Tag Archives: Fresh Bones

Familiar 11×8: That’s it. It’s too perfect.


 

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Homie don’t play ‘dat.

 

Before I watched this, I had just finished “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18). I’ve been binge-watching The X-Files, but I’ll get into that later.

Anyway. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t get any cornier during the original run than “Teso Dos Bichos”, so if this episode couldn’t prove itself an improvement over that… Well.

One thing that I’ve noticed this rewatch is how, especially in the early seasons, The X-Files made its bones by treading a fine line between “now you see it” and “now you don’t.” Every case left room for plausible deniability, be it from the mouth of Scully or the U.S. government. Every resolution left everything unresolved. Every unmistakable evil could be dismissed as a relatively benign phenomenon. For instance, the possessed doll in “Chinga” (5×10) could easily be mistaken for a charming antique. And then… came Mr. Chuckleteeth. Obvious much?

First of all, who would give a child such a nightmarish doll in the first place? I mean, tell me Mr. Chuckleteeth isn’t the Devil. He makes Chucky look huggable. But, hey, no one seems to be alarmed by the faces of those Bibbletiggles either.

I’m getting my grump on not so that I can make this a rant, but so that I can get it out of the way. You know what? I’m not mad at “Familiar”. As far as the revival goes, it’s a definite hit. Of course, the revival doesn’t go very far… but let me stop.

At least this week I was actually mildly curious as to who was behind it all, which is a vast improvement over every other viewing I’ve had this season. That said, I suspected it was Anna from the beginning and between being right and her only mildly nefarious motives, the ending was somewhat of a letdown.

But again, going back to my rewatch, this episode feels mostly in line with the creepy, mysterious, small-town vibe that characterized Seasons 2 and 3 in particular. Even if I hadn’t been bingeing on the good stuff recently, I still would have been forcefully reminded of “Die Hand Die Verletz” (2×14). Here’s another town where the history of the New England witch trials run deep and practitioners of this sacrilegious heritage unleash an evil they can’t control. “Did you really expect to conjure up the Devil and expect him to behave?” And here’s another town, like in “Syzygy” (3×13) that (almost) opens with the funeral of a local boy, killed by “black magic”.

I dunno, though. Despite all the creepy smog, blue lighting, and the distinct turn in the right direction that the dialogue takes here, I can’t help but feel that there’s something still distinctly wanting. The form has returned, for which I am grateful. But I’m missing the substance. I’m still missing the heart and soul of the show somewhere.

Verdict:

Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. But Mr. Chuckleteeth isn’t the only thing that’s obvious. The X-Files was never great shakes at social commentary. “Teliko” (4×4) anyone?

I resent Mulder’s implication of “small town justice”. In other words, we’re more likely to hear of injustice in a small town where people are stupid and less sophisticated than… who? The overpaid government workers disguised as bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.?

Anyway, I found “Familiar” a little too familiar, a little too “on the nose”, if you will. But “on the nose” is better than “way off the mark” or, my favorite “so far apart from the mark you never even saw it nor realized it existed.”

I’ll take it.

B+

Clown Shoes:

Looks who’s playing a police officer! It’s the dude who played a police officer in every episode of The X-Files ever. Hello, Roger Cross. 24 crossover like whaaaat.

And it’s Jason Gray-Stanford from Monk. Nice beard.

So now Mulder has a son again, huh? Thanks for that. And thanks for teaching me how not to care.

That “cauldron” joke Scully made in front of the playground, did it feel a little insensitive and out of character to anyone else?

“He’s potentially John Wayne Gacy with a monkey.” Again, this sounds like what would have been a Mulder line.

A magic circle of salt. Say it with me: “Fresh Bones” (2×15).

If the suspect was on record as a sexual predator, even if he was only guilty of youthful indiscretion with someone a little younger than he was, wouldn’t he have been forbidden to work with children? I feel like a career as a children’s entertainer would’ve been about the last thing he’d have done.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Thanks for backing me up out there.

Mulder: Yeah, you’re my homie.

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Plus One 11×3: Put the pencil down.


 

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Clearly, there’s a dark influence set loose.

 

Do you hear that?

.

.

.

.

Shhh!!!!

.

.

.

.

It’s the sound of Scully’s biological clock ticking.

.

.

.

.

If you listen closely, it sounds like woodpeckers pecking at fossilized bones in a remote and cavernous ravine.

*Splash*

That was the sound of Scully fishing for compliments. That silence is me drowning.

It’s hard for me to grade this episode since, on its own merits, the plot is shallow and the atmosphere merely passable. If I’m comparing it to Golden Era X-Files, not only does it not pass muster, character development-wise it doesn’t feel like it belongs. If I compare it to the Revival, well, the Revival has stunk worse. Far worse.

I’ve just got a resigned side smirk going on. That’s all.

Let’s start with the jumpy opening teaser. I miss the days of steady camera shots and discrete cuts. It’s not as noticeable when I watch other shows because I expect them to be “other shows.” But when my brain knows I’m supposed to be watching The X-Files, I instinctively find it more jarring.

But I’m an old fogie and I know it, and it’s not too hard to let all that slide, especially when we get some long-awaited, pre-case office banter.  Writer Chris Carter’s reputation suffers many things and by his own hand. But he always was pretty good at writing office banter between Mulder and Scully. My patience has finally been rewarded here (not that it compensates for the many injuries said patience has suffered).

There were several classic elements in this episode – Mulder and Scully’s verbal back-and-forth, them walking down hospital hallways listening to medical explanations for unexplained phenomena, the music (I see you getting back in the game, Mark Snow.) I also thought the scene where Mulder and Scully interviewed Arkie in the jail, while not quite hitting a home run, came close to the old atmosphere I crave. And moments in this episode reminded me of “Sleepless” (2×4), with strange, not-quite-there visions haunting folks into an early death. That wasn’t a stupendous episode either, but it did bring us Krycek…

I wish I could spend more time discussing the plot with you, Philes. But it’s basic and relatively stupid. Twins play a game of Psychic Hangman that results in someone they hate self-destructing at the hands of their own doppelganger. Said twins eventually self-destruct after their children play their own game of Psychic Hangman. And there’s a whole lot of forced UST between Mulder and Scully. The End.

Now, about that UST, we can’t ride the gravy train in reverse. I know Carter wishes he could have Mulder and Scully’s Season 3 relationship back, but it’s not happening. Or, I should say, it’s not happening well.

What the heck was that ridiculous conversation in bed about? Ridiculousness??

Underneath that hollow sound of the woodpeckers, you can also hear the sound of me smothering myself with my own pillow.

Try to follow the logic: In the 16 years since the reunion of Mulder and Scully and the end of The X-Files, Scully wanted to have a baby and would have tried except that she didn’t have a partner and she believed (as did we all) that she was barren and her first child was a miracle. Also, this desire of hers was a surprise to Mulder. This would mean that A) A woman who believed she was barren was on birth control that whole time. Otherwise, they would have at least been open to another child by default, which would render this conversation meaningless since that would mean both of them knew she was definitely barren since she never got pregnant, and barren after “Per Manum” (8×8) established that she had already had her last chance at IVF. Ergo, Scully must have been using birth control in order for pregnancy to have been an unexplored possibility by both of them. B) Mulder wasn’t her partner up until recently.

Wait. Wait. She would’ve liked to have had another child, but claims the problem is she doesn’t have a partner. Well, up until Chris Carter mysteriously and blasphemously broke you two up last season, you had a partner. You have had a partner for years. For years, yo.

Right up until the end. You almost made it, Chris Carter. Right up until the end, this episode’s biggest crime was that it mostly bored me. Now it offends me. Scully pouts her way back into Mulder’s arms because she’s insecure about aging? Because we all know she’s steps away from being a washed out old hag. And to add insult to injury, Carter manufactures this lame excuse for a cathartic conversation between our two leads that doesn’t even make sense. Yes, my heart hurt listening to it, but not with nostalgia. We were frightfully close to “Trust No 1” (9×8) territory. Remember when Chris Carter intimated that Scully first slept with Mulder because of loneliness and desperation. No? Well, you’re welcome.

Verdict:

Maybe I’m just thick, but I can’t understand why it’s so difficult to just let them love each other naturally in the background.

“Put a dimmer on that afterglow.” – I gagged. Really.

And if Scully is going to have a midlife crisis, Chris Carter should not be the one to write about it. Only he could make it as simplistic as: “I can’t have babies anymore and men want women who can make babies so I guess I’m going to die alone.”

I love you, Chris. You just don’t know it. But you see this?

“You tappin’ that, Special Agent? Or can Chucky bust a move?”

This right here? This should never have happened.

C

Scoot in My Boot:

So wait, wait. They aren’t back together again? And the last episode meant… what? I’m so done, Chris Carter. I am so done.

More Scully/Silence of the Lambs parallels. Only she’s having poop-poop-pee-doop tossed at her instead of, well, you know.

Praise be. Scully looks more like herself again this episode. At least she was spared an insult in the aesthetics department.

I don’t mind Chris Carter indulging his doppelganger/twin obsession (See: “Fight Club” (7×20) and the boredom that is Miller and Einstein), I just wish he’d do it well.

Opening car crash = echoes of “Fresh Bones” (2×15) and even “Salvage” (8×10).

I appreciated the shoutout to The Patty Duke Show.

Catholic Scully doesn’t believe in evil anymore? At least CC had the grace to recognize this didn’t seem in keeping with her previous characterization. She believed in evil even when Mulder didn’t.

The quick, out of the blue resolution reminds me of “Die Hand Die Verletz” (2x), but without the genuine creepiness that made that episode memorable.

Did you recognize Karen Konoval? No? Well, it’d be hard to see her underneath all that makeup as Mrs. Peacock in “Home” (4×3) and hard to recognize her looking mostly normal as Madame Zelma in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4).

Best Quotes:

Scully: But if you eliminate the impossible, whatever is remaining, even if improbable, must be the truth.

Mulder: No sugar, Sherlock.

* This is really just a little cross-fandom love.

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The Sixth Extinction 7×3: Some truths are not for you.


Don't be subtle or anything, Mulder.

It’s tough being a middle child and “The Sixth Extinction” is the somewhat forgotten child sandwiched between two attention-hungry siblings. “Biogenesis” (6×22) is about the origins of the universe while “The Sixth Extinction: Amor Fati” (7×4) contemplates the coming of the messiah. (Grandiose much?) Bracketed by such life-altering concepts, what job is left for “The Sixth Extinction” to take over?

What I like about this one is that it’s more action oriented than either of the other episodes. Between the plagues, the apparitions, the zombie… Chris Carter was clearly trying to bring the show back to its creepy roots and I appreciate that.

I also wholeheartedly welcome the return of Michael Kritschgau. One wonders what his character must have felt when, after all Kritchgau did for him, giving up his job and his reputation to testify for Mulder, Mulder stops listening to him and turns back to his alien ways. Briefly the thought crosses my mind, “Since when was his character involved in Remote Viewing experiments and since when did Mulder know that?” but it’s quickly hushed. Maybe Mulder can read minds from across the city. I don’t care. What’s a plot point or two between friends?

And some might find his scenes in the hospital with Mulder and Skinner boring, but I think they’re a lot of fun. It’s always a treat to see Skinner get in on the action and I believe his heavy presence here is a harbinger of things to come this season. He doesn’t get his own episode, per se, but he comes out from behind his desk in a major way. I’m also surprised to hear him admit so freely his belief that Mulder’s disease is extra-terrestrial and I suddenly realize that while Skinner’s been involved in the mythology of The X-Files since Season 1, he’s always been on the human side of the plot. To my recollection, he’s never said one way or the other whether he believes the Syndicate’s conspiracy was hiding the truth about alien life, though I suppose his support of Mulder all these years is evidence to that effect.

As for Mulder, I’m dying to know what he’s thinking now that he knows what everybody else is thinking. Ultimately, mind reading is a power I wouldn’t want. Some things are better not to know. But I relish the chance to experience it vicariously and watch Mulder waste away in (mostly) silent angst.

I may even have to rethink my position on that cut scene from “Biogenesis” where Mulder confronts Diana Fowley. Yes, that knock-down, drag-out would have been awesome. But if it had happened in the previous episode I would have been robbed of the thrill of realizing that when Mulder says, “They’re coming,” it’s Diana he’s referring to. Oh, how vindicated I still feel to finally know once and for all that he’s onto her.

Now we come to what I think is the most interesting part of this episode, and not just because I’m a Shipper. Carter sets up two scenes of bedside vigil for the dying Mulder, one with Diana Fowley and one with Scully. We’re invited to compare and contrast their reactions to Mulder’s condition, to the answers that he’s found, and the knowledge that he has, even the knowledge of their own thoughts.

Fowley professes her love for Mulder, and since we know she knows that he knows what’s going on inside her head, she must be telling the truth. She also confesses her allegiance to the Cigarette-Smoking Man, which she defends, though at least she has the grace to look a little embarrassed about it. Most importantly of all, she reveals what sounds like her primary motivation: she and Mulder can be together now that he knows the truth.

Maybe it’s just me, but I get the impression that she’s wanted to tell Mulder all of this all along but couldn’t either because to do so would be to betray her mission within the Syndicate or because she knew how Mulder would react and that she’d lose him forever. Now she’s hopeful that since he can see into her motivations and her reasons, he’ll understand and agree and they can walk into colonization hand in hand, two alien-human hybrid lovers together forever.

Does this woman creep anyone else out?

Seriously. I was having flashbacks of Kathy Bates in Misery. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not so cold-hearted that I don’t feel bad for her. But it’s plain now that she’s doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons. She loves Mulder, yes, but it’s a selfish sort of love. She doesn’t want what’s best for him, she wants him for herself. All this time she’s been plotting and scheming, or going along with someone else’s plots and schemes, in hopes that one day she could have Mulder for good with out any pesky alien colonization getting in the way.

Since Mulder plays possum the entire time she’s in the room, I’m going to put it out there and say her chances are looking slim. It’s hard to say what Mulder’s thinking at that moment, but the fact that he masks his awareness in front of Fowley tells us all we need to know. However sincere her feelings may be, he can’t trust her; she’s still on the wrong side.

By contrast, we can see Mulder struggling to focus on Scully when he realizes she’s coming into his hospital room. And what does Scully do when she reaches him? Does she pounce on his silence as an open opportunity to confess her love? No. All she does, all she beautifully, perfectly does is beg him to live. That’s it. She just needs him to hang on.

I don’t even need to comment further – the selflessness speaks for itself.

Verdict:

I have to say that “The Sixth Extinction” is better than I remembered. I’m still not and never will be sold on the premise. (Was the aliens’ master plan to throw the world into confusion by inundating them with conflicting doctrines? Is this a Tower of Babel scenario? Create disunity so mankind can’t get up to too much mischief?) It feels absurd in a way that even alien abductions and a conglomerate of rich old men running de-humanizing tests on an unsuspecting public didn’t. Methinks the origin of life is too vast a topic to handle in primetime. But if you’re going to do something, do it well, and the scope of this production ultimately keeps my interest even if I’m not jumping up and down with excitement.

The focus is quickly shifting from God, aliens, and the origins of the universe to Mulder and the personal consequences of his quest. Early on in the episode, even in his tired state, he seems excited about what he is, happy despite all his suffering to have become the proof he’s been searching for all this time. And yet I start to wonder.

Kritschgau: How far should it go?! How far would Mulder go?!

He’s dying. Mulder has proven many times before that he’s willing to die in this fight, to die for his cause, but does he actually want to? Is it possible that even Mulder, trapped as he is in silent torture, has a limit?

Ah, but then just when I find myself ready to get excited at the emotional possibilities… This.

Dr. Ngebe: It is the word of God.

Oh, for the love of…

B+

Comments:

Hmm. Scully’s hair grew and Mulder’s hair shrank.

Mad props to David Duchovny for best performance of a mute paralytic ever.

Whatever else we get or don’t get from this episode, Scully wielding a machete is pretty cool.

Mulder wrote that note to Skinner awfully neatly for a psychotic man writing in his own blood.

I love that brief shot we get of Skinner from the POV of Mulder’s strapped down leg. It emphasizes how vulnerable Mulder currently is.

Scully looks awfully fresh for a woman who’s just come off of a 22-hour flight.

Scully’s continuing monologue in Mulder’s direction reminds me very much of “Memento Mori” (4×15), only this time Mulder’s the one that’s dying.

The last time Scully was confronted in a car by a supernatural apparition of a black man? “Fresh Bones” (2×15). I’m not sure how to feel about the fact that I can say, “The last time.”

Questions:

I wonder why Mulder attacks Skinner in order to give him the note. Perhaps he didn’t want the doctors, and therefore Diana, to know what he was thinking?

Why is Scully’s tent clean from the outside even though it’s a white tent and bugs are sticking to the inside of the material?

Kritschgau is no longer in the military so where did he find or how did he afford this equipment to test Mulder with? And how did they sneak it into the hospital?

When she threatens him with a machete, Dr. Barnes says to Scully, “Word is you’re under suspicion already!” Suspicion of what?? Killing Dr. Merkallen? He was dead before she came on the case. Killing Dr. Sandoz? She was back in D.C. by then. Is this just a haphazard attempt on Dr. Barnes’ part to deflect suspicion off of himself?

Why would Scully go all the way to the F.B.I. to find out if Mulder’s still at the hospital? You’re a doctor. Call the hospital.

Gibson Praise, well over a year ago, described what it feels like to read minds as hearing lots of different radio stations on at the same time in your head, which seems to be exactly what Mulder’s experiencing. I wonder then, why didn’t Gibson experience side effects? Was his body already used to it because he was born that way? Had his ability been triggered by something alien as well? CSM did brain surgery on Gibson back in the day much in the same way that he’s about to do it on Mulder. What would make this surgery a more successful attempt at hybridization? Is it because Mulder was previously infected with the black oil?

Best Quotes:

Scully: He’s not dying.
Skinner: I’m afraid it’s true.
Scully: He’s not dying. He is more alive than he has ever been. He’s more alive than his body can withstand and what’s causing it may be extraterrestrial in origin.
Skinner: I know. But there’s nothing to be done about it.
Scully: [Turns to leave]
Skinner: They’re going to deny you access.
Scully: Maybe as his partner… but not as his doctor.

Synchrony 4×19: Puts a whole new spin on being your own worst enemy.


I got chills. They're multiplyin'.

I don’t think we’ve had an episode of The X-Files so purely scientific since “F. Emasculata” (2×22) or at least “Wetwired” (3×23), and both of those episodes involve a certain amount of conspiracy and machination. “Synchrony” is unique in that not only does it focus solely on theoretical science, it takes a decidedly personal approach in doing so. Don’t expect a shadowy informant to make a superfluous appearance in this one.

This is episode is brought to you by the letter “G.” “G” for writers Howard Gordon and David Greenwalt, an interesting pair indeed. Greenwalt was a co-executive producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a co-creator of the spin off Angel, so his pedigree is nothing to sneeze at. But this episode was destined to be Greenwalt’s only episode of The X-Files which makes it hard to gauge how much of “Synchrony” is his and how much can be attributed to series regular Howard Gordon. That said, Gordon had a knack for writing about hubris, or more specifically, about the havoc that can be wrecked by overly brilliant men or men who overly think they’re brilliant, so I’m betting he’s responsible for most of this. It’s the prevailing theme in many of his episodes such as “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6), “Firewalker” (2×9) and even “Fresh Bones” (2×15) among others.

This isn’t the most successful of the lot, mostly due I think to issues of science and somewhat bland characters, but it’s still a solid and enjoyable offering. The main problem is that a time travel story can easily get lost in its own set of paradoxes no matter how skillful the writers. For instance, If Old Man Nichols kills his younger self, who in the heck is going to travel back from the future to assassinate everyone involved in the project in the first place? And for that matter, why didn’t he just aim for his younger self from the get go? That would’ve stopped the whole project in its tracks since it’s his Cryobiology that makes time travel possible.

You would think that meeting your younger self, the version of yourself that most people wish heartily they could knock some sense into, would provide a springboard for more existential angst. But I don’t think this episode really has time to explore the emotional issues of Old Man Nichols or of the younger Jason Nichols once he discovers that he’s both a murderer and a genius (well, the latter he already strongly believed). Instead, most of its time is spent slowly revealing the science behind the plot and what little time for emotional development that’s available takes place between Old Man Nichols and, well, everyone else but himself.

Then there’s the fact that Old Man Nichols’ motivations for taking on such a gruesome responsibility are given only brief lip service at the end of the episode. Exactly how unlivable had these ambitious scientists unwittingly made the future? Why is time travel more of a curse than a gift? And if their joint success turned out to be such a tragedy, why did neither Lisa or Yonechi come back with him to undo what they accomplished? Could it be that Nichols is the only one with regrets?

I have more questions than comments, but that’s pretty much to be expected whenever time travel comes up as a subject. As I said earlier, paradoxes are inevitable and I’m no physicist, I’m a fuzzy; I don’t have the feet for wading in these waters. But when I compare this episode to more successful interpretations of time travel, like Back to the Future and a handful of Star Trek: TNG episodes, it comes up wanting. There were a lot of issues to potentially explore and so without narrowing in on one or two of them, all of them ending up getting the short shrift.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy this one, mind you. And considering it originally aired over 14 years ago I think it actually holds up rather well. Probably the most effective part of this episode is the Fire and Ice theme. The X-Files is nothing if it’s not inventive when it comes to death and watching a frozen body melt and then burst into flames is not without its charms.

And the Verdict is…

This is yet another episode where Mulder is 10 steps ahead of everyone else without much evidence to go on, but it would have been nice if Scully had taken more of a lead in what is essentially one of the few purely sci-fi episodes of The X-Files. After all, Scully’s the scientist here and indeed, she’s a scientist with a working knowledge of time travel theory! Sure, Mulder brings up her graduate school theory on time travel, but only to use it against her. This never really struck me before but looking back, I suspect it would have been more interesting to have Scully face up to her own former self and her former beliefs as she did in “Revelations” (3×11) and as Old Man Nichols has to do, literally, over the course of this episode. Psychological time travel paralleled with physical time travel? It sounds like a good match to me.

B

Nagging Questions:

Why is Old Man Nichols so determined to save Lucas Menand in the beginning of the episode when he’s otherwise only determined to kill? Why waste time trying to save the life of one enemy when he’s willing to kill his friends? And what’s more, why risk exposure when it’s best to complete his mission as quickly as possible?

Couldn’t Old Man Nichols think of a better way to kill people than not really killing them? Poison maybe? Something so that he could actually succeed in preventing the future.

For that matter, why kill them all? Just removing one part of the equation would have prevented eventual success. Technically speaking, Old Man Nichols could have stopped after killing Yonechi.

Nagging Comments:

What his with the guy who plays Yonechi, Hiro Kanagawa, dying particularly gruesome deaths? Who could forget fungus exploding from his throat in “Firewalker”?

Best Quotes:

Coroner: I haven’t been able to make a definitive determination as to cause or time of death. There’s been some internal disagreement over how to proceed.
Scully: You mean with the autopsy?
Coroner: Yes… but mostly whether to cut or to saw.

———————–

Mulder: You ever seen a body in such an advanced hypothermic state?
Scully: Hypothermic? Mulder, this man’s an icicle.

———————–

Scully: Well, my best guess would be that he’s been exposed to some kind of chemical refrigerant like liquid nitrogen. Possibly even ingested it.
Mulder: Well, you see what happens when you drink and drive?

———————–

Mulder: “Although common sense may rule out the possibility of time travel, the laws of quantum physics certainly do not.” In case you forgot, that’s from your graduate thesis. You were a lot more open minded when you were a youngster.

Teso Dos Bichos 3×18: Some things are better left buried.


My sentiments exactly.

Last we heard from writer John Shiban he gave us “The Walk” (3×7), a well-liked if not loved episode. This time around he doesn’t fare as well. Personally, John Shiban wouldn’t win me over as a solo writer until “Elegy” (4×22). When he, Frank Spotnitz and Vince Gilligan worked as a team it was usually to great results but his individual efforts aren’t among my top favorites, the glorious exception of “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18) not withstanding… not that I possess that much talent in a single strand of my DNA you understand.

Still, the sad truth remains that The X-Files hasn’t bombed this badly since Season 1. Even “3” (2×7) is better at least in terms of production value. By the end of the teaser the episode is already a non-starter. Not one thing about the opening is successful. The guys at 1013 had been sipping too much yajé if they thought this would work. From the second I see the mysterious shaman or whoever he is draped in red, ominously looking down from his lofty perch with his cane in hand, my eyes roll of their own accord.

This is The X-Files we’re watching so we already know the curse is real and even so, we’ve seen scarier. Before the episode even starts all chance at real tension is lost. As it continues, a cast of characters parade before us that range from annoying to boring. Not a one of them makes it all the way to “vaguely interesting.” And we need for them to be because the premise behind this episode is less then compelling and the typical “Western invasion of the sacred” politics are a bit of a turn off.

I have this theory I’ve mentioned before that The X-Files never really tackles “ethnic” myths and legends in a believable way. “Fresh Bones” (2×15) more or less succeeds but that’s only because Voodoo is already a familiar concept to the Western mind. The writer didn’t try and tie Voodoo to Hatian culture specifically so much as he created a regular mini-horror flick where explanations and motivations were rendered unnecessary. The thing is that it’s hard to make an audience care about something they don’t understand the significance of and that’s what usually happens in these “ethnic” X-Files.  In case you think I’m relying on a fluke for evidence, my suspicion is about to be confirmed twice in a row. But we’ll discuss “Hell Money” (3×19) tomorrow.

Back to the plot, I had always assumed that the Jaguar spirit had stowed away on a plane or the like to finish up its revenge in North America and that the tabby cats were just its minions or something. I come to find out this rewatch that the killers are actually the stray cats; the last vestige of credibility this episode had in my mind is gone.

Even Kim Manners’ knack for directing horror episodes couldn’t save this one. Something about the Jaguar/Cat special effect is hokey, almost like something out of Season 1 except that Season 1 pulled off something similar much more successfully in “Fallen Angel” (1×9). And poor Gillian Anderson had to be stabbed at with fake cat paws on sticks to film the climax scene because of her cat allergy. It’s a metaphor for the entire episode, really.

After filming Kim Manners had shirts made up for the crew that read “Teso Dos Bichos Survivor” and “Second Salmon”, the second quote being a reference to the number of rewrites the script was subjected to; each rewrite was color coded and they made it to the color Salmon… twice. Says it all, doesn’t it?

Here’s what I think is the biggest problem: It isn’t a story worth telling in the first place. There are some funny lines and some scenes that are clearly aiming to give us an “iconic X-Files” moment. Yet it’s not enough to have the disparate elements without glue to bind them together, namely an interesting premise. The X-Files cannot live by flashlights alone.

Believe it or not, I was actually looking forward to reviewing “Teso Dos Bichos” more than “Pusher” (3×17) even because I believed that like most of the episodes I disliked previously, it would benefit from a fresh set of eyes this rewatch, that looking at from a more critical point of view would help me appreciate some of its finer points. Yeeeeaaah.

In a way though, I was right. I’ve discovered that this episode’s redeeming quality is that it’s hilarious, just not on purpose. “Teso Dos Bichos” may take itself too seriously, but don’t you as the audience make the same mistake. Mulder and Scully face off against killer sewer cats. For pete’s sake, laugh.

Verdict:

No.

D

Questions:

How did Dr. Bilac sneak yajé into the U.S.?

If the Native Indians of Ecuador are so paranoid about disturbing the rest of their dead, what are they doing working at an excavation site?

Comments:

The way Dr. Bilac talks drives me nuts. I feel like scratching out my ear canals every time he comes on screen.

Everyone knows there’s something a little evil about cats.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Personally, if someone digs me up in a thousand years, I hope there’s a curse on them, too.

—————–

Scully: So you think Bilac’s innocent? That the victim wasn’t even killed at all? That he was devoured by a mythological jaguar spirit?
Mulder: Go with it, Scully.

—————–

Scully: Label that.
Officer: As what?
Scully: Partial rat body part.

—————–

Mulder: Do we know for sure it’s Lewton?
Scully: Yeah, by what he had for lunch; corn chowder and it looks like he’d been snacking on sunflower seeds all afternoon.
Mulder: A man of taste.

—————–

Dr. Winters: When I dissected the dog’s stomach, I found an undigested fragment of intestine, which appears to be feline.
Scully: The dog ate a cat.
Dr. Winters: I also found what appears to be bits of rat fur. I think the rat ate the poison.
Scully: Cat ate a rat.
Mulder: And the dog ate the cat.

—————–

Scully: So what are we talking here, Mulder? A possessed rat? The return of Ben?

The List 3×5: I just don’t see the motives, do you?


The Green Mile it is not.

Chris Carter is back in the director’s chair and I have to say I’ve missed him. I’ve always generally preferred his directing over his writing. In fact, his first foray into directing was “Duane Barry” (2×5) which would go well on anyone’s resume. And like in “Duane Barry”, it’s when he takes the helm as both writer and director that he really packs a punch. Sadly, “The List” is an exception to that rule.

Visually, this episode rocks. Mulder and Scully are constantly swathed in ethereal blue and green lights. The prison is sufficiently claustrophobic. And let me just say, as a Floridian, the glistening sweat on the brows of the entire cast is sadly realistic. On atmosphere “The List” gets an A+.

But the content of this episode is like the microwaved leftovers of “Fresh Bones” (2×15). General Wharton in charge of policing a refugee camp led by a spiritually sensitive, mystical black man is now turned into a Warden in charge of policing a prison led by a spiritually delusional, mystical black man. Both are propelled to their deaths by a resurrected mystical black man. Even the closing shots of their deaths resemble each other; the camera comes from above and goes “through” physical barriers to give us a glimpse of their final rest.

I’m not mad at this episode for not being particularly original. In fact, sometimes I out and out prefer it when I get a tried and true X-File. But this one doesn’t bring any kind of new or fresh twist. As the series has progressed, the guest spots have been more consistently memorable and the acting has improved. Yet nothing I see here is enough to elevate “The List” above being merely mundane. Well… mundane for The X-Files that is. It doesn’t help that it ranks up there, for me, as one of the most confusing episodes of all time.

Neech is supposed to be reincarnated, “reunion of spirit and flesh.” Instead, we get another ghost story very, very similar in content to “Born Again” (1×21). Another soul is reincarnated for the express purpose of bringing vengeance on a short list of enemies. Only “Born Again” at least gave us the protagonist reborn in the flesh. Where exactly is Neech’s reincarnated form? He only shows up briefly at the end of the episode and even then I’m not convinced. I’m beginning to think that we in the West are incapable of successfully translating the concept of reincarnation. It’s too foreign to our worldview.

Speranzo: Neech is back.
Mulder: Reincarnated.
Speranzo: Well, he would have called it transmigration of the soul.
Mulder: Into what form?
Speranzo: You, me, this mattress… I don’t know, he didn’t specify. But he’s back. I can feel it. The man was electric, you know what I’m sayin’? Pure energy.

From that I suppose we’re to infer that Neech has been reincarnated as some vague spiritual energy; in other words, as a ghost. So why bother to call it “reincarnation” you ask? Good question.

Conclusion:

I tend to not skip this one on rewatches. Not because it deserves it, but because it feels distinctly X-Filesian even if it isn’t particularly good. I’m not convinced that Neech Manley is a character worthy of his own episode. Maybe it would have been more successful if there had been a villain to latch onto, but as it is, none of the characters motivate the audience to either “Yay” or “Boo” in their honor. “The List” ends up as a footnote, a cross between “Born Again” and “Fresh Bones”, complete with a bitter, white taskmaster terrorizing his black prisoners for their spiritual secrets.

I don’t know what you all are going to think of my IQ when I confess this, but after seeing this episode what must be at least 10 times I still have no idea who killed who. Did Neech commit all the murders? Where Parmelly and Speranzo in on this together? Then why did Parmelly point the way to Roque? Did Neech’s wife know? Did Neech ask these guys to kill for him after his death so that everyone would believe the myth and then, surprise of surprises, came back from the dead anyway? I’m lost. Lost, I tell you. I don’t know which lie to believe.

Watch it once and enjoy the atmosphere. Watch it again and risk ruining it for yourself.

B-

Bepuzzlements:

See above.

Random Thoughts:

Neech was on death row, probably with good reason. I wonder what some people might have done to him if they could come back from the grave and exact revenge.

It’s nice to see Scully a little shaken up in the prison. Any woman would be on edge.

I believe “The List” wins the trophy for most maggots ever in an episode.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: The man was obsessed with reincarnation.
Scully: Being obsessed with it doesn’t mean you can do it.
Mulder: No. Unless he knew something we don’t.
Scully: Like what, the secret password?

——————–

Mulder: Okay, but imagine if it were true, Scully. Imagine if you could come back and take out five people who had caused you to suffer. Who would they be?
Scully: I only get five?
Mulder: …I remembered your birthday this year, didn’t I Scully? *Editor’s Note: Actually, no, he didn’t. He won’t remember it until next year.

——————–

Scully: Woman gets lonely. Sometimes she can’t wait around for her man to be reincarnated.

Dod Kalm 2×19: I think I hear the wolf at the door.


Screenshot00

Row, row, row your boat.

This isn’t the greatest episode but it’s certainly not the worst.

But there’s one main issue that we need to get out of the way: the gripe that most fans seem to have with “Dod Kalm” is the less than believable makeup job done on David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson to “age” them. I have to say, though, that this is something that’s never bothered me. For one thing, this took place in the early 90s and we have to cut the effects department some slack. The shark in Jaws is hokey too but that doesn’t stop it from being a classic, does it? But the most important reason that I think this is a non-issue is that Mulder and Scully aren’t really ageing in this episode. As Scully mentions, they’re essentially turning into human pillars of salt. So if the result is that they don’t look older so much as messed up, so much the better.

Once again Mulder sends Scully on an inexplicable errand. And once again, she’s both frustrated and intrigued by it. But I would like to note, as Nina did so humorously in her guest post recently, that Mulder is the senior agent here. Scully can and does protest and rebel when she wants to do, but technically, she should do what he asks her. He’s in charge of the X-Files division. Notice he says “my office.”

It’s a neat twist on the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle. More importantly, it’s yet another case of Mulder being wrong, which I love all too dearly. There was no time warp, no wormhole. There was an explainable, if improbable, more basic scientific answer to the conundrum.

A mysterious, crotchety, over-confident ship’s captain approaches Mulder and Scully like a device out of a 19th century epic novel. It’s quite satisfying to watch Trondheim descend into madness and become the very thing he hated in Olafsson. He starts out reasonable enough, if not necessarily a man you want to take to dinner. Then we can understand, though not condone, that he takes out his vengeance on Olafsson, murderer of his young first mate. Why would he want to share a dwindling water supply with him? Of course it’s only downhill from there. And let me tell you, watching Trondheim scoop water out of that abomination of a toilet… I die a little inside.

One thing I never noticed before was Mulder listening in as Trondheim urges Scully to give up on Mulder and agree to split the clean (operative term here) water between themselves. Mulder hears and Scully knows that he does. Mulder himself urges her just as forcefully to save herself later on in the episode. We see her eyes flicker for half a second, but again Scully proves her loyalty as she’d rather go down with her partner than survive at his expense.

Delayed though it is, we get to learn something about what effect Scully’s near death experience had on her. It’s indicated at the end of “One Breath” (2×8) that Scully heard and remembered what Mulder said to her while she was in her coma. What she says in this episode would lead us to believe that she also remembers the vision she had of her father as well. Her final journal entry/monologue is quietly powerful, if rather depressing.

In those last moments, or what they believe are there last moments, Mulder and Scully’s characters shine. Mulder will be playfully sarcastic to the end of his days, Scully reserved and unflappable. Well, at least until the “Redux II” (5×3)…

…And the Verdict is:

I’m starting to think I need to create a whole new tag category for underrated episodes. I’m noticing quite a lot of them this rewatch and “Dod Kalm” fits the bill to a T. Is it genius? No. But it’s thoughtful, dark, eerie and claustrophobic, and isn’t that what an X-File is supposed to be?

Similarly to “Fresh Bones” (2×15), another episode driven largely by dark visuals, the most satisfying thing about it is seeing the villain get his hard-earned reward. Trondheim coveted water and water he received. That’s probably the best moment of the episode.

Speaking of visuals, the use of flashlights is phenomenal. Once again, Rob Bowman delivers as a director. Honestly, if not for makeup issues I think this would be considered one of the most nicely filmed episodes in the series.

B

Questions:

This is a ship that not long ago was full of men, men who needed sustenance. Yet all Scully can find in the kitchen is one sorry sardine can?

Wouldn’t salty sardine juice only dehydrate them and kill them faster? Same with the Jack Daniels Captain Barclay was holding onto for dear life.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Feeling any better?
Mulder: No. You’re lucky you inherited your father’s legs.
Scully: What?
Mulder: Sea legs.

——————

Scully: Mulder, what do you know about free radicals?
Mulder: Is this a quiz?

——————

Mulder: You know, I always thought when I got older I’d maybe take a cruise somewhere. This isn’t exactly what I had in mind. The service on this ship is terrible, Scully.