Written by: Marlane Meyer
Directed by: Jace Alexander
Episode Number: 112
Original Broadcast Date: January 14, 2000
Guest Stars: Tamara Gorski (Vanessa), Christopher McCann (Rev. Kelso), Richard Venture (Ed Delongpre), Dahlia Salem (Miss Avalone), Jack Swaltney (Investigator), Timothy Devlin (Special Agent #1)
"Then, it is. It's... my imagination. So, uh, why are you standing back there? Step into the room."
She makes an excuse, saying she thinks she hears the phone. "Is there anything else?" she asks. "I have a class."
"Of course you do." He sighs and sits back in his chair.
Vanessa turns to leave, but hesitates. "I just want you to know... I enjoyed working with you, Mr. Delongpre."
"And I you, Vanessa." She closes the door behind her, and immediately Delongpre picks up the phone and dials a number. "Hello? Listen, I'm sorry to keep you waiting. This is not an easy call to make. Yes, I've decided to-to act on your advice. No... I can't talk now. I'm supposed to be gone already. Right, I'll meet you. I'll bring the information, everything you need. Tonight. No. No, no, it-it has to be tonight." He chuckles. "Yeah. Yeah, you stay cool, too."
He sighs and hangs up, stubbing his cigarette out in the ash tray. Suddenly, smoke issues forth again, coming from the sleeve of his shirt. Delongpre tries to fan it away, but his other sleeve is smoking as well. He gets to his feet in a panic as he realizes that the smoke is coming from him. "Not this way!" he cries, rushing to the door. It won't open. He pounds on the door, screaming for help, as he continues to seemingly burn up.
Cut to the other side of the door. Vanessa is crouched by the door as her boss pounds and screams, and smoke issues from beneath the door. There is a whooshing sound and a brilliant flash of light from the other side of the door - then, nothing.
An operating room. Dr. Morris and the bald agent, both in scrubs, lean into the camera. "That should just about do it," Morris says. "Leave Mr. Wiseman's skull open for about 15 minutes let it dry out and then stitch him up, if you don't mind."
"Wow," the agent says. "That's the brain, huh? It's amazing."
"You think so? I really didn't have anything to do with that."
"Oh, no, I know, I know. I mean, this..." here he points at something, "this is incredible, too. I... I mean, I look at that and I'm..."
Morris gives him a look. "Radio Shack."
Heather storms into the Wiseman's foyer, heading up the stairs. Behind her is an apologetic and anxious Lisa. "Heather... Heather, I'm sorry. You know, I-I saw that tree coming toward you through the windshield and I... and- and I got... anxious."
"You didn't get anxious, Mother. You panicked. You said the Lord's Prayer, for crying out loud."
"I did? I'm sorry."
"How am I supposed to concentrate on driving if you keep on crossing yourself all the time?"
Lisa tries to tell her she'll be calmer next time, but Heather insists there won't be a next time - she's not going to learn to drive. She'll take the bus or ride a bike or even hitchhike. "That's it, I'll spend the rest of my life depending on strangers to get me from one place to another, and it's all your fault."
With that, she stomps up to her room. Lisa sighs. "It's my fault. Good."
Roger is dictating a letter to his secretary when the phone rings. It's Lisa, and she's desperate for advice, asking Roger how he survived Amanda's efforts to drive. Roger says that he taught his daughter himself, since it's best to have someone close to the child teach him or her to drive. "Yeah, well, that theory is not working too well here at the Wiseman household," Lisa sighs. "I don't know if it's a mother/daughter thing or if it's a Lisa/Heather thing. I just know that it is not a happening thing."
"Uh, well... uh... would you like me to have a try?"
Lisa perks up. "Are you serious?"
The townhouse. Dr. Morris has Michael standing in the gym, blindfolded. The agent looks on. Morris explains that the surgery he performed on Michael three days before was designed to "enhance your sonic sensitivity," something he's trying to test now. "I need you to listen to me very carefully, Mr. Wiseman. Somewhere in this townhouse, an object is about to hit the floor. Using only your hearing, I want you to find it. Are you ready?"
"Yes. I'll take Charles Nelson Reilly to block."
Morris nods to the agent, who drops a pin to the floor. Michael doesn't hear it fall. "How do you expect me to hear a pin dropping with that radio blasting away?"
The agent and Morris exchange confused looks. "Radio?"
It turns out Michael is picking up sounds from the buildings next door: someone leaving for work, and then the sounds of a doctor's office. The enhancement is a bit too sensitive, and while Michael is thrilled, Morris isn't pleased at all.
When Michael picks up the sound of someone watching a porno, Morris decides they've got to get him back to the operating room. The agent reminds him of his 10:30 appointment, which Morris wants to get out of; but the Department of Justice specifically asked for him.
Preoccupied with the new sensation, Michael suddenly stops. "Oh... I feel bad."
"Why?" Morris asks.
"I think the kid who was watching the porno's mother just walked in the room. Something about no more television for the rest of his life." Michael sighs. "I know how he feels."
Morris whispers something in the agent's ear. "I heard that," Michael says.
In the limo, Michael is wearing special hearing protection, which is keeping his hearing at a normal level. It's the same kind of protection "earmuffs" one wears at a shooting range, and Morris admits Michael can't wear them in public without attracting attention. "I promise I'll open you back up and make the necessary adjustments as soon as possible," the Doc assures him.
Michael gives him an odd look. "No rush. It's kind of like radio-free Michael in here now. So, where are we headed?"
"A friend of mine at the Department of Justice asked if I would take a look at a crime scene they've been working - something about valuing my scientific opinion. The whole thing should take about ten minutes."
At the crime scene - the office seen earlier - Morris is completely incredulous at the investigator's claim that a human being was incinerated. Michael is tagging along, listening to music only he can hear as Morris checks out the scene. The 40-pound bag of human ash doesn't convince the Doc that this is anything more than a fraud. He insists they need three things for a fire: air, fuel, and a source of ignition, the last of which is peculiarly absent. "Well, you're right," the investigator admits. "Our tests indicate no apparent external source of ignition."
"Again, I don't follow. I'm a doctor. What does this have to do with me? Sounds like you need a chemical engineer."
"I said, 'external source of ignition.' There's a body of thought - if you'll pardon the pun - that thinks the source of ignition might have been... internal."
Michael speaks up. "You mean... from inside the body?"
"That's preposterous," Morris says. "I think."
"Are either of you familiar with spontaneous human combustion?" the investigator asks.
"Well, I never heard them play live," Michael says, "but I think I had an eight-track of theirs back in the '70s."
Morris rolls his eyes, but the investigator continues, ignoring Michael's levity. "Before modern medicine many ancient scholars believed the human body was composed of four elements - earth, air, water and fire. They thought when a person had a fever it was the flames deep inside the body growing hotter and hotter, and that occasionally that fire might actually erupt and consume a person... erupt from inside completely engulfing the body but leaving its surroundings... basically untouched."
Right, I - I read about this in one of our finer weekly newspapers," Michael replies. "Right beneath a story about how aliens helped some family save their farm." The investigator and Morris stare at him. "Forget I said anything. I'll just stand here and listen to the voices in my head."
Lisa knocks on Heather's door, informing her that she's decided it would be better if someone other than Lisa taught Heather to drive. Heather's not arguing with that in the least, asking if Lisa's enrolled her in driving school. Lisa says that's not quite the case. "What? You've hired someone to give me private lessons?" Heather guesses.
"Well, kind of. sort of, but... not really."
"What do you mean, 'not really?' Did you hire a boy 'not really,' or a girl 'not really?'"
"Oh. Oh, definitely a boy not really."
"Way to go, Mom! I take back everything I ever said to the school shrink about you." Lisa tries to calm her down to explain, but when Heather learns the instructor's here now, she jumps out of her chair, kissing Lisa on the cheek before she dashes out. "You're the best."
"Well..." Lisa sighs. "Hold that thought."
Heather hurries down the stairs, but she is less than excited to see Roger step into the foyer. She runs back to her room, where Lisa is standing, counting down the seconds before the explosion. "Just so we're clear... this makes anything I might do to you completely justifiable in a court of law." Lisa nods.
In the foyer, she gives Roger the keys and a set of simple instructions: "This is my car. That is my child. What can I say?"
Roger tells her not to worry; he's going to take Heather to his "secret spot" for driving lessons. Heather is less than thrilled, although Lisa's relieved as they leave.
Michael is lying in his room, listening to a radio from far away, when Morris comes in to tell him the operating theater's ready and that it's time to go. Reluctantly, Michael puts the hearing protection back on. He mentions that in the past three weeks there have been two other deaths related to human combustion - he's been picking up radio news about it.
"Mr. Wiseman, for the last time, spontaneous human combustion is an urban myth," the doctor tells him. "Do you know what the word 'myth' means?"
"Thertainly. I myth my wife; I myth my daughter."
All joking aside, Morris is thoroughly convinced the whole thing is a big hoax. "How do you know it's a hoax or a fraud or a practical joke?" Michael asks, pulling on his jacket. "And if you're certain you know what it isn't, isn't your natural sense of curiosity piqued? Doesn't it make you want to know what it is?"
Morris sighs. "No. I already know what it is, and it is a fake. Case closed."
"And how can you be so sure?"
"Mr. Wiseman, trust me. there are certain physical absolutes. The earth is round. Gravity keeps us pinned to the ground and people do not spontaneously burst into flame."
Michael grins, getting to his feet. "Prove it." "Prove it? I don't have to prove it."
"Oh, you most certainly do. Have you forgotten? You're talking to a guy who is dead and had his brain put into a body that was built out of government surplus. I no longer believe in absolutes." Morris doesn't reply, so Michael takes another tack. "All right, forget me. Didn't you tell me that the Department of Justice asked for your help?"
"Yes, and I gave it to them, and I told them it was..."
"You told them what it wasn't. That's no help at all."
"Would you mind telling me," Morris asks in exasperation, "what is it about this that has so captured your imagination?"
"I don't know," Michael admits. "Maybe it was all those years in insurance, but I used to hate paying out on a situation I couldn't explain - and I can't explain this." Morris is not convinced, and Michael sighs. "What's the big deal? We'll go to one more crime scene, and then you'll unhook the THX system in my head."
Much to Heather's displeasure, Roger's "secret spot" is a cemetery. "Look, Heather," Roger tells her, "I learned to drive in here. My brother learned to drive in here. My daughter learned to drive in here. It's really a wonderful place to get started."
"Get started with what? I'm not an imbecile. My mom has been taking me driving for months. I need to practice on a street with other cars, with traffic."
"And I assure you, we will get there."
"When I get the sense that you have mastered the basics," Roger answers. "I mean, if I see that you are an accomplished driver ready to go out and practice in traffic, we will be out of here so fast it'll make your head spin, but... since I have never driven with you and you have never practiced with me, I really think the prudent thing to do is to begin our lesson here. Comprendez?"
Rolling her eyes, Heather takes the keys and gets out. "Bunch of bull."
"Don't be mad at me," Michael says in the limo.
Morris glances up from his paper. "I don't like having my time wasted."
"You don't know that it's a waste of time. How can you be certain it's a waste of time unless you've spent the time and determined it was waste?"
"I really don't want to have this conversation again. You've gotten your way; let's leave it at that." At Michael's prodding, he does explain the situation. "The man's name was Reynolds. He was lying in bed. Had a fight with his lover, and as she was headed towards the door, he was supposedly incinerated."
"Oh, how convenient. So, does that mean she was a witness?"
"I don't know. I've asked that they find her and, if possible, ask her to join us."
"Come on," Michael tells him, "this is going to be great."
The cemetery. Lisa's car launches into the air, all four wheels leaving the ground before it lands again, bouncing and screeching to a halt. "Wow, Uncle Roger, you were right!" Heather exclaims. "This place rocks!"
Roger doesn't reply. The camera pans over to him as he sits there, one hand on the windshield and one on the dashboard, a look of utter shock and terror on his face.
Michael and Morris are looking over the victim's room. The only indication of a fire is the charred spots on the bed where Reynolds lay, but the collateral heat needed to burn an entire body should have taken out the whole building. Morris is utterly perplexed.
At that point, someone enters downstairs - it's a young woman named Miss Avalone, the witness they were supposed to meet. "I know who you are," she tells Morris as he starts to introduce himself. "They called me and asked me to come to see you. I don't see the point. I already confessed."
"Confessed?" Morris echoes, turning back to Michael. Michael shrugs.
They go up to the bedroom for her to explain. "I knew it was going to happen. I'd tell him I had to leave. Had to go study. He was getting suspicious..." She sighs. "And I was always asking for money. That didn't help. He knew my parents were wealthy. At a certain point he just sort of sensed that it didn't add up."
When Morris asks her what she was doing, she answers that the money, the leaving, everything was "to worship." Her boyfriend apparently didn't like that.
"So you set him on fire - from the inside?" Morris asks.
"Not me... but I was the cause."
Michael speaks up from where he's sitting in the corner. "For those of us who are joining whatever show it is you're watching, which is clearly already in progress, how were you the cause of your boyfriend being dry-roasted from the small intestines out?"
She explains in a roundabout way that Bill - the boyfriend - thought the religious group she was going to was manipulating her. The group is headed up by a "Reverend Kelso," at the First Church of the Elevations. When Bill started making calls and getting attention, the church elders started getting annoyed. "So you think, perhaps they're responsible for Billy's death?" Morris concludes.
"Oh, no. That would be the Master."
"Of course," Michael says sarcastically, standing up. "And where would we find the Master? I mean, if we were looking? If we had a message from his cousin Louie or something?"
"The Master is everywhere," Miss Avalone tells them. "'And he who suggests that the Master and his elevations do not exist, and he who seeks to thwart the Master and the spreading of his elevations, shall feel the fire burning within him and the greater the anger of the Master and his church, the greater the heat of the fire. Until ultimately the anger and the fire will consume him. So sayeth the Master, so sayeth the word.'"
The minute they're out of there, Morris calls his team and tells them they're on their way back to the operating theater. "Surely you jest," Michael says, putting the hearing protection back on.
"Look at this face. This face does not jest." He's sick and tired of the whole thing. Michael brings up the Elevations, but Morris says it's irrelevant; only one of the three deaths is connected to the religious group. Michael counters that they haven't actually checked that out yet. The doctor is still firm in his belief that the deaths are a hoax, that a group of religious lunatics could not be responsible.
"Wow," Michael says, "you are closed-minded."
"Get in the car, please."
"What would be the harm? We run over to this church..."
"Get in the car, please."
"Check on who is and isn't a member..."
"Get in the car, please."
"See if anybody's smoldering..."
Morris lifts one of the "earmuffs" and speaks directly into Michael's ear. "Get in the car, please."
"Ow!" Michael obeys.
But he hasn't given up yet. "You're afraid," he tells Morris in the limo.
"I'm afraid? Of what?"
"You're afraid that for the first time in your life, you're stumped." He adds that Morris is refusing to check out the church because he's scared he'll just find something that he can't explain, something that scientific deduction and physical absolutes won't verify.
"You're trying to manipulate me, Mr. Wiseman, and it's not going to work," Morris informs him, turning to the driver. Let's proceed directly to the operating theater, please." He opens the newspaper, ignoring Michael.
"So, how do you think these people were killed?" Michael asks after a moment.
"Don't know, don't care."
"Yes, you do."
"No, I don't."
"Yes, you do."
"No, I don't."
"Yes, you do."
"No, I don't."
"Stumped, stumped, stumped."
"Am not, am not, am not." Morris closes the newspaper and insists for the nth time that the whole thing is a practical joke.
Exasperated, Morris sighs. "All right. Fine. Take us to the First Fhurch of the Elevations, please." He turns back to his paper.
"Boy," Michael observes, "are you showing me."
Lisa is anxiously waiting her daughter's return. It's been a few hours, and she goes so far as to call the police and ask them to keep an eye out for the car.
The limo pulls up at the First Church of the Elevations. Michael decides that he'll try to get his hands on a membership roster while Dr. Morris checks the place out. He's not entirely sure how he'll do it, though.
Inside, they're approached by a young woman, inviting them to come to an introductory session that Reverend Kelso is hosting. We recognize her as Vanessa, the secretary from the teaser. "I'm sorry," Michael says. "We're not together. I'm here on an insurance matter. Fire insurance. But he's in the market for some enlightenment. Very open-minded. Aren't you?"
Morris forces his best fake smile. "Sure."
In the auditorium, Morris listens to Kelso's sermon, bored and completely disbelieving. "Many people, when they sit in this room, in this special place," Kelso says, "they report that they experience feelings of contentment. They report they experience feelings of well-being. The best candidates for success here in our church have reported actual feelings of warmth."
Morris suddenly hesitates, tugging at his collar. He puts a hand against his cheek; it is getting warmer. "Can you feel it?" Kelso continues. "It seems to come from inside from the soul, doesn't it?" The lights switch on as he finishes, "And then as quickly as it appeared, this warmth is gone." The crowd applauds, and Morris sits there, bewildered.
"We've got to come up with a story," Roger says. He's sitting next to Heather in a tow truck.
"You know, it is my fault and she is my mother. I think I should be the one to tell her."
Roger says they'll both tell her. "I am not without responsibility here, Heather. I am the adult. I could have insisted that you slow down.
"You did... kind of. you were making that whimpering sound. I knew what it meant."
Roger looks pained. "Yes, but perhaps I should have been clearer... stronger."
"Whatever," Heather sighs. "So, what do you call that thing I landed on?"
"Uh, a crypt, honey. That big, hard, square thing is called a crypt."
We see the tow truck then, towing Lisa's station wagon, the hood of which is pretty badly smashed in.
Lisa is on the phone with a hospital, checking to see if Heather has been admitted. As she starts spelling out the name, she happens to glance out the window. "Oh... my... God!" She drops the phone on the couch, leaving the woman on the other end completely confused.
"I can explain," Heather says as she comes in. "It's a thing, not a person. Aren't you glad that I'm all right? That I'm safe? Okay, I withdraw the question."
Roger comes to the door. "Lisa, I would like the opportunity to explain why this..." He doesn't get the chance as she promptly slams the door in his face.
Later that night, Dr. Morris comes into the townhouse to find Michael lying awake, sans earmuffs. "Somebody across the street was watching Letterman," he explains. "During the commercials, somebody over that way rented Braveheart, which I've always wanted to see. It's tough to follow without a picture." He notices the strange expression on the Doc's face. "You okay?"
"I don't know," Morris replies. "Can't sleep. Want to take a drive, get some food?"
Michael stares at him. "You serious?"
He is, because a moment later they're in the limo. The reason Morris is acting so strangely is because he can't explain the rush of heat he experienced at the First Church of the Elevations. He'd checked the entire area for a hidden heat lamp or air vent, and found nothing.
As he talks, Michael looks longingly out the window, trying to draw Morris' attention to the various places to eat they're passing by. "Listen, I'm fascinated by all this," he finally says, "but I'm really concerned that whatever it is that put you in your current frame of mind is going to wear off before I've had a chance to chow down. You think we could pull over already? I think I saw a place with a vending machine in the lobby. You do have change, right?"
They settle on a convenience store, and Morris goes in, pulling two microwavable cheeseburgers out of the fridge. He pops them into the microwave, and as he stands there, waiting for them to cook, the proverbial light bulb comes on over his head. Morris smiles.
He comes back to the limo with the cooked cheeseburgers, handing one to Michael and telling him to take a bite as part of a "science experiment." Too hungry to question it, Michael eagerly obeys, ecstatic at getting to eat something that isn't foliage. It's not exactly the world's greatest burger, but it's nice and hot. Morris asks him to describe the heat, and Michael is confused, not seeing where this is going.
"Wouldn't you say it's hottest in the center?" Morris asks. "That's how microwaves cook, you know? From the center out. From the inside out. Just like I began to this afternoon in that auditorium."
"Wow," Michael says through a mouthful of cheeseburger. Morris laughs and claps his hands, happy to have figured out an answer.
Ed Delongpre's office, the next day. Vanessa is waiting in the office as Kelso enters, responding to her request for him to meet her there. She tells him she's not sure what to believe in any more, and that two government men came to see her about her mother. We see a flashback to "Fire and Ice" with Melanie crumbling into ash. "They say you killed her."
"Me? How could I have killed her? You know what happened. She wanted you to leave the church. She started hiring lawyers, detectives. These things are the province of the Master, not me. I certainly can't make anyone burst into flame."
"They say you can... and you did. They told me when you lived in the Soviet Union that you invented some kind of microwave gun - that the government had no money to finance your research, and that when you escaped to the West, no one who does that kind of research would hire you because of your work for the former Soviet Union."
"They told you that, huh?" Kelso asks.
Morris steps into view behind Kelso. "What I'd like to know... is where did you ever get the idea to found a church?"
He steps into the office, telling Kelso he knows the truth. "That auditorium - it's really just a giant microwave oven. You turn up the heat enough for everyone to feel a little tingle in their bellies so they think they're having an epiphany and that you really are the second coming. It's brilliant. You must make a fortune, which is why, of course, you had to start cooking anyone that might make trouble."
Kelso insists he's completely innocent, that the deaths of those who threaten the church is sealed by a higher power. Morris scoffs, but then Vanessa leans against the desk. "Is it just me, or is it getting warm in here?" The fish tank in the office starts steaming and bubbling.
Morris doubles over. "Oh, my."
"This is what I was afraid of," Kelso says as they collapse weakly. "You challenge me, the Master challenges you. But don't worry. I shall rush right back to the church and pray for you both."
"Please! Don't!" Vanessa cries as he closes and locks the door.
Satisfied, he turns to go, but he's not alone. Michael is outside, waiting for him. "Who are you?" Kelso demands. "Where did you come from?"
"Me?" Michael replies. "I'm the other government guy. I've been downstairs listening. I heard every word that you said. Also, the Giants are ahead seven-zip at the end of the third quarter. It's a gift, like your heat thing." Kelso starts to protest, but Michael continues. "Shh. You know what I hear now? People inside there staggering towards the door."
Kelso backs away from Michael as pounding and cries for help can be heard on the other side of the door. "I don't have the key," he protests as Michael advances. "I know, I know, let's go for help."
"No problem. Don't worry about it. I'll get the door open."
"No, no," Kelso says hurriedly, blocking his path. "We don't want to go in there."
He tries to make a break for it, but Michael stops him. "Sure, we do."
Michael grabs Kelso by the collar, lifting him into the air. With one arm, he easily throws Kelso into the door, knocking the office door off its hinges and sending Kelso flying into the room.
Painfully, Kelso sits up to find... no fire. No burning people. Morris and Vanessa are sitting calmly by the desk, pounding on it and faking cries of agony. "That must have hurt," Morris observes. "Would you like some dry ice for that?" He gets up and fishes a cube of dry ice from the tank, which was causing the "boiling" effect.
"I don't understand," Kelso mutters. "Across the street, my gun... the microwaves..."
"Oh, my friend here disconnected that about 30 seconds after you set it up," Morris explains, gesturing to Michael, who steps into the doorway. Kelso stares at him, shell-shocked, as Michael smiles. "Oh, forgive me," Morris says. "You haven't been properly introduced. Reverend Kelso, Mr. Newman. Mr. Newman, this is the Reverend Kelso."
Michael crouches down beside Kelso. "Gee, I hope I didn't throw you too hard. For what it's worth, many people I do that to report that they experience strong feelings of contentment - a feeling of well-being. Some even report a feeling of warmth." He grabs Kelso by the collar. "Can you feel it?"
Lisa returns from a driving lesson with Heather to find Roger anxiously waiting for them. "So, how'd it go?"
"Well..." Lisa says.
"She kept all four wheels on the ground, right?"
"Mostly." She tosses him his keys.
Heather comes in. "Wow, Uncle Roger, your car really kicks ass."
"It does?" Roger asks, and then the possibility dawns on him. "Oh, no." He runs to the door, staring in shock at the driveway. "Oh, dear!"
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