The Goldberg Variation 7×2: Maybe your luck is changing.

The Goldberg Variation 2

The unluckiest by far.

I hate to come back after an extended hiatus and bring tidings of mediocrity, but alas, I paused where I paused in this rewatch and must return where I must. And this just isn’t a great episode.

Let’s start with the good. “The Goldberg Variation” does have some cute moments. “Moments” so far being the key word of Season 7, a season that sporadically throws us knowing winks of familiarity, humor and emotional significance, but that mostly sits stares at us with bored, half-lidded eyes.

Here it takes a vain stab at touching humor a la “Small Potatoes” (4×20). It’s trying to do everything right  – We have a quirky, socially awkward anti-hero who’s lovable despite himself, an X-File that’s fantastic rather than frightening and Mulder made a mess of. What’s not to love, right? But I can’t love it. I haven’t even been able to watch the entire episode in a single sitting since it first aired. I keep getting distracted by things like my dog snoring and my overgrown toenail cuticles and have to rewind.

The highlight of the episode for me happens very early on, within the first quarter. Scully’s stifled smile as Mulder tries and fails to go from G-Man to handyman makes me laugh every time. So there is that.

But for an episode based on the inescapable force that is Cause and Effect, the plot feels like a loosely connected series of coincidences rather than a logical chain of events. And even if in hindsight we’re supposed to see that there was a reason for all this madness, that a force was behind the plot and driving it to an inevitably good conclusion, it still feels haphazard and goofy rather than controlled.

That’s too bad since this episode’s two main guest stars, prolific actor Willie Garson and soon-to-be prolific actor Shia LaBeouf, could potentially have given us some real television memories. And writer Jeffrey Bell already has – Some good (“The Rain King”) and some not so good (“Alpha”).

The Mulder/Scully dynamic is enjoyable as always, but perhaps they’ve been feeding on too much L.A. sunshine in the absence of alien angst. Neither of them are dealing with drama at the moment and it shows. There’s no conspiracy and no cancer. There isn’t even an X-File that poses any actual danger. What are they to do but crack jokes and smirk at each other?

They deserve it after all this time, to be sure. So why do I suddenly miss the driving sense of urgency that characterized earlier seasons and the built-in mystery that the Vancouver fog used to lend to the production? I know I’m a hypocrite since I loved the famously lighthearted Season 6 which was also shot in L.A.. But cheeky and experimental as “Triangle” (6×3) is, it still has an intensity that episodes like this one lack.


So what separates the “Small Potatoes” from episodes like “The Goldberg Variation”? In a word: soul.

It’s not the acting talent. It’s not the writing talent. It’s not the production budget. It’s that “something” that’s impossible to define but that you can’t forget once you encounter it. That “something” that brought us all to The X-Files in the first place.

Somehow, all the moving parts were there but didn’t come together with any chemistry. The result is a cute but lackluster forty-three minutes and thirty-three seconds.

Gone, perhaps, are the days when I would call up my best friend during commercial breaks going, “OMW, did you see that??”


Unnecessary Comments:

Mobsters using words like “impervious.” *mildly amused smirk*

The props department outdid themselves with those Rube Goldberg machines. Or where they borrowed?

This won’t be the last time Lady Luck stars as an X-File…


Mulder: Hey, nice outfit! {Editor’s Note: Funny, I was thinking the same thing. Scully looks awfully well-tailored for a government worker.}


Scully: So, basically, we’re looking for Wile E. Coyote.” {Editor’s Note: Would that you were, Scully. Would that you were.}

Scully: I like baseball too. {Editor’s Note: I see what you did there, Jeffrey Bell.}

31 responses to “The Goldberg Variation 7×2: Maybe your luck is changing.

  1. WELCOME BACK!!!! I”m so glad you’re safe and sound. Poor episode or not, it’s great to have you here for the X-Files resurgence 🙂 I look forward to you taking us into 10X1

  2. I would agree that this is a very mediocre episode. But you’re back just in time to finish the series before the new episodes air!

  3. I won’t lie, I’ve been wistfully checking this page every so often, hoping one day you’d be back from your hiatus. Lo and behold! I’m glad you’re back.

    About the episode… I didn’t really start watching XF seriously until after it was over. I think I saw “Field Trip” and “X-Cops” when they first aired, but other than that I only caught the odd re-run by chance every now and then. I met a friend in college who was a huge fan, and we watched up through season 3 or so. A few years later I started buying the DVDs, but I stopped at season 6 because I wasn’t sure I liked the change in tone. So season 7 and beyond are a mystery to me. Now that you’re back, I’m going too have to try to start watching along with you.

  4. Well, I know we’ve never met, not even in the comment section, since I only started (re)watching the X-Files and discovered your little X-Phile talk corner during the “hiatus”, but I’m ever so happy to see you back on here. It might be coincidence, it might not be, but since I’ve run out of reviews to read my re-watch has become very slow and I’ve started to become a bit bored by the few Files coming up I’ve seen so far…

    I do agree with you on this one, although admittedly the fact that Willie Garson plays this nerdy, moody & misunderstood character has probably made me somewhat less critical… after my own nerdy, moody & misunderstood teenage years I discovered SATC in my adolescence and fell in love with his character on it. I don’t know if this little confession will make the X-Philes community frown and shun me from it, but well… I’ve made my peace with it. My old dating life did read like X-Files fan fic anyway.

    But I’m digressing. I would give it a B, because it gave me some giggles and because I loved Fox Mulder go plumber… But probably mainly because of the Willie Garson-connection. But I see your point, it could have been a lot more memorable. I think I blame the mobsters who felt very un-mobster to me, or more like the sort of Home Alone-franchise villains.

    Another thing that got me a bit confused was the ending. Willie Garson’s character seemed to have passed his luck on to his young neighbour, which is something he seemingly was able to do and was aware of when he gave the scratch ticket to the shop manager, so why didn’t he just do that conciously earlier down the road before the boy was terminally ill? I mean, I like a clever plot twist, just as much as the next girl, but it felt a bit forced on me.

    • Well, I’m quite happy to be here to join you on your rewatch. It actually *is* a lot of fun to have people to discuss with. It makes a bad episode better, even. At least you can enjoy bashing it.

      Now that you mention it, Joe Pesci as he was in Home Alone actually would have been a lot funnier than these mobsters. Now there’s a guy that can both bury a body in the desert and take a pie to the face. These mobsters read as hokey.

      As far as the ending, I thought I understood it as Willie’s luck still, but that Richie getting what he needed to get better was lucky for Willie. Kind of? Maybe? The plot feels loose for a well-oiled Rube Goldberg machine.

      And now we’ve officially met.<3

      • Enchantée ! This makes me teenage-girl-giggle-giddy… That’s not even a word. Ha!

        Yes! Joe Pesci! On the one hand I’d love him to be my uncle at family get-togethers, on the other hand he scares me more than most men can.

        And about the ending: You are right, that’s what it implied I guess, it just didn’t do it for me either… But those Goldberg machines were cool. They were.

        So I’m ready for bad-episode-bashing. Only realized that over the last 2 months I’ve only watched 3 episodes. Either I missed the “full experience” or they are just not giving me what I need. It’s probably both in some ways. Let’s just see if you agree.

        • It’s a word now because I’m stealing it.

          There. I’ve given you fair warning.

          And I do agree or will be agreeing. There’s something missing in the episodes lately!

  5. This is my favorite episode from Season 7 and I don’t care. I’m just so happy you’re back.

    Your blog was a huge inspiration for me and was one of the factors that compelled me to write my own X-Files reviews. (I took a lot of cues from you- especially in the beginning, which I hope you won’t mind too much.)

    I’m now almost finished reviewing Season 4 and I know how tough and time consuming reviewing every episode can be. Yet somehow, it’s introduced me to a whole new group of friends, and I always felt that you were one of them, actively present or not.

    Thank you so much for your words, your wisdom, and your time. I hope that you’re able to continue, even if it gets hard to stick with it sometimes (trust me, I know how THAT feels now.)

    I can’t believe this. My 2 greatest X-Files wishes have come true!

    -Meghan (Knife Ink)

    • Wait! Where are your reviews? Send me a link so I can join in!

      And thank you for being so kind!!


        I’m a bit nervous about this, to be honest. I started it when I was 18 (started watching the show at 16), so I’m definitely still growing into it. And, like I said, I took a lot of cues from you. But I’ve absolutely had a blast so far. 🙂

        • Ya-hay! You’re just about to start my favorite season. I’ll definitely be commenting.

          Maybe all the reviewers can become accountability partners, like a runner’s club. LOL

          • I’m very excited to be starting Season 5! It’s got so many great episodes. By the way, I just wanted to say that I’m glad you’re ok and that you took the time you needed. No one (I hope) will fault you for that.

            I am super curious, though, to hear your thoughts on the ever-controversial Season 8. I’ll be waiting eagerly. 😉

            • Remember how Season 6 I gushed over almost every episode? Right. It won’t be that.

              But, thank you, really! My family needed me and something had to take a backseat. Mulder and Scully were riding back there with painfully bored faces like in Detour.

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  7. So glad you’re back Salome ! What a pleasant surprise. Stay safe.

    Thank you, that was all I had to say :o)

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  11. I kinda liked this episode. It was safe, funny and had moments of wonder. I looked at it like a fairy tale of sorts.

    But you are right, Salome with regards to its overall quality. It certainly wouldn’t be on my re-watch list in the future.

  12. I like this episode, but it’s not the x files I crave for. Coming off hungry, it feels like we are heading into ‘x files lite’ territory again, and seems a repeat of the early 6th season. Even the mood and lighting of the epidsode feels ‘light’. There are some funny moments, and it does have a good climax which is clever.

    Its good to have Mulder and Scully back properly in the episode. Speaking of Scully I like her hair again, like in hungry, its got that season 3 feel about it. It’s good that Scully is more open and accepting at the end of the episode. She is starting to witness the paranormal more often now. At this point in the show they need to do that.

    Although the lead guest star is good, I’d wish they cast someone else, purely because he was in the Walk 3×07. It’s spoils my x Files universe when they use the same actors for different parts. Considering they were in LA with the biggest talent pool they could have done that.

    It feels like a long time since I’ve been scared by watching the x files, and that’s what I’m missing. Not a bad entry, but it feels a bit forgettable.


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