Ghost in the Machine 1×6: I taught him everything he knows.

Believe the badge.

“Ghost in the Machine” is the granddaddy of government cover-up: Half-Caff X-Files. I say Half-Caff because they aren’t paranormal and neither are they, well, normal. These are the cases that explore the realm of science fiction rather than horror. They are not lesser than, by any means. Only they aren’t a part of the mytharc and they aren’t MOTW episodes either. Usually, these types of episodes focus on the dangers of technology, biotech or otherwise. In this case, it’s artificial intelligence.

Dear Reader, may I draw your attention to the glance Mulder gives Scully when Jerry mentions that they were former partners. He looks for the world as though Scully had met a past lover of his, as though she wouldn’t want to know there had ever been anyone before her. On her part, Scully drops her friendly smile. Mulder and Scully may not be romantic, or even overly attached at this point, but they are most definitely territorial. Mulder even tries to downplay his “previous relationship” by saying they merely “worked together.” You can’t hide your sordid past forever, Mulder.

Jerry’s entrance is where Mulder’s demonstrable loyalty to his friends, even when they don’t deserve it, becomes evident. He may not make attachments easily, but once he does he’s loath to let go. He shows these same feelings toward Diana Fowley multiple times and even toward Skinner in “Redux II” (5×2) when Scully has him pegged as a traitor. To an extent, this aspect of his personality is what allows Phoebe Green to take advantage of him again in “Fire” (1×11), though that time he walks into her web willingly. It’s akin to his fascination with outcast females, no doubt tied to the loss of Samantha. He’d rather not lose again.

There’s something nostalgic about the scene where Scully tries to get Mulder to seek help. The character dynamics here hold true pretty much to the end of the series, which is a feat. Scully argues the irrationality of Mulder’s premise, Mulder sticks to it anyway. Scully tries to get Mulder to take a reasonable course of action, Mulder ignores her and goes off without any real explanation. Good times.

Unlike “Shadows” (1×5) before it, at least we can say we now know more about our two favorite agents.

And the Verdict is…

This one is largely ignored by the fandom and generally panned, but without its precedent, we wouldn’t have had episodes like “F. Emasculata” (2×22), “Wetwired” (3×23), and the some kind of awesome “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18). We’ll call it a government cover-up and not a conspiracy so as not to confuse it with the series mythology, which it’s only tied to by a very loose shoestring. Little grey-green men aren’t so much as hinted at.

There is a lot more meat here than I remembered eating the first 4 or so times I watched it. I would now go so far as to say it’s underrated. True, the visuals and electronics are dated, that can’t be helped. Also, the “villain”, the AI is sadly lacking in personality. The series missed an opportunity to create a truly frightening sentient computer, an error they later rectified in “Kill Switch” (5×11).

But there are a few golden moments hiding in this episode. How about Scully kicking butt and taking names? What fun when she walks in all bruised and beaten up, ready to shoot. She, of course, does the improper thing and sides with Mulder over the government. Pull a gun on her partner, will you? We haven’t seen Scully like this since “Deep Throat” (1×1).

Speaking of Deep Throat, Deep Throat himself makes a welcome return, proving that if dangerous technology exists the government will try to buy it and hide it. After all, you can’t trust the government. You can only trust Mulder and Scully.


General Observations

Mulder and Scully had to pay $8.50 for that rinky-dink lunch? Psh.

Apparently, TPTB don’t bother reprimanding these two agents at this stage of the game. They escaped censure in Deep Throat and it appears that the Department of Defense won’t be taking revenge on them either.

Nagging Questions:

What are Phone Freaks, Data Travelers, and Techno Anarchists? The times, they have a-changed.

What’s with all the strips of paper in the air conditioning shaft? It looks more like a garbage disposal.

More importantly, Scully shooting bullets inside the shaft seems equally as suicidal as her throwing herself directly into the fan.

Best Quotes:

Scully: How come you two went your separate ways?
Mulder: I’m a pain in the a** to work with.
Scully: Seriously.
Mulder: I’m not a pain in the a**?

17 responses to “Ghost in the Machine 1×6: I taught him everything he knows.

  1. Phone freaks are the guys back in the 60s-70s-80s (I think) who hacked the phones lines in order to get free communications or intercept telecommunications.

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  3. I’m totally watching this one right now instead of the s11 finale. How much anxiety is Mulder having when Scully’s crawling around the air vents and he just lost one partner in the murder building the day before?

  4. also, Scully’s sense of loyalty to Mulder and their quest proves more powerful than her loyalty to the organization she’s sworn to. also, I love Deep Throat. also, I love fluffy hair.

  5. There’s something kind of charming about the very dated electronics, I think. Watching these older episodes especially – every time one of them pulls out their brick-like cell phones I can’t help but smile.

    Scully climbing through the air vent and saving the day! She doesn’t get to do stuff like this enough, so I always love it when she does.

    The thing that stood out the most to me about the AI villain was that it was very strongly reminiscent of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Everything from its motive of killing people because it’s afraid to die/be disconnected, to the parallel in the three letter acronym names, to its last lines at the end – that monotone “What are you doing, Brad?” absolutely echoes “I’m sorry, Dave.”

    Last but not least, this episode may feature one of Mulder’s absolute worst ties. XD

    • Is someone going to put together a top ten list of Mulder’s worst ties? Because I can volunteer you.

      Believe it or not, I just saw 2001 for the first time a couple of months ago. I was as bored as I expected to be. GITM never stood a chance.

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  9. One of the most amusing elements in s.1 is Mulder and Scully’s old friends. They appear to have few from thereon, but that’s not a surprise if these chumps were the best to go on. I mean, this guy. What an a-****. The weekend’s must have been a riot.

    Kind of like this episode. Scully’s blow-dry and assault by the AC was rather fun.

    • Scully’s blow-dry is the reason for my avatar. I miss it.

      But more importantly, yes. I miss the days when they fleshed out Mulder and Scully’s backgrounds by parading their old friends in front of us. It made for some interesting insight and tension, and it showed some vulnerability in both characters.

      Mulder let himself be led around by this guy? Really??

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  11. I have an irrational affection for this episode, despite the fact that it’s a bit dull! Not sure why but it always makes me happy. Watching this again after recently watching kill switch, it becomes even more obvious how linked they are, not only in theme but also in story. They pretty much follow nearly exactly the same plot. Kill switch is just the super beefed-up arse-kicking, sexy-nurse, eyeliner and explosion filled version. Granddaddy indeed 🙂

    My favourite thing about this episode is Mulder, and how kind he is to Jerry. Jerry is basically an enormous arse to Mulder throughout, but Mulder supports him, covers for him and has his back without question. What incredible loyalty and kindness. Mulder haters take note!

    Yet another brilliant example of season 1 MSR and the trust that is building between them. First, the shipper-heart-warming back touching in the car park 🙂 Then, when Scully comes to Mulder’s rescue at the end, the subtleties of the interaction between them are so fun to watch. I love that Mulder feels he has to say ‘don’t listen to him Scully’ as the government dude is trying to persuade her to turn on him. He knows that Scully’s integrity is such that she won’t just follow him anywhere, and that he has to earn her trust by deserving it. Of course, she decides to support him. You can really see that the respect that becomes such a defining factor in their relationship and eventual love was there from the beginning, slowly slowly building.

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