Dr. Orgel and Skinner are infected with a nanotechnology that is remotely controlled; Orgel is killed by it and Skinner almost. Orgel and Skinner were digging evidence against a Senate Resolution that would have provided medical technology to third world countries. Tunisian diplomats and Krycek are behind the plot, coercing Senator Matheson to accept this funding bill. The bill is rejected, but Krycek still can control Skinner's nanotechnology.
This mysterious episode, written by Shiban, plays with the Skinner character in the vein of 3X21: Avatar and 4X21: Zero Sum. There is a tense and urgent atmosphere, like in 2X22: F. Emasculata; here, the relentless passage of time is shown with timestamps counting down minutes. The tie with the mythology only makes itself clear in the final scene with the revelation of Krycek, but in fact it permeates the whole episode. The nanotechnology and the new means of pressure over Skinner, however, won't be touched upon again -- something too frequent with the X-Files unfortunately.
Senate Resolution 819
The US budget is debated on and voted in Congress; the House of Representatives and the Senate both develop budget resolutions. Senate Resolution (S.R.) number 819 was "a funding bill" that had not passed yet in the budget for the next fiscal year. It would "provide money and supplies to the World Health Organization, medical technology to third world countries", a most noble enterprise on behalf of a developed world country -- often accused to provide its technology and medical supplies at unaccessible prices to those who need it most.
Skinner "was doing a security check on a Senate bill". This, we are told, is "routine procedure" on behalf of the FBI, an audit on behalf of an independent body that would keep the Senate in check for partiality or litigation: "This bill was going to vote in the Senate. All it was waiting on was Skinner's review and an analysis by Dr. Kenneth Orgel." Kenneth Orgel, according to Scully, was "A physicist. Very well known, as far as physicists go", and also "an advisor to a Senate subcommittee on ethics and new technology."
The thing that is inserted in Skinner's bloodsream is described as "pure carbon"; nanotechnology, because of its miniaturized nature, doesn't have to be made out of steel or silicon; far from it. "Nanotechnology. Microscopic, atom-sized machines." This is "technology that the world believes is purely theoretical"; indeed, today only very simple things can be done with nanotechnology, but everything shows that in the future it could have applications beyond the wildest dreams of science-fiction --
One possible application among the thousands this nanotechnology can have is used on Orgel and Skinner: using it for "building a heart attack". The individual 'machines' multiply and clogs the blood vessels, effectively stopping blood circulation: "It has behavior. It's creating something, a matrix stimulated by blood flow in response to movement. It's multiplying and solidifying in an orderly fashion. It's building valves or dams in the vascular system." In a perverted effect, "his blood has become a weapon against his body". Scully is at a loss as to how to treat it: "we just don't have the technology to combat it." The only thing she can do is destroy some of the nanomachines as they keep multiplying: "the best that we can do is keep lasering his arteries open. But it's only going to be a matter of time before we lose. I mean, it's building walls in his vessels faster than we can tear them down". This nanotechnology is very effective against conventional medicine.
The Tunisian connection
The presence of Tunisian diplomats with whom Krycek cooperates only points to somebody unnamed but very powerful: Conrad Strughold, who we know is located in Tunisia. S.R.819 would have been diverted from its original philanthropic purpose into exporting this technology from the USA and giving it to the hands of Strughold, the mastermind of the Syndicate. Anyone hindering these plans was to be eliminated, as was Dr. Orgel. Normally, Skinner should have been eliminated as well, but Krycek spares him. Why? "All in good time", Krycek answers.
We can only theorize on the reasons behind this interest for nanotechnology. Among the possible applications that nanotechnology promises to offer is as an additive completing functions the human body cannot or does imperfectly, such as the better management of trace elements (treatment against obesity) or the enhancing of body metabolism (treating ailments related to the lack of a chemical in a body, such as diabetes) or a drug-delivering method (treatment against targeted cells, such as cancer or AIDS) or as a very effective antibiotic (targetting a virus). Could the latter point to an application of the nanotechnology as a means to fight the Black Oil virus? Any viral infection could be instantly detected, contained and neutralized by a technology present in the body at all times. This is an alternative to the vaccine or to hybridization for immunity against the Black Oil! We can go further in this theory by wondering where this technology came from. It is possible it is extraterrestrial in origin, developed by reverse engineering the technology found on fallen crafts in top secret military bases, just as alien technology was salvaged for new propulsion methods (1X01: Deep Throat, 4X18: Max). The presence of this kind of 'intelligent' and near-invisible technology is hinted at by fully automated self-repairing alien ships (Fight the Future, 7X03: The Sixth Extinction, 7X22: Requiem). The irony of human scientists using alien technology to fight back an alien virus is fitting. Research into this means of resistance would have been cut short by the events in 6X12: One Son. Interesting theories that won't be explored later on.
Skinner (voice-over): "Every minute of every day we choose. Who we are. Who we forgive. Who we defend and protect. To choose a side or to walk the line. To play the middle. To straddle the fence between what is and what should be. This was the course I chose. Trying to find the delicate balance of interests that can never exist. Choosing by not choosing. Defending a center which cannot hold. So death chose for me."
Skinner: "I'm in your hands. I think I owe you an apology, Scully. You and Mulder."
Skinner: "I've been lying here thinking. Your quest... it should have been mine."
Scully: "What do you mean?"
Skinner: "If I die now, I die in vain. I have nothing to show for myself. My life..."
Scully: "Sir, you know that's not true."
Skinner: "It is. I can see now that... I always played it safe. I wouldn't take sides. Wouldn't let you and Mulder... pull me in."
Scully: "You've been our ally more times than I can say."
Skinner: "Not the kind of ally that I could have been."