Theef 7×14: Stinky’s good.


theef005.jpg

‘Ello, poppet.

Think of me what you will, but when this episode started playing I dry sobbed.

Finally. An X-File.

All pretentious analysis aside, I watch this show for the high it gives me. Endorphins, dopamine… I don’t know how it works. Whatever. I don’t run. I don’t do drugs. I watch The X-Files.

Even the worst episodes, with a few noticeable exceptions, give something, something I crave. Lately, though, I haven’t been getting it. I’ve been getting things that resemble it, I’ve been getting watered down versions of it, I’ve been getting glimpses of it, but not it. My withdrawal symptoms have included restlessness and indiscriminate irritation.

I needed a fix and I got one in “Theef”. Don’t judge me.

“Theef” is about as quintessential an X-File as it gets and it’s directed by the show’s go-to man for horror, the late Kim Manners. John Gillnitz* wrote it. Even the atmospheric dreary rain we miss from the show’s Vancouver days is back! In fact, the feel of it all is so familiar that even Mulder and Scully rib each other over it.

Scully: Well, that’s certainly one question. I’ve got many.

Mulder: [Mimics a purse-lipped Scully] “Mulder, why are we here?”

Scully: [Slyly] To be fair, I might have used the words “Mulder, how is this an X-File?”

Mulder: You see that, Scully, you always keep me guessing.

I’ve been mostly immune to the Mulder and Scully flirtation going on all season (that irritability I mentioned), but they kill me here. The looks. The looks! Knowing what we know now about “all things” (7×17) being a confirmation rather than an introduction of their relationship, if I had to guess, I’d say Mulder and Scully’s romantic relationship started right around here. But I know that’s up for debate as Mulder and Scully have been flirting all season… and all last season… and much of the season before… I really don’t care when it started, I only care that wherever they are in their timeline they’re making me all kinds of happy.

The rest of the episode isn’t too shabby either. We’ve got a really creepy villain in Oral Peattie, an Appalachian mountain man, doubtless inbred, who uses hexes and something akin to voodoo to take out his more well-educated enemies. Frankly, he seems like he must’ve lived a life so isolated that it’s hard to believe he knew any people whatsoever that he could have practiced his occult moves on previously. In fact, if the plot suffers anywhere it’s in the fact that Orel occasionally comes off too ignorant to be believable. How far back in the backwoods is he that he’s never seen a vending machine or a microwave by the year 2000? And if he’s really so primitive that he lives without electricity and doesn’t understand basic kitchen appliances, how did he successfully make the trip across country from West Virginia to San Francisco? One has to wonder.

Nevertheless, Peattie is creepy. He’s also a good foil for Dr. Robert Wieder, Peattie’s ignorantly sworn enemy. It’s Medicine Man vs. “medicine man,” though the only thing Dr. Wieder is guilty of is making a hard call in the treatment of Peattie’s daughter, one that’s surprisingly meaty as food for thought. What do you do when someone’s suffering and science can’t save them? Do you ease their suffering? Do you still ease their suffering at the risk of hastening death? And are there powers more powerful than medicine that can save the dying when science can’t?

The questions make for good discussion as do the murders, which are the freakiest we’ve seen in a good long while. The MRI scene in particular is memorable, if suspiciously well-timed. There are also a couple of great side characters like the proprietress of Peattie’s boarding house and the magical shop owner in San Francisco.

It’s only regrettable that the ending peters out instead of explodes. You would think Scully going blind would be scarier than it is. But something about her conveniently leaving everything Peattie needed to hex her in the rental car, then Mulder showing up and taking his sweet time to look over the scene, casually taking the needles out of the eyes of her representative poppet doll… If Peattie had outwitted them or surprised somehow and put them in a precarious situation, that would have been better. I do realize, of course, that Peattie isn’t working with much.

Verdict:

It’s not perfect, but I consider it tragically underrated. The atmosphere is note perfect, the deaths horrifying, the characters like something out of Season 2. And I don’t know but that however flirtatious Mulder and Scully tend to be on the regular, they have suddenly, distinctly upped their game.

I confess myself sad that this episode loses some steam right at the critical moment. If there had been more tension when Peattie goes up against Scully, I don’t hesitate to say this would have been a classic. As it is, it’s my favorite episode of the season so far. It may even remain so.

Or perhaps I’m feeling generous because I’m a little too happy right now.

A-

Questions:

Where is this hillbilly getting these diseases from? Did his family pass down some old medical almanac that he has hidden away in his cabin? If so, can he read it?

How did Peattie find out what became of his daughter and track down the doctor who treated her? Magic? And how did he find out what the doctor did? Even if he had her medical records, I doubt his understanding was advanced enough to realize what all that morphine meant.

How does Peattie track Scully and crew to the cabin in the woods when he didn’t have a car to follow them in? And even before that, it didn’t occur to anyone that Peattie might be watching the house and it use evasive maneuvers?

Poppets:

I should not love these characters this much. I should not. It can’t be healthy.

Mulder and Scully have been in California for the last five episodes now. I realize that the production has moved and all, but let’s up our creative game, shall we?

Episodes like this make it really, really hard, nay, impossible for me to understand a particular plot line come Season 8.

I love James Morrison as the slightly overconfident Dr. Wieder. My mom had such a melodramatic response to his character’s death on 24, it’s legend in our house.

In the end, it’s modern science that treats Peattie. Cosmic irony alert.

*John Shiban – Vince Gilligan – Frank Spotnitz

Best Quotes:

Scully: Hexcraft, as in, uh, putting a curse on someone? Murdering them magically?

Mulder: Yeah, that’s what it looks like to me. Now, I know what you’re going to say, Scully.

Scully: No, hexcraft. I mean, I’ll… I’ll buy that as the intent here. It certainly jives with the evidence. I say we talk to the family.

Mulder: [Shocked Silence]

Scully: I’ll always keep you guessing.

————————–
Mulder: Go ahead, Scully. Keep me guessing. {Editor’s Note: I die.}

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17 responses to “Theef 7×14: Stinky’s good.

  1. What season 8 plotline do you mean?

  2. I always thought that Peattie was putting on a act when he didn’t know how to use the microwave/vending machine. It always seemed to me he was just trying to irritate the doctor in the room (he seems to dislike highly educated people)…maybe to distract him and cover the fact that he had a evil plan with the poppet.

    I also really love the scene in the witchcraft shop. Another moment of Milder and Scully mistaken for a couple. There are just so many wonderful moments between M & S this episode. I found myself rewinding a lot. But the best is the last line. Oh the last line *swoon* This is definitely the best episode thus far this season for their flirting. Milder looks particularly smitten.

    And I completely agree. The creepy atmosphere is back and it actually feels like an x file. Oh how I missed them and their umbrellas…

  3. The girl that plays the daughter–is that the same young woman who played Morris Fletcher’s daughter in Dreamland?

    • No, that was another girl. But if you’re looking for some crossover, the actor who plays Oral Peattie is the father of the bank robber boyfriend in Monday.

  4. During the original airing I had all but sworn off the series by mid-season seven to protect my happy memories of X-Files’ Golden Age, thus tonight was my first exposure to “Theef”. I’m not sure what to make of my reaction. Perhaps it was your positive “Theef” reference in the “FPS” review and then the “A-” as I scrolled down the Season 7 page… I had high hopes and I have to be honest, Salome, I’m not feeling the “A-”. I’m feeling more of a “B” vibe from this initial viewing.

    What makes this MoTW more noteworthy than others? Did I feel for the guest characters more so than Roland Fuller in “Roland” or the love-lorn teenagers in “Jose Chung”? No. Was is scary? The MRI machine was a gross out but we saw it coming. (When it comes to microwaved guest stars, what can beat L’ively’s clicking eye blink in “Fire”?) There was no dynamic tension as seen in “Ice” and there were no scares that made me cover my eyes experienced with “Die Hands Die Verletzt”. What is the “A” factor in this episode? (I just realized I listed all first and second season episodes. Alas, I betray myself.)

    The MSR/UST gods know I welcome any new exposure to M&S flirtation but they both seemed a bit on autopilot in this episode. It makes me sad I didn’t feel aflutter with the “keep me guessing” routine. Well, I did kinda melt when he whispered “you do keep me guessing” as she walked out of West Virginia Stereotype’s hospital room. Mulder should whisper more frequently. His whisper of “get dressed” in her apartment in FtF… seriously, he’s telling her to put her clothes on and according to the Laws of Relationship Physics *she should’ve done just the opposite*. But I digress.

    P.S. What I loved most about this episode were umbrellas and (some) darkness. I’ve never stopped hating the move to L.A., all these years later.

    P.S.S. John Gilnitz was mentioned on the television in this episode, he is a nimble fellow.

    • I don’t think I can lay my case any barer. Maybe it just strikes me the right way.

      If I thought it were truly noteworthy, though, it would’ve gotten an A+.

  5. My kingdom for an edit function.

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  10. I should not love these characters this much. I should not. It can’t be healthy.

    Yeah I’m there with you. It’s exhausting me right now!

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