Tag Archives: The Syndicate

Tempus Fugit 4×17: Let me buy him a drink too.


"Welcome back, Kotter!"

I’m going to start with a bit of an unusual premise here and say that “Tempus Fugit” and it’s follow up episode “Max” (4×18) aren’t really mythology episodes at all, instead they’re more like the pre-mythology conspiracy episodes of Season 1; think “Deep Throat” (1×1), “Fallen Angel” (1×9), and “EBE” (1×16). Taken at its most basic, this is your standard The Aliens are Here and the Government Won’t Admit It fare. What elevates the story is that this time it’s personal. “Tempus Fugit” is an episode about the casualties of war, the lives that are being lost whose deaths and whose pain will be meaningless unless Mulder and Scully can ultimately find a way to unravel this whole alien thing. Otherwise, Mulder and Scully could just as easily go the way of Max and Pendrell, and all those who were collateral damage will have died in vain.

The actual and potential loss, largely represented by the incredibly realistic crash site, is sobering. Mulder and Scully have precious few family members left for Chris Carter to kill off so he had to find another way to remind the audience of what’s at stake in this quest that Mulder and Scully are on and he did so by killing two friends and a whole plane full of people. It’s not all fun, games and Black Oil.

Speaking of the Black Oil, where is it? Here, not only is a character from Season 1, Max Fenig, brought back, but the mythology plot is subject to a rewind as well. There’s no Syndicate, no CSM dropping ash all over the place, no Krycek simpering. It’s just a straight up alien abduction meets government cover up. Mulder back to unreservedly and unwisely blasting his opinions from the rooftops rather than playing his hunches close to the vest, another throwback to earlier Seasons when Mulder got on his superiors’ nerves not by his actions but with his words. He never knew when to reel it in.

In the sense that they hark back to a simpler time in The X-Files, these elements are welcome. But in some ways it’s a little too late because now I’ve been conditioned to expect otherwise. Consequently, I spent the entire episode trying to figure out how what’s happened to Max fits into the overall mythology at large. The problem is I’m not sure it does. It’s more like a side plot.

Are the aliens that abducted Max the same ones that are working with the Syndicate? I find that hard to believe since the Syndicate seems to be secretly scared to death of those aliens, but a lone fighter pilot easily defeats these aliens. Speaking of which, how is it that creatures who possess technology we can only dream of and who can manage to travel light years to earth without a problem are no match for our military? That takes the bloom off their rose, doesn’t it?

I have no proof, but I’d be greatly surprised if these are the same aliens behind the plans for colonization. They’d need a lot more power. And besides, if I were them, I’d start colonization early if those human peons started shooting down my ships.

And the Verdict is…

I confess that I’m still not completely sure how I feel about this one, and I’ve been stewing on it for a good while. On the one hand, it’s good to see Max again and I enjoy that element of continuity and the nod to long time fans by giving them the payoff of bringing back a much loved, if oft forgotten character. On the other hand, why do I still feel a little bored?

Sure, we get that great birthday scene between Mulder and Scully, opening the window a little more into their quite comfortable and predictable relationship. That’s worth the price of admission. And Mulder’s short but sweet vigil beside Max’s body is poignant and memorable. Likewise, Scully’s last tender moments with Pendrell are just shy of heartbreaking. But still, I can’t help feeling like all of this isn’t leading much of anywhere. This is only the first in a two-parter, however, so I guess we’ll see.

In regards to the more technical end of things, director Kim Manners has almost outdone himself with that airplane crash. It’s almost too realistic… I have to not watch it too closely lest I have flashbacks during my next airplane flight. And that crash scene looks exactly like what we saw a few times too many on the news during the 1990’s. It’s just stellar work from everyone involved.

But did they have to kill Pendrell??? I’m going to miss that little geek.

B+

Nagging Questions:

How could Max’s sister’s motel room fall from 29,000 feet as Mulder says? Wouldn’t the aliens have had to take the whole motel lest someone notice a few walls missing? Forget that, why not just take the person alone???

Would Mulder have remembered Scully’s birthday if Scully wasn’t dying?

Random Observations:

It’s only funny when Mulder says, “We’re not gonna make it” because we know very well that he is.

I sincerely doubt Mulder and Scully would have been allowed in that TSA meeting or even less likely at the crash site.

On a related note, I realize that in order to keep things fresh and interesting, Mulder and Scully constantly have to be forced into new situations. Even so, why does Mulder going diving without experience feel like too much of a stretch to me? Combine that with Mulder and Scully’s free access to an airplane crash investigation and I’m starting to wonder how much disbelief I can suspend. It’s somehow less jarring to my rational mind to watch a mutant grow a new head.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Mulder, you have never remembered my birthday in the four years I’ve known you.
Mulder: That’s the way I like to celebrate them, every four years. It’s like dog years that way.
Scully: Dog years? Thank you.
Mulder: You’re welcome. Oh, I got something for you.
Scully: Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.
Mulder: It’s just something that reminded me of you.
Scully: What? An alien implant?
Mulder: Two actually. I made them into earrings.

————————–

Scully: Oh, please tell me this isn’t leading to something really embarrassing.

————————–

Scully: You sure know how to make a girl feel special on her birthday.

————————–

Motel Manager: Look at this! I don’t know what kind of game she was playing in here. She blew the door right out of the jamb. I doubt insurance will cover it.
Mulder: Does your policy cover the acts of extraterrestrials?
Scully: We’ll take care of it.

————————–

Bruce Bearfield: Have you worked at this depth before?
Mulder: Not exactly.
Bruce Bearfield: What exactly is your experience?
Mulder: Once I got a quarter off of the deep end of the Y pool.

Herrenvolk 4×1: Don’t unlock doors you’re not prepared to go through.


Eight hours after he left her in the wind...

This will be relatively quick and painless because I spent most of this episode trying to unravel the conspiracy more so than anything else. Consequently, I have more questions than answers.

Last we left off, the Bounty Hunter had cornered Mulder, Scully and Jeremiah Smith. Smith was secretly released by CSM in exchange for curing his cancer, but the Bounty Hunter is still out to exterminate him for revealing his powers by healing people in a public restaurant, therefore risking the project’s exposure.

After a successfully unsettling teaser, we pick up in media res with Mulder scrambling to save Jeremiah Smith and so save his mother, since he believes Jeremiah can heal her. Unfortunately for Mulder’s plans, Jeremiah is too busy to save one woman when he can save the world and he demands that Mulder comes with him so that he can first learn the truth. Why characters in movies and television never tell the truth but invariably insist that in must be seen resulting in the truth never actually coming to light, well, there will never be a reasonable explanation except that what would be the point of making people watch?

I mentioned back in “Talitha Cumi” (3×24) that maybe Chris Carter needed to give us a background primer on all the species and sub-species of alien and clone. Maybe we need a primer on viruses too. I’ll warn you that I’m unqualified to give such a lesson, but I’ll share what I (think I’ve) pieced together so far…

The virus that killed the electrical technician in the teaser was some particularly potent strain of Smallpox. It’s neither the “Purity Control” virus, which we were introduced to back in “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×25) or the still to be revealed Black Oil virus (right now the Black Oil is still an enigmatic alien form of sentience). Why the Syndicate is manufacturing Smallpox, I have no idea.

But we do know that up until Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1979, the Syndicate was using Smallpox vaccinations to catalogue and inventory the American public, the inference being that since this is a worldwide conspiracy, international conspirators were making similar arrangements in their home countries. This provides a confirmation of what we learned earlier in “Paper Clip” (3×2), but it still doesn’t tell us what they’re categorizing the public for. The why makes sense since the WHO’s efforts to eradicate the virus would have all but ensured that nearly every child born on the planet would be exposed to the vaccine giving them a built-in cover for the conspiracy.

And kudos to Chris Carter because it’s a nice touch to let Scully solve, at least in part, this aspect of the conspiracy without the help of Mulder. This is how Scully is able to shine this episode when, emotionally, the story is all Mulder’s. Speaking of which, I love that scene where Mulder lays his head on Scully’s shoulder as he mourns his soon to be dead (or so he thinks) mother. It’s so well played by both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. They don’t overdo it, but you can feel Mulder’s anguish and grief and Scully’s responding compassion. This is why I love these two. ❤

Verdict:

X had to go, I suppose, and at least he died in the throes of drama. There wasn’t much left that they could do with his character in terms of developing the mythology plot, though I still feel a twinge of regret that we’re left with so little insight into his motivations. He comes back from the dead in a flashback episode, “The Unusual Suspects” (5×1), couldn’t he have come back again to reveal the origins of his relationship with Deep Throat? Even a few seconds of it?

I’ll miss you, X. I was never much the fan of your successor.

A

Random Musings:

I remember being worried that the writers were about to start something with Mulder and Marita Covarrubias, which would have turned my show into a soap opera. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Though it eventually did turn into a soap opera.

Now, where else have I seen a car crash into a telephone booth… ah yes, The Matrix.

This episode features one of the most aggravating “Mulder Ditches Scully” moments of the series. Where is that man’s sense of timing? “I need you to know that I’m okay, Scully. I’m fine.” Yeah… No one asked how you were doing.

I’m not so sure I buy CSM’s “We can’t turn Mulder’s quest into a crusade” excuse. I’m not so sure why the Bounty Hunter does.

Mulder tells Scully she can’t use her gun on the Bounty Hunter. So what does she do? She immediately pulls her gun on the Bounty Hunter.

Jeremiah Smith doesn’t talk like a human being, he talks like a writer.

I’m hungry.

Random Questions:

Why didn’t Mulder and Smith stop to get gas on the way to the farm when they knew they were headed to the middle of nowhere and might run out?? What’s more, Smith already knew about the bees and that they could kill Mulder. He wouldn’t have poured a tank of gas over his head ahead of time just in case? Those bees were flying around long before the Bounty Hunter started chasing them.

Why give all the Jeremiah Smiths the same name? Isn’t that a tip off?

How did CSM get away with releasing Jeremiah Smith last episode?

The Bounty Hunter can heal so quickly from even mortal wounds, why then is he still covered in bee sting scars at the end of the episode? I suppose this is so we know he’s not just another Jeremiah Smith in disguise?

Best Quotes:

Jeremiah Smith: You have to understand something. I must perish. Whatever the consequences to that end they are incalculable to the preservation of the larger plan.
Mulder: The larger plan? You mean colonization.
Jeremiah Smith: Hegemony, Mr. Mulder. A new origin of the species.
Mulder: I don’t understand.
Jeremiah Smith: I can show you.

———————

Scully: What I’m saying is that I think this protein is a tag. Some kind of genetic marker that was applied to me when I was inoculated against Smallpox as a child.
Senior FBI Agent: Why you?
Scully: Not just me, all of us. Quite possibly anybody who’s been inoculated over the last 50 years.
Second FBI Agent: Agent Scully, frankly, this sounds like something we might have expected from Agent Mulder.

———————

Bounty Hunter: Everything dies.

———————

Marita Covarrubias: Not everything dies, Mr. Mulder.

———————

Scully: Nothing happens in contradiction to nature, only in contradiction to what we know of it. So that’s a place to start. That’s where the hope is.

———————

CSM: You see, the most ferocious enemy is the one who has nothing left to lose. And you know how important Agent Mulder is to the equation.

Apocrypha 3×16: Is anybody not looking for Krycek?


Those things'll kill you.

I warn you, this will be short. Mainly because though I’ve racked my brain, this isn’t an episode where a lot is revealed or explored. Oh, it’s a fun ride and there are some memorable and iconic moments but there isn’t too much to dig into analysis wise. But without further ado, I’ll give it a shot.

We open with a great black and white teaser. Finally, there are more than just hints about Bill Mulder’s involvement in the conspiracy. We get to glimpse the reluctant conspirator in action. The trust that the poor dying crewman so desperately gives to Bill Mulder is chill inducing. Little does he know that he’s giving his secrets away to an organization far more sinister than the Navy could ever be. Though, really, Young CSM’s face should have given it away. And just who is the third “Man in Black” tagging along with Bill Mulder and CSM? A young Deep Throat, maybe? Another question that’s never answered.

But on to the present day plot, CSM has figured out that Krycek is back in the country and sends his goons to kill a man who’s supposed to already be dead and recover a disk that was supposedly already destroyed. All the while he’s trying to keep his fellow Syndicate members in the dark. This results in a great scene where the Syndicate show some obvious signs of cracks in their armor. CSM gets chastised like an errant child; He’s their errand boy, the flashy muscle a la John Gotti. Well-Manicured Man meets Mulder to gather information and finds out that CSM has been lying. Krycek’s alive and so is the disk. Busted.

In the Syndicate, we have a group of powerful old men who each have a slightly different personal agenda that they’re trying to keep under wraps. Even though they’re ostensibly working together, the elephant in the room is that they can’t really trust each other. It’s a thread just begging to be pulled until the whole mess unravels.

There’s only one glaring hole that gets to me: Why didn’t Hosteen just tell Mulder what was on the tape way back in “Paper Clip” (3×2)?? He memorized the whole thing, did he not? All Mulder has to do is pick up the phone.

Verdict:

I’m starting to realize how little of the mythology I ever understood. I watched it for the effect, not the plot. But now that I’m paying attention the machinations of the Syndicate and their political wars within things are starting to make sense and I’m glad there was a leftover element of The X-Files that I had never fully enjoyed.

Does much actually happen in this episode? Not at all. But it’s like a chessboard where the pieces are slowly moving into position, turn by turn. Krycek is back in the U.S. and presumably buried alive. The Black Oil has made it back to its ship. Mulder again thinks he knows something he has no real proof of. Scully meets her sister’s killer only to have him slip through the fingers of justice. And, my personal joy, Well-Manicured Man is onto CSM’s shenanigans.

Yep. Pieces keep moving. But will there ever actually be a checkmate?

I only wish that Syndicate thread would get pulled a little harder.

A-

Unnecessary Questions:

After the black oil gets back to its ship, then what? Did it fly it out of the silo and we’re just not shown it?

More importantly, how does Krycek ever get out?

Unnecessary Comments:

CSM’s a lot like Mulder. His sits alone in his apartment watching old movies.

Interesting to note that in the early stages of its mythology the Black Oil used actual oil to transmit itself. I’m not sure if that always held true. So I’ll just have to watch carefully.

This is an episode that makes Skinner/Scully Shippers everywhere swoon.

Best Quotes:

Sick Crewman: That thing is still down there. The Navy’ll deny it. But you’ve got to make sure the truth gets out. I can trust you to do that, can’t I, Mr. Mulder?
Young Smoking Man: You can trust all of us.

——————–

CSM: Have the bodies destroyed.
Navy Doctor: But sir, these men aren’t dead yet!
CSM: Isn’t that the prognosis?

——————–

Frohike: Nothing to it.
Byers: You should call upon our services more often.
Langly: We show talent for these G-man activities.
Mulder: You mean if I want somebody whacked on the knee with a lead pipe?
Frohike: Only if you want the job done right.

——————–

Scully: I think the dead are speaking to us, Mulder. Demanding Justice. Maybe that man was right. Maybe we bury the dead alive.

731 3×10: Since when did they start issuing you guys piano wire instead of guns?


You been gainin' a little weight, Mulder?

We open with a vision of creatures being slaughtered; creatures that look a lot like the deformed bodies we saw in the boxcar in “Anasazi” (2×25). Is it a coincidence?

It’s tempting to initially think this is connected to what we saw earlier, we quickly find out that it isn’t…. and it is. This is yet another set of tests being done on humans by another set of scientists, different from the experiments exposed in “Anasazi” but still governed by the mysterious men of The Syndicate.

So let’s start with The Syndicate, shall we? Scully is introduced to yet another Syndicate member this episode, The Elder. He feeds Scully the truth, or parts of it, but for what purpose? To save the creature trapped on the train? Is this shadow government responsible for testing on civilians as a part of a secret plan for alien colonization… or are they doing it to win a Cold War that ended years ago? I’ve said it before but I’ll complain again, why didn’t we get even more of these Syndicate guys? Sure, they needed to remain mostly mysterious for effect. Yet the few times that their characters were delved into, even just a little bit, were memorable. Just think of Well-Manicured Man in Fight the Future.

But since The Elder isn’t ready to bare his soul, the real character that steals the show this episode is our very own Mulder. When I think of who Mulder is as a character, the Mulder we see in this episode fits my personal definition to the letter. Mulder is a frustrating jackass but he’s a heroic one. Right after I want to strangle him I want to pat his head and give him a hug. It’s not that Mulder hasn’t been reckless before. In fact, “End Game” (2×17) comes to mind. But that was Desperately Seeking Mulder and this is Mind-Blowingly Frustrating Mulder. There is a difference. From him foolishly jumping on the train to his self-sacrificing decision to ignore Scully’s attempts to save him and have the train car dropped in the middle of nowhere, it’s amazing how annoyingly loveable David Duchovny managed to make this character. He’s self-righteous and arrogant and just as equally endearing.

Mulder’s Mulderishness has been slowly escalating. In Season 1 he was a bit of an outcast upstart, but still fresh-faced and relatively docile in comparison to his later years. Season 2 proved he can be downright hostile to anyone who gets in his way, but it also showed that he could be sensitive and very protective, especially when it came to Scully. Season 3 is when I think Mulder’s core personality is solidified as 2 parts teeth gnashing and 1 part pitiable and he stays fundamentally the same till the end of the series. He’s more absurdly reckless than ever but in a way that let’s you know he’s somewhat conscious of his charms and he knows those who love him will forgive him.  He hangs up on Scully in the train car knowing that she’ll figure out what he’s about to do and knowing that she’ll love him for it even as she hates him for it.

Scully’s doing a lot of zigging while Mulder zags this season. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re at odds, but they’re not quite the unified front they were pretty much all of Season 2 and most of Season 1. This distance becomes even more pronounced over the next few episodes. So in the end, who’s right? Does Mulder’s belief in an alien conspiracy hold up despite the current evidence to the contrary? Or has Scully stumbled upon a greater evil, that these men are using aliens as a cover story to hide their insidious crimes. It seems as though there’s a little of both going on. Dr. Ishimaru/Zama certainly had his own agenda. Exactly what that was we’ll probably never know.

Conclusion:

I couldn’t talk about this episode without discussing Mr. X and his Sophie’s Choice; rather than save the leper or hybrid or whatever you choose to believe it is, from the train car as he was sent to do, X rescues Mulder’s foolish behind instead. This may be his best moment in the entire series, but that’s hard to say since he’s had some fabulous ones. What’s X’s motivation? He once said in “One Breath” (2×8) that he used to be a man much like Mulder and more and more it appears that he really still is. We never find out why he chose to help Mulder after Deep Throat died and, ruthless as he is, it seems out of character for him unless he has a soft, tootsie roll center that he’s keeping hidden inside a hard candy shell. (I’ve only had one cup of coffee as I’m writing this so you’ll have to excuse me).

Come to think of it, the supporting characters steal a lot of the show in “731”. We’re also introduced to the Red-Haired Man of the not so red hair, yet another worthy adversary gone too soon. How can you not love an assassin that fixes his hair in the mirror after a kill? I appreciated the fact that no one is safe on The X-Files and that pretty much every character outside of Mulder and Scully are in danger of being killed off in the blink of an eye. But seeing Red-Haired Man’s quick demise I can’t help but wonder if Chris Carter & Co. were a little too quick on the trigger sometimes. Characters were gone just as they were starting to make an impact.

On a final note, isn’t it a little strange on some level that Scully so easily dismisses the idea of aliens? Has she already forgotten Purity Control?

A-

Useless Commentary:

A juicy little tidbit is thrown out early on in the episode that because of her implant, the conspirators may have had access to Scully’s every thought for the past year. What an awesome concept. If only it had been explored further.

Oh the adorably dorky Agent Pendrell, does anyone else wish Scully had noticed him a little more? I suppose the earth shattering news he delivers to her would distract any girl, but he’s just so pitiful that it’s sweet.

It’s a rare mythology episode indeed that doesn’t feature CSM. He makes little more than a cameo appearance at the end of the episode, just so that we remember that he’s still pulling the strings.

Priceless X-Files Moment #385: Mulder’s life hangs in the balance as Scully reads off a number that will either save him or kill him and all she can say is, “Yeah… yeah I’m pretty sure.”

Best Quotes:

Agent Pendrell: This kind of neural network could be not only collecting information, but artificially replicating a person’s mental processes.
Scully: You could know a person’s every thought.
Agent Pendrell: Frightening.

——————-

Scully: Well done, Agent Pendrell. Keep up the good work.
Agent Pendrell: Hey, thanks. Keep it up yourself!
Scully: [Leaves]
Agent Pendrell: [To self] “Keep it up yourself”… what a doof.

——————–

Elder: The ruler of the world is no longer the country with the greatest soldiers, but the greatest scientists.

——————–

Red-Haired Man: You’re going to die. You know that?
Mulder: What do you care? You were trying to kill me anyway.

——————–

Mulder: We’re both going to die in here. The difference is, I’m going to die quickly. As an employee of the National Security Agency you should know that a gunshot wound to the stomach is probably the most painful and the slowest way to die. But I’m not a very good shot. And when I miss… I tend to miss low.

——————–

Scully: Mulder. I think I’ve got something here.
Mulder: What is it?
Scully: I think I may have a code for you. I’m watching Zama punch it in to a keypad in one of the train cars.
Mulder: What are you watching?
Scully: Your alien autopsy video.
Mulder: You mean I might get my $29.95’s worth after all?

———————

Mulder: I don’t need an apology for the lies. I don’t care about the fictions they create to cover their crimes. I want them held accountable for what did happen. I want an apology for the truth.

Nisei 3×9: Monsters begetting monsters.


$29.95's worth.

“Nisei” is about foreign scientists, war criminals, allied with the Federal Government and more specifically, The Syndicate, who experiment on unwitting citizens in an attempt to create an alien-human hybrid. If that sounds familiar, it should. It was the plot of “Paper Clip” (3×2). The main difference is that we’ve moved from talk of the Nazis to another World War II Axis power, Japan.

There are other repeats such as Mulder seeing what he thinks is a spaceship hidden from perfect view. That happened in both “Deep Throat” (1×1) and “Fallen Angel” (1×9). Scully has also confronted X over Mulder’s whereabouts before in “End Game” (2×17), but of course that time it was the other way around and she wanted to find him not keep his location a secret. And as I’ve already mentioned, as in the season opener the writers are using the horrors of history to scare us. What’s more frightening than the truth?

Since we’ve already heard this tale told in a different way, Chris Carter had to find a way to set this one a part and I think he successfully did that by tying in this set of experiments to Scully’s abduction in a more specific way: These Japanese scientists were the ones who performed tests on her when she was taken.

Now we know for sure that the chip found in the back of her neck during “The Blessing Way” (3×1) is connected to her abduction. If that weren’t enough, we find out that Scully wasn’t alone and we meet the other women who were there with her for at least part of her ordeal. Imagine walking into a room full of people who know all about you but you don’t know them. Talk about creepy.

Scully’s character certainly gets an uplift from the previous couple of episodes where she is relegated to the role of Debbie Downer. Here she’s still the skeptic but she’s a thoughtful one and gives this investigation the attention it deserves. It’s about time the question of why she still doesn’t believe is brought up as we’ve reached a point in the series where it makes less sense for Scully to even be a skeptic in the face of all she’s been exposed to. That’s why some of the previous episodes didn’t work as well as they might have because her knee-jerk skepticism seems out of place, as though she were just going out of her way to be difficult. The tantalizing teasing that goes on about the mystery of Scully’s abduction is a set up to explore her character further in future episodes. It pays off well.

The mythology keeps expanding to include more conspiracies within the conspiracy. It’s exciting and yet… this is both good and bad news. While the scope of the conspiracy is why it attracts an audience, it’s also part of its eventual, inevitable decline. You can only push the circle outward for so long before people forget the juicy center.

Conclusion:

You’ll think me shallow, but what I love most about this episode is that it’s a party. So many honored guests are in attendance: Skinner, Mr. X, The Lone Gunmen, even Senator Matheson who is no doubt summoned because Skinner washes his hands clean of this situation. We also have a first-time participant in Agent Pendrell. We’re only missing Krycek who Chris Carter is saving for later in the season.

Mulder again proves there’s no length of crazy he won’t go to. He’s such a wonderfully frustrating hero. You want to punch him then hug him all in the span of two seconds. Scully’s parallel journey for the truth is just as compelling, but in a less action packed, more emotional sort of way. It’s fun to see them investigate on their own and then come back together and share notes, so to speak. Whether they’re communicating over the phone or in person they make such a great team. And the banter and humor sprinkled through this two-episode arc still makes me smile.

If “Paper Clip” was about the Germans, “Nisei” is all about the Japanese. It’s a natural progression to move on to the next Axis power. But whatever happened to the Italians? Not scary enough?

A-

Lingering Questions:

Why wasn’t Scully subjected to the hybridization tests that created mutants out of the others? Maybe that was reserved for the sick and they used healthy young women for another, equally sinister purpose…

We know Scully is going to get cancer, it’s only a matter of when. The question is, why does she end up with cancer relatively quickly when the other abductees took years and many abductions before they died? I would guess that the abductions themselves somehow saved them.

I still don’t understand why this episode is called “Nisei”. The scientists involved are first generation Japanese immigrants, not second generation Japanese-Americans. Surely there’s a clue that slipped by me.

Random Musings:

The Japanese “diplomat”, Kazuo Sakurai, doesn’t sound like a Japanese diplomat at all, judging by his speech patterns. He sounds more like a Yakuza gangster. I’m wondering if it’s an element of the plot that they didn’t have time to delve into, that he’s an agent of the conspiracy posing as a diplomat for nefarious purposes.

Sakurai: [Japanese] M***** F******, I’m absolutely gonna kill you.
Mulder: You speak English?
Sakurai: [Japanese] What are you babbling about? *Editor’s Note: This is much more offensive than I can translate.
Mulder: Great.

And then he knows Karate, because all Asians know some form of the Martial Arts. *Eyeroll*

Best Quotes:

Scully: That’s not your usual brand of entertainment. What is it?
Mulder: According to the magazine ad I answered, it’s an alien autopsy. Guaranteed authentic.
Scully: You spent money for this?
Mulder: $29.95… plus shipping.
Scully: Mulder, this is even hokier than the one they aired on the Fox network. You can’t even see what they’re operating on!
Mulder: But it does look authentic, I mean the settings, the procedures. I mean it does look as if an actual autopsy is being prepared, doesn’t it?
Scully: Well technically, I don’t know why they would be wearing gas masks.
Mulder: Well maybe it’s because of this green substance they seem to be extracting from the subject. Can you identify that?
Scully: Olive oil? Snake oil? I suppose you think it’s alien blood?
Mulder: It’s widely held that aliens don’t have blood, Scully.
Scully: I guess this begs the question, if this is an alien autopsy…
Mulder: …where’s the alien? But what so intriguing to me is the striking lack of detail here.
Scully: Well, what do you expect for $29.95?

——————

Scully: I don’t know, Mulder, it just doesn’t track. What would a Japanese diplomat be doing in that house with a dead man with his head stuffed in a pillowcase?
Mulder: Obviously not strengthening international relations.
Scully: Well, what do you want to do now? Drop it?
Mulder: I’ve paid my $29.95, Scully. I think I’m entitled to a few more answers. Don’t you think so?

——————

Mulder: Scully, after all you’ve seen. After all you’ve told me you’ve seen. A tunnel filled with medical files, the beings moving past you, the implant in your neck. Why do you refuse to believe?
Scully: Believing’s the easy part, Mulder. I just need more than you. I need proof.
Mulder: You think that believing is easy?

Paper Clip 3×2: Progress demands sacrifice.


Smoke this.

“I was a dead man, now I’m back.” – I just want to start this review by congratulating David Duchovny on delivering this line with a straight face.

With that out of the way…

If “Anasazi” (2×25) is when the scope of the conspiracy is hinted at, “Paper Clip” is where it begins to take shape. The Syndicate, just like the legitimate U.S. Government, was willing to strike a deal with the devil in order to achieve their goals, and the project impacted nearly every American child born during a certain time period; every American that was given the Small Pox vaccine. Chris Carter has often said that The X-Files is only as scary as it is real and grounding the events of this episode in a framework of legitimate facts gives the events that take place a deeper sense of possibility and makes them all the more disturbing.

Introducing the real world history of Operation Paper Clip into the narrative poses some interesting parallels. If the U.S. Government was willing to make a Faustian bargain for the benefit of its citizens, might not these shadow men who have far less accountability on their shoulders? We know that these men are trying to use alien DNA to make an alien-human hybrid, and not to give out a huge spoiler, but we eventually learn they’re in cahoots with the aliens. The question is never sufficiently raised of whether these men were actually evil in making such an alliance. There’s an argument to be made that they felt they were doing the best thing at the time, much like men in the U.S. Government may have felt that it was better to make the Nazis work for you then to leave them to their own purposes.

Now, no doubt in the real instance it was a vile transaction. But the aliens weren’t vanquished Nazis, they were an uber powerful galactic force that could wipe us out anytime they wanted to with or without our cooperation. Call me a sympathizer, but maybe Mulder could have cut The Syndicate some slack. Regardless, it’s certainly no stretch to think that same Nazi scientists who experimented on innocent Jews would be willing to test alien DNA on American civilians. That it’s done through something so innocuous as an inoculation is truly classic X-Files.

It’s an interesting choice to bring Mulder so close to the whole truth and nothing but the truth this early in the game. We know now that everything he’s been saying all these years is true and the proof exists, but he was faced with a decision: know the truth and have no way of disseminating the information or give up the truth and live to fight another day. It’s obvious what Mulder would have chosen if it hadn’t been for Scully and her sister, which is why all those “Mulder is a selfish bastard” haters need to take it down a couple of decibels.

Speaking of Mulder and Scully, I always thought, as most do, that MSR was purely a result of Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny unwittingly creating it out of the passion and tension that played out between their characters. Almost like magic, it was there before anyone knew what was happening. That’s fair enough and I still feel that way for the most part. But watching this episode again it occurs to me that the writers are nearly as much to blame. OK, maybe it’s 70/30, but still. They were complicit the Shipper Shenanigans that went on.

Mulder and Scully became larger than life because they wrote them as such; they gave them a freaking psychic connection and thought that, what? The audience wouldn’t respond to it emotionally? The characters were written into a corner and eventually they had nowhere to go but into each other’s arms. I mean, imagine just for a second that Scully, even this early in the series, decided to start dating. I can just hear her explanation to her significant other now:

Dear, let me tell you about my friend Mulder. Yes, he’s straight and he’s hot, but he’s really just a friend. A very good friend. We have such a spiritual connection that I even know it when he stops breathing. And when in mortal peril, he visits me in visions. But like I said, friends. There’s no reason this should come between you and me.

It would be a futile exercise. Mulder and Scully have passed the point of no return. No, they’re not in love. But there are only two real options at this point. Their bond can weaken and they grow distant and divided, an idea that the writers toy with for part of Season 3 and even Season 4. Or their bond can grow, in which case, unpolitically correct as it is, it would no longer be believable if the relationship remained forever platonic. If I had to pinpoint it, I’d say this is the moment when, as Nina mentioned in her guest post, they become each others’ “significant other.” It’s not romance in the erotic sense but it’s beyond mere friendship.

Back to the story at hand, Mulder and Scully finding all those medical files hidden away at an abandoned mining company has to be one of the most iconic moments of the series. Vaccinations are as American as apple pie. Even now, all but the most paranoid of parents make sure their children receive them. That something so innocent could be used by a shadow government to track and test its citizens is almost as creepy as the fact that Social Security Numbers were created with the promise that they wouldn’t be used for identification purposes. Interestingly, identification was the cover story for these vaccinations; the government was gathering genetic data so that citizens could be identified in case of a nuclear holocaust. It was the Cold War, you recall, and that would have been a believable party line.

Bill Mulder himself believed it, which brings us to the other major revelation of this episode: Samantha wasn’t randomly abducted. She was chosen by her father to be the “guarantee” for the family. Mulder was the one originally scheduled to rendezvous with the Mother Ship. Finally we know what Bill Mulder was trying to say to his son before he was killed. What a sadly powerful moment when Mulder confronts his mother about having had to make a choice. It wasn’t the abduction itself that drove the Mulder family apart.

Now there’s another family suffering. If we thought Scully was “involved” before because of her abduction, it’s even more personal now that her sister Melissa has been White Buffalo sacrificed on her behalf. Finally, she shares Mulder’s quest. And poor Maggie Scully is just put through trauma after trauma. The writers need to stop making bad things happen to that woman. The nobility on her face kills me. Somehow, though, I never do miss Melissa…

Conclusion:

This episode is full of lots of fun, memorable moments. The scene in the mine when Mulder and Scully stumble upon rows of endless files I’ve already mentioned but there’s also CSM turning on Krycek, his mini-me, with a car bomb and my personal favorite, watching Skinner finally give CSM the old what-for with Albert Hosteen at his side. It’s worth all the magic and mysticism we had to put up with in “The Blessing Way” (3×1) just for that moment.

Another highlight for me is watching Scully get mad which, like smiling, she doesn’t do nearly often enough. I can only imagine that as a physician she is particularly offended by the atrocities conducted not only by men like Klemper but that the government would abuse citizens’ trust by taking vaccinations meant to help and using them to test and catalogue people.

We don’t learn much else about The Syndicate. Apparently they just sit around in a smoky room and rule the world. But it’s enough for now to know that they’re so powerful that even CSM has to answer to them. There’s no need to rush the reveal.

A-

P.S. This is where the mythology starts to edge its way towards massive. If you’re having trouble keeping track, like me, go to: http://www.eatthecorn.com/eps/2X25_3X01_3X02.htm

Questions:

We’re told that the DAT copy is protected and can’t be printed or copied, but didn’t we see Scully give a print out for a lady to translate in “Anasazi” (2×25)? And hasn’t Albert Hosteen been walking around with his translated copy that can be copied over?

Why is Well-Manicured man helping Mulder, really? I guess we’ll have to watch and see.

Comments:

When conducting secret experiments on innocent civilians with the help of Nazi scientists, it would probably be best not to take damning photographs together.

Please note that Skinner had to be double-teamed in the stairwell for those wimps to take him.

Napier’s Constant is actually 271828 not 27828 as Scully claims.

Best Quotes:

Scully: I went to your father’s funeral. I told your mother that you were going to be okay.
Mulder: How did you know?
Scully: I just knew.

——————-

Well-Manicured Man: What is it Victor?
Victor Klemper: Oh, I was just paid a visit by the son of one of our old colleagues.
Well-Manicured Man: What did you tell him, Victor?
Victor Klemper: I told him that you were the most venal man I’ve ever met. Beyond that I told him nothing.

——————-

Scully: What do you think your father would have been doing here?
Mulder: I don’t know, but he never came home wearing a miner’s cap.

——————–

Mulder: Lots of files.
Scully: Lots and lots of files.

——————–

Mulder: Why are you telling me this?
Well-Manicured Man: It’s what you want to hear, isn’t it?
Mulder: Is there more?
Well-Manicured Man: More than you’ll ever know.

——————–

CSM: Are you sure?
Krycek: I’m sure of this. If I so much as feel your presence, I’m going to make you a very, very famous man. You understand?
CSM: Yes. Thank you. I’m going to report that to the group.

——————–

Scully: I’ve heard the truth, Mulder. Now what I want are the answers.

The Blessing Way 3×1: Well, it’s definitely not buckshot.


Mr. Hosteen says "Hello."

“Memory, like fire, is radiant and immutable.” First off, this is the most ridiculous thing ever said in an X-Files voiceover. Ever. And that’s saying something. Second, do those sound like the words of an American Indian wise man to you?

It’s almost as though someone told Chris Carter that there wasn’t enough buttercream icing on the cake so he made a fresh batch and poured that on top too. Now, lest you think I would commit blasphemy against the creator of my favoritest show ever, let me just say that I consider Chris Carter a brilliant writer. His writing only suffers when he waxes philosophical.

It’s not entirely his fault. This episode is completely on trend with the 1990’s fascination for all things American Indian. For those old enough, I’m sure you can find in your “immutable memory” films like Geronimo: An American Legend (1993), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), and the still famous Dances with Wolves (1990) which featured a slightly younger Floyd Red Crow Westerman… that’s Albert Hosteen to you.

Looking back, it’s not a trend that aged well. Just because you put the phrase “ancient Indian saying” in front of a sentence does not make it profound, or more importantly, believable, or even more importantly, interesting. Please understand, I’m not denigrating ancient Indian sayings, I just question this episode’s heavy reliance on spiritualism. It’s distracting. It’s idealized. It’s hokey.

And before I jump off this bandwagon, let me give you the worst example of mysticism run amok. After breaching the barrier to the spiritual world through a hypnosis session, Scully has a vision of Mulder back from the (near) dead. So what does he tell her? The secret of life? The secret of death? Oh no.

Mulder: I have been on the bridge that spans two worlds. The link between all souls by which we cross into our own true nature. You were here today looking for a truth which was taken from you, the truth which was never meant to be spoken, but which now binds us together in a dangerous purpose. I’ve returned from the dead to continue with you, but I fear that this danger is now close at hand and I may be too late.

Did you just laugh out loud? I rest my case.

At the risk of sounding like a Negative Nancy, this episode has another flaw, one that I don’t think is nearly as obvious. On paper, it only makes sense that Scully would feel defeated after losing Mulder. Despite her valiant efforts in “The Anasazi” (2×25), Mulder is supposedly dead and she’s left holding the bag; no disc, no job, no honor. Even with that in mind, the first half of the episode plays out as though Scully is more concerned with her flickering career prospects than the fact that her best buddy was just blown to bits. I’m not saying there should be weeping and gnashing of teeth, but some kind of emotional acknowledgement would be nice.

There is a single moment where we see Scully show up at her mother’s door in tears. If you have the DVD and can access the deleted scene that pops up right after this, you’ll understand why they mercifully cut this scene short in editing; it only makes it painfully clear that Scully is agonizing more over potentially getting fired than the loss of Mulder. I realize it’s only natural that Scully would question the wisdom of her actions in the previous episode under the circumstances. And I also realize that this is supposed to play into the fact that Scully is spiritually connected to Mulder and knows deep down that he isn’t dead. But how did she go from Wonder Woman to Stick-in-the-Mud so quickly? She may question herself, but I just can’t believe that Scully would ever regret saving a friend.

She isn’t a complete loss this episode, however. The writers are finally addressing what happened to Scully during her abduction last season. We were tantalized back in “One Breath” (2×8) with visions of experiments being performed on Scully. Now her repressed memories are coming up for air and that bodes well for the mythology of Season 3. And that little surprise in her neck… this is why I love The X-Files. Where else can you watch a scenario as creepy as going through a scanner and then finding out there’s been a computer chip implanted in your body?

That significant event aside, Scully’s real shining moments are reserved for her interactions with other characters. It’s great to see Scully get someone else to play with besides Mulder. His character is normally the one hobnobbing with informants and geeks. Her scenes with Skinner in particular are quite juicy. Scully is The Good Child so watching her have at her boss makes for some wonderful tension. Naturally, Skinner gives back as good as he gets culminating in that final cliffhanger. I think we all know who is going to walk through the door by the end but that doesn’t make the moment any less great.

Scully also has her first interaction with Frohike since Season 1’s “E.B.E.” (1×16), their brief meeting while she was comatose not withstanding. Yes, if you can believe it, we’ve had to wait that long for Frohike to get another shot at her. I must say, The Lone Gunmen and Frohike in particular, even though we’ve only seen them briefly in 4 episodes up to this point, are incredibly endearing. From the way Frohike shows up in a tux to visit the dying Scully in “One Breath” to him coming to her door bottle in hand, wounded over the loss of Mulder, the man is a Mensch. (Yiddish. Look it up.) That The Powers That Be did what they did to them in Season 9… I’ll never recover.

But the interaction that I most enjoy is Scully’s introduction to Well-Manicured Man, played effortlessly by John Neville. My personal highlight of the episode is the way he delivers the line, “Do you have someplace you might stay?” The subtle changes of expression on his face are just amazing and I find myself wishing that The Syndicate had been explored more as individual characters.

Ah yes, The Syndicate, or The Consortium. They go by both names even in this, their introductory episode. It’s like a perfect nightmare: The world is secretly run by a group of ruthless, wealthy old men. Finally, we have a set of faces to go with the eponymous “They” that Mulder keeps referring to. Whoever “they” are, they’re powerful enough that even CSM has to answer to them. Was Deep Throat once a part of this group? More than likely.

Speaking of Deep Throat, it’s a bit of a shame that his “return” is marred by a plethora of Purple Prose. Bill Mulder’s message from beyond the grave isn’t any better. “The lies I told you are a pox and poison to my soul.” Seriously, why not just put a plague on both their houses while you’re at it?

Conclusion:

Alright, that’s enough of my complaints. Other than being tainted by overdone mysticism and suffering from the natural curse of being the second part in a three-episode arc, there are some very fun elements to this episode. Its weaknesses don’t destroy it, they just mean that there are lower lows between the highlights. In fact, if they had found a way to weave the story together without relying so heavily on spiritualism and Shakespearean prose, I daresay it would have been fantastic.

“The Blessing Way” is the reverse equivalent of “One Breath”; this time Mulder is the one laid up in limbo between life and death and Scully, unable to help him, is left to find the answers. It’s a great chance for her character to go out and explore the world on her on, unaided by Mulder’s quack theories. There are also some exciting hints that the circumstances of her abduction will finally be addressed this season.

And while I still wouldn’t call The X-Files an ensemble show, the current cast of characters means that every scene is potentially touching or explosive. Yep, the crossroads of Season2/Season 3 was a good time of life for the show.

There’s so much going on in this episode that I won’t bore you by attempting to cover it all. By now you’ve noticed that I didn’t even address Melissa’s shooting. We’ll save that last one for “Paper Clip” (3×2).

B+

Comments:

Skinner refers to Mulder’s apartment as “a place we can talk in private.” Did someone not tell him about the listening devices, poisonings, and assassination attempts?

Now I’m sure. CSM really didn’t know he’d (almost) killed Mulder. An argument could be made that he hoped he had, but it’s entirely possible that he was still “protecting” him in his own mind.

Best Quotes:

Frohike: He was a good friend. A redwood among mere sprouts.

——————

Smoking Man: Did you ask her about the tape?
Skinner: She says she doesn’t have it.
Smoking Man: Is that what she says?
Skinner: Yes. That’s what she says.
Smoking Man: Well that’s unfortunate for everyone.

——————-

Albert Hosteen: You must be careful now to end the ceremony properly. If you leave, you must not do any work, change clothes or bathe for four days.
Mulder: That’s really going to cut into my social life.

——————-

Scully: Who are you?
Well-Manicured Man: I’m a member of a kind of consortium, we represent certain global interests.
Scully: What kind of interests?
Well-Manicured Man: Interests that would be extremely threatened by the digital tape that you are no longer in possession of.
Scully: Threatened enough to murder?
Well-Manicured Man: Oh my, yes. – *Editors Note: Brilliance.

——————–

Scully: You’re not protecting me, you’re protecting yourself.
Well-Manicured Man: Why should that surprise you? Motives are rarely unselfish.
Scully: What kind of business are you in?
Well-Manicured Man: We predict the future. The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Good day young lady.