Improbable 9×14: I’m gonna leave you here to figure that out.


Improbable241

Chris, I love you for sentimental reasons.

Here’s the thing, however. I personally don’t do wacky well. I’m usually more of a situational comedy kinda gal. I try with “Improbable”. I try… and then Burt Reynold starts lipsyncing. And then I can’t try anymore. My suspension of disbelief is always suspended at the same spot.

I have a certain amount of fan-guilt over this for several reasons.

  • This is one of Chris Carter’s signature high concept episodes, which I’m usually down for.
  • Season 9 has been mostly weeping and gnashing of teeth so you think I’d appreciate a little levity. I’m such an ingrate.
  • I know Chris Carter is sending a heartfelt farewell message to his audience of which I’m one.

When I think about it, this is actually a perfect theme for the final standalone episode written and directed by Chris Carter. After all, what has The X-Files been except for a giant allegory for the search for God? Chris has freely admitted that Mulder is in many ways a stand-in for himself; Mulder, an intelligent free spirit who thinks he can get to the ultimate Authority by rebelling against every authority between him and that Authority.

Which is why I find it interesting that there’s nothing authoritative about Burt Reynolds. Campy, kooky, charming, yes. Authoritative, certain, powerful, no.

And possibly because I was so disinterested in the episode, I don’t think I figured out that it was God he was supposed to be playing until nearly the end. That does give “Improbable” a certain deep underbelly of meaning, but… I may be of the wrong generation to appreciate the cosmic charm of Burt Reynolds.

Back to the deep underbelly of meaning, though. Jumbled up in a certain zany joy are ideas I suspect of being Chris’s life philosophies. Or rather, his life philosophies include zany joy, which is excellent. From what I can gather, it goes something like this:

There is a God. → God gives a logical order to the universe, patterns and numbers, math, if you will. → He sets up these patterns as a sort of game for mankind to discover and play. → Every person is dealt a different hand, aka genetics and the situations they find themselves born into. → God wants people to win the game of life but He doesn’t have direct influence on our lives. → Rather than giving away the game outright, God drops hints and tricks. → People either make the right choices and win or make the wrong choices and lose. → God loves the losers and the winners, the sinners and the saints. → It makes God sad to see people lose. → It makes God happy to see His creation enjoying itself. → God enjoys Himself.

Some of that I can agree with, some of it I certainly disagree with, some of it I find the nuance slightly off. But whichever way you come down on the profundity of it all, out of “Improbable” spring forth the issues of life. Who do you want to be, Wayne-O or Scully?

Verdict:

I get a lot of style and some disjointed substance which doesn’t make for a satisfying television meal for yours truly. There’s so much going on that I can’t tell whether the episode lacks focus or I do.

I feel bad for being so disconnected from the material because I can tell this is a message directly from Chris Carter’s heart. And there’s a lot here that I would love to see explored and engage with philosophically over tea and crumpets. But I’m just not into it. What can I say?

Thanks though, Chris, for all the joy.

C+

P.S. Dio ti ama.

Numbers and Patterns:

I listened to the DVD commentary for this one, which I highly recommend. And Chris Carter mentions that the festival depicted at the end, the San Generro Festival, wasn’t held in New York that year because of the events of 9/11. The last musical scene is meant as a tribute and, “…a celebration of life, of beauty, and ultimately of God who is everywhere. And that no matter what we destroy, we can’t destroy Him.”

The “Produttore Esecutivo” really is cute, though.

The butt wiggle wasn’t as cute. It was a little try-hard. The whole episode was trying hard.

A slideshow! We haven’t seen one of those since “Patience” (8×4).

At least Scully cracks a smile. I don’t think I’ve seen one of those since Season 8 either.

Mr. Burt: Einstein. Now there’s a winner.

Scully: Look, Agent Reyes, you can’t reduce all of life, all creation, every piece of … of art, architecture, music, literature… into a game of win or lose.

Reyes: Maybe the winners are those who play the game better. Those who see the patterns and the connections, like we’re doing right now.

So the winners are the intellectuals who “figure out” God’s patterns in science and art? Hmm.

Did Reyes just frisk God?

Actor Ray McKinnon, who plays Mad Wayne/Wayne-O, has been in so much my head spins thinking of his resume.

I’m not sure how, if there’s an intelligence capable of creating not only the known universe but the theorized universes beyond it, we can catch up with it intellectually and figure out His “game.” One day we’ll be smart enough to climb an equation like a ladder all the way to all truth? Didn’t they build a tower in Babel once?

On a related note, I had a pastor who used to say, “God isn’t just a little bit smarter than you are.”

Best Quote:

Mr. Burt: You know your problem, my friend? It’s not the cards. It’s playing the hand you were dealt. Well, you guys get a bad deal, it’s all in what you do with it. You know what I’m saying, pardner? You can think. Cards can’t. they just lie there. You gotta make them work for you.

———————-

Mad Wayne: Go to hell.

Mr. Burt: Are the reservations in your name?

———————-

Mr. Burt: You know, there’s a secret to this game, Wayne-O, and I’m gonna tell you what the secret is: Choose better.

———————-
Mr. Burt: Can’t show ‘em what they can’t see.

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24 responses to “Improbable 9×14: I’m gonna leave you here to figure that out.

  1. Well, we all know the answer to life, the universe, and everything is 42, as calculated by Deep Thought, but I’ll overlook that for this episode.

    I have to agree with you on this one, it’s wacky in a way that I find more strange than endearing. I always felt that Mulder was pretty key for making these kinds of episodes really hit their mark. I think that’s partly why any this season don’t really work for me. I didn’t catch that Burt Reynolds was God, either, so thanks for clearing that up. The episode makes more sense when you summarized what Chris was trying to do. I wish it was a bit more clear…and without the lip syncing.

    I did enjoy the Reyes and Scully interactions. It’s nice that Scully finally has another female to interact with on a regular basis. And Scully even had a tiny, sweet moment with William in an episode that doesn’t focus on his…alien nature! Finally! It was nice to have things be a bit light hearted. Makes you kind of miss the vibe of season 7.

    • it’s wacky in a way that I find more strange than endearing.

      That’s exactly what I feel and exactly how I should have said it.

      I always felt that Mulder was pretty key for making these kinds of episodes really hit their mark.

      Which is why people need to stop sleeping on David Duchovny. I appreciate him more than ever this rewatch.

      But speaking of DD, it kind of reminds me of “Hollywood A.D.” in that it’s sort of trying to say something but it’s too busy being crazy to articulate it fully. I think “Improbable” does a better job of being clear, BUT I care not. I love a good musical as much as the next showtune addict, but this is a little cray cray.

      I also enjoy Scully and Reyes together. We haven’t seen much genuine interaction between them this season except for ganging up on Doggett or spouting mumbo jumbo about alien gods. Most of their scenes together are clipped or have to make room for more characters.

  2. Wow, I’m slow. I never realized he was supposed to be God, per-say. I think I just got as far as ‘some sort of omnipotent being’ but then decided, ‘I don’t get this.’ Thanks for laying all that out!

  3. I think the only reason I figured out the whole “Burt Reynolds is God” thing is from the commentary…there were a couple lines in there that, once I knew it, stood out but without him actually saying it I don’t think I would made the connection (like basically ALL of us didn’t apparently…)

    “Which is why people need to stop sleeping on David Duchovny. I appreciate him more than ever this rewatch.” YES! I was filled with such indignation at initial airing when a lot of people stopped watching because Mulder was gone and it made me really upset – one of those ‘if you’re a fan of the show, you’re a fan of the show; not of a character or actor!’ but I’m with you here. Re-watching these episodes and reading through your reviews as I do has given me so much more appreciation for DD himself but mostly for Mulder and what the character brought to the X-Files.

    Dio Ti Ama!

    • I feel so much better knowing I wasn’t just slow on the uptake, the episode itself isn’t clear. I appreciate the fact that it’s not obvious, but it should be able to be naturally gleaned…

      Anywho, my Mulder meter has gone way up. I was with you and as much as I loved DD and Mulder, I refused to stop watching since I was a fan of everybody. But, oh boy… without that dynamic, and a lot of Mulder’s humor, it needed to be a completely different show, which it wasn’t. It was the same bone structure without any meat on it.

  4. I admit to being a sucker for the campy, lighthearted episodes. This one, Bad Blood, Hollywood AD, Sunshine Days The Unnatural, Amazing Maleeni, etc.

    • I’m with you on some of those! I think the thing about episodes like this is that either you get them or you don’t. Most people seem to “get” “Bad Blood.” “Improbable” seems more evenly divided.

      There isn’t a lot of in between.

  5. See, your paragraph that starts “There is a God” was a whole lot more interesting, for me, than this entire episode. I’d love to get into those concepts over tea and crumpets, too, yet this episode utterly failed to engage me at all. God as a quirky, lip-syncing Burt Reynolds (which, by the way, I didn’t figure out on my own, either)? No thanks.

    P.S. As someone with a physics degree, I want to say that when Einstein said “God doesn’t play dice”, he was actually wrong (as the quantum theory demonstrates). Brilliant mind – but not infallible. I take Scully’s stance that although there is a mathematical order to the universe (with certain limits – such as the natural inclusion of a rand function), it’s too complex for truly deterministic predictions.

    • I actually do make homemade crumpets and serve them with Maine blueberry jam, so you’re welcome to come by.

      As someone without a Physics degree and who never enjoyed math much, from what little I do understand and have read, I would agree with you and Scully. But I admit I know nothing.

      It would have been an interesting conversation for Mulder and Scully, actually.

  6. I like seeing Scully and Reyes interact and I tend to really like the light, comedic episodes, but this one gets too silly. I think I appreciated it most on my first watch because it was a breath of fresh air after so much heaviness, but it doesn’t hold up as well as a lot of others after multiple viewings. I also can’t really believe that this killer is targeting two FBI agents as his next victims. That’s a little too improbable for me.

    • If Scully had to be around for Season 9, I do wish she and Reyes had gotten more time to legitimately interact, not just trade expositions. And this season had been crazy heavy, and was about to get heavier. So I see why CC placed a lighthearted episode here.

      Would you believe he purposefully made improbable, unlikely plot choices in order to fit the theme? I discovered that in the DVD commentary too. Sigh. I get it, but… I have to be able to follow the story.

  7. Pingback: Season 9 Wrap Up – There’s a lot of crap to cut through. | Musings of an X-Phile

  8. You know what this episode is? It’s that sweet, socially awkward friend we all have that tries to be funny and never is, yet we feel obligated to laugh. Most of the jokes and whimsical stylistic choices in this episode made me wince in embarrassment, and then I felt bad for wincing. I felt like I was watching a desperate, tired clown dance.

  9. Pingback: Babylon 10×4: I resent that characterization and I don’t even know what it means. | Musings of an X-Phile

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