Demons 4×23: Can I see what’s in the bag now?


Be vewy, vewy quiet. I’m hunting wabbits.

This episode always satisfies me. Scully gets to play doctor. Mulder gets to play dumb. And Chris Owens gets to play Cigarette-Smoking Man in flashback again. What’s there to complain about?

It’s not a Fright File. It’s not meant to be scary, but it is meant to make you lean forward in your chair and I think it certainly succeeds at that. Temporary amnesia is a motif that’s been done, many, many times over in every kind of pop culture medium; television, movies, books, comics, etc. But since a sense of displacement and a lack of self-knowledge are endlessly disconcerting concepts, this theme can be replayed countess times without being as boring as it probably should be. In fact, The X-Files will tackle temporary amnesia again come “John Doe” (9×7).

This is one of the best in the category of “Mulder is an Impossibly Infuriating Idiot” episodes. For one thing, Mulder seems to make it his personal mission here to self-destruct. For another, this episode features one of his worst Scully-ditches ever when he leaves Scully stranded at his mother’s house in a highly awkward situation.

David Duchovny does a great job here dabbling in what Season 4 is famous for, angst. But I have to say, Scully is my favorite part of this episode. I love Scully when she’s like this: Mama Bear Mode. Mulder isn’t just legally innocent in her mind he is innocent and she won’t believe otherwise unless someone can show her a picture of him with a smoking gun in his hand. Even then, she’d think of some way to find him not responsible. She’s too loyal to willingly believe anything truly horrible of him or to allow anyone else to either and I dare say her fierceness only would have accelerated had The Powers That Be tried to go forward with Mulder’s prosecution. And when she’s a mere heartbeat away from putting a hurtin’ on Dr. Goldstein during that scene where she confronts him in the back of the police car? Golden. No wonder he coughed up the information.

Speaking of coughing up the goods, we’ve already heard that Bill Mulder made the choice that Teena Mulder couldn’t make, the choice to give up Samantha to the Colonists rather than Mulder as a sort of living guarantee that he wouldn’t betray the project, a hostage, really. Now it looks like there was more to the story than just playing Eeny Meeny Miney Mo to decide which Mulder had to go. There was vague innuendo back in “Talitha Cumi” (3×24) that there may have been more history between Cigarette-Smoking Man and Teena Mulder than he and Bill. For those that need a refresher, here’s a clip from their conversation:

Teena Mulder: I have nothing to say to you.
Cigarette-Smoking Man: Really? We used to have so much to say to each other. So many good times at the Mulder summer place… your kids young and energetic. I remember water-skiing down there with Bill. He was a good water-skier, your husband. Not as good as I was but then… that could be said about so many things, couldn’t it?
Teena Mulder: I’ve repressed it all.

So is Mulder right when he accuses his mother of adultery? Did Cigarette-Smoking Man force Teena to give up Samantha because she was Bill Mulder’s child rather than his own? Is Mulder really a Mulder??

Was Samantha abducted by aliens or by men? Was she abducted for extraordinary reasons such as the survival of the human race, or for mundane ones like being born to an adulterous mother?

The questions raised in this episode tie in nicely with the Season Finale coming up next. When we leave our hero at the end of “Demons”, he has no way of differentiating between the truth and the lies. With all the tinkering he’s done to his own mind through regression hypnosis and, er, other means, he can’t be sure that his own memories aren’t skewed beyond recognition. And a question for a future date, how does he know the memories he does have weren’t given to him through some nefarious purpose, a way of keeping him under control?

Frankly, this episode doesn’t give us any answers, only tantalizing suggestions that will shortly be exploited even further. Think of it as a primer of sorts. It does have some good news buried in it, however: At least Mulder can trust Scully when he can’t trust himself.

And the Verdict is…

“Demons” is the only episode Executive Producer R.W. Goodwin ever wrote though he directed quite a few, including the very next episode, the season finale, “Gethsemene” (4×24). Along with Special Effects Supervisor Mat Beck’s underappreciated “Wetwired” (3×23), I wonder very seriously why Chris Carter didn’t move more of the crew to the writing staff.

In a way, this set of episodes that ends Season 4 and begins Season 5 feels like a four-parter because starting with “Demons”, certain themes are continuous and one episode’s story arc flows into the next. In fact, I never watch “Gethsemene” without watching “Demons” first. It sets the mood.

Even though it’s technically separate, it’s emotionally tied to the three-part season finale/season premier. But is it a mythology episode? Well, it’s a character study. This is about Mulder and his past. And since his past is inexorably linked to the mythology… well, it’s mythology by default. Certainly, it presents information that will prove important to the mythology plot later on, but whether or not that information is true, whether or not Mulder’s memories are real, is a subject up for debate and that debate is about to come to the forefront of The X-Files very quickly.

Scully: [Voiceover] …but I am concerned that this experience will have a lasting effect. Agent Mulder undertook this treatment hoping to lay claim to his past, that by retrieving memories lost to him he might finally understand the path he’s on. But if that knowledge remains elusive and if it’s only by knowing where he’s been that he can hope to understand where he’s going, then I fear Agent Mulder may lose his course and the truths he’s seeking from his childhood will continue to evade him, driving him more dangerously forward in impossible pursuit.

A

Comments:

Does anyone else love that moment when Dr. Goldstein invites Mulder and Scully to sit down and they both smirk at him and keep standing?

All I can think when I see Dr. Goldstein is, “Hey! It’s that dude from Men in Black!”

Season 4 may just have set a record for use of flashbacks.

This is why Scully shouldn’t drive: what a horrible parking job.

“It’s my risk,” he says? For shame, Mulder. Where’s the solidarity you demanded from Scully at the end of “Elegy” (4×22)? He’s not exactly spilling the beans to Scully about these colorful visions of his any more than she confessed to him, “I see dead people.”

Nags:

Scully walks into the motel room and handles all these objects, a gun that’s been fired, a bloody shirt, that might be evidence of a crime, with her bare hands.

It’s really not clear why the abductees, or even Mulder, want to kill themselves. Are the memories just that painful? Why kill yourself just as you’re finally figuring your life out?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I had those peoples’ blood on my shirt, Scully. I was missing for two days. I have no recollection of my actions during those two days. There were two rounds discharged from my gun. I had the keys to this house, the keys to their car. Do the words Orenthal James Simpson mean anything to you?

—————————-

Mulder: What did you do to me?
Dr. Goldstein: I told you…
Mulder: You treated me. I asked you to treat me, to recover my past.
Dr. Goldstein: I did nothing wrong.
Mulder: You put a hole in my head!
Dr. Goldstein: A slight electrical stimulation…
Mulder: Triggered my memory.
Dr. Goldstein: Yes, as you had hoped.
Mulder: Now, I want you to finish the job.

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23 responses to “Demons 4×23: Can I see what’s in the bag now?

  1. I have read a lot of negative reviews of this one over the years and yours is the first I’ve come across that’s actually positive. Thank you, because for a long time I’ve often thought I was the only person to like this one, I think it’s exceptionally well done, you can never go wrong with a “lost weekend” mystery, and David and Gillian are wonderful, especially David.

    Glad to see I’m not the only one who always expects to see huge photographs of a ginger cat called Orion in Dr Goldenstein’s office.

    • It wasn’t even until I made my way to the internet fandom that I found out others didn’t like this one. Maybe most are expecting scares and squirms?

      P.S. I knew there was a name for it I was forgetting: “Lost Weekend.”
      P.P.S. You have been on a roll this week. Eventually I’ll catch up and read them all.

  2. I don’t know what people were expecting to be honest with you, but I thought Demons was wonderful and any episode that uses flashback and has a chance to explore the backstory of the mythology is a big plus in my book.

    PS-I know, busy week I gotta tell you. My computer died on me last week and I had to get it replaced which meant a LOT of work the past few days.

  3. Great episode. Mama Bear Scully and a major Mulder-ditch; what is not to like.

    Detective Joe Curtis reminds me of Doggett. He even talks like him (i.e. he is so intense its irritating).

  4. Scully was so awesome in this episode. When I think of all the other women on television these days, no one compares.

  5. I love this chapter because it fully demonstrates that mulder scully is dependent only trust in her life, no one else … scully also is found that will run all risks to save and prove his innocence, which will move heaven, sea and land to prove with evidence that there were circumstances to act that way ..
    a season full of anxieties and fears that are paving the way to the mythology that surrounds X Files with it are joining every day more Mulder and Scully.
    the actions of David and Gillian are wonderful, giving them their own personal touch and enrich everyday characters.

    PS: leave the best for the season finale and pluck the 5th full of many emotions and situations that will test both

  6. Just a quick note to say I adore this ep. Especially the tense scene between Mulder and Scully at the end and the back-hug. So good. 🙂

  7. I love when Mulder walks off to ride to the hospital with the officer and they cut to Scully, she has this utter look of “god damnit, Mulder” that I feel like is relevant in any given episode in the series LOL. A similar look, that translates into “FML” washes over Mulder as he is being read his rights, which I think is symbolic for Mulder for the whole series. You see how this makes them Yin and Yang. Haha.

    A solid ep and a good lead-in to Gethsemane, I think.

  8. I know it’s a tv show and I’m supposed to suspend my disbelief, but there’s one thing about this ep that drives me absolutely insane–the time. Mulder calls Scully at 4:50 am, and by 6:15 am, she’s rolling into Rhode Island. Ummm…how about no? I even did some research on this to confirm that I’m not completely nuts.

    Though…I suppose the research itself confirms my insanity, but bear with me.

    Let’s say Scully lives in Georgetown, as we’re lead to believe. All right. There are three airports in that area that she can chose from. BWI in Maryland, which is 37 miles away, with a driving time of about an hour (let’s give her maybe 40 minutes if she’s using a siren); Dulles in Virginia, which is 26 miles away, with a 32 minute driving time. Then there’s Reagan in Arlington (which I would presume both Mulder & Scully frequent because of the location, but that would depend on the Bureau), which is 6 miles away, with a driving time of 15 minutes.

    I realize that Reagan would seem like the obvious choice, and it’s probably where she went, but keep in mind that at 5 am in the DC area, 6 miles could take you 15 minutes, or it could take you an hour and a half. Going to Dulles might be a better choice because, for the most part, she’d be going against traffic and would probably have a mostly clear drive (of course, if this is on the weekend, the traffic is entirely different). But, let’s say it takes her 20 minutes to get to Reagan, with her being lucky enough to get a flight to Rhode Island that’s leaving as she’s getting there. It’s still an hour and a half flight. The drive from DC to Rhode Island is 8 hours. Even if she was frantic and pushed the limits, I think she’d probably, at best get it down to 6 hours. At any rate, unless Scully can stop time, there’s no way that a total of an hour and a half from phone call to arrival at Mulder’s hotel. Even if they’d pushed her arrival back to 7am, I might’ve been able to believe it. But this is right up there with Paperclip, when Mulder drives from DC to Greenwich and back to DC in one night, managing to get back in time to comfort Scully after her sister’s death. Even if he’d done those trips in flights, it would’ve taken more than one night…but maybe I’m nitpicking.

    Regardless, how crappy was it of Mulder to ditch Scully at his mother’s house? How awkward was that? I mean, it’s not like Scully and Teena get together once a month for a quilting circle; aside from showing up at Bill Mulder’s funeral, we don’t know if they’ve spent any sort of time together in the interim. “Heeeeeey Mrs. Mulder. Uuuhhhh…soooooo…how’s that whole recovering from a stroke thing working out for ya?” And wouldn’t Teena wonder why her son’s partner was there? I mean, she looked pleased to see him, but it was probably a bit odd seeing this random chick that told you your son was still alive and that’s about it. Unless, of course, she was like the standard TV meddling mother and assumed that the two were dating or some such, or took any opportunity to try to get the two to date, in which case, seeing Scully roll out of the car with Mulder would have thrilled her to no end.

    And I’m officially rambling.

    • ROFL!!! Hilarious. If this isn’t fandom, I don’t know what is. But I certainly can’t deny that both Mulder and Scully often arrive on the scene as if they flew like Superman. And that’s a whole different type of alien than we’re used to on this show. We’ll just have to shake our heads and let it go.

      I always thought that was one of Mulder’s worst ditches. Can you imagine Scully stranded there with an already pissed off and emotional Mrs. Mulder? I’m thinking, though, that they must have seen more of each other off screen than the audience was ever a party to. I’ll bet Scully looked into his mother’s progress during recovery and maybe even checked over what her doctors were doing. Doctors do stuff like that.

  9. This is one of my all time favorite episodes, hands down. I adore the flashbacks – actually, I adore anything having to do with the history of the Mulder family. This is probably why I enjoy Travelers despite the whole Mulder wearing David Duchovny’s wedding ring debacle. I may not be recalling this correctly, but in Two Fathers/One Son, isn’t something said about the family hostages being saved somehow? I always wondered if Bill Mulder knew that Fox wasn’t his child, and that’s why he sent Samantha, so his flesh and blood would be safe. Then again, he might have seen in Mulder traits that would lend themselves nicely to uncovering a government conspiracy. I could be remembering those episodes incorrectly, though. It’s been years since I’ve seen them.

    The ending scene in the house, where Scully hugs on Mulder, is beautiful. It doesn’t quite have the tension of Pusher, but they still do a pretty damn good job.

    Anyway, a random aside: I just starred in a dinner theater production with a comedian who has worked with R.W. Goodwin (among other awesome people). We were drunk a lot of the time, so I never remembered to ask her about the details, but I gave a little smile when I saw it in her bio.

  10. OH MY GOD, why didn’t I think of it that way before?! “So is Mulder right when he accuses his mother of adultery? Did Cigarette-Smoking Man force Teena to give up Samantha because she was Bill Mulder’s child rather than his own? Is Mulder really a Mulder??”

    I was thinking it was Bill, not Teena, that chose.

  11. One of my favorites. What’s interesting is Brits seem to hate this episode for some reason. I personally love it, but then again, I am not a Brit! LOL.

  12. Such an interesting episode. I found it interesting that the surname of the dead couple was Cassandra, and then this is the episode that goes into the back story of Mrs. Mulder’s affair with CSM… and then later it is revealed that CSM’s wife’s name was Cassandra.

    This episode definitely makes me lose respect for Mulder’s mother. Not answering questions to Mulder about his own paternity (stuff be deserves to know), betraying her husband with CSM…and if CSM and Cassandra were still married, helping step on another woman’s marriage. And she doesn’t even answer for it to her son, displays no shame, only anger at being questioned for her decisions.

    I agree with the theory that CSM forced Bill to give up Samantha because she was his flesh and blood. In a later episode, it’s confirmed that each person had to give up a family member. CSM gave up Cassandra, his own wife, for medical experiments. So Bill Mulder gave up his only biological child: Samantha.

    I love how Scully looks out for Mulder this episode. Definitely Mama Bear, like you said.

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  18. Does noone else feel like slapping Teena Mulder by this stage? Surely she can see that she is putting her son through hell by lying to him and expecting him to accept her half baked, “I’m your Momma so respect me” lines then stomping up the stairs! Actually, Scully is a better mother to him that Teena ever is from what we are shown…

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