Tag Archives: The Pine Bluff Variant

Badlaa 8×12: Well, that’s just wrong.


XFiles-Badlaa-BeggarMan12.jpg

Criminey.

“Badlaa” is writer John Shiban’s first solo outing since “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18) which is one of my all-time favorite episodes of The X-Files, so allow me to admit freely that I’m biased towards him. Sadly, though, that bias only takes me so far. It doesn’t take me all the way to “Badlaa”.

Parts of this episode are so disgusting as to be downright repugnant. It pushes the boundaries of bad taste in such a way as to make the controversial “Home” (4×3) look almost wholesome. If X-Files were graded purely on how well they grossed out the audience, this would be a top rated episode. But this isn’t the fun kind of gross that we got in “Roadrunners” (8×5), where it makes you squirm but you want to keep peeking at it. No, this is the kind of gross that makes you wonder why the creators of it felt the need to go there, the kind of gross that makes you frown, not squeal.

It doesn’t help my good opinion that “Badlaa” is also the episode where Scully’s Adventures as Fox Mulder storyline reaches its zenith of frustration, and where The X-Files itself acknowledges that this plot isn’t working.

Scully: Chuck. Thank you for, uh, coming down here again.

Chuck Burks: Not at all. Uh… I’m just a little curious. I mean, it’s always Mulder who’d been doing all the calling and…

Scully: This, uh… this case, I, I, I… I’m just… I’m trying to see it the way that Mulder would and… please have a seat.

I’ve tried, but I can’t get used to Scully the Believer. She’s making leaps in logic that only Mulder could make and they didn’t make sense when he made them. Yet it was still more believable when Mulder did it because he had an almost spiritual connection to these cases, because he had eyes to see and ears to hear, because his faith in and of itself gave him access to hidden truths.

Scully is not a believer. She’s certainly more open than she was, as she should be. But until Mulder left, her first reaction was never to assume the paranormal worst. She needed objective evidence, she needed to put her hands in the scars of the nails, so to speak. And even then, she could still be obstinate in the face of convincing evidence. This new act of hers doesn’t wear well on her and it’s getting old.

I am now much more sure that Scully and Doggett would’ve fared better as a partnership if they had been given a whole new dynamic all their own. I know I said it in my review for “Invocation” (8×6) and I hate to harp, but the Believer-Skeptic dynamic was not the winning formula. The Mulder-Scully dynamic was. Trying to approximate their chemistry with a dynamic that merely mimics theirs is a failing strategy.

But perhaps that was purposeful? Perhaps 1013 is trying to explore Scully’s character and the emotional impact of the loss of Mulder by showing us how her character is trying to compensate? If so, it’s happening at the expense of any progress happening in Scully and Doggett’s partnership. They’re stuck at “pleasant but distant.” They’re working together but they don’t feel like a team. At their most harmonious they’re congenial co-workers. At their worst they don’t understand each other at all.

My only satisfaction is that Scully gets sick of herself this episode. I only hope that we’re done with this and future episodes won’t continue to be made awkward by the discomfort of watching Scully channel Mulder.

Verdict:

The subject matter here is… Well, it’s. I remember finding “Badlaa” almost frightening back in the day, now I just find it distasteful and unnecessary. I could maybe see it working if this disturbing concept of one man crawling inside of another were used to further a fancy plot. But there is no plot. There are only icky images.

Because, really, why is the nameless Indian mystic killing people? We got some vague reference to a horribly fatal accident in India that an American company was responsible for, but none of the mystic’s murder victims have any connection with that company. Or if they do, we’re never told about it. It seems Mr. Squeaky Wheels is killing Americans at random and he’s sadistically fixated on little boys.

And it’s hard to believe that this guy got himself hired anywhere without speaking so much as a single word. That kind of creepy anyone could see through. And it’s also hard to believe that Scully would cut the corpse of one of the victims open in a room by herself when she already believes someone is hiding inside it. Why wouldn’t you call in witnesses… and protection? Of course he jumped out and left a gruesome trail of blood behind him.

Like I said, the plot is merely a vehicle for a series of gross images, not vice versa.

B-

Spare Change:

Why is there no blood when the wee man goes in, but only when he comes out?

Conversely, the blood vessels in the victims’ eyes all burst when he goes in, but then they magically heal post-mortem.

Not only is the most we’ve ever seen of Chuck Burks, this is the last we’ll ever see of him. Mulder doesn’t even get to say goodbye.

The poor, long suffering bellman. No, there will be no tip for you, sir.

Best Quotes:

Mr. Potocki: Buy yourself some WD-40.

————

Doggett: Dead men don’t tip.

————

Mrs. Hold: The better the economy gets the harder it is to fill these kinds of jobs. And the problem is that people look at it as just a paycheck. They don’t realize that as maintenance engineer you are playing an important part in these kids’ lives.

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Season 5 Wrap Up – Do you think it’s too soon to get my own 1-900 number?


"A Howler? But this isn't Harry Potter..."

Season 5 is The X-Files at the height of its powers.

I couldn’t possibly tick off all of the memorable moments: Mulder and Scully dancing in “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6), Mulder nearly eating Scully’s hand off in “Redux II” (5×3), Scully jonesing for buck teeth in “Bad Blood” (5×12), Stephen King joining the party in “Chinga” (5×10), Scully hunting for bimbos in “Kill Switch” (5×11). I’m teary-eyed with nostalgia just thinking about it all.

No. Really. I am.

However, I don’t want to drench you all with my gushing. So before I get too carried away, let me lay out the one main negative, if you can call it that, which Season 5 has.

Frankly, there are fewer significant mythology events than in seasons past. As far as revelations go, compare it to Season 3 where there was both a fresh answer and a fresh mystery every mythology episode then it comes up lacking. Episodes like “Christmas Carol”/”Emily”, “Patient X”/”The Red and the Black” and even my beloved “Redux”/”Redux II” were more like character studies disguised as mytharc than they were plot progressors.

Not that the plot of the mythology stayed stagnant, oh no. Krycek returned from the hallowed halls of a Russian concentration camp only to become Well-Manicured Man’s errand boy. Cigarette-Smoking Man’s fellow conspirators attempt to have him assassinated and fail only to bring him back when they fail at yet another assassination. Scully finds out she’s barren and discovers she has a child only to lose her and return to childlessness. Mulder went from belief in extra-terrestrials, to disbelief, and back again. But all this amounts to is shuffling.

Where’s the sense of deepening mystery? It’s there. It just comes in the form of new faces rather than old favorites.

The Alien Rebels: Who are they? Why are they fighting against the colonists and killing innocent abductees in the process? Most importantly, how is it that they look like The Alien Bounty Hunter after an attack by angry Silly Putty?

Jeffrey Spender: CSM is his deadbeat father. It may be too little too late to turn that relationship around, but CSM’s sure trying by secretly pulling strings in order that Jeffrey can more quickly advance at the F.B.I… at Mulder’s expense. Jeffrey isn’t quite a villain, but he’s not shaping up to be Mulder’s best friend either. It’s doubtful he has any idea who CSM really is. What will he do when he finds out?

Cassandra Spender: Currently MIA. If CSM is her baby daddy, that automatically lends credence to her tall tales of (benevolent?) alien abductors. But what’s his angle in all this? And was he ever married to the woman? It’s not easy picturing them together at the family table.

Gibson Praise: The Official Key to Everything. Gibson’s “more human than human” mind hasn’t saved him from the machinations of the Syndicate. Mulder’s proof has been snatched from his grasp yet again, but I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of this munchkin.

Diana Fowley: We haven’t seen the last of her either. She drops out of nowhere, mainly to stir the pot between Mulder and Scully. Could she serve another, slightly less nefarious purpose as well?

See? It isn’t all fun and games. There are actual developments occurring as well. But Chris Carter can’t give too much away when major excitement has to be reserved for the upcoming feature film. Instead, he’s maneuvering his pawns into place so that they’ll be in the right position for the movie and then for the season beyond it. Mulder has to believe in aliens again or how can he chase them? CSM has to come back from the dead or what will the film do for a villain? Scully has to be childless or, what’s she going to do? Stick the kid in daycare while she dallies across the big screen with Mulder for two hours?

Trouble is, he has to create something intriguing enough to make you run to your local theater, present something in said theater that will satisfy long-time viewers and attract fresh meat, then bring it all home for the new season opener in such a way that both the previous season’s finale and the stand-alone movie both make sense. I get anxious just thinking about it.

I won’t yet speak for the movie or the seasons to come, but in regards to Season 5, all I can say is that I’m truly and well satisfied. Nearly every episode is a fun-filled adventure. There is the occasional, expected hiccup (“Shizogeny”, I’m looking at you.), but overall it’s hour after hour of solid television – that is when it isn’t being hour after hour of amazing television.

But Enough About Trivialities:

If you haven’t already read, and if you’ve read you’ve probably read it so many times your eyes are strained with rolling, I have a theory that Mulder Scully-crushed Season 5. Her cancer is gone, the clouds have broken, Mulder’s interactions/reactions to his partner have been noticeably tinged with boyish admiration. Sure, one or two of those sentimental moments I could write off as Shipper fantasy. But four, five and six? I see a trend.

So, what say you?

And last but not least, the Awards…

“The Well-Intentioned Misstep”

Emily

“Underappreciated and Underwatched”

The Pine Bluff Variant

AND

Folie à Deux

“Please, sir, I want some more”

Detour

“The Riskiest Experiment”

Travelers

“Best Cameo Performance”

Unusual Suspects

“Biggest Disappointment”

Kitsunegari

“The Mini Summer Blockbuster”

Kill Switch

“Pure, Unadulterated Television Joy”

The Post-Modern Prometheus

The Pine Bluff Variant 5×18: Oh, is this the Pepsi Challenge?


Musta been something I ate.

We were overdue for this.

The last three episodes haven’t been… bad… they’ve just been rather quiet and unassuming, a characteristic I know how to appreciate but, dang it, this is The X-Files. I should be nearly falling off my chair with excitement more often than not. Usually, that kind of adrenaline rush is brought on by vile beasties and such, but “The Pine Bluff Variant” ignores the usual scares for an old-fashioned, Hollywood style action mystery – it’s a welcome departure.

This episode is a pure thriller from top to bottom. I don’t think the series ever had another episode that was quite like it in tone and if not for a few key elements like the familiar characters, the distinctive cinematography and particularly horrific effects of the biotoxin, it wouldn’t even feel like an X-File. The closest episode to it in style would have to be “F. Emasculata” (2×22), which has a rare sense of urgency to it for a non-mythology episode, with “Sleepless” (2×4) running second just because both episodes are echoes of The Manchurian Candidate in their own way.

All three episodes are what I like to refer to as Half-Caff: They involve a more generalized and vague government conspiracy than the mythology proper that’s centered around a highly coveted piece of science or technology. It’s one of my favorite sub-types of Monster of the Week episodes because the “monster” is so much more dangerous than an individual mutant, it’s all encompassing and nearly invisible – it’s a government. And isn’t The X-Files, a product of men who grew up in the Nixon era, a show grounded in government distrust? It’s a foundation of cement, really. The monsters, the aliens, they’re all just stand-ins and allegories for groups of nameless, faceless men with all the power and none of the integrity, men who control the future of the masses while exercising no self-control over their own whims. At least, that’s how you’ll feel if you watch too much of this show.

Mulder made a mistake and opened his mouth a little too wide back in “Patient X” (5×13) voicing not only his then doubts as to the existence of extra-terrestrials, but also some particularly jaded views on the Federal government. I always appreciate continuity on The X-Files when I see it, and goodness knows it becomes a hot commodity in later seasons, so I think it was clever of writer John Shiban to throw in a nod to a significant moment earlier in the season.

But back to Mulder… thank heaven for this episode! Mulder has either been irritating or relatively useless for the last five episodes, that is when he’s even present. Finally, he’s redeemed as our anti-hero hero and I’m forcefully and gleefully reminded why I love this man… er… character. Yes.

Mulder has one of his greatest moments ever here with his,  “If you touch me again you better kill me!” line. Actually, that entire interrogation scene is golden both for Mulder’s sarcasm and his action hero antics. If you haven’t watched it in a while, please do. Pop it in the player a moment for your own sake. Go on. It’s okay. I’ll wait.

………….

And we’re back.

Not to be outdone, Mulder isn’t the only one with a chance to shine, Scully wakes up this episode and I just love her when she has attitude. I know her little feet can’t reach the peddles but I swear, she’s more dangerous than Mulder. U.S. Attorney Leamus has no idea how narrowly he escaped a hurtin’.

The villain isn’t the only object of her wrath, either, as wonderfully evidenced in that scene where Scully tracks Mulder to an out of the way motel. Scully’s furious at Mulder, more so because he’s lying to her than because he’s colluding with a dangerous criminal. Even so, she doesn’t betray him when she has the chance. It’s like I said back in “Demons” (4×23), Scully will defend Mulder whether he’s innocent or guilty, as long as he needs her she will compulsively be there. She might not be happy about it, though.

Things were supposed to be a little tense between Mulder and Scully this season what with Mulder’s doubts about the existence of aliens and Scully dealing with the after-effects of her cancer, but whatever the writers intended, for the most part, they didn’t pull it off. I can’t think of when the characters have ever felt closer.

Verdict:

This is absolutely the best episode John Shiban ever gave the show solo and it’s one of the best examples of how The X-Files could transform itself from week to week and from genre to genre. The more I think about it, the more I wonder why I don’t see it pop up more often on “Best Of” lists.

I’m still not sure what the government gets out of this in the end. Were they using these terrorists to test the biotoxin or were they trying to retrieve the stolen technology from them? If the former, were the terrorists aware they were being used? Is August Bremmer a government plant put there to organize and control them into using the weapon the way the government sees fit?

In the end, I just don’t care. I enjoy the ride far too much to be disappointed by my own inability to follow a plot.

I’ve always loved this episode, but watching Scully and Skinner walk into that movie theater again with flashlights flashing… it just may have rolled up into my top ten favorites.

A+

Random Comments:

Kate Braidwood, the daughter of Tom Braidwood, the First Director on the show and the actor who plays Frohike, shows up in this episode as the Usherette.

Putting the biotoxin on the bank’s money sounds scary in theory, but it would never make it out into the general population anyhow. The moment someone who worked at the bank touched it they’d die, which would lead to an investigation, which would lead to the money being confiscated. After all, how can anyone pass on the cash without flesh?

So the motel featured so heavily in this episode… I feel as though I’ve seen it several times, a fact which I can neither confirm nor deny. But if I’m not much mistaken, it’s not only the motel from “Conduit” (1×3) and “Wetwired” (3×23), but possibly from “Colony” (2×16) and “Tempus Fugit” (4×17) as well. But I’m not going to bother to go back and check so…

The set design and lighting in that F.B.I. conference room is immaculate. Come to think of it, the set designs throughout this entire episode are amazing.

Oh, my Shippers, you caught that moment, right? Right? Right.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Maybe you can tell me what’s going on.
Motel Manager: What?
Scully: There seems to be a problem. A man just told me you gave him keys to my room. Room 130.
Motel Manager: Who are you?
Scully: Who am I? Who is he?
Motel Manager: Mister, uh, Kaplan.
Scully: Mr. Kaplan?
Motel Manager: Yes.
Scully: Thank you.
Motel Manager: Are you the wife?
Scully: Not even close.

———————-

Scully: Exactly what agency are you guys from?
Agents: [Stony silence]
Scully: Obviously not the Office of Information.

———————-

Scully: Oh, Mulder, what did they do to you?
Mulder: [Winces]
Scully: This needs to be set. You’re in pain.
Mulder: Yeah, if you keep pullin’ it around like that…

———————-

Mulder: If you don’t hear from me by midnight, feed my fish.

Elegy 4×22: I’m just a human being after all.


That's right, G-Woman.

Most X-Files episodes involve death but only a handful are actually about death. That makes “Elegy” pretty unique among the many variations of ghost stories in The X-Files’ repertoire.

Speaking of ghost stories, we haven’t had a proper one since Season 2’s “The Calusari” (2×21) believe it or not. Sure, “Kaddish” (4×12) brought a dead man back to life as a mud monster, but that’s not quite the same thing, now is it?

I don’t hesitate to say this is my second favorite episode out of writer John Shiban’s solo efforts on The X-Files. The last one he have us, “El Mundo Gira” (4×11), was a good idea but the story’s intentions became a little muddied in the execution. The next one coming up, “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18), is a humdinger and my favorite of all, but I digress.

The solemnity Shiban brings to his episodes, think “The Walk” (3×7) and “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18), really works here because, well, it’s a story about death. More specifically, it’s about coping with death and even more specifically, it’s about coping with the upcoming death of one of our leads.

Memento Mori” (4×15) dealt with a lot of the issues that come up here in a more direct way, but since then, probably for the sake of not beating this storyline into the ground, we haven’t had much more than a passing mention of Scully’s predicament, if it’s even mentioned over the course of an episode at all. So we haven’t really had a chance to see how she’s progressing both in living with her disease and fighting it.

It would appear that nothing much has changed. Mulder hasn’t stumbled upon any answers in his precious X-Files, Scully goes back and forth to the doctor but all they seem to be doing is monitoring her, and Skinner hasn’t been able to pry any information out of Cigarette-Smoking Man’s wrinkled, cold hands despite the fact that he sold his soul to the man for Scully’s cure.

In other words, time is running out.

Surely, Scully realizes this and it’s her desire not to acknowledge the fact that death is imminently approaching that forms the basis for the sub-plot of this episode. Well, really, it’s the main plot, if you ask me. Everything else that happens feels more like an excuse to bring up Scully’s cancer. Not that ghostly apparitions in the neighborhood bowling alley don’t in and of themselves make for excellent television.

Scully’s in denial about seeing the dead girl because, well, she’s in denial about dying. Sure, in a detached, medical way she recognized immediately that this disease would kill her sans some kind of miracle. But even though she knows that fact she has so far refused to own it. We know that Mulder his holding out for a miracle, an answer, or a cure, but what is Scully holding out for? She’s in limbo between acceptance and denial. She knows she’s sick but she refuses to acknowledge it in some attempt to avoid any appearance of weakness.

The last time we saw Scully like this emotionally was in “Irresistable” (2×13), so how fitting then that her therapist from that episode, Karen Kosseff, should make a return appearance. Really, it’s just an excuse to allow Scully’s character to speak for herself since she’s usually defined so much by what she doesn’t say. But I love having a peak into what Scully’s thinking and I especially enjoy it when my suspicions are confirmed.

See, Scully does need Mulder. That’s why she’s still working on the X-Files. It’s so easy to understand why Mulder needs Scully since he’s really pretty pathetic without her. But so often when the writers go to explain why such a normal, well-adjusted human being as Dana Scully would stay by Mulder’s side her motivations turn into dangerously co-dependent mush.

I’ll save my arguments as to why Mulder and Scully being co-dependent might not be such a bad thing, but for now I’ll just say that even before her cancer arrived, it was clear that she got something out of her relationship with Mulder that she didn’t get elsewhere. Call it excitement, call it mystery, call it passion, it can have so many names. But whatever part of Scully that is a believer, the part that she normally subdues for the sake of science, that part of her that she still needs in order to survive, responds to Mulder almost against her will. And if her scientific mind won’t allow her to believe that her cancer is treatable, maybe the part of her that loved reading Moby Dick (“Quagmire”) and that still remembers what she learned in catechism (“Revelations”) needs to be around someone whose faith will nurture her own.

And the Verdict is…

I really, really like this episode. I like it especially because of how honestly it treats death and dying. People who are dying go through a grieving process themselves and the people around them don’t necessarily walk on eggshells to please them either, as the dying don’t automatically turn into saints. By the end of the episode, Mulder is openly frustrated with Scully, and perhaps out of his fear that he won’t be able to help her, he chastises her soundly for keeping him out of the loop.

I can actually understand that. Even though, mind you, Scully is the one who’s dying here. The thing is though, she’s not dying alone.

A

Questions:

Forgive me if my memory deceives me, but didn’t Scully have a vision of her father at the time of his death in “Beyond the Sea” (1×12)? He also was trying to tell her something. And now she’s having visions of the dead again so near the time of her own? You’d think that even if she were reluctant to confess the reality of the situation out loud, she’d have a hard time denying to herself what she’s seen.

Comments:

Scully looks way too uncomfortable in those bowling shoes. That’s what Mulder should’ve done for her birthday, taken her out for a good game.

There are echoes of “Roland” (1×22) here. Again, I’m impressed at how respectfully The X-Files was able to portray developmental disabilities.

Another reason I think this outing is more successful than Shiban’s previous efforts is that the plot isn’t weighed down at all by political undertones. Death is heavy enough without dragging politics into it.

There are so many repeat guest stars in this one I almost don’t know where to start. Angelo Pintero was also Dr. Bugger in “War of the Coprophages” (3×12). Martin Alpert was also in “Deep Throat” (1×2), “Sleepless” (2×4) and “731” (3×10). Kate Braidwood (Tom Braidwood’s daughter) makes and appearance in this one and will show up again in “The Pine Bluff Variant”. And finally, Harold’s attorney was the hilarious pathologist in “Shadows” (1×5) as well as Nurse Wilkins in “One Breath” (2×8). Not to mention, we’ll see her again in I Want to Believe.

Best Quotes:

Angelo Pintero: Look, I’m not making this up.
Mulder: No one is suggesting that you are, Mr. Pintero.
Angelo Pintero: I saw the look on her face.
Mulder: Can I ask you a favor? Can I get a soda, a cola, something like that?
Angelo Pintero: Sure. Yeah.
Mulder: What is that look, Scully?
Scully: I would have thought that after four years you’d know exactly what that look was.

————————

Karen Kosseff: You’ve kept working?
Scully: Yes. It’s been important to me.
Karen Kosseff: Why?
Scully: Why? Um… Agent Mulder has been concerned. He’s been supportive through this time.
Karen Kosseff: Do you feel that you owe it to him to continue working?
Scully: No. I guess I never realized how much I rely on him before this. His passion. He’s been a great source of strength that I’ve drawn on.

————————

Scully: I saw something Mulder.
Mulder: What?
Scully: The fourth victim. I saw her in the bathroom before you came to tell me.
Mulder: Why didn’t you tell me?
Scully: Because I didn’t want to believe it. Because I don’t want to believe it.
Mulder: Is that why you came down here? To prove that it wasn’t true?
Scully: No. I came down here because you asked me to.
Mulder: Why can’t you be honest with me?
Scully: What do you want me to say? That you’re right? That I believe it even if I don’t? I mean is that what you want?
Mulder: Is that what you think I want to hear?
Scully: No.
Mulder: You can believe what you want to believe, Scully, but you can’t hide the truth from me because if you do, then you’re working against me… and yourself. I know what you’re afraid of. I’m afraid of the same thing.
Scully: [Voice cracking] The doctor said I was fine.
Mulder: I hope that’s the truth.

Blood 2×3: That’s not supposed to happen anywhere.


Postal meets Paranoia.

It’s one thing to have an itsy bitsy fear of spiders, but what if that fear lead you to break out more than a can of Raid? What if it led you to kill two-legged creatures as well?

OK, so maybe spiders didn’t make an appearance in this episode (though they would have if I were in it). Instead, it’s your toaster oven that’s out to get you. That’s right, don’t trust anything your alarm clock tells you. Your machines, and your mind, have been hijacked by the government for a controlled experiment designed to test chemical weapons of war on unsuspecting citizens.

I could buy that, really I could, if only I understood how it was all going down. This episode suffers from a syndrome I like to call “But If That’s the Case, Then…”

For example, citizens subjected to the chemical LSDM are receiving messages through electronic devices. Or are they? Judging from the scene is Mrs. McRoberts’ kitchen, these messages may not be real. Mulder glances at her microwave a second after Mrs. McRoberts does and sees nothing. And it doesn’t make sense that if these messages were visible to all, no one else would have seen them. It’s also hard to believe that someone is somewhere typing all these in at precisely the right moment addressing precisely the right phobia. The question is then, if these messages are in their heads, why do they only see them in machines? Why not in the clouds or in their mother’s meatloaf?

On the side of the messages being real, Mulder directly states that the government is using some sort of subliminal messaging system to control people once they’ve been exposed to the LSDM. But if that’s the case, how do they know what these people’s fears are in order to tailor their messages? In Funsch’s case, how did they know he was afraid of blood and not, say, needles? It’s not as though he’d been to a psychiatrist to be diagnosed, he hadn’t been to the doctor in years. And if someone is spying on these people, then how? Satellites? Can they see through buildings? How on earth can they control every single computer or TV? If they have that much power, surely they could have done a better job of covering up their conspiracy.

The only conclusion I can come to is that there are subliminal messages that somehow, only people who have been exposed to LSDM can see. And somehow, the government is powerful enough to control every electronic device… everywhere. They know just where you are, just what screen you’re in view of, and just what phobia button to push. Far-fetched? Most definitely.

If the story isn’t quite logical, that’s because it’s about the absence of logic. It’s all about paranoia. “Blood” is playing off of our own latent fears as a society. Technology isn’t a useful tool, it’s a weapon used to spy on you. That quaint, small town you’re driving through is actually home to The Stepford Wives. The government that claims to be protecting you with pesticides and preservatives? It’s using you as a guinea pig.

Conclusion:

This episode is about government conspiracy in its purest form. There are no aliens and no signs of the paranormal. I can’t think of a single Season 1 episode that falls into this category except for Ghost in the Machine (1×6) so it’s a nice break from the greater mythology and the typical Monster of the Week. In a way, it’s a forerunner to John Shiban’s awesome “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18), which is another reason why I can’t be mad at it.

Even so, for an episode written by Morgan and Wong, “Blood” is at the lower end of the success spectrum. It’s not particularly intense or insightful. In fact, the plot is confusing and even the audience can’t be sure of what’s happening. Are the messages real or imagined? Did the government plan this or is it just a series of unfortunate events?

Exploring personal phobias and societal fears are both great concepts for The X-Files, but they probably should have stuck to one or the other. This episode tries to cover too much. There are government plots, spree killings, uncontrolled paranoia and even machines that talk to you. How many darts can you throw at one board?

Because of all these variables, it’s hard to catch hold of what’s happening. Even in the end, we’re not sure whether the mechanical messages people were seeing were real or imagined. The plot took a back seat to casting vague suspicion on the government. If not the government in particular, a group of nameless, faceless men willing to inflict torture on their fellow citizens without so much as a qualm. With such an unflattering picture of the Federal government, you can tell that Chris Carter et al. grew up in the Nixon era.

It’s not all sturm and drang, however. The Lone Gunmen make a clever return and Frohike’s crush on Scully is intact. Mulder gets in some good quips and Funsch’s freakout on the bus is absolutely great. I can’t really rally behind this one but it’s not a waste of time. Watch it for the highlights rather than the whole.

C+

Best Quotes:

Sheriff Spencer: Played softball with this guy over Labor Day. He was one of those nice guys. Couldn’t play and didn’t bitch about being stuck in right field.
Mulder: What’s wrong with right field?
Sheriff Spencer: Always the first one to shake hands at the end of the game, didn’t matter whether he won or lost.
Mulder: Gotta have an arm to play right field.
Sheriff Spencer: Bought a round of beers afterwards even though he didn’t drink.
Mulder: I played right field.

———————

Frohike: So, Mulder, where’s your little partner?
Mulder: She wouldn’t come. She’s afraid of her love for you.
Frohike: She’s tasty.

———————

Mulder: Hey, Frohike, can I borrow these?
Frohike: If I can have Scully’s phone number.

———————

Mulder: He’s probably one of those people that thinks Elvis is dead.
Scully: Mulder, I was wrong. Exposure to the insecticide does induce paranoia.
Mulder: I think this area is being subjected to a controlled experiment.
Scully: Controlled by who? By the government, by a corporation, by Reticulans?

Ghost in the Machine 1×6: I taught him everything he knows.


Believe the badge.

“Ghost in the Machine” is the granddaddy of government cover-up: Half-Caff X-Files. I say Half-Caff because they aren’t paranormal and neither are they, well, normal. These are the cases that explore the realm of science fiction rather than horror. They are not lesser than, by any means. Only they aren’t a part of the mytharc and they aren’t MOTW episodes either. Usually, these types of episodes focus on the dangers of technology, biotech or otherwise. In this case, it’s artificial intelligence.

Dear Reader, may I draw your attention to the glance Mulder gives Scully when Jerry mentions that they were former partners. He looks for the world as though Scully had met a past lover of his, as though she wouldn’t want to know there had ever been anyone before her. On her part, Scully drops her friendly smile. Mulder and Scully may not be romantic, or even overly attached at this point, but they are most definitely territorial. Mulder even tries to downplay his “previous relationship” by saying they merely “worked together.” You can’t hide your sordid past forever, Mulder.

Jerry’s entrance is where Mulder’s demonstrable loyalty to his friends, even when they don’t deserve it, becomes evident. He may not make attachments easily, but once he does he’s loath to let go. He shows these same feelings toward Diana Fowley multiple times and even toward Skinner in “Redux II” (5×2) when Scully has him pegged as a traitor. To an extent, this aspect of his personality is what allows Phoebe Green to take advantage of him again in “Fire” (1×11), though that time he walks into her web willingly. It’s akin to his fascination with outcast females, no doubt tied to the loss of Samantha. He’d rather not lose again.

There’s something nostalgic about the scene where Scully tries to get Mulder to seek help. The character dynamics here hold true pretty much to the end of the series, which is a feat. Scully argues the irrationality of Mulder’s premise, Mulder sticks to it anyway. Scully tries to get Mulder to take a reasonable course of action, Mulder ignores her and goes off without any real explanation. Good times.

Unlike “Shadows” (1×5) before it, at least we can say we now know more about our two favorite agents.

And the Verdict is…

This one is largely ignored by the fandom and generally panned, but without its precedent, we wouldn’t have had episodes like “F. Emasculata” (2×22), “Wetwired” (3×23), and the some kind of awesome “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18). We’ll call it a government cover-up and not a conspiracy so as not to confuse it with the series mythology, which it’s only tied to by a very loose shoestring. Little grey-green men aren’t so much as hinted at.

There is a lot more meat here than I remembered eating the first 4 or so times I watched it. I would now go so far as to say it’s underrated. True, the visuals and electronics are dated, that can’t be helped. Also, the “villain”, the AI is sadly lacking in personality. The series missed an opportunity to create a truly frightening sentient computer, an error they later rectified in “Kill Switch” (5×11).

But there are a few golden moments hiding in this episode. How about Scully kicking butt and taking names? What fun when she walks in all bruised and beaten up, ready to shoot. She, of course, does the improper thing and sides with Mulder over the government. Pull a gun on her partner, will you? We haven’t seen Scully like this since “Deep Throat” (1×1).

Speaking of Deep Throat, Deep Throat himself makes a welcome return, proving that if dangerous technology exists the government will try to buy it and hide it. After all, you can’t trust the government. You can only trust Mulder and Scully.

C

General Observations

Mulder and Scully had to pay $8.50 for that rinky-dink lunch? Psh.

Apparently, TPTB don’t bother reprimanding these two agents at this stage of the game. They escaped censure in Deep Throat and it appears that the Department of Defense won’t be taking revenge on them either.

Nagging Questions:

What are Phone Freaks, Data Travelers, and Techno Anarchists? The times, they have a-changed.

What’s with all the strips of paper in the air conditioning shaft? It looks more like a garbage disposal.

More importantly, Scully shooting bullets inside the shaft seems equally as suicidal as her throwing herself directly into the fan.

Best Quotes:

Scully: How come you two went your separate ways?
Mulder: I’m a pain in the a** to work with.
Scully: Seriously.
Mulder: I’m not a pain in the a**?