This is another one of those Season 6 episodes where I wasn’t sure what to make of it for the first few minutes. Okay, make that the first twenty minutes. (An alien in the bedroom? What?) Long gone are the days when a Monster of the Week episode had to involve an actual Monster.
We open with an odd couple at odds. This petite redhead and her lanky Mr. Stud seem a little mismatched and hearing their argument, one wonders how they ever came together in the first place. But the genuine affection between them more than makes up for any superficial differences and they quickly reach an understanding… just in time to die.
That’s where Mulder and Scully come in.
From that point on, the rest of the episode is essentially a lengthier repeat of what happens in miniature during the teaser. Oh, except for the dying part.
Pretty Redhead? Check.
Oddly matched personalities? Doubtless.
Silly argument? Yep.
Shared acid trip? Dude.
Compromise and renewed mutual appreciation? Score.
It’s no surprise to see Mulder and Scully paralleled so nonchalantly with a married couple. It’s not even really gratifying at this point either because it’s old news. The writers don’t even bother to draw too much attention to the similarities. Mulder and Scully passed the honeymoon phase a long time ago and it was starting to look like everyone but them realized how settled and “married” they already were.
To emphasize how settled their routine is, the customary slideshow is resurrected. This is the first time it’s been used since Mulder and Scully have been back in the basement office and only the second office slideshow since “Bad Blood” (5×12), which is interesting since “Field Trip” is essentially a more serious treatment of the fuel that fired that episode – Mulder and Scully’s contrasting viewpoints.
Well, maybe it’s the curse of the Seven Year Itch but the routine seems to be getting to them. One of the major tensions of the season has been Mulder’s frustration with Scully’s continuing refusal to believe. Now I think it becomes clearer that his issue isn’t so much that Scully’s a skeptic so much as he takes her skepticism personally as a lack of faith in him.
Scully: Mulder, can’t you just for once, just… for the novelty of it, come up with the simplest explanation, the most logical one, instead of automatically jumping to UFOs or Bigfoot or…?
Mulder: Scully, in six years, how… how often have I been wrong? No, seriously! I mean, every time I bring you a new case we go through this perfunctory dance. You tell me I’m not being scientifically rigorous and that I’m off my nut. And then in the end who turns out to be right like 98.9% of the time? I just think I’ve… earned the benefit of the doubt here.
I want to take my usual position on Scully’s side of the argument here, but in good conscience, I can’t. Okay, his declaration sounds arrogant, it does. But Mulder’s not exactly wrong. The 98.9% number he throws out may be just a tad high, especially since while he’s usually closer to the truth than Scully he often has to amend his initial hypothesis, but Mulder has proven over and over that his instincts are uncanny. And while Scully’s natural instinct is to gravitate toward the most logical explanation, she’s seen enough at this point to know better than to make instant assumptions.
What makes a tense moment worse is that Mulder’s not really angry, he’s hurt, and slightly offended that she’s still so dismissive of his theories after all this time. Scully is so taken aback by his unexpected response, or perhaps by his depth of feeling, or perhaps by her own guilt, or most likely all three that she has nothing to say in self-defense.
And it’s here, in this brief moment of disharmony, that I pause.
There’s a thing, a rumor, an idea that’s been floating around the interwebs in recent years and it disturbs me. It’s the fanfic-sprouting notion that Mulder and Scully are in a co-dependent relationship.
Somewhere, someone’s been skimming through too many pop psychology paperbacks while sunk a little too deep in their armchair. Remember Maurice in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8)? He was a hack, a hack with an agenda. He took a modicum of truth about Mulder and Scully, threw it out there as “intimacy through co-dependency” and the glory of MSR has been tarnished by it ever since.
Co-dependency has no official definition that I’ve been able to find. Instead there are long lists of signs and symptoms with some definitions choosing to focus more on certain characteristics than others. There is a common theme, though: a missing sense of self apart from another person to the point where one will do almost anything that person wants you to. The problem is that the lack of self identity required for co-dependency is too easily mistaken for the more honorable character trait of self-sacrifice. A wife gives up a part-time job she likes because her husband says they don’t spend enough time together anymore and he misses her. Self-sacrifice or self-loathing? Wise or shortsighted?
If I may say so, and I will say so, though I say so not as a mental health professional… it seems to me that the difference between a healthy, mutual reliance and co-dependency has a lot to do with one’s sense of self. Do the sacrificial acts come from a place of self-aware love, of confidence? Or do they stem from a desperate need to hold on to somebody, anybody?
What would make Scully co-dependent is if she became a knee-jerk believer in order to please Mulder. What would make Mulder co-dependent is if he gave up his convictions in order to keep Scully around. Those would be signs of an unhealthy relationship. But this?? If “Field Trip” is anything it’s proof positive that neither Mulder nor Scully have changed one iota for the other and that’s a good thing.
I say “one iota” for dramatic effect and, yes, their fundamental personalities are the same as ever. But they have changed in that they’ve grown wise enough to realize that neither of their perspectives, while valuable independently, are independently sufficient to get to the truth. They realized that long ago, Mulder openly admitted as much in the feature film. But somehow, maybe because of the trust issues they’ve been having all season, they’ve momentarily forgotten how valuable the other’s perspective is. Ah, but in a bit of karmic brilliance facilitated by an overgrown fungus, suddenly they’re each faced with an overdose of their own opinion. That’ll cure ‘em.
It’s hilarious to watch both of them start questioning their respective hallucinations only once their opinions are universally affirmed and unquestioned. When Hallucination Scully meekly declares, “You were right. All these years, you were right.” I can almost hear Mulder’s brain synapses go off like bombs – Does not compute.
What I love about these dream sequences is how straight they’re played. Scully really believes Mulder is dead, and she really acts like she believes. The emotional honesty of it helps prolong the mystery. We know something’s not real, but what’s not real and where/when did it start? About the only thing I don’t like about these sequences, the only thing I don’t like about the whole episode, actually, is the Jell-O mold morph. Those special effects just don’t match up to the real-world green goo in the field.
But that’s a minor quibble. I can’t hold it against the episode that is probably the purest and most direct explanation of what makes Mulder and Scully “Mulder and Scully” and why they’re so effective together. Frankly, they are dependent on each other. They rely on each other’s separate strengths without neglecting their own. Neither of them would have survived this X-File alone. It takes Scully to initially realize what’s going on and Mulder to realize it’s still going on. So, yes, they need each other. What of it?
Despite what some think, and despite what Mulder and Scully themselves are sometimes tempted to think, their partnership doesn’t need perfecting. They don’t need to change. Two heads, two very different heads are better than one. I don’t care what anyone says – If this is co-dependence, then someone please sign me up for some.
Didn’t Babs say it best? “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
In the grand tradition of “Wetwired” (3×23), “Demons” (4×23), and “Folie a Deux” (5×19), “Field Trip” is not just the penultimate episode of the season, it’s the emotional finale before the season finale. This reaffirmation of Mulder and Scully’s trust in and reliance on each other is absolutely the perfect lead-in to the next set of angsty problems they’re about to face.
That’s it. It’s done. I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly when it happened. Perhaps it was “One Son” (6×12), perhaps “Milagro” (6×18). But this show is no longer about aliens, assuming it ever even was. It’s about two people who love each other.
And in the end when Mulder reaches for Scully and she responds without even opening her eyes because she just knows… here I go again chanting I Love You’s to people without flesh and bones.
The Peanut Gallery:
The lab results on the “bog sludge” come back absurdly fast.
How could I forget the moment where Scully drives a Dodge pickup?
Scully is so Scully. Even when she’s about to break down after finding out Mulder is dead, she’s still asking investigative questions. Immediately.
Who are all these people who would actually mourn Mulder? When did he get friends? That right there should have tipped Scully off.
How incredibly uncomfortable must this episode have been for Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. Buried alive in dirt and slime? Really? Who’d they piss off to get stuck with this detail?
There’s never an explanation for how these hallucinations can be shared, but OK.
Scully: UFOs. Extraterrestrial visitors from beyond who apparently have nothing better to do than buzz one mountain over and over again for 700 years.
Mulder: Sounds like crap when you say it.
Frohike: We’ll make that monkey pay.