Mulder fully recovers. A Census worker and multpile abductee tries to warn the President of the ongoing replacement of humans by alien facsimilies based on genetic profile. Absalom escapes from jail and attempts to access the census files using Doggett but is shot. Knowle Rohrer uses Doggett to trap Mulder when he was trying to get these files; Doggett saves Mulder. Knowle Rohrer is revealed to be an alien facsimile himself.
8X18: Three Words takes place right after 8X15: DeadAlive and before 8X16: Vienen despite the production numbers. Season 8 continues its heavily serialized storyline with this episode which, for once, with its double-plays and manipulations, reminds us of the older mythology. Despite many shipper fans' expectations, the 'three words' of the title didn't refer to a soppy 'I love you' exchanged between Mulder & Scully, but to a motto that has come up before in the series: "Fight the Future"! Mulder makes a references to the stolen presidential elections: this is no more the Clinton era, this is Bush's time, and somehow the now overt staged and un-democratic processes make the paranoid world of the X-Files mythology sound out of place (one more argument to end with 7X22: Requiem :)).
Kersh and the X-Files (again)
Scully is on maternity leave. Mulder is eager to start working on the X-Files again (he puts up a picture of Samantha as soon as he gets back in the X-Files office) but Kersh openly denies the X-Files to him ("before I deny the application"). Dogget, a sceptic, is stuck to do a believer/sceptic team's work. This is about forcing the definitive end to the X-Files (Kersh: "Maybe you'd rather I close the X-Files. Then we'd both be getting what we want."). Skinner, the middle man, won't give Kersh the weapons with which he will bring him down: "[alien abduction] claims that have never been substantiated...or refuted. But evidence of torture was real." Mulder meets Doggett, and naturally he's suspicious of anybody that touches on his life's work. The events in this episode won't help Doggett gain Mulder's trust.
What was in those much talked-about files of the Federal Statistics Center that were so important as to kill anybody that would come close to them? A combination of both gives anybody in charge the power to find anybody that is an abductee, or anybody that looks suitable for abduction and replacement by an alien facsimile.
The Syndicate and the conspiratorial spheres of the government were known to use federal databases, digital or physical, to store data on abductees and the general US population: a secret facility in 3X02: Paper Clip, the Social Security Administration in 3X24: Talitha Cumi, the Pentagon in 5X02: Redux, and here the Federal Statistics Center. The US Census Bureau, "a government information bank" is a natural for monitoring the population: Social Security files can keep track of the medical records of individuals, and Census files can keep track of their location. In 8X01: Within we learnt that those that were taken were not all the abductees, but those that had presented a history that made them suitable for the transformation seen in 8X15: DeadAlive; all these people must have presented the same brain activity that Mulder had. In Mulder, it appeared because of the events in 6X22: Biogenesis. In others, it appeared because of their past history of alien abductions and a special kind of hybridization experiments (how else to explain that so many of these people are concentrated in a single place: Bellefleur? (7X22: Requiem)). In others, it is naturally present in their genome, just waiting to be expressed (Gibson Praises in the making). Skinner: "Names of people the federal government is tracking using the US Census. Names of people who have a certain genetic profile." All these people can be substituted. Mulder: "There going to learn that they've been targeted because of their genetic profiles for abduction and replacement by alien facsimiles." But as all the Bellefleur abductees suggest, with enough genetic manipulation, anyone can be replicated -- some, however, are naturally predisposed and don't need years of abductee history behind them.
Absalom: "The invasion has begun!" Absalom, most likely through Jeremiah Smith (8X14: This Is Not Happening), knows how to recognize a human from an alien facsimile: they have a mutation on "the back of [the] neck" (that place again!), a distinctive lump (or two). He checks Doggett for them and we see them on Knowle Rohrer. So Knowle Rohrer, Doggett's old friend, is an alien! His actions in 8X08: Per Manum (delivering Mary's baby and preventing Scully from seeing it) are better understood here: he was in league with Zeus Genetics all along. His work deeply within the government and the intelligence community indicates that he couldn't have gone missing for a few months like Billy Miles, in order to be transformed, and go unnoticed. If he's alien now, he's been so for a long time: these alien facsimiles are not a new thing, they've been among us for a long time. Absalom: "Proof. That they're already here. That they're already among us." Absalom quotes the Bible to cover the truth in parables: "Certain men have gone out among you and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city saying, 'let us go, and serve other gods that ye have not known'" (Deuteronomy 13:13). Aliens infiltrated in human society, undercover agents slowly gaining power and turning things their way.
Absalom and the manipulation of Doggett
"Howard Salt was a multiple alien abductee, worked for the US Census Bureau" and was member of Absalom's little UFO cult (8X14: This Is Not Happening). Aware of the ongoing substitutions, he decided to make his voice heard and attempted to reach the President of the USA by the most direct way possible: by jumping the fence and running on the lawn of the White House! Unable to reach his goal, he shoots himself in an act of martyrdom. Of course the media present a biased picture ("shot accidentally by his own gun [...] appeared to be irrational and resisted arrest, shouting unspecified grievances against the US government").
Absalom's death was not planned by anybody, his haste got him. However, Doggett will be used for the next attempt to pierce the FSC's secrets. Mulder gets ahold of (ie steals) Howard Salt's hard drive and with the help of the Lone Gunmen he learns that he will need a password to get the files from the FSC. Doggett doesn't know Mulder's plans but Knowle Rohrer anticipates it. Rohrer gives Doggett the password, knowing that Mulder will use it and he will get trapped by trigger-happy soldiers he will send. Unaware of what he's getting Mulder into, Doggett gives Scully the password. In a scene that reminds an awful lot of Mulder's infiltration in the Lombard Research Facility in 4X15: Memento Mori, Mulder enters the FSC.
Was this a first attempt to get rid of Mulder as per the prophecy (9X11: Provenance)? According to Krycek in 8X21: Existence, the alien replicants didn't yet know William and Mulder's true significance as of DeadAlive; they must have learnt after Three Words and Vienen, because while Mulder was still in the FBI they had a thousand opportunities to kill him and didn't. For Rohrer in this episode, killing Mulder (and Doggett) was just like getting rid of an unnecessary threat to security. After the facts, Knowle Rohrer still tries to act as the friendly informant with Doggett. The whole scene is reminiscent of Mulder's meeting with Deep Throat in 1X01: Deep Throat: a runner meets a suited man, information and secrets exchanged. Rohrer souds like Deep Throat as well: "you're standing on the tip of the iceberg, my friend [...] You got it all right in front of you. It's all in the X-Files. I'm just one man trying to point you in the right direction." Doggett's suspicions rise that there might be something more to Mulder & Scully's claims of a conspiracy.
Mulder (rediscovers his apartment): "Something looks different."
Scully: "...It's clean."
Scully: "Agent Doggett is above reproach, Mulder. He's being maneuvered just like you."
Mulder: "Well, good. At least he's maneuverable."
Frohike: "You know, it's really not fair. You've been dead for six months and you still look better than me. (hugs Mulder) But not by much."
Mulder: "Melvin. I'd be a whole lot happier to see you if you'd just take your hands off my ass."
[some Democratic love? re: 2000 US Presidential elections, Al Gore vs George Bush]
Mulder: "Well, just remember, boys, this is America! Just because you get more votes doesn't mean you win."