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F. Emasculata

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"F. Emasculata"
The X-Files episode
F. Emasculata
A prisoner with exploding pustules. The pustules were carefully rigged to burst on command by makeup supervisor Toby Lindala.
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 22
Directed by Rob Bowman
Written by Chris Carter
Howard Gordon
Production code 2X22
Original air date April 28, 1995
Running time 45 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"The Calusari"
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"Soft Light"
List of The X-Files episodes

"F. Emasculata" is the twenty-second episode of the second season of the American science fiction television series The X-Files. It first premiered on the Fox network in the United States on April 28, 1995. It was written by series creator Chris Carter and staff writer Howard Gordon, and directed by Rob Bowman. The episode is a "Monster-of-the-Week" story, unconnected to the series' wider mythology. "F. Emasculata" received a Nielsen rating of 8.9 and was watched by 8.5 million households. The episode received mixed reviews from television critics.

The show centers on FBI special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) who work on cases linked to the paranormal, called X-Files. Mulder is a believer in the paranormal, while the skeptical Scully has been assigned to debunk his work. In this episode, Scully tries to discover the cause of a mysterious illness after several men in a prison die. Meanwhile, Mulder attempts to find two escapees who could potentially spread the disease.

"F. Emasculata" was based on the actual practice of pharmaceutical companies sending scientists all over the world looking for plants and animals that could have medicinal use. The X-Files director Frank Spotnitz felt that the episode's exploding pustules were ridiculous because of their over-the-top nature. The Costa Rican forest at the opening was shot at the Seymour Demonstration Forest in Northern Vancouver.


In the rain forest of Costa Rica, entomologist Robert Torrance stumbles upon a decomposing boar carcass covered with dark purple pustules. As he extracts an insect from one of the pustules, it erupts, spraying him with fluid. By nightfall, Torrance himself has developed the boils and tries to radio for help. When a group of soldiers arrive the next morning, Torrance is dead.

At a prison in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, an inmate—also named Robert Torrance—receives a package containing a boil-covered piece of meat. He becomes infected and dies thirty-six hours later. Two other inmates, Paul and Steve, escape in a laundry cart after being sent to clean Torrance's cell. Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are sent to help the U.S. Marshals find them. The agents note that the FBI does not normally investigate prison escapes, and become suspicious as the prison is quarantined by the CDC and the National Guard. Mulder joins the Marshals to hunt the fugitives, while Scully stays behind to investigate the situation in the prison.

Scully learns that the lockdown population is infected with an exceedingly deadly contagion, finding a pile of body bags stored for incineration in the prison's boiler room. Scully cuts open Torrance's body bag and examines his corpse, but Dr. Osbourne, a member of the CDC team, tries to stop her. A pustule on Torrance's body erupts in Osbourne's face, causing him to flee the room. Meanwhile, the fugitives steal an RV and stop at a gas station, where Paul calls his girlfriend, Elizabeth, looking for shelter. The station's clerk finds an infected Steve in the restroom; he is knocked unconscious by Paul. Scully calls Mulder after the Marshals raid the gas station, telling him that the contagion could spread into the population if the fugitives are not captured. Mulder sees a CDC biohazard team arrive at the scene, forcibly taking away the clerk in a helicopter.

The fugitives arrive at Elizabeth's house, where she tends to Steve, in the late stages of his infection. One of Steve's pustules erupts in her face, killing him and infecting Elizabeth. At that moment, Mulder and the Marshals raid the house and arrest her, but find Paul missing. Meanwhile, Scully traces Torrance's package to Pinck Pharmaceuticals, a major drug developer. She also finds an insect in the body of another prisoner. Dr. Osbourne, who has become infected, reveals that his team works for Pinck and are researching a dilating enzyme produced by the insect. However, the insect has a parasitic life cycle that kills its hosts. Osbourne claims that the insect and its contagion were deliberately introduced into the prison by Pinck as an experiment. He tells Scully that since she was next to him when he became infected, she may have contracted the contagion as well.

Mulder confronts Skinner and The Smoking Man, believing that he and Scully were deceived into taking the case without knowing about the contagion. Mulder is adamant that the public should know the truth about Pinck's actions. The Smoking Man counters that public knowledge of the truth would create mass panic and do more harm than good. Mulder tries to take his case to Scully, but she agrees that exposing Pinck may result in a deadly hysteria. Paul becomes the only remaining proof of the company's crimes, but he takes a hostage and is killed by the Marshals before Mulder can convince him to divulge the contents of Torrance's package. The episode ends with Skinner warning Mulder to be more wary of the situations he will find himself in.[1]


F. emasculata and Pinck Pharmaceuticals are fictitious, but pharmaceutical companies do send scientists all over the world looking for plants and animals that could have medicinal use.[2] The appearance of The Smoking Man in a stand-alone episode is unusual, as Chris Carter did not like mixing the mythology and stand-alone episodes.[3] Initially, the producers were wary of releasing the episode so close to the release of the similarly-themed movie Outbreak. In the end, however, they realized that the two entities were separate and stood on their own.[4]

The exploding pustules were carefully rigged to burst on command. Makeup supervisor Toby Lindala constructed a handheld device that connected via tube to the faux sores. When the device was pressed, the pustule would burst. Filming the scenes was particularly arduous; he later noted "I was jammed underneath one of the bus seats with these extras basically stepping on my head."[4] The X-Files director Frank Spotnitz remarked, "When we saw the pustule bursting on film, we just laughed because it was just so over-the-top grotesque."[3] The Costa Rican forest at the opening was shot at the Seymour Demonstration Forest in Northern Vancouver, which also served as Puerto Rico in season opener "Little Green Men".[5] The city of Delta served for both the gas station and the bus station—actually a redecorated Dodge/Chrysler car dealership.[6]


"F. Emasculata" was originally broadcast in the United States on the Fox network on April 28, 1995, and was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC One on February 6, 1996.[7] This episode earned a Nielsen rating of 8.9, with a 16 share, meaning that roughly 8.9 percent of all television-equipped households, and 16 percent of households watching television, were tuned in to the episode.[8] It was viewed by 8.5 million households.[8]

The episode received generally mixed reviews from television critics. Entertainment Weekly graded the episode a C, writing, "A good idea is tainted by plot holes as gaping and disturbing as the pustular boils you'll be treated to in this hour".[9] Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club was positive, grading it an A. He particularly praised the way the darkness was handled which made it a "tense, gripping mini-movie", and also praised the guest stars.[10] Robert Shearman and Lars Pearson, in their book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium & The Lone Gunmen, rated the episode three-and-a-half stars out of five. The two wrote positively of the first part of the entry, noting that it "jogs along quite merrily as a simple contagion story".[11] They were, however, more critical of the second half, noting that the story "takes a left turn and becomes a thoughtful analysis on disinformation, on cover-up, and the public right to truth."[11] Shearman and Pearson called both parts "two really interesting rough drafts", but concluded that the two halves were ill-suited for one another.[11]


  1. ^ a b Lowry, p. 216–217
  2. ^ Simon, p. 65
  3. ^ a b Hurwitz and Knowles, p. 63
  4. ^ a b Lowry, p. 218
  5. ^ Gradnitzer and Pittson, p. 55
  6. ^ Gradnitzer and Pittson, p. 76-77
  7. ^ The X-Files: The Complete Second Season (Media notes). David Nutter, et al. Fox. 1994–95. 
  8. ^ a b Lowry, p. 249
  9. ^ "X Cyclopedia: The Ultimate Episode Guide, Season 2". Entertainment Weekly. November 29, 1996. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  10. ^ Handlen, Zack (June 27, 2010). "F. Emasculata/Soft Light/Our Town/Anasazi". The A.V. Club. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c Shearman and Pearson, p. 51
  • Gradnitzer, Louisa; Todd Pittson (1999). X Marks the Spot: On Location with The X-Files. Arsenal Pulp. ISBN 1-55152-066-4. 
  • Hurwitz, Matt; Knowles, Chris (2008). The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series the Myths and the Movies. New York, US: Insight Editions. ISBN 1-933784-72-5. 
  • Lowry, Brian (1995). The Truth is Out There: The Official Guide to the X-Files. Harper Prism. ISBN 0061053309. 
  • Simon, Anne (2001). The Real Science Behind the X-Files: Microbes, Meteorites, and Mutants. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-684-85618-6. 

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