Folie à Deux 5×19: See, if you’re not smiling, they can hear it.


The Natural Look

Vince Gilligan is a television genius and this episode has his sense of humor written all over it, rendering it unnecessary to even check the credits for his name. Telemarketing Zombie Grasshoppers? C’mon. We all know who’s responsible for this.

These… insects… are like something out of a 1950’s B sci-fi movie. It’s only one halting step away from the anonymous office worker who took off his hat one day and revealed an over-large pair of red compound eyes. Maybe the charm of that is lost on you, maybe it isn’t, but the zombies aren’t actually the focus of this episode anyway. They’re just a vehicle to showcase the current depth of Mulder and Scully’s partnership – I say “partnership” but it’s more like an “unbreakable psychic bond.”

Think about the way the events of the episode unfold: Mulder bewails his fate. Scully attempts to share Mulder’s fate. Mulder spares her his burden. Scully insinuates herself anyway. Mulder admits he needs Scully. Scully saves Mulder. Scully bewails her fate.

Yes, actually, I have pretty much described the entire series, I Want to Believe included.

One thing I especially love about Vince Gilligan’s episodes of The X-Files, or one person I should say, is Scully. Underneath the comedic icing of episodes like “Small Potatoes” (4×20) and “Bad Blood” (5×12) are subtly nuanced views of her character. This episode, even though the focus is ostensibly on Mulder, is no different. Where Mulder’s character falls into a foreseeable and highly anticipated decline consistent with everything he’s always been, it’s Scully who takes another imperceptible and yet vital step forward in a progression that will be significant in not only the immediately following season finale, but in the movie and the next season to come.

I bet you think this is where I explain how important and gratifying it is that Scully has come to trust Mulder, how she’s almost substituted his instincts for her own. But what’s more significant for Scully’s character is how far Mulder is now able to trust her. If Mulder’s computer-induced daydream of a roundhouse kicking Scully comes to save the day in “Kill Switch” (5×11) was just that, a daydream. Here’s the real thing.

Scully believes in Mulder so strongly that she can see what he sees. Similarly to the events of this episode but with less humor, Scully was worried about Mulder’s sanity in “Grotesque” (3×14), but she didn’t fall down the rabbit hole with him back then. Now their simpatico is such that she can’t help but adopt his psychosis. Surely, it’s not the phenomenon itself she comes to believe in, even if she does see it with her own eyes. Afterward she falters in her explanation of it before Skinner like a guilty schoolgirl. No, rather, Scully has reached the point where it doesn’t matter if what she sees is real or not, what matters is that she and Mulder are seeing the same thing.

“Folie à Deux” is a partnership-focused episode and in it The X-Files firmly establishes just how far Mulder and Scully have come in their relationship since the beginning, a not so subtle reminder right before “The End” (5×20). It’s especially significant in light of the emotional upheaval Scully’s about to experience with the advent of She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Mulder just affirmed Scully’s place in his life in the most explicit terms he ever has. Does she believe him? I don’t see why she wouldn’t. Will she continue to? That’s complicated.

Scully questions why she follows Mulder back in “Quagmire” (3×22), she pouts over it in “Never Again” (4×13), she’ll complain the fruitlessness of it all innumerable times in the future, and yet she stays. Bottom Line: Scully doesn’t believe in the mission, she believes in the man.

Verdict:

If there’s one complaint, one reason why this episode doesn’t garner as many accolades as it could, it’s that those silly insects, the villains of the story, are so cheesy it’s distracting. But then, after all, how scary can a giant bug be? A spider the size of your hand, that’s scary. Once a pest passes the size of a soccer ball, it crosses the Rubicon into comical. The whole thing would have been more of a fright fest if Pincus had been a straight zombie or vampire and they had bypassed the insect angle altogether, but I don’t think that was ever Gillligan’s intent. The comedic undertones are intentional. And considering our arch-villain Pincus is a man-sized grasshopper, I think the visual effects team did an impressive job.

Dial and smile, Gary.

A-

Zombieland:

Telemarketers or zombies, what’s scarier? Their monotone scripts sound like zombie-speak anyway.

How in the round world did Scully get to Chicago so fast?? She hung up with Mulder just before he was taken hostage yet she arrives in front of the building while the SWAT team is still organizing itself. Just once, couldn’t someone write some actual time into the timeline?

Shirley Temple and Bo Jangles are on the television in one scene. Way to combine classic moments in pop culture.

Nice bit of continuity – Mulder’s finger is still broken from the last episode. Vince Gilligan was always a master of continuity nods.

It’s an episode that starts off seemingly about a crazy man holding people hostage and then turns into another thing altogether. Echoes of “Duane Barry” (2×5), anyone?

This is another classic case of Mulder manipulating Scully into an autopsy.

Why is it that every episode where Mulder “frees” Scully from having to jump into the fray with him, she ultimately refuses to stay away? “Tooms” (1×20), “Little Green Men” (2×1), “End Game” (2×17).

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Monsters? I’m your boy.

———————

Mulder: I must have done something to piss him off.
Scully: What do you mean?
Mulder: Get stuck with this jerk-off assignment. Or have I finally reached that magic point in my career where every time somebody sees Bigfoot or the Virgin Mary on a tortilla, I get called out of my basement ward to offer my special insight on the matter.
Scully: You’re saying “I” a lot. I heard “we.” Nor do I assume that this case is just a waste of our time.
Mulder: Well, not yours anyways. There’s no reason both of us should go to Chicago. I’ll take care of it. [Walks away]
Scully: Mulder?
Mulder: I’m Monster Boy, right?

———————

Mulder: Scully at the risk of you telling me “I told you so”, I think it’s time for you to get down here and help me.
Scully: I told you so.

———————

Mulder: Scully, you have to believe me. Nobody else on this whole damn planet does or ever will. You’re my one in five billion.

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20 responses to “Folie à Deux 5×19: See, if you’re not smiling, they can hear it.

  1. This is a classic VInce Gilligan episode. And a great precursor to “The End” and FTF.

    I noted the continuity on the broken finger as well – loved that detail. Not a lot to say really about this episode (saving all my brain cells for my comments on “The End” and FTF 😀 ), I enjoyed it – especially the “you’re my one in five billion” line. I think I loved that it was used in a monster of the week episode. These heartfelt confessions are ALWAYS during mythology episodes – nice to see it bleed over into the “everyday”, if you will.

    • I completely agree. That comment came out of nowhere! I think the only stand-alone confession that took me more by surprise was in Triangle.

      • Agreed, and don’t forget Scully’s conversation with Sheila in the bathroom during Rain King…. Granted, that wasn’t a confession directly to Mulder, but Scully’s acknowledgment of her feelings for Mulder (though done in a roundabout way knocks me off my chair no matter how many times I see it!

  2. I just rewatched this episode the other day and was reminded of how very much I love it. The bug’s a bit odd, but darned if that last scene where Mulder knows it’s at the window and he can’t do anything about it doesn’t freak me out every time. And like you said, I love how it examines M&S’s relationship and what it says about Scully. If some guy is ranting about a monster no one can see, it’s easy to write him off as a nut, but what do you do when it’s your best friend? What do you do when someone you claim to trust claims something that you are positive isn’t true? It’s one thing to have Mulder claim that there’s a chupacabra running around somewhere–if it’s not in front of your face, then it’s easier to accept that there’s a tiny chance it’s true. But when Mulder claims that a guy is a monster, and Scully can see for herself that he isn’t (or so she thinks), that’s a stern test of her faith in her partner.

    Also, this episode always makes me think of Never Again in that they both seem to take a very dim view of telemarketing. Different writers, but a similar feel. Having once been a telemarketer, I tend to agree with them.

    • Oh, you’re so right. DD does such a great job there, you can hear the panic in his voice. Imagine being strapped to a bed and having to watch the boogeyman come to get you.

      I hadn’t thought about Scully’s POV from, well, that POV, but you’re right. This one would have been harder for her to give Mulder the benefit of the doubt on. That she could have faith in him anyway and check the back of that corpse’s neck says volumes.

      Poor telemarketers. What can you do when you have to make a living by pestering people?

  3. I did love this one too – I have to say I also love Scully’s lavender suit at the end. Sorry, that’s completely an aside. 🙂

    Vince – my Vince, how I love this man! He never ceases to give a good story and even better character moments/development. I love that he always adds those little intimate moments even in the non-mythology episodes – you’re right, it’s great! 🙂

    I always though this episode was underrated – I know it’s not high up there on the list of most fans, but I always liked it. 🙂 I think it does speak very much to Scully’s faith in Mulder and her williingness to stick her neck out for him, even if she thinks he’s full of crap. I never thought about how much this would hinge on the upcoming episode and movie. I, for one, cannot wait for your “The End” review!

  4. One quote that was classic in this episode was when Mulder infiltrated VinylRite and was caught by Gary Lambert and he asks why he’s there to which Mulder says “applying for a job”. Gary responds with a, “boy, did you come to the wrong place!” This is another classic before the finale episode that had little to nothing to do with the mytharc, which is one of the (six million) reasons why I love this show.

    • …except for the part about the buck teeth.

      • There’s a theory slowly dawning in my mind that the last stand alone episode before the season finale is generally an under-appreciated classic. Ex., Wetwired, Demons, Folie à Deux. Even Roland doesn’t receive the attention it should.

  5. Very good comment that “Scully doesn’t believe in the mission, she believes in the man.” It is amazing what she will do for Mulder, even if she doesn’t believe what is going on around her.

    Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt, eh Agent Scully?

  6. I love this episode! It’s quasi-cheesiness reminds me of early series episodes, but its still freaky enough to take seriously. It’s one of those episodes having never watched the series you could step into and immediately get into. I love the classic ending where they didn’t prove anything, but they didn’t exactly prove nothing supernatural had occurred either..just enough to exonerate Mulder’s actions!

  7. I always loved this episode.

    One line has always cracked me up: “Monsters ? I’m your boy.” Mulder’s face is priceless there.

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  10. Scully doesn’t believe in the mission, she believes in the man.

    THIS.

    I’ve been reading your reviews since I started bunge watching from season one for the first time ever and for the most of it, I’ve always agreed with you. I’m already a big fan, but that quote? It kills me. Thank you for that.

    I’m a shipper, btw.

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