more fitting epithet. Their opening jokes about Sam's past hopes to retire and open a vineyard. Their conversation about what it would mean for there to be more to the universe. They may not be smitten with each other yet, but I am smitten with them. As for that stakeout, Chuck disappears after his cabin is lit up like a Christmas tree. The sheriff writes it off, even though Chuck's vehicle is left behind, and he was too drunk to have walked off. Cooper tells them there were other abductions recently. A man named Arlo Hayes was one such case. He hangs out at the local diner, because of course he does. For the price of steak and pie, Arlo recounts his abduction: bright lights, tall gray alien, a dark room where his voice was garbled and didn't come out right. It is textbook.

Arlo Hayes does provide some helpful information. He shares the location where he was found post-abduction. Thanks to Monica's hefty knowledge of UFO incidents, they know it's the same mile marker where a UFO was spotted back in 1972. And they find Mary there, on a circle of ash, but unharmed. In fact, when her doctor checks her out, Mary realizes she has regained her ability to walk. Sam and Eddie are SPOOKED. Meanwhile, Berto and Monica interview a 1972 abductee. He went to Stillwater to die, having been diagnosed at 29 with terminal cancer. After the abduction, he was cured. And hasn't been sick since. Arlo later shares he was experiencing health issues until after his abduction too. Sam and Eddie are double SPOOKED but more determined than ever to uncover what is going on. A mess of dead birds in the woods and more burnt circles just boost the mystery. Eddie sees something tall and gray and too slender to be Bigfoot running through the forest. Time for a closer look.

“The truth is out there, Eddie, and we have to find it.”

The duo get their X-Files on blast and take to the woods at night to search for clues. There is not so much as a curious raccoon to be seen. Then bright lights appear. Did someone order an abduction? Dinner is served. They wake up in a disorienting environment, freaking out a little bit. Eddie's watch stopped. Their phones are dead. Their voices become distorted. And they wake up back in the circle of ash. It is a truly alien experience. 

"I don't think it's aliens." Sam quickly points out that there was something theatrical about the entire thing. It felt staged, and it doesn't fit the preexisting modus operandi of the aliens taking sick people and curing them. In fact, Sam wakes up with a headache! Even with aliens ruled out, the episode has still set up a compelling mystery. Who would go to such lengths and create such an elaborate hoax? By this point in the episode, we already know who. Big Guest Star Syndrome gives it away every time. But the reason why eludes us as well as Sam and Eddie.

They learn that all the people who were abducted got sick around the same time two years earlier. And they had the same doctor who is now retired. She shares her suspicions that some toxin they were exposed to in the environment may have caused it. But her practice was bought out around the same time. Conspiracy and a cover-up. It doesn't get much juicier than that. Sam and Eddie follow the doctor, unearthing that he was paid big bucks to cure the people. It only remains to arrange for the victims to confront the responsible party in the cafe. Local vineyard owner Wes McManus (Martin Cummins wears small town shady secrets so well) had a bad weevil infestation two years prior, so he doused his "organic" grapes with a dangerous pesticide. McManus thought it would be easier to secretly cure the people, who wanted to believe the alien healing angle, than deal with their lawsuits.

With so many delightful homages, "Stillwater" continued Take Two's streak of entertaining episodes. The mystery wasn't too easy, and the otherworldly elements were mixed in so well. This show is good, and I could watch dozens more Sam and Eddie adventures. Hint hint, ABC.

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