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Snakes are killing the unrighteous. But Mulder and Scully doubt that this is a case of divine intervention.


A series of bizarre and unexplained snakebite deaths occurring in a religious context, send Mulder and Scully to the hills of East Tennessee. They investigate a southern religious group practicing snake handling, leading to gruesome and unexplained snake-bite deaths.

Episode Summary

In Blessing, TN, a young man, Jared Chirp, is in an old house in the rain. He looks at papers concerning medical tests, tears them up and packs a suitcase, all the time muttering religious statements. He prays that he and his girlfriend will be safe. There is a snake on the dresser. A figure can be seen outside watching, in the rain. Jared has a gun. He goes outside and gets in a car but a rattlesnake is in the car - in fact there are several. The door won't open so Jared grabs the gun and begins shooting the snakes. 

Mulder has the report on Jared's death. He had 116 different bite marks from 50 snakes. The car was closed but when he was found there was no evidence of snakes at all, plus these snakes hibernate in the winter. It looks like murder, but why? Scully says that serpents and religion go hand in hand so maybe there's something symbolic in the mind of the murderer. Mulder says maybe these snakes really did serve evil. 

At the Blessing Community Church, a teenage girl (Jared's girlfriend) and her mother Iris, attend Jared's funeral. Iris owns the boarding house where Gracie lives. Gracie is pregnant. Mulder and Scully talk with the head of the church, Reverend Samuel Mackey. Mackey had his suspicions. His church is founded on acceptance of all people and all beliefs but Jared had belonged to a fundamentalist congregation that practiced snake handling. Jared and his girlfriend Gracie left together and Mackey says their former church, and its leader Enoch O'Connor, has persecuted them.

Mulder and Scully visit O'Connor's "Church of God with Signs and Wonders." The door is open so they enter. There is no electricity and snakes are loose in the building. The agents are uptight about the snakes but O'Connor enters and moves the snakes out of the way. He says Jared strayed from the path and his death was a test of faith. "I don't think you people realize which side you're on." He seems like a suspect, but the sheriff has ruled O'Connor out, as he had an alibi. Apparently he was in Kentucky when Chirp was murdered. Mulder thinks that since Jared was carrying a packed suitcase when he was murdered, there had to be someone who knew where he was headed. 

At the church 7:03 PM, Iris tells Mackey that on the night he died, Jared called very late and wanted to talk to Gracie. He sounded very strange, as if he was drunk and was talking about something being tested and paying for his sins. Mackey asks her to wait until after Bible class to hear more.

Both Mackey's class and O'Connor's snake handling service go on simultaneously. O'Connor opens a crate of snakes and begins handing out the snakes to the people. Meanwhile, Iris works on stapling bulletins for a church service. As she works, her staple remover turns into a snakehead and bites her. Thinking that she must be imagining that, Iris goes into the bathroom to wash the wound and suddenly the bathroom seems filled with snakes.

Mulder and Scully talk with Mackey as Iris' body is taken away. Nobody saw or heard anything until Iris screamed. Mackey tells Mulder about what Iris told him - something about Jared paying for his sins. The agents go to talk with Gracie. She is convinced that O'Connor didn't do this but rather that it was Satan's work. Mackey says that she may be biast, as Enoch O'Connor was Gracie's father. When Gracie got pregnant her father kicked her out of the church and his home.

They go back to O'Connor's at 10:06 PM and split up to look around. In an outbuilding, Scully finds an old trailer with mice in cages and lots of snakes in boxes. O'Connor enters and grabs her, forcing her head down onto a snake box. O'Connor forces Scully's hand inside a snake box, but she is not bitten. He tells her that she will be judged, and that she has to repent. Mulder appears with his gun and makes O'Connor release Scully. 

O'Connor is arrested. "Your partner could have learned something about herself if you hadn't stopped me," he says. Maybe some powerful good news. Mulder replies "I'd say its good news for you that she's not here right now. After what you tried to do to her". We learn that O'Connor's wife, Alice, died in June 1994 of snakebites, supposedly during a church service. Mulder asks whether did that to his wife, as she wasn't righteous enough for him - like his daughter's boyfriend or Iris. O'Connor tells Mulder that Mulder is an educated man, too smart to know any better, however Mulder tells him that he's smart enough to know that O'Connor was a murderer. O'Connor claims that Satan is near and says Mulder doesn't have eyes to see it - he's just proud and fancy free. Mulder tells him that he's wrong, and asks him what his plans were for his daughter. O'Connor says that he just prays for her soul because she's lost, but Mulder guesses that its because she doesn't believe the same that he does. O'Connor asks Mulder if he thinks that because he is education that he's better than most, but Mulder replies that he isn't, unless he's educated down there (points to his heart), and that if the devil is going to make a fool out of him, he won't even know it.

Outside the interview room, Gracie speaks to Scully, and says that O'Connor will be judged as he deserves and nobody could avoid that. In jail at night, O'Connor awakes. He kneels and snakes slither in between the bars. He sits on the floor and prays, surrounded by them.

O'Connor is in Intensive Care, covered with snakebites. Some of the suspicion is taken off him.

Scully: "I guess he's looking less and less like he's the suspect.
Mulder: "Unless he somehow managed to do this to himself.. as a test of his own righteousness"

Gracie has prevented the doctors from giving him anti-venom treatment on religious grounds. She says that its up to God whether he lives or dies. Scully wonders if Gracie tried to kill her father - she grew up amid snakes and told Scully her father would be judged. However, Mulder is confused why she would kill the others.

Visiting Jared's residence, Mulder and Scully discuss what Jared must be scared of, when he was packing to leave town. Scully cannot understand how O'connor's church was exerting some kind of a pull on him, but Mulder says that its a culture with very well-defined set of rules - black and white, no shades of gray. The agents find some medical reports dated the day he died, showing that Jared was sterile. He could not be the father of Gracie's child. Scully says maybe he was killed because he discovered the truth. 

Gracie talks to Mackey and tells him that her father would want to be judged and using Anti-venom medicine would interfere with God's decision. Mackey counsels Gracie that you can trust God by trusting in the miracles of doctors and medicine and she eventually agrees to treatment. Mackey leaves Gracie to look over her father as his heart monitor shows his heart beating irregularly. Suddenly, venom starts oozing out of his bite wounds and before Gracie could turn to run, he grabs her.

Later, Mulder and Scully arrive at the hospital. O'Connor and Gracie are both gone and nobody knows how. Mulder thinks that O'Connor kidnapped Gracie, and Mackey implies that O'Connor was the father of Gracie's baby, which is why Gracie wanted to get away from him. O'Connor brings Gracie to his church, where his congregation waits. He pushes her head under water as he chants and prays. She struggles but then begins to deliver the baby. Snakes slither out from under her dress.

In the morning, Mulder and Scully arrive at O'Connor's church. Gracie is in deep shock and has loss of blood. From the pool of blood on the floor, snake tracks can be seen. Scully goes in the ambulance with Gracie while Mulder heads for Mackey's church, feeling that O'Connor may now threaten Reverend Mackey. O'Connor confronts Mackey and pulls out a knife, telling him that he took what he loved away from him - his daughter. Mackey tells him that his daughter had come to him. Mulder enters and shoots O'Connor in the shoulder, saving Mackey.

In the ambulance, Gracie tells Scully that her father saved her, rather than threatened her harm. As Mackey is in the other room, calling for an ambulance, O'Connor repeats to Mulder that Mulder doesn't know which side he's on. "Be smart down here," O'Connor says, pointing to Mulder's heart. Mulder pulls his gun on Mackey, claiming Mackey is the father of Gracie's baby and that he had killed Jared because he had learnt the truth. Maybe he wanted to destroy O'Connor by any conceivable means. Mackey asks if Mulder were put to the test, how would he do? Snakes appear and surround Mulder, even crawling out of his sleeves and pant legs. He gun also turns into a snake. Scully arrives at the church and hears Mulder cry out. But, O'Connor tells her to stay away from Mulder as she could not help him, the test was for him and him alone. When she finally breaks down the door, Mulder has been bitten and the last snake is seen leaving. Mackey is also gone. 

At the hospital, Scully reports that police have not found Mackey. If it was test, Scully thinks Mulder passed - he is alive. Mulder says "Proud and fancy free".  Mackey is seen at another church, in Hamden, CT, now calling himself Reverend Wells. In his desk he has a box of mice. He holds a mouse from its tail and tilts his head back preparing to eat it. His mouth opens wide and a snake emerges and grabs the mouse, then retreats back into his mouth. 

By Michael Marek, Jamy Ruby, Rohan Seth

Episode Information

David Duchovny Special Agent Fox Mulder
Gillian Anderson Special Agent Dana Scully
Eric Nenninger Jared Chirp
Randy Oglesby Reverend Samuel Mackey
Michael Childers Reverend Enoch O'Connor
Beth Grant Iris Finster
Tracy Middendorf Gracie
Phyllis Franklin Middle-Aged Woman
Dan Manning Deputy
Stevie Johnson EMT
Elyse Donalson Elderly Woman
Philip Lenkowsky Holy Spirit Man #1
Clement E. Blake Holy Spirit Man #2
Donna May Holy Spirit Woman #1

Air Date: 23rd January, 2000
Shooting Schedule: Started November 8th, 1999

Written by Jeff Bell
Directed by Kim Manners


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