“Aubrey” is estrogen driven. It’s penned by one of the few female writers to grace the series, Sara B. Charno. The guest lead is Deborah Strang who is so good as B.J. Morrow that Chris Carter put her in for an Emmy. And most importantly, Scully’s observation skills outshine Mulder’s for once. Hurrah for womankind. Manly men may want to turn back now.
OK, I exaggerate. But this episode does take the idea of woman’s intuition and gives it a paranormal spin. Is B.J. just really, really good at subconsciously putting pieces together or rather than intuition, is she herself a victim of instinct? Outside of discussing animal behavior, these two ideas, intuition and instinct, are often blended to where they’re interchangeable. For instance, if I were to say “I have a gut instinct,” many would take that to mean that I’ve taken in some information, processed it, and come to a informed if unprovable conclusion. This episode explores the frightening premise that even our instincts are not our own but that they’re passed down in families along with near-sightedness and crooked teeth.
I’m convinced with this episode that The X-Files is starting to hit its stride. The writers and producers are confident as to what makes an X-File an X-File. The feel of the show is more consistent than Season 1 and the Mulder and Scully dynamic is positively golden. Earlier episodes like “Space” (1×8) couldn’t be saved by Mulder and Scully’s relationship because it didn’t exist as such yet. Episodes this season have a built-in failsafe in that when all else is lost, watching Mulder and Scully interact is all the audience needs.
Not that “Aubrey” needs a failsafe. Even this early on in the series the episodes are beginning to feel like mini-films. This time around it’s thanks in large part to the stellar direction of Rob Bowman. From the first shot of the teaser the story is told from creative angles. One of his best moments is when he chooses to shoot over Lt. Tillman’s shoulder so that we can both watch Tillman’s face as he eavesdrops and watch the conversation he’s eavesdropping on at the same time. It’s lovely, ironic and darkly hilarious.
The acting is also taking a consistent turn for the better as well. Terry O’Quinn is given a rather two-dimensional role as B.J.’s married lover, but he somehow makes it memorable and gives the character presence and depth. Deborah Strang is also good as the vulnerable, self-doubting B.J.
There’s also an extra mystery in this episode. Scully mentions to B.J. having experience in the inter-office relationship department. Is this an early reference to what we learn about Scully in Season 7’s “all things” (7×17)? I’m not so sure. For one, we already know that Scully has had a relationship with someone at the F.B.I. before. That came out in “Lazarus” (1×14). But more than that, I suspect that Scully isn’t much empathizing with B.J. so much as she’s conducting an investigation. It reminds me of the stunt she pulled in “Shadows” (1×5) when she made Lauren Kyte believe that she believed in ghosts too. Note how Scully reports right back to Mulder with what she discovered. Perhaps it was all an effort to stick it to Mulder and prove that her intuition just checkmated his.
Overall, I really enjoy this episode but it seems to be among the forgotten and I’m not sure why. Perhaps there’s too much horror and not enough science? Regardless, it’s a good example of a classic X-Files episode. In other words, this is one you might show a newbie if you wanted to give them an instant feel for the series.
Mind you, it’s not without its faults and there are a couple of hokey moments. Scully breaks out a “scanner” that can read words carved into bone so easily I thought for a second that CSI had interrupted my regularly scheduled program. But deus ex machina is a necessary evil when it comes to TV writing so we’ll let that go. Also, the scene where B.J. becomes Cokely and attacks Mrs. Thibedeax doesn’t read well. She’s not convincing as a man.
But here’s my main beef: Terry O’Quinn’s talents should not have been squandered on a stand-alone. Yeah, I know, he comes back for the 2008 film. But he comes in, makes an impact in only 2 minutes, and then he’s gone. Yeah, I know, he makes another guest spot in the Season 9 episode “Trust No 1” (9×6), but does anyone really remember that? And yeah, I know, Chris Carter made good use of him in his other series, Harsh Realm and Millennium, but didn’t The X-Files have seniority? All these prime 1013 opportunities and the man ends up best known for Lost. Yeah, we been gypped, yo.
One wonders if Lt. Tillman is still with his wife. Did he adopt the child as B.J.’s faithful friend or as the “baby daddy?”
Why did B.J. tell anyone about finding the body in the field? She could have left the open grave there for someone else to discover. I suppose it’s that her instincts as a detective kicked in and she felt responsible to both report and investigate the crime.
While B.J. is a great character and well played, somehow she doesn’t feel like a female detective. She doesn’t have the strength and confidence of someone like Scully, which is no doubt why she finds herself in such a delicate situation as the episode starts.
Mulder: Well, I’d like to know why this police woman would suddenly drive her car into a field the size of Rhode Island and for no rhyme or reason dig up the bones of a man whose been missing for 50 years. I mean unless there was a neon sign saying ‘Dig Here’.
Scully: I guess that’s why we’re going to Aubrey.
Mulder: Yes, and also… I’ve always been intrigued by women named B.J.
Scully: Mulder, I don’t think BJ was in the woods that night because of engine failure.
Mulder: What are you talking about?
Scully: Well the Motel Black would have been a perfect meeting place. Away from town, away from his wife.
Mulder: What do you mean?
Scully: It’s obvious BJ and Tillman are having an affair.
Mulder: How do you know?
Scully: A woman senses these things.
Mulder: Well, I’ve often felt that dreams are answers to questions we haven’t yet figured out how to ask.
Mulder: You mean a hunch?
Scully: Yeah, something like that.
Mulder: That’s a pretty extreme hunch.
Scully: I seem to recall you having some pretty extreme hunches.
Mulder: I never have.