Tag Archives: Small Potatoes

Je Souhaite 7×21: How many centuries now has disco been dead?


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Breakfast of champions.

First off, disco is not dead.

Second off, it wasn’t until I joined the internet fandom many years after the show first aired that I realized people really loved this episode. ‘Cause I didn’t love it. I didn’t know what to do with it. I was bored.

Maybe it’s that every time I reach this point in Season 7 I’m so bored and frustrated that it really would take a magic wish to wake me up. – Or some devilish shenanigans a la “Requiem” (7×22). Maybe I would’ve liked it better if we hadn’t just had two kooky episodes in a row. Maybe.

I should love it because “Je Souhaite” is classic Vince Gilligan. And Vince Gilligan is probably my favorite television writer ever. Here he also directs an episode of The X-Files for the first time, which is in keeping with Season 7’s theme of letting everyone have a chance to take the wheel.

But my hangups with this episode are the same ones I used to have with “Bad Blood” (5×12 ) and that I should have but don’t with “Small Potatoes” (4×20) because I’m a hypocrite. There are radical, life-altering, world-changing events happening here and the responses are so… comedic that I find it jarring. In “Bad Blood”, Mulder is under investigation for killing an unarmed teenager but basically limits his reaction to sarcastic one-liners directed at Scully. In “Small Potatoes”, women are basically being raped by a man who tricks them into believing he’s their husbands, but dang it, it’s hard to hate Eddie Van Blundht. And here Mulder makes a wish that wipes out the human race and all he can say is, “Oh, crap.”

Where I actually start to disconnect  is when an invisible body is “discovered” and taken in for an autopsy. Would anyone believe it was a human body some guy on the bike had fallen over? And if they believed it was, wouldn’t the CDC, NIH and the Surgeon General have been called out? Why would the local coroner’s office have contacted Mulder and Scully? It’s not like they were investigating the deaths of invisible men.

I realize it’s comedic, but my mind has to be in “Real World according to The X-Files” mode or “Fantasy according to The X-Files” mode. I have a hard time switching back and forth between the two. At first, I think “Je Souhaite” is going to be funny but still somehow real like “Small Potatoes” manages to be, and then suddenly it’s not and a switch turns off in my head. This is a personal problem.

My second problem is that this trope is a little too familiar. Like Mulder, I too grew up watching I Dream of Jeannie, so I know it’s dangerous to be too literal with the jinn. And then there’s that episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Man in the Bottle” warning me to be careful what I wish for. Heck, even Duck Tales warned me that a genie’s power was dangerous.

And, most of all, I saw Aladdin. So we know where Mulder’s final wish is headed, m’kay?

My point is that none of this is new. Trickster genies are a tradition.

Tradition is fine. But there’s no point in telling the story unless there’s a fresh perspective on the tale, and by “fresh” I mean something more than the genie wearing a leather jacket.

If you’re still here, let me assure you that my griping is now done. Unlike “Fight Club” (7×2), this episode has real merit.

Even though my brain may have trouble suspending disbelief, it is funny. Most of my laughter is drawn out by the Stokes brothers who steal the show. I could’ve used a lot more of them. I love Anson’s kitchen table scream. Leslie trying to throw off Mulder and Scully’s suspicion. Chilly Zombie!Anson blowing up the house while Leslie rants and raves in the background. That’s good stuff. That’s Gilligan stuff.

Since Season 3, I’ve noticed that the penultimate episode of the season usually serves as a sort of emotional finale before the mytharc themed season finale. In Season 5, Vince Gilligan gave us “Folie à Deux” (5×19), an episode that reaffirmed Mulder and Scully’s partnership right before it was tested by the advent of Diana Fowley in “The End” (5×20). I don’t know if “Je Souhaite” was originally conceived of as the penultimate episode, but we do know that when it was written and filmed the fate of The X-Files was still up in the air. This very well could have been its last stand-alone episode. Just in case it was, Gilligan had a little message for the fans:

Mulder: The trick is to be specific. To make the wish perfect. That way, everyone is going to benefit. It’s going to be a safer world, a happier world. There’s going to be food for everyone, freedom for everyone, the end of the tyranny of the powerful over the weak. Am I leaving anything out?

Scully: It sounds wonderful.

Mulder: Then what’s the problem?

Scully: Maybe it’s the whole point of our lives here, Mulder, to achieve that. Maybe it’s a process that one man shouldn’t try and circumvent with a single wish.

You heard it here. World peace isn’t achieved by wanting it or wishing for but by working for it. And you don’t have to start big; you start by treating the people around you better.

Mulder: I don’t know if you noticed but, um, I never made the world a happier place.

Scully: Well, I’m fairly happy. That’s something.

Yes, it is, Scully.

If the world ends tomorrow, and knowing season finales on The X-Files it just might, we can rest at ease knowing that even if Mulder didn’t change the world he made a difference in one life.

Verdict:

All my kvetching makes it sound like my grade is going to be more dire than it is. But now that I know what to expect from it, this episode has grown on me over the years, which seems to be my recurring theme for Season 7. I guess when there’s nothing else left, you learn to appreciate what you have.

And who knows? In a few years I may like this as much as “Bad Blood”.

B

Random Observation:

Funny. Jenn doesn’t talk like she last came out of the 70’s.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I can’t believe you don’t want butter on your popcorn. Uggh. It’s un- American.

——————–

Jenn: The only thing you people are cursed with is stupidity. All of you. Everybody. Mankind. Everyone I have ever come into contact with without fail. Always asking for the wrong thing.

Mulder: You mean making the wrong wishes.

JENN: Yeah, it’s always: “Give me money. Give me big boobs. ” [Indicates crotch] “Give me a big hoo-hoo. Make me cool like the Fonz.” Or whoever’s the big name now.

Mulder: You been out of circulation a long time.

X-Cops 7×12: With all due respect, what the **** are you talking about?


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It all depends on how they edit it together.

It’s not you, Vince. It’s me.

I realize we haven’t talked for a while, or ever, but I believe it’s best if we’re absolutely open and honest and each other. Because good relationships, like Mulder and Scully’s, are built on mutual respect and trust.

Now, you know I’m not the touchiest feeliest type, but with all my little grinch heart I do love you. Way back in “Soft Light” (2×23) I knew there was something special about you. Maybe it was your sense of humor, your obvious love for the characters that came out in the dialogue, your well-placed touches of continuity… because you always were the King of Continuity, Vince. I don’t know what it was exactly, but I knew that you had it.

Then along came “Pusher” (3×17) and I was just gone. Maya Angelou once said that people will forget what you did but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. Well, “Pusher” makes me feel things, Vince. Happy things. Those happy, gushy, illogical feelings that you get when you’re watching really, really good television. You wrote and directed “Sunshine Days” (9×18), so I know you know what I’m talking about.

I’ve always thought your biggest strength is that you’re a fan first, a fan who can write like the dickens. As a fan then, you’ve had those moments when, for whatever reason, your favorite television show doesn’t do it for you one week. Maybe you had a cold. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe you didn’t like the guest star. Whatever. It could be anything. But it happens.

Well, it’s happened for me, Vince. It’s happened for me with you. It’s “X-Cops.” I just… can’t.

Don’t get upset! Please! I don’t want this to come between us. I’d hate like the devil for that to happen.

I know you’re a genius and I believe in your powers. But this just isn’t my brand of humor. I mean, I suppose I can do broad humor. It may have taken me a little longer than most to warm up to “Bad Blood” (5×12) but we get along fine now. And I’m a huge fan of I Love Lucy. So maybe I’m just a hypocrite. It really is me, not you.

But in my heart and in my mind, there’s broad and then there’s wide enough to straddle Manhattan. Each time “X-Cops” comes up on one of my rewatches I try my darndest to give it a fair try, but when Steve and Edy come on the scene, you lose me. They make The Birdcage look like an exercise in dramatic restraint.

I’m not insulting your taste because I worship the ground you walk on. I do. Or at least I imagine I would if I were anywhere near the ground you walk on… and if worshiping you weren’t blasphemous… and psychotic.

But you know how Chris is famous for saying The X-Files is only as scary as it is real? Well, if you get really real it ain’t scary either. Not that you meant for this Boggart – because that’s what this Monster of the Week effectively is, a Boggart – to be truly frightening. Still, when you take Mulder and Scully out of their alternate universe and drop them in mine, something feels off. Really off.

Frankly, you did too good of a job. The creativity and accuracy in this one is impressive. Actually, this feels so much like an episode of Cops, down to the impeccably done intros and outros, that I’ve lost the sense of mystery and wonder that I’m used to getting week after week…. not that I’ve been getting it very much recently. Season 7’s been rough on me. I’ve kinda been losing the loving feeling. So, like I said, it’s not really your fault.

But I guess I’m like your mom. I read your Entertainment Weekly interview from back in 2000 and you said when you tried to show her “X-Cops” that she left the room to do the dishes saying, “Well, turn off Cops and show me some X-Files.” I feel the same way, Vince. The truth is, you did too good of a job. As a creative exercise, “X-Cops” is impressive. I mean, it’s amazingly accurate. And your dialogue, as always, had me chuckling despite myself. I have needs, though. Emotional needs. And what I need at this point in the series is a good old-fashioned X-File. “X-Cops” just isn’t fulfilling my needs right now.

It’s not a big deal. It’s just one of those things, one of those bumps in the road that every relationship has. We’ll move past it. I still love you! I still love The X-Files! Nothing’s going to change that. Nothing’s gonna spoil us.

I know it’s hard because up until now we’ve never had so much as an awkward moment. You know how I feel about “Unruhe” (4×2) and “Small Potatoes” (4×20) especially, not to mention “Paper Hearts” (4×8) and “Drive” (6×2). And then I could go on and on about your work as part of the John Gillnitz trio, but I wouldn’t want you to think I’m sucking up. I just want you to know that my love for your work has by no means diminished.

Besides… you don’t need me, Vince. You never have. Most people love this episode! Many a time I’ve read it lauded as the best episode of Season 7, so there you go. Never mind that my heart won’t accept it as an X-File. That’s a personal problem of mine.

One day soon we need to sit down over a cup of cocoa somewhere and catch up. I know you’ve been living your life and I’ve been living mine, but I miss you. I’ve been dying to tell you how haunting I thought the Breaking Bad finale was, how much I loved the way you used the song “El Paso”, and how I saw that little nod to The X-Files in the episode “Full Measure” and grinned like an idiot over it. And every time Breaking Bad comes up in conversation… and it does a lot…. I tell people, “Vince was a writer on The X-Files,” with all the pride my voice can handle.

I’m glad to know you’re out there and busy, giving lots of people the same geeky joy you give me.

And that’s why I say it’s not me, Vince. It’s you.

Yours devotedly,

Salome

Verdict:

If I’m going to be totally honest, and why not be? When the show first aired, it was right here at this episode that I remember thinking to myself, “I’m never going to love an episode the same way ever again, am I?” 

Yes. This was my personal “Jump the Shark” moment.

C+

Crack House Commentary:

This is the first of several episodes this season that smell suspiciously like fanfic, as if the cast and crew wanted to fulfill a few guilty pleasures before the show left the air.

On that note, part of me feels this whole exercise was just someone’s (cough!) excuse to fulfill the boyhood dream of riding along in a cop car all for the sake of “professional research.”

Okay, maybe it was an adulthood dream.

How could Steve and Edy really be sure it was Chantara? I feel like in that kind of neighborhood brightly colored fake nails wouldn’t be hard to come by.

I’m not superstitious, but I’ve found over the years that crazy really does come around when the moon is full.

Why are David and Gillian still gorgeous even on video?

That really cute moment when Scully hides behind the ambulance door.

That sketch artist came up with a drawing of Freddie Kruger in less than thirty seconds. I know. I counted.

Those scenes with Steve and Edy… I don’t think Mulder’s trying not to laugh I think David Duchovny’s trying not to laugh.

If you are going to do an X-Files/Cops crossover, an invisible MOTW is a wise choice. If a monster had actually shown up in the real world it would have been all over, for both the episode and the show.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Look, Mulder, you want to talk about werewolves to me you can knock yourself out. I may not agree with you but at least I’m not going to hold it against you. But this, Mulder, this could ruin your career.

Mulder: What career? Scully, I appreciate it. You don’t want me looking foolish. I do. I appreciate that.

Scully: I don’t want me looking foolish, Mulder.

——————-

Officer: My favorite part of the job – knocking down crack houses.

Dep. Wetzel: I heard that.

——————-

Dep. Wetzel: You really believe me, huh? You really believe I saw what I thought I saw?

Mulder: Yeah, I believe you.

Dep. Wetzel: Why?

Mulder: Why do I believe you?

Dep. Wetzel: Yeah. I mean, what proof do you have what I’m saying is real? I mean, it’s not… it’s not on the video tape.

Mulder: The camera doesn’t always tell the whole story.

Dep. Wetzel: And what about your partner? Does she believe me?

Mulder: I don’t think she thinks you’re lying.

Dep. Wetzel: Yeah, but what? Maybe I’m crazy? You know, I’ve been on the job 18 months– all I ever wanted to do. Right out of the gate, I get some kind of rep like I’m crazy? I mean, you know how cops are. How’s somebody supposed to live that down?

Mulder: I don’t know. Uh, I guess just do good work.

Dep. Wetzel: It’s a hard enough job already, you know?… And it’s hard to have a fast-track career in law enforcement when everybody thinks you’re nuts.

Mulder: Tell me about it.

The Goldberg Variation 7×2: Maybe your luck is changing.


The Goldberg Variation 2

The unluckiest by far.

I hate to come back after an extended hiatus and bring tidings of mediocrity, but alas, I paused where I paused in this rewatch and must return where I must. And this just isn’t a great episode.

Let’s start with the good. “The Goldberg Variation” does have some cute moments. “Moments” so far being the key word of Season 7, a season that sporadically throws us knowing winks of familiarity, humor and emotional significance, but that mostly sits stares at us with bored, half-lidded eyes.

Here it takes a vain stab at touching humor a la “Small Potatoes” (4×20). It’s trying to do everything right  – We have a quirky, socially awkward anti-hero who’s lovable despite himself, an X-File that’s fantastic rather than frightening and Mulder made a mess of. What’s not to love, right? But I can’t love it. I haven’t even been able to watch the entire episode in a single sitting since it first aired. I keep getting distracted by things like my dog snoring and my overgrown toenail cuticles and have to rewind.

The highlight of the episode for me happens very early on, within the first quarter. Scully’s stifled smile as Mulder tries and fails to go from G-Man to handyman makes me laugh every time. So there is that.

But for an episode based on the inescapable force that is Cause and Effect, the plot feels like a loosely connected series of coincidences rather than a logical chain of events. And even if in hindsight we’re supposed to see that there was a reason for all this madness, that a force was behind the plot and driving it to an inevitably good conclusion, it still feels haphazard and goofy rather than controlled.

That’s too bad since this episode’s two main guest stars, prolific actor Willie Garson and soon-to-be prolific actor Shia LaBeouf, could potentially have given us some real television memories. And writer Jeffrey Bell already has – Some good (“The Rain King”) and some not so good (“Alpha”).

The Mulder/Scully dynamic is enjoyable as always, but perhaps they’ve been feeding on too much L.A. sunshine in the absence of alien angst. Neither of them are dealing with drama at the moment and it shows. There’s no conspiracy and no cancer. There isn’t even an X-File that poses any actual danger. What are they to do but crack jokes and smirk at each other?

They deserve it after all this time, to be sure. So why do I suddenly miss the driving sense of urgency that characterized earlier seasons and the built-in mystery that the Vancouver fog used to lend to the production? I know I’m a hypocrite since I loved the famously lighthearted Season 6 which was also shot in L.A.. But cheeky and experimental as “Triangle” (6×3) is, it still has an intensity that episodes like this one lack.

Verdict:

So what separates the “Small Potatoes” from episodes like “The Goldberg Variation”? In a word: soul.

It’s not the acting talent. It’s not the writing talent. It’s not the production budget. It’s that “something” that’s impossible to define but that you can’t forget once you encounter it. That “something” that brought us all to The X-Files in the first place.

Somehow, all the moving parts were there but didn’t come together with any chemistry. The result is a cute but lackluster forty-three minutes and thirty-three seconds.

Gone, perhaps, are the days when I would call up my best friend during commercial breaks going, “OMW, did you see that??”

C

Unnecessary Comments:

Mobsters using words like “impervious.” *mildly amused smirk*

The props department outdid themselves with those Rube Goldberg machines. Or where they borrowed?

This won’t be the last time Lady Luck stars as an X-File…

Quotes:

Mulder: Hey, nice outfit! {Editor’s Note: Funny, I was thinking the same thing. Scully looks awfully well-tailored for a government worker.}

————————

Scully: So, basically, we’re looking for Wile E. Coyote.” {Editor’s Note: Would that you were, Scully. Would that you were.}

————————
Scully: I like baseball too. {Editor’s Note: I see what you did there, Jeffrey Bell.}

Season 6 Wrap Up: Maybe I did want to be out there with you.


This is one of those seasons in terms of its popularity that gets polar opposite responses depending on which faction of the fandom you ask about it. It’s trying too hard to be funny, it’s not funny, it’s hilarious. Too much MSR, not enough MSR, just the right amount. I miss the Syndicate, I was sick of the Syndicate, what’s with this new mythology?

You can’t please all the people all the time, especially if your name is Chris Carter.

Personally, I adore Season 6. But I can understand why some fans don’t. If Season 5 would throw fans a knowing smile every so often, Season 6 is constantly, flirtatiously winking at us. The X-Files has become not only much more self-conscious and self-referential, it also acknowledges its fan base and fan expectations in a more direct way than before.

Previous episodes like “Small Potatoes” (4×20) have toyed with the ever-present subtext of Mulder and Scully’s burgeoning romantic relationship (MSR). But fast-forward to “The Rain King” (6×7) and it’s not a subtext, it’s the only text, and the characters around Mulder and Scully directly confront them with the feelings fans had been harboring for years.

I mean… you spend every day with Agent Scully, a beautiful, enchanting woman. And you two never, uh…? I… confess I find that shocking. I… I’ve seen how you two gaze at one another.

Not even a kiss?

Sorry, my NoRoMo friends. You’ll have to forgive me for indulging in some MSR talk. It’s a major, major component of Season 6 that can’t be ignored. In fact, I don’t think it’s a reach to say it’s the main component. Not only does it drive many stand-alone episodes, the Mulder-Scully-Fowley love triangle becomes such a major issue that it largely drives the mythology this season. You can’t discuss Season 6 without discussing MSR.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m about to plagiarize myself since I can think of no more effective way to explain my position.

Back in the not so distant day, a Shipper had to hunt for little romantic gems in an episode. A brief hand-hold here, a golden moment of banter there… it was a game looking for these affirmations of the Shipper faith since it wasn’t as though the writers were putting them there on purpose. We had to take what we could get. Now, however, the game has changed completely and after the events of the movie, Chris Carter & Co. could no longer believably ignore either the mounting anticipation of their audience or the romantic tension that they inadvertently created between their two lead characters. So, what to do, what to do? They had no choice, really, but to officially script the MSR subtext into the series. Now Shippers no longer have to hunt for sustenance like wild animals, it’s being fed to us in golden bowls like house pets.

If that sounds like a complaint, please know that it’s not. As I said, I don’t see how the show could have believably evolved any other way. What could Chris Carter have done? Turned back the clock and pretended that millions of people had never seen that scene outside of Mulder’s apartment? Or worse, should he have taken character development back a few seasons in order to halt the progression of this budding romance between his leads? Never. Looking back it was inevitable that the romantic undertone of the series would become more overt. And however people may complain that it made The X-Files look silly, it would have looked a heck of a lot sillier if they had stubbornly ignored the obvious.

And in the profound words of Mr. Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

The only check mark in the negative column against Season 6 is that while the great majority of episodes, as individual episodes, are great, on the whole it may be slightly unbalanced. Particularly in the beginning of the season, the scales are tipped toward the lighter side of things which is a disappointment, I’m sure, to the fans who prefer grittier Monster of the Week and Mythology episodes. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if episodes like “Tithonus” (6×9) had come along sooner rather than later if Season 6 would still have quite as featherweight a reputation. After all, for the shortest season ever (twenty episodes) Season 5 gave us its fair share of less than super serious material: “Unusual Suspects” (5×1), “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6), “Detour” (5×4), “Bad Blood” (5×12), “Folie a Deux” (5×19). And that’s not even counting Mulder’s hilarious phone calls to Scully in “Chinga” (5×10).

I calculate Season 6 at 40% funny vs. Season 5’s 30%, give or take. Perhaps the team at 1013 wanted to leaven the heavy drama of the mythology episodes this season by giving the fans an emotional break during the stand-alone episodes. I still consider “Arcadia” (6×13) a humble apology for forcing us to watch Mulder and Scully nearly split up for good in “One Son” (6×12). That fight was so bad even the Lone Gunmen had to look away. And while we’re at it, maybe Chris Carter meant “Triangle” (6×3) to be a peace offering after he had Mulder nearly take back in “The Beginning” (6×1) everything he said to Scully in the hallway last summer. You bet your cheap weave Mulder owed Scully more than one “I love you” after that.

Speaking of “I love you’s”, somewhere along the way this season, probably without us even noticing, I believe Mulder and Scully passed the point where a love confession was even necessary.

I can safely say that by the events of “Biogenesis” (6×22) Mulder knows that Scully is in love with him and not just because he can conveniently read minds. I don’t know by what work of the Devil I didn’t talk about this in my “One Son” review, but Mulder knows. Even the first time I saw it, I was certain of it. It’s all in the way he says, “No. Actually, you hide your feelings very well.”

Now, I will often, in the heat of my Fangirl passion, yell things at Mulder and at my television screen and “Stupid” is an adjective I use for him regularly. However, Mulder is not actually stupid. He’s a very intuitive, very perceptive character. He couldn’t have helped but read the not so subtle subtext during Scully’s heated interchange with Fowley in the aforementioned episode. That wasn’t purely righteous indignation on Cassandra’s behalf that Scully was acting out there. And even before that, he was in that hallway too. He knew she was about to kiss him just as sure as he was about to kiss her, though judging by his somewhat nervous confession in “Triangle” I’d say he wasn’t confident as to whether she’d be willing to start a relationship or not.

But, I digress. Mulder knows and I believe that’s part of why Padgett’s “Agent Scully is already in love” pronouncement in “Milagro” (6×18) doesn’t elicit a major response from him. It also doesn’t elicit a response from Scully because she knows too. And, at this point, I think she knows that Mulder knows and that he knows that she knows. I think there’s mutual knowing all around. Mulder certainly didn’t wrap his arms around her in “The Unnatural” (6×20) like a man who thought his attentions might not be desirable.

A question less easy to answer is does Scully know how Mulder feels about her? To that I’d give a qualified “Yes.” She knows he loves her dearly; he did go to Antarctica to rescue her after all. She knows he’s attracted to her since he’s not too subtle with his looks in either “Two Fathers” (6×11) or “One Son”. There’s even something about the look on her face when Mulder tells his tall tale in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8) that makes me think she knows she’s supposed to be “Lida”, the brooding yet heroic “Maurice’s” ethereal love. But, ah, that Fowley woman. I don’t think Scully’s going to pick up what Mulder’s puttin’ down as long as Fowley is around. Cue Season 7.

And on a final note, how awesomely amazing is Scully this season? She steals the show pretty much from beginning to end. From being boldly faithful to slapping suspects, from becoming open-minded to learning how to play baseball, my girl has been on fire. If we could say nothing else in favor of having a comedy-heavy season, I’m so glad it affords Scully the opportunity to show us all her different sides.

——————

Assuming your teeth aren’t already aching with sweetness, you tell me:

And the Awards go to….

“How could you do this to me, Chris Carter?”

The Beginning

“You’re forgiven, Chris Carter.”

Triangle

“Most Underrated”

Drive

AND

Trevor

“Most Overrated”

How the Ghosts Stole Christmas

“Not Rated”

Alpha

“Best Use of a Guest Star”

Dreamland/Dreamland II

“Scully for Queen”

Tithonus

“Coulda Been a Contender”

Agua Mala

“Don’t Judge Me”

The Rain King

“David Duchovny, why won’t you love me?”

The Unnatural

Dreamland II 6×5: I’d kiss you if you weren’t so damn ugly.


The Adventures of Special Tramp Dana Scully

Okay, I’m sure you know by now that I’m highly allergic to The X-Files’ opening monologues. They have a tendency to be, how shall I say it? Purple.

While some I tolerate better than others, there are only three in the history of the show that I can honestly say I don’t merely tolerate. No, I rather enjoy them. “Dreamland II” marks the first of the three and it’s also the first monologue not delivered by Mulder or Scully. Interestingly, the character of Morris Fletcher delivers two of the three monologues I actually rewind for fun. Yes, in one of the best breaks The X-Files ever got, actor Michael McKean was available to play Morris Fletcher in two more guest spots after “Dreamland” (6×4) and “Dreamland II”, that’s not including when he shows up in the short-lived spin off The Lone Gunmen. But I’ve digressed.

The jaunty music Mark Snow chooses to characterize the piece, The Wonder Years style family videos as background… it’s just genius and I have no choice but to give it its due:

Morris as Mulder: [voiceover] Once upon a time, there was a guy with the improbable name of Fox Mulder. He started out life happily enough, as these things go. He had parents who loved him, a cute kid sister. He had a roof over his head, got all his flu shots, had all his fingers and toes and aside from being stuck with the name “’Fox” which probably taught him how to fight… or not… he pretty much led a normal life. But the worst thing by far, the biggest kick in the slats this kid Fox ever got, was what happened to his sister. One day, she just disappeared. Now, Fox buckled down and worked his butt off, graduated top of his class at Oxford, then top of his class at the FBI academy. None of that hard work made up for his sister, though. It was just a way of putting her out of his mind. Finally, the way I figure it, he went out of his mind and he’s been that way ever since. Fox Mulder pissed away a brilliant career, lost the respect of supervisors and friends and now lives his life shaking his fist at the sky and muttering about conspiracies to anyone who will listen. If you ask me, he’s one step away from pushing a baby carriage filled with tin cans down the street. But now, all that’s gonna change.

Moving on to the actual plot, Scully finally listens to that voice in the back of her head telling her that either Mulder has inexplicably and without cause lost his mind or Mulder is not Mulder. The subsequent scenes between Scully and the man she now knows is not Fox Mulder are the stuff of legend. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it so many times again I’ll annoy myself: I love Scully this season. She’s kicking butt and taking names and first on her hit list is one Morris Fletcher. Does she confront him in Nevada? At the F.B.I.? Does she surprise him while he’s indisposed? Oh no. She waits until he thinks he has her where he wants her and then springs a checkmate on him. (Aside: Why does Scully keep getting hit on by Mulders who aren’t Mulder?)

Speaking of my favorite scene of the episode, that writers Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan and John Shiban choose to give Mulder a bed, but not just any bed, a waterbed, and not just a waterbed, a mirrored waterbed, I could grovel at the feet of all three of them. And to keep giving credit where credit is due, that scene is shot oh so cleverly by first time director for the show Michael Watkins. I don’t know whose idea it was to give us glimpses of the real Mulder lounging on that ridiculous bed with Scully, but whoever it was deserves an Emmy just for that. Hi-larious.

Come to think of it, why didn’t this episode win an Emmy? It certainly deserves one. You don’t even need to be a fan of The X-Files to enjoy it. Heck, there’s an explanatory monologue built in! I know I’ve used it myself early on in the process of X-Phile brainwashing and it’s quite effective. Kids, try this at home.

I would try to list all of my favorite moments in “Dreamland II”, but that would involve essentially quoting the entire episode and I’m too lazy for that. But I can’t close and fail to mention the memorable screen time that Morris Fletcher shares with the Lone Gunmen. Their brief moments together are so good that they eventually set the tone for the entire series of The Lone Gunmen and create an opportunity for the writers to keep using Morris Fletcher as a recurring character in both series… thank God.

Verdict:

I confess I don’t have much to say about “Dreamland II” because like all the great comedies of The X-Files it defies talk. It’s meant to be experienced and enjoyed. Frankly, I’m too busy laughing over it to do much thinking about it.

But is there anything deeper holding up this episode than bellyfuls of laughter? I think so. I think the ultimate take home message is that Mulder isn’t suited to the normal life that Scully whines after at the beginning of “Dreamland”. A desk job, a wife and two kids? Had it continued Mulder really would have lost his mind. And for her part, for all she longs to be normal, Scully doesn’t seem too put out in the end for having wasted time on another fruitless road trip with Mulder. She’s rather pleased with herself in fact.

You’ll notice that before the space-time continuum corrects itself and Scully is fired from the F.B.I. she isn’t at all interested in getting her job back. And why would she be? What’s the point without Mulder? Scully will admit as much further into the season, but she’s only in the F.B.I. and this whole X-Files gig for Mulder. We saw it back in the movie as well; without her relationship with Mulder, she has nothing invested in this job. That’s why the complaints the writers sometimes put in her mouth ring hollow. She could leave any time she really wanted to, she just doesn’t want to. Not really. She wants to be out there with Mulder. But, ah, I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s next episode…

A+

I am Tiger Woods:

There’s still a little niggle in the back of my mind saying that the events of this episode are a bit too serious for a comedy. Mulder’s life as he knew it is gone; you’d think there’d be weeping and gnashing of teeth. But, hey, at least he makes his panic face.

Again, as in “Small Potatoes” (4×20), someone who looks like Mulder but isn’t Mulder puts the moves on Scully. Why everyone but the man himself? At least she’s onto the game this time.

There’s a slight pothole in the plot. The stoner witnesses his friends’… predicament, but because he wasn’t in the path of the wave when it snaps back he remembers perfectly what happened to them. Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., Kersh isn’t in the path of the wave either but doesn’t remember any of the events of the past three days. I would say that because the causal event never happened that explains why Kersh remembers nothing, there’s nothing to remember. However, then shouldn’t the stoner forget to since his friends where never glued together? This is why one should never think too hard about any story involving a “space-time continuum.”

When Mulder and Morris were scheming together in the bathroom, why did they unlock the door after their conversation so that anyone could get in? At least the intruder turned out to be on their side.

How fitting is it that Mulder’s parting gift to Scully is sunflower seeds?

Not to ruin lives with spoilers or anything, but in a sad turn of events caused by a reversal of the space-time continuum, Morris Fletcher forgets that he remembered that he loves his wife.

Best Quotes:

Special Tramp Dana Scully: Do you know what would really be fun?
Morris as Mulder: What?
Special Tramp Dana Scully: [Pulls out handcuffs]
Morris as Mulder: Oh, yeah. Me first?
Special Tramp Dana Scully: You first.
Morris as Mulder: First time. [Handcuffs himself to the bed] Now what?
Special Tramp Dana Scully: [With gun trained on him] You’re not Mulder.
Morris as Mulder: What?! [champagne cork pops] Baby!
Special Tramp Dana Scully: “Babyme and you’ll be peeing through a catheter. Your name is Morris Fletcher. It was Mulder who was arrested in the desert. He was telling the truth about you. Now, how do we get things back to normal?
Morris as Mulder: How should I know? I wouldn’t do it even if I could. You saw my wife. You think I want to go back to that? Two kids who’d probably kill me in my sleep for the insurance money. A $400,000 mortgage on a house that just appraised at $226,000. And my job… Ye gods! You think being a Man In Black is all voodoo mind control? You should see the paperwork.
Special Tramp Dana Scully: Are you through?
Morris as Mulder: As far as I’m concerned this thing is a gift from heaven. Besides, no one is ever going to believe you so you might as well just get used to me being here.
Special Tramp Dana Scully: Or I just shoot you… Baby.

———————-

Mulder as Morris: So you’re the guy that wants my life. I assume that includes all the ass kickings. [Locks the bathroom door]

———————-

Morris as Mulder: Well, see that’s what’s so great about you monkeys. Not only do you believe this horse pucky that we create, you broadcast it as well. I mean, look at this. [Headline: “Saddam testing Mandroid Army in Army Iraqi Desert”] There is no Saddam Hussein! This guy’s name is John Gillnitz. We found him doing dinner theatre in Tulsa. Did a mean King and I. Plays good ethnics.
Langly: You’re trying to say that Saddam Hussein’s a government plant?
Morris as Mulder: I’m saying I invented the guy. We set him up in 79. He rattles his sabre whenever we need a good distraction. Ah… If you boys only knew how many of your stories I dreamed up while sitting on the pot.

Dreamland 6×4: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Johnny Cash.


The Exorcist?

For the second episode in a row, The X-Files boldly goes where it’s never gone before. Only this time, instead of clever camera moves what sets this episode apart is that it’s not really one episode, but two. You see, the duo of “Dreamland” and “Dreamland II” (6×5) is the first and only comedic two-parter and, for that matter, the only non-mythology two-parter The X-Files ever gave us.

In keeping with the quickly developing theme of Season 6 which is to throw Mulder and/or Scully into a strange and uncharacteristic environment and then sit back and watch the fireworks go off, Mulder is taken right out of the only environment he’s ever known, his own body, and dropped into that of Man in Black discontent Morris Fletcher, played to pitch perfection by television veteran Michael McKean.

Michael McKean is priceless. Do you hear me? Shall I put that in bold? Priceless.

What I love about the performances in this episode and his performance in particular is that the subtleties of expression keep on going past the point where the audience is even paying attention. For instance, during that phenomenal scene in Kersh’s office where “Mulder” first reveals his new obedient attitude, notice the ever so slight nuances in McKean’s expression the entire time the camera is on him. His performance doesn’t end merely because he’s finished delivering a line, the hilarity just keeps on giving.

Because more makes merrier, we’re blessed with yet another obscenely funny guest star in Nora Dunn of Saturday Night Live fame who plays the not so long suffering wife of Morris Fletcher, Joanne. The scenes between her and David Duchovny alone would make for memorable television. Personally, I think Mulder could use a little henpecking. Maybe then he’ll appreciate how lightweight a nag Scully actually is.

Speaking of Scully, can I just say how happy I am for her character? We’re already four episodes into the season and not once have the writers subjected her to a stereotypical treatment. Her default position is pursed lips and a poker face but instead she’s been alternately bold, brassy and bewildered. And, oh, the expressions she makes! There’s no crying beach ball sized tears over the children that never were, either. I could get used to this Scully.

Now, Scully’s out of the box characterization here isn’t merely because “Dreamland” is a comedy. I believe it has more to do with who’s doing the writing than the style of episode. I can’t prove it, and I know this episode is officially written by the John Gilnitz trio (John Shiban/Vince Gilligan/Frank Spotnitz), of which all three amazing writers deserve credit, but the distinctive odor of Vince Gilligan humor is all over this one. Never mind that he’s already used the body double motif in “Small Potatoes” (4×20), how about that he again takes a horrifying tragedy and turns it into a screwball comedy? He did it before by creating humor around rape in “Small Potatoes” and again by making Mulder’s mistaken murder the stuff of silliness in “Bad Blood” (5×12).

Here Mulder is trapped in another man’s body and in another man’s life with no foreseeable way out. On top of that, he witnesses a man whose own body has been gruesomely melded with a gas station floor and then watches as that same man is shot in cold blood, by a man charged with protecting the innocent, all for the sake of expediency. But no, our hero isn’t traumatized, he’s only a bit exasperated. Considering the magnitude and the implications of his situation, Mulder takes it all quite well.

As much as I love watching it all, I have no doubt that if I suddenly found myself in someone else’s body I’d probably lapse into a catatonic state… after they sedated me, that is.

Verdict:

Thirteen years after this episode originally aired and I’m still laughing out loud at it, heartily in fact. Whether that makes me incredibly easy to please or whether it means that the humor here is unusually enduring, who can tell? All I can say is that after much rewatching I’m still unearthing gratifying nuances and that keep this episode forever young.

When I hear read people complain about how light Season 6 is as a whole, how it’s lacking in freaks and geeks and bumps in the night, no one ever seems to complain about “Dreamland” or its follow-up. How can they when it’s one of the most successful comedic moments in The X-Files’ resume? No, this isn’t the type of story that made The X-Files famous, but I’ll take this over the likes of the blandly atmospheric “Schizogeny” (5×9) any day.

Oh, and for a comedy, the cliffhanger is impressively dramatic. Has Scully finally realized that Mulder lost his body and not his mind?

A+

Copious Comments:

One of the more famous parts of this episode is when David Duchovny and Michael McKean reenact The Marx Brothers’ mirror scene from Duck Soup. But my favorite recreation of this scene is from I Love Lucy with Lucille Ball and Harpo Marx. Classic.

If I were Kersh, there’s no way I would have bought Mulder’s total about face.

I love the opening conversation in the car between Mulder and Scully, but it does feel a little pat. I realize it’s supposed to make their routine sound tired and predictable, it just might do too good a job.

Once again the production’s move to L.A. is being put to good use by placing much of the action of this episode in Nevada.

I’m sure the move to L.A… and the show’s current status as a pop culture phenomenon… is also responsible for the steady line of respected actors that come through and guest star this season.

Needless Nags:

When they’re first together in the car, how does Morris Fletcher as Mulder know to call Scully “Dana?” Mulder and Scully flashed their badges at him on the road, but it’s not like he took a good look and she certainly didn’t introduce herself.

Why is Mulder still tilting at the windmill of proof of extraterrestrial life when he already has it? Gibson, anyone? Hello?

I don’t get why the gas station looks like a bomb hit it. The U.F.O. didn’t crash there, it passed overhead. It’s not like it blew out the windows of Mulder and Scully’s car when it passed by earlier.

Best Quotes:

Scully: What is going on with you?
Morris as Mulder: Will you please stop trying to pick a fight with me?
Scully: Mulder, you are acting bizarre!
Morris as Mulder: [Knowingly glances back at Kersh’s secretary and then grins] Jealous? [Slaps Scully on the rear]

———————-

Morris as Mulder: Come on baby, be the hole… [Misses] Oh!
Scully: Mulder!
Morris as Mulder: I got a birdie!

———————

Scully: Mulder… are you sure that’s the best thing to do?
Morris as Mulder: Look, little lady, I think it’s time you got your panties on straight. We’re federal officers. We go by the book.

———————-

Joanne Fletcher: That and you mumble something about Scully in your sleep. Who is Scully, Morris? Is it another woman?
Mulder as Morris: Does Scully sound like a woman’s name to you?

———————–

Mulder as Morris: Your full name is Dana Katherine Scully. Your badge number is… hell, I don’t know your badge number. Your mother’s name is Margaret, your brother’s name is Bill Jr., he’s in the Navy and he hates me. Lately for lunch you’ve been having… like this little six ounce cup of yogurt… plain yogurt… into which you stir some bee pollen because you’re on some kind of bee pollen kick even though I tell you you’re a scientist and should know better…
Joanne Fletcher: Cheater! [Throws Morris’ clothes on the doorstep]
Scully: Look, any of that information could have been gathered by anyone.
Mulder as Morris: Even that yogurt thing?? That is so you. That is so Scully. Well, it’s good to know you haven’t changed, that’s somewhat comforting.

Triangle 6×3: I would’ve never seen you again, but you believed me.


And it’s Skinner for the win.

This is the first of, well, quite a few episodes in Season 6 that strike me as officially stamped productions of fanfic. Brilliant fanfic, mind you, but fanfic nonetheless. And I mean this as the best possible sort of compliment.

If there’s one common complaint about Season 6 is that it’s largely dominated by “X-Files Light” episodes, episodes in the vein of “Small Potatoes” (4×20) and “War of the Coprophages” (3×12) that are more fluff pieces than hardcore Monster of the Week scare fests. These episodes aren’t always necessarily overt comedies, but they purposefully lack depth in an effort to give the audience a break both from mythology angst and MOTW seriousness.

It’s a far cry from the types of episodes that dominated Season 1 and Season 2, but if you look at the direction The X-Files has taken since Season 3 I don’t see much cause for indignant surprise. And considering the show has just come back after the climax of a hit feature film, a little self-conscious indulgence has been well earned. How could The X-Files pretend that it’s not iconic? That Mulder and Scully aren’t beloved stereotypes? If the show didn’t start poking fun at itself on the regular or throw out knowing winks and nods to its bulging audience it would implode in unvaried solemnity.

“Triangle” is one such wink and nod and it’s quite possibly the best of them. The whole adventure feels like a reward, a thank you card if you will, to a long-suffering audience; as if Chris Carter knows that we love these characters and decided to treat us to a fantasy. Like Mulder we’re having a really cool dream where all our favorite people are transplanted into unusual circumstances, but that’s exactly its charm.

This is why I say it feels like fanfic because it’s usually fanfic that fans have to resort to in order to see their favorite characters loosen up or imagine how they’d behave outside of their usual context. Now, this way of consciously acknowledging the audience and of lovingly nudging itself in the ribs can be a trap for any show, especially for one with such a serious and dramatic premise as The X-Files. But “Triangle” is so well done that I think we can ignore those fears for now and just enjoy the gift.

I can’t get over how gorgeous this episode is, it is absolutely lush. The colors saturate the screen. When I think of how far The X-Files’ production quality… and budget… has evolved from Season 1, I shake my head in amazement.

“Triangle” was shot in a series of especially long takes, which gives it a very fluid, very urgent feel. It forced the Carter & Crew to use some creative staging in order to avoid revealing production details that are normally disguised by cuts, and also to disguise the cuts themselves with creative editing. Visually, I adore this method as I love those moments where the camera conveniently looks away to avoid revealing trade secrets and I particularly I love the smoothness of the camera movement throughout.

But my favorite aspect of this episode has nothing to do with technique. My favorite part of this episode is Scully. In fact, this is my favorite episode of all for Scully’s character. Why? Because she’s so much fun! And how often does Scully get to be fun? You know I love her, but our girl is generally a stick-in-the-mud. Every so often she’s allowed to crack a joke or suppress a smirk and if we’re really lucky, she’ll tell off a madman or two in that impressively authoritative voice of hers.

What a joy it must have been for Gillian Anderson to play a different sort of Scully. Not that she’s out of character here, but how often does Scully get to show us such a huge range of facial expressions in one episode? How often is she flustered? Or angry? On top of that, 1939 Scully is Rosie the Riveter rather than a medical doctor which means she’s allowed to be even more feisty. My favorite part is the entire second act where we follow Scully up and down the halls of the F.B.I. as she tries, yet again, to save her incurably foolish partner.

And, of course, she’s ultimately successful both in the past and present. Scully saves Mulder, literally, in the past and in the present she saves him metaphorically because of the same reason: she believes him. Scully has to believe Mulder; the woman can’t help herself, it’s a compulsion. Whether in an alternate universe, alternate dimension or alternate time stream, it’s in her job description and on her business card: Mulder Believer.

That’s the ultimate beauty of this episode and the reward that I think Chris Carter was trying to give fans, validation of their belief in the Mulder/Scully partnership that at this point beats as the heart of the series. There’s a certain amount of destiny involved in all of Mulder’s relationships as presented because Mulder can’t avoid the people in his life, good or bad but they follow him even in unconsciousness. But when it comes to Scully in particular, her belief in him is instinctive rather than rational which again lends itself to the idea that these are two people with a God-given understanding of each other that was foreordained. This mystery of the unexplained is probably unsolvable, but it’s also worth more than all the other truth Mulder so stubbornly seeks and it’s nice to know he finally realizes that too.

And the Verdict is…

It would have been too much to expect that Chris Carter would allow his characters to kiss at this stage of the game, and I can’t blame him for refusing to indulge his needy audience (of which I was one) quite that far. But I’ll take a kiss between Mulder and “Scully” in shadow any day. The truth is that I’m glad the kiss happens mostly in the dark because I love that romantic air of mystery and I’m even gladder that Mulder and Scully didn’t become a television couple yet. Else what would I have had to look forward to? Besides, Mulder kissed her like a man who had thought long and hard about doing this before. That’s more than enough for me. And with a love confession on top of it? I remember nearly collapsing in shock and joy – I do believe there was screaming.

So does any of what we see on the 1939 version of the Queen Anne actually happen? The split screen moment between the two Scullys and Mulder’s ginger touch to his cheek would certainly have us believe so. Though the references to The Wizard of Oz sprinkled all through the episode and the fact that we see our hero conked out at the beginning would indicate that this is all a very realistic fantasy inside Mulder’s head, or maybe a world that is real but is only real because he created it.

I don’t care, really. I just want this episode to come out in HD so that my life can be complete.

A+

P.S. You know she punched him because she enjoyed that kiss a little too much, right?

Puddin Tame:

Mark Snow’s score is like another character in this episode.

For that matter, so is the camera.

I hadn’t noticed before that the guy who plays Thor’s Hammer in 1939 is the same Agent who overhears part of Scully’s conversation with the Lone Gunmen in 1998.

I can’t figure out how Kersh’s character winds up in the bowels of the ship in 1939. How does that represent his position in Mulder’s life? Well, I suppose no one would have believed he was a Nazi…

I have ransacked my brain and I can only think of two episodes where Scully ever wears a dress, this one and “En Ami” (7×15).

Agent Fowley is absent from this whole play. Interesting. Perhaps that brewing love triangle would have distracted too much from the action. I tend to think so.

I had hoped that Chris Carter’s experimental episodes, you know, the ones he helmed from beginning to end, would be a once-a-year occurrence, but alas. We get a similarly experimental if not quite as ambitious episode later in the season in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8) but the next time Chris Carter gives us a distinctly “Chris Carteresque” episode will be Season 9’s “Improbable” (9×14), so you might want to unbuckle your seatbelt for that wait.

No Germans were harmed in the making of this episode.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Well, you… you can relax. There’s no war going on. The world is at peace. There’s a little trouble over at our White House, but that’ll blow over… so to speak.

———————-

Scully: I want you to do me a favor. It’s not negotiable. Either you do it or I kill you, you understand?
Spender: You okay, Agent Scully?
Scully: No. I’m not. I’m a gun ready to go off so don’t test me, Spender. Don’t even think about trying to weasel me.

———————–

Kersh’s Secretary: I was sent to come get you.
Scully: Yeah, I was waiting for Agent Spender, he was, uh… I’m supposed to pick up a delivery from him.
Kersh’s Secretary: Agent Spender is with Assistant Director Kersh.
Scully: That rat bastard!

———————–
Mulder: Hey, Scully.
Scully: Yes?
Mulder: I love you.
Scully: Oh, brother.