Tag Archives: Marita Covarrubias

Zero Sum 4×21: You’ll find it’s not that easy to walk away.


Smoking Kills.

Remember the “Killer Bee” scares of the 1990s? Remember the news reports of swarms migrating through the Southwestern United States? Remember My Girl?

Bees are freaky, but The X-Files already knew that since we were first introduced to the guest stars of this episode back in the Season 4 opener “Herrenvolk” (4×1). “Zero Sum” gives them top billing this time around, however. It must be due to the rise of the union.

I’m still not sure I understand how Smallpox plays into all this, even though this aspect of the mythology storyline was introduced way back in “Paper Clip” (3×2). I now count myself thoroughly confused.

Based on what we learned in Season 3, the project, as managed by the Syndicate and a handful of unsavory Axis power scientists, uses Smallpox vaccination records to track human subjects for their alien-human hybridization experiments. This is confirmed and further explained at the start of Season 4 in “Herrenvolk” when we learn that this genetic tagging was made possible through the SEP, the Smallpox Eradication Program, and that Drones, those created by the project as something more than human but less than a hybrid, are being used to catalog and track these tags from strategic positions within the Federal government.

Check.

But why bees? And why reintroduce Smallpox into the world?

As to the bees, I think we’ve covered that. Bees are freaky and that’s enough. Using, oh, say, Chicken Pox vaccinations to conduct illegal tests on unsuspecting citizens would be duly horrifying, but not in a peak-through-your-fingers in delightful agony sort of way.

Still, why Smallpox and why now? I can only guess, and this really is a guess, that the Syndicate, having only truly come into contact with the Black Oil for the first time in Season 3, is now aware that the Black Oil will be the method of infection, the virus, the tool for turning human beings into a slave race of the Alien Colonists. Since their job is to facilitate colonization (meanwhile subverting the whole process behind alien backs), they’re trying to figure out the most efficient method for spreading the virus. The time has not yet come for colonization, the aliens I guess are taking their sweet time, so the Syndicate is giving this whole mass infection thing a dry run of sorts using an alternate virus: Smallpox.

You would think that creatures who can stop time and transcend space (see “Max”) would be fully capable of infecting a planet of backward humans without assistance, but I gather they’d prefer the process not to be messy and so have employed the Syndicate who, despite their best efforts, always seem to draw attention to themselves.

I still believe there must be a better, more efficient, less dramatic way of infecting people. But then, would there be any point in watching? No. And besides, I really enjoy this craziness.

Conclusion:

This is one of those (thankfully) rare episodes where Scully doesn’t appear and even Mulder’s role is greatly reduced. But if they have to step back, I’m glad Skinner could come forward. This is a much, much more satisfying outing for his character than “Avatar” (3×21), an episode that will probably be skipped on my next rewatch now that I’ve done my duty and reviewed it. Not that it was horrible, mind you, just dull. “Zero Sum”, despite its less personal subject matter, actually does Skinner more of a service by developing his character through his own actions rather than a quick, perfunctory speech toward the end of the episode. (Mulder and Scully did most of the legwork in “Avatar” rather than Skinner). This time, we get to learn more about who Skinner is through how he interacts with CSM and Mulder, and how thoroughly he can sanitize a crime scene. Skinner certainly isn’t one, like Mulder, to spend a lot of time analyzing the whys and wherefores of his predicament. He has a duty, he does it. If he makes a mistake, there are no excuses.

We finally see the effect of the deal with the Devil Skinner made with CSM back in “Memento Mori” (4×15); he essentially sold his soul for the cure to Scully’s cancer so that Mulder wouldn’t have to. I know why Skinner did it, but what’s in it for CSM? I suspect it’s just an exercise in power. Remember, Skinner used to be under his thumb before he rebelled and broke ties completely with that famous kiss off in “Paper Clip”. I don’t think CSM appreciated that much. Certainly, he could have used a minion that was far more experienced at covering up a crime than employing Skinner to do his dirty work. But this is something that he can hold over Skinner’s head, blackmail, to keep him in line. No more back talk from the Assistant Director.

Watching these two spar back in forth is part of the fun of this episode, which outside of the excitement the bees bring, doesn’t actually add much of anything to the mythology even though it focuses on it. In this respect, it reminds me of both “Memento Mori” and the soon to come “Demons” (4×23). In the same vein, the ending really resolves nothing, although it does ad a pleasurable twist to the proceedings. And at the very least, Mulder has even more confirmation that he can trust Skinner, a trust that will be crucial come the opening episodes of Season 5.

Believe it or not, not that one would have any reason not to, this was the first episode of The X-Files that I actually watched on Fox during it’s usual timeslot. At this point, FX was still airing Season 2 reruns and the show was on its very long summer hiatus between Seasons 4 and 5. I didn’t even know who Skinner was at that point. Still enjoyed it though.

B+

Bepuzzlements:

Is Marita really working for CSM? Her predecessor, Mr. X, ostensibly was as well. But clearly he was actually working against his boss from the inside. It remains to be seen where Marita Covarrubias’ loyalties actually lie.

Unnecessary Additives:

I really enjoy this teaser. The bathroom scene is a little reminiscent of “War of the Coprophages” (3×12) without the comical edge. And watching Skinner stroll suspiciously out of Mulder’s office in the dark, the light falling revealingly on Mulder’s nameplate, is the perfect ending.

That playground scene is a winner.

Best Quotes:

Marita Covarrubias: I’ll tell him what you want me to tell him.
CSM: Tell him what he wants to hear.

————————

CSM: Agent Scully stands to live a long and healthy life. I would hope the same for you, Mr. Skinner.

————————-

First Elder: Details are everything. Much more important than your vague assurances.
CSM: Well, you’ll have to trust my assurance that any other breaches have been handled.
First Elder: Handled by whom?
CSM: I’ve a man in place. A man with no other choice but to succeed.
First Elder: And what assurance can you give us that he can be trusted?
Second Elder: We can’t risk even the slightest exposure.
CSM: He has nothing to expose… except his own duplicity.

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Unrequited 4×16: There goes the neighborhood.


I fold.

If Season 4 was good for anything it was experimentation. Most of it came from the minds of Morgan and Wong who gave us the non-formulaic “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man” (4×7) but also the highly unusual teaser in “The Field Where I Died” (4×5). In that episode, we open with the end of the story, Mulder standing alone in a field crying, feeling sorry for himself, and reading a poem. It’s not my favorite episode by any stretch, but I always appreciated how striking and memorable that teaser is. It sets up the tone and content of the entire episode very, very quickly.

“Unrequited” tries to experiment with its teaser too, it’s just less successful at it. We open at the climax of the story, but unfortunately the climax isn’t very climactic. And it doesn’t get any better when the episode begins in earnest and we work our way back to that scene chronologically. The sequence drags on to the point where all tension is lost and what’s worse, by then the audience is only watching out of obligation anyway rather than interest, the rest of the episode not living up to the implied “Hey, isn’t this exciting!” message behind the teaser.

Like “Teliko” (4×4), except much more so, this is a political X-File. Oh, there’s an undercurrent of political subtext to the mythology itself, it becoming clear early on that the men behind this show are probably products of the 1970s when Americans progressed from being suspicious of the government to being distinctly jaded. But usually those themes are in the background as implied food for thought. When The X-Files tries to turn undertones into overtones it usually either succeeds marvelously or fails miserably. “Unrequited” is one of the latter.

One of the dangers of this type of episode is finding a really good rationale for why Mulder and Scully are in on a mission like this in the first place. Hunting down militia is not exactly their area of expertise. Which leads me to the next danger: this type of episode has little to do with the paranormal or the frightening. Teager’s ability, which is poorly explored, is almost incidental to the plot. The point isn’t how scary an invisible man would be, it’s how “invisible” our soldiers have become socially and politically. A noble sentiment, but I generally tune in to The X-Files for an adrenaline rush.

Speaking of a lack of adrenaline, or a pulse, it’s official: Marita Covarrubias is useless. They needed to give her a niche, a specialty, some area of government secrets that she had particular access to. Instead Mulder comes to her for a hodgepodge of information of the most superficial sort. Something makes me think that The Powers That Be decided to make Marita Covarrubias the assistant to the Special Representative to the Secretary General of the United Nations because they weren’t exactly sure what role she would play and they thought that having her work for an institution as broad as the United Nations would mean that she could provide Mulder with all kinds of answers. She gives him all kinds of answers all right, but it feels forced and her information is nearly useless. Every time she shows up I get the feeling the writers are trying to remind me she exists, whereas her predecessors, Deep Throat and X, were anticipated and looked for and when they showed up out of the blue it was a gratifying surprise.

Verdict:

For an episode whose scare factor had such an inherently frightening and historically successful motif to fall back on as “The Invisible Man,” this story should have worked much better. Instead, ham-fisted political overtones drag down the pace and the impact that it should have had is lost. Both the message and the story lose their power and nobody wins. The X-Files just isn’t the proper vehicle for this sort of thing. Thankfully, Howard Gordon would go on to write for 24 where politics and action make much better bedfellows. He finally got to put all those ideas to good use.

By way of finding something to put in the plus column, I’d say that at least they took Skinner out of his box so he could play, but while he’s put to practical use his history as a Vietnam veteran only earns a veiled reference at the beginning and a brief mention at the very end of the episode. Yawn and you’ll miss it… and most likely you’re yawning by that point.

If “Kaddish” (4×12) was good but quiet, with this episode the series’ gears are grinding to a halt. The X-Files needs something or someone to shake things up, someone like Max Fenig perhaps?

D

Questions:

How come Mulder and Scully’s eyes never bleed? Teager worked their blind spots often enough.

Mulder calls the circumstances of Teager’s pronounced death “inconclusive.” But dare I say that’s ridiculous? Deaths are regularly declared on nothing more than teeth when bombings and explosions are involved. The marks on Teager’s tooth could have been made in any number of ways.

On that note, the implication is that the Viet Cong staged the scene so that the American government would believe Teager, and the other soldiers, were dead. Which would mean that they planned to take them prisoner and keep it a secret, an odd thing to do in the middle of a war for a soldier of no particular political importance.

Why would Teager agree to work for the men who, while not directly involved, were responsible for leaving him behind in Vietnam? Why would he agree to kill certain Generals, knowing that by doing so he’d be covering up forever what happened to him and men like him? That connection needed much more than a passing mention because to call the situation unlikely would be generous.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Was that for the benefit of the General or have you been able to develop a real strategy?
Skinner: Right now I’m flying by the seat of my pants.
Mulder: You mean there’s no procedure outline for an invisible assassin?

———————–

Skinner: You heard his story, Mulder?
Mulder: Yeah, I found his story compelling personally, but then again, I believe the Warren Commission.

———————–

Mulder: Don’t let them do this.
Skinner: Let it go, Agent Mulder. You did your job.
Mulder: So did Nathaniel Teager.
Skinner: You found the man that you were looking for, but now he’s dead. It’s over.
Mulder: Is that what you believe? Is that what you really believe? They’re not just denying this man’s life, they’re denying his death. And with all due respect, Sir, he could be you.

Tunguska 4×9: These men, they make it up as they go along.


Shock and awe.

The Black Oil is back, or should I say, the Black Worms have arrived. This time it’s not transporting itself through human carriers, but it’s being excavated and transported within ancient rocks. However creepy its earlier form may have been, this is the first time I think a mythology episode ever tiptoed this close to the horror genre. Those little worms are memorable and fantastic.

I said earlier that a mythology primer is almost necessary to keep track of the various forms of alien and half-alien life we’ve been exposed to. If it would have been nice before it’s vital now. Is this the same Black Oil that we were introduced to in “Piper Maru” (3×15)? That version was decidedly unwormlike, but more than that, it “possessed” human beings to further it’s own agenda, clearly having sentience. It could also use its radioactive properties as a weapon if need be.

This new (same?) version acts more like a basic organism than something highly evolved. When expelled from one person, it makes no effort to jump to the next and so preserve itself. And it certainly doesn’t possess or manipulate anyone. Instead it puts them in a sort of coma, the purpose of which isn’t ever explained.

And what about the Black Oil’s eventually to be revealed version in Fight the Future? Reconciling that incarnation of it to the story at large is a headache I’ll save for another time.

Needless to say that after numerous rewatches, this two-parter still leaves me a tad confused. Okay, I’m lost. That doesn’t completely interfere with my enjoyment of it, though. After all, Krycek’s back and hanging off of balconies and such. Scully’s at her Sculliest in that Senate hearing. And, most of all, I had sorely missed Well-Manicured Man.

On a less satisfying note, you’ll think I’m naïve, but this watch is the first time I realized that Marita Covarrubias was inserted to add some sex appeal to the show. She doesn’t serve much of a purpose outside of that, which is probably why outside of giving Mulder access to a few bits of information, she hasn’t actually done anything yet and we’re already a third of the way through the season. Funny how the show becomes a sensation and then they feel like they have to add a femme fatale to give it some flavor. Wasn’t Scully doing the job just fine?

Alright, I’m being mean because I’m biased. That strangely affected cadence of hers gets on my nerves. She wouldn’t actually become interesting until Season 5 when they let her hands dirty with conspiracy much. Let’s look forward to it, shall we?

Conclusion:

“They found me in North Dakota” is not a sufficient explanation for how Krycek escaped from that former military silo in which he was so memorably abandoned in “Apocrypha” (3×16). Either a radical militia broke into the silo while on a hunt for supplies and he charmed them with some reasonable explanation for why he was locked in the silo in the first place, or, to hear Terry Mayhew tell it, he escaped and came looking for them. The first scenario seems more likely, but whatever version is closer to the truth at least we can know for sure that Krycek is lying. Why? Because he always lies. Watching him betray Mulder to his torturers in Tunguska is one of his more satisfying double-crosses.

But what is the man really up to? Did Mulder really lead him to Tunguska or the other way around? Who’s he working for now and what’s his agenda?

There should be a lot more to discuss in “Terma” (4×10) when hopefully things will begin to connect. This episode is solid in terms of the experience, but it presents more questions than it answers. That’s partially because it’s the first of a two-part arc, and even more so because it’s a mythology episode.

I’m starting to remember how many threads of the mythology never got woven into the whole

A-

Bepuzzlements:

How did Krycek reach his hand up that high to pull his would-be assassin down over the balcony?

Comments:

Scully’s hair suddenly got shorter. Now she truly has the “Scully cut.”

Krycek is like a brat throwing a tantrum sometimes.

I remember when you could freely enter the gate area of an airport like that.

Best Quotes:

Krycek: They found me in North Dakota. They liberated me on a salvage hunt. Hey, you go underground, you got to learn to live with the rats.
Mulder: I’m sure you had no trouble adapting.

———————-

Krycek: These men, they fear one thing: exposure. You expose him, expose his crimes, you destroy the destroyer’s ability to destroy.
Mulder: The only thing that will destroy this man is the truth.
Krycek: The truth, the truth… There is no truth. These men just make it up as they go along. They’re the engineers of the future. They’re the real revolutionaries.

———————-

Krycek: You can’t leave me out here! I’m going to freeze to death!
Skinner: Just think warm thoughts.

———————-

Mulder: I’m leaving the window rolled down. If I’m not back in a week I’ll call Agent Scully and to come bring you a bowl of water.