WHILE MULDER IS VACATIONING, SCULLY FINDS HERSELF ATTRACTED TO A HANDSOME DIVORCEE WHOSE BETTY PAGE-LIKE TATTOO SEEMINGLY HAS A MIND OF ITS OWN.
Ed Jerse, a handsome Philadelphia resident, is devastated by the terms of his divorce settlement. After downing too many drinks at a neighborhood bar, Ed enters a tattoo parlor and selects a Betty Page-like design (on which is printed the words, "never again.") The next day, while at work, Ed hears a female voice refer to him as a "loser." Angered, Ed picks a fight with some women close to his cubicle, but they don't understand his anger. His boss sends him home for the day.
Meanwhile, Mulder tells Scully he must take time off for vacation or face losing several week's pay. Tension erupts between the pair when Mulder tells his partner what cases need her attention during his absence. Scully refuses to waste her time on a dubious case involving a Russian living in Philadelphia whom Mulder believes possesses valuable information on UFOs. Scully tells Mulder she feels as though she has lost sight of herself-as if her own life -does nothing but stand still.
Ed hears the Betty tattoo taunting him, mocking him. Not realizing it's a voice inside his head, he thinks it's his downstairs neighbor. The voice eventually drives Ed to the point of madness. In a rage, Ed bursts into the woman's apartment and attacks her. Later, he drags the body into the basement and stuffs it inside an incinerator.
Despite reservations, Scully decides to keeps tabs on Mulder's Russian. She realizes the man is an extortionist and his activities have nothing to do with an X-File. Scully follows the Russian into a nearby tattoo parlor, where she strikes up a conversation with Ed (who is in the process of begging the tattoo artist to remove his handiwork). They strike up a conversation and an undeniable chemistry develops between the pair. Ed hands Scully his business card, and suggests they have dinner. She politely declines, but takes his card anyway.
After having a tense phone conversation with Mulder about the Russian, Scully sets up a date with Ed. The relationship continues to blossom, and after consuming a few drinks, Scully and Ed return to the tattoo parlor, where Scully has the image of a snake eating its own tail tattooed on her back. The pair return to Ed's apartment. Noting the bad weather, Ed suggests Scully spend the night. Scully notices blood dripping from Ed's tattoo and, doctor-like, helps him pull off his shirt. A moment of intimacy develops, but before Ed can act upon his feelings, the Betty tattoo cries out: "Kiss her... and she's dead."
The next morning, Ed awakens on the couch. He leaves Scully a note that he is going to get breakfast. While Ed is away, detectives roust Scully from her sleep. They reveal that a resident downstairs was reported missing, and that a blood type different from her own was found inside the apartment. The detectives tell Scully that the blood contains chemical abnormalities. Seeing the chemical breakdown, Scully realizes it is composed of the same odd ingredients the Russian tattoo artist used to make the ink he used in their tattoos.
When Ed returns with breakfast, Scully tells him about the detectives' visit. She also reveals that the chemical found in the blood is an ergot alkaloid that can produce dangerous hallucinations. Ed confides in Scully about hearing Betty's voice in his head, taunting him, controlling him. Ed learns Scully is an FBI agent, and his mind snaps. He attacks her and a struggle ensues and Scully is knocked unconscious. As Betty's voice urges him on, Ed drags Scully's body into the basement, intending to stuff it inside the incinerator. Scully regains consciousness and tells Ed to "take control." Suddenly, Ed gathers the strength to thrust his arm inside the incinerator, burning off the tattoo. He is transported to a burn center for treatment.
When Mulder returns from vacation, the air between him and Scully remains tense. Scully reminds her partner that not everything revolves around him-and that she intends to live her own life.