Tag Archives: Field Trip

Patience 8×4: Well, that’s a good place to start.


 

 

Patience04

Nananananananana, Batman!

It was a dark and stormy night. Into the somber old house the undertaker walked, slowly, the floorboards bending beneath his feet, his lanky shadow indistinguishable in the gloom.

I bet you thought George the creepy undertaker was who you needed to be afraid of, huh?

There are a lot of well-founded complaints about the trajectory the mythology takes in Seasons 8 and 9. But if the mythology falls down, the stand-alone episodes start to step it back up.

“Patience” is appropriately named. I’ve been very patient waiting for The X-Files to get back to its spooky roots. I suspect writer and director Chris Carter was waiting for this moment too, because he gives Scully and Doggett an old-fashioned X-File for their first real case together.

This is where I should probably warn you that I like John Doggett.

I’ve been putting off discussing Doggett until he began to be fleshed out as something more than a punching bag for the collective hate of the Philes. Doggett has taken Mulder’s place, if not in all of our affections, undeniably as Scully’s partner. Scully seems as reluctant to accept him as we are, because accepting his presence means also accepting that Mulder is gone. Also, Doggett standing in Mulder’s place makes it impossible to not compare him to Mulder and find him wanting. And how does he compare?

Doggett’s a guy who worked his way up the ladder of respect the old-fashioned way, policing the streets and making a name for himself by being dogged (pun intended), smart, and capable. He’s blue collar to Mulder’s white collar, New England, Oxford educated world. Mulder’s cerebral while Doggett’s practical. Mulder is driven by passion, Doggett by duty. Mulder’s an angsty Batman to Doggett’s non-introspective Superman. He don’t need no stinkin’ psychology.

Doggett has a job to do and he does it. He reminds me of a man from the Greatest Generation, full of a sense of responsibility and honor and integrity for integrity’s sake. If he’s been assigned to the X-Files, then he’s going to read through every one of them. If he’s been assigned to Scully, then he has her back whether or not she wants him to, because he’s her partner and that’s what partners do. How she, or even he, feels about it is irrelevant. This is not the type of guy to sit and dwell on his feelings period.

What eventually wins Scully over to Doggett is the same thing that first won Mulder over to Scully: he’s a skeptic with integrity, willing to take a hard look at the facts however strange they may be, willing to do what it takes to get to the truth.

Now, Scully’s going through some changes. So we don’t expect her to warm up to Doggett too soon, try as he might to prove he’s taking his work on the X-Files seriously. The problem is, he takes a step forward and then trips all over himself. Taking the weekend to go over every single X-File is good. Talking mano-a-mano to a chauvinistic local detective in such a way that Scully can’t hear you even though you’re standing right in front of her is bad. Very bad.

I realize that Carter is setting up this antagonism between the characters both to give vent to his audience’s anger and, conversely, in order to use it to create a stronger bond between them eventually. But I think the plot of “Patience” starts to suffer at the expense of showing Scully and Doggett at odds.

For one thing, Scully’s a little too deep into this “I am Fox Mulder” kick. Scully is and should be more open than she used to be. But her imitations of Mulder’s logic leaps feel forced. Those nonsensical words don’t fall out of her mouth naturally. Not only that, but Mulder’s theories are usually based on his encyclopedic knowledge of previous cases and occurrences. Scully had no mental reference for a Bat-Man, yet the first idea she comes up with when she sees a strange footprint is some kind of were-animal.

Even more importantly to me, the link between the Bat-Man that was killed in 1956 and the Bat-Man that’s killing now is left too vague. For years, I thought the Bat-Man that killed then was the same Bat-Man killing now, that it somehow wasn’t dead and was taking revenge on its enemies. A more logical inference is that the Bat-Man killed in 1956 was a companion to the Bat-Man behind the current killings, and these killings are revenge on the man responsible for the death of its friend.

I like the Bat-Man. I want to know about the Bat-Man. Or is it Man-Bat?

What starts off as a promisingly creepy Monster of the Week episode ends up with the monster uncomfortably sandwiched between Scully’s initial declaration that this is Mulder’s office and she and Doggett are just living in it, to her total turnaround at the end of the episode when she quietly stuffs Mulder’s nameplate into a drawer. Chris Carter was never one for subtlety.

Verdict:

This was a good idea for an episode and it could have played out better if it weren’t bogged down by the necessary growing pains of Scully and Doggett’s relationship. Had this been an X-File in Season 7 when there weren’t any emotional distractions, I think it could have been more successful.

As it is, I still like it. Even with its flaws I actually find it enjoyable. And this is The X-Files; I’m used to not getting all the answers.

B+

Impatience:

Okay, the Bat-Man tracks his enemy by scent. Everyone that’s killed was killed because they bore the scent of Ernie Stefaniuk. Since the Bat-Man appears to plot like a human, wouldn’t it make more human sense to leave those in contact with Ernie alive so as to be able to trace him through them? That’s what he does with Myron, Ernie’s brother.

Why doesn’t the monster kill Doggett?

How did Scully’s massive bruises from “Without” (8×2) heal so fast?

Scully runs the opening slideshow. Cool. She should go ahead and dye her hair brown and cut it like Elvis. What I find interesting is that including this episode, the last four times we’ve seen a slideshow, it’s been used to create distance between partners. “all things” (7×17) – “Field Trip” (6×21) – “Bad Blood” (5×12)

This marks the first time David Duchovny’s ever been left out of the credits. Sadface.

Best Quotes:

Doggett: [Pulls out a flashlight] You ever carry one of these?

Scully: Never {Editor’s Note: I see you, Chris Carter}

 

all things 7×17: That’s like saying you’re having David Crosby’s baby.


cap415

Ok. Fine. I do melt.

Gillian Anderson spoke to me today.

Well, she tweeted me a thirteen word sentence but that counts and I’m counting it.

And she spoke to me while I was in the middle of my upteenth rewatch of “all things” in order to prep my final draft of this review. Destiny? Clearly.

In the interest of full disclosure, I used to hate this episode. I’m talking not just dislike, loathing. The shippy moments barely assuaged me. This was exactly what I was afraid of back when David Duchovny first stepped behind the pen and camera for “The Unnatural” (6×20), that the actor’s point of view, or maybe more accurately, my awareness of the actor’s point of view, would irritate me and get in the way of my viewing pleasure. With still palpable relief, I can say I ended up enjoying that one. So by the time “all things” came along I was much more open. Sadly, I spent the entire episode thinking, “Why is Gillian Anderson blocking my view of Scully? ‘Cause I’m hearing a whole lot of Gillian right now.”

It wasn’t until one day a few years back, as I was rewatching “all things” with the DVD commentary on, that I realized I actually like what Gillian Anderson was trying to achieve. But while there’s a lot to appreciate here, there are also things standing in the way of some good ideas turning into a great episode.

Let’s take the good ideas first. Scully is meant to come to the understanding that she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be. A series of choices, and destiny disguised as a woman in a khaki cap and jacket, have led her on this path. There’s no going back to who you used to be because you’ve grown now. And besides, our emotions and attachments can sometimes make us see good in situations and relationships that really weren’t good for us at all. So don’t waste too much time looking back and wondering. I get it. I’m with you, girl.

Scully slowly comes to this realization after accidentally/not-so-accidentally coming back into contact with her old mentor, professor, and lover (?), Dr. Daniel Waterston. I’ll admit Scully’s relationship with Waterston, as we got to see it, always bothered me. Apparently, though, as written, Scully never slept with Waterston. What they had was a close relationship that was quickly turning into an emotional affair. Scully leaves him and medicine behind in order to resist the temptation of an affair and leave Waterston’s family in peace. Now, that sounds more like the romantic heroine I know. I realize that people have faults, they sin, they make mistakes and they grow. It’s still hard to picture Scully, even the young and relatively inexperienced Scully as we knew her in Season 1, knowingly being party to an affair. If anything, she used to be even less of a “shades of gray” sort of thinker. Regardless, the nuances of Scully and Waterston’s relationship had to be left out because of time constraints.

Maggie Waterston: Do you have any idea the hell you created in our lives?

Scully: Maggie, to be honest, I left so that there wouldn’t be hell in your lives.

One thing that wasn’t left out but I wish had been was the tease in the opening teaser.

No, I won’t be accepting death threats. Thank you for your cooperation.

The truth is, the implication that Scully had spent the night romantically with Mulder wasn’t Gillian’s idea. 1013 Productions had been planning to slip a nugget like this in around this point in the season and it got worked into “all things”. It was meant to serve as confirmation that Mulder and Scully were already in a romantic relationship, which explains the shameless flirting that’s been going on all season. If you thought Mulder and Scully seemed a little too happy lately, now you know why. In fact, keeping in mind their happy-go-lucky attitudes lately, Scully suddenly slipping into “What is my life?” mode feels incongruous within the context of the season, no?

But there I go losing sight of my topic again. As I said, the teaser is a bit of a problem only because it distracts from the rest of the episode. Even today, it’s a distraction. The audience spends the rest of the episode trying to figure out whether Scully’s roamings through the spirit world tell us whether or not she’s sleeping with Mulder. I realize after waiting so long for the two leads to come together a casual confirmation might not have been possible, but that’s my take on it.

The toughest hurdle for me is Scully’s lightspeed transition from a Catholic to a New Age Spiritualist. Again, maybe this is one of those things that would have gone down a little (and only a little) more smoothly if Gillian could have kept in more of her original ideas. She had enough material for a two hour special, sounds like. But we have what we have and Scully makes a turn so abrupt, I end up flying out of the passenger seat of the car. Scully kneeling in front of a Buddha statue in a moment of religious ecstasy, with a cross around her neck no less, is about where my head hits the asphalt. Next time I’ll wear a seatbelt.

Mulder: I just find it hard to believe.

Scully: What part?

Mulder: The part where I go away for two days and your whole life changes.

Scully: Mmm, I didn’t say my whole life changed.

Mulder: You speaking to God in a Buddhist temple. God speaking back.

Scully: Mmm, and I didn’t say that God spoke back. I said that I had some kind of a vision.

Mulder: Well, for you, that’s like saying you’re having David Crosby’s baby.

I’m of Mulder’s mind on this one. Honestly, this New Age through line makes Scully feel more like a vehicle for some deeply felt ideas to be expressed rather than that these expressed ideas were servicing Scully’s character. But I know this episode was very personal. And, hey, at least the suddenness of the change is acknowledged.

What I’m actually more impressed by than the story is the directing. It doesn’t look or feel like a first time effort. Moby makes his second guest appearance on The X-Files soundtrack this season. Gillian and I must have something in common because I also had Moby on repeat back in the day. I didn’t travel without my Moby CDs. (Kids, that’s how mommy and daddy used to listen to music.) “My Weakness” fit a little more seamlessly into the overall aesthetic of the show in “Closure” (7×11), though, than “The Sky is Broken” does here. It draws attention to itself, sometimes purposefully, sometimes distractingly

I love the pattern of musical rhythms and beats, however. Time is the other star of this episode and it draws attention to itself, not only through rhythms but visually. I confess, it took me forever to catch on… Scratch that. I didn’t catch on until Gillian explained it, that time slows down every time Scully needs to pay attention because an important decision is coming up. I wish someone would drop me hints like that.

This is my long-winded way of saying I think it’s a good first effort. There is something much more modern, sometimes jarringly so, about this episode and its sensibilities, from the music to the content, than we usually see in The X-Files. From what little I know of Gillian, I suspect she wanted to get our attention. I heard you.

Verdict:

I know what you’re thinking. That I have no taste. What you’re also thinking: What did Gillian Anderson say to her? Well, she said that Scully’s on a spiritual journey, one that she’s only on because of Mulder and one that Mulder, and not Waterston, can help her complete.

That’s what she said in “all things”.

The Twitter exchange went like this…

And then I died.

Well, no. First, I spun around my room like a top. Then I died.

Here’s the way Gillian described the discarded scene in her commentary:

Initially, our [Colleen and Scully’s]… our second meeting was in Chinatown. Initially, I had a scene where Scully walks into an apothecary. And she was going to go so far as to actually try and find some alternative medicine, tinctures and salves, to help heal Dr. Waterston when nothing else in the world of Western medicine was working. And she finds herself in this wonderful, in my mind, apothecary [laughs] with this wonderful old woman behind the counter. And, initially, right when she’s about to leave, a woman comes from the back who’s been… who’s had accupuncture. And it’s Colleen and they end up going through a walk through Chinatown, through the streets, and having a conversation that had a lot more dialogue than those scenes and less exposition for her [Colleen], and more color and everything. But neither of those things worked out.

I can hear Gillian Anderson speaking, and I’m okay with that.

B

Wind Chimes:

The lady who plays Colleen, whose name is… Colleen, was also in “Detour” (5×4), one of my favorite episodes.

Gillian and I also share procrastination in common. It’s an issue.

I believe this is the first slideshow since “Field Trip” (6×21) and before that it was “Bad Blood” (5×12). What’s with it only being used as a source of tension between Mulder and Scully lately?

Am I the only one who thinks Mulder looks funny in that getup? No?

Gillian’s is one of those rare DVD commentaries that actually gives me what I want – insight into story choices rather than technical details.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: But that was merely prelude of what was to come. Three years later, in 1994 even more complex formations occurred simultaneously on opposite ends of the English countryside with the Mandelbrot Set, were it still there, at its center. Then, in 1997, even more complex formations occurred…

Scully: [Eats her salad and ignores Mulder]

Mulder: … and I’m not wearing any pants right now.

Scully: [Looks up after realizing Mulder’s gone quiet] Hmm?

———————

Scully: I once considered spending my whole life with this man. What I would have missed.

Mulder: I don’t think you can know. I mean, how many different lives would we be leading if we made different choices. We… We don’t know.

Scully: What if there was only one choice and all the other ones were wrong? And there were signs along the way to pay attention to.

Mulder: Mmm. All the… choices would then lead to this very moment. One wrong turn, and… we wouldn’t be sitting here together. Well, that says a lot. That says a lot, a lot, a lot. I mean that’s probably more than we should be getting into at this late hour…

Field Trip 6×21: I thought we had a good time?


Them bones, them bones, them dry bones.

This is another one of those Season 6 episodes where I wasn’t sure what to make of it for the first few minutes. Okay, make that the first twenty minutes. (An alien in the bedroom? What?) Long gone are the days when a Monster of the Week episode had to involve an actual Monster.

We open with an odd couple at odds. This petite redhead and her lanky Mr. Stud seem a little mismatched and hearing their argument, one wonders how they ever came together in the first place. But the genuine affection between them more than makes up for any superficial differences and they quickly reach an understanding… just in time to die.

That’s where Mulder and Scully come in.

From that point on, the rest of the episode is essentially a lengthier repeat of what happens in miniature during the teaser. Oh, except for the dying part.

Pretty Redhead? Check.
Studmuffin? Present.
Oddly matched personalities? Doubtless.
Silly argument? Yep.
Shared acid trip? Dude.
Compromise and renewed mutual appreciation? Score.

It’s no surprise to see Mulder and Scully paralleled so nonchalantly with a married couple. It’s not even really gratifying at this point either because it’s old news. The writers don’t even bother to draw too much attention to the similarities. Mulder and Scully passed the honeymoon phase a long time ago and it was starting to look like everyone but them realized how settled and “married” they already were.

To emphasize how settled their routine is, the customary slideshow is resurrected. This is the first time it’s been used since Mulder and Scully have been back in the basement office and only the second office slideshow since “Bad Blood” (5×12), which is interesting since “Field Trip” is essentially a more serious treatment of the fuel that fired that episode – Mulder and Scully’s contrasting viewpoints.

Well, maybe it’s the curse of the Seven Year Itch but the routine seems to be getting to them. One of the major tensions of the season has been Mulder’s frustration with Scully’s continuing refusal to believe. Now I think it becomes clearer that his issue isn’t so much that Scully’s a skeptic so much as he takes her skepticism personally as a lack of faith in him.

Scully: Mulder, can’t you just for once, just… for the novelty of it, come up with the simplest explanation, the most logical one, instead of automatically jumping to UFOs or Bigfoot or…?
Mulder: Scully, in six years, how… how often have I been wrong? No, seriously! I mean, every time I bring you a new case we go through this perfunctory dance. You tell me I’m not being scientifically rigorous and that I’m off my nut. And then in the end who turns out to be right like 98.9% of the time? I just think I’ve… earned the benefit of the doubt here.

I want to take my usual position on Scully’s side of the argument here, but in good conscience, I can’t. Okay, his declaration sounds arrogant, it does. But Mulder’s not exactly wrong. The 98.9% number he throws out may be just a tad high, especially since while he’s usually closer to the truth than Scully he often has to amend his initial hypothesis, but Mulder has proven over and over that his instincts are uncanny. And while Scully’s natural instinct is to gravitate toward the most logical explanation, she’s seen enough at this point to know better than to make instant assumptions.

What makes a tense moment worse is that Mulder’s not really angry, he’s hurt, and slightly offended that she’s still so dismissive of his theories after all this time. Scully is so taken aback by his unexpected response, or perhaps by his depth of feeling, or perhaps by her own guilt, or most likely all three that she has nothing to say in self-defense.

And it’s here, in this brief moment of disharmony, that I pause.

There’s a thing, a rumor, an idea that’s been floating around the interwebs in recent years and it disturbs me. It’s the fanfic-sprouting notion that Mulder and Scully are in a co-dependent relationship.

Somewhere, someone’s been skimming through too many pop psychology paperbacks while sunk a little too deep in their armchair. Remember Maurice in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8)? He was a hack, a hack with an agenda. He took a modicum of truth about Mulder and Scully, threw it out there as “intimacy through co-dependency” and the glory of MSR has been tarnished by it ever since.

Co-dependency has no official definition that I’ve been able to find. Instead there are long lists of signs and symptoms with some definitions choosing to focus more on certain characteristics than others. There is a common theme, though: a missing sense of self apart from another person to the point where one will do almost anything that person wants you to. The problem is that the lack of self identity required for co-dependency is too easily mistaken for the more honorable character trait of self-sacrifice. A wife gives up a part-time job she likes because her husband says they don’t spend enough time together anymore and he misses her. Self-sacrifice or self-loathing? Wise or shortsighted?

If I may say so, and I will say so, though I say so not as a mental health professional… it seems to me that the difference between a healthy, mutual reliance and co-dependency has a lot to do with one’s sense of self. Do the sacrificial acts come from a place of self-aware love, of confidence? Or do they stem from a desperate need to hold on to somebody, anybody?

What would make Scully co-dependent is if she became a knee-jerk believer in order to please Mulder. What would make Mulder co-dependent is if he gave up his convictions in order to keep Scully around. Those would be signs of an unhealthy relationship. But this?? If “Field Trip” is anything it’s proof positive that neither Mulder nor Scully have changed one iota for the other and that’s a good thing.

I say “one iota” for dramatic effect and, yes, their fundamental personalities are the same as ever. But they have changed in that they’ve grown wise enough to realize that neither of their perspectives, while valuable independently, are independently sufficient to get to the truth. They realized that long ago, Mulder openly admitted as much in the feature film. But somehow, maybe because of the trust issues they’ve been having all season, they’ve momentarily forgotten how valuable the other’s perspective is. Ah, but in a bit of karmic brilliance facilitated by an overgrown fungus, suddenly they’re each faced with an overdose of their own opinion. That’ll cure ‘em.

It’s hilarious to watch both of them start questioning their respective hallucinations only once their opinions are universally affirmed and unquestioned. When Hallucination Scully meekly declares, “You were right. All these years, you were right.” I can almost hear Mulder’s brain synapses go off like bombs – Does not compute.

What I love about these dream sequences is how straight they’re played. Scully really believes Mulder is dead, and she really acts like she believes. The emotional honesty of it helps prolong the mystery. We know something’s not real, but what’s not real and where/when did it start? About the only thing I don’t like about these sequences, the only thing I don’t like about the whole episode, actually, is the Jell-O mold morph. Those special effects just don’t match up to the real-world green goo in the field.

But that’s a minor quibble. I can’t hold it against the episode that is probably the purest and most direct explanation of what makes Mulder and Scully “Mulder and Scully” and why they’re so effective together. Frankly, they are dependent on each other. They rely on each other’s separate strengths without neglecting their own. Neither of them would have survived this X-File alone. It takes Scully to initially realize what’s going on and Mulder to realize it’s still going on. So, yes, they need each other. What of it?

Despite what some think, and despite what Mulder and Scully themselves are sometimes tempted to think, their partnership doesn’t need perfecting. They don’t need to change. Two heads, two very different heads are better than one. I don’t care what anyone says – If this is co-dependence, then someone please sign me up for some.

Didn’t Babs say it best? “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

Verdict:

In the grand tradition of “Wetwired” (3×23), “Demons” (4×23), and “Folie a Deux” (5×19), “Field Trip” is not just the penultimate episode of the season, it’s the emotional finale before the season finale. This reaffirmation of Mulder and Scully’s trust in and reliance on each other is absolutely the perfect lead-in to the next set of angsty problems they’re about to face.

That’s it. It’s done. I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly when it happened. Perhaps it was “One Son” (6×12), perhaps “Milagro” (6×18). But this show is no longer about aliens, assuming it ever even was. It’s about two people who love each other.

And in the end when Mulder reaches for Scully and she responds without even opening her eyes because she just knows… here I go again chanting I Love You’s to people without flesh and bones.

A

The Peanut Gallery:

The lab results on the “bog sludge” come back absurdly fast.

How could I forget the moment where Scully drives a Dodge pickup?

Scully is so Scully. Even when she’s about to break down after finding out Mulder is dead, she’s still asking investigative questions. Immediately.

Who are all these people who would actually mourn Mulder? When did he get friends? That right there should have tipped Scully off.

How incredibly uncomfortable must this episode have been for Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. Buried alive in dirt and slime? Really? Who’d they piss off to get stuck with this detail?

There’s never an explanation for how these hallucinations can be shared, but OK.

Best Quotes:

Scully: UFOs. Extraterrestrial visitors from beyond who apparently have nothing better to do than buzz one mountain over and over again for 700 years.
Mulder: Sounds like crap when you say it.

——————–

Frohike: We’ll make that monkey pay.