Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose 3×4: Nobody does anything without a reason.


Darin Morgan has done it again. It’s another flawless X-File. He’s written an episode that’s so perfectly executed I find myself struggling to write anything about it at all other than, “Oh my word! So awesome!!!” I realize such outbursts don’t count as critique in the traditional sense, but it’s hard to review an episode that even now, many years after I first saw it, finds me laughing out loud at new moments. I’ll try, but I make no promises.

We can’t talk about “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” without giving homage to Clyde Bruckman himself, the marvelous Peter Boyle. Most will know him from Everybody Loves Raymond and sadly, he passed away a few years back. Fortunately, he left us with some great Television and Movie memories. I have to say, Darin Morgan’s legendary writing aside, Peter Boyle’s sardonically wise portrayal makes this episode. He’s equal parts sad and snappy. And while you’d think the ending would turn this into a dreary episode, we so relate to Bruckman’s witty struggle that even suicide can’t stop the party.

Bruckman is a dream come true for Mulder who initially worships his psychic power with the awestruck innocence of a little leaguer in front of Mickey Mantle. When Bruckman attempts to lead them to a body, Mulder is so over-eager during the car ride he might as well have asked, “Are we there yet?”:

Bruckman: You know, there are worse ways to die but I can’t think of a more undignified one than autoerotic asphyxiation.
Mulder: Why are you telling me that?
Bruckman: Look, forget I mentioned it. It’s none of my business.

Probably this is just Bruckman trying to shake a puppy dog off of his leg, but who knows? It would certainly be an ignominious end not out of character for Mulder. However, Scully’s responding smirk belies any seriousness.

The episode isn’t all jokes, though. Like “Humbug” (2×20) before it, it has some important life questions buried within the narrative. Questions, mind you, not answers.

Bruckman: Why does anyone do the things they do? Why do I sell insurance? I wish I knew. Why did this woman collect dolls? What was it about her life? Was it one specific moment where she suddenly said, “I know, dolls!” or was it a whole series of things, starting when her parents first met, that somehow combined in such a way that in the end she had no choice but to be a doll collec[tor].

That right there is the whole crux of the story. The killer, Puppet, did he choose his fate or did his fate choose him? Right at the beginning, we see the killer and Bruckman meet and dance a shuffle of fate. Was it by chance?

Do we live our lives hemmed in by destiny? Puppet refers to his life as “a mere formality.” He thinks that he does the things he does because he’s destined to. In truth, he does them because he’s insane. Is that fate or free will?

Bruckman: No, you don’t kill me yet.
Puppet: I don’t? Why not?
Bruckman: How should I know?

So which side of the debate is Bruckman on? On the surface, he makes it clear to Mulder that there’s nothing one can do to stop the future. As he so aptly puts it, how can he see the future if it doesn’t already exist. Yet, despite his protestations, he helps Mulder and Scully; if not out of any sense of moral obligation then in a final effort to do something more with his life than sit back and wait for the inevitable to occur. And who knows? Maybe by changing the future he can change his past.

…And the Verdict is:

Bruckman may not have changed his own fate, one that it appears he was aware of from at least the beginning of the episode and probably much earlier, but he did affect Mulder’s destiny. Or did he? Whether or not the killer’s visions were accurate or not, who can say? They had certainly come true up to that point so I’m inclined to think Bruckman did some good. After all, “That’s not the way it was supposed to happen.”

But what about Bruckman? You’d think a suicide would put a damper on the whole thing, but somehow, poignant though it is, it isn’t depressing the way it would read on paper. Does he kill himself out of obedience to fate? Or is it because his job is finished, he’s done his good deed and now there’s no need for him to put himself through the torture of knowing the future anymore?

Darin Morgan has an incredible ability to exceed the audience’s expectations about what an X-File is by mocking those very expectations. He raises questions without giving us answers. Me, I’m not so sure that destiny and free will are conflicting concepts. Is it unreasonable to think that one exists inside the other? Or even better, because of the other?

Like “Humbug” you can take a deeper message from it if you want or, my personal favorite, don’t take anything from it at all but just sit back and enjoy it.

A+

Comments:

So, does Scully die or doesn’t she? You heard the man. She doesn’t. You hear that, Chris Carter?? Don’t you pull a funny one in X-Files 3.

Mulder can read tea leaves? Like the Fiji Mermaid leap he makes in “Humbug”, Mulder’s powers of deduction are exaggerated for effect.

Best Quotes:

Editor’s Note: Most of the jokes in this episode are better in context, not as quotes. Either way, I’d have to transcribe the whole script to include the “best” and that still wouldn’t do it justice. Please, enrich your life and go watch it.

Madame Zelma: Mister, please, you’re hurting me.
Puppet: I know, I know, I’m sorry. But you’re a fortuneteller. You should have seen this coming.

————————

F.B.I. Photographer: They say the eyes capture the last image a murder victim sees before they’re killed.
Detective Cline: What do they say about the entrails?
F.B.I. Photographer: Yuck.

————————

Detective Havez: Is it true you asked for some help on this case?
Detective Cline: This guy’s supposed to be an expert at this sort of thing.
Detective Havez: I heard he was a bit… unorthodox.
Detective Cline: He comes highly recommended.
Detective Havez: Yeah. I saw him on TV.
Detective Cline: Hey, so he’s a publicity hound. As long as he gets results.
F.B.I. Photographer: I once worked on a case he did. Very spooky.
Detective Cline: As long as he gives us leads, I don’t care how big a kook…
[Mulder walks in]
Detective Cline: Who the hell are you?

————————

Detective Cline: Look, all I know is that, so far, Yappi has provided more solid concrete leads on this case than you have. Now, if you don’t mind, I have to get an APB out on a white male, 17 to 34, with or without a beard, maybe a tattoo, who’s impotent. Let’s go.

———————–

Detective Cline: It’s kind of creepy isn’t it? The Stupendous Yappi said the first victim’s body has been dumped somewhere, then we find it in a dumpster.
Mulder: Ooh. I just got a chill down my spine.

———————-

Bruckman: [Looking at Mulder’s badge] I’m supposed to believe that’s a real name?

———————

Scully: We can’t come up with suspects by having visions.
Bruckman: Jealous?

———————

Scully: All right. So how do I die?
Bruckman: You don’t.

———————-

Mulder: If coincidences are just coincidences, why do they feel so contrived?

———————-

Puppet: There’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you for some time now. You’ve seen the things I do in the past as well as in the future.
Bruckman: They’re terrible things.
Puppet: I know they are. So tell me, please, why have I done them.
Bruckman: Don’t you understand yet, son? Don’t you get it? You do the things you do because you’re a homicidal maniac.
Puppet: That… that does explain a lot, doesn’t it?

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34 responses to “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose 3×4: Nobody does anything without a reason.

  1. I’ve always wondered why some people think Bruckman’s prediction that Scully doesn’t die is such a great thing. I seems to me that it would be a terrible fate to live forever. Just ask Alfred Fellig. Hopefully, CC has something better in mind.

    • Maybe it’s because of my own views on eschatology, but I always figured he meant that she survived to the end of the world.

      XF3 in 2012 anyone?

  2. You are a mess. I love it.

  3. Emily Michelle

    Love this episode. It’s hilarious, it’s sad, it’s a little scary, and most of all it’s thought-provoking. I love the the juxtaposition of Clyde Bruckman and the Stupendous Yappi. On the one hand you have a fake pretending to have psychic powers, and he uses it to make money and he’s famous and everyone loves him. On the other hand you have the real deal and you realize that psychic powers can be a curse, not a blessing. It’s a perspective that you don’t always get when people discuss the possibility of seeing the future–as Morgan points out, it might just be straight-up depressing.

    And what really always fascinates me in this episode is the discussion about fate vs. free will. I personally don’t believe in fate, but I do sometimes hear this argument in terms of people having trouble with the idea of an omniscient deity. If God can see the future and see the choices we’re going to make (these people argue) then we’re stuck, right? We have to make the choices that God foresaw, and therefore we have no free will. I definitely have my beliefs about why this isn’t true, but it’s a serious question, and this episode tackles the same idea–Clyde believes that since he can see the future, the future is therefore set in stone and none of us can change it. And sadly, because of that belief, he doesn’t do anything to stop the things he sees–one of the scenes that always gets to me is when his protective detail is in the bathroom, and Clyde doesn’t do anything to stop the killer from attacking him because he’s certain he can’t do anything to stop it. It’s sad to see someone so beaten down, so convinced that things can’t be changed, that he doesn’t do anything to fight the future (you see what I did there?) Anyway, clearly I could talk about this for ages, but I’ll just say that you know you have a brilliant episode on your hands when you can reference it in discussions about free will, destiny, and the omniscience of God. 😀

    • “I’ll just say that you know you have a brilliant episode on your hands when you can reference it in discussions about free will, destiny, and the omniscience of God.”

      Seriously though! It’s a mini-debate between Armenianism and Calvinism.

      I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle just like it did for Bruckman; we have choices that we’re destined to be allowed to make. Those choices may already exist but you’ve made them just the same. 🙂

      Anywho, I’m with you. I just love this episode to pieces for being poignant, scary and hilarious all at once.

  4. Anyone else notice (and love!) the little nod to Beyond the Sea in this episode? Bruckman identifies one of the items Mulder gives him as a scrap from his New York Nicks T-shirt – something he gave Luther Lee Boggs as a ‘piece of evidence’ in Beyond the Sea.

  5. I loved this episode. I knew this actor as Clyde Bruckman before he was the dad from Everyone Loves Raymond. I think this episode digs at a lot of big issues. Some of my favorite XF episodes are episodes which raise those kinds of issues.

  6. When Clyde tells Scully she doesn’t die
    I think it’s a reference to the Rapture. Scully
    is a practicing catholic & Christian faith is
    something’s explored throughout the series.
    So most likely it’s a reference to that. I can think
    of any other way she wouldn’t die.

    • While that would really have been clever on Darin Morgan’s part, I don’t think that’s what he was going for her. He’s even admitted he was never seriously implying that Scully wouldn’t die; he just wanted to show that Clyde Bruckman liked her too much to tell her how she would.

  7. I think Clyde B. was just being sweet when he told Scully she wouldn’t die. Most likely she dies. He just likes her too much to say how and when. That is probably what Scully herself would argue at any rate. Of course there are many supernatural possibilities as well.

    • Sidneyd You think like Scully. I think he was being true to form. I love the scene when Clyde tells Mulder that he is in trouble and Scully jumps to attention…so obvious in love. Mulder even notices how she reacts. I could say she senses his notice an calms down a bit and projects, “your my partner.”

      • Suddenly, Scully is willing to believe if it means saving Mulder. I love how Mulder looks at her, sort of “now you believe?”

  8. I love this episode too. ONe of my faves.

  9. Pingback: Season 3, Episode 4 – Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose | The X-Files Truth Podcast

  10. With the whole “You don’t (die)” reference, I heard somewhere it foreshadowed Tithonus in S6. Not necessarily in that Scully becomes immortal or not, but rather that in a moment when death is a sure bet (she can actually see Death), she is saved at the last minute. I like the way it ties in, because this whole episode CBFR is about fate (clairvoyance) versus free will – in the later episode Tith, Scully lived because someone else (Fenig) intervened with their free will and changed the inevitable, averting her death. Yet Bruckman could foresee it. It might not be the correct interpretation, but I like how it kind of wraps it up in a neat bow.

    • Sorry, that should say Fellig, not Fenig. Wasn’t Max’s last name Fenig or someone?

    • I know Darin Morgan didn’t intend to say that Scully would never truly die, but I don’t know whether or not Vince Gilligan was purposefully picking up on that theme in Tithonus. Vince is the King of Continuity and wrote for the show as a fan of the show and the characters, so that would make it possible. I suspect he wouldn’t want Scully to live forever himself, though.

  11. It’s my favorite episode ever too

  12. Very touching episode for me. My only regret is that the next one is such a dissapointment for me. I don’t like it.

  13. When Bruckman is playing poker with Scully, the camera focuses momentarily on his hand. He has aces and eights, the “dead man’s” hand made famous by Wild Bill Hickok. It was the hand he was holding in a saloon in Deadwood when he was shot in the back. Nice little touch there!

  14. Pingback: I Want to Believe: I don’t think I’m the one who’s changed. | Musings of an X-Phile

  15. Love your reviews (thank you for doing them) and I most often agree with them. I too loved loved loved this episode but it was not flawless for me. I don’t wish to be a party pooper or too nitpicky (sorry, don’t hold it against me), but the flaw for me would be the detective(s) who buy into Yappi’s “profile” and put out that ridiculous APB. Silly can work in The X-Files, but silliness like this is just too jarring for me. I can put up with silly coincidences (among other such things) that are necessary to move the plot along, like the cop guarding Clyde just happens to be in the bathroom when Puppet arrives, since it’s a necessary evil in storytelling for TV shows. For me the silliness has to fit into the overall feel of The X-Files (if that makes sense) and the manner in which the aforementioned detective tells off M&S and heads off to put out the silly APB just ends up being as jarring as if he suddenly starting doing the Charleston before leaving the room.

    That said, this is still one of my most favorite episodes of television, not just The X-Files, and it doesn’t let you down in the end like Darin’s other excellent episode “Humbug.”

    • I can’t hold it against you! The “silly” aspects are jarring for me in certain other episodes even though CBFR I buy completely. So I can relate. Though I think the timing of Puppet’s arrival in Clyde Bruckman’s hotel room has more to do with the idea of fate that drives the episode than anything else.

      • The X-Files lends itself to humor very well (just M&S’s exchanges are pure gold) and really doesn’t need to resort to such “silly” aspects. It’s my fault for expecting too much I guess.

        You’re so right about the fate, re Puppet’s arrival in Clyde’s hotel room, so it fits in perfectly. I should have referred to one of the other convenient coincidences that are used by the show. Like the series of missed phone calls between M&S in “Colony” or [Spoilers ahead] the graffiti artist running down the alley just as Mulder peeks out the window which fools both Mulder and the audience into thinking it was Incanto in “2Shy.”

  16. Pingback: Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster 10×3: I forgot how much fun these cases could be. | Musings of an X-Phile

  17. Destiny! Destiny! No escaping that for me!

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