Tag Archives: Cover-ups

EBE 1×16: Don’t stop swimming.


Exit. Stage Right.

I’m going to step out into precarious territory here and say that I think Fox Mulder is a naturally trusting fellow. Don’t believe me? Well, he certainly trusts Deep Throat without question. He lets Jerry and Phoebe back into his life in “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) and “Fire” (1×11) respectively. And most of all, in the “Pilot” (1×79), he’s skeptical of his skeptical partner and yet he reaches out to her anyway… in hope. What hope? Hope that he can trust her.

This is all a part of Mulder’s tendency to naturally give trust based on his instincts. And once he believes in a person he’s reluctant to throw that trust away unless given a significant reason to do so. He does that with Skinner in “Redux II” (5×2), Diana Fowley in multiple episodes. And here we see him live out the same pattern with Deep Throat. Has Deep Throat ever given him any hard reason to trust him? As Scully points out: not really. But since he hasn’t given any particular reason to distrust him either, Mulder is inclined to think the best of him.

The man is a sensitive soul at heart. There’s a reason he’s downright gullible sometimes. He wants to believe, not only in aliens and the paranormal, but in people too. Unfortunately, this idealism doesn’t serve him well and he grows progressively cynical and distrustful as time marches on. Still, even as of Season 6 he’s reluctant to suspect anyone he has a history or relationship with. That’s my theory and I’m stickin’ to it.

Regardless, as usual, Mulder’s gut instincts are right. Deep Throat is on his side. But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t mislead him for the sake of his own agenda. As Mulder eventually learns, the only one he can count on, the only one who doesn’t have their own agenda tied up in a musty closet somewhere, is Scully. It’s not that Scully is the only one he would trust, rather, as the mythology spreads out, she’s the only one he can trust. All other options and allegiances are taken from him. There’s food for thought. Chew on that cud.

Whatever the reason he trusts Scully, if we were ever unsure before now we know that Mulder truly does rely on her. He even switches from saying “me” to “us” by the end of the episode. How does he put it? Deep Throat “tried to deceive us.” They’re a team on this. Finally. Now Scully is in on the conspiracy for the first time whereas before she was clueless on the outskirts. I mentioned before that there is a moment in Beyond the Sea that could possibly be considered the moment when Mulder and Scully become Mulder and Scully. Well, this is the second contender.

Scully, on her part, finally admits that it’s Mulder’s passion she admires. And truthfully, their relationship follows the outline of this exchange for much of the rest of their partnership. Scully knows the world is out to get Mulder and she’s trying to keep the world at bay. Mulder wants to jump off the deep end and Scully desperately tries to rein him in for his own good. He wants to believe too much, she’s too reluctant to believe… world without end, amen.

One thing I never appreciated properly before when it comes to “EBE” is its subtlety. Take the interchange of the cup back sliding back and forth on the interrogation table between Scully and the truck driver. A lesser show would have put too much emphasis on it with close ups on the actors’ drawn out, exaggerated reactions and such. The X-Files just lets it sit there for you to notice it or not. Same thing when Scully receives the bugged pen. Never, ever had I caught that bit about the pen at the rent-a-car agency. Not only that, I didn’t even catch it during the re-watch for the review. I was enjoying myself so much that halfway through I rewound the episode to the beginning to savor it even more and that’s when I caught it. How sad is that? Feel free at this point to dismiss all the rest of my reviews as obviously my powers of observation encountered kryptonite somewhere along the way.

However, I don’t need any particular powers of observation for this next part. Not enough can be said about the introduction of the Lone Gunmen and the way it’s underplayed. Once again, there are no exaggerated, lingering close-ups. I could almost wish we had more time to watch the characters respond to one another, but in the end I prefer it this way. It’s funny to think that Morgan and Wong initially thought that they had somehow missed the mark in the depiction of these three amigos. Thankfully, nothing could be further from reality. They are a nerd’s joy and a geek’s delight. And so is this entire episode.

And the Verdict is…

I really, really enjoyed watching “EBE” this time around. Maybe it’s the beauty of hindsight, who knows? Being aware of what happens at the end of the series certainly makes the beginning more poignant, not to mention it makes me feel like a bit of a wise old owl superciliously dropping knowing nods in the characters’ directions. Whatever the more primitive psychological reason, the acting and directing here points to the extreme possibility of this turning into a dang good series. If there’s any disappointment in this episode it’s that it didn’t have time to develop both the characters’ relationships and the conspiracy. We really don’t learn much about the government conspiracy except that it exists. Oh, and that Scully seems to have started believing in it too, minus the part about aliens, of course. One can’t have it all.

We finally see the mythology start to blink its sleepy eyes. It’s not quite awake yet, but it’s peeking!

A

P.S. If that’s not enough, check out the obscene amount of quotable moments I felt compelled to tag onto the end of this review.

Little Nags:

Roswell being lumped in with the Tuskeegee experiments? Really, Mulder??

The spaceship parts are supposed to be making this truck heavy, right? After all, little green men don’t weigh 2 tons. That’s why we say they’re “little.” And if the truck is overloaded with spaceship pieces, how is Mulder shoving these boxes around like they’re full of Styrofoam popcorn? Moreover, if those are car part decoys, where are the alien gizmos?

When did Mulder learn where Scully lives? For that matter, how did he know where she lived during “Squeeze” (1×3)?? I can’t exactly see them hanging out with each other on the weekends at this point. Maybe he picked her up on the way to the airport before or something.

How did the grandmotherly covert agent fit the pen properly with the bugging device without knowing what pen Scully would use ahead of time? It hardly looks like the expensive type of pen that you’d keep your eye on.

General Observations:

Scully doesn’t use nearly enough creamer in her coffee.

Did Mulder and Scully spend their own personal money on those extra plane tickets? Talk about conviction for a cause.

After Mulder’s touching declaration of blind trust does Deep Throat feel guilty? We hope so.

Aliens abduct humans out of their beds yet they can’t abduct one of their own out of a truck before the government gets to him?

Did anyone else notice that at the beginning of their interview of the truck driver Mulder had his leg up on the table? He really has always been like that.

Mulder totally saw that $20 bill thing coming.

This is the second time that Mulder and Scully have been blinded eyewitnesses to an alien abduction. Of course, this is the first time an alien is the abductee…

Best Quotes:

Scully: From the trucker’s description, the shape he fired on could conceivably have been a mountain lion.
Mulder: Conceivably.
Scully: The National Weather Service last night reported atmospheric conditions in this area that were possibly conducive to lightning.
Mulder: Possibly.
Scully: It is feasible that the truck was struck by lightning, creating the electrical failure.
Mulder: It’s feasible.
Scully: And you know, there’s a marsh over there. The lights the driver saw may have been swamp gas.
Mulder: Swamp gas?
Scully: It’s a natural phenomenon in which phospine and methane rising from decaying organic matter ignite, creating globes of blue flame.
Mulder: Happens to me when I eat Dodger Dogs.

————-

Byers: Vladmir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Russian Social Democrats? He’s being put into power by the most heinous and evil force of the 20th century.
Mulder: Barney?

————-

Deep Throat: Mulder, if the shark stops swimming it will die. Don’t stop swimming.

————-

Langly: Is this your skeptical partner?
Frohike: She’s hot.
Byers: You don’t believe that the CIA, threatened by a loss of power and funding, because of the collapse of the cold war, wouldn’t dream of having the old enemy back?
Scully: I think you give the government too much credit. I mean, the government can’t control the deficit or manage crime. What makes you think they can plan and execute such an elaborate conspiracy?
Frohike: She is hot.
Mulder: Settle down, Frohike.

————

Scully: Those were the most paranoid people I have ever met. I don’t know how you could think that what they say is even remotely plausible.
Mulder: I think it’s remotely plausible that someone might think you’re hot.

————

Byers: That’s why we like you, Mulder. You’re ideas are weirder than ours.

————

Scully: Please, will you just hear me? I have never met anyone so passionate and dedicated to a belief as you. It’s so intense that sometimes it’s blinding. But there are others who are watching you, who know what I know, and where as I can respect and admire your passion, they will use it against you. Mulder, the truth is out there… but so are lies.

———–

Deep Throat: You’re awfully quiet, Mr. Mulder.
Mulder: I’m wondering which lie to believe.

Ghost in the Machine 1×6: I taught him everything he knows.


Believe the badge.

“Ghost in the Machine” is the granddaddy of government cover-up: Half-Caff X-Files. I say Half-Caff because they aren’t paranormal and neither are they, well, normal. These are the cases that explore the realm of science fiction rather than horror. They are not lesser than, by any means. Only they aren’t a part of the mytharc and they aren’t MOTW episodes either. Usually, these types of episodes focus on the dangers of technology, biotech or otherwise. In this case, it’s artificial intelligence.

Dear Reader, may I draw your attention to the glance Mulder gives Scully when Jerry mentions that they were former partners. He looks for the world as though Scully had met a past lover of his, as though she wouldn’t want to know there had ever been anyone before her. On her part, Scully drops her friendly smile. Mulder and Scully may not be romantic, or even overly attached at this point, but they are most definitely territorial. Mulder even tries to downplay his “previous relationship” by saying they merely “worked together.” You can’t hide your sordid past forever, Mulder.

Jerry’s entrance is where Mulder’s demonstrable loyalty to his friends, even when they don’t deserve it, becomes evident. He may not make attachments easily, but once he does he’s loath to let go. He shows these same feelings toward Diana Fowley multiple times and even toward Skinner in “Redux II” (5×2) when Scully has him pegged as a traitor. To an extent, this aspect of his personality is what allows Phoebe Green to take advantage of him again in “Fire” (1×11), though that time he walks into her web willingly. It’s akin to his fascination with outcast females, no doubt tied to the loss of Samantha. He’d rather not lose again.

There’s something nostalgic about the scene where Scully tries to get Mulder to seek help. The character dynamics here hold true pretty much to the end of the series, which is a feat. Scully argues the irrationality of Mulder’s premise, Mulder sticks to it anyway. Scully tries to get Mulder to take a reasonable course of action, Mulder ignores her and goes off without any real explanation. Good times.

Unlike “Shadows” (1×5) before it, at least we can say we now know more about our two favorite agents.

And the Verdict is…

This one is largely ignored by the fandom and generally panned, but without its precedent, we wouldn’t have had episodes like “F. Emasculata” (2×22), “Wetwired” (3×23), and the some kind of awesome “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18). We’ll call it a government cover-up and not a conspiracy so as not to confuse it with the series mythology, which it’s only tied to by a very loose shoestring. Little grey-green men aren’t so much as hinted at.

There is a lot more meat here than I remembered eating the first 4 or so times I watched it. I would now go so far as to say it’s underrated. True, the visuals and electronics are dated, that can’t be helped. Also, the “villain”, the AI is sadly lacking in personality. The series missed an opportunity to create a truly frightening sentient computer, an error they later rectified in “Kill Switch” (5×11).

But there are a few golden moments hiding in this episode. How about Scully kicking butt and taking names? What fun when she walks in all bruised and beaten up, ready to shoot. She, of course, does the improper thing and sides with Mulder over the government. Pull a gun on her partner, will you? We haven’t seen Scully like this since “Deep Throat” (1×1).

Speaking of Deep Throat, Deep Throat himself makes a welcome return, proving that if dangerous technology exists the government will try to buy it and hide it. After all, you can’t trust the government. You can only trust Mulder and Scully.

C

General Observations

Mulder and Scully had to pay $8.50 for that rinky-dink lunch? Psh.

Apparently, TPTB don’t bother reprimanding these two agents at this stage of the game. They escaped censure in Deep Throat and it appears that the Department of Defense won’t be taking revenge on them either.

Nagging Questions:

What are Phone Freaks, Data Travelers, and Techno Anarchists? The times, they have a-changed.

What’s with all the strips of paper in the air conditioning shaft? It looks more like a garbage disposal.

More importantly, Scully shooting bullets inside the shaft seems equally as suicidal as her throwing herself directly into the fan.

Best Quotes:

Scully: How come you two went your separate ways?
Mulder: I’m a pain in the a** to work with.
Scully: Seriously.
Mulder: I’m not a pain in the a**?

Deep Throat 1×1: You believe it all, don’t you?


It’s a bird, it’s a plane…

This is where the conspiracy really begins and the first in a long line of enigmatic informers side-steps his way into Mulder’s life. It’s also the first time that we see parts of the story unfold from Mulder’s POV rather than Scully’s.

In another sense, the series takes two steps back here. Scully plays the archetypal skeptic in this episode more so than she ever did in the “Pilot” (1×79), which is disappointing. She’s indignant at a “UFO goosechase” whereas previously she was intrigued, entertained even by Mulder’s ideas. Part of what made the Pilot interesting is that she started to molt her skeptic skin. In Deep Throat, she wears hard-headedness like a war medal. In case you can’t tell, I’m not a particular fan of this side of Scully. I like her better when she’s more interested in solving a mystery than in purely refuting Mulder. Even “El Mundo Gira” (4×11) gives her that much. The subtlety of her personality shines in those types of cases. This Scully bears a close resemblance to Mulder’s skewed version of her in “Bad Blood” (5×12). Too close a resemblance. She even stifles his benign overtures of friendship. “Agent” Mulder? Really??

While Scully smirks a lot in this episode, she comes off as less amused at Mulder and more amused at his expense. It’s inconsistent. From what we can tell both in the “Pilot” and in the next episode “Squeeze” (1×3), part of Scully’s value to/for Mulder is that she takes him seriously as an investigator even when she finds his ideas absurd. This is a more antagonistic Scully than we’ve seen previously, which, no doubt, is part of why Mulder ditches her eventually.

Thank heaven Scully isn’t completely humorless. There is that wonderfully exasperated way she closes her eyes in the town diner… And she more than redeems herself when she kidnaps the “reporter” at gunpoint: Scully Squared ™. She has the bravado to hold a government agent hostage. The same woman who argued about the government’s right to keep secrets now threatens to expose them all if she doesn’t get her partner back on demand. And to be fair to stick-in-the-mud Scully, Mulder jumping to conclusions on the basis of those mealy photos is laughable. He’s supposed to be an investigator. Her mockery of him is annoying, but earned.

Even if character development suffers a little bit, this episode is our true introduction to the government conspiracy plot. It was only hinted at in the “Pilot” by the presence of CSM. Along with Scully’s too standard portrayal, the reason this is being explored in the second episode is because there’s no guarantee that anyone saw the “Pilot”. The assumption is that this is the first glimpse of the show for most of the audience. Hence there isn’t a MOTW in sight. This is still about establishing the core premise of the show: two very different agents chasing down a government cover-up about the existence of extra-terrestrials, and one of them unwillingly. The mythology hasn’t quite raised its seven heads yet, but it’s stirring.

An interesting issue does come up that I could wish had been explored further. Just for a second at the motel we wonder, are Mulder and Scully on the right side? If Mulder is right and the government is hiding its advanced testing from the American people and, by extension, the rest of the world, isn’t it reasonable to think that they have a responsibility and a right to do so? After all, not keeping our full capabilities on the down low would be the height of foolishness as a nation.

And the Verdict is…

This isn’t one of my favorite episodes of the first season, but some aspects of it are much better on the re-watching. Since 3 of the first 4 episodes all revolve around an alien/government conspiracy, the beginning of Season 1 feels a little top heavy; a necessary evil since the writers have to establish what the show’s all about.

One thing that is nice is that we start to see the story unfold from Mulder’s POV and not just Scully’s. From the introduction of Deep Throat to his kidnapping, now we, the audience, know what Mulder knows… and can’t remember.

Another check mark in the plus column is, of course, the M/S banter. Scully does give him the old what for.

However, the story does Mulder’s character a bit of a disservice. His conspiracy theories are correct, but that’s sheer luck. Mulder doesn’t have any real evidence that would lead to the conclusion that this is anything more than a test flight program by the military. Why is it alien technology just because the pilots can’t handle it? Where’s the Mulder who finds evidence no one else bothers to look for, like in “Squeeze”? Those fake looking, Cracker Barrel photographs don’t count.

Scully doesn’t come off any better.

“Deep Throat” pits Mulder’s blind faith against Scully’s rigid science. But why do faith and science have to contradict? They’re not mutually exclusive; they’re linked. That may be a philosophical conversation for another time, but The X-Files works best when Mulder and Scully aren’t quite so glued into their respective corners.

B

Nagging Questions:

Why did the military let Mulder and Scully go? Why weren’t they both put under arrest? Surely they could’ve overpowered a 5’2” redhead with a mere government-issue gun.

General Observations:

If Scully says, “my field report” one more time…

This is the first Scully voiceover. I actually start to miss that device later in the series.

Scully is already wearing her cross. Though I’m not sure how much we’re supposed to read into that at this point, it does tie in with Scully not being as averse to faith and belief as she would appear to be on the surface.

Scully doesn’t know any better than to believe Mulder when he says he’s going to be a good boy. My, these are the early days.

How brave of Deep Throat to meet with Mulder right out in the open. Any half-decent sniper could’ve taken them both out. Didn’t Deep Throat see “Redux II” (5×3)? Oh, wait…

Best Quotes.

Scully: Sucker!

——————–

Mulder: Tell me I’m crazy.
Scully: Mulder, you’re crazy.