Tag Archives: CSM

En Ami 7×15: Here’s a story to warm the cockles of your heart.


Screenshot050

The devil went down to Virginia.

The title basically gives the crux of this episode away. Is C.G.B. Spender, aka Cigarette-Smoking Man, acting “en ami,” “as a friend?” Or is he, as ever, Scully’s enemy?

When “En Ami” first aired I remember liking it alright, but overall feeling a little disappointed. I’m happy to report that it improves upon rewatching, provided one keeps one’s expectations in check; this isn’t designed to be fright fest or a fast-paced adventure or even a true mythology episode. It’s really a quiet study in psychological intrigue. Somehow or other, CSM is able to wear down Scully’s mind to the point where she believes him. Him! A confirmed liar and the father of them.

In a welcome turn, Scully is the object of everyone’s attentions and affections this episode. Though the real stars of “En Ami” are Scully’s breasts.

I kid.

No, I don’t.

A few gratuitous shots of Scully’s cleavage aside, it feels good to watch her launch her own investigation for the first time in a long time. Well, I guess it’s not really an investigation. CSM sets Scully up from the beginning by orchestrating a series of events designed to trick her into showing up at a particular meeting place, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to get his hands on the cure to his disease.

He starts by curing Jason, a little boy diagnosed with cancer whose parents don’t believe in traditional medicine for religious reasons. Jason is visited one night by “angels” who implant a chip in his neck, triggering his immediate recovery. CSM draws Scully’s attention to this little miracle, knowing that because of the chip she’d had in her own neck and her battle against cancer after she had it removed, she wouldn’t be able to ignore the implications.

Once Scully is duly intrigued, CSM announces his presence, telling Scully that Jason isn’t the first and he doesn’t have to be the last. In what feels like a clear-cut case of the devil masquerading as God, CSM claims that he has the cure to cancer and he’ll give it to Scully and only to Scully. Enough of that Mulder. He doesn’t know what’s good for him.

The feeling is mutual as Mulder is done listening to CSM and warns Scully that she shouldn’t fall for his mind games either. Here’s where Scully gets really radical, not because she decides to go on a road trip with CSM, but because she lies to Mulder and thinks she can get away with it.

Now, I’m all for Scully ditching Mulder. Heaven knows he deserves it after the untold times he’s left her flapping in the wind of ignorance while he ran headlong into danger. But did Scully really think Mulder wouldn’t catch on immediately? Mulder, who as far back as “Paper Clip” (3×2) she had a psychic connection with. Notice she can’t look him in the face and lie, she has to do it over an answering machine.

No, it seems like a battle she knew she’s lose; she was merely buying time to get away with CSM. The benefit her foolishness affords us is a great scene in Scully’s hallway between Mulder and Scully’s building super. Also, there’s a fabulous moment when Skinner is on the phone with Scully and Mulder reaches for the phone, but she hangs up rather than talk to him. Burn.

But I’m getting off topic. Back to the plot.

Scully and CSM run off together and leave Mulder pacing the floor with worry. CSM introduces Scully to another one of his success stories, Marjorie Butters, a one hundred and eighteen year old woman who doesn’t look a day over seventy. How we went from the cure for cancer to the secret of eternal life, I don’t know. But for some reason, Scully the doctor is convinced, not by scientific proof, but by anecdotal evidence. Maybe she wants to believe.

Now that she does believe, and this is a jump in logic I’m never quite able to make, CSM also convinces her that there’s a contact they have to meet who holds the science that Scully needs to save the world. I thought CSM already had the cure? No? Well, I’m going to give the plot the benefit of the doubt and assume that CSM had access to the chips, but not the (alien) science behind the technology, and that’s what he promised Scully.

Anywho, after a very skeevy moment where Scully falls dead asleep in the car and CSM puts gloves on before staring at her… dangerously, they arrive at a quaint little hotel in the idyllic middle of nowhere. Did CSM drug her? Please, for the love of applesauce, somebody tell me changed her own clothes and put herself in bed. ‘Cause Scully and I are both a little freaked out right now.

It’s over a candlelit dinner when The Girls and Scully, their co-star, are told by CSM that this technology will not only cure cancer but it’s the cure to all that ills. No one comes out and uses the word “panacea,” but I suppose that would make the idea sound farfetched. And no one wants The X-Files to sound farfetched. Perhaps, though, this explains Marjorie Butters.

The more interesting thing is that CSM spills his guts. Well, okay. I’m overstating that. But he does reveal a secret longing for human love. Supposedly, near death’s door as he is, he wants to leave behind something good. He regrets choosing a life of bitter loneliness. Whether he says this out of genuine remorse, or whether this is part of his scheme to trick Scully, or whether he has unrealistic hopes of seducing Scully, you be the judge.

We do know he’s up to something, however, as Black-Haired Man from Fight the Future is back and secretly doing his dirty work. Scully also has a secret admirer who slips her a note in the restaurant, telling her to meet him at dawn. Actually, he calls it “first light,” but we all know that’s purely for flair.

Scully goes to meet him out on the lake and he turns out to be “Cobra,” a man wanted by the federal government and who was involved in some shadow project at the Department of Defense. As Mulder and the Lone Gunmen find out separately, “Cobra” has been emailing Scully for the past six months. He thought she was emailing him back. She wasn’t. Somebody, who probably looks a lot like CSM, hacked her computer, intercepted the emails and responded as Scully. That same somebody set up this meeting at the quaint little hotel in the idyllic middle of nowhere.

“Cobra” gives Scully a disk that supposedly contains the secret to utopia on it and drops some not so subtle hints about he and Scully creating their own private utopia. He’ll have to make due with that last glance at our fair heroine, alas, as Black-Haired Man promptly shoots him from his hidden position in the woods almost as soon as he hands over the disk. He takes aim at Scully too – after all, all they wanted was the disk and Scully was merely the lure to draw Cobra out – but the shot we hear ring out kills him instead. It looks like CSM has a soft spot for Scully after all. Whether he intended to save her from the beginning… I have my doubts. But it would appear that CSM’s more emotionally attached to his sworn enemies than his minions. Funny how relationships can develop like that.

Safe and sound, Scully hands the disk over to CSM who duly gives it back to her because, after all, the whole point was to get this information into Scully’s hands. Back in Mulder’s apartment, Scully looks hopefully up at Mulder who was ready to call out the National Guard over his missing partner. The expression on his face as he looks up and away from her is priceless. He says nothing with his mouth but his eyes say, “I can’t even talk to you right now.” All’s not forgiven yet.

Scully has incurred Mulder’s ire to no avail. There’s nothing on the disk. CSM switched them somehow, giving Scully a blank disk and keeping the disk with the information on it he needs to save his own life. That’s all this was ever about. The fake office building, the fake miracles, all of it. It was an elaborate rouse to save himself.

Why, then, does he toss the disk into the water? Could it be that not everything he told Scully was a lie? Maybe he doesn’t really want to live, not if he continues to live a meaningless and lonely life.

Verdict:

Whew! I know I don’t usually recap this much. But with so much intrigue, it seemed easier to combine my comments with the plot for the most part. This isn’t a traditional mythology episode, but there are almost as many twists and turns.

The ambiguity of it all is actually one of this episodes weak points, or strong points depending on how you look at it. Back in the day, The X-Files used to leave its audience hanging on the regular. This was our first and only offering of a script from William B. Davis (heavily edited by Frank Spotnitz) who, understandably, wanted to get inside CSM’s head a little bit. And, even more understandably, wanted some more screentime with Gillian Anderson. The thing is, CSM tells us things about himself, but it’s hard to decide which lie to believe. In the end, we’re not any closer to knowing who he is. Unless, of course, like me you think he truly is a lonely man with a soft spot for Scully and Mulder.

As I said before, it’s a quiet, thoughtful sort of episode without any fireworks or mayhem. But I like it because even if it doesn’t offer concrete insight, it gives me several good laughs and moments of tension.

Hee-Haws –

  • The Lone Gunmen in drag
  • “Do you know how many people have died in there?”
  • Mulder so ticked at Scully he can’t even look in her direction

Uh-Ohs –

  • Black-Haired Man masquerades as the Mailman
  • Did CSM just see Scully naked???

There’s a bit where CSM tries to psycho-analyze Scully that I could have done without. However, at least there’s some emotional continuity with “Never Again” (4×13). Not that CSM knows Scully as well as he thinks he does, not based on her eyebrow raise after he accuses her of living “a life alone.” Hmm…

Long story not so short, I think it’s good. The plot can be a little hard to follow, it’s hard to believe Scully would fall for CSM’s lies on so little evidence, and it’s a little tame, so I’m torn between grades. With the aftertaste of “First Person Shooter” (7×13) still in my mouth, I’m almost inclined to upgrade it in comparison. But I think I’ll have to go with a:

B+

Blank Disks:

Seriously though, I love Mulder’s wounded housewife routine. “Where were you? You should have called!”

You really can’t blame CSM for taking a shot. Gillian Anderson looks especially gorgeous this episode. I’m glad they gave her the chance to dress up at least once in the series.

Scully makes secret tape recordings for Mulder. Tapes. Remember those?

That scene where Scully’s asleep in the car with CSM and he reaches over to touch her reminds me, perversely, of “Pusher” (3×17).

This was director Rob Bowman’s final episode before leaving the show.

Scully’s motivations – Maybe she falls for it all so easily because CSM knew which buttons to push. He focused on her compassion as a doctor, her sense of justice as a law enforcement agent, her curiosity as a scientist, and her empathy as a cancer survivor. No wonder he went to her and not to Mulder.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I’ve just got to know whether it was Roma Downey or Della Reese.

————————

Scully: What the hell are you doing?

CSM: God’s work, what else?

————————

Apartment Manager: Tenant like having an FBI agent in the building. Gives them a sense of security.

Mulder: Do you know how many people have died in there?

Apartment Manager: Oh, we don’t really talk about that.

———————–

Mulder: Who the hell is Cobra? Scully would have told me about him.

Langly: Well, it looks like she’s gone to great lengths to keep this from you.

Mulder: I don’t believe that. She knows that I’d find her, no matter what. {Editor’s Note: He can back that up too, y’all.}

 

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Terma 4×10: They’re all honorable, these honorable men.


A White Russian.

Believe it or not, I have only just realized, on what must be at a minimum my 6th viewing of this episode, that Krycek is the one who ordered retired assassin Vassily Peskow on his mission in the first place under the name of Comrade Arntzen… Arntzen being the name Krycek gave when he infiltrated Mayhew’s militia back in North Dakota and set off the chain of events that would lead Mulder to him and eventually to Tunguska.

Is Krycek even Krycek? Is he the American-born son of Russian immigrants turned conspiracy double-crosser or is he a Russian-born Soviet plant named Arntzen who has been lying even to the Syndicate this whole time? My bet is that he’s a Russian who infiltrated the American branch of the conspiracy as a spy. It’s the explanation that best matches his nature.

It makes sense that the Russians would be antagonistic. For one thing, the Cold War isn’t so distant a memory from the point of view of the mid-1990’s. But also, it seems that the Russians, as far as we’ve seen, are the only major world power that’s not at least partially involved in the Syndicate’s machinations. “Anasazi” (2×25) is evidence that the Syndicate’s reach extends to at least all the WWII Axis powers that are clearly in on the game (though admittedly it wouldn’t have been tough to convert Nazis to their cause). The French are a little on the outs as we see in “Piper Maru” (3×15) when they’re scrambling for evidence and information, but there’s no indication of any antagonism. The Russian Bear is another story, however, and Krycek is the perfect face for their stereotyped image.

Getting some solid clues regarding Krycek’s backstory is tantalizing enough, but the real scene-stealers of the episode, in my humble opinion, are the darling duo of Well-Manicured Man and CSM. The barely contained antagonism between the two of them is priceless. And for once, CSM has a reason to gloat, an opportunity he relishes since usually he’s the one whose mistakes have to be cleaned up. They’re like foes that are forced to be friends.

Anyway, it would appear that some of the tension between them is caused because not only is Well-Manicured Man’s girlfriend killed, but the implication is that she was targeted because of her research for the Syndicate. She was testing a vaccine against the Black Oil on her convalescent patients. The problem is, the Syndicate wasn’t supposed to have access to the Black Oil, the samples were smuggled out of Russia as we saw back in “Tunguska” (4×9). The Russians, led it seems, by Krycek, decide to put a stop to American progress by wiping out not only those involved with arranging the experiments, but by killing the subjects also eliminating the American stores of Black Oil. This leaves Russia well ahead in the vaccine race.

The American experiments weren’t exactly speeding along anyway, since all they’d managed to do was to force the Black Oil to go dormant in their elderly test subjects. The Russians at least had a vaccine that would expel the Oil even if it didn’t yet protect against reinfection.

Maybe if our national test scores were better?

And the Verdict is…

Just on the sheer weight of its meaty revelations, I actually enjoy “Terma” more than “Tunguska”. Objectively, I’m not sure it’s really a better hour of television, but I certainly get more out of it, especially now that the storyline is finally beginning to make sense to me. Besides, who can resist Mulder sauntering into the Senate hearing to just the right dramatic beat? And who can forget that “tea bag dippin’ hand?”

“He wants you to know the Cold War isn’t over.”

A

P.S. As always, check out http://www.eatthecorn.com/eps/4X09_4X10.htm for some mythology clarification.

P.P.S. Updated to add this because I love it so: http://imadethischriscarter.blogspot.com/2011/09/x-files-4x10terma.html

Annoying Comments:

I love the idea of an older assassin… an assassin who shares his apples and takes the bus. He’s certainly charming enough.

The tagline for this episode, “E pur si muove”, means “And yet, it does move”, which is supposedly what Galileo said what the Inquisition forced him to recant his assertion that the Earth moves around the Sun. No doubt this is meant draw a parallel between our own little Galileo, Agent Mulder, and his, er, enthusiastic stance before the Senate committee. Too bad some of the irrefutable evidence he cited in his speech is now in question. Ah, Mulder. Even when he means well he slides so close to irritating sometimes.

Lingering Questions:

Why did the Syndicate put Senator Sorenson up to this investigation to find out Mulder’s whereabouts if they already knew where he was? I think we’re assume that it’s just to slow up Mulder and Scully’s investigation, but that doesn’t seem like a completely logical step.

Is the version of the Black Oil that we’ve seen in this two-episode arc supposed to be an even more basic form of alien life? The pre-evolutionary version of the more advanced Black Oil that we saw in “Piper Maru” and “Apocrypha” (3×16)? Perhaps this version ended up on earth accidentally via the meteor while the previous version was purposefully sent by the aliens. Or maybe the previous version wasn’t meant to be left on earth either but was a casualty of war… Color me Clueless.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I’m not going to die.
Prisoner: No? Why not?
Mulder: I have to live long enough to kill that man Krycek.

———————

Well-Manicured Man: [Smokes a cigarette]
Cigarette-Smoking Man: That’s a nasty habit. It’s bad for the health.
Well-Manicured Man: Health is the least of my concerns at the moment.
Cigarette-Smoking Man: Yes… [Lights a cigarette] According to reports your… personal Physician suffered a serious riding accident here on your property.
Well-Manicured Man: Dr. Charne-Sayre was murdered.
Cigarette-Smoking Man: By whom?
Well-Manicured Man: If I knew, do you think I’d be standing here talking to you?
Cigarette-Smoking Man: So… you need me now, a man of my capabilities, is that it?
Well-Manicured Man: This was a professional hit.
Cigarette-Smoking Man: Really? And you out here all alone, so vulnerable… Were you sleeping with her? Surely you wouldn’t be so foolish as to put the project at risk for the sake of your personal pleasures?

———————-

Scully: Several of the men on this committee are lawyers. It is my experience that lawyers ask the wrong question only when they don’t want the right answer.

———————-

Mulder: It’s good to put my arms around you… both of them.

Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man 4×7 – This isn’t the ending that I wrote.


You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

“No one would kill you, Frohike. You’re just a little puppy dog.”

Oh, if he only knew.

Mssrs. Morgan and Wong are back in a slightly different format this time. Rather than co-writing, Morgan authors the script while Wong sits in the director’s chair. In fact, for his directing debut Wong would go on to win the Emmy for Best Direction. That’s no mean feat.

As they would in all four of their offerings this season, Morgan and Wong try their best to think outside of the frame of a typical X-Files episode, in this case changing up both form and content. Besides giving us an almost Shakespearean play quite clearly delineated into four acts, there’s a fluctuating tone to the tale so that we’re never quite sure from one act to the next whether we’re watching a history or a parody, if this is CSM’s view of himself, Frohike’s view, or the view put forth by the seedy magazine Frohike nabbed the story from.

Even more significantly, this is the first episode where David Duchovny doesn’t make an onscreen appearance. He’s essentially limited to a book-ending set of voiceovers. Gillian Anderson narrowly misses this technicality by appearing in a single scene in flashback. At first watch, I remember missing Mulder and Scully. Over a decade later, I appreciate getting a more in depth look at such a fabulous character.

Certainly CSM deserves it by now.

Part I – An Extraordinary Man

Here’s where everything starts going Forest Gump on us. We always knew CSM was a significant man behind the scenes, but just how significant is he? Well, it turns out that he was the lone gunman that day on Dealey Plaza. Oh, and he didn’t always smoke cigarettes.

Actor Chris Owens makes his X-Files debut here. He would go on to play CSM again in flashback, as well as two other memorable characters, The Great Mutato and Jeffrey Spender. He plays the role with such seriousness that you can believe in this young CSM, that he wasn’t always evil, just pragmatic and ambitious, and that it was a downhill spiral from there.

Part II – A Jack Colquitt Adventure

And now we jump forward in time to CSM the would-be Civil Rights activist, AKA author Raul Bloodworth.

This CSM has successfully and speedily climbed his way up the middle management ladder of the netherworld. Young though he is, he’s powerful enough to chastise J. Edgar Hoover to his face. It seems that the F.B.I. has been under his control since long before Mulder and Scully came into play.

But what’s striking is how typically unfulfilling his day job is. He spends his nights typing pathetic manuscripts living off of beer, cigarettes, and unfulfilled dreams. And while his job description requires that he root out Communism in all its forms, he secretly sympathizes with liberal dreamers, thinking so highly of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that he honors him with a more… personal assassination.

At this point, I’m starting to believe we’re hearing less of Frohike’s news article while more of CSM’s sense of self-importance is creeping in.

Part III – Buffalo Wants it Bad

If we thought CSM was stuck in a crappy boardroom job before, now his position has rusted into the downright mundane. CSM has successfully defeated the Communists. But like every man who reaches the pinnacle of his profession and finds there’s nowhere else to go, he’s left weary and unfulfilled. He goes from killing presidents to rigging football games because, well, what else is there to do? Now it’s hard to see this as anything but a parody.

Getting to see Deep Throat again is a real treat. And their brief, opaque and slightly comical conversation is the highlight of the whole episode. It’s hard to put much stock in their talk, however, as some points don’t agree with the larger mythology arc. But since this is fantasy anyway, you can take and leave what you will.

Part IV – Pack of Morleys

And now, like any great hero, it’s time for CSM to have his heart broken.

I love that they work in that flashback to the “Pilot” (1×79), where CSM was more an enigmatic if ominous presence rather than the Darth Vader that he’s become. This way we can consider who he was and who he’s come to be.

He’s no longer an idealist. He’s not even a realist. He’s just a middle-aged man stuck in a shallow life whose memories of youthful dreams grow duller with every year.

I remember at the age of 14 how my best friend and I found that monologue hilarious. In fact, I had it memorized… and tacked up on my wall. That’s 14 for you. Always drawn to the innocent and uplifting.

Now it’s a bit tedious, and, dare I say it? It tries too hard. It’s amazing how our tastes change.

Conclusion:

Originally, the title was supposed to be “Memoirs of a Cigarette Smoking Man”, reflecting Morgan’s intention that this be a true account of CSM’s past. Chris Carter came in and added both ambiguity in the title and in the narration. Not only can we not be sure of the accuracy of CSM’s memories, we can’t even be sure the plot is being driven by CSM’s mind or by Frohike’s.

The seriousness of the story was supposed to be driven home by the killing of Frohike at the end of the episode, a plot point that 1013 Productions justifiably balked at. While I enjoy that Morgan and Wong weren’t afraid of thwarting the party line, the desire to kill off Frohike represents a serious misjudgment of the tone of the series. Sure, Chris Carter liked to claim that no one’s really safe on The X-Files. But then, he also likes to say that no one ever really dies on The X-Files either. Just like Deep Throat in this episode, ghosts return without warning.

Why? Because Deep Throat’s presence adds value to the series’ development at this point? No. Because the fans love him and nostalgia is a powerful force.

Even aside from emotional reasons, killing Frohike would have ill fit the tone of the episode, which lent itself to something just short of a parody. Taken as a whole, it makes CSM, as Chris Carter so appropriately put it, “sort of a silly person.” I’m not so sure he can be silly and frightening at the same time, despite the fact that Morgan’s goal was to make CSM a real threat again:

“I told Chris, ‘Look, the Cancer Man is becoming a bore. When you get to episode one hundred and he and Mulder have the guns to each other’s heads, I’m not going to worry, because the Cancer Man has never done anything. I’m telling you right now, you’ve got the Cancer Man as a wuss ball. He’s nothing. He’s got to do something dangerous.’”

Maybe they missed that CSM had both men exposed to the Black Oil’s radiation killed and his henchman, Luis Cardinal killed in “Apocrypha” (3×16). Or that he keeps trying with all sincerity to kill Krycek. Or that he just had X killed in “Herrenvolk” (4×1).

The truth is, whatever the pile of murders on his conscience, the audience will never seriously believe that he’ll kill either Mulder or Scully. We’d have no show if he did. It’s enough to show that he’s willing. Suddenly turning things deadly serious by killing Frohike would have lent credence to the whole tale, which would have made some obvious issues of cannon more of an issue.

Besides, Morgan and Wong created the Lone Gunmen. Why so eager to kill one of them off? (As an aside, it’s interesting how in television you can create something only to find that it’s no longer yours. Not only do they characters take off on their own based on an audience’s response and interpretation of them, but production companies and film studios end up having more of a say in their future than you do.)

The best thing about this episode is that it’s clever, in both form and content. Is it great? I can’t quite call it that because I still get bored at moments, but I appreciate what Morgan and Wong were trying to do here. Once again, they’re pushing the boundaries of the show. In that regard, it’s not as successful as “Home” (4×3) but it’s surely not as polarizing as “The Field Where I Died” (4×5)… thank goodness.

At times the story is a little bogged down by the nitty gritty of History. Because of this, it moves slowly. And there’s nothing paranormal to speak of save for a fleeting view of a dying alien. But looking back on the history of the show, it’s nice to have this change of pace, if only to prove that The X-Files could do it.

B+

Comments:

Whatever details Morgan and Wong may have missed, there’s a nice thread of continuity with Deep Throat. He mentions having served in Vietnam and in “Little Green Men” (2×1), Mulder claims to have seen his funeral at Arlington Cemetery. That explains that.

Even the acts are filmed in different colors. Saturated 1960’s hues for the Kennedy assassination, black and white for the second act, reflecting the majority of photos of the Civil Rights era.

Questions:

Who is CSM writing a letter of resignation to? How do you resign from The Syndicate? Do they have a payroll? And why is he purposefully leaving a paper trail??

Best Quotes:

William Mulder: My one year old just said his first word.
Smoking Man: What was the word?
William Mulder: JFK.
Smoking Man: Catch you later, Mulder.

———————–

Smoking Man: What I don’t want to see is the Bills winning the Super Bowl. As long as I’m alive that doesn’t happen.
Third Man In Black: Could be tough, sir. Buffalo wants it bad.

————————

Smoking Man: So did the Soviets in ‘80.
Third Man In Black: What? You saying you rigged the Olympic hockey game?
Smoking Man: What’s the matter? Don’t you believe in miracles?

————————

Deep Throat: I’m the liar, you’re the killer.
Smoking Man: Your lies have killed more men in a day than I have in a lifetime. I’ve never killed anybody.
Deep Throat: Maybe I’m not the liar.

————————

Smoking Man: Life is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable because all you get back is another box of chocolates. So you’re stuck with this undefinable whipped mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there’s nothing else left to eat. Sure, once in a while there’s a peanut butter cup or an english toffee but they’re gone too fast and taste is fleeting. So you end up with nothing but broken bits of hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts. If you’re desperate enough to eat those, all you got left is an empty box filled with useless brown paper wrappers.

————————

Smoking Man: I can kill you whenever I please… but not today.

Herrenvolk 4×1: Don’t unlock doors you’re not prepared to go through.


Eight hours after he left her in the wind...

This will be relatively quick and painless because I spent most of this episode trying to unravel the conspiracy more so than anything else. Consequently, I have more questions than answers.

Last we left off, the Bounty Hunter had cornered Mulder, Scully and Jeremiah Smith. Smith was secretly released by CSM in exchange for curing his cancer, but the Bounty Hunter is still out to exterminate him for revealing his powers by healing people in a public restaurant, therefore risking the project’s exposure.

After a successfully unsettling teaser, we pick up in media res with Mulder scrambling to save Jeremiah Smith and so save his mother, since he believes Jeremiah can heal her. Unfortunately for Mulder’s plans, Jeremiah is too busy to save one woman when he can save the world and he demands that Mulder comes with him so that he can first learn the truth. Why characters in movies and television never tell the truth but invariably insist that in must be seen resulting in the truth never actually coming to light, well, there will never be a reasonable explanation except that what would be the point of making people watch?

I mentioned back in “Talitha Cumi” (3×24) that maybe Chris Carter needed to give us a background primer on all the species and sub-species of alien and clone. Maybe we need a primer on viruses too. I’ll warn you that I’m unqualified to give such a lesson, but I’ll share what I (think I’ve) pieced together so far…

The virus that killed the electrical technician in the teaser was some particularly potent strain of Smallpox. It’s neither the “Purity Control” virus, which we were introduced to back in “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×25) or the still to be revealed Black Oil virus (right now the Black Oil is still an enigmatic alien form of sentience). Why the Syndicate is manufacturing Smallpox, I have no idea.

But we do know that up until Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1979, the Syndicate was using Smallpox vaccinations to catalogue and inventory the American public, the inference being that since this is a worldwide conspiracy, international conspirators were making similar arrangements in their home countries. This provides a confirmation of what we learned earlier in “Paper Clip” (3×2), but it still doesn’t tell us what they’re categorizing the public for. The why makes sense since the WHO’s efforts to eradicate the virus would have all but ensured that nearly every child born on the planet would be exposed to the vaccine giving them a built-in cover for the conspiracy.

And kudos to Chris Carter because it’s a nice touch to let Scully solve, at least in part, this aspect of the conspiracy without the help of Mulder. This is how Scully is able to shine this episode when, emotionally, the story is all Mulder’s. Speaking of which, I love that scene where Mulder lays his head on Scully’s shoulder as he mourns his soon to be dead (or so he thinks) mother. It’s so well played by both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. They don’t overdo it, but you can feel Mulder’s anguish and grief and Scully’s responding compassion. This is why I love these two. ❤

Verdict:

X had to go, I suppose, and at least he died in the throes of drama. There wasn’t much left that they could do with his character in terms of developing the mythology plot, though I still feel a twinge of regret that we’re left with so little insight into his motivations. He comes back from the dead in a flashback episode, “The Unusual Suspects” (5×1), couldn’t he have come back again to reveal the origins of his relationship with Deep Throat? Even a few seconds of it?

I’ll miss you, X. I was never much the fan of your successor.

A

Random Musings:

I remember being worried that the writers were about to start something with Mulder and Marita Covarrubias, which would have turned my show into a soap opera. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Though it eventually did turn into a soap opera.

Now, where else have I seen a car crash into a telephone booth… ah yes, The Matrix.

This episode features one of the most aggravating “Mulder Ditches Scully” moments of the series. Where is that man’s sense of timing? “I need you to know that I’m okay, Scully. I’m fine.” Yeah… No one asked how you were doing.

I’m not so sure I buy CSM’s “We can’t turn Mulder’s quest into a crusade” excuse. I’m not so sure why the Bounty Hunter does.

Mulder tells Scully she can’t use her gun on the Bounty Hunter. So what does she do? She immediately pulls her gun on the Bounty Hunter.

Jeremiah Smith doesn’t talk like a human being, he talks like a writer.

I’m hungry.

Random Questions:

Why didn’t Mulder and Smith stop to get gas on the way to the farm when they knew they were headed to the middle of nowhere and might run out?? What’s more, Smith already knew about the bees and that they could kill Mulder. He wouldn’t have poured a tank of gas over his head ahead of time just in case? Those bees were flying around long before the Bounty Hunter started chasing them.

Why give all the Jeremiah Smiths the same name? Isn’t that a tip off?

How did CSM get away with releasing Jeremiah Smith last episode?

The Bounty Hunter can heal so quickly from even mortal wounds, why then is he still covered in bee sting scars at the end of the episode? I suppose this is so we know he’s not just another Jeremiah Smith in disguise?

Best Quotes:

Jeremiah Smith: You have to understand something. I must perish. Whatever the consequences to that end they are incalculable to the preservation of the larger plan.
Mulder: The larger plan? You mean colonization.
Jeremiah Smith: Hegemony, Mr. Mulder. A new origin of the species.
Mulder: I don’t understand.
Jeremiah Smith: I can show you.

———————

Scully: What I’m saying is that I think this protein is a tag. Some kind of genetic marker that was applied to me when I was inoculated against Smallpox as a child.
Senior FBI Agent: Why you?
Scully: Not just me, all of us. Quite possibly anybody who’s been inoculated over the last 50 years.
Second FBI Agent: Agent Scully, frankly, this sounds like something we might have expected from Agent Mulder.

———————

Bounty Hunter: Everything dies.

———————

Marita Covarrubias: Not everything dies, Mr. Mulder.

———————

Scully: Nothing happens in contradiction to nature, only in contradiction to what we know of it. So that’s a place to start. That’s where the hope is.

———————

CSM: You see, the most ferocious enemy is the one who has nothing left to lose. And you know how important Agent Mulder is to the equation.

Wetwired 3×23: You’re the only one I trust.


Mulder for a day.

I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t we already see this episode and didn’t they call it “Blood” (2×3)?

Admittedly, the two episodes are similar in premise. Both are “Half-Caff”, pseudo mythology type episodes (Which, by the way, we haven’t had all Season 3. Believe it or not, there hasn’t been one since “Soft Light” (2×23) and I’ve missed sensing CSM’s shenanigans behind these technology and science driven conspiracies). Both involve technology based mind-control experiments secretly carried on by the U.S. government.

Or do they? In “Blood” the trigger was actually a pesticide, the result was that people saw messages in all sorts of mechanical devices that drove them to violence. “Wetwired” addresses the T.V./Violence correlation specifically and doesn’t bother dragging other modes of communication into the picture. By now I’m sure you can smell the irony; a television show prone to violent images is pondering whether images on television can lead to violence in real life. Talk about self-conscious.

But when you consider the source, the subject makes sense. This episode is written by Visual Effects Supervisor Mat Beck who presided over the show’s first 5 seasons as well as both movies. Is it any wonder he’s interested in the effect of the image on the American public? But most importantly, why didn’t he write more??

Believe it or not, I actually enjoy “Wetwired” more than all the world-class mythology episodes this season. (Shock!) There’s something meaty about it. We have the Lone Gunmen, X, CSM, mind control, a paranoid Scully, and some great emotional beats on the M&S front to boot. It’s so chock full of X-Files goodies that I find myself wondering why Chris Carter didn’t add Mat Beck to the writing staff.

But enough about background and concept and on to the episode itself. You would expect that if anyone on The X-Files would go psycho it would be Mulder. And in fact he’s done it before and under similar circumstances when CSM’s forces drugged him nearly into paranoid oblivion in “Anasazi” (2×25). Mulder also trashed his apartment looking for bugs in “E.B.E.” (1×16) the way Scully does here, but she does it with more flair, don’t you think? Mulder’s always so close to the edge of insanity as it is that it’s more fun to watch cool, calm and collected Scully lose her mind for a bit. It’s more satisfying. In particular, there’s a great moment when Gillian Anderson leans into the camera, wide-eyed and chomping on ice. Classic.

That’s all fun and games but the real meat is what Scully’s paranoid about. It makes sense that Scully’s deepest fear would be Mulder’s betrayal. She’s devoted her life to this man. She’s made her quest her own and has suffered in the process. It’s not like she’s the one looking for a “white whale.” She’s still here, working on the X-Files, because she believes in Mulder, not because she believes in little green men. What a nightmare it would become if she suddenly found it was all a lie. Mulder didn’t trust her. He didn’t depend on her. In fact, he was out to get her. It’s like that moment in “End Game” (2×17) when the Bounty Hunter morphs into Mulder and attacks Scully. It’s horrible because it shouldn’t be. Mulder should be the last person, save Maggie Scully, who would ever hurt her… er, purposefully anyway.

Verdict:

This is definitely one of my favorite episodes of Season 3. It might not be as inventive as some, but it has all the necessary ingredients of a good X-File and is always, always fun to watch.

Both Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny turn in some great emotional performances on this one. And it’s nice to have the mutual importance of Mulder and Scully’s relationship confirmed at the close of a season that features a lot of loss and tension in the partnership. The Shipper in me is satisfied.

But I especially love how it ends, with that short but memorable scene between X and CSM. Now we know that X is one of CSM’s hired guns and it’s him X has been undermining in order to feed Mulder information. How long can the apprentice work against his master without being found out? When X looks into CSM’s cold, dead eyes and lies I still get an ominous chill.

A

Questions:

Even after the Lone Gunmen’s short and pithy explanation of the magic of television, we still never learn exactly how CSM & Co. are creating paranoia in the viewing public, just that something must be being transmitted through the signal. And for that matter, how far did this experiment reach? And for how long? They wouldn’t have stopped at a handful of murders.

Surely this episode calls for a follow-up with some exploration of X’s background. So what happened to it? Mulder confronts him on being too much of a coward to fight the power himself, CSM glares at him with thinly veiled suspicion… His character is just begging to be revealed at least a little.

Comments:

He’s red-green colorblind. Finally, an explanation is given for the atrocity of Mulder’s ties.

Did I mention the teaser is awesome? ‘Cause the teaser is awesome.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: It’s just you, me and the drug dealers.
Plain-Clothed Man: Well, this area’s always been known for its criminal element.
Mulder: Especially when Congress is in session.

———————

Mulder: I just watched 36 hours of Bernard Shaw and Bobbi Battista. I’m about ready to kill somebody too.

———————

Mulder: All I know is television does not make a previously sane man go out and kill five people thinking they’re all the same guy. Not even ‘Must See TV’ could do that to you.

———————

Mulder: What do you think, Scully?
Scully: I think television plays a large part in both of these murderers lives.
Mulder: As it does in almost every American home. But television does not equal violence. I don’t care what anybody says. Unless you consider bad taste an act of violence.

———————-

Scully: I was so sure, Mulder. I saw things and I heard things, and… it was just like world was turned upside down. Everybody was out to get me.
Mulder: Now you know how I feel most of the time.

———————-

Smoking Man: Have you completed your work?
Mr X: All the personnel and hardware has been removed. But Mulder still has one of the devices.
Smoking Man: That proves nothing. What about Mulder’s source?
Mr X: He’s been eliminated.
Smoking Man: And his source? Who’s he working with?
Mr X: That person remains unknown.

Avatar 3×21: I’m not signing those papers.


Little Red Riding Hood.

“Avatar” is one of those few episodes where we open with one of our stars instead of just an X-File itself. A rare honor indeed and here it is bestowed upon Skinner so relatively early in the series. He also bears the dubitable honor of participating in the first real sex scene on The X-Files in said intro. Needless to say, things quickly go awry and he wakes up next to a beautiful blonde who looks like she just crawled out of The Exorcist.

Ah, Skinner. Finally a follow up look at his inner workings heretofore only briefly hinted at in “One Breath” (2×8). Here’s a silent yet sensitive man who is reluctant to give up on his marriage, so instead of signing his divorce papers he goes for a drink… and sleeps with a strange woman… because he’s reluctant to give up on his marriage.

Wait. Skinner’s married?

That’s right. Walter Skinner has been married for 17 years. It looks like the reason he has Scully down as his emergency contact in “Apocrypha” (3×16) is because he and his wife have been separated for some months. Skinner/Scully shippers may suffer vain imaginations at their own peril. From the sound of things the only reason for the separation is the typical “he doesn’t talk to me anymore” issue. The prostitute doesn’t come in until later…

…the prostitute that CSM hired through one of his minions. It’s nice to see that the bad blood between CSM and Skinner is still festering; it adds a sense of continuity to the episode. That and the fact that Skinner further elaborates on the story of his near-death death experience that he first told Mulder about in “One Breath”. It turns out that along with nearly walking into the white light, he had a bit of a visitation. Which leads me to the crux of this little review.

I used to wonder why this episode is called “Avatar” which in Hindu mythology is a human incarnation of a deity when the paranormal star of the episode is a “Succubus.” Thanks to a single sentence of insight in an IMDB review I think I finally figured out the connection.

The old woman that Skinner keeps seeing is not a sexually possessive and dangerous succubus as Mulder initially suggests, she’s his wife, Sharon… who is actually an avatar. She’s his protector. She protected him from death in Vietnam, now she’s protecting him from the machinations of CSM. It’s the same creature, but for years she either was or took the form of his wife. Once his wife was separated from him, she came to him in dreams. It isn’t until they separate that she begins coming to him in dreams again. When he sees the old woman at the police station, it’s because Sharon has shown up. When he wakes up on the couch to see the old woman screaming, the police come to the door to tell him that Sharon’s been in an accident. This is why Sharon somehow knows what CSM has been up to and what Skinner needs to do to stop the man who framed him.

See how simple that sounds when it’s all laid out? Yeah, it’s too bad the episode doesn’t do that.

Now, we all know that The X-Files likes to err on the side of vagueness and that’s what we love about it. But take it from “Gender Bender” (1×13), leaving the audience completely nonplussed is never the way to go. The plot goes well right up through where Mulder’s succubus theory enters the picture, but there’s no follow-through after that. Which is why most are generally left with the incorrect impression that Mulder was right in his assumption even though he briefly mentions in passing that he must have guessed wrong.

And finally…

The lingering question is what happened to Sharon Skinner? I would say that she died. Whether or not they intended to imply that at the time, I don’t know. But nothing else could explain why she never shows up again even though Skinner puts his ring back on at the end of the episode. Besides, would you divorce your guardian angel? Not only that, but even within the context of the episode her sudden, miraculous awakening goes unnoticed by the hospital staff who would have been monitoring her from the nursing station. More than likely this is a moment only visible to Skinner because she’s his personal avatar. There’s a deleted scene that takes place just before Skinner spills his guts to an unconscious Sharon that would lend credence to the theory that she was all set to recover. But if so, where did she go? Her disappearance equals a de facto death regardless.

Overall, this episode is much, much better than I remembered. However, it’s still too convoluted to be called “great” and there isn’t much by way of scares or revelations. Also, as we’ve already gone over, little to nothing of the plot is clear by the end.

Mitch Pileggi does an admirable job here, though, and he deserved a Skinner-centered episode. Apparently, this was David Duchovny’s idea as a way of giving himself a break for a week, though it turns out his character is still in almost every scene. He and Howard Gordon teamed up for the story and while I don’t hate the finished product, I do wish that Skinner felt like more of a headliner and less of a bystander in his own story. Most of the episode is spent watching Mulder and Scully solve the case while he sits idly by and watches his world unravel. But hey, at least he’s the hero in the end.

B-

Comments:

This is yet another episode where Mulder’s theory is completely off. She’s not a succubus, she’s an avatar. So there. There are so few of these moments that I have to keep track.

Once again, despite all evidence to the contrary, once Mulder has faith in someone he refuses to let go. The man is inherently trusting. I’m telling you.

Like “Oubliette” (3×8), this is another episode where the supernatural element isn’t evil. In fact, this time it’s a force for good, albeit a slightly frightening one.

Best Quotes:

Lorraine Kelleher: I don’t know what to say.
Scully: Well you can start by telling us if she was working last night and if she was, who paid for her company.
Lorraine Kelleher: I’m afraid I can’t do that.
Mulder: I guess that would hurt future book sales, huh?
Lorraine Kelleher: You’d be surprised who some of my clients are.
Mulder: No, I don’t think I would be.
Scully: I also doubt that they’d want to get entangled in a homicide investigation
Mulder: Look, we just need one name from you. Who hired Carina Sayles?
Lorraine Kelleher: Let’s just say you both work for the government… and so do I.

———————

Skinner: I got through that experience like most eighteen-year-olds. By numbing myself with whatever was around. I was no choir boy. I inhaled.

———————

Mulder: They used us to do it, didn’t they? They used the X-Files.
Scully: How’s you know?
Mulder: Cause I think Skinner’s been outmaneuvered, Scully. They found a weakness and they’re exploiting it.
Scully: But why?
Mulder: To keep us it check. You remove Skinner and you weaken us.

———————-

Skinner: I had to tell you, Sharon, before anything else happens. I’m not signing those papers. For a lot of reasons. Most of them I’m just realizing myself for the first time. Some of the things I’ve seen, the violence and the lies that I’ve witnessed men inflict on one another… I could never tell you that. Not that I ever stopped believing in the work, but there were contradictions that I, that I couldn’t reconcile, which meant shutting down part of myself just to do my job. I never told you what I should have told you… that what really got me through each day was knowing that I’d be sleeping next to you that night. Knowing that I had a reason to wake up in the morning. I’m not sure if you can even hear me now or if it even makes a difference to you anymore, but I at least wanted you to know that.

Apocrypha 3×16: Is anybody not looking for Krycek?


Those things'll kill you.

I warn you, this will be short. Mainly because though I’ve racked my brain, this isn’t an episode where a lot is revealed or explored. Oh, it’s a fun ride and there are some memorable and iconic moments but there isn’t too much to dig into analysis wise. But without further ado, I’ll give it a shot.

We open with a great black and white teaser. Finally, there are more than just hints about Bill Mulder’s involvement in the conspiracy. We get to glimpse the reluctant conspirator in action. The trust that the poor dying crewman so desperately gives to Bill Mulder is chill inducing. Little does he know that he’s giving his secrets away to an organization far more sinister than the Navy could ever be. Though, really, Young CSM’s face should have given it away. And just who is the third “Man in Black” tagging along with Bill Mulder and CSM? A young Deep Throat, maybe? Another question that’s never answered.

But on to the present day plot, CSM has figured out that Krycek is back in the country and sends his goons to kill a man who’s supposed to already be dead and recover a disk that was supposedly already destroyed. All the while he’s trying to keep his fellow Syndicate members in the dark. This results in a great scene where the Syndicate show some obvious signs of cracks in their armor. CSM gets chastised like an errant child; He’s their errand boy, the flashy muscle a la John Gotti. Well-Manicured Man meets Mulder to gather information and finds out that CSM has been lying. Krycek’s alive and so is the disk. Busted.

In the Syndicate, we have a group of powerful old men who each have a slightly different personal agenda that they’re trying to keep under wraps. Even though they’re ostensibly working together, the elephant in the room is that they can’t really trust each other. It’s a thread just begging to be pulled until the whole mess unravels.

There’s only one glaring hole that gets to me: Why didn’t Hosteen just tell Mulder what was on the tape way back in “Paper Clip” (3×2)?? He memorized the whole thing, did he not? All Mulder has to do is pick up the phone.

Verdict:

I’m starting to realize how little of the mythology I ever understood. I watched it for the effect, not the plot. But now that I’m paying attention the machinations of the Syndicate and their political wars within things are starting to make sense and I’m glad there was a leftover element of The X-Files that I had never fully enjoyed.

Does much actually happen in this episode? Not at all. But it’s like a chessboard where the pieces are slowly moving into position, turn by turn. Krycek is back in the U.S. and presumably buried alive. The Black Oil has made it back to its ship. Mulder again thinks he knows something he has no real proof of. Scully meets her sister’s killer only to have him slip through the fingers of justice. And, my personal joy, Well-Manicured Man is onto CSM’s shenanigans.

Yep. Pieces keep moving. But will there ever actually be a checkmate?

I only wish that Syndicate thread would get pulled a little harder.

A-

Unnecessary Questions:

After the black oil gets back to its ship, then what? Did it fly it out of the silo and we’re just not shown it?

More importantly, how does Krycek ever get out?

Unnecessary Comments:

CSM’s a lot like Mulder. His sits alone in his apartment watching old movies.

Interesting to note that in the early stages of its mythology the Black Oil used actual oil to transmit itself. I’m not sure if that always held true. So I’ll just have to watch carefully.

This is an episode that makes Skinner/Scully Shippers everywhere swoon.

Best Quotes:

Sick Crewman: That thing is still down there. The Navy’ll deny it. But you’ve got to make sure the truth gets out. I can trust you to do that, can’t I, Mr. Mulder?
Young Smoking Man: You can trust all of us.

——————–

CSM: Have the bodies destroyed.
Navy Doctor: But sir, these men aren’t dead yet!
CSM: Isn’t that the prognosis?

——————–

Frohike: Nothing to it.
Byers: You should call upon our services more often.
Langly: We show talent for these G-man activities.
Mulder: You mean if I want somebody whacked on the knee with a lead pipe?
Frohike: Only if you want the job done right.

——————–

Scully: I think the dead are speaking to us, Mulder. Demanding Justice. Maybe that man was right. Maybe we bury the dead alive.