Field Trip 6×21: I thought we had a good time?


Them bones, them bones, them dry bones.

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.
Studmuffin? Present.
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.”

Verdict:

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.

A

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.

Best Quotes:

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.

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39 responses to “Field Trip 6×21: I thought we had a good time?

  1. “But this show is no longer about aliens, assuming it ever even was. It’s about two people who love each other.”

    That passage will leave me with a smile on my face all day 🙂

  2. I remember watching Field Trip when it aired. I was in this state of anxiety for like the first half of the episode, but then there comes a point where you kind of get what’s going on and you have to laugh. It’s funny. I love Field Trip. Love it. Totally agree with you, it’s a perfect lead in for what is to come the next few episodes. I love how the X-Files does that… they certainly know how to couch something.

    The ending of Field Trip is among my favorite MSR moments. I’m not sure if that was part of the script or if it just happened or what, but bravo to all responsible parties.

    Also, the green goo special effects was the one piece I absolutely hated. I understand there were gaps in technology at the time and so this may have been seen as cutting-edge in the era that is pre-HD and all this other stuff. But now that I watch it on DVD on my LCD TV like the 2012 person I am, it doesn’t match. But maybe that’s what I love most about the X-Files. 🙂

    • I feel the same way. I want The X-Files on Bluray so bad I can smell it, but the thought of anyone fixing the dated special effects in Folie a Deux breaks my heart a little. And they would have to fix them because they were done on video. Sigh. Something gained, something lost.

  3. Hi Salome. Field Trip is another of my very favorite episodes. I had an observation that I shared lo so many years ago. In Mulder’s hallucination/ delusion, Mr. Schiff more and more starts to speak in the same tone and cadence as Krycek. Similarly, Ms Schiff starts to sound and have Samantha’s speech pattern. Even her hair has the slight curliness (in the scene when they are in Mulder’s living room.

    Tunguska: Listen to Krycek’s intonation and speech cadence in the scene after he is pulled from the truck after the warehouse raid, especially after Scully him what he wants. Then listen to Wallace in the cave scenes. Redux II: Listen to Faux!Sam in the diner scene with Mulder. Then listen to Angela Schiff in the cave and living room scenes in Field Trip. She has that same sing-song whine.

    I don’t know if that was the story intent, don’t know if we ever will. But on first viewing, I wondered why the actor who was playing Wallace was acting so badly..then it dawned on me that it sounded as if he were doing a bad impression of Krycek because Mulder, not knowing how either of the Schiffs sounded, ‘imprinted’ those voices on them. I’m curious if anyone else had the same impression and/or has the time or inclination to compare those scenes.

    The whole episode kept me guessing, especially with the same dialogue motifs coming from different characters. Or wondering whose hallucination were were in: Mulder’s, Scully’s, or shared?

    The ending was very strange and ambiguous: no one doing a search in those circumstances would be wearing business suits and funny respirators, and most likely would be CDC and not FBI. After such a rescue, even fictional, the ‘patients’ would not be left alone in the back of an empty ambulance. What? No oxygen, no IV, no quick exam? It was quite unnatural to me and, at the time, I wondered if the intent was to have us question whether they had escaped after all. I posted that question on Haven right after the episode aired, and referred to the characters as The Boggs: Gog and Magog Bogg.

    After Season 7 kicked off with Hungry (dreadful) and Goldberg Variations, I was certain Mulder and Scully were still in the bog hallucinating LOL.

    • I can’t say I share the same impression – I suspect any similarities in cadence are due to the style/culture/vocal coaches of acting at the time. For that matter, Angela Schiff being a redhead could be nothing more than happy happenstance and have no real meaning whatsoever. But I like the parallels because their story highlights what happens later to Mulder and Scully. It’s not that Mulder might not dream about Krycek or Samantha, he’ll later definitely do so, but I’m not sure it services the story here. That would have taken an awful lot of effort on their parts for a plot point that could distract viewers from the main message, assuming they noticed it.

      So, so true. Who goes digging in the ground in a business suit? And, more importantly, they would have had a medical team swarming all over them! I quite agree. Though, logical or not, it’s so worth it to have that final scene. 😉

  4. This review reminds me of why I love this blog: you take an episode I’ve always liked but never really thought about why, and you take it apart and show what makes it great, and you point out how it fits into the overall flow of the show, and you explain why Mulder and Scully are the best pairing ever. I hadn’t realized anyone thought their relationship was unhealthy/co-dependent, but now if I ever hear anyone bring it up, I’ll have a good counterargument ready.

    Also, the final scene where she takes his hand without even seeing him reach for her is one of my favorite moments of any X-Files episode. That’s Mulder and Scully right there–they can disagree, they both have their own opinions, but when it comes down to it they are on the same wavelength and they will always be there for each other. Until Mulder goes into hiding and Scully has to raise a baby with mind powers all on her own, but let’s not think about that right now.

    • Emily, can I make you our official mascot? I say “our” because I feel like this is a group effort. Thanks to you guys this is a treasure trove of X-Phile POV. And one of these days we should all have a virtual meet up for a live rewatch. Maybe in the XFU chatroom.

      Mulder and Scully ARE the best pairing ever. Finished. Done. Over. OTP like what.

      Until Mulder goes into hiding and Scully has to raise a baby with mind powers all on her own, but let’s not think about that right now. – Yes, let’s not. I’ll start having seizures.

  5. Actually, I never noticed the episode reflecting the teaser until this review, kudos on revealing that. And for the analysis in general. If your blog has the aim to make us, the fans, love the series even more, then you’re clearly succeeding, and I just can’t contain the gushing. :u

    Maybe I’m wrong but this seems to be one of those very, very good episodes which, when I look around on the interwebs, rarely floats up on the list of popular fan favourites. Maybe because it is so ambiguous. Still, even if I don’t understand all of it yet, this episode was the final confirmation to the suspicion that season 6 might be my favourite of them all.

    • If your blog has the aim to make us, the fans, love the series even more, then you’re clearly succeeding

      ::marks off number 25 on the Bucket List::

      I’m starting to think that most X-Files Top 10 lists are an exercise in mimicry. Okay, a slight exaggeration… but not too far from the truth. Maybe we just get stuck in a rut of thinking about the same episodes all the time and after a while they become Legend. It could also be that while some episodes are excellent in and of themselves, they’re missing the “It” Factor that takes them to another level in fans’ memories.

      • I still haven’t found anyone who likes “The Field Where I Died”….or at least defends it. heh. I tried: http://bad-doggett.blogspot.com/2011/11/field-where-i-died.html

        Though, bravo for this episode. First time I watched it on tv was, gosh, 2006, before I’d consider myself a fan. I remember watching it and getting into it, then thinking, “how the heck do they get out of THIS?!” Glanced at the clock, 5 minutes to go…then here come people to pull them out. I just thought it was a cool reference to first season episodes like “Darkness Falls” where they actually get too far in over their heads. I didn’t know it had an emotional side too.

        • I hadn’t thought of that! It’s definitely reminiscent of Darkness Falls since Scully and Mulder don’t actually save themselves. They do make their presence known, but then again, in Darkness Falls they had made it pretty far down the mountain too.

  6. I recall when I got the Dvd set a few years back . That was the first time I saw this episode.

  7. I remember watching this episode when it aired on Sunday night with my mom. We knew something funky was up and couldn’t help roaring with laughter when Scully starts yelling at all of Mulder’s funeral guests. If I had a favorite episode, it may very well be this one – it affirms the MSR so well.

  8. Doesn’t matter what anyone has to say–Scully reaching for Mulder’s hand with eyes closed, just KNOWING that his hand would be there, too…BEST. THING. EVER.

  9. Simply put, this episode is in my top ten favourite episodes and let me tell you something, that is an exclusive list to be on. 😀

  10. This is one of my favorite season 6 episodes (and yes, I realize that I do say that on almost every post!), and it’s so underappreciated! I remember the first time I saw this episode, I knew it wasn’t real when Scully happened upon the memorial for Mulder in his apartment. I too thought “when did Mulder get friends?”

  11. One of my favourite parts about your reviews is the little lines from previous X-Files that you throw in. “Who’d they piss off to get stuck with this detail?” makes me smile knowingly, and I can’t even remember which ep it’s from.

  12. This is one of my favorite episode in the entire show. I remember the very first time I saw it my mind was completely blown away.
    Not only the plot is very original and inventive, yet unrelated to paranormal, but the way it’s directed is pure genius.
    Those hallucination sequences, oh boy… You know something is wrong, but what ? and since when ?
    I love all the incoherences from the hallucinations. One minute the aparment is filled with people morning, the next one everybody’s gone without explanation. Feel like a dream, right ?
    I remember, the very first time, for the first 30 minutes I was like “MAN WTF IS GOING ON ?!”

    I loved the line where Mulder says “Can you name me one drug that loses its effect once the user realizes it’s in his system? ” , nailed it.
    I have to admit I have tested several drugs in the past, mostly the soft ones, so yeah you know this stuff is on your system, you know it’s altering your perceptions and stuff… but you can’t stop its effects.

    A really sick episode, with a lot of twists. You can clearly see how the MOTW episodes evovled throughout the years. Even if I do miss the old ones, from season one and two, this kind of episode is always here to tell me “hey, it’s not because the MOTW ones aren’t about straight monsters anymore that they aren’t scary/great”.

    • This episode definitely is a trip. Pun intended.

      I kinda wish we’d gotten more pseudo-scientific episodes like this and “Synchrony” (not that “Synchrony” is anywhere near as good). But maybe they didn’t want to go the traditional sci-fi route? The X-Files always did try to defy convention. And all told, it’s great that they mixed lots of genres in one show.

  13. Agent Venkman

    One of the great Season 6 episodes.

    About that line where Mulder questions how often he has been wrong in the series… I wish he had been wrong more often during the show’s run, and that Scully’s scientific explanations had been correct more times. Mulder makes the same question during the car sequence in FTF, and it must’ve been funny to Carter and Spotnitz, at the time or writing, because during seasons 1-4 Mulder was wrong, occasionally. From season 5 onwards, Mulder was ALWAYS right, and most cases didn’t even bother to have logical/plausible explanations.

    • Sometimes Mulder isn’t even merely right, he pulls out some random, detailed phenomenon that matches the case *exactly* based on no evidence whatsoever.

      They really trusted in our ability to suspend belief, didn’t they?

  14. This has always been one of my very favourite episodes of the entire show. It reminds me of a lucid dream with its dark, eerie, disorientating atmosphere and gradual realisation that none of it is real. It also has a personal, even intimate, feel to the episode that makes it very accessible and refreshing. It’s one that I wouldn’t hesitate to introduce to a newcomer of the series to give them some idea of what it’s all about. I didn’t get into the series for a while and only watched the odd one or two to start with before I became radically obsessed lol but this is one episode that stuck out as very memorable to me.

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  18. Great episode. What struck me about the performances of DD and GA were the odd way each acted as the hallucination of the other. Sly, looking guilty or just not themselves. Great acting jobs.

    The faux ending was also well done. It just seemed to pat looking back on it right now.

    Also, very unique for the series.

    • Not that their acting ever really suffered IMHO, but they were on top of their game Season 6. It helps that the writers gave them a myriad of things to do and emotions to play.

  19. “There’s never an explanation for how these hallucinations can be shared, but OK.”

    I think it’s purposely left open. Either they’re sharing or, more likely, we are guessing at whose hallucination is occurring (maybe based on which character is speaking?). The point is (like you said) these characters know each other SO well that they couldn’t be fooled.

    Anyway, on rewatch, I enjoyed this episode way more than I remember the first time. In fact, I barely remembered the episode. Now it’s one of my favorite stand-alones. In fact, I don’t know if there is a better example of the Mulder-Scully relationship, how much they trust/know each other, etc.

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