all things 7×17: That’s like saying you’re having David Crosby’s baby.


cap415

Ok. Fine. I do melt.

Gillian Anderson spoke to me today.

Well, she tweeted me a thirteen word sentence but that counts and I’m counting it.

And she spoke to me while I was in the middle of my upteenth rewatch of “all things” in order to prep my final draft of this review. Destiny? Clearly.

In the interest of full disclosure, I used to hate this episode. I’m talking not just dislike, loathing. The shippy moments barely assuaged me. This was exactly what I was afraid of back when David Duchovny first stepped behind the pen and camera for “The Unnatural” (6×20), that the actor’s point of view, or maybe more accurately, my awareness of the actor’s point of view, would irritate me and get in the way of my viewing pleasure. With still palpable relief, I can say I ended up enjoying that one. So by the time “all things” came along I was much more open. Sadly, I spent the entire episode thinking, “Why is Gillian Anderson blocking my view of Scully? ‘Cause I’m hearing a whole lot of Gillian right now.”

It wasn’t until one day a few years back, as I was rewatching “all things” with the DVD commentary on, that I realized I actually like what Gillian Anderson was trying to achieve. But while there’s a lot to appreciate here, there are also things standing in the way of some good ideas turning into a great episode.

Let’s take the good ideas first. Scully is meant to come to the understanding that she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be. A series of choices, and destiny disguised as a woman in a khaki cap and jacket, have led her on this path. There’s no going back to who you used to be because you’ve grown now. And besides, our emotions and attachments can sometimes make us see good in situations and relationships that really weren’t good for us at all. So don’t waste too much time looking back and wondering. I get it. I’m with you, girl.

Scully slowly comes to this realization after accidentally/not-so-accidentally coming back into contact with her old mentor, professor, and lover (?), Dr. Daniel Waterston. I’ll admit Scully’s relationship with Waterston, as we got to see it, always bothered me. Apparently, though, as written, Scully never slept with Waterston. What they had was a close relationship that was quickly turning into an emotional affair. Scully leaves him and medicine behind in order to resist the temptation of an affair and leave Waterston’s family in peace. Now, that sounds more like the romantic heroine I know. I realize that people have faults, they sin, they make mistakes and they grow. It’s still hard to picture Scully, even the young and relatively inexperienced Scully as we knew her in Season 1, knowingly being party to an affair. If anything, she used to be even less of a “shades of gray” sort of thinker. Regardless, the nuances of Scully and Waterston’s relationship had to be left out because of time constraints.

Maggie Waterston: Do you have any idea the hell you created in our lives?

Scully: Maggie, to be honest, I left so that there wouldn’t be hell in your lives.

One thing that wasn’t left out but I wish had been was the tease in the opening teaser.

No, I won’t be accepting death threats. Thank you for your cooperation.

The truth is, the implication that Scully had spent the night romantically with Mulder wasn’t Gillian’s idea. 1013 Productions had been planning to slip a nugget like this in around this point in the season and it got worked into “all things”. It was meant to serve as confirmation that Mulder and Scully were already in a romantic relationship, which explains the shameless flirting that’s been going on all season. If you thought Mulder and Scully seemed a little too happy lately, now you know why. In fact, keeping in mind their happy-go-lucky attitudes lately, Scully suddenly slipping into “What is my life?” mode feels incongruous within the context of the season, no?

But there I go losing sight of my topic again. As I said, the teaser is a bit of a problem only because it distracts from the rest of the episode. Even today, it’s a distraction. The audience spends the rest of the episode trying to figure out whether Scully’s roamings through the spirit world tell us whether or not she’s sleeping with Mulder. I realize after waiting so long for the two leads to come together a casual confirmation might not have been possible, but that’s my take on it.

The toughest hurdle for me is Scully’s lightspeed transition from a Catholic to a New Age Spiritualist. Again, maybe this is one of those things that would have gone down a little (and only a little) more smoothly if Gillian could have kept in more of her original ideas. She had enough material for a two hour special, sounds like. But we have what we have and Scully makes a turn so abrupt, I end up flying out of the passenger seat of the car. Scully kneeling in front of a Buddha statue in a moment of religious ecstasy, with a cross around her neck no less, is about where my head hits the asphalt. Next time I’ll wear a seatbelt.

Mulder: I just find it hard to believe.

Scully: What part?

Mulder: The part where I go away for two days and your whole life changes.

Scully: Mmm, I didn’t say my whole life changed.

Mulder: You speaking to God in a Buddhist temple. God speaking back.

Scully: Mmm, and I didn’t say that God spoke back. I said that I had some kind of a vision.

Mulder: Well, for you, that’s like saying you’re having David Crosby’s baby.

I’m of Mulder’s mind on this one. Honestly, this New Age through line makes Scully feel more like a vehicle for some deeply felt ideas to be expressed rather than that these expressed ideas were servicing Scully’s character. But I know this episode was very personal. And, hey, at least the suddenness of the change is acknowledged.

What I’m actually more impressed by than the story is the directing. It doesn’t look or feel like a first time effort. Moby makes his second guest appearance on The X-Files soundtrack this season. Gillian and I must have something in common because I also had Moby on repeat back in the day. I didn’t travel without my Moby CDs. (Kids, that’s how mommy and daddy used to listen to music.) “My Weakness” fit a little more seamlessly into the overall aesthetic of the show in “Closure” (7×11), though, than “The Sky is Broken” does here. It draws attention to itself, sometimes purposefully, sometimes distractingly

I love the pattern of musical rhythms and beats, however. Time is the other star of this episode and it draws attention to itself, not only through rhythms but visually. I confess, it took me forever to catch on… Scratch that. I didn’t catch on until Gillian explained it, that time slows down every time Scully needs to pay attention because an important decision is coming up. I wish someone would drop me hints like that.

This is my long-winded way of saying I think it’s a good first effort. There is something much more modern, sometimes jarringly so, about this episode and its sensibilities, from the music to the content, than we usually see in The X-Files. From what little I know of Gillian, I suspect she wanted to get our attention. I heard you.

Verdict:

I know what you’re thinking. That I have no taste. What you’re also thinking: What did Gillian Anderson say to her? Well, she said that Scully’s on a spiritual journey, one that she’s only on because of Mulder and one that Mulder, and not Waterston, can help her complete.

That’s what she said in “all things”.

The Twitter exchange went like this…

And then I died.

Well, no. First, I spun around my room like a top. Then I died.

Here’s the way Gillian described the discarded scene in her commentary:

Initially, our [Colleen and Scully’s]… our second meeting was in Chinatown. Initially, I had a scene where Scully walks into an apothecary. And she was going to go so far as to actually try and find some alternative medicine, tinctures and salves, to help heal Dr. Waterston when nothing else in the world of Western medicine was working. And she finds herself in this wonderful, in my mind, apothecary [laughs] with this wonderful old woman behind the counter. And, initially, right when she’s about to leave, a woman comes from the back who’s been… who’s had accupuncture. And it’s Colleen and they end up going through a walk through Chinatown, through the streets, and having a conversation that had a lot more dialogue than those scenes and less exposition for her [Colleen], and more color and everything. But neither of those things worked out.

I can hear Gillian Anderson speaking, and I’m okay with that.

B

Wind Chimes:

The lady who plays Colleen, whose name is… Colleen, was also in “Detour” (5×4), one of my favorite episodes.

Gillian and I also share procrastination in common. It’s an issue.

I believe this is the first slideshow since “Field Trip” (6×21) and before that it was “Bad Blood” (5×12). What’s with it only being used as a source of tension between Mulder and Scully lately?

Am I the only one who thinks Mulder looks funny in that getup? No?

Gillian’s is one of those rare DVD commentaries that actually gives me what I want – insight into story choices rather than technical details.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: But that was merely prelude of what was to come. Three years later, in 1994 even more complex formations occurred simultaneously on opposite ends of the English countryside with the Mandelbrot Set, were it still there, at its center. Then, in 1997, even more complex formations occurred…

Scully: [Eats her salad and ignores Mulder]

Mulder: … and I’m not wearing any pants right now.

Scully: [Looks up after realizing Mulder’s gone quiet] Hmm?

———————

Scully: I once considered spending my whole life with this man. What I would have missed.

Mulder: I don’t think you can know. I mean, how many different lives would we be leading if we made different choices. We… We don’t know.

Scully: What if there was only one choice and all the other ones were wrong? And there were signs along the way to pay attention to.

Mulder: Mmm. All the… choices would then lead to this very moment. One wrong turn, and… we wouldn’t be sitting here together. Well, that says a lot. That says a lot, a lot, a lot. I mean that’s probably more than we should be getting into at this late hour…

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43 responses to “all things 7×17: That’s like saying you’re having David Crosby’s baby.

  1. Gillian is Buddist. David Duchovney very often would walk around the set with no pants on

    • I think she’s just Buddhist leaning, right? I read an interview with her from earlier this year.

      Interesting to know about David… I’m somehow not surprised.

  2. When I was looking through Gillian’s Twitter posts from the QA and saw a question from you was answered I was so happy for you! We needed at least some quality questions answered. I’m glad yours was one 🙂

    I, too, really disliked this episode when I first saw it. This rewatch, however, made me change my opinion. I really enjoyed it. Personally, I do think it was possible for Scully to have this kind of journey because she is really spiritual, but only gets super defensive about it around Mulder. So it makes sense that she would have these revelations when he’s in another country. Melissa Scully would be so proud of her baby sis. Too bad they killed her off and robbed Scully of the ability to really share this experience with her. I imagine Melissa would suddenly be showering her with gifts of crystals and new age books and Scully would pretend to be annoyed, but secretly love the bonding experience.

    As far as the M/S relationship plot line, I feel like this is when Scully was fully able to admit to Mulder that she loved him. I never took it to be that this was their first time being intimate. I believed it happened either when they got home from the hospital in Millennium or as soon as Mulder’s arm was better 🙂

    Anyway, nice review! I’m excited that we both came to appreciate this episode more, especially since this is our first episode written and directed by a woman.

    • I hadn’t even thought about that. Come to think of it, hasn’t the only female writer so far been Kim Newton? And she gave us Revelations.

      She also gave us Quagmire, but I read Darin Morgan contributed a lot to that and it smacks of his humor and slight frustration with Mulder and Scully’s quest.

      • I decided to check which episodes were written by women and this is what I found (via Wikipedia):

        Shapes by Marilyn Osborn
        Aubrey and The Calusari by Sara B. Charno
        Revelations and Quagmire by Kim Newton
        Sanguinarium by Valerie Mayhew & Vivian Mayhew
        Schizogeny by Jessica Scott & Mike Wollaeger
        All Things by Gillian Anderson

        This doesn’t mean that these episodes weren’t heavily edited by a male writer, like you said was the case for Quagmire.

        This may (very much does) explain why Scully wasn’t always handled in the best way…especially concerning a certain miracle yet to come. I think we definitely have Gillian to thank for helping to make Scully more three dimensional.

        Gillian is the only female director, though.

    • I don’t know about the journey, though. That’s a huge change, even if she is spiritually inclined. And not only a spiritual change, but it requires her to rethink medicine as well. Her foundations would have to be uprooted.

      I’m sure it could happen and has happened, but the suddenness of the shift makes it ring hollow to me.

      • Yeah…I can understand that. It could have happened in a more believable fashion if it didn’t take place over two days. Maybe if we were more in Scully’s head for this whole season when things started to really change emotionally for her (or whenever that happened), then we could have seen her struggle with where she is in her life and what would lead her to making these large spiritual/medical leaps.

        Maybe I’m just projecting on Scully…which is most likely what is happening.

  3. Would you happen to know why the episode title is always in lowercase? This is something I’ve been curious about for a while.

    • I’m not sure… I’m assuming that was either an artistic or a spiritually minded choice on Gillian’s part, or both. Exactly what the significance is, I don’t know.

      Maybe, since there’s no God with a capital G in Buddhism, it implies equality or oneness?

  4. Pingback: Brand X 7×19: They say these things kill people. | Musings of an X-Phile

  5. See, this is why I’ve missed you: I need all the background details on the episodes and you bring it all together so nicely. I’ve always had mixed feelings about this episode. Like most people, I spent the whole time wondering if they’d actually slept together, and always came to the conclusion that they hadn’t yet (I always thought of that coming much later in the season, which I now see makes zero sense with the pregnancy timeline, which is what I get for watching them all out of order). So your statement that “It was meant to serve as confirmation that Mulder and Scully were already in a romantic relationship” blew my mind.

    What you’ve said about how Gillian would have done the episode given more time makes me like it more. Like you, I’ve always found her sudden New Age about-face pretty unbelievable, as well as the notion that she could be a homewrecker–I could see her being tempted, certainly, but ultimately deciding against it. Maybe with more time to draw it out, and definitely with more explanation about the actual nature of her relationship with Dr. Waterston, I would have liked this episode more. Oh, the longing for things that could have been.

    • Right?! I’m not sure if this episode had the makings of a tense two-parter. At the same time, I think Gillian could have done a lot more with more time. Then again, this is television and time constraints are an unavoidable evil. Some stories just don’t suit certain formats.

      So it’s not just me who always felt like Scully had this almost stern sense of justice in her? Especially early on, her sense of fairness was part of the reason she didn’t dismiss Mulder’s crazy theories outright. Remember “Squeeze”? She’d give his theories a chance because she wanted to get to the truth. I feel like that same Scully who was willing to hear someone out and whose first priority was finding the truth and helping the victims, fair play and justice Scully, probably wouldn’t have cheated with a married man. I can see her being very tempted, but I can’t see her going through with it.

      Apparently, Gillian couldn’t either. It all makes more sense.

      Also, I think the “Did they/Didn’t they” question ends up hijacking the episode a bit. But that wasn’t Gillian’s fault either.

      Personally, I always thought they *had* to be together by “Theef”. Looking back, it might have been even earlier. This was kind of like “Millennium” in that the overall attitude was, “Yeah. They’re together. No biggie.” They just threw it out there, sat back and watched us all freak out.

      • I just posted this response on Facebook and then realized it’s probably relevant:

        “But, yeah. I know it’s *meant* to be distracting. And maybe, in a way, just like the audience spends the entire episode wondering how Mulder and Scully got to that moment in the teaser, Scully spends it wondering how she got to that point with Mulder in her life. I see the parallels. I do.”

  6. One of my favorite parts about this episode (besides the obvious shipper validation) was the guest actress who played Colleen. I totally remembered her from Detour and it was great to see her again.

    I agree that there are a lot of flaws in character development in this episode in terms of Scully, but I loved the deviations from her accepted and solidified persona. I actually thought that Scully and Mulder had been sleeping together for quite some time (I would say right after or even at the end of Millennium), and that the events in all things could be Scully’s meditations on that new level of her relationship with Mulder.

    • I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head of what they were going for. Mulder and Scully have been together and Scully’s just taking a final look back in the rear-view mirror before driving forward with Mulder.

      If only this were the last time Scully did that…

      There are only so many times she can believably question her choice to be with Mulder. But I’m jumping ahead of myself. *cough*IWTB*cough*

  7. I think “all things” is heavily underrated. Here we finally, FINALLY have an episode written and directed by a female. Not just any female, but one whose job it has been to channel Scully for nearly seven years by this point. It’s only during this rewatch that I’ve realized how badly The X-Files needed more episodes written and directed by women. It’s mind boggling to think that it was that out of proportion. I guess that’s just the way of the industry, but it’s time for a change.

    Anyway, about the episode. While it is far from perfect, I do like that the episode gives Scully a background with this other relationship she had. Honestly, I always thought she did have an actual affair with him. Call me horrible, but I think that makes it more interesting. It bothers me that the writers often tried to make Scully out to be this practically celibate saint. Yes, she’s a Catholic girl but much of her life has been spent struggling with that part of her identity. Might not she have struggled similarly when she was younger? Acted foolishly, as young people do, still trying to sort out her beliefs? It wouldn’t make what she did good, but for heaven’s sake allow Scully to make mistakes, dammit. I personally loved how daring this episode was with that take on Scully’s character. Whether she actually had the affair or not, it gave her some demons, and who doesn’t like those?

    My personal favorite moment, though, is that last conversation. Mostly because Mulder’s so assured that the “one choice” Scully talks about would have to lead to the two of them together. He doesn’t even consider any other option, and neither does she. It’s the closest these two have verbally come to saying “I love you,” though the wonderful unspoken aspects of their relationship are still there. And the LOOK Mulder gives her (which you screencapped so beautifully) makes me dissolve into a puddle of goo.

    So yeah – not a perfect episode by any means. But criminally underrated in my opinion.

    • I actually think “all things” is pretty well loved. It’s not my favorite, but I think Gillian’s ideas seem to resonate with a lot of women especially, probably more now than they did then. It’s a new generation. Or maybe I’ve been trolling tumblr too much???

      I dunno. Fully fleshed characters have flaws and inconsistencies, it’s true. I’m not sure that means they have to have complete moral failures to be interesting, though. I think knowing that Scully had to make a life-changing decision that was mainly based on whether she’d give in to her feelings for this man or not is mind-grabbing entertainment. “What did Scully do? What should I do? What would I do?” I think that’s a struggle. Giving in isn’t a struggle. Getting out is. Everyone has struggles, not everyone has demons. Scully never seemed particularly demon-infested. She was always much more grounded than Mulder who lacked solid family (and mental) foundations. I like getting more background about her, but it seemed to come out of left field.

      I’m starting to think I’m the only one, but even during the first run of the series I never thought Scully had no social life whatsoever. I just assumed it happened off camera. It wasn’t relevant to her work on the X-Files so I didn’t need to see it and I was fine with that. I never thought she was celibate. I’ve also always thought Scully was flawed, she just didn’t have the obvious imbalances Mulder had. In the early days especially she was cocky and arrogant. Later on she could be cold and stubborn. She was also inconsistent in her own beliefs, whether about science, God, or aliens. And sometimes she’d thwart Mulder for no good reason other than feeling pissy.

      I love her, though.

      P.S. I can’t take credit for the screencap! That final scene is such a gorgeous moment, though. It tells us where the characters are better than any tantalizing scene of Mulder in bed. The love is palpable.

  8. One note regarding the comments above — Darin wrote the COTR scene in Quagmire, as I recall that was his sole (yet oh so awesome) contribution to the script.

    (WARNING: I mentioned previously I was going to go full-on “Statler and Waldorf” on this episode so here it is.) I disliked this episode when it aired and upon this re-watch, I dislike it even more. Throughout the X Files’ run I lamented the lack of women’s voices amongst the “above the line” production staff. In a perfect world, Jane Espenson would’ve written a few episodes throughout each season. Amy Sherman-Palladino would’ve co-written episodes with 1980s-era Clive Barker and Stephen King to give us the perfect balance of consistency, M/S repartee and hands-covering-the-eyes horror. This doesn’t feel like an X Files episode and ironically GA’s script doesn’t feel consistent with the characters, which boggles my mind. Scully is out of nowhere leaning Buddhist *because the episode’s writer does*, not because it is at all consistent with the Scully’s history or character trajectory. Mulder wearing that dreadful hat at the end of the episode isn’t Mulder’s style (it’s a total Max Fening hat). Moby doesn’t move me either way but the emphasis of his music in this episode was a distraction. I loathe this teaser’s voice over. The slo-mo effects are frivolous. Most of the dialogue is clunky. Viewers shouldn’t have to listen to a DVD commentary to understand what is going on, the script should do that for the viewer. Throughout this re-watch the words “flailing” and “pretentious” come to mind.

    Random observations:
    Why is the hospital staff filling her in on all his vital statistics, isn’t that a gross violation of his HIPPA rights?
    Why is there a bell ringing in the Daniel’s hospital room in multiple scenes, WHY??
    That Mulder guy is pretty cool, it would be so great to see him again at some point…. oh thank the gods he’s back (in that dreadful hat), this means the pain is over. Final couch scene, I thank you. So glad we could spend some quality time holding the camera on Mulder’s aquarium.

    There are a few moments I do like in this episode. Well, there are two moments I like in this episode. M/S’s slide show scene in the first act is great – I’d waited years for her to push back on one of his “let’s drive/fly/hike to the middle of nowhere to explore the weird”. Their banter here is crisp, animated and I’m glad she put her foot down. This scene feels like the negative vibe twin of their (also on Saturday) banter in act one of “The Unnatural”. It is great to see Stacy Haiduk in an XF episode, she is a solid actress and I haven’t seen enough from her in the last few years. And the end scene. O.M.G. I’m in love and lust… up to the weird zoom to the Buddha statute. Couldn’t they have closed this episode on his stroke of her titian tresses, giving life to a thousand fanfics?

    During the NY Paley Center interview (w/ DD), GA stated that Frank Spotnitz worked on the script with her “a lot” but IMO, GA’s story was not sufficient as an entire episode. There needed to be a “A” plot to trigger this “B” plot. This episode irritates me much in the same was as “Hollywood A.D.” irritates me, there is a Celebrity Vanity Project factor at work – this wasn’t a script because it was a great X File, it was a script because the co-lead on the series wanted to write a script. In the case of “all things”, Spotnitz (and CC) had to work the outline into something filmable. Please don’t learn how to be a writer on my favorite show and with my favorite characters. Learn the craft elsewhere, and *then* be an awesome writer on my fav show. There are exemplars to cite in XF canon – “Beyond the Sea” is a near-perfect Scully-centric episode. We learn about her family, her personal beliefs; she is pushed beyond her existing framework to consider the extraordinary at work in her personal life, she evolves personally and professionally. And there was a compelling X File to boot.

    I agree with the above remarks, the teaser is a big distraction. My apathy for this story leaves this in my mind as the “confirmation” episode and not much else. It is unfortunate they didn’t decide to write this as the “confirmation” episode with a personal X File similar in power to BtS, Pusher, Colony/End Game, etc., and incorporate their personal revelation (to the audience) into that broader context. “all things” was a lost opportunity.

    • Comments like this shouldn’t make me so happy. Statler and Waldorf are welcome around here. Miss Piggy I never warmed to.

      I disliked this episode when it aired and upon this re-watch, I dislike it even more. Throughout the X Files’ run I lamented the lack of women’s voices amongst the “above the line” production staff… This doesn’t feel like an X Files episode and ironically GA’s script doesn’t feel consistent with the characters, which boggles my mind.

      I think the takeaway here is that having female voices isn’t an end to itself. I remember when President Obama was elected and everyone kept saying, “Aren’t you glad we have a black president?” I was like, “Sure. But having a black president isn’t the goal. Having a good president is the goal. If he’s also breaking barriers by being black, that’s gravy.”

      Scully is out of nowhere leaning Buddhist *because the episode’s writer does*, not because it is at all consistent with the Scully’s history or character trajectory.

      Yep. Mulder had to go through Demons, Gethsemene, Redux and Redux II before he temporarily stopped believing in aliens. Scully has a complete paradigm shift in 43 minutes.

      I’ve been working on my Season 7 Wrap-Up so I’ve been thinking about this, and not to belabor the point here too soon, but Season 7 was self-indulgent in a lot of ways, probably because they thought it was going to be their last season. This was a “Let’s give Gillian a chance to say something because there might not be another one” moment. And, of course, she’d earned the chance to speak by virtue of her hard work and incredible performance. It clearly felt like a parting message for if she and the fans never met again – “If I could leave you with one thing…” or “I feel it’s important for me to tell you…”

      Hollywood A.D. suffered from the same thing, only David’s indulgence was less focused in terms of its philosophy. He was more interested in the chance to share The X-Files with all his buddies.

      Mulder wearing that dreadful hat at the end of the episode isn’t Mulder’s style (it’s a total Max Fening hat).

      The symbolism there did feel forced.

      Moby doesn’t move me either way but the emphasis of his music in this episode was a distraction.

      I like Moby, but I agree. It drew too much attention to itself. When Scully was walking through Chinatown it felt like a music video.

      Viewers shouldn’t have to listen to a DVD commentary to understand what is going on, the script should do that for the viewer.

      :::whistles Dixie:::

      Why is the hospital staff filling her in on all his vital statistics, isn’t that a gross violation of his HIPPA rights?

      Well, Hippa wasn’t as strict in 2000 as it is today. But even so, if she’s an approved friend of the family and has been invited into the medical conversation by the patient, then yes. The doctor says when he first sees Scully that Waterston was talking about her and then Waterston asks for her medical opinions.

      Why is there a bell ringing in the Daniel’s hospital room in multiple scenes, WHY??

      I forget. I think it symbolized time or some such.

      IMO, GA’s story was not sufficient as an entire episode. There needed to be a “A” plot to trigger this “B” plot. This episode irritates me much in the same was as “Hollywood A.D.” irritates me, there is a Celebrity Vanity Project factor at work – this wasn’t a script because it was a great X File, it was a script because the co-lead on the series wanted to write a script.

      YES – this was too much for one episode. And I won’t keep harping on what I said above, but Hollywood A.D. has some of the same issues.

      There are exemplars to cite in XF canon – “Beyond the Sea” is a near-perfect Scully-centric episode. We learn about her family, her personal beliefs; she is pushed beyond her existing framework to consider the extraordinary at work in her personal life, she evolves personally and professionally. And there was a compelling X File to boot.

      Truefax.

      And there’s no actual X-File here.

      I really liked that final shot, though. Minus the buddha. Then again, the buddha/spirituality message was really the whole point.

  9. I SPECIFICALLY remember going to school the day after this episode first aired and complaining to my friend (with whom I used to fan-girl about all things X-Files, including Mulder’s hair. We both liked his Elvis look the best back then; but as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to love his short season 7 hair the most. I just want to run my hand through those short locks like Scully sometimes does. It’s a maturing attitude that made my opinion change, much like my maturing attitude about this particular episode.) and complaining about how horrible this episode was. I remember saying (after ranting to my Dad right after it aired (I used to watch XF with my Dad and brother; my brother had already jumped ship by this point of S7)), “There wasn’t even an X-File! All it was was Scully running around town THINKING about what she MIGHT have done in the past and how that MIGHT change her life now! NOTHING HAPPENDED!!!!” I believe I was so irate about this episode (and a naïve 14 year old) that I didn’t even pick up on all of the shippy-ness it had.

    When I watched this episode about 12 years later as an adult, I appreciated it a lot more. I still think the story is pretty much crap, but I honestly think it’s the best directed episode of the series. I love the inventive visual and audio elements Gillian was brave enough to try here. I have a theory that it’s a first time director thing to be this bold. It reminds me of other first time directors who didn’t rely on any preconceived notions or habits and just did what they thought looked cool and revealed their inner eye’s vision. Like Roger Kumble, the first time director of Cruel Intentions and the first episode that Allison Mack directed of Smallville (for those who didn’t watch Smallville, Mack was also a female lead of the show). I also appreciate the shippy scenes more as an adult.

    One thing I loved about this sub-par season was one of the subtle elements of this episode that Actually happened. Scully’s skepticism was right and Mulder’s theory was completely off. Here we see it with both the sorority girl drowning in margarita mix and the crop circles being a total crock. I swear, Gillian just put those two things in there to show the world that Yeah, this is why Scully is still so skeptical after all of Mulder’s theories turn out to be true. Because lots of times Scully is right and Mulder is wrong; we just don’t get to see those cases because they’d be like watching paint dry (sort of like a lot of episodes of this season, come to think of it…). The only other time I can think of that Scully was right with her more sensible approach was the ‘weird thing’ ending up being a cross dressing guy in Chimera.

    Also, I got about 5 seasons of the X-Files for Christmas a few years ago and the first episode I watched on Christmas Day was the audio commentary of all things. Okay, I like it a little bit better after GA explained the story. But like someone said, a viewer really shouldn’t have to look to an audio commentary to have a story explained to her.

    As a practicing Catholic who would take a WHOLE lot more convincing to all the sudden try Eastern/New Age-y or whatever that was meditation, I can’t defend that particular part of this story. But in the episode’s defense, Scully does open up to the possibility of alternative medicine in previously in Theef.

    Random thought: how is Scully smarter/more up to date than the practicing cardiologist? The chick has NEVER actually practiced medicine and we are made to assume she did her residency as a pathologist. Kind of like how in IWTB (which unlike most fans, I love) Scully is all the sudden as good a pediatric neurosurgeon as Ben Carson. WHAT?!

    • I also think her directing here is much more effective than her writing. Though all of the symbolism, visual and audio clues can be a little overwhelming – Like you said, we shouldn’t need the commentary to “get” it.

      And that’s right! I forgot to add a “Mulder Was Wrong” tag to this one. It happens rarely and it’s so important to me that I have to mark those episodes.

      I’m not a Catholic but I’m also a Christian, so I can relate to not being able to relate to Scully’s about-face. It’s a complete paradigm shift. That’s a good point about “Theef”. Though I think in that case she was open to the idea that Oral Peattie had supernatural abilities, not to taking up his little hobby.

      And, finally. Somebody mentions it! First, Scully’s thesis that reevaluates Einstein is an undergraduate thesis, which already sounds a little far-fetched. But, hey, we know she’s brilliant. How Mulder got a hold of her undergraduate thesis in the Pilot, though, I don’t know. A graduate thesis is published. That I could understand. Second, Scully only graduated medical school. She never practiced medicine. She was never a resident or an intern. She’s not a practicing doctor. I have no idea how/when she learned to perform autopsies or why the F.B.I. would let her. And how in the heck does she know details about diseases that she’s never treated??? It’s like she’s up on every medical journal known to man.

      • Oh, and third. Why is she instructing others straight out of the F.B.I. academy???

        • I once asked my Dad, who’s the smartest person I know, how Scully was a well practiced doctor and a scientist at 32. Dad just looked at me and said, “because she’s a genius?”. I always expect my Dad to have all the answers; when he doesn’t, I become unsettled and frustrated. As an adult, I get this reaction from a lot of my co-workers who expect me to have all the answers to every question known to man (sorry I always treat you this way, Dad). (I usually just yell at my co-workers, “READ A BOOK!!!!).

      • Undergrad theses are available from some schools. For example, Princeton has senior theses available going back to , like, 1910. And, yes, that includes our dear Mr. Duchovny’s 1982 senior thesis on Beckett’s early works.

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  12. Personally, I’m glad for the teaser in this ep, but I do get where you’re coming from. It did, indeed, make the rest of the episode sort of fade into the background. The entire time, you want to know what happened to bring them to that moment, and not much else matters. I got to this ep in my rewatch just after reading your review, so I’ll admit that it helped me to focus more on the overall story, which is actually quite interesting (though I’d love to see the entire original concept).

    • It’s 50/50 because, on the one hand, the teaser and the ending are the best things about this episode. On the other hand, they hijack the story Gillian was trying to tell. But if we hadn’t had that moment, would we all still be talking about this episode so much today?

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  17. I liked it

    I thought the direction was refreshingly different and the symbolism and framing of the scenes were quite good.

    It felt more mature in its content but thought the plot/story was lukewarm.

    My “what the?” moment came when Scully enters the shrine and falls to her knees in a trance that reveals the spiritual pain that is killing her old lover. This made no sense even from a symbolic pov. I get that Scullys character is complicated and at times contradictory. She is one of the faithful who is a scientist and a doctor. Why turn to Buddhism in one ep when her whole life has been about faith in God? Are they one in the same in her eyes?

    I agree with Salome and Steamgrrl that this feels like a vanity project (or to be more polite a gift) to GA for all her amazing work on what very likely could have been the last season. (and I also extend that thought to DD) Not because it was bad television but because it was not an x file by any stretch and it was far removed from the characters built through almost 7 seasons.

    • A vanity project – that’s it. That’s the term.

      Not that that’s bad, it just is.

      I didn’t get the scene in the temple either… especially since there is no “God” in Buddhism… so I’m not sure how she or Mulder surmised that “God” was speaking to her in a Buddhist temple.

      It’s not that character evolution doesn’t happen, it was just sudden and radical and strange. And in the end, I’m not sure it had a lasting effect on her characterization.

  18. Although I also thought Scully’s about-face in spirituality was a bit forced and abrupt, I don’t see it as too big of a leap considering where she is in the series. This is Scully’s 7th year with Mulder, and I feel like that would’ve opened her up to more spiritual possibilities. I think it makes sense in one aspect because her kind of deviating from the fundamental roots of Catholicism and exploring this other, outside-the-lines spirituality kind of represents how much more open she’s become?
    Also, I feel that although Scully was leaning back towards Catholicism, she also wasn’t directly coming back to it. She was still on the fence, and to be honest, I feel like she didn’t commit fully to it, and I’m not sure that she ever would have?
    Just a thought though.

  19. I was also a bit bummed in this episode, because as someone who is Christian, I was glad that there was such an interesting and noble character in TV show that is not only phenomenal but a pop culture icon. I guess it makes sense though in the arc of the show.

    • oops I made a ton of typos, I meant to say: As someone who is Christian, I was glad that there was such an interesting and noble character was also a Catholic on a TV show that is not only phenomenal but a pop culture icon. Just the fact that they didn’t misportray the religion, b/c so much of the world usually criticizes it. I was bummed because it seemed that Scully didn’t really stick with it and kind of abandoned it in this episode. But in the end, I guess this transition makes sense though in the arc of the show.
      whew, that was a mouthful.

  20. I thought this was a masterpiece of an episode.

    It’s basically the ultimate Shipper Episode.

    It’s all about Scully learning to love Mulder. It opens in the future: Scully has slept with Mulder. It then flashes backwards to Scully angry at Mulder and angry at where her life has ended up. The middle section of the episode is then about Scully, a Catholic, becoming open to New Age stuff. When she accepts the New Age Stuff, she metaphorically learns to accept Mulder and his New Age Stuff. At this point she accepts her love for him and they fall asleep on the couch, later having sex, which the episode opens with.

    Great episode.

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