Tag Archives: Best Episodes

The Unnatural 6×20: Trust the tale… not the teller.


You rebel.

I really didn’t know if I wanted to watch an X-File written and directed by David Duchovny. It’s not personal. It’s impersonal. In order to preserve the integrity of the fantasy that is the character I love, I’m one of those viewers who religiously avoids certain actors in any outside roles… including the ones they play in the movie called Real Life. That’s right, I’m a David Duchovny ascetic. I can probably count on one hand the number of interviews with him I’ve actually watched or read in the whole 14 years I’ve been obsessing over this show – clichéd but true. I was even reluctant to go hunting down background information on “The Unnatural” for this review, lest mine eyes alight on anything that might tarnish their purity.

Now, I know he’s gotten story credit before on various mythology episodes like “Colony” (2×16) and even on the Skinner-centric “Avatar” (3×21), but contributing ideas and even lines is mighty different from helming an entire episode, one that would be his vision from start to finish. I don’t know if I want to know how David Duchovny sees Mulder… or The X-Files for that matter. And I can’t say that “The Unnatural” reveals nothing about his mindset, but fortunately for me (and fortunately for David Duchovny?), what it does reveal I’m OK with. Actually, I’m more than OK with. And the way I realized that went something like this…

[Sitting bracingly on the edge of the bed] Well, here we go. Just try to ignore what it says on the credits. There are no credits. There is no spoon. This is just another X-File. If you don’t like it, you can always pretend it never happened. David Duchovny? What David Duchovny? I see what you did there with that “Is it a UFO?” shot. OK, that was cute. Not that anyone in his or her right mind is going to take on a shotgun with a baseball. Still it’s cute. Stories about race tend to bore this black girl, but whatever. I’m going to keep an open mind. I am. I am. I AM. And theeeere’s the alien. A comedy episode, I see. [Sigh] Well, we’ve made it through the teaser just fine. Look alive, we’re back at the F.B.I. Oh, casual Friday at the office? Oh, casual Saturday at the office. Wait. Did she just… huh? Is that… huh? Am I watching flirty repartee? I mean, openly flirty repartee?? Did Scully just smile? Did Scully just laugh? Wait. What’s happening here? Hold on. Wait. What??? [Massive intake of breath] David Duchovny is a Shipper!

Holy Queen of the Reticulans. Congratulations. You now have my full attention.

And at that point, whatever else happened, I was already appeased. So, Mulder and Scully jones satisfied, I sat back to watch the rest of the action almost indifferent as to whether it was good or not. But lo and behold, the meat of this episode, yes, even without our two leads, is a joy all on its own.

An X-File with a comedic bent is nothing new, but we’ve never had an episode that turned the deadly serious backbone of the series, the mythology itself into a kind of playful romp. The Alien Bounty Hunter affecting a Southern drawl and being knocked out by a baseball? Who could have predicted this would work?

By some extra-terrestrial miracle, it does. Helped along by a lovely, memorable soundtrack and some joyful performances. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but I get the distinct impression that all the actors involved were having a good time. Maybe it’s because there’s nothing routine about this episode – they probably relished the chance to jump out of the box.

But, ironically, the character that this episode is mostly about is only in maybe a third of it. That’s right, cleverly disguised in an ode to baseball is a loving jab to Fox Mulder’s ribs.

Mulder: Let me tell you something; I have been ripe for years. I am way past ripe. I’m so ripe I’m rotten.

Mulder: Whatever. I don’t really care about the baseball, so much, sir. What I care about is this man in the picture with you, I believe to be an alien bounty hunter.
Arthur Dales: Of course you don’t care about the baseball, Mr. Mulder. You only bothered my brother about the important things like government conspiracies and alien bounty hunters and the truth with a capital ‘T’.

Mulder: It’s official. I am a horse’s ass.

Similarly to writer Darin Morgan, though I think with a little more actual love for the character, Duchovny seems to have a healthy disdain for Mulder’s self-righteousness. This episode is a life lesson astutely aimed in Mulder’s direction – Get out of the basement, dude.

More than Mulder, though, “The Unnatural” is clearly about the game. The game I’ve only ever been to one time… and it was for a Shakespeare class… which may say deeper things about my life than I should probably be sharing, but anyway… I have to admit that even my grossly uncoordinated self wants to go out and play a pick-up game of baseball after watching this. I love the retro clothing, the old-fashioned stadium, the sun shining on the grass, the hick accents, all of it.

And casting Jesse L. Martin, then of Ally McBeal and now of Law & Order fame, was brilliant. His good-natured performance sets the tone for all the flashback scenes, which means he sets the tone for pretty much the entire episode. It doesn’t hurt that he’s nice to look at, either. And I don’t mean that in a skeevy, lustful sort of way. I mean that he has a pleasant, all-American sort of face. It’s a face you can trust, which makes it easy to believe in him as the darling of his community.

And while I’m gushing, I make no secret of the fact that I love the character of Arthur Dales. Alas, after filming two days worth of his scenes, actor Darren McGavin suffered a stroke and was unable to return, which meant his scenes had to be scrapped. M. Emmet Walsh was able to fill in at the last minute as Arthur Dales, brother of… Arthur Dales. It’s a sad loss, but if you have the DVDs you can check out the deleted scenes with Darren McGavin for yourself and confirm that they would have been just as charming. And I say it’s a loss only because I’m already attached to Darren McGavin and his character, but M. Emmet Walsh stole the show. If only both men had been able to come back and guest star. Ah, my list of X-Files shoulda-woulda-couldas grows longer.

“Darling” is the word that comes to mind when I think of this episode. From beginning to end, it’s cute without being queasy. Between the MSR and the nostalgia and the not-so-latent messages about cross-racial understanding it could have easily turned to schmaltz, but it stays just this side of it. It’s a meaningful love letter written with cheeky irreverence.

Verdict:

Here’s the thing about my David Duchovny boycott. It’s not just David Duchovny, it’s also Gillian Anderson. And here’s the thing about my David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson boycott, it’s to protect my own Fangirl health. Imagine if I watched Gillian in something I’m itching to see like Moby Dick, and there I observed a tick, a look, a tone of voice that in my head is Scully’s exclusively. If the thought, “That’s not Scully’s thing, that’s Gillian Anderson’s thing” were to intrude on my X-Files viewing I’d be horrified, let alone if her love life, political opinions, or anything other frustrating non-essential bit of gossip were to trouble me while I was trying to watch.

I’ll not have it. I can’t have it. And so I abstain.

It’s not that I know nothing or hear nothing about them. I just don’t seek information out and try to avoid it when I can. Being able to watch The X-Files in peace is all I care about. And episodes like “The Unnatural” remind me why I want to work so hard to protect that peace.

Nothing is allowed to interfere with this little corner of my joy.

Mulder: You’ve never hit a baseball, have you, Scully?
Scully: No, I guess I have, uh… found more necessary things to do with my time than… slap a piece of horsehide with a stick.

Josh Exley: It was like music to me… First unnecessary thing I ever done in my life and I fell in love. I didn’t know the unnecessary could feel so good.

It’s quite lovely. An homage not only to baseball, but to all the unnecessary things in life that give us joy. The unnecessary that gives us the joy and the strength to go about our necessary business.

Hint. Hint.

A+

Bottom of the 9th:

Yes, that’s Vin Scully, our Scully’s namesake, announcing the game.

One of the more wonderful little moments in this episode: The music seamlessly changes from “I got a brother in that land” to “I got a sister in that land” when we open on Mulder and Scully’s famous nighttime baseball lesson.

I’ve never hit a baseball either. But no strapping, if oddly named, Fox Mulder has offered to put his arms around me and show me how it’s done. Imbalance in the Force?

Oh, and by the way, that midnight baseball epilogue is more full of sexual suggestiveness than I ever fully appreciated. I mean, I always knew it was there, but dang. o_O

We already established back in “Agua Mala” (6×14) that Arthur Dales was down in Florida. I guess we’re to assume he was merely a Snowbird who divided his time between there and the D.C. area and now he’s officially moved?

Best Quotes:

Arthur Dales: What you fail to understand in your joyless myopia, is that baseball is the key to life — the Rosetta Stone, if you will. If you just understood baseball better all your other questions your, your… the, uh… the aliens, the conspiracies they would all, in their way, be answered by the baseball gods.

——————-

Arthur Dales #2: You say “shape-shifting.” Agent Mulder, do you believe that love can make a man shape-shift?
Mulder: I guess… women change men all the time.
Arthur Dales: I’m not talking about women. I’m talking about love. Passion. Like the passion you have for proving extra-terrestrial life. Do you believe that that passion can change your very nature? Can make you shape-shift from a man into something other than a man?
Mulder: …What exactly has your brother told you about me?

——————–

Mulder: You’re making me feel like a child.
Arthur Dales: Perfect. That’s exactly the right place to start from, then, isn’t it?

——————–

Scully: Mulder, this is a needle in a haystack. These poor souls have been dead for 50 years. Let them rest in peace. Let sleeping dogs lie.
Mulder: No, I won’t sit idly by as you hurl clichés at me. Preparation is the father of inspiration.
Scully: Necessity is the mother of invention.
Mulder: The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
Scully: Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.
Mulder: I scream, you scream, we all scream for non-fat tofutti rice dreamcicles. [Much giggling ensues]

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Dreamland II 6×5: I’d kiss you if you weren’t so damn ugly.


The Adventures of Special Tramp Dana Scully

Okay, I’m sure you know by now that I’m highly allergic to The X-Files’ opening monologues. They have a tendency to be, how shall I say it? Purple.

While some I tolerate better than others, there are only three in the history of the show that I can honestly say I don’t merely tolerate. No, I rather enjoy them. “Dreamland II” marks the first of the three and it’s also the first monologue not delivered by Mulder or Scully. Interestingly, the character of Morris Fletcher delivers two of the three monologues I actually rewind for fun. Yes, in one of the best breaks The X-Files ever got, actor Michael McKean was available to play Morris Fletcher in two more guest spots after “Dreamland” (6×4) and “Dreamland II”, that’s not including when he shows up in the short-lived spin off The Lone Gunmen. But I’ve digressed.

The jaunty music Mark Snow chooses to characterize the piece, The Wonder Years style family videos as background… it’s just genius and I have no choice but to give it its due:

Morris as Mulder: [voiceover] Once upon a time, there was a guy with the improbable name of Fox Mulder. He started out life happily enough, as these things go. He had parents who loved him, a cute kid sister. He had a roof over his head, got all his flu shots, had all his fingers and toes and aside from being stuck with the name “’Fox” which probably taught him how to fight… or not… he pretty much led a normal life. But the worst thing by far, the biggest kick in the slats this kid Fox ever got, was what happened to his sister. One day, she just disappeared. Now, Fox buckled down and worked his butt off, graduated top of his class at Oxford, then top of his class at the FBI academy. None of that hard work made up for his sister, though. It was just a way of putting her out of his mind. Finally, the way I figure it, he went out of his mind and he’s been that way ever since. Fox Mulder pissed away a brilliant career, lost the respect of supervisors and friends and now lives his life shaking his fist at the sky and muttering about conspiracies to anyone who will listen. If you ask me, he’s one step away from pushing a baby carriage filled with tin cans down the street. But now, all that’s gonna change.

Moving on to the actual plot, Scully finally listens to that voice in the back of her head telling her that either Mulder has inexplicably and without cause lost his mind or Mulder is not Mulder. The subsequent scenes between Scully and the man she now knows is not Fox Mulder are the stuff of legend. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it so many times again I’ll annoy myself: I love Scully this season. She’s kicking butt and taking names and first on her hit list is one Morris Fletcher. Does she confront him in Nevada? At the F.B.I.? Does she surprise him while he’s indisposed? Oh no. She waits until he thinks he has her where he wants her and then springs a checkmate on him. (Aside: Why does Scully keep getting hit on by Mulders who aren’t Mulder?)

Speaking of my favorite scene of the episode, that writers Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan and John Shiban choose to give Mulder a bed, but not just any bed, a waterbed, and not just a waterbed, a mirrored waterbed, I could grovel at the feet of all three of them. And to keep giving credit where credit is due, that scene is shot oh so cleverly by first time director for the show Michael Watkins. I don’t know whose idea it was to give us glimpses of the real Mulder lounging on that ridiculous bed with Scully, but whoever it was deserves an Emmy just for that. Hi-larious.

Come to think of it, why didn’t this episode win an Emmy? It certainly deserves one. You don’t even need to be a fan of The X-Files to enjoy it. Heck, there’s an explanatory monologue built in! I know I’ve used it myself early on in the process of X-Phile brainwashing and it’s quite effective. Kids, try this at home.

I would try to list all of my favorite moments in “Dreamland II”, but that would involve essentially quoting the entire episode and I’m too lazy for that. But I can’t close and fail to mention the memorable screen time that Morris Fletcher shares with the Lone Gunmen. Their brief moments together are so good that they eventually set the tone for the entire series of The Lone Gunmen and create an opportunity for the writers to keep using Morris Fletcher as a recurring character in both series… thank God.

Verdict:

I confess I don’t have much to say about “Dreamland II” because like all the great comedies of The X-Files it defies talk. It’s meant to be experienced and enjoyed. Frankly, I’m too busy laughing over it to do much thinking about it.

But is there anything deeper holding up this episode than bellyfuls of laughter? I think so. I think the ultimate take home message is that Mulder isn’t suited to the normal life that Scully whines after at the beginning of “Dreamland”. A desk job, a wife and two kids? Had it continued Mulder really would have lost his mind. And for her part, for all she longs to be normal, Scully doesn’t seem too put out in the end for having wasted time on another fruitless road trip with Mulder. She’s rather pleased with herself in fact.

You’ll notice that before the space-time continuum corrects itself and Scully is fired from the F.B.I. she isn’t at all interested in getting her job back. And why would she be? What’s the point without Mulder? Scully will admit as much further into the season, but she’s only in the F.B.I. and this whole X-Files gig for Mulder. We saw it back in the movie as well; without her relationship with Mulder, she has nothing invested in this job. That’s why the complaints the writers sometimes put in her mouth ring hollow. She could leave any time she really wanted to, she just doesn’t want to. Not really. She wants to be out there with Mulder. But, ah, I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s next episode…

A+

I am Tiger Woods:

There’s still a little niggle in the back of my mind saying that the events of this episode are a bit too serious for a comedy. Mulder’s life as he knew it is gone; you’d think there’d be weeping and gnashing of teeth. But, hey, at least he makes his panic face.

Again, as in “Small Potatoes” (4×20), someone who looks like Mulder but isn’t Mulder puts the moves on Scully. Why everyone but the man himself? At least she’s onto the game this time.

There’s a slight pothole in the plot. The stoner witnesses his friends’… predicament, but because he wasn’t in the path of the wave when it snaps back he remembers perfectly what happened to them. Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., Kersh isn’t in the path of the wave either but doesn’t remember any of the events of the past three days. I would say that because the causal event never happened that explains why Kersh remembers nothing, there’s nothing to remember. However, then shouldn’t the stoner forget to since his friends where never glued together? This is why one should never think too hard about any story involving a “space-time continuum.”

When Mulder and Morris were scheming together in the bathroom, why did they unlock the door after their conversation so that anyone could get in? At least the intruder turned out to be on their side.

How fitting is it that Mulder’s parting gift to Scully is sunflower seeds?

Not to ruin lives with spoilers or anything, but in a sad turn of events caused by a reversal of the space-time continuum, Morris Fletcher forgets that he remembered that he loves his wife.

Best Quotes:

Special Tramp Dana Scully: Do you know what would really be fun?
Morris as Mulder: What?
Special Tramp Dana Scully: [Pulls out handcuffs]
Morris as Mulder: Oh, yeah. Me first?
Special Tramp Dana Scully: You first.
Morris as Mulder: First time. [Handcuffs himself to the bed] Now what?
Special Tramp Dana Scully: [With gun trained on him] You’re not Mulder.
Morris as Mulder: What?! [champagne cork pops] Baby!
Special Tramp Dana Scully: “Babyme and you’ll be peeing through a catheter. Your name is Morris Fletcher. It was Mulder who was arrested in the desert. He was telling the truth about you. Now, how do we get things back to normal?
Morris as Mulder: How should I know? I wouldn’t do it even if I could. You saw my wife. You think I want to go back to that? Two kids who’d probably kill me in my sleep for the insurance money. A $400,000 mortgage on a house that just appraised at $226,000. And my job… Ye gods! You think being a Man In Black is all voodoo mind control? You should see the paperwork.
Special Tramp Dana Scully: Are you through?
Morris as Mulder: As far as I’m concerned this thing is a gift from heaven. Besides, no one is ever going to believe you so you might as well just get used to me being here.
Special Tramp Dana Scully: Or I just shoot you… Baby.

———————-

Mulder as Morris: So you’re the guy that wants my life. I assume that includes all the ass kickings. [Locks the bathroom door]

———————-

Morris as Mulder: Well, see that’s what’s so great about you monkeys. Not only do you believe this horse pucky that we create, you broadcast it as well. I mean, look at this. [Headline: “Saddam testing Mandroid Army in Army Iraqi Desert”] There is no Saddam Hussein! This guy’s name is John Gillnitz. We found him doing dinner theatre in Tulsa. Did a mean King and I. Plays good ethnics.
Langly: You’re trying to say that Saddam Hussein’s a government plant?
Morris as Mulder: I’m saying I invented the guy. We set him up in 79. He rattles his sabre whenever we need a good distraction. Ah… If you boys only knew how many of your stories I dreamed up while sitting on the pot.

Triangle 6×3: I would’ve never seen you again, but you believed me.


And it’s Skinner for the win.

This is the first of, well, quite a few episodes in Season 6 that strike me as officially stamped productions of fanfic. Brilliant fanfic, mind you, but fanfic nonetheless. And I mean this as the best possible sort of compliment.

If there’s one common complaint about Season 6 is that it’s largely dominated by “X-Files Light” episodes, episodes in the vein of “Small Potatoes” (4×20) and “War of the Coprophages” (3×12) that are more fluff pieces than hardcore Monster of the Week scare fests. These episodes aren’t always necessarily overt comedies, but they purposefully lack depth in an effort to give the audience a break both from mythology angst and MOTW seriousness.

It’s a far cry from the types of episodes that dominated Season 1 and Season 2, but if you look at the direction The X-Files has taken since Season 3 I don’t see much cause for indignant surprise. And considering the show has just come back after the climax of a hit feature film, a little self-conscious indulgence has been well earned. How could The X-Files pretend that it’s not iconic? That Mulder and Scully aren’t beloved stereotypes? If the show didn’t start poking fun at itself on the regular or throw out knowing winks and nods to its bulging audience it would implode in unvaried solemnity.

“Triangle” is one such wink and nod and it’s quite possibly the best of them. The whole adventure feels like a reward, a thank you card if you will, to a long-suffering audience; as if Chris Carter knows that we love these characters and decided to treat us to a fantasy. Like Mulder we’re having a really cool dream where all our favorite people are transplanted into unusual circumstances, but that’s exactly its charm.

This is why I say it feels like fanfic because it’s usually fanfic that fans have to resort to in order to see their favorite characters loosen up or imagine how they’d behave outside of their usual context. Now, this way of consciously acknowledging the audience and of lovingly nudging itself in the ribs can be a trap for any show, especially for one with such a serious and dramatic premise as The X-Files. But “Triangle” is so well done that I think we can ignore those fears for now and just enjoy the gift.

I can’t get over how gorgeous this episode is, it is absolutely lush. The colors saturate the screen. When I think of how far The X-Files’ production quality… and budget… has evolved from Season 1, I shake my head in amazement.

“Triangle” was shot in a series of especially long takes, which gives it a very fluid, very urgent feel. It forced the Carter & Crew to use some creative staging in order to avoid revealing production details that are normally disguised by cuts, and also to disguise the cuts themselves with creative editing. Visually, I adore this method as I love those moments where the camera conveniently looks away to avoid revealing trade secrets and I particularly I love the smoothness of the camera movement throughout.

But my favorite aspect of this episode has nothing to do with technique. My favorite part of this episode is Scully. In fact, this is my favorite episode of all for Scully’s character. Why? Because she’s so much fun! And how often does Scully get to be fun? You know I love her, but our girl is generally a stick-in-the-mud. Every so often she’s allowed to crack a joke or suppress a smirk and if we’re really lucky, she’ll tell off a madman or two in that impressively authoritative voice of hers.

What a joy it must have been for Gillian Anderson to play a different sort of Scully. Not that she’s out of character here, but how often does Scully get to show us such a huge range of facial expressions in one episode? How often is she flustered? Or angry? On top of that, 1939 Scully is Rosie the Riveter rather than a medical doctor which means she’s allowed to be even more feisty. My favorite part is the entire second act where we follow Scully up and down the halls of the F.B.I. as she tries, yet again, to save her incurably foolish partner.

And, of course, she’s ultimately successful both in the past and present. Scully saves Mulder, literally, in the past and in the present she saves him metaphorically because of the same reason: she believes him. Scully has to believe Mulder; the woman can’t help herself, it’s a compulsion. Whether in an alternate universe, alternate dimension or alternate time stream, it’s in her job description and on her business card: Mulder Believer.

That’s the ultimate beauty of this episode and the reward that I think Chris Carter was trying to give fans, validation of their belief in the Mulder/Scully partnership that at this point beats as the heart of the series. There’s a certain amount of destiny involved in all of Mulder’s relationships as presented because Mulder can’t avoid the people in his life, good or bad but they follow him even in unconsciousness. But when it comes to Scully in particular, her belief in him is instinctive rather than rational which again lends itself to the idea that these are two people with a God-given understanding of each other that was foreordained. This mystery of the unexplained is probably unsolvable, but it’s also worth more than all the other truth Mulder so stubbornly seeks and it’s nice to know he finally realizes that too.

And the Verdict is…

It would have been too much to expect that Chris Carter would allow his characters to kiss at this stage of the game, and I can’t blame him for refusing to indulge his needy audience (of which I was one) quite that far. But I’ll take a kiss between Mulder and “Scully” in shadow any day. The truth is that I’m glad the kiss happens mostly in the dark because I love that romantic air of mystery and I’m even gladder that Mulder and Scully didn’t become a television couple yet. Else what would I have had to look forward to? Besides, Mulder kissed her like a man who had thought long and hard about doing this before. That’s more than enough for me. And with a love confession on top of it? I remember nearly collapsing in shock and joy – I do believe there was screaming.

So does any of what we see on the 1939 version of the Queen Anne actually happen? The split screen moment between the two Scullys and Mulder’s ginger touch to his cheek would certainly have us believe so. Though the references to The Wizard of Oz sprinkled all through the episode and the fact that we see our hero conked out at the beginning would indicate that this is all a very realistic fantasy inside Mulder’s head, or maybe a world that is real but is only real because he created it.

I don’t care, really. I just want this episode to come out in HD so that my life can be complete.

A+

P.S. You know she punched him because she enjoyed that kiss a little too much, right?

Puddin Tame:

Mark Snow’s score is like another character in this episode.

For that matter, so is the camera.

I hadn’t noticed before that the guy who plays Thor’s Hammer in 1939 is the same Agent who overhears part of Scully’s conversation with the Lone Gunmen in 1998.

I can’t figure out how Kersh’s character winds up in the bowels of the ship in 1939. How does that represent his position in Mulder’s life? Well, I suppose no one would have believed he was a Nazi…

I have ransacked my brain and I can only think of two episodes where Scully ever wears a dress, this one and “En Ami” (7×15).

Agent Fowley is absent from this whole play. Interesting. Perhaps that brewing love triangle would have distracted too much from the action. I tend to think so.

I had hoped that Chris Carter’s experimental episodes, you know, the ones he helmed from beginning to end, would be a once-a-year occurrence, but alas. We get a similarly experimental if not quite as ambitious episode later in the season in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8) but the next time Chris Carter gives us a distinctly “Chris Carteresque” episode will be Season 9’s “Improbable” (9×14), so you might want to unbuckle your seatbelt for that wait.

No Germans were harmed in the making of this episode.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Well, you… you can relax. There’s no war going on. The world is at peace. There’s a little trouble over at our White House, but that’ll blow over… so to speak.

———————-

Scully: I want you to do me a favor. It’s not negotiable. Either you do it or I kill you, you understand?
Spender: You okay, Agent Scully?
Scully: No. I’m not. I’m a gun ready to go off so don’t test me, Spender. Don’t even think about trying to weasel me.

———————–

Kersh’s Secretary: I was sent to come get you.
Scully: Yeah, I was waiting for Agent Spender, he was, uh… I’m supposed to pick up a delivery from him.
Kersh’s Secretary: Agent Spender is with Assistant Director Kersh.
Scully: That rat bastard!

———————–
Mulder: Hey, Scully.
Scully: Yes?
Mulder: I love you.
Scully: Oh, brother.

The Pine Bluff Variant 5×18: Oh, is this the Pepsi Challenge?


Musta been something I ate.

We were overdue for this.

The last three episodes haven’t been… bad… they’ve just been rather quiet and unassuming, a characteristic I know how to appreciate but, dang it, this is The X-Files. I should be nearly falling off my chair with excitement more often than not. Usually, that kind of adrenaline rush is brought on by vile beasties and such, but “The Pine Bluff Variant” ignores the usual scares for an old-fashioned, Hollywood style action mystery – it’s a welcome departure.

This episode is a pure thriller from top to bottom. I don’t think the series ever had another episode that was quite like it in tone and if not for a few key elements like the familiar characters, the distinctive cinematography and particularly horrific effects of the biotoxin, it wouldn’t even feel like an X-File. The closest episode to it in style would have to be “F. Emasculata” (2×22), which has a rare sense of urgency to it for a non-mythology episode, with “Sleepless” (2×4) running second just because both episodes are echoes of The Manchurian Candidate in their own way.

All three episodes are what I like to refer to as Half-Caff: They involve a more generalized and vague government conspiracy than the mythology proper that’s centered around a highly coveted piece of science or technology. It’s one of my favorite sub-types of Monster of the Week episodes because the “monster” is so much more dangerous than an individual mutant, it’s all encompassing and nearly invisible – it’s a government. And isn’t The X-Files, a product of men who grew up in the Nixon era, a show grounded in government distrust? It’s a foundation of cement, really. The monsters, the aliens, they’re all just stand-ins and allegories for groups of nameless, faceless men with all the power and none of the integrity, men who control the future of the masses while exercising no self-control over their own whims. At least, that’s how you’ll feel if you watch too much of this show.

Mulder made a mistake and opened his mouth a little too wide back in “Patient X” (5×13) voicing not only his then doubts as to the existence of extra-terrestrials, but also some particularly jaded views on the Federal government. I always appreciate continuity on The X-Files when I see it, and goodness knows it becomes a hot commodity in later seasons, so I think it was clever of writer John Shiban to throw in a nod to a significant moment earlier in the season.

But back to Mulder… thank heaven for this episode! Mulder has either been irritating or relatively useless for the last five episodes, that is when he’s even present. Finally, he’s redeemed as our anti-hero hero and I’m forcefully and gleefully reminded why I love this man… er… character. Yes.

Mulder has one of his greatest moments ever here with his,  “If you touch me again you better kill me!” line. Actually, that entire interrogation scene is golden both for Mulder’s sarcasm and his action hero antics. If you haven’t watched it in a while, please do. Pop it in the player a moment for your own sake. Go on. It’s okay. I’ll wait.

………….

And we’re back.

Not to be outdone, Mulder isn’t the only one with a chance to shine, Scully wakes up this episode and I just love her when she has attitude. I know her little feet can’t reach the peddles but I swear, she’s more dangerous than Mulder. U.S. Attorney Leamus has no idea how narrowly he escaped a hurtin’.

The villain isn’t the only object of her wrath, either, as wonderfully evidenced in that scene where Scully tracks Mulder to an out of the way motel. Scully’s furious at Mulder, more so because he’s lying to her than because he’s colluding with a dangerous criminal. Even so, she doesn’t betray him when she has the chance. It’s like I said back in “Demons” (4×23), Scully will defend Mulder whether he’s innocent or guilty, as long as he needs her she will compulsively be there. She might not be happy about it, though.

Things were supposed to be a little tense between Mulder and Scully this season what with Mulder’s doubts about the existence of aliens and Scully dealing with the after-effects of her cancer, but whatever the writers intended, for the most part, they didn’t pull it off. I can’t think of when the characters have ever felt closer.

Verdict:

This is absolutely the best episode John Shiban ever gave the show solo and it’s one of the best examples of how The X-Files could transform itself from week to week and from genre to genre. The more I think about it, the more I wonder why I don’t see it pop up more often on “Best Of” lists.

I’m still not sure what the government gets out of this in the end. Were they using these terrorists to test the biotoxin or were they trying to retrieve the stolen technology from them? If the former, were the terrorists aware they were being used? Is August Bremmer a government plant put there to organize and control them into using the weapon the way the government sees fit?

In the end, I just don’t care. I enjoy the ride far too much to be disappointed by my own inability to follow a plot.

I’ve always loved this episode, but watching Scully and Skinner walk into that movie theater again with flashlights flashing… it just may have rolled up into my top ten favorites.

A+

Random Comments:

Kate Braidwood, the daughter of Tom Braidwood, the First Director on the show and the actor who plays Frohike, shows up in this episode as the Usherette.

Putting the biotoxin on the bank’s money sounds scary in theory, but it would never make it out into the general population anyhow. The moment someone who worked at the bank touched it they’d die, which would lead to an investigation, which would lead to the money being confiscated. After all, how can anyone pass on the cash without flesh?

So the motel featured so heavily in this episode… I feel as though I’ve seen it several times, a fact which I can neither confirm nor deny. But if I’m not much mistaken, it’s not only the motel from “Conduit” (1×3) and “Wetwired” (3×23), but possibly from “Colony” (2×16) and “Tempus Fugit” (4×17) as well. But I’m not going to bother to go back and check so…

The set design and lighting in that F.B.I. conference room is immaculate. Come to think of it, the set designs throughout this entire episode are amazing.

Oh, my Shippers, you caught that moment, right? Right? Right.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Maybe you can tell me what’s going on.
Motel Manager: What?
Scully: There seems to be a problem. A man just told me you gave him keys to my room. Room 130.
Motel Manager: Who are you?
Scully: Who am I? Who is he?
Motel Manager: Mister, uh, Kaplan.
Scully: Mr. Kaplan?
Motel Manager: Yes.
Scully: Thank you.
Motel Manager: Are you the wife?
Scully: Not even close.

———————-

Scully: Exactly what agency are you guys from?
Agents: [Stony silence]
Scully: Obviously not the Office of Information.

———————-

Scully: Oh, Mulder, what did they do to you?
Mulder: [Winces]
Scully: This needs to be set. You’re in pain.
Mulder: Yeah, if you keep pullin’ it around like that…

———————-

Mulder: If you don’t hear from me by midnight, feed my fish.

Bad Blood 5×12: Anyway, I was drugged.


“And then he sort of flew at me like a flying squirrel.”

All right. We’re here. We’ve reached what is arguably the best beloved X-Files episode of all time, penned by Master of the Pen Vince Gilligan and consistently named as a favorite of Gillian Anderson herself. It’s “Bad Blood”.

That means it’s also time for a full confession: I didn’t care much for “Bad Blood” the first time I watched it.

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Go ahead. Choke.

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Still coughing?

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Don’t kill yourself.

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Now, if you’re quite finished…

The problem was that I really didn’t know how to take this one at first. The situation they’re in is too deadly serious for Mulder and Scully to be taking it so lightly, hilarious though their reactions are. If I were potentially going to jail for impaling a minor and if the Federal Government were being sued for $446 million dollars due to my idiocy, I wouldn’t be kicking a trash can I’d be banging my head against padded walls in the mental institution I’d been hauled to after my breakdown. But that’s me taking this too seriously so I’ll stop now.

About halfway through my initial viewing I loosened up. But I still had to watch it a few times to get the full effect.

Please don’t be afraid. A baker’s dozen worth of years later and I still laugh out loud at this episode. Loudly.

Unlike other famed X-Files alum Darin Morgan’s “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20) which also shows one set of events from multiple perspectives, “Bad Blood” doesn’t carry a subtly serious undertone in its similarly Rashomon style storytelling. Instead of a despairing sense that the real truth will remain forever buried within the bias and faulty memories of those who experienced it, “Bad Blood” proves that yet again, despite themselves, Mulder and Scully do uncover the truth and neither of them could ever do it alone. The truth consistently lies somewhere in between their two versions of reality.

But then, lightheartedness is one of Vince Gilligan’s strengths just as Darin Morgan’s underlying sense of seriousness is his. One specializes in screwball comedies while the other draws comedy organically out of the sadness in life. For instance, if you compare Gilligan’s “Small Potatoes” (4×20) and Morgan’s “Humbug” (2×20), both us the social and physical outcast for our comedic enjoyment, but Gilligan lovingly pokes fun at his misfit while Morgan uses his misfits to poke the eyes of society at large. One is secretly social commentary while the other is pure entertainment. Me, I’ll take a double scoop of both.

I actually consider “Bad Blood” The X-Files’ first true slapstick comedy. “Small Potatoes” was close, but while it crossed a humor line in terms of silliness that the show hadn’t crossed before, there was more of a sense of the events occurring in the real world than we get here where “reality” is peppered by green-eyed nomadic vampires populating trailer parks. This isn’t a funny X-File or an X-File that happens to be humorous so much as it is a pure comedy, which makes sense considering Gilligan took his inspiration for this one from The Dick Van Dyke Show. But how did he do it and still remain true to the show and the series at large? It’s as though Gilligan took all the rhythms of a typical X-File and then multiplied them to the tenth power so that you can recognize in every hilarious moment where if it were scaled back a notch it would be just another meat and potatoes episode. For example:

Mulder: Sheriff, you say this man is exactly as you found him?
Sheriff Hartwell: Yes, sir. To the letter.
Mulder: Have you noticed that this man’s shoes are untied??
Sheriff Hartwell: Yeah, they sure are.
Scully: Mulder, what’s your point?
Mulder: This means something. Sheriff, do you have an old cemetery in town, off the beaten path, the creepier the better?
Sheriff Hartwell: Uh, yeah.
Mulder: [Snaps fingers] Take me there. Now!
Scully: Mulder?
Mulder: Scully, we’re going to need a complete autopsy on this man, the sooner the better.
Scully: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! What am I even looking for?
Mulder: [Grabs Scully by both shoulders and looks her seriously in the eye] I don’t know. [Leaves abruptly]
Scully: [To Sheriff Hartwell] He does that.

Mulder notices some random clue that no one else thinks is a clue? Check. Mulder can’t or won’t explain its significance? Check. Mulder sends Scully off on an impromptu autopsy? Check. Mulder expects Scully to find something but won’t tell her what? Check. Mulder leaves abruptly without an adequate explanation? Check. Check.

Sometimes I wonder if Gilligan didn’t take a script he was already working on for a regular, serious episode and out of boredom one day decided to amplify it for fun because Mulder and Scully and a third party have had that same exchange, beat for beat, more times than I can count.

But, of course, the real joy of “Bad Blood” isn’t watching Gilligan cleverly poke fun at The X-Files’ own formula, it’s watching Mulder and Scully coyly turn each other into mental caricatures and in so doing give us insight into how they see themselves and each other. More than likely, Mulder and Scully don’t even believe their own tales with total sincerity. Instead, they’re emphasizing and exaggerating certain facts in order to better irritate the other.

Gilligan always did have an amazing grasp when it came to characterization and here I think he understands Mulder and Scully better than they know themselves… I mean, assuming they actually existed and could know anything at all. That said, watching them morph themselves into innocents in turn is revelatory and while Mulder’s idea of himself is way off, I’m not so sure his version of Scully isn’t too far from the truth…

Verdict:

I’ve searched and searched for a clip of Fox’s promo for “Bad Blood” but I haven’t been able to find it. You see, I’m trying to satisfy my curiosity as to whether or not I was warned about the comedic tone of this episode the week before or whether I had any excuse for coming to my first viewing of it wholly unprepared. Alas, YouTube has failed to answer my question.

It really doesn’t matter anymore, however, and thank goodness. I enjoy “Bad Blood” and no distinct lack of reality is going to ruin suspension of disbelief for me. No siree Bob.

All I can say is that when I think that I’m already well past the halfway point of Season 5, I get a little sad.

A

“One of my favorite things about ‘Bad Blood’ was that Agent Scully gets to smile.” – Vince Gilligan

Fiddle Faddle:

I remember when I first saw this episode easily recognizing Patrick Renna, AKA Ronnie Strickland, from that classic television gem called Salute Your Shorts. But he’s better known to most from The Sandlot.

Maybe Ronnie Strickland tried to kill Mulder because he left him a $0.02 tip. Miser.

For those keeping score, this is the second episode in a row where Scully comes to Mulder’s rescue.

I don’t think motels like the Davey Crockett Motor Lodge/Sam Houston Motor Court even still exist. What happened to the seedy motels of the American landscape?

How does Scully get those toxicology results back so fast all the time?

I’m trying, probably too hard, to remember the last episode where Mulder used a slideshow and I can’t.

May I just say that the discomfort Sheriff Hartwell causes Mulder makes my day… and again points to the fact that Mulder nurses a little schoolboy crush on Scully Season 5. Not that he takes it so seriously that he isn’t willing to leave her alone with the man, though I think that points more to his comfort level with Scully than to jealousy or a lack thereof.

Best Quotes:

Scully: First of all, if the family of Ronnie Strickland does indeed decide to sue the FBI for, I think the figure is $446 million, then you and I both will most certainly be co-defendants. And second of all… I don’t even have a second of all, Mulder! $446 million! I’m in this as deep as you are, and I’m not even the one that overreacted! I didn’t do the [stabbing motion] with the thing!
Mulder: I did not overreact. Ronnie Strickland was a vampire!
Scully: Where’s your proof?
Mulder: You’re my proof! You were there! [Scully sighs] Okay, now you’re scaring me. I want to hear exactly what you’re going to tell Skinner.
Scully: Oh, you want our stories straight.
Mulder: No, no, I didn’t say that! I just want to hear it the way you saw it.
Scully: I don’t feel comfortable with that.
Mulder: Prison, Scully! Your cellmate’s nickname is going to be Large Marge, she’s going to read a lot of Gertrude Stein.

———————–

Sheriff Hartwell: [In flashback] You really know your stuff, Dana.
Mulder: [In present] Dana?! He never even knew your first name!
Scully: You going to interrupt me or what?
Mulder: No. You go ahead… Dana

———————–

Scully: What do you mean you want me to do another autopsy? And why do we have to do it right now? I’ve just spent hours on my feet doing an autopsy, all for you. I do it all for you, Mulder. You know I haven’t eaten since six o’clock this morning and all that was was half of a cream cheese bagel. And it wasn’t even real cream cheese it was light cream cheese. And now you want me to run off and do another autopsy…? [Notices Mulder is covered in mud] What the hell happened to you?

The Post-Modern Prometheus 5×6: Gypsies, tramps and thieves.


Rewind. Play. Stop. Rewind. Play. Stop. Rewind…

If you’ve been with me since at least “Quagmire” (3×23), you’ll know that I’ve asserted for a while now that more than sci-fi, more than paranormal fantasy, The X-Files is really a romantic literary adventure at heart. Here we have two heroes who are, erm, heroic… not because they’re faultless, but because like their predecessors in the great romantic tradition, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, they refuse to give up their idealistic and foolhardy quest out of some antiquated sense of honor; their audience of fans being forced to waffle between nodding in admiration and shaking their heads in exasperation.

My arguments may ring flat to some but if you won’t take it from me, take it from series creator Chris Carter who wrote and directed this milestone episode giving us clear look into his personal predilections.

“Mr. Carter said he hoped the episode would remain true to the original story’s [Frankenstein’s] romantic roots. ‘I have always been a fan of romantic literature,’ he said. ‘In creating Mulder and Scully, I knew they could be likened to romantic heroes.’” [Editor’s Note: Told. You. So.]

Chris Carter based “The Post-Modern Prometheus” on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (or The Modern Prometheus), which is probably one of the most famous examples of literature produced during the Romantic movement. As an unusual of a departure as this episode is, its familiar theme, man elevating himself to the place of God through genetic manipulation, shouldn’t surprise us much.

It’s not hard to see where the Frankenstein motif has left its mark over much of the series already. From individual episodes back in Season 1 like “Young at Heart” (1×15), to the alien-human hybrid story arc encased within the larger, ongoing mythology, to the personal woes of Scully who has had her ova stolen and experimented on in the name of… well, in the name of what we’re not sure of yet.

If these fears and nightmares seem a little melodramatic, do The X-Files a favor and remember that this was the 90’s and we weren’t that far removed from Dolly the Sheep. The Human Genome had been mapped, cloning had become a reality, and not too far under the surface we all wondered just how far down the rabbit hole these new powers would take us. Could mankind be trusted with the God-like ability to remake life in its own image?

There’s a practical protection against such a danger: defining what it is, what it means to be human.

It’s not an unfamiliar subject to broach. Heck, Star Trek: The Next Generation basically tried to define humanity every other episode. (Yet another example of how 90’s progress and paranoia led to pop culture perfection.) And even aside from the pressure of rapidly progressive science, myths of synthetic humans largely predate the advance of technology. Besides Frankenstein, there’s the myth of the Golem, not coincidentally a myth also addressed by The X-Files in “Kaddish” (4×12). And not to belabor the point, but why else did the Tin Man want a heart, the Scarecrow want a brain and the Cowardly Lion want courage if not to become human rather than merely humanoid?

All that is to say that what “The Post-Modern Prometheus” is really saying is that to be “human” isn’t merely to meet a genetic requirement. After all, we share so much of our genetic material with the lowly Drosophila. No, humans are required to be humane; we’re made in the image of God and we’re supposed to act like it. Here all these freaky looking townsfolk are hunting a mutant monster only to find out that not only are they uglier on the inside than he is on the outside, but the monkey really is their uncle. Literally.

Verdict:

Sometimes I’m amazed at what The X-Files makes it possible for us to enjoy without guilt. Here’s a tale about rape and animal-human hybrids, and somehow, that’s OK.

Maybe that’s because the whole episode is a Fractured Fairy Tale from start to finish. It starts and ends as a conscious piece of fiction being deliberately framed in comic book format. The gorgeous black and white cinematography, undoubtedly a feather in the cap for Director of Photography Joel Ransom, sets this episode apart as something other than an X-File and something more akin to Chris Carter’s personal fan fiction. There are also the repetitive shots, or as Chris Carter likes to call them, “visual quotes”, peppered throughout the episode, giving a disorienting sense of déjà vu to the entire story. And best of all, the wide-angle lens shots exaggerate even the most mundane moments eliminating all traces of the real world eeriness that The X-Files is famous for. It’s not a loss, it’s a welcome departure; pure escapism in a show that’s already fantastical in content.

This one was originally written for Cher and Rosanne Barr who both expressed interest in appearing on The X-Files. Rosanne Barr who was originally supposed to play Shaineh Berkowitz and Cher who was supposed to play… Cher. But at the last minute, schedule conflicts ruled out this potential clash of the titans and substitutes had to be found. I think it’s a good thing in the long run that Chris Carter didn’t get the famous guest stars he wrote the story around (except for you of course, Jerry Springer). They would have only been a distraction. This way the “The Post-Modern Prometheus” itself gets to shine.

The question is, who do we owe its success to? You’d think it’d be obvious, and yet Mulder and Scully take over the script from Chris Carter, quite literally. Interestingly enough, they’ve already done it figuratively, recreating the show in their own image despite, or perhaps because of, their creator’s best intentions. It’s all quite meta, no?

Speaking of intentions, I saw that look cross your face, David Duchovny. Mulder and Scully came this close to making Shippers everywhere collapse in spasms of geeky bliss during that final scene. As it is, there may have been embarrassingly girly squeals rising from a in front of a little television near the Everglades somewhere. I have read that there was an actual kiss filmed, but who knows if the footage still exists or if it will ever see the light of day.

That’s OK because ultimately, I didn’t need it and I still don’t. I can honestly say that’s the most purely joyful moment of television I’ve ever been graced to witness.

The End.

A+

Sweet Nothings:

The quote above from Chris Carter was surreptitiously stolen from here: http://www.nytimes.com/1997/11/19/arts/tv-notes-x-files-tries-frankenstein.html

Not to be blasphemous, but Marc Cohn’s original version of “Walking in Memphis” is actually my favorite. Speaking of which, does anyone remember when it was featured on VH1’s Pop Up Video? I’m aging myself, yes?

Composer Mark Snow has absolutely outdone himself. For reals. The whole score is a vaguely circus-like dream.

The looks on Scully’s face this entire episode… you can watch it with the sound off and it’s still hilarious. Her face says it all.

Recurring guest star Chris Owens is back for his 3rd appearance on The X-Files, this time as a monster that doesn’t smoke.

The Great Mutato wants to create someone just as miserable as he is so they can be miserable together. How… touching.

For once, there’s no need for Chris Carter to reign in the purpleness of his prose. It works to this episode’s fantastical advantage.

I could touch on why, yet again, Cher is presented as the sacred mother to all the outcasts and misfits of the world. But then, that’s been done.

Best Quotes:

Scully: [Reading in a deadpan voice] Dear Special Agent Mulder, I’m writing to you for help. Several years ago I had an experience I cannot explain. I was lying in my bed when I felt a presence in the room. Though I was awake, I felt that something had taken control over my body. I don’t remember much else, but I woke up three days later pregnant with my son Izzy. [Exchanges a look with Mulder] That was eighteen years ago but now it happened again. I was in bed and could swear I heard Cher singing (the one who was married to Sonny). [Exchanges another look] Then the room got all smoky and I saw some kind of monster. He had a really gross face with lumps all over his head. I was too scared to scream then I got all groggy and conked out for three days. Guess what happened when I woke up. I got your name off the TV. Some lady on The Jerry Springer Show who had a werewolf baby said you came to her house. [Yet another look] Well, I got her story beat by a mile, so maybe you’ll want to come see me too. Sincerely, Shaineh Berkowitz.
Mulder: Scully, do you think it’s too soon to get my own 1-900 number?

———————–

Mulder: I’m alarmed that you would reduce these people to a cultural stereotype. Not everybody dreams to get on Jerry Springer.

———————–

Scully: Mulder, I’m alarmed that you would reduce this man to a literary stereotype, a mad scientist.

———————–

Scully: Mulder?
Mulder: You may have been right, Scully.
Scully: What, that these people could be reduced to a cultural stereotype?

———————–

Mulder: This is all wrong, Scully. This is not how the story’s supposed to end.
Scully: What do you mean?
Mulder: Dr. Frankenstein pays for his evil ambitions, yes, but the monster’s supposed to escape to go search for his bride.
Scully: There’s not gonna be any bride, Mulder. Not in this story.
Mulder: Well, where’s the writer. I want to speak to the writer.

Detour 5×4: That’s pretty sophisticated for government issue.


All the boys and girls...

We’re going to skip over the issues of preserving the environment and encroachment upon nature in this episode because, well, they already speak for themselves and we have more important things to attend to. Save the earth later, philosophize about Mulder and Scully now.

From the moment we open on our two leads, this episode is already memorable. After many, many days of angst, the team is back together and they’re both very much alive! There isn’t a dark rain cloud hovering conspicuously over their heads either.

That doesn’t mean they’re not in immediate danger, however. They’re on the road headed toward an F.B.I. team-building seminar and if their destination weren’t bad enough, their companions ensure that this will be the road trip from hell. Seeing Agent Stonecypher and Agent Kinsley together, we realize how lucky we are to have Mulder and Scully.

If I were to compare the humor of this scene in the car where Mulder and Scully exchange conspicuously knowing glances to, say, the hilariously underplayed scene in “EBE” (1×16) where we first meet the Lone Gunmen, or even to the entire episode of “Humbug” (2×20), it’s certainly a little more exaggerated and self-conscious than humor on The X-Files used to be. Not that I’m necessarily complaining, because it is funny and at this point, The X-Files is pretty much at the height of its popularity so if they indulge their audience a little bit by playing up Mulder and Scully’s partnership, so be it. It’s been well earned.

This was the meat and potatoes episode I was craving as an emotional resolution to Scully’s cancer after “Redux II” (5×2). Not only is it classic in every sense of the word, it harkens back to The X-Files’ early era. Think of those rag tag team adventures out in the middle of nowhere that Mulder and Scully used to go on in episodes like “Ice” (1×7) and “Darkness Falls” (1×19). We haven’t had one of those since “Firewalker” (2×9), which is a sad shame when you think about it. Then there’s the blessed fact that there’s a lot of  “Scullay!” and “Mulder!” being bandied about which instantly makes for quality entertainment. And finally, where I was looking for a post-cancer “conversation on the rock” a la “Quagmire” (3×22), we get the now famous “conversation on a log.”

God Bless Frank Spotnitz.

Now, here’s the thing about writer Frank Spotnitz: up until Season 8, he rarely ever (officially) wrote episodes by himself. He was Chris Carter’s right hand man when it came to the mythology, so much praise is due. And he was also a member of the “John Gilnitz” trio along with John Shiban and Vince Gilligan, the three of them together penning some of the most memorable episodes of the series including “Leonard Betts” (4×14) and “Dreamland I/II” (6×4/5). But you’ll notice a trend… he was a team player.

“Detour” is his first solo effort since Season 3’s “731” (3×10) and if you can believe it, setting aside the group venture of “Leonard Betts”, his first Monster of the Week episode since Season 2’s “Our Town” (2×24).

Well, we waited long but we were not disappointed. In some ways, “Detour” resembles “Our Town” in its use of dark humor. Where Scully once nibbled on greasy chicken wings while surrounded by boiled human bones, now she and Mulder team-build by piling up corpses rather than office furniture.

Oh, yes. Such hilarious shenanigans would have been enough. But Spotnitz doesn’t stop there. Instead he delivers one of the most memorable scenes between Mulder and Scully that The X-Files ever graced us with. You all already know where this is going.

Just like the writer was brave enough to stop the story and give Mulder and Scully a few minutes to have at it over nothing for the audience’s sake, I’m about to stop in the middle of this review to post this little conversation in the entirety of its glory… because it deserves it… and because I’m about to discuss it at length.

Prepare to scroll.

Disclaimer: The following is not intended to encourage sleeping bag nakedness in any way. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Scully: You were an Indian guide, help me out here. [Trying to light a fire]
Mulder: Indian guide says maybe you should run to the store and get some matches.
Scully: I would but I left my wallet in the car.
Mulder: What are you doing?
Scully: Trying to open my gun. If I can separate the shell from the casing, maybe I can get the powder to ignite.
Mulder: And maybe it’ll start raining weenies and marshmallows.
Scully: Do I detect a hint of negativity?
Mulder: No! Yes. Actually. Yeah.
Scully: Mulder you need to keep warm, your body’s still in shock.
Mulder: I was told once that the best way to regenerate body heat is to crawl naked into a sleeping bag with somebody else who’s already naked.
Scully: Maybe if it rains sleeping bags you’ll get lucky.
Mulder: ……
Scully: You ever thought seriously about dying?
Mulder: Yeah, once, when I was at the Ice Capades.
Scully: When I was fighting my cancer… I was angry at the injustice of it, at its meaninglessness. And then I realized that that was the struggle, to give it meaning, to make sense of it. It’s like life.
Mulder: I think nature is supremely indifferent to whether we live or die. I mean if you’re lucky you get 75 years. If you’re really lucky you get 80 years. And if you’re extraordinarily lucky you get to have 50 of those years with a decent head of hair.
Scully: I guess it’s like Las Vegas. The house always wins. Oh! [Separates the shell from the casing] Taa-daa!
Mulder: Go girl. Hey, who did you identify with when you were a kid, Wilma or Betty?
Scully: I identified with Betty’s bustline.
Mulder: Yes! I did, too.
Scully: Could never have been married to Barney, though. Their kids were cute.
Mulder: But where are they today?
Scully: [Powder flashes but doesn’t ignite.] Moth Men. Really?
Mulder: Yeah. But there seem to be only two of them.
Scully: [Scully maneuvers Mulder into her lap.]
Mulder: I don’t want to wrestle.
Scully: Come over here, I’m going to try to keep you warm. [Strokes his arm]
Mulder: [Winces]
Scully: Sorry.
Mulder: One of us has got to stay awake, Scully.
Scully: You sleep, Mulder.
Mulder: You get tired, you wake me.
Scully: I’m not gonna get tired.
Mulder: Why don’t you sing… something?
Scully: No, Mulder…
Mulder: If you sing something I’ll know you’re awake.
Scully: Mulder, you don’t want me to sing. I can’t carry a tune.
Mulder: [Mumbling] Doesn’t matter, just sing anything.
Scully: …Jeremiah was a bullfrog.
Mulder: [Slowly and silently looks up.]
Scully: Was a good friend of mine. Never understood a single word he said… but I helped him drink his wine…
Mulder: Chorus.
Scully: Joy to the world… All the boys and girls…. Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea… Joy to you and me…

Oh, dear. Now I feel a little teary eyed.

If I had one wish for The X-Files in retrospect, it would be that we could have had just a smidgeon more of moments like this. In fact, if some subsequent seasons lacked anything it was a chance to listen to Mulder and Scully shoot the breeze with each other for more than just a line or two. Scenes like the one above, where Mulder and Scully just sit back and kick it in conversation, should’ve happened at least once a season.

“Detour” is one of the best examples of why I love Season 5. This is tense, this is scary, this is touching, this is imaginative, and above all else, this is fun. Not even fun just for us as the audience, but for the characters too! There they are, lost in the woods with no food and water, one of them injured, and being hunted by Moth Men. And yet, I’ll be darned, Mulder and Scully are enjoying themselves.

Fundamentally, here is what makes The X-Files great. Some shows try to be scary and succeed. Some try to be funny. Some try to be mysterious. But how many can work in all the elements with such balance to give you 42 minutes of television that leave you grinning the whole time? Somebody tell me. Most lean too hard in one direction or the other. The X-Files knows just what to do.

Verdict:

You can put me down as one very satisfied customer. I’ll even sign the guestbook for this one.

Is the X-File itself that compelling? Well, the Moth Men are about as interesting as boogey men ever are, but the episode isn’t so much about how freaky they are as it is creating a threat that pushes Mulder and Scully into a precarious corner because that’s where we can watch them shine.

Make no mistake, “Detour” is a post-cancer arc celebration. It’s written all over Mulder and Scully’s faces how glad they are to be back in form. Maybe that’s why being lost in the woods doesn’t bother them so much. And the truth is, they’re only reflecting what the audience is already feeling. This episode is a really satisfying way of acknowledging that sentiment.

And Chris Carter, if you’re reading this and there’s an X-Files 3, a mere five minutes of Mulder and Scully shooting the breeze wouldn’t hurt anybody. Much love. Peace.

A+

Musings:

Scully’s “How could you leave me here??” face when Mulder ditches her in the car with the Geek Squad = Awesome.

Scully is openly flirting. Now we can be sure she really did have a near death experience.

Mulder clearly wasn’t expecting a response to that line about sleeping bags. Who here thinks the look on his face spoke volumes? Just us shippers?

That little factoid Scully delivers about ticks really freaks me out.

Mark Snow does a particularly great job with the score in this one. Those primitive drums…

Fact: Mulder picks up on things no normal human should.

Best Quotes:

Agent Kinsley: I couldn’t believe how hard it was not to use the word “but!”
Mulder: I’m having that same problem right now!
Agent Stonecypher: Have you ever been to a team seminar, Agent Mulder?
Mulder: No. You know, unfortunately around this time of year I always develop a severe hemorrhoidal condition.

———————-

Scully: Mulder. We’ve got this conference. They’re waiting.
Mulder: Yeah. How do I say this without using any negative words, Scully?
Scully: You want me to tell them that you’re not going to make it to this year’s teamwork seminar.
Mulder: Yes. You see that? We don’t need that conference. We have communication like that, unspoken. You know what I’m thinking.

————————

Scully: You know, Mulder, sometimes I think some work on your communication skills wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
Mulder: I’ll be back soon and we can build a tower of furniture. ‘Kay?

————————

Scully: It sure is beautiful, though.
Jeff Glaser: That’s what happens. People get to looking around, next thing they know something eats them.
Scully: What do you think killed those men?
Jeff Glaser: Nature is populated with creatures either trying to kill something they need to survive or trying to avoid being killed by something that needs they to survive. If we become blinded by the beauty of nature we may fail to see its cruelty and violence.
Scully: Walt Whitman?
Jeff Glaser: No, When Animals Attack on the Fox Network.

————————-

Mulder: Witnesses described them as primitive looking men with piercing red eyes. Became known as the Moth Men. I got an X-File dated back to 1952 on it.
Scully: What would that be filed next to? The Cockroach that ate Cincinnati?
Mulder: No, the Cockroach that ate Cincinnati is in the C’s. Moth Men is over in the M’s.

————————–

Mulder: Too bad we don’t have any office furniture. [Piling up corpses]
Scully: I can see us now.
Mulder: Go team! There’s plenty more bodies, we may have won the honey-baked ham.