Chinga 5×10: I think some things are better left unexplained.


That's what it's all a-bout!

Finally, we’re here. We’ve arrived at Chris Carter’s answer to Chuckie. I say Chris Carter but I should, of course, say Chris Carter and Stephen King since the two teamed up to write this episode with Chris Carter handling the famous Mulder and Scully dialogue. I know what you’re thinking; Demonic Dolls have been done before. But they haven’t been done by The X-Files.

This is another one of those episodes that, until recently, I was blissfully unaware was disliked by many fans. All I knew was that my best friend from High School and I sure thought it was fabulous because we kept quoting it for the rest of the week after it aired, giggling like the schoolgirls we were. And when I say giggling, it may have sounded more like cackling.

Even though I now know the negativity is out there, and to each their own, I refuse to subject myself to detailed negative reviews on “Chinga” because I will not have the experience of watching it ruined for me. However, using my imagination, I’m going to try to guess at some of where this distaste comes from.

I suspect that the main source of malcontent is that some fans expected this episode to be an original Stephen King thriller, a masterstroke, a groundbreaking moment in television history when two titans, an iconic writer and an iconic television show, meet on the battlefield to dance.

I’ll be the first to say it: This is not a benchmark episode. “Chinga” isn’t even a Stephen King tale so much as it’s an X-Files episode that’s an homage to Stephen King tales. If you take it as such, you’ll be all right. If you were looking for a miniature version of Carrie or The Shining or Pet Sematary then I truly feel bad for you because your unfulfilled hopes will put a damper on this kitsch fest.

Because kitschy it is. And its kitschiness is its charm. After all, what is the thriller-horror genre if it isn’t kitschy, silly, and comfortingly predictable?

Not that I’m blaming anyone for anticipating the best, you understand. I just didn’t personally come to “Chinga” with any great expectations… well, no greater than my expectations for any other X-Files episode. When I watched this at 14 and Stephen King’s name popped up in the credits my mind went, “Cool! Stephen King!” But I didn’t really know what that meant since at 14 my Stephen King experience was limited to The Langoliers. (“Oh, Mr. Toooomey!”)

But if the story leaves something wanting, “Chinga” has enough to recommend itself on Mulder and Scully dialogue alone. One of the things I love most about “Chinga” is how it’s a reversal of roles for our two agents. What’s Mulder’s typical MO? Is it not to leave Scully hanging on the phone after he disconnects abruptly maybe after leaving her with some cryptic message? Go back in your minds to “War of the Coprophages” (3×12) for a moment and think if Scully’s character wasn’t owed an episode like this. “WotC” gave us a comical look at the way Mulder blows off Scully and “Chinga” is in a way an answer to that episode, giving Scully the telephonic upper hand for once.

Mulder’s antics while on the phone with Scully still make me laugh out loud to this day. That man has nothing going for him besides Scully. Nothing.

Not that Scully is exactly living it up without Mulder tying her down. Like in “The Jersey Devil” (1×4), all attempts by Scully to approach something akin to normalcy are eventually futile. It won’t happen. And despite her attempts to coyly play up her weekend with the mention of “Jack,” Scully is just as reluctant to admit that she can’t escape this gravitational pull, that she’s been investigating an X-File in her spare time, as Mulder is to admit that he’s bored with nothing to investigate and no Scully to investigate with.

The Sum Total:

I do love “Chinga”. I’ll say it loudly and proudly. There’s a whiff of campiness about the whole thing that saves it from the usual perils of too many clichés. And if I were to rate episodes purely based on the quality of Mulder and Scully’s banter “Chinga” could potentially take home the prize.

And even if I wouldn’t categorize it as a truly frightening X-File, it’s definitely a creepy one starting with that great opening teaser. I don’t know about you, but I find watching other people scratch their eyes out a little unsettling. Then there’s watching Miss Rapunzel nearly get scalped after getting her hair caught in the ice cream mixer. I don’t think there’s anything more quintessentially The X-Files than to take two things as mundane as a ponytail and soft serve ice cream and turn them into a match made in paranormal hell. The somewhat tongue in cheek choice to have the Hokey Pokey on repeat doesn’t hurt the atmosphere either, since I can believe in almost any kind of evil with that song in the background. It’s almost as bad as the Chicken Dance.

On a final note, who else thinks Mulder is half serious when he asks Scully to marry him? Show of hands? Because to me he has the look of a man who has just had a revelation. My Scully-Crushing theory still holds.

A

P.S. “Jack. Can I call you ‘Jack?’”

Maine Lobsters:

All I can think of when I see the actress who plays Melissa Turner, Susannah Hoffman, is the miniseries Anne of Avonlea. Anne of Green Gables – My first great love.

The wise old man who sensed the presence of evil in that doll should look familiar too. He’s the same wise old man who sensed the presence of evil in “Squeeze” (1×2) and “Tooms” (1×20) as Detective Frank Briggs.

Okay, why do we open with Scully wearing just a t-shirt when everyone who walked into the grocery store a few moments before had on heavy jackets?

I guess Scully didn’t know better in 1998 than to answer her cell phone at the gas pump.

The establishing shot of a coastal town in Maine looks suspiciously like the coastal town in Oregon used in the “Pilot” (1×79).

Speaking of the “Pilot”, I’m suddenly struck by how far the show and the characters have come. Think of Mulder and Scully’s first meeting and then look at them now, unable to properly spend a weekend apart.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: [On the phone] Yeah, well, maybe you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Scully: Like evidence of conjuring or the black arts or… shamanism, divination, Wicca or any kind of pagan or neo-pagan practice… charms, cards, familiars, blood stones or hex signs or any of the ritual tableau associated with the occult, sensory, abudan, mukamba or any kind of high or low magic…
Mulder: Scully?
Scully: Yes?
Mulder: Marry me.
Scully: I was hoping for something a little more helpful.

——————–

Scully: [Answering phone] Scully.
Mulder: Well, hey! Uh… I thought you weren’t answering your cell phone.
Scully: Then why’d you call?
Mulder: I… uh… I had a new thought about this case you’re working on. There’s a viral infection that’s spread by simple touch…
Scully: Mulder, are there any references in occult literature to… objects that have the power to… direct human behavior?
Mulder: What… types of objects?
Scully: Um, like a doll for instance.
Mulder: You mean like Chuckie!?
Scully: Yeah, kind of like that.
Mulder: Well, yeah. The talking doll myth is well established in literature, especially in New England. The, uh, Fetish, or Juju, is believed to pass on magical powers onto its possessor. Some of the early witches were condemned for little more than proclaiming that these objects existed, the supposed witch having premonitory visions and things… Why do you ask?
Scully: I was just curious.
Mulder: You didn’t find a talking doll did you, Scully?
Scully: No, no… of course not, uh…
Mulder: I would suggest that you should check the back of the doll for a… a plastic ring with a string on it. That would be my first… [Scully hangs up] Hello?

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52 responses to “Chinga 5×10: I think some things are better left unexplained.

  1. How on earth is this an episode a source of contention for Philes? It’s a great MOTW ep and as you say, the dialogue between Scully and Mulder is second-to-none.
    I understand that Stephen King fans may have been disappointed, but then again XF haven’t had a good track record with outside collaborators: Quentin Tarantino in Season Four, anyone?
    To me the story reeks of Stephen King, but I could never call myself a die-hard fan of his, so what do I know?
    The song, the dolls, the face-scratching all really freaked me out when I first watched it…plus XF has now made me re-think ever buying a ice-cream maker, haha.

  2. me encanta este episodio, la manera en que mulder grita su ausencia de scull con todas las llamadas que hace, solo señala que no puede estar un fin de semana sin ella… tiene su magia de lo sobrenatural al contar una historia de brujeria con el toque de un expediente x…
    que mal que scully no toma muy en serio su propuesta de matrimonio de mulder

  3. Wow…. To hear that anyone out there would not appreciate this masterpiece is appalling! Mulder and Scully at their finest! And I love how the pencils in the ceiling become a recurring guest star themselves! Just last night I was watching Season 9’s Nothing Important Happened Today and when Reyes is looking for a pencil and looks up at the dozen or so still hanging from the ceiling I had to repress a squeel at the memory of the great closing scene from Chinga!

  4. Allow me to also register my surprise that people don’t like this episode–it’s always been one of my absolute favorites. And I must say you apparently are braver than I am, because this episode still scares the living daylights out of me. When the daycare lady hears the Hokey Pokey start playing . . . (now that’s a sentence you normally wouldn’t expect to hear in conjunction with horror). I think, though, that what’s always been scariest for me is imagining what Melissa is going through. Her slowly dawning realization that her daughter is somehow at the center of everything that’s happening, and that she’s powerless to do anything about it, and that if Polly gets upset with her about something she could die as well, and all the while she’s haunted by visions of people she loves dying . . . I’ve personally always found that more terrifying than anything else. It’s so horrifying claustrophobic, because she can’t get away. That shot at the end where she’s making popcorn and sobbing as she looks at the dead cop on the kitchen floor, but she can’t even do anything about it because Polly’s yelling for her food and Melissa’s terrified to make her mad–it gets me every time.

    Of course, the best part of the episode is the M&S phone conversations. I agree with everything you said about that. Also, *raises hand* I agree that if Scully had agreed to Mulder’s facetious marriage proposal, he probably would have been okay with that.

    • I get the feeling that there are Chinga lovers and Chinga snobs… er, haters.

      I can’t say this one scares me, but then again, I can’t say any X-File actually scared me. There were a couple that unnerved me a little. However, I like to watch horror movies for laughs so don’t go by me.

      But I just love the juxtaposition of that Hokey Pokey moment. I know the like has been done before, but something about watching this crazy old woman get her gruesome comeuppance to such a cheery old tune always makes me smile. *twisted sense of humor alert*

  5. Yes, yes, yes, thank you so much for this review Salome. I love Chinga, I think when it was broadcast back in 1998 there was a lot of hype because of the author of the piece and whilst this isn’t what one would expect from a King scripted episode of The X Files, what I love about it is that it’s simply a great, meat and potatoes X File that just happens to have the hand of horror’s godfather behind it. I love it, it’s funny, scary and well done.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Salome. For a while there I thought I was the only one and reading the other comments has made me realise there are others of us out there.

    • Hear, hear! It is a solid, classic sort of episode minus the fact that Mulder and Scully aren’t actually working together.

      I think some were hoping for a story less tongue-in-cheek, less campy, and less obvious. But all those things are exactly what I love about it. My Grandmother was from Maine and watching “Jack”, although granted he’s exaggerated, takes me back a bit to the types of people you meet there. Chinga was all done in fun. There’s no need to take it too seriously.

  6. It has been awhile since I last saw this episode, but it is not one of my favorites. I thought the story was weak (I expected a lot more from a S.King ep) plus the little girl and her doll were really irritating.

    Maybe I am taking his too seriously, but it bothers me to see Mulder being such a pathetic ass who cannot function without Scully. Is this really the same guy who manages to rescue Scully from Antarctica in FTF? I enjoy the lighthearted eps as much as anyone, but this is a bit much.

    All that said, Mulder and his pencil trick is very funny. It is nice that CC kept it as a running joke in later shows.

    (I guess this puts me in the Chinga hater camp)

    • But I think that’s the key, expecting something out of the realm of above the average because it’s Stephen King. I wasn’t expecting anything extraordinary, just another really good X-Files episode. And then, I like the over-the-top nature of the girl and her doll and a couple of the other characters. The mysterious Old Man and the Sea? Fab.

      Also, yeah, I wouldn’t take Mulder’s antics too seriously. It’s all in good-natured fun. And this is a very different situation than when he was under pressure while Scully was gone in FTF. He’s bored and antsy here, no need to be a hero. Besides, he’s about to be a lot more ridiculous two episodes from now.

  7. Chinga Snob here, reporting for duty! Not a fan. Sure, the banter is good – sometimes I watch it and fast forward through the actual x-file – and that’s never a good sign. Give me a GOOD X-File combined with excellent banter (a la Home, etc) and I’m on board.

    My thoughts from the start of rewatching this ep tend to be- IS IT TIME FOR BAD BLOOD YET?!?!

    Seriously. Just skip Kill Switch. I can’t wait anymore!!!

    • No, having to fast forward is never a good sign and I can name quite a few episodes where I have to resort to that, so I feel your pain. But I get a kick out of the whole thing here. I almost love it as much as Home but for different reasons. Home is more of a REAL X-File and this is more of a tongue-in-cheek one, which I think also works but in a completely different way.

      Now, as far as skipping, how can I justify skipping Kill Switch if I even gritted my way through The Field Where I Died? Oh no. By the time commitment has taken me that far…

      • I know, I know. You deserve some kind of award for resisting the skip temptation on that one. I’m just SO. EXCITED. for bad blood. It makes me giddy!!!

  8. The funniest part of the whole episode is that when she looks at the phone on the hotel nightstand, she has “Affirmation For Women Who Do Too Much” as her book of choice for vacation.

    I also love how Mulder is completely unable to function when Scully is gone on “vacation”. LOL.

    • That was a great touch!

      And if they seemed like an old married couple at anytime, this was the episode. He was like one of those husbands who doesn’t know how to feed himself if his wife leaves.

  9. Also… who travels with their cell phone in their suitcase in the trunk of their car?

  10. Watched this tonight to show my hubby an xfile by Stephen King. I have to confess it isn’t one that jumps on my radar but I liked it more when I noted Stephen King wrote it – it was very him. I kept asking myself through the episode why doesn’t the mother take the doll and fry it?? The thing I love about this episode – bored Mulder he is hilarious and of course a marriage proposal hehe

  11. Funny; watching this on Hulu, and it lists the title of the episode as “Bunghoney”…..

  12. “All I can think of when I see the actress who plays Melissa Turner, Susannah Hoffman, is the miniseries Anne of Avonlea. Anne of Green Gables – My first great love.”

    That was my EXACT first thought when she came on the screen in this episode! Along that line, Anne herself (Megan Follows) is the first person you see in ‘Per Manum’ (8×13)!

  13. This episode is weak, or better said, the “x-file” is weak. The moments with Scully on her own are good, the moments with Scully talking to Mulder on the phone are good, but that’s about it.

    It’s a shame, because it’s a Scully-centric episode, I should like it better.

    I got to give credit where credit is due, apparently everything that is good about this episode was added by Chris Carter after a heavy rewrite. Supposedly King’s original script was even more disappointing. Can’t imagine how. It was Stephen King who asked to write for the show, why give such a half-hearted effort?

    • It may not have been that the original was disappointing, just that it didn’t fit where the characters were at. From what I understand, and I’m going by memory, CC wanted to change the Mulder/Scully interaction.

    • Have to agree with Agent Venkman. I found the x-file/storyline in this episode wholly disappointing and annoying in parts. That I love it anyway is testament to how good the M&S parts were and off course all the glory that is Scully on vacation (Maine tee, bubble bath…etc). But thanks to your review, Salome, I may appreciate it a bit more.

  14. I love this episode! I was watching through my fingers the entire time screaming “Run, Jen Pringle, run!”

  15. Ohmygosh- that sheriff keeps saying “ayuh!” That is such a small-town Maine thing. Nice touch!

  16. While I can see several weird plot holes and funny logic quirks in this episode, I’ve always found it, including those quirks, extremely cunning and a major reason that, while it’s certainly not a top episode of the show, I love watching it.

    Things that make me laugh (even though they shouldn’t):
    The setup. Scully is vacationing in Maine, fine. She happens to have stopped for gas in this town. and the station happens to sit near the grocery store, and she happens to be there not long after the cold incident occurs. I guess the moral of that logic is that if you’re in any small town in eastern Maine, expect something spooky to happen.

    In the quote you use, actually, Scully is sitting in the station, speaking loudly into the phone surrounded by a nearby gaggle of officers. She spouts this encyclopedia of occult possibilities in front of them, as they continue to watch her indifferently, only asking if her partner has any ideas. The only one who makes slight mention of this is the officer Scully works with (who I’ll get to in a moment) who mentions the “red herring” misnomer of
    Melissa’s witchcraft. Otherwise, everyone is completely unfazed, not even getting looks that say “What is SHE talking about?” As if their mindset is: “Ayuh, could be any of those things. We’ve heard about the crap that goes on in Castle Rock, guess it could be our time.”

    The origin of the doll. I like the idea of a cursed object that has no true point of origin, the idea that these things can just reek untethered havoc in no structured way. However, the scene in which Polly’s father pulls the doll out of the Atlantic on a literal dark and stormy night, his first reaction, in an admirably done accent for a one-liner (as a former wannabe actor, I like thinking that this actor scored a brief appearance on this show, and dedicated himself to perfecting his Down East accent for his one line.) is “My daughter will love this!” Either the doll itself put some kind of charm on him, or he’s the most inept fisherman (perhaps person?) on the coast.

    This episode includes two Mulder related things that I always think of when I think of the X-Files: the poster and the pencils falling from the ceiling.

    The lobster scene, both Scully’s reaction to the lobster and the symbolically graphic use it plays as Jack talks to Scully

    Jack Bonsaint, the friendliest local law enforcement agent the X-Files has ever seen. Most local sheriffs and police officers on the show are either rude and downright mean, or gaumy and reluctant while working with Mulder and Scully. Jack just delights me. His accent (was that just the actor’s or was it affected for the character?) sounded a bit too Southern, but maybe I’m just from away and don’t know what I’m hearing. Anyway, it’s refreshing to have such a friendly character in this episode, especially among that succession of irritated locals, as Scully says, that famous New England personality.

    After what thing it several times, even the weak structures that I can stall acknowledge bring me back. I think you’re right when you say that it felt more like a Stephen King homage than a Stephen King script, and while that might not be so encouraging for Stephen King (though I think his stories are inconceivable better than his screenplays already) it is, at least, something fun and different, only a little insulting, and full of the kind of mistakes you would usually attribute to occult fantasy that play more like satirical critiques than bad writing (no matter which one it was.)

    I heard that Carter came in to rewrite the interactions between Mulder and Scilly, I assume King is responsible for the rest.

    • I think all the actors really got that “Maine” thing down. They added a quirky element to the atmosphere without overdoing it.

      Except Jen Pringle, er, Melissa. I could still hear Canada in her.

  17. Completely irrelevant, but I for one loved t-shirt/sunglasses/jeans Scully.

    • Scully’s awesomeness is never irrelevant.

    • Hear! Hear!

      Scully is always (well almost) the highlight of every episode of the show and seeing her in t-shirt/sunglasses/jeans was an utter delight. She’s often too formal and it’s been a while since we’ve seen casual Scully (loved “War of the Coprophages” for this).

      Then there’s the Scully in the bathtub scene [insert Homer Simpson drooling]. 🙂

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  20. I know you wrote this like four years ago, but I’m only here to say that my favorite part of the episode is when Scully pulls that blazer out of her car once she realizes this is a case and puts it on over her Maine T-shirt. FAVOURITE.

    Also, as a casual fan of Stephen King, I really do like this episode. I’m really curious as to what King wrote before Carter rewrote it. I’ve heard rumours that Mulder wasn’t nearly as incompetent and that he was actually presenting a talk at a conference. I also heard that there were more “romantic” lines between Mulder and Scully, which Carter obviously cut because he was not about letting Mulder and Scully get together back then. I don’t know if any of that is true, but it’s nice to think of Stephen King as a shipper!

    • Cool moment!

      I think I read yeeaarrs ago that CC wrote the telephone scenes between Mulder and Scully. And however much we fans may sometimes rag on him, CC was a master of that. I don’t know if my memories are real, though. I’d be really, really curious to read a draft of Stephen King’s script. It would not surprise me at all if he were a shipper!

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  22. Count me in the Chinga camp. Love this ep! Hokey Pokey, pencils, Mulder getting all science-y, Scully all out there, rewind-heavy phone banter, Scully nuking Polly’s dolly (3 minutes!) … What’s not to love?

  23. And Chinga gets a shoutout in Stranger Things! What’s not to love?

  24. It’s not an excessively creative or frightening episode, but it’s a well-done one. One of my favorites from this season, in contrast to much of the fanbase.

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