Avatar 3×21: I’m not signing those papers.

Little Red Riding Hood.

“Avatar” is one of those few episodes where we open with one of our stars instead of just an X-File itself. A rare honor indeed and here it is bestowed upon Skinner so relatively early in the series. He also bears the dubitable honor of participating in the first real sex scene on The X-Files in said intro. Needless to say, things quickly go awry and he wakes up next to a beautiful blonde who looks like she just crawled out of The Exorcist.

Ah, Skinner. Finally a follow up look at his inner workings heretofore only briefly hinted at in “One Breath” (2×8). Here’s a silent yet sensitive man who is reluctant to give up on his marriage, so instead of signing his divorce papers he goes for a drink… and sleeps with a strange woman… because he’s reluctant to give up on his marriage.

Wait. Skinner’s married?

That’s right. Walter Skinner has been married for 17 years. It looks like the reason he has Scully down as his emergency contact in “Apocrypha” (3×16) is because he and his wife have been separated for some months. Skinner/Scully shippers may suffer vain imaginations at their own peril. From the sound of things the only reason for the separation is the typical “he doesn’t talk to me anymore” issue. The prostitute doesn’t come in until later…

…the prostitute that CSM hired through one of his minions. It’s nice to see that the bad blood between CSM and Skinner is still festering; it adds a sense of continuity to the episode. That and the fact that Skinner further elaborates on the story of his near-death death experience that he first told Mulder about in “One Breath”. It turns out that along with nearly walking into the white light, he had a bit of a visitation. Which leads me to the crux of this little review.

I used to wonder why this episode is called “Avatar” which in Hindu mythology is a human incarnation of a deity when the paranormal star of the episode is a “Succubus.” Thanks to a single sentence of insight in an IMDB review I think I finally figured out the connection.

The old woman that Skinner keeps seeing is not a sexually possessive and dangerous succubus as Mulder initially suggests, she’s his wife, Sharon… who is actually an avatar. She’s his protector. She protected him from death in Vietnam, now she’s protecting him from the machinations of CSM. It’s the same creature, but for years she either was or took the form of his wife. Once his wife was separated from him, she came to him in dreams. It isn’t until they separate that she begins coming to him in dreams again. When he sees the old woman at the police station, it’s because Sharon has shown up. When he wakes up on the couch to see the old woman screaming, the police come to the door to tell him that Sharon’s been in an accident. This is why Sharon somehow knows what CSM has been up to and what Skinner needs to do to stop the man who framed him.

See how simple that sounds when it’s all laid out? Yeah, it’s too bad the episode doesn’t do that.

Now, we all know that The X-Files likes to err on the side of vagueness and that’s what we love about it. But take it from “Gender Bender” (1×13), leaving the audience completely nonplussed is never the way to go. The plot goes well right up through where Mulder’s succubus theory enters the picture, but there’s no follow-through after that. Which is why most are generally left with the incorrect impression that Mulder was right in his assumption even though he briefly mentions in passing that he must have guessed wrong.

And finally…

The lingering question is what happened to Sharon Skinner? I would say that she died. Whether or not they intended to imply that at the time, I don’t know. But nothing else could explain why she never shows up again even though Skinner puts his ring back on at the end of the episode. Besides, would you divorce your guardian angel? Not only that, but even within the context of the episode her sudden, miraculous awakening goes unnoticed by the hospital staff who would have been monitoring her from the nursing station. More than likely this is a moment only visible to Skinner because she’s his personal avatar. There’s a deleted scene that takes place just before Skinner spills his guts to an unconscious Sharon that would lend credence to the theory that she was all set to recover. But if so, where did she go? Her disappearance equals a de facto death regardless.

Overall, this episode is much, much better than I remembered. However, it’s still too convoluted to be called “great” and there isn’t much by way of scares or revelations. Also, as we’ve already gone over, little to nothing of the plot is clear by the end.

Mitch Pileggi does an admirable job here, though, and he deserved a Skinner-centered episode. Apparently, this was David Duchovny’s idea as a way of giving himself a break for a week, though it turns out his character is still in almost every scene. He and Howard Gordon teamed up for the story and while I don’t hate the finished product, I do wish that Skinner felt like more of a headliner and less of a bystander in his own story. Most of the episode is spent watching Mulder and Scully solve the case while he sits idly by and watches his world unravel. But hey, at least he’s the hero in the end.



This is yet another episode where Mulder’s theory is completely off. She’s not a succubus, she’s an avatar. So there. There are so few of these moments that I have to keep track.

Once again, despite all evidence to the contrary, once Mulder has faith in someone he refuses to let go. The man is inherently trusting. I’m telling you.

Like “Oubliette” (3×8), this is another episode where the supernatural element isn’t evil. In fact, this time it’s a force for good, albeit a slightly frightening one.

Best Quotes:

Lorraine Kelleher: I don’t know what to say.
Scully: Well you can start by telling us if she was working last night and if she was, who paid for her company.
Lorraine Kelleher: I’m afraid I can’t do that.
Mulder: I guess that would hurt future book sales, huh?
Lorraine Kelleher: You’d be surprised who some of my clients are.
Mulder: No, I don’t think I would be.
Scully: I also doubt that they’d want to get entangled in a homicide investigation
Mulder: Look, we just need one name from you. Who hired Carina Sayles?
Lorraine Kelleher: Let’s just say you both work for the government… and so do I.


Skinner: I got through that experience like most eighteen-year-olds. By numbing myself with whatever was around. I was no choir boy. I inhaled.


Mulder: They used us to do it, didn’t they? They used the X-Files.
Scully: How’s you know?
Mulder: Cause I think Skinner’s been outmaneuvered, Scully. They found a weakness and they’re exploiting it.
Scully: But why?
Mulder: To keep us it check. You remove Skinner and you weaken us.


Skinner: I had to tell you, Sharon, before anything else happens. I’m not signing those papers. For a lot of reasons. Most of them I’m just realizing myself for the first time. Some of the things I’ve seen, the violence and the lies that I’ve witnessed men inflict on one another… I could never tell you that. Not that I ever stopped believing in the work, but there were contradictions that I, that I couldn’t reconcile, which meant shutting down part of myself just to do my job. I never told you what I should have told you… that what really got me through each day was knowing that I’d be sleeping next to you that night. Knowing that I had a reason to wake up in the morning. I’m not sure if you can even hear me now or if it even makes a difference to you anymore, but I at least wanted you to know that.

19 responses to “Avatar 3×21: I’m not signing those papers.

  1. Thanks for the explanation of the Avatar. I never understood who the old woman was.

    This episode reminds me of S.R. 819 (6×10) where Skinner is dying and Mulder and Scully help to save him.

  2. There is too much in this episode that I don’t buy: Skinner’s married? No. The only reason he want’s to wake up in the morning is his wife to whom he is not talking? No. The only thing that’s keeping him up is knowing he will go to bed next to his wife, to whom, oh that’s right, he is not talking? No.

    Do we by the way get an answer as to what that glowing in the dark goo is? I fail to remember.

    • I sense your rating of this episode wouldn’t have been nearly as generous.

      Speaking of which, I *have* gotten generous lately. What happened to my mean streak?

  3. You are right, I don’t think it would. Maybe all this analyzing has made you see things that I cannot even begin to comprehend. Or maybe you’re just feeling generous.

  4. The concerns raised here are fair, but I think this episode ranked a notch or two higher in my book. The fact that they were able to clear Skinner at all in the face of the widespread conspiracy against him is a small miracle, and a testament to M/S’s investigative skills.

    It also makes a really great near half-calf episode; if you view it through that lens, what with the single masterful scene of CSM (with no dialog!), instead of MOTW, I think it fairs a little better.

    And don’t get down on yourself for being too generous. The second half of Season 3 has been spot on; I am so excited for Season 4!

    • I’m starting to think that my grading scale is directly affected by the amount of caffeine I’ve had that day. The bigger the latte, the more generous my heart.

      And you know, you’re right. Thinking back it works better if I don’t try to force it to be a MOTW. It’s not scary or strange enough for that.

  5. The woman in the red coat looked like the child from the film ‘Don’t Look Now’ resurrected!

    *non-helpful, completely pointless comment, over*

  6. Great explanation of the Avatar Salome. I may have to watch this episode again, keeping that in mind. Although I do like that the x-files leave some ends not neatly tied up, it’s sometimes downright confusing.
    It was great to see that Skinner has passion in something not related to work.

  7. I did wonder why they didn’t show Sharon anymore after this episode. You’re probably right: she’s probably dead. Makes me sad, I liked her character.

    I liked that this episode was Skinner-centric. But I have to admit, I just sat there shaking my head. He and Mulder, giving guys a bad name. They miss the girl of their dreams? Why, sleep with another one! *rolling my eyes* He doesn’t want to sign the divorce papers, so he’s still married…and sleeps around? Uh-huh. They definitely hold women to a different standard than the men in this series.

    Thank you for the explanation of the avatar. That makes total sense, that the old woman was Sharon…like his Patronus. I like the image of her being his protector. That she came over, in spite of a murder investigation and him spending the night with a prostitute, and offered to comfort him, just because she was worried about him. She really was his protector.

  8. Pingback: The X-Files, 3×21: “Avatar” | Nostalgia Vision

  9. omg, I cant believe that I noticed before that my favourite astrophysicist from Stargate SG1 (my other fave sci fi show) is getting it down with Skinner! Talk about fandom crossover… go Amanda Tapping!

  10. Hi! Love your blog! I have commented previously, and you might regard my comments as a bit negative, but thats only because I find it necessary to comment when I disagree with your opinion, which apparently is very rare. I liked this episode, and actually took me a second watch to get it. I think the parallels between Sharon and the old woman were drawn in a obvious way, while not shoving it in our face, very subtly, like many other things during the run of the series. Also, Mulder negates his succubus theory after he talks to Skinner, so if we don’t know that the old woman is Sharon the Avatar, we at least know, that she is protector.

    There are several things, however, that are not answered, like the glowy thing around the victims mouth, although I’d like to think that it was something killer used to silence her/sedate her so that she doesn’t struggle. And I also think that Sharon has died at the end.

  11. Pingback: Kitten 11×6: He’s a good man. | Musings of an X-Phile

  12. Pingback: Ace Review: “Avatar” – The Realm of Asexual Possibility

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