Tag Archives: Breaking Bad

20 X-Files Episodes That Should Be on Your Top 10 List, but Probably Aren’t.


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Don’t worry. “Shadows” (1×5) is most assuredly not one of them.

This post is at its heart an exercise in hypocrisy since not only have I not been able to narrow down my favorites to a Top 10 yet, I haven’t worked out a Top 20. But if you do have a Top 10, or a Top 20, or a nebulous cloud of episodes that you can watch over and over without getting bored, then I humbly submit the following for consideration for inclusion into that elite group.

These aren’t the obvious darlings like “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) or “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6), these are the hidden jewels of The X-Files. And I present them in no particular order… because I can’t decide even when I’m making decisions.

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1. “Drive” (6×2) – One of several episodes that inadvertently serve as a prelude to Breaking Bad, this episode was written by Vince Gilligan and guest stars an incredibly ornery Bryan Cranston. Along with several episodes on this list, it serves as solid evidence that Season 6 wasn’t the shark jumping problem child it’s often accused of being.

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2. “Elegy” (4×22) – An honest look at death and dying and the stages of grief that the dying and their loved ones go through before death even occurs. For the first time, Scully and Mulder emotionally confront the reality of her cancer and a poignant episode is born.

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3. “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18) – This is as close as The X-Files ever came to being 24. If they had extended it by another hour, it could have been a movie. One of my favorite scenes of Fox Mulder ever is hidden in this episode.

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4. “Roadrunners” (8×5) – If you bailed after Season 7, this is the best episode of The X-Files you’ve never seen. Written by Vince Gilligan (yes, again), it features a feisty Scully and a peripheral, but clever Doggett. And it’s the only A+ I found it in my heart to give after Season 6.

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5. “Anasazi“(2×25) – As are several on this list, this is one of my favorite Scully episodes. And also as are several others on this list, this is another episode where Mulder goes crazy. He lives at the edge of sanity anyway, I know. But it’s still fun to watch. This is also when mythology really starts ramping up and branching out.

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6. “Monday” (6×15) – You really can’t trust that day. But if you dare to try, you’ll find an episode that’s equal parts mysterious, moving and funny. This is one of Mulder’s best episodes, in my humble opinion.

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7. “Milagro” (6×18) – Sadly, this favorite of writer Frank Spotnitz’s is largely misunderstood. But it’s a special one for the writing staff and if you give it another chance, I think you might understand why. Hint: It’s all about Scully as a character taking on autonomy and breaking out of the mold her writer put her in.

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8. “E.B.E.” (1×16) – A pre-mythology alien conspiracy episode written by Morgan & Wong that marks the memorable introduction of the Lone Gunmen. It’s also a turning point in Mulder and Scully’s partnership as Mulder comes to realize he and Scully are in this together and she’s the only one he can trust.

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9. “Field Trip” (6×21) – This is a trip in more ways than one, so expect the surreal. But if you want a brilliantly condensed version of what Mulder and Scully’s partnership is and why it works, this is the episode you turn to.

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10. “Aubrey” (2×12) – Written by one of the few female writers ever on staff, this episode features, well, a woman. A woman in a man’s world who can’t seem to escape the men in her life, to memorable results.

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11. “Tithonus” (6×9) – My husband, Vince Gilligan, wrote this one as well and it is great. It’s one of the rare cases that Scully investigates without Mulder, which creates for some humorous jealousy on Mulder’s end and some fun telephone conversations. But mostly, this episode shows off Scully to her best advantage and asks some profound questions.

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12. “Eve” (1×10)- We all know the Season 1 classics that turned The X-Files into a phenomenon, like “Ice” (1×7). But “Eve” marks the best in a long tradition of Creepy Kids. This one’s double the pleasure, double the fun. This is also one of the few times Mulder is ever completely wrong about a case.

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13. “Unruhe” (4×2) – By now you’re wondering how many Vince Gilligan episodes I plan to insert in this list. The answer is: not enough. Here’s another episode from the master that actually makes you think that one of our leads is in real danger… even though you know very well Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny signed contracts and won’t be going anywhere.

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14. “Ascension” (2×6) – The follow-up “One Breath” (2×8) gets more attention, I think because of its emotionality. This episode, though, features lots of action and Mulder gone for a ride on the cray cray train now that Scully’s missing and he feels responsible. It’s also Mulder’s first encounter with Maggie Scully whose scenes with him have more impact than those with his own mother.

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15. “Kill Switch” (5×11) – Fun, fun, fun (‘til her daddy takes the T-Bird away). I love this romp of a ride and all the shenanigans it entails. Again, this is a mini movie and it stars a sarcastic Scully, who I’ve been missing since Season 1.

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16. “F. Emasculata” (2×22) – This is neck and neck with “Roadrunners” for the grossest episode in the series, but boy is it fun. This is less of a traditional X-File and more of a thriller a la Outbreak or U.S. Marshalls.

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17. “Trevor” (6×17) – Another silent gem from Season 6 that I want to hear make some noise. “Trevor” feels like a Season 3 case, but now with banter bumped up. It’s classic, but particularly cinematic thanks to director Rob Bowman’s trademark touch.

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18. “Folie à Deux” (5×19) – Giant Telemarketing Grasshoppers? Yes, please! Yet another entry from Vince Gilligan that isn’t nearly as light and silly as it sounds. Here he shows just how well he understood these two characters and the depths of their shared madness.

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19. “Wetwired” (3×23) – For once, Mulder isn’t the paranoid one. If you want to see some high drama from Scully that doesn’t involve wailing for her baby, then this is the episode for you. It also features a great guest spot by the Lone Gunmen and one of Maggie Scully’s best moments in the series.

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20. “Demons” (4×23) – Season 4 was the season of angst and this episode is Mulder in full 90’s emo mode. But don’t let that scare you off – Scully is fierce this episode. And even though it’s not technically connected to the season finale “Gethsemene” (4×24), it serves as the perfect emotional bridge to it. 

John Doe 9×7: I’ll take the bad as long as I can remember the good.


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Every time I try to walk away…

Here’s the thing about “John Doe”. It’s a beautifully crafted hour of television. Writer Vince Gilligan and his soon to be collaborator on Breaking Bad, first time director Michelle MacLaren, present us with an episode that looks like it’s ready for the big screen. Robert Patrick outdoes himself now that Doggett is finally given something interesting to do again, and he’s flanked by a motley crew of impressively convincing supporting actors.

The thing is, I’m incurably bored by “John Doe” and like the Eagles said, I can’t tell you why.

Is it the slow pace? Is it the token nature of the supernatural element slipped perfunctorily in at the end of the episode? Is it the atmosphere of heat and exhaustion?

Whatever it is, it puzzles me. But try though I might, by the ten minute mark I always tune out. I can never watch this episode in a single sitting. I get distracted and then rewind, distracted and then rewind. It’s a sad cycle.

It’s sad because there’s a lot of good going on here. First of all, as only the second time a woman has directed an episode of The X-Files since Gillian Anderson’s “all things” (7×17), it’s somewhat historic. Visually, it’s also an obvious homage to the film Traffic with all of its washed out outdoor scenes.

Speaking of film, I’ve always thought Vince Gilligan’s work on the show had a cinematic edge. That is to say, his X-Files often came across as stories that could easily be adapted for the big screen. His episodes are uniquely suited to Mulder and Scully, made more impactful by Mulder and Scully, but quite a few of them could be reworked without Mulder and Scully and still stand as independent stories. For example, “Unruhe” (4×2), “Pusher” (3×17), “Tithonus” (6×9), “Drive” (6×2), “Roadrunners” (8×5), etc.

“John Doe” feels even more like a mini movie, especially since unlike the days when the X-Files were run by Mulder and Scully, there’s no need to follow the show’s standard storytelling format. There’s nothing perfunctory about it like, say, a Scully autopsy. This isn’t familiar. And not only does our lead not know who he himself is, neither do we, really. We’re still getting to know John Doggett.

It is nice to see more of Doggett, to see more of his relationship with his son. Now we know he also had a wife. Whatever happened to Mrs. Doggett I wonder? I assume that one day she woke up and got out of their marital bed. I’m also assuming we’ll find out before the season wraps up, along with more of the details of Luke Doggett’s kidnapping. Meanwhile, more than anything, we learn a lot about Doggett’s character. Even without his memory and without his bearings, he keeps his integrity… and his skillset. And he’s not afraid of pain, not even the pain of the loss of his son, because he knows that his experiences have shaped him and he can’t lose that pain without losing himself.

All that sounds great, doesn’t it? They’re still doing new and different things on The X-Files, aren’t they? So what’s wrong with me, then?

I’m starting to think these kinds of amnesia tales just don’t interest me, personally. I LOVE “Demons” (4×23), in which Mulder has a limited amnesia. But when someone forgets how they wound up in hell and the audience watches them find out, that’s an interesting mystery. When someone forgets who they are and the audience already knows who they are, that’s not as much of a mystery. That’s a character study. We’re watching John Doggett remember John Doggett.

How he even came to be in no man’s land Mexico, while supposedly the big reveal of the story, is almost irrelevant to the story. The villains are obvious early on. The only question is how they did it, and even the how is given only brief screen treatment. A memory vampire? Really? It’s probably better that they didn’t spend too long dwelling on that, now that I think of it.

No, this is all just a showcase for Doggett the man. And maybe, Doggett, she’s just not that into you.

Verdict:

There’s no real X-File here. It could have been a memory vampire. It could have been a mugger who knocked him down so that he hit his head. The result is the same.

Then again, I think this recent crop of episodes is proving that Doggett and Reyes aren’t that suited to traditional X-Files. They needed something new built around them.

And it’s for that reason that I respect “John Doe” even if my attention span refuses to bend to my will. We needed episodes that sought to differentiate Doggett and Reyes from Mulder and Scully and create a unique bond between them and the audience. The X-Files needed to feel different in their hands.

So here’s what I learned about our new leads this episode –

They’re both more worldly than either Mulder or Scully were.
They’re both ready for a firefight.
They’re both built Ford tough.

The end.

I think Reyes is due for her own character episode now, isn’t she?

B+

Factoids:

It was after this episode aired that Chris Carter announced this would be the final season of The X-Files.

He should have done that after “Trust No 1” (9x).

Michelle MacLaren would go on to direct for both Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead among many other shows. Go ‘head, girl.

Mrs. Doggett is played by the real life Mrs. Patrick. Aww.

According to Wikipedia, Mulder’s old apartment set was dressed up and reused as the Mexican hotel set. Symbolic?

Scully is completely useless here. Yes, that counts as a fact.

The actor who plays Domingo, Frank Roman, does an incredible job. Also a fact.

Just One Question:

Why was Doggett investigating without Reyes in the first place?

Best Quotes:

Reyes: Y acerca de las drogas? Están en su inventario también? Usted ya sabe… cocaina, AGCO, John Deere?
Molina’s Lawyer: I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish.
Molina: She says I sell drugs.
Molina’s Lawyer: Please don’t speak Spanish anymore.

———————–

Caballero: Why would you want to remember? You can’t tell me you’re happier now, because you recall your life. I saw it all. So much pain. Why would you want to struggle, so long, and hard to get that pain back?
Doggett: Because it’s mine.

Lord of the Flies 9×6: You can’t have it both ways.


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What if there was an X-Files/Breaking Bad/Glee mashup?

In which Breaking Bad takes over The X-Files for the second of three times.

But before we get to that, I think I’ve come to a mini understanding. Doggett and Reyes as characters don’t have the comedic capabilities that Mulder and Scully did.

Now, I’m more tired than anyone of hearing myself compare Doggett and Reyes to Mulder and Scully. I prepared myself for change when Season 9 first aired and I’m certainly resigned to change now. My complaint isn’t that we have a new team. No, it’s that this new team isn’t equipped to handle this kind of episode. To put it in layman’s terms, I don’t think they’re ready for this jelly.

Doggett jokes around, sure. But his jokes fall flat because he sounds like an old fogey shaking his head at kids these days. There’s no point at the end of his pitard. Mulder would have delivered those very same lines with a sardonic bite that would have left me giggling.

Scully would have shared knowing or appropriately horrified looks with Mulder at all the right moments, because her character knows how to play up the chaos around her to the best effect. Reyes spends most of the episode looking nothing but bemused, as if this crazed cast of characters genuinely needed the help of the F.B.I..

This episode is not good. But even with its shortcomings it had the possibility of providing us some memorable moments. The scenes in the morgue with Dr. Herb Fountain are still my favorites of the episode. Erick Avari, a veteran character actor who I love, plays Dr. Fountain. He carries the comedic weight of these scenes on his own, and not just because he’s the broad character. Doggett and Reyes give him next to nothing. Their reactions are way too subdued; they shouldn’t be over the top but they need to be appropriately surprised

I know my comparisons are unfair since Mulder and Scully had time to develop a shorthand and a status quo before being thrust into the world of comedy. Yet I still find myself longing for “Humbug” (2×20) and their pitch perfect responses to the madness, and even for “Bad Blood” (5×12) when they showed us they could themselves be the madness.

Frankly, despite the madness that is Dr. Rocky Bronzino, King of the Fake Bronzer, some of the better parts of this episode are watching Scully deal with him. He’s not a great character, but at least he gives Scully something to do besides pine for Mulder and worry about William.

Then again, the low point of this episode is watching Dr. Scully give CPR to a man who’s already breathing. So I guess it’s a wash.

The truth is, “Lord of the Flies” is confused. The basic plot is a serious X-File, but the overall tone is that of an episode of The Lone Gunmen. Why do I say that? I’m glad you asked.

Sadly, The Lone Gunmen only lasted thirteen episodes, but Thomas Schnauz wrote two of them. Two good ones, I might add. A personal friend of Vince Gilligan’s from film school, he was pulled onto The X-Files after the show ended and went from there to… yep, Breaking Bad.

But back to The Lone Gunmen for a moment, Dr. Rocky Branzino is a character perfectly in keeping with the over the top tone of that show. What he’s doing here in an X-File that’s also trying to be both scary and emotional is beyond me. This is a jumbled mess of goals. Is it a broad comedy? Is it a serious murder investigation? Is it a character study in teenage angst? Is it a short horror film? Is it a Twilight Zone mystery with a twist? Is it trying to be all things to all men, that it might by all means win some?

Tonally, “Lord of the Flies” doesn’t know if it’s a real X-File or a light X-File. It’s possible to straddle the fence and it’s been done successfully before, but this isn’t one of those times.

And if you’re going to have a comedic episode with Jane Lynch in it then she should get the chance to be funny. I’m sorry.

Still on the topic of soon to be wildly famous guest stars, if you had told me that the intrepid Sky Commander Winkie would later blow my mind as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad, I would have raised a Scully brow. And there’s our Breaking Bad trifecta for this episode: Vince Gilligan produced it, Thomas Schnauz wrote it and Aaron Paul starred in it.

Verdict:

The X-Files has a long tradition of mixing puberty with the paranormal. You know the drill – your body’s going through changes and you don’t know where you fit in, so you electrocute your friend in the parking lot, have an astrological meltdown, or plow your teacher into the cafeteria wall. Or, you can turn into a B movie fly monster and cocoon your enemies, which appears to both the biological fate and freewill choice of Dylan Lokensgard.

Whatever the try-hard philosophical ponderings of the closing monologue, Dylan isn’t sympathetic, or scary, or even interesting. And as such he adds nothing to the Puberty Pantheon. “Hungry” (7×1) was a better take on a monster who wanted to be anything but.

*cough*MoreVinceGilligan*cough*

C+

Pheromones:
What kind of pheromones are Mulder and Scully excreting that they keep attracting entomologists with silly names?

Mothers are women too, Scully. “I’m with someone,” would have been a more definitive answer.

The teenage romance doesn’t sell. It rarely does in real life either.

When was the last time we had an ending voiceover/case report?

Once again, Scully is a distraction from Doggett and Reyes. Worse, she’s outshining them.

I have no idea why Dylan’s little love interest suddenly feels affection toward the murderous nerd once he’s gone.

No, really. Who hits on somebody by talking about shared menstrual cycles?

FYI, Breaking Bad’s first takeover was “Drive” (6×2) and the next will be “John Doe” (9×7).

Best Quotes:

Dr. Fountain: Well, it’s the kid’s parents. They’re suing everyone.
Reyes: For what?
Dr. Fountain: Everything. They’re suing the county for making the street too steep, the supermarket he stole the shopping cart from, the company that made the helmet he was wearing.

——————–

Dr. Rocky Bronzino: Dr. Scully? This is so exciting. I’ve never had a partner before.
Scully: I have.

X-Cops 7×12: With all due respect, what the **** are you talking about?


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It all depends on how they edit it together.

It’s not you, Vince. It’s me.

I realize we haven’t talked for a while, or ever, but I believe it’s best if we’re absolutely open and honest and each other. Because good relationships, like Mulder and Scully’s, are built on mutual respect and trust.

Now, you know I’m not the touchiest feeliest type, but with all my little grinch heart I do love you. Way back in “Soft Light” (2×23) I knew there was something special about you. Maybe it was your sense of humor, your obvious love for the characters that came out in the dialogue, your well-placed touches of continuity… because you always were the King of Continuity, Vince. I don’t know what it was exactly, but I knew that you had it.

Then along came “Pusher” (3×17) and I was just gone. Maya Angelou once said that people will forget what you did but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. Well, “Pusher” makes me feel things, Vince. Happy things. Those happy, gushy, illogical feelings that you get when you’re watching really, really good television. You wrote and directed “Sunshine Days” (9×18), so I know you know what I’m talking about.

I’ve always thought your biggest strength is that you’re a fan first, a fan who can write like the dickens. As a fan then, you’ve had those moments when, for whatever reason, your favorite television show doesn’t do it for you one week. Maybe you had a cold. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe you didn’t like the guest star. Whatever. It could be anything. But it happens.

Well, it’s happened for me, Vince. It’s happened for me with you. It’s “X-Cops.” I just… can’t.

Don’t get upset! Please! I don’t want this to come between us. I’d hate like the devil for that to happen.

I know you’re a genius and I believe in your powers. But this just isn’t my brand of humor. I mean, I suppose I can do broad humor. It may have taken me a little longer than most to warm up to “Bad Blood” (5×12) but we get along fine now. And I’m a huge fan of I Love Lucy. So maybe I’m just a hypocrite. It really is me, not you.

But in my heart and in my mind, there’s broad and then there’s wide enough to straddle Manhattan. Each time “X-Cops” comes up on one of my rewatches I try my darndest to give it a fair try, but when Steve and Edy come on the scene, you lose me. They make The Birdcage look like an exercise in dramatic restraint.

I’m not insulting your taste because I worship the ground you walk on. I do. Or at least I imagine I would if I were anywhere near the ground you walk on… and if worshiping you weren’t blasphemous… and psychotic.

But you know how Chris is famous for saying The X-Files is only as scary as it is real? Well, if you get really real it ain’t scary either. Not that you meant for this Boggart – because that’s what this Monster of the Week effectively is, a Boggart – to be truly frightening. Still, when you take Mulder and Scully out of their alternate universe and drop them in mine, something feels off. Really off.

Frankly, you did too good of a job. The creativity and accuracy in this one is impressive. Actually, this feels so much like an episode of Cops, down to the impeccably done intros and outros, that I’ve lost the sense of mystery and wonder that I’m used to getting week after week…. not that I’ve been getting it very much recently. Season 7’s been rough on me. I’ve kinda been losing the loving feeling. So, like I said, it’s not really your fault.

But I guess I’m like your mom. I read your Entertainment Weekly interview from back in 2000 and you said when you tried to show her “X-Cops” that she left the room to do the dishes saying, “Well, turn off Cops and show me some X-Files.” I feel the same way, Vince. The truth is, you did too good of a job. As a creative exercise, “X-Cops” is impressive. I mean, it’s amazingly accurate. And your dialogue, as always, had me chuckling despite myself. I have needs, though. Emotional needs. And what I need at this point in the series is a good old-fashioned X-File. “X-Cops” just isn’t fulfilling my needs right now.

It’s not a big deal. It’s just one of those things, one of those bumps in the road that every relationship has. We’ll move past it. I still love you! I still love The X-Files! Nothing’s going to change that. Nothing’s gonna spoil us.

I know it’s hard because up until now we’ve never had so much as an awkward moment. You know how I feel about “Unruhe” (4×2) and “Small Potatoes” (4×20) especially, not to mention “Paper Hearts” (4×8) and “Drive” (6×2). And then I could go on and on about your work as part of the John Gillnitz trio, but I wouldn’t want you to think I’m sucking up. I just want you to know that my love for your work has by no means diminished.

Besides… you don’t need me, Vince. You never have. Most people love this episode! Many a time I’ve read it lauded as the best episode of Season 7, so there you go. Never mind that my heart won’t accept it as an X-File. That’s a personal problem of mine.

One day soon we need to sit down over a cup of cocoa somewhere and catch up. I know you’ve been living your life and I’ve been living mine, but I miss you. I’ve been dying to tell you how haunting I thought the Breaking Bad finale was, how much I loved the way you used the song “El Paso”, and how I saw that little nod to The X-Files in the episode “Full Measure” and grinned like an idiot over it. And every time Breaking Bad comes up in conversation… and it does a lot…. I tell people, “Vince was a writer on The X-Files,” with all the pride my voice can handle.

I’m glad to know you’re out there and busy, giving lots of people the same geeky joy you give me.

And that’s why I say it’s not me, Vince. It’s you.

Yours devotedly,

Salome

Verdict:

If I’m going to be totally honest, and why not be? When the show first aired, it was right here at this episode that I remember thinking to myself, “I’m never going to love an episode the same way ever again, am I?” 

Yes. This was my personal “Jump the Shark” moment.

C+

Crack House Commentary:

This is the first of several episodes this season that smell suspiciously like fanfic, as if the cast and crew wanted to fulfill a few guilty pleasures before the show left the air.

On that note, part of me feels this whole exercise was just someone’s (cough!) excuse to fulfill the boyhood dream of riding along in a cop car all for the sake of “professional research.”

Okay, maybe it was an adulthood dream.

How could Steve and Edy really be sure it was Chantara? I feel like in that kind of neighborhood brightly colored fake nails wouldn’t be hard to come by.

I’m not superstitious, but I’ve found over the years that crazy really does come around when the moon is full.

Why are David and Gillian still gorgeous even on video?

That really cute moment when Scully hides behind the ambulance door.

That sketch artist came up with a drawing of Freddie Kruger in less than thirty seconds. I know. I counted.

Those scenes with Steve and Edy… I don’t think Mulder’s trying not to laugh I think David Duchovny’s trying not to laugh.

If you are going to do an X-Files/Cops crossover, an invisible MOTW is a wise choice. If a monster had actually shown up in the real world it would have been all over, for both the episode and the show.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Look, Mulder, you want to talk about werewolves to me you can knock yourself out. I may not agree with you but at least I’m not going to hold it against you. But this, Mulder, this could ruin your career.

Mulder: What career? Scully, I appreciate it. You don’t want me looking foolish. I do. I appreciate that.

Scully: I don’t want me looking foolish, Mulder.

——————-

Officer: My favorite part of the job – knocking down crack houses.

Dep. Wetzel: I heard that.

——————-

Dep. Wetzel: You really believe me, huh? You really believe I saw what I thought I saw?

Mulder: Yeah, I believe you.

Dep. Wetzel: Why?

Mulder: Why do I believe you?

Dep. Wetzel: Yeah. I mean, what proof do you have what I’m saying is real? I mean, it’s not… it’s not on the video tape.

Mulder: The camera doesn’t always tell the whole story.

Dep. Wetzel: And what about your partner? Does she believe me?

Mulder: I don’t think she thinks you’re lying.

Dep. Wetzel: Yeah, but what? Maybe I’m crazy? You know, I’ve been on the job 18 months– all I ever wanted to do. Right out of the gate, I get some kind of rep like I’m crazy? I mean, you know how cops are. How’s somebody supposed to live that down?

Mulder: I don’t know. Uh, I guess just do good work.

Dep. Wetzel: It’s a hard enough job already, you know?… And it’s hard to have a fast-track career in law enforcement when everybody thinks you’re nuts.

Mulder: Tell me about it.