X Cyclopedia: The Ultimate Episode Guide, Season II

29. ASCENSION
WRITER: PAUL BROWN
DIR.: LANGE
Barry has kidnapped Scully in the hopes the aliens will take her instead of him. In a chase through the mountains, Mulder pursues the pair, reluctantly allowing Krycek to tag along. Historic moment: Krycek's duplicity, via Cancer Man, becomes clear; after being convinced by Mulder of the web of deceit surrounding them, Skinner reopens the X-Files. Critique: An expertly paced race against time as Mulder tries — unsuccessfully — to prevent Scully's ''ascension.'' Extra credit for creative use of a pregnant Anderson. A

30. 3
WRITERS: RUPPENTHAL/MORGAN/WONG
DIR.: NUTTER
With Scully gone (Anderson was giving birth at the time), a solo Mulder investigates a series of apparent vampire killings in L.A., where he meets Kristen, a kinky chick into blood sports. Historic moment: Mulder gets lucky. Creative casting: Former Duchovny girlfriend Perrey Reeves plays Kristen. Critique: Scully's absence didn't hurt. The fact that they didn't exploit this promising premise did. Besides, L.A. scenesters as bloodsuckers? Tell us something we don't know. C

31. ONE BREATH
WRITERS: MORGAN/WONG
DIR.: GOODWIN
Scully — inexplicably returned, and free of any evidence of where she has been — has a reconciling encounter with her dead father as she hovers between life and death. Meanwhile, Mulder, beside himself with grief and stymied at every turn in his attempts to find out who is responsible for her disappearance, hands in his resignation to Skinner. Historic moments: An emotional field day for Mulder, featuring head butting (with Cancer Man) and hand holding (from Skinner); first use of the masking tape signal to summon X. Critique: Absurd symbolism and the introduction of Scully's dopey New Age sister (Melinda McGraw) detract from, but don't destroy, this richly layered installment; arguably Duchovny's best performance. B

32. FIREWALKER
WRITER: GORDON
DIR.: NUTTER
Mulder and Scully investigate another psychosis-inducing parasite, this time a silicon-based spore residing in a volcano. Critique: Strictly melted ''Ice'' (episode 7). Insultingly bad, ripping off not only themselves but Alien. D-

33. RED MUSEUM
WRITER: CARTER
DIR.: WIN PHELPS
A Wisconsin dairy region is the site of kids turning up in the woods again, their apparent affliction a kind of mad-human disease. A Peeping Tom, a devious country doctor, and an extremist, red-turbaned vegetarian sect all figure in the resultant drama. Historic moment: A rare instance of Scully and Mulder eating a meal together — pointedly, a big, greasy platter of ribs. Creative casting: '70s sitcom perennial Paul Sand plays the Tom with his usual sad-sack aplomb. Critique: Creative if convoluted. And FYI, this is one of Carter's favorite episodes of the season, but not ours. B