Tag Archives: The Unusual Suspects

Travelers 5×15: That’s what I did until I ran out of room.


Mad Men 1013 style.

Like when “The Unusual Suspects” (5×1) followed after “Redux II” (5×2), I’m looking for an emotional follow up to the previous drama-heavy mythology episode and instead I’m bereft of Mulder and Scully almost altogether. Only this time, instead of go-to, familiar characters to rely on, we’re given a supporting cast that’s nearly completely new and the weight and responsibility of carrying an hour of one of the most popular shows on television falls on their shoulders. This is an ambitious episode indeed.

The opening teaser is one of my favorites in terms of sheer grossness. If they were looking for a way to catch my attention sans Mulder and Scully they found it. And for the record, there is no way, in earth or the world below, that I would kneel down on a cockroach infested floor coated in the grime of a thousand years in order to better inspect a rubber mummy in a tub. In case you wanted to know.

Now on to the meat of the episode… If The X-Files is about anything at all, it’s about distrust of authority. More specifically, it’s about distrust of the government. Imagine if the nation that fed you, that bred you, were actually out to get you.

With that in mind that the decision to place this flashback tale within the context of the McCarthy hearings makes a lot of sense. If you trust what you read in the history books, paranoia was running rampant at the time and the American government, in an attempt to control its citizens, found “communists” hiding in every nook and cranny. Chris Carter is often quoted as saying, “The X-Files is only as scary as it is real,” and what’s more real than things that have actually happened? It’s why previous episodes like “Paper Clip” (3×2) used real life holocaust atrocities as a base.

On the one hand, it’s easy to take a topic like McCarthyism or the House Un-American Activities Committee and use it to vilify the establishment. On the other hand, it fits like a hand in glove with The X-Files’ overall theme of government distrust. The men in charge have no desire to find the truth, they’re about establishing order and control even at the expense of innocent citizens. And what do you know? Even the F.B.I. is complicit.

Bringing Agent Mulder, I mean, Agent Mulder Sr. into the mix was a wise choice. (So was using the actor we already knew). Not only to we get more insight into his strained relationship with his son before he was killed but we learn about what kind of man he was. “Travelers” confirms a lot of what’s been hinted at about his character over the years. Here was a man who, though compromised, ultimately had a Jiminy Cricket sized conscience. Too bad that unlike his son, he was unwilling or unable to openly fight for what he believed it. It doesn’t look like he had the courage. But at least we know where Mulder got his subversive streak.

Speaking of Mulder, this is the second time this season we’ve seen Mulder in flashback. This time, though, he seems a lot less sure of himself. There’s no swagger like we saw in “The Unusual Suspects”, instead he’s full of nervous ticks… nervous ticks that conveniently display his wedding ring.

Oh, David Duchovny, why must you toy with the masses?

Word is, the wedding ring was little more than a joke on his part having been recently married in real life to actress Téa Leoni. Joke or not, it caused an uproar online. I have to admit that for my part, I didn’t even notice it. Which just goes to show that my powers of observation are dull and you shouldn’t read a word I type.

And the Verdict is…

One of these days I’ll probably get around to making a series of Top 10 lists and when I do, “Travelers” will be on the list of underappreciated episodes. It’s fairly quiet, I know, but I wouldn’t call it boring. Brief though they are, Darren McGavin’s scenes with David Duchovny are a treat, so much so that I wish his character could have been brought back more than once. In fact, I could almost wish that we had one season in flashback a la Nina’s suggestion in her Shipper’s Guide. Arthur Dales’s story and its overlap with the Syndicate’s Shenanigans, not to mention the Mulder family history, could have made for good television… especially if it was paralleled with the X-Files of the future.

B+

Fiddlesticks:

So, supposedly, Edward Skur & Co. had an actual animal/insect/creature grafted inside of them. But what in the heck kind of species is that? What could kill people in such a fashion? Of all the things the government could do to make Super Soldiers, they attach arachnids to their innards?? Why am I thinking this hard about it anyway?

The director of this episode, William Graham, hasn’t been seen on The X-Files since “E.B.E.” (1×16) and had the dubitable honor of directing “Space” (1×8), yet he has a long and very impressive resume including the classic television show The Fugitive. I wonder if the fact that he was active in television during some of the communism scare is what caused Chris Carter to bring him back. At the very least, I’m sure his experience in classic television is part of why this episode has such an authentic feel. Period pieces can so easily end up “costumey.”

Fredric Lane, who plays the young Arthur Dales, was on Castle last week. That show is a veritable parade of X-Files alumns.

There is a string of episodes this season where the narrative is driven by recollection and voiceover. “Redux” (5×2), “Bad Blood” (5×12), “Travelers”, “All Souls” (5×17). By the time we get to “All Souls” it begins to lose its impact.

Now we know there’s a reason the X-Files are the “X-Files” other than just that “X” is a cool letter.

Best Quotes:

Arthur Dales: Do you know what an… X-File is?
Mulder: It’s uh.. yeah, it’s an unsolved case.
Arthur Dales: No. It’s a case that’s been designated… unsolved.

————————

Arthur Dales: Have you ever heard of HUAC, Agent Mulder? House Un-American Activities Committee? No, no, no, it was before your time, you wouldn’t know. They hunted Communists in America in the 40’s and 50’s. They found… practically nothing. You think they would have found nothing… unless nothing… was what they wanted to find? Hmm?
Mulder: I’m sorry, sir. I, uh, I don’t… I don’t see the connection.
Arthur Dales: Maybe you’re not supposed to. [Slams door in Mulder’s face]

————————

Dorothy Bahnsen: But, I recognize one of these names. It’s in an X-File.
Agent Dales: X-File?
Dorothy Bahnsen: Yes. Unsolved cases. I file them under “X”.
Agent Dales: Why don’t you file them under “U”… for “Unsolved”?
Dorothy Bahnsen: That’s what I did until I ran out of room. Plenty of room in the “X’s”.

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.