Teliko 4×4: Deceive, Inveigle, Obfuscate.


There's a Michael Jackson joke in here somewhere...

Airplane bathrooms are scary enough without a Monster of the Week attacking you.

Unfortunately, this is the scariest moment “Teliko” has to offer. Once the “monster” reveals himself, it’s downhill from there.

I’ve mentioned before in “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18) and in “Hell Money” (3×19), that so-called “ethnic” legends often don’t translate well to a mainstream American audience. (I can’t really speak for the response of other countries). The problem is that the viewer has to be convinced that they should be scared in the first place; there’s no built-in point of reference as there is for say, the bogeyman that hides under your bed. The advantage an overused conceit such as The Wolfman has over The Teliko is that the audience already knows what they’re scared of and why, all the writers have to do is take advantage of their anticipation and manipulate their adrenaline. The Teliko, in comparison, is such a vague notion that it takes getting used to before you can inch your way over to being afraid of it.

All that could be overcome, however, if the monster at hand were actually frightening. In this instance, the sad fact is that he has a few things standing in his way. A few… or maybe two.

Two main problems:

  1. Samuel Aboa isn’t scary.
  2. “White Face”

In short, the X-File itself sucks.

On the problem of our villain, Samuel Aboa, is awkwardness, something the other characters don’t seem to notice, forcibly reminds me of Eugene Victor Tooms. Only he’s traded a willfully idealistic psychologist for the naïveté of an immigration counselor. Again, the benefactor only exists to be the ultimate victim. Not to mention, both monsters can squeeze themselves into small, dark places.

Alas, The X-Files keeps trying to repeat the success of “Squeeze” (1×2). “2Shy” (3×6), while it had it’s faults and in some ways wasn’t as good of an episode of television, is oddly more successful. The “Tooms Quotient” usually means that the Monster of the Week is more or less a man, an evolutionary mutant that has to kill to survive; invariably there’s something he’s… missing. We’ll see it again later on; Season 4 is kind of a 2-for-1 package deal. The motif starts to slow down after Season 5.

But enough about that. Back to Samuel. He’s just not convincing. Tooms radiates evil. Virgil Incanto in “2Shy” is sadistic and cruel. But Samuel Aboa? He’s blank. His whole set up just isn’t effective. Not to mention, if he needs melanin to survive, he very well should have kept his butt in Africa. Surely he was aware of the fact that blacks are a minority in the U.S.; picking off a small population was bound to draw attention, for all Mulder cries conspiracy.

All that being said, I could have gotten over Samuel’s generic attitude if his crimes had been sinister enough. What could undermine something as evil as paralyzing someone and then picking through their brains as they look on helplessly? “White Face.” Sigh.

Black men covered in baby powder do not albinos make. Or is it chalk? Either way, Scully’s comment, “I’m sorry, I thought you said that Owen Sanders was black”, is an eye-roll inducer. The body in the photo, the body before and all the bodies thereafter, are so obviously black that to allow for the premise that these men were unrecognizable requires a suspension of disbelief that I apparently do not possess.

Verdict:

With the exception of the actual X-File itself, this would be a solid episode. “Home” (4×3) was a welcome departure but this has all the hallmarks of a happy return home to the normal routine. It should be comfort food, and at moments it is, but ultimately, it’s like finding out your mac and cheese is soggy. The idea behind it is tried and true, but it’s not so compelling this reheat.

It’s not quite the bomb that I remembered, however. It’s nice to see Scully called in for her expertise instead of Mulder. And something about that first scene as we watch her walk into Skinner’s office makes me smile. I’m home.

Oh, and this episode contains my favorite Agent Pendrell scene of all.

I want to love it, and my estimation of its charms has improved, but it still could have been better. I’m not so sure this one deserved the honor of a changed tagline. In fact, it didn’t.

C+

Questions:

Mulder just happens to stumble upon the right construction site because of the asbestos clue? How many construction sites are there in Philadelphia I wonder?

Why is Mulder the only victim that can move his eyes?

What is this alien among us crap? What does that have to do with this story? The CDC seemed to be genuinely trying to help. The Minister tries to hide what happened in hopes that it would disappear, not out of any sinister motive. It’s like writer Howard Gordon was trying to turn this into a message on race relations, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how race actually plays a role outside of the melanin issue.

Comments:

I’m not sure what Marita Covarrubias is doing here except to remind the audience that she exists and is supposed to be important.

Mulder is at least aware of Pendrell’s feelings. What about Scully?

Ah, a welcome return to the field journal.

It’s a good thing they were near an opening in that vent. Mulder is twice Scully’s size. Modern woman or no, there’s no way she could have carried him.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: There’s a Michael Jackson joke in here somewhere but I can’t quite find it.

———————

Mulder: Scully, has it occurred to you that this might just be a little PR exercise?
Scully: I’m sorry?
Mulder: To divert attention from the fact that young black men are dying and nobody seems to be able to bring in a suspect. The perception being that nobody cares.
Scully: Mulder, not everything is a labyrinth of dark conspiracy and not everybody is plotting to deceive, inveigle and obfuscate.

———————

Agent Pendrell: Shouldn’t we wait for Agent Scully? I just don’t want to have to repeat myself.
Mulder: She’s not coming.
Agent Pendrell: Why not?
Mulder: She had a date.
Agent Pendrell: [Looks dejected]
Mulder: Breathe, Pendrell! She’s with a dead man. She’s doing an autopsy.

———————

Scully: Where are you going, Mulder?
Mulder: Off to water the seeds of doubt. Bye bye.

———————

Scully: Mulder, even if you’re right, I mean especially if you’re right, why would he leave his own country to come here?
Mulder: Free cable.

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24 responses to “Teliko 4×4: Deceive, Inveigle, Obfuscate.

  1. Got to agree pretty much with you here, it’s not my favourite episodes either. Some good set pieces admittedly, and I love the image hiding inside the trolley compartment, but this is pretty much by the numbers, and a little dull at times, worse when it’s stuck in between two absolute horror classics.

  2. Not my favorite episode either, but what part of the USA doe you live that blacks are the minority? Certainly not in Houston.

  3. I think Aboa’s blankness is slightly creepy, but otherwise totally agree. Especially love the Pendrell scenes!

    • Dear Pendrell. He was underutilized, wasn’t he? At least by today’s television standards. Nowadays, the producers would have quadrupled his screen time within a fortnight of getting favorable audience feedback.

  4. Which is worse–White Face or Space Face?
    It’s a tie. Both are LAME.

    And this one seemed a bit preachy. Right?

    • LOL! I take it you didn’t like Space either?

      YES! It was preachy. But for the life of me I can’t figure out what it’s preaching about.

      Where black men targeted in some racist plot? No.
      Where they being ignored in some racist plot? No.
      Where Samuel’s actions a result of or judgment on a racist society? No.

      It’s like when Jesse Jackson “preaches.” I hear words, but nothing’s coming out.

  5. I wasn’t wild about it, but I wouldn’t call it a ‘bomb’. The Pendrell bit was funny, and I actually thought the appearance of Marita Covarrubias maintained some much-needed continuity.

    Sure, Aboa was unexciting as a dude, but he made a decent crawlspace monster who dodged bullets! And the idea that there was an entire tribe of Teliko out there was kinda spooky. The episode worked a lot better for me in our somewhat presumptive category of “ethnic” episodes than its peers.

  6. -“On the problem of our villain, Samuel Aboah, is awkwardness, something the other characters don’t seem to notice, forcibly reminds me of Eugene Victor Tooms.”
    [-“Oh, and this episode contains my favorite Agent Pendrell scene of all.”]

    Well, either you can read my mind, or I can read yours. these are my very thoughts.

    There’s one thing I dislike the most about this episode. You asked once why they couldn’t find a religious consultant for the show; I’d like to ask them:why you couldn’t find a cultural anthropology consultant?!?
    I think THIS is the reason why TXF sucks when it comes to dealing with anything “ethnic”. Scully says- in her final monologue -something about Aboah’s murders being absolutely explainable with science. That’s wrong. And I’m not agreeing with Mulder here, not at all.
    Believes, folktales, “different” behaviours are neither “false” or “true”; they are just what my anthropology professor would call different “Living Ways”.
    I know this don’t even begin to justify a murder, but it makes it at least necessary to try to understand the “alien”without putting it in our cathegories.
    Mulder and Scully (and writers, naturally) I’m looking at you.

  7. I feel like the only redeeming thing about this episode is the Pendrell scene.

  8. dang, i just watched this ep and at the end all i could think was ‘well, that episode sucked’. i was hoping i’d come here and find some deeper meaning that i didn’t pick up on, or some observations that i missed. but, sadly, nope.
    really, “inveigle”? what kind of word is that anyway 😉

  9. Does being English count as being “Ethnic”? Speaking as a Brit myself, I hardly recognise the English characters (as and when they appear in the X Files) as anything other than caracatures/stereotypes. Phoebe Green always makes me squirm, WMM always seems to talk in a sort of “transatlantic twang” & I always cringe over those scenes with the British sailors mouthing off in “Triangle” (some pretty wierd accents going on there), but don’t get me started on that just yet. CC is always more comfortable writing about what he knows best, so this is probably why the foreign/ethnic stuff is part of his weakness as a writer. I heard that even the Native Americans got a bit of a strop on about his treatment of them too 😉

  10. Like you the white faces bugged me the most! Albino?? not even close! The science was way off too. I know that xfiles have generally loose scientific connections but they are also ussually a bit more convincing than this. I was confused he ate the pituitary gland? he extracted the melanon??Yesturday was only the second time I have watched this episode and I now see why. It didn’t hold for me because the science was way off and unbelievable, the make up white powder was terrible – they ussually go to such great lengths with make-up and mannequins to make it really believable – were they low on budget that month and decided to just pant their face white instead?? The killer was too baby faced to be scary his smile was something off a toothpaste commercial not an xfile. The pendrell thing was cute and yes I agree he was way under utilised in the series. His appearances were so few and far between I almost forgot about his crush on Scully

  11. OMG!!! How did I never notice Pendrell before this episode? Wait, I think I noticed him in Herrenvolk… He is such a cutie, especially around Scully! Now I gotta go back and see every scene he’s in, in order to fully appreciate his (sadly) unrequited crush. Thank you for the heads up! 😀

  12. Okay, I’m going to have to disagree with the majority here. I liked “Teliko.” Yes, it was a recycled storyline. We’ve seen this plot before in “Squeeze” and “2Shy”: a genetic mutant is missing something essential to its existence and must obtain it by preying on innocent victims. Aboa was certainly reminiscent of Tooms, down to the creepy eyes and ability to fit into small spaces. That said, I liked it this plot the first two times, and while it is getting old, it always makes for a pretty good episode.
    I agree that The X Files can’t seem to pull off these “ethnic” episodes. They’re just never quite up to the usual standard. That said, I thought that “Teliko” was a big improvement over “Teso dos Bichos” and “Hell Money.” I found it much more watchable. Then again, maybe I just liked the familiarity of the storyline. After all, “Squeeze” is, and always will be, my favorite Monster of the Week.
    Overall, I was somewhat satisfied with this episode. It may have been unoriginal, but it had its moments. I found the scene in the tunnels sufficiently thrilling, and I didn’t mind the white corpses either. If nothing else, “Teliko” was a comforting return to the norm after the fantastic, but radical, “Home,” and a welcome reminder of what I love about this show. And of course, it’s always great when Scully saves the day.

  13. From the get-go, the wedge they’re trying to put between M&S rings so laughably false, already, in episode 4! The writers brought them beyond the point of no return and when Mulder gets his feathers all ruffled over Scully doing science and being skeptical (and rightfully so!) even Scully seems confused. I think this contributes to the larger failure of this episode.

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