The X-Files

Season 4 Episode 21

Zero Sum

Aired Monday 9:00 PM Apr 27, 1997 on FOX
out of 10
User Rating
277 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Skinner destroys evidence to cover up a woman's death and poses as Agent Mulder to complete the task. Mulder finds out about Skinner's deception and confronts him and Skinner reveals that he is working for the Cigarette Smoking Man in order to obtain a possible cure for Scully's cancer.moreless

Who was the Episode MVP ?

No results found.
No results found.
  • Zero Sum

    Zero Sum was a superbly entertaining episode of The X-Files and I really enjoyed watching because there was action, intrigue and suspense as Skinner is forced to do the dirty work of the Cigarette Smoking Man. It was great watching Mulder investigate the crimes Skinner committed and how the characters and their roles in what was happening all intertwined. The Bee scene was scary and it was sad to see what happened to the kids and the teacher. Skinner makes a point to the Cigarette Smoking Man who, it is revealed, in cahoots with one of Mulder's information sources.moreless
  • Skinner tries to find a cure for Scully

    I think it was pretty brave of the show to throw an episode near the end of the season with no Scully, no Mulder for the first fifteen minutes or so and not much of a plot for quite a long time. Instead, we get Skinner doing something very out of character for him: destroying evidence. It's clear he's up to something mysterious, but I like how the show doesn't let us know right away.

    As a result, the episode turns into a stand-alone episode while being somewhat connected to a mini-arc that began back in Season 2 with Scully's abduction. We soon learn that Skinner is working for the Cigarette Man, something that was hinted at earlier in the season in "Memento Mori." However, we see soon enough what it is Skinner is involved in, and soon, Mulder figures it out.

    I really liked that characters that aren't used as well throughout the show or are used inconsistently/ in stupid ways were used to great effect here. Laurie Holden's character, who I don't even know the name of, didn't have much to do here, but at least I got the sense that she would be important in the upcoming episodes. I hope she comes to have as much importance as "X" or "Deep Throat," some of Mulder's help in the past.

    We also get a sideplot that has to do with bees infected with smallpox killing people and the C.S.M killing people who could get in their way. I liked the fact that this group of government agents were creating something involved with smallpox... that scene where the school was attacked was horrifying, and I hope that the writers keep focusing on these plots over the next few episodes.. or even over next season.moreless
  • The Birds As Bees

    There is a fair amount revealed and confirmed here but it takes a while getting there. The first third moves at a glacial pace as we watch Skinner methodically scrub the bathroom grout, clean the mirrors and walls, ditch the body in a furnace (ever notice how many times a furnace is used in the episodes?) and then get dressed. It gets a bit tedious. I also didn't need to see Skinner in his tidy whities. Eek!

    Things do pick up a bit, but it is all a bit predictable, especially if one recalls Skinner's Faustian bargain struck with CSM earlier in "Herrenvolk." Are we surprised when CSM ups the ante by killing the detective, causing Skinner to want out? Or that CSM implicates Skinner in the murder as insurance for his continued cooperation?

    And yes, the schoolyard scene references "The Birds" but not nearly as well. In fact, the schoolyard scene struck me as a bit mean-spirited and over-the-top, especially with the depiction of the teacher thrashing wildly about on the ground like a ragdoll.

    All in all, a decent episode that furthers the Myth arc in a significant way, albeit somewhat slowly.moreless
  • Walter Skinner helps The Cigarette Man to save Scully's life

    Well, my first review... And I chose this episode because I saw it today. It is a good episode. First, we see Skinner deleting some files in Mulder's computer and we think he's not who we thought he was... But as the episode goes on we see Skinner as a sensitive man who was covering a murder in order to save Scully's life. He was helping the cigarette man because the bad guy told him he could save agent Scully. This episode also shows us the conspiracy about the bees and what they were doing in the fields when Samantha's clones were find by Mulder.

    Not one of the best episodes but a nice one though.moreless
  • Hahah, I pick random episodes to review :D

    Ohhkayyy so ! Hahah, this episode was pretty freakin good, I love Skinner, so a Skinner / Mytharc / CSM episode had to be freaking amazing ! The whole time I was like what the hell are yu doing Skinner ? Until of course CSM was like if you want a cure for Scully then shut up and do what your told. Yea, so this is pretty much me rambling but whatever, the episode was good, what else do I need to say ? I could rant at you about how wonderful Chris Carter's writing is, but I'm not gonna, so.. yea.. Watch the episode.. it was good :Dmoreless
Lisa Stewart

Lisa Stewart

Jane Brody

Guest Star

Nicolle Nattrass

Nicolle Nattrass

Misty Nagata

Guest Star

Fred Keating

Fred Keating

Detective Ray Thomas

Guest Star

Mitch Pileggi

Mitch Pileggi

Assistant Director Walter Skinner

Recurring Role

William B. Davis

William B. Davis

Cigarette Smoking Man

Recurring Role

Don S. Williams

Don S. Williams

1st Elder

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • At 23:31 into the episode, Walter Skinner is flipping through files in Mulder's office. Only one file has a visible name tag. If you look closely it says the name Foo Fighters. It is in reference to actual foo fighters, not the band.

  • QUOTES (4)

    • First Elder: Details are everything. Much more important than your vague assurances.
      Smoking Man: Well you'll have to trust my assurance that any other breaches have been handled.
      First Elder: Handled by whom?
      Smoking Man: I've a man in place. A man with no other choice but to succeed.
      First Elder: And what assurance can you give us that he can be trusted?
      Second Elder: We can't risk even the slightest exposure.
      Smoking Man: He has nothing to expose - except his own duplicity.

    • CSM: Now, unless you intend to kill me, I would like to answer my phone.

    • CSM: Yours isn't the first gun I've had pointed in my face, Mr. Skinner. I'm not afraid to die.

    • CSM: You're in no position to question the terms of our arrangement.
      Skinner: Then we have no arrangement.
      CSM: You'll find it's not that easy to walk away from, Mr. Skinner.
      Skinner: No?
      CSM: A man digs a hole; he risks falling into it.

  • NOTES (3)


    • Episode Title: Zero Sum

      This refers to the precept in game theory that a situation in which a participant's gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s).

    • Cultural & Musical Reference: Foo Fighters

      When Skinner is going through Mulder's files, you can clearly see a file labeled "Foo Fighters" near the back of the cabinet he is searching. The term refers to unexplained flying objects observed by pilots during World War II and also to the rock band, which contributed a song to the X-Files "Fight the Future" soundtrack.

    • Movie Reference: The Birds

      The schoolyard scene with the bees attacking the children and their teacher is a reference to the Alfred Hitchcock film which contains a similar scene only involving birds.